Monday, October 31, 2011

Hallowe'en Ghosties

Hallowe'en has come and gone and our little ghosties looked great with the black light making them look blue and - well - ghostly.

We have a friend from France visiting so it was fun to see Hallowe'en through his eyes.  

I hope you had lots of fun and lots of candy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hallowe'en Magazine Copy-Cat Challenge

Debbie over at Debbiedoo's Blogging and Blabbing is having a magazine copy-cat challenge.  Actually she's had several over the past year or so, but I've never been able to join in any of them as they always came at at time when I was super busy.  Well I vowed this time to get something organized.  

I looked around at different magazine pictures and really liked the one below.  The cute little ghosties made out of painted gourds especially caught my eye.

I started by going to the grocery store and buying myself three butternut squash to use - that way it would be a frugal as well as fun craft, as we would eat the squash afterward.  Squash are a lot more expensive than I thought though, as buying three of them set me back $10.  So when I mentioned to my husband that I was going to paint them white and then we would eat them afterward, he didn't think that was such a wise idea - you know paint leaking through the skin into the flesh of the gourd and all.   

I had to agree that was a problem, so after discussing a few ideas I decided to try using white pantyhose to cover the squash.  The next day I went to the dollar store to buy some and lo and behold you can't find white pantyhose anywhere.  Who knew?  I guess white pantyhose went out with the 1980s and uniformed nurses.

Then I remembered a package of white tube socks that I have had in the basement for a year now while I try and convince my 17 year old son to wear them.  Anyone else have stubborn teenagers who will not wear the economical tube socks, but insist on wearing the very expensive wool hiking socks from Mountain Equipment Coop.  Sigh!  Anyway, it did occur to me that maybe I could make three of those poor neglected tube socks feel useful by making them into ghosts.  

It was really pretty easy.  I slipped pushed the squash into the socks and tied the tops.  Then I made eyes and mouths out of sticky-back felt.   

I have to say I think they are pretty darn cute.  And we can eat our little ghosties when Hallowe'en is done!

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Puffy Pumpkins

Since it is almost Hallowe'en I've been doing some crafts with the special class that I work with in one of my schools.  Last week we made these adorable pumpkins out of two pairs of panyhose, some batting, paint, and black felt.   I love their lumpy-bumpy uniqueness.

They are pretty simple to make so I'll explain how we made them in case you are wanting a last minute Hallowe'en craft.  I didn't take any photos during the process as my hands were busy helping the students. 

Here's how you make them:
1.  Cut off the panty and the toe part of two pairs of pantyhose
2.  Lay all 4 legs of the pantyhose on top of each other on the table and tie a knot in the middle.   When you spread the legs out you now have 8 pieces coming out from the centre knot.
3.  Stuff each leg with batting
4.  Pull the loose ends of each leg together at the top and tie them with some string
5.  Paint the pumpkins - we used tempera paints with orange for the body and a greeny-brown for the stem
6.  Cut out face pieces from black felt (or black foam) and glue them on

I have to say that making these crafts with the kids is a part of my job that I really enjoy.  And in case you are wondering, the classroom teacher and I made the students work for all the pieces they needed to use and before they could paint each section of the pumpkin.  There was a lot of rhyming and identifying sounds happening in the class as the students were all very motivated to make their pumpkins.   

I took pictures of each child's pumpkin so they can write about them next week.  Nothing better than a little pumpkin photo-shoot.

Here's what the same class made last year (you can read how to make them here). 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WISH Wednesday #2

I really felt I needed to do one more pumpkin-related WISH picture (Weekly Inspiration for a Seasonally-decorated Home) before Hallowe'en is over.   I was smitten with this fall bouquet as soon as I saw it.  I love the colours of the flowers - everything from a deep burgandy to a golden yellow.  I love that they are simple flowers, like mums and sunflowers, but looks so elegant because of the presentation.  I love that they used a white pumpkin as the vase.  And finally, I love the photography and styling with the light hitting the top petals of the sunflowers and the mini white pumpkin adding interest at the front.  

I just might try something like this one day - and now I've got the inspiration picture to remind myself.

What kind of flowers do you like to use in the fall?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stepping Back

I finally had the perfect trio of time, daylight, and a clean kitchen to get some photos of how the shelves look (you can read about them here).

And as for the details on the shelves:

  • Bowls from Anthropologie - check.
  • Toy truck from Bangladesh - check.
  • Condiments container from France - check
  • Baskets to corral junk like tape and candles and batteries - check, check, check, and check!

Did you notice the collection of vintage mason jars on the counter?  They are an early Christmas present from a friend and I'm working on the details of using them on the sideboard at Christmas.  Stay tuned!

