A time of renewal

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Happy Autumn friends!
I miss this space. I miss the rhythm and routine of coming here.
Our summer was a beautiful, bountiful and busy one full of many new adventures along with much tradition.
I am ready for fall though. It is a time of renewal for me.
I have begun to bring the gifts of this new season indoors to incorporate into our decor. We are eating squashes, brussels sprouts and dark leafy greens and soon soup will be a weekly meal.
We have a trip to the orchard planned to pick loads of apples to turn into sauce to can for winter as well as for holiday gifts.
And soon there will be daily trips to the woodpile.
I feels good to be back.
xo

A backyard restaurant

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We have been having such a fun summer full of new experiences along with tradition. We are slowly but surely crossing things off of our summer manifesto and since we still have a few weeks left I am more than confident that we can fully complete it. It’s a simple and achievable list just as manifestos should be.

One of the things on our list was something that Hannah and Norah have been dreaming of doing for over a year now and it was so fun to watch it all evolve and come to fruition this past Sunday.
They have always wanted to create a real live restaurant at our home so on Sunday family and friends came out to 121 Cafe, a backyard restaurant offering homegrown and seasonal foods.

The menu featured pasta dishes made with homemade pesto and tomato sauce, farm fresh salads, breads dipped in herb infused olive oil, peach blackberry crumble, mint iced tea and lemonade. We used as many ingredients as possible from our own backyard as well as our local farm. They worked all week preparing, cooking and gathering.
There were 2 seatings, one at 5pm and one at 7pm where the girls worked as both hostess and waitress for 26 people total. We set a table on the back porch, one on the patio and 2 out on the street for a true alfresco experience.They made their own menus, check slips and even doodle pages for kids to draw on.

Many times throughout the night they kept running in to the kitchen thanking us for helping to make it all happen. We all had a blast and fell into bed that night marveling at and appreciating the many chefs, cooks, waitresses and restaurant owners out there. We definitely got a small dose of how much work is involved!

At the end of the night the girls were thrilled to find that their own hard work had paid off making a profit of $200, half of which will be donated to our local fire company.

A sneak peek of Norah’s room

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When Hannah moved up to her new room last year we promised Norah a little room make-over.
She has been so patient as she has been sleeping up with her sister and living out of baskets over the months. As her room sits at the top of our stairs, I always had the door closed to hide how much work was to be done.
It feels so good almost a year later to have finally made some major progress.

When we first bought our house our budget only allowed us to put in new hardwood floors in the downstairs only. We put a cheap sisel rug down in the upstairs with the intent of one day putting hardwood in. Finally this spring Chris started that process and put floors down in Norah’s room and out into part of the hallway.
It made such a difference! I can’t wait to do the rest this fall!

A few weeks back I painted the walls this color and I cannot tell you how much I love it. It is so calming and peaceful and looks great against the wood pieces in her room.

Norah’s little Jenny bed was my mother’s when she was a girl and her bureau was her great, great, great grandmother Gladys’s.

We hung white dotted Swiss curtains which brightened things up a bit along with a white cotton quilt for her bed. My mom gave her a beautiful antique hooked rug and I found a little side table on craigs list which I want to eventually paint grey.

There are still shelves to be hung along with some artwork. And Chris is working on making an extension to the radiator cover for a makeshift desk.
We are also working on renovating her closet with both shelving and hanging.

I now find myself going upstairs for no reason at all but to just reach the top of the stairs with a door wide open and a happy little girl inside.

A few of my favorite thrift stores

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Life has been busy. Busy enough that I haven’t been thrifting for over a month. A record in my book!
I broke that spell this week with a little trip to a few of my favorite spots.

1. Studio pottery bowl, perfect for summer fruits.

2.Wooden handled silverware tray. Just in time for back porch parties.

3. Large cotton madras tablecloth. I plan to use this for summer picnics and for the beach.

4.Blue striped mixing bowl. One of my favorites recently broke so this was a timely find.

5.Wooden handled wire basket for the farmers market and our CSA share.

6.Cobalt blue and grey studio pottery vase for summer wildflower  bouquets.

7.Woven basket case perfect for the pool, the beach or as a summer handbag.

For the local folk, as promised a list of my favorite spots…….

Riddle Thrift

Not only the closest in proximity to me but also full of high quality goods. The top floor is full of clothing, handbags, shoes and bags all in impeccable condition  and the bottom floor, full of housewares. This place has washed and ironed linens!

