30 October 2010

Treasures at the Thrift Shop

After our Wednesday morning bible study, Jane and I often make a quick stop into the tiny thrift store over by our house. It's run entirely by volunteer grannies and I just adore it there. Jane heads straight for the scarf section of the store, for they are all priced at a dollar. Just in her budget. She'll then twirl for all the ladies and we'll all confess to being charmed completely.

This past week we found not only a scarf, but a glorious amber colored velvet alpine hat. It is in pristine condition and I fell head over heels in love as soon as I spotted it. The grannies told me it had just come in that very morning. For our annual family harvest party, I'm thinking of dressing up as Maria Von Trapp. You know the scene at the end of The Sound of Music where they are climbing the Alps and the hills are all alive? Yep. That's gonna be me.

We also found another treasure. A sweet little woman named Peg that we met while standing at the checkout. Peg had also found some treasures that day and was contemplating taking several trips to get all the items home. Several trips on foot. I figure Peg to be well into her eighties!

When we asked if we could take her home, she beamed and announced: "I thank the Lord, Darling. That would be wonderful."

On our ride home we learned that Peg dearly loves the Lord. She grew up in New York and can't help up giggle at her own accent. She taught English to foreigners which she thought was most ironic given her own dialect. Peg is a riot.

We exchanged phone numbers and she is contemplating coming to church with us. She claims we were her blessing that day, but I think she was ours. I love the treasures God brings to us when we least expect it.

29 October 2010

A Supply in the Green Crate

My brother is a forester. He always has a lot of firewood on hand. And he has a woodstove. Which he uses. A lot.

Toasty warm in front of a crackling fire on these drippy days? He and his adorable wife have hot chocolate too, you say? Oh my. Now that sounds nice. I've gotta' get busy and finagle myself an invitation.

26 October 2010

The Foyer Gets a Makeover

I love decorating for fall. Of course, the rich colors and the splashes of gold are always a favorite, but what I really like most? The effort lasts from September all the way through November.  Apparently, this is where I now say, "Booyah." Or so Pops says.

This fall, I finished up the pillows and then let my decorating bug carry me into the foyer. Previously,  I had a dark burnished frame around the mirror, a black parsons bench, and a dark floral rug. I wasn't really into the look anymore, but had no real budget to work with.

On a whim, I asked Pops take the mirror down for me and I attacked it with some gold spray paint we already had. Don't get too perfect with the paint. I let the coats be slightly uneven in coverage so it would look a little less ... spray-painty. Start to finish? 15 minutes. I'm serious.

Next, I primed the bench and gave it a coat of Sherwin-Williams "Modern Gray - #7632." I am smitten with this gray. Such a soft, mellow gray. Once dry (I used a foam roller for the body and foam brush for the nooks ... super fast!), toss on a throw and pillow.

Finally, up came the ol' granny rug and down went a simple sisal floor runner, and then ribboned on an old wreath over top of the mirror.

The only thing purchased was paint and the rug. Total cost? About $35 dollars. Booyah.

25 October 2010

Yet Another Use for Beloved Pumpkin

 To continue my seasonal obsession with all things pumpkin, I recently tried making ... Pumpkin Chili! It was actually really good. The pumpkin flavor was very subtle and seemed to make the chili very rich and moist.

There seem to be several recipes floating out there in recipe-land, but I basically took my chili stand-by and just altered it a smidge. Omit the corn and tomato paste, toss in a can of pumpkin. Only black beans, add yellow peppers. Swap ground beef for ground turkey.

Kind of a fun change. Especially when you pair the chili with buttermilk biscuits. Ahh, buttermilk. Another recent obsession ...

22 October 2010

Fresh Bedsheets and Evening Light

A Little Bit of Sparkle

Little Jane decided we needed to accessorize the newly arranged coffee table. By George, I think she's onto something!

I'm always a touch nervous to add to many bibelots for fear that the whole scene will just look junky. But as I was previously lamenting, the table didn't look quite right. As soon as we gave a quick polish to a couple of pieces from Grandma's silver set, Jane and I knew we were onto something. We're still tinkering, Jane and I, but we've definitely determined that we are fans of a little sparkle.