Oh, and did you notice the chocolates that coordinate with the accent colour on the shelves.  Very important to always have chocolates that coordinate with your decor.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The $3 Addition to Our Kitchen

As some of you know I had a wild and crazy spring and was away for most of the summer so not much got done around our casa.  In fact, more like the opposite happened - things rather deteriorated.  The main floor was fine, but if you opened any cupboard or went down to the basement the disorganization became apparent.  I've been spending my time over the past two months putting things aright.  I'm not, by any means, finished yet, but I'm working on it and it feels good to declutter and claim back the house.   I really wish it was more interesting blog material though.  

So let's talk instead about something much more interesting than decluttering and tidying. I've been working on an insanely labour-intensive, but very frugal $3 addition to our kitchen.

Here is how things evolved.  I painted our kitchen cabinets last summer and love them (you can read the details here).  However, one of the things that remained undone was finishing the open shelves.   I had always wanted to put something on the back of the shelves to liven things up, but I wasn't sure what to do and what colour to use.  

I collected inspiration photos and let the ideas percolate through my mind - for over a year!  Apparently I have a slow percolation time.  Here are a few of the photos I love.  I considered painting the back of the shelves a solid colour, but I wasn't sure what colour would work since the kitchen is open to the dining room and family room.  I love these two photos below:

Our Humble Abode
Then it occurred to me that what I really wanted was a modern simple pattern to liven things up like in the photo below.

Manola Home
That still didn't solve the colour problem however.  One day when I was staring at the kitchen trying to decide what colour to use it occurred to me that gray would be the perfect choice.  Not only would it be flexible enough to coordinate with any colours I put on the shelf, but it would match the colours already in the kitchen since the cupboards are painted gray and white.  I considered wallpaper, but had no idea where I could get the small piece that I needed without spending a fortune on a whole roll.  Then I thought of a solution to the problem, which was to paint the pattern using the dark grey paint that I had used on the lower cabinets.  That way the colour would be a perfect match and it would be free since I had leftover paint.  And I do love freebies.  

My next problem was where to get a stencil or a pattern that I could use.  When I came across some of the remnants of the patterned material I had used in the basement I thought I would try using it (you can see the material rolled up in the photo below and on our basement wall here).  

The plan was to cover some foam core boards with the fabric and paint it using the cabinet paint.  But that wasn't how things turned out.  Why, oh why, do craft projects always have more twists and turns than a mountain road.  I guess it's all part of the fun.

When I put the paint on the fabric it bled into the material.  Oops!  I guess that's why they invented fabric paint.

On to Plan B.  

I decided to trace around the design with a pen (you can see that I've started in the photo above) which left a slight indent in the foam core board that was underneath the fabric.  Then I painted the sections that were orange in the fabric with the grey paint.  

You can see I needed to use two foam core boards to cover the back of the cupboard which means there is a seam.   Not to worry though, the seam is behind the shelf.

It took a couple of days to fully dry and then I put the painted boards up and did a bit of styling.  I went for a limited colour palette of yellow and white which is a combination I love.

I'll add another photo of the whole kitchen when I have time this weekend.   

Oh, and the $3 was the cost of two foam core boards.  Since I already had the paint the project was otherwise free, unless you count my time that is!  It took me a ridiculous amount of time to paint the grey, although I did find it very relaxing and peaceful to paint (and drink copious amounts of tea) while the rain poured down and the wind howled outside.   Using painted foam core board has the additional advantage of being easy to change if I decide I want to do something different in the future.

p.s.  You can see more photos of the shelves in this post.

Linked to:
Sunday Showcase at Under the Table and Dreaming, 
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style,
Flaunt it Friday at Chic on a Shoestring Decorating,
Inspiration Friday at At the Picket Fence,
Potpourri Friday at 2805,
Thrifty Thursdays at Inspired by Charm,
White Winter Vignette and Linky Party at Songbird

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WISH Wednesday #1

What is WISH Wednesday, you ask?  Well it is a new series that I'm going to do every Wednesday - WISH stands for Weekly Inspiration for a Seasonally-decorated Home.  I do realize it should really be WISDH, but that just doesn't make sense so we're going to ignore the 'd', making it the ever so appropriate acronym WISH.

Every Wednesday I will post one picture that I find somewhere on the internet that just tickles my fancy and completely enthralls me.  It might be a craft project or a table setting or a piece of furniture or a decorated room, but it will be something house related.  The pictures I select may be things that I would actually like to do or incorporate in our home or they may be things that are just so beautiful that I want to share them even though I will never be able to do or own what is in the picture.  