Note: Riddle is closed on Saturdays in the summertime.

Neighborhood League

High quality beautiful goods many of which are antiques. Some of my most treasured pieces of pottery and kitchen wares come from here.

Note: Neighborhood League is closed for the summer months and opens right after Labor Day

Pennywise

A great mix of collectables and housewares as well as clothing and jewelery.

Note: Pennywise closes in the summer  months but reopens after Labor Day

Bryn Mawr Thrift

Some of the best furniture around!

Nana’s Attic

This one has a bit  more “junk” to sift through than the others but I still have found many treasures here. All proceeds go towards the Domestic Abuse Project.

Harry’s Treasures and Collectibles 

This is an antique store but the basement is full of 1/2 off treasures. Some of my favorite pieces of furniture have been found at Harry’s.

Cookie Cutters

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Ever since I can remember I have always loved to bake.
My mother was ever so patient with me in the kitchen whenever I would help make cookies, scones and pies alongside her.
I still have the glued together pie plate I broke when I was about five years old due to my over zealousness and excitement to assist her.

As I got older I loved to sift through my mother’s Martha Stewart collection of magazines and dogear all sorts of cookie recipes. Even though I still lived at home I began to collect my very own baking accoutrements in my teens. One of the first things I acquired was a set of vintage cookie cutters and began to master the art of a rolled out sugar cookie. Soon I was collecting cookie cutters of all shapes and sizes for every holiday and special event. I made cookies for Christmas, Valentines day, Easter, Halloween, birthday parties, showers and weddings. I even made heart shaped cookies sandwiched together with strawberry jam for my own wedding.

When Hannah was born I couldn’t wait until she was old enough to help roll out dough and cut out cookies alongside me. By that time I had quite the collection of cutters for her to choose from. She loved to see how many shapes she could fit onto one piece of rolled out dough.

I recently culled through my cookie cutter collection which had grown into two huge baskets. I passed some along and kept my absolute favorites. As I sifted through them I thought about what each one was used for. A saw and hammer I had bought to make for my Pop’s birthday one year. An umbrella and stork for all of the baby showers. A guitar and musical note for Chris when he first started playing and an antique chicken cutter when we first got our hens.

Although I may not make as many cut out cookies throughout the year as I did in my younger days, not a Christmas or Easter goes by without them. This weekend I saw my Aunt Patty, who hosts Easter dinner every year. She asked “you’ll bring the cookies right?”
Of course I will!

The Beauty of a Basket

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Can you tell I have a bit of a basket addiction?

I can’t help but bringing just one more home from the thrift.
They are the pockets of my home, bringing order and beauty to the piles of stuff. Messes of toys, laundry and paper look so much prettier in a basket.

I love their texture, their handmade natural, organic feel and that they are both beautiful and useful.

Baskets can be the “jack of all trades” in your home. Think outside of the box and get creative. Give them a job and they will be sure to give a stellar performance.

::Baskets are very inexpensive at the thrift. Collect a variety. Look for different shapes, heights, color and design.
::Hang your baskets. Hang one in the bathroom to hold a hand towel, by your kitchen sink to hold dish brushes or by your desk for pens and pencils.
::Use baskets as artwork. Hang basket lids or trays for texture. Sometimes they can cast beautiful shadows.
::Plants and baskets make a beautiful couple. Hide an ugly plastic pot inside a basket and give your flora a whole new feel.
::Baskets can soften a space. A basket of blankets or books can warm up an empty corner.
::Baskets are beautiful on their own even without a use. Use baskets in your vignettes to become part of a scene.
::Turn a basket into a vase by tucking a glass or ball jar of flowers inside. A basket bouquet!
::Keep a stockpile of baskets stored away. They make the perfect gift full of goodies.

Make your Bed

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I remember making my bed as a child. I would find pleasure in pulling my quilt up and tucking it neatly under the bottom of my pillow, then placing my stuffed animals and dolls on top just so.
I also remember sitting for hours pouring over my Eloise Wilkin books, many of which involved domestic work. One of my favorites being We Help Mommy . I still have the book and now Norah likes me to read it to her. I loved the drawings of the daily chores and especially remember the making the bed page.