My favorite accessory of all? The little bit of sparkle you see smiling in the background.

20 October 2010

A Last-Minute Baking Miracle

I had an "Eeeks" moment this morning when I realized that I had completely forgotten to prepare the scones I'd volunteered to bring to morning bible study. I hate it when I do that.

I'd already spent my dawning hours racing around with a wet shower-head, making breakfasts, making lunches, checking homework, and frenetically telling kids to "Hurry, hurry ... Eat! Brush! Shoes! Get in the van!!" Not to mention snapping at my poor husband when he offered to make me coffee. Because really, I can't be expected to know whether or not I want coffee! Sheesh. Not one of my shining moments.

Fast forward through a carpool drop-off at school and spastic blow-dry session to fix my aforementioned shower-head ... I remembered. Scones. Bible study. Less than an hour.

After a quick mental inventory of what I had in the fridge/cupboards and a peek in my trusty cast iron cookbook, I managed to toss together a version of buttermilk scones. And when I say toss, I mean almost literally tossed together. It was slapdash blur of combining, mixing, and substitutions.

Had some chopped dates but not the currents. Had a lemon but not an orange. No time for rolling out and cutting, so just pat it into the pan. From first toss to pulling out of the oven? 30 minutes. Wowzers, I love this recipe! And I love my cast iron pan.

I yanked the crazy hot pan out of the oven and set it on the floor of my mom-mobile to cool as we sped off for bible study. Once we arrived it had cooled just enough to be cut into wedges right in the pan. Yippee!

Okay. I'm better now.

• Slapdash Buttermilk Scones •

Mix together:
3 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
2.5 t. baking powder
.5 t. baking soda
.75 t. salt

Mix/cut in 'til well blended:
.75 c. butter

citrus zest
.5 c. dates (or cranberries, raisins, currents, etc.)

Pour in and mix 'til just blended:
1 c. buttermilk (I'm sure milk would work fine, too)

Butter up your cast iron skillet and press batter into pan. If you've got it, sprinkle on some turbinado sugar for sparkle and crunch. Toss into 400 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes or 'til golden. Grab some pot holders, snatch out of oven, and drive off to your next event! Hurrah for baking miracles!

Potted Succulents for the Coffee Table

I'm horrible at keeping houseplants alive. I really don't know what my problem is. But they make a room look so much more home-y, don't they. So when I ran across a display full of succulents at the nursery today, I nearly kicked myself for not having thought of them before. Such a nice change from the expected, plus they tend to be rather forgiving.

I've had a bit of a soft-spot for succulents ever since my young entrepreneurship days. When I wanted a bunny for my very own, I dug up "hens" and "chicks" from the backyard, stashed them in my red wagon, and tromped around the neighborhood selling them for a quarter a piece. Cha-ching!

Succulents + red wagon + little girl = Enough money to buy a little rabbit and name her Charlotte.

But I digress.

Anyhow ... I'm rather pleased with my little pot-full resting on the coffee table. I tried to stack up a bunch of books like I see the fancy magazine people do, but I'm not sure if it works on a table without corners. Hmmm. Nevertheless, I do always like a mini-redo.

Do you have any mini-redo tricks?

19 October 2010

A Little Ingenuity

Lucette hasn't gotten the memo that it isn't summer anymore. She's still tromping around in sundresses and bare legs. Brrrr ...

But, apparently she keeps warm by constructing her own plant-watering-syphon-system. Seems you only need two portions of old garden hose, large bucket, a section of two by four, and one of Pops' rubber gardening clogs.

Create some suction ...

... and there you go! You've now watered the lavender and the geraniums as well as a forgotten screw driver.

And of course, Jane can always make some flower stew for the fairies if you have any leftover ...

15 October 2010

Little Pots of Pumpkin

In a recent conversation with a friend, we were gushing over our love for the fall season and all things pumpkin. Naturally, pumpkin pie had to be discussed at length.

At one point, I mentioned that I didn't even care about the crust that much, I just loved the pumpkin filling. To which she replied that she sometimes doesn't even make a crust, just whips up the filling and bakes it in the pie plate on it's own. Brilliant!