I also thought it would be an interesting idea to look back at the end of a year and see what sorts of things caught my attention.  I will have twelve months worth of decorating inspiration which may help me define what my taste and decorating style is.  

Martha Stewart

Today's picture is from Martha Stewart.  Of course!  Who else would spend all that time cutting holes in a pumpkin that is going to be composted in a few weeks.  Now that being said, I still absolutely love these pumpkins.  I adore the blue-gray colour - don't they look like they are made of stone-glazed pottery.   I love the lacy look the cut-outs give the pumpkin.  I bet they are just as pretty in the daytime as they are at night with the lights twinkling through the holes.  

This is not a project I would ever do because I would go completely mental digging out all those holes, but I would definitely modify the idea and use a drill to make a lacy pattern on a pumpkin.   It wouldn't be an A+ pumpkin like Martha made, but it would be a C+ or even a B+ pumpkin and that would be enough to make me happy.

Would you ever be tempted to spend hours making one of these gems?


I neglected to put the 1 tsp of orange zest in my recipe that I posted on Monday (many thanks to Sandra for noticing and emailing me about it).   If any of you had already copied the recipe out I wanted to be sure and let you know to add the grated orange rind as it is a nice addition.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Harvest Pumpkin Bread with Orange and Raisins

I love pumpkin bread and really feel like fall has arrived when I smell the pumpkiny-cinnamony aroma wafting from the oven.   

Not only is pumpkin bread fantastic, but it is loaded with beta-carotenes, carotenoids, fibre, potassium, and zinc.  I really sound like I know what I'm talking about, don't I?  Well I just Googled it and thought I would impress all of you with how healthy pumpkin is.  I'm willing to make it for a lot of less virtuous reasons than that, but all those beta-watchamacallits certainly help convince me I am doing a good thing when I make it.

Just in case you are getting the pumpkin cravings, here is my recipe - quick, easy, and sooo delish.

2 cups flour (even better would be to use 1 cup of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each of allspice, ground ginger, and salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup sour milk (add 1 tsp vinegar to 1/2 cup milk)
1 tsp orange zest 
1 1/2 cups canned pure pumpkin (make sure it is pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cups raisins (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Oil a 9 x 5 x 3 (1.5 L capacity) inch loaf pan. 
2.  Measure dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir.  
3.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients (the recipe said to combine them together in another bowl first, but between you and me I just dumped them in and it worked).   Stir just until blended - batter will be very thick.
4.  Turn into loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake in the centre of the oven for about 70-75 minutes.  Turn out of a pan and cool on a rack.  

Very tasty and thankfully the good news about all the health properties justifies my eating seconds and even thirds!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Easy Dinner - Honey-Glazed Pork Roast with Cabbage and Apples

Today I made some significant modifications to a recipe I had cut out of a magazine so that the final product was nowhere near the original, but the path it went down was a good one.  I made Honey-Glazed Pork Loin Roast with Cabbage and Apples.  The cabbage looked like glazed onions when it was done and was delicious.  I often find it hard to use up a whole cabbage when I buy one for a recipe, but this tasted fantastic and was so easy.  

1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
black pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/3 of a head of cabbage, sliced and cut into pieces
1 onion, sliced thin
2 apples, peeled and cut into 1 cm thick pieces
pork loin roast (approximately 900 gm)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
4 tsp brown sugar
black pepper to taste
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp soy sauce

1. In a medium bowl mix soy sauce, thyme, and pepper. Add pork and roll to coat. 
2. Lightly oil a Dutch oven.  Layer half the chopped cabbage, apple, onion, and then repeat the layers.  Put the pork loin roast on top.
3.  Combine the melted butter, brown sugar, pepper, honey, and soy sauce and pour over the roast.  
4.  Cover and cook at 350 for about 1 1/2 hours (check to be sure the pork is cooked in the centre with a meat thermometer as you don't want to take any chances).  Periodically baste the pork with the sauce.

I served the pork and cabbage mix with rice, but that was only because we were out of potatoes.  It would be good with either.    

I also cooked up the squash that I had on our sideboard.  I've been a bit obsessed with all the different kinds of squash available at the grocery store and have been buying them if they look interesting or lumpy or wildly coloured or pretty much anything.  The only problem is we get a bit attached to them and don't like to cook them - sort of like cooking the family pet or something.  Anyway we got over our weird attachment to our squash and had a very yummy dinner indeed.

Say goodbye to the large green squash cause it's gone!

p.s.  Stay tuned for details about the pumpkin bread I made for dessert - recipe coming up tomorrow.

p.p.s.  Also stay tuned for details about the insane craft project I spent hours doing this weekend.  Let's just say it was a calm and therapeutic way to spend a cold and rainy weekend.  Here's a sneak peak.  It needs to dry and then some styling has to happen before I'm ready to reveal it.