Funny enough, the love of making my bed sort of vanished when I moved out and on my own.
I admit that just in the last year did I start to consistently make my bed.
Maybe with tight morning schedules, small kids and just rushing out the door it never became high on my priority list.
And why would I want to take the time to make a bed when before I knew it I would be pulling it apart to sleep in?

Well I am here to tell you that I have turned a new leaf!
I now look forward to making my bed each morning and sometimes I kick Chris out earlier than he would like because I truly am excited to make our bed.

I don’t know what the turning point was but I have found that the daily routine of it brings me joy.
Also, my bedroom feels neat, orderly, clean and clutter-free when my bed is made. Even if there may be a pile of dirty clothes on the floor.

Not to mention, at the end of a day when I am tired and done, there is nothing like slipping in to a crisply made bed.

You would be surprised on how many tutorials there are out there on how to make a bed. But don’t get overwhelmed. No need to make a bed you can bounce a quarter off of. The simple act of pulling up your covers and smoothing out a few wrinkles is all you need.

A few bed making tips

::Try to make your bed as soon as you get up (or after everyone is out of it). It starts the day off on the right foot and feels good to check something off your to-do list right away. Believe it or not, leaving the house knowing my bed is made has helped me to be more productive with the rest of my day.
::Just because you didn’t get to make your bed in the morning doesn’t mean you can’t make it in the afternoon. It only takes a few minutes and you’ll be glad you took the time to do it when you are crawling in that night.
::Treat yourself to a new set of sheets, pretty ones that you love and maybe a few new throw pillows to brighten things up. They will make your bed-making experience that much more enjoyable.
::While making your bed, think of a few intentions for your day ahead. Making your bed can be a meditative experience that you will soon look forward to.
::Think of your bedroom as a place to retreat to. Walking in to a comfy, neat space mid day for a nap, to read a book or at the end of a long day can aid in relaxation and sleep.
::Lavender is a great aid for relaxing and winding down before bedtime. Sprinkle a few drops of the essential oil in your hands and rub on your pillow. Sweet dreams!

So make your bed. I promise, you’ll thank me in the morning (and at night!)

Inviting Spring Indoors

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This has been such a fun winter full of snow, sledding, skiing, ice skating and snowmen.
But I won’t lie, I’ve got Spring fever!

Yesterday I was so tempted to put the snow boots and gear away up in the attic but then reminded myself that it’s not quite Spring yet.

Rather than let myself get in to a funk, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to get me through the
end- of- winter blues.

A few weeks ago I bought a few Oxalis plants to brighten things up a bit and began to force some branches.

Forcing is an easy way to invite Spring indoors. A gentle nudge to a blooming tree or shrub can perform quite an amazing display and act as a reminder that soon the warmer weather will arrive. Even before they leaf out and bloom, branches are beautiful on their own, like a sculpture giving height, texture and definition to any room.

Any woody, deciduous shrub or tree that flowers in the early spring is perfect for forcing. Forsythia, flowering quince, cherry, plum, pear, crabapple, dogwood, spirea, witch hazel, magnolia and pussy willow are successful indoor bloomers. Wait until after the flower buds swell in late winter to begin the process.

I bet there are many candidates right in your own backyard. If not ask a friend or neighbor for a clipping. The forsythia pictured above is from my mother’s garden and the fallen dogwood branch I found on my morning walk.

Forcing branches

::Pick a day to cut branches when the temperature is above freezing. A rule of thumb for cutting is mid-January for forsythia, pussy willow and witch hazel. Mid-March for trees like crabapple, cherry, pear and dogwood.

::With pruning shears cut branches that have numerous flower buds.

::After you bring the branches inside, split open the bottom of stems with sharp scissors about 1 inch or if it is too woody of a stem, gently mash the ends with a hammer.
This will help the branches absorb water.

::Make a simple preservative of 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of plain household bleach and 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice and a quart of warm water.

::Fill vase with solution and add branches.

::Place in a cool location away from direct sunlight. Remember they need springtime (not summer) conditions to bloom.

::Change water and preservative once a week.

::Forsythia and pussy willow generally take only one to three weeks to force.
Flowering fruits like crabapple and cherry can take up to four weeks.

::Be patient. Sometimes buds can be stubborn and take longer to open and occasionally some buds may not bloom at all. But you can almost be certain you’ll be rewarded with bright green foliage.

::If timed right you can have different blooms adorning your home for many weeks.

::Add store bought spring blooms like tulips and ranunculus for an extra punch.

::Experiment and have fun!

snow day

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we woke up to almost a foot of snow this morning. this has been the snowiest winter i can remember and there are no complaints here.

activities on a snow day may vary but a few things always remain the same.

recipe for a snow day

hot chocolate
makes 4 mugfuls
whisk together in a saucepan on low heat and steep until fragrant and steaming hot
5 cups whole milk
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
1/4 cup raw sugar
vanilla bean
cinnamon stick
sea salt
for a extra kick to warm your insides add a pinch of chile powder.

snowman
2 parts snow
1 part nature finds, hat, scarf and mittens.
don’t forget eyebrows, mustaches and eyelashes.
dot cheeks with beet juice or watercolors.

fire

always keep firewood and kindling in a dry protected place.
the night before a storm stack enough indoors on the hearth to get you started in the early morning.
hardwoods like ash and oak both burn hot and slow.
due to it’s resin, pine is a powerful fire starter.
hang your wet mittens and hats nearby to dry toasty warm for your next adventure outdoors.

bath
to sooth muscles from hauling firewood and shoveling, there is nothing like ending the day with a hot bath. fill tub with water. pour in Epsom salts and your favorite essential oils, light a few candles and submerge.

The Presentation of a Meal

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i grew up in a house where the presentation of a meal was just as important as the meal itself.
i don’t remember ever a bottle of ketchup or dressing on our dinner table. my mom would squeeze condiments into etched glass bowls with tiny silver spoons. we would make fun of her and i admit to sometimes being embarrassed when friends came to visit.
when chris and i first started dating he pulled me aside one night after dinner and said “your mom doesn’t have to make things so fancy just for me every time.” i didn’t have the heart to tell him at first that this was just the way things were.
little did he know what he was getting himself in to.

i am not sure if it was ingrained in me or if it’s in my blood, but i too love to present a meal.
i sometimes think i like it better than cooking. i love the process of it and the mood it sets.

tonight was salad bar night, a meal that we all love and with a little creativity, can satisfy everyone’s taste buds in our household. it’s a simple meal actually, that can pack a punch with proteins such as sunflower seeds, hard boiled eggs, chopped up bacon and feta cheese to compliment the greens and other veggies. fruits such as sliced up apple or pear, pomegranate seeds and grapes are favorite toppings as well. i like to experiment with making a new and different dressing each time. tonight’s was cilantro-jalapeno-lime. i toasted up some pita and served it with some olive oil for dipping. there are so many variations to this meal especially as the seasons change. it’s a great “clean out the fridge” kind of meal where all sorts of left-overs can act as toppings.

i feel lucky that my girls have always liked a variety of vegetables. but i think their love was born out of the freedom and fun to create their own salads. chris always says “you don’t make a sandwich, you build one!” well i believe this speaks true for a salad too.

no matter what i am preparing for dinner, even if it’s a pan of scrambled eggs, i like to follow a few simple guidelines ….

:: before i pull anything out of the fridge, start chopping or mixing, i light a few candles and turn on some music. i love our local jazz station. i pour myself something special, i deserve it. tonight was a glass of red wine. but even a glass of seltzer with a squeeze of lemon is nice.

:: i don’t believe that your best china, glassware, linens and silverware are meant for dinner parties and guests. beautiful things are meant for every day. sometimes sitting at a table with a thoughtful presentation of your favorite things can enhance the flavors of meal. a beautifully set table can feed my soul just as much as the food can satisfy my appetite.

:: although the table where we sit down to meals is used for many other activities, i try to always keep it clean and free of debris as much as possible. this allows to easily set it for each meal.

:: fresh flowers on the table at all times is a must for me. whether it be a store bought bouquet or a bundle of weeds from the backyard, it sets a mood and creates a sacred space.

:: cloth napkins make me happy. they are pretty and can brighten up a table. they can be used over and over and come in all different patterns and colors. i am always on the look out for them while thrifting. it’s nice to have several sets to use throughout the week.

:: even though we are not religious folk we do like to say a few words of appreciation before we dig in. a prayer, refection or even a moment of silence before a meal is a nice way to connect with each other, your home and the food that was prepared.

::digest! i used to be one to eat and run. i would immediately begin to clear the table and clean up after a meal. what’s the rush? sit and linger i say! pour a pot of hot herbal tea and continue the conversation.