Linked to Sunday Showcase at Under the Table and Dreaming

Thursday, October 13, 2011

10 Reasons Why I Love Sarah Richardson's Cottage

It could be that seeing summer end has made me a little nostalgic for the relaxed carefree days at the cottage.  Whatever the reason, I have recently found myself thinking about Sarah Richardson's cottage - which is one of my all time favourites.

There is so much to love about her cottage and I know that I'm not the only one that feels that way.  Of course, the location is divine - with windswept pines and gorgeous granite rocks.  The scenery is very familiar to me as our family cottage is also out on an island in Georgian Bay.  However, it is far more than the familiar setting that has my heart going a pitter-pat.  

When I looked through the pictures and watched the shows (which you too can watch online - check here to see the episodes), I tried to put my finger on what it is that appeals to me.  Sarah's cottage is decorated in a style that I find pleasing and welcoming.   Me, being me, I had to think about it, analyze it half to death, and come up with a list of reasons why I find her cottage so attractive.

So, what is it that makes Sarah's cottage so amazing?  Here's my list:

My number one favourite range of colours to decorate with are pastels so I love that Sarah uses soft easy-to-live-with colours in her cottage.  (I'm also tickled that I own one of those banker's chairs that she has in her dining room - although I painted mine black).

Blues rule for me - I love every shade, tint, and hue.  I know that one of the reasons I adore Sarah's cottage is that she used blue in every room (and yes I looked to make sure).  Her living room with all the different blues is especially divine.

I'm not one of those people who could live in a neutral house with only beige, black, and white everywhere.  I like that I can buy a turquoise bowl, or a red vase, or a yellow box and find a place for it in our house.   I noticed that Sarah's cottage has accents of almost every colour I can think of, with the exception of brown, orange, and purple - which suits me fine as those are my least favourite colours.  

While there is a predominance of blue throughout the cottage, several rooms also have quite a bit of red in them.  The main bedroom is dreamy with hits of pure fire engine red.

And red is used on the cupboard doors leading to the bathroom.

A bright green is used as an accent colour in the west guest bedroom,

Love of Family & Home
and in the children's bedroom.

Yellow is used on the chairs in the lounge.

Love of Family & Home
A bright floral in the east guest room combines red, yellow, and green.

I love how paired down the decorating is.  Detail and interest are added through texture and layering rather than embellishment or fussy details.   In the kitchen, Sarah incorporates a simple collection of milk glass footed bowls and glassware with muted tone-on-tone cabinets and back-splash tiles.

What could be simpler than this corner of the living room - a chair, some flowers, and a gorgeous view.

The mix of antique and vintage finds with new furniture is what makes her cottage feel like it was decorated over time.  Sarah added interest to the kitchen by mixing the vintage weathered boards around the exterior of the kitchen cabinets, the antique corbels, and the "groceries" sign, with the new appliances and cabinets.

The mix of cheap-and-cheerful and high-end furniture are a signature Sarah look and can be seen all over her cottage.  The straw hat collection on the wall in the lounge area contrasts with the chairs that I'm sure are more cheerful than cheap.

Mixing refined pieces with simple rustic finds is another feature typical of Sarah's decorating. Here in the main bathroom, the elegant Venetian glass mirror contrasts so nicely with the rustic chair and the simple baskets under the sink.  

Sarah is the master of mixing fabrics and you can see that in the cushions in the living room and the pillows on the beds.  Check out the guest bedroom below - I spy six different patterns used in this bedroom - and all in some of my favourite colours.

While I like both natural wood furniture and painted wood furniture, too much of either can be too much of a good thing.  Sarah has found the perfect balance of wood and painted wood in her cottage.  Along with wood furniture, she also has wood walls, ceiling, and floors to contend with.   While some of the rooms have white-washed wood walls, others have been painted, and others have natural wood walls.  In the bedroom below, Sarah has found a wonderful balance of white-washed walls, painted floors, and both painted and natural wood furniture.

Sarah's cottage is located in an absolutely gorgeous setting and she has decorated the cottage to take advantage of that in several ways.  I love that Sarah incorporated the colours of nature and lots of wood throughout her cottage to blend the indoors with the outdoors.  With the beautiful views out the windows, she used the perfect simple window treatments so that the scenery is the focus.  She also used simplified modern florals on many of the cushions and fabrics in the cottage.  

So these are the ten reasons I love Sarah's cottage.  What about you?  Why do you love it?