Now we all know, pumpkin pie filling has to be the easiest filling ever. Just some can-opening, spice adding, and lots of mixing. So that very afternoon, I pulled out my beloved Ikea ramekins and filled them up with a batch of pumpkin goodness.

Place on cookie pan (in case they bubble over) and bake for allotted time (maybe a smidge less). After dinner that night, you'll have little pumpkin pies to hand out to the family! Isn't that fun?

**Jane wants to remind everyone that it is even better if you squirt a little whipped cream on top, "cause we always have some leftover from bible study nights!")

14 October 2010

Prudence Tries Again

I once heard someone say that they regularly try to do things with their kids that they are not good at. Or at the very least, may stand a reasonable chance to experience failure.

So often we find ourselves encouraging our children to push for success. "You can do it!" we applaud. This is a good thing. A parents' blind belief that their children are amazing and possess a wide berth of potential can be a great source of security and motivation for a child.

However. We don't always experience success, despite our best efforts and cheers from the sidelines. And that's okay, isn't it. Life is full of grand attempts ... and grand failures, too.

Oddly, what is prudent may not always be what feels natural.

Because sometimes it's good to try things that may result in peals of laughter ... rather than rounds of applause. I think it's good for my kids to see that in action.

Because even if we fail, we can always try again. And sometimes we even succeed.

11 October 2010

08 October 2010

A Favorite Flower

Often thought of a prolific weed, I've always found fond affection for Queen Anne's Lace. I adore the clusters of lacy blooms paired with the ivory and brilliant green stems. The sweet flower has both straight-laced symmetry and a bohemian flounce that I've always been drawn to.

And while I haven't seen them in a while, when I was a child we would always look for the dainty faces that had a single deep burgundy bloom right in the center. Have you seen them too? Such a thrill!

07 October 2010

Morning at the Pumpkin Patch

It is days like these that make me think of all the mothers in the world that are worried about such grand issues that simple, daily outings are just fanciful dreams.

Mothers in Africa worried about what meal she can serve or what medicine she can acquire. Mothers in Israel worried about car bombings or raids. Mothers in Haiti worried about missing daughters, sons, husbands.
And yet. I get the pumpkin patch, hay-rides, and a rosy-cheeked five year-old. I don't really understand why I have been given these blessings when others have not. But it moves me to prayer and a sense of deep humility.

I am grateful I serve a God who understands, when I do not. A God who acts, when I cannot. A God who knows the name of every soul, when I know not. A God who is the great "I AM" and desires for us all to know ... "I am His."

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, 
you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy..."
1 Peter 1:8

06 October 2010

Ushering in The Season of Pumpkin

Oh, Fall. How I love thee. You bring me sunny crisp days, golden trees and plates and plates full of pumpkin baked goods. Yum. Yum. Yum.

I do love pumpkin goodies from the kitchen. I like pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin bars, and pumpkin coffee cake. And I also love ... Pumpkin Date Cookies! I think, perhaps, it is my very favorite cookie for the fall.

To help you kick off the coming seasons of over-indulgence and general gluttony, here's the said cookie recipe to try yourself!

• Pumpkin Date Cookies •

1.5 sticks butter
1 c. brown sugar
.5 c. sugar

1 egg
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 t. vanilla
2 t. pumpkin pie spice (nutmeg and cinnamon work fine)

Blend in:
.5 t. baking soda
.25 t. salt
2.5 c. flour

Mix well and add:
1 c. chopped dates*
*You could use raisins if you don't like dates. But you would be crazy. 'Cause dates are awesome and turn all caramelly fantastic. I'm just sayin.

Bake at 300 degrees for about 22-24 minutes (or 20 mins. on a 300 degree convection). It's a slow bake, but worth the wait.

What treats do you love in fall? Do share!

05 October 2010

Surprise Bunnies and Probable Unions

Oh. My. Goodness! We have bunnies! Darling, fluffy, furry bunnies!

We knew they had dug a burrow, but had no idea that it was as deep as it is and that they already had produced ... a family of new baby bunnies! I figured we'd get some sort of clue before they appeared, but out one pops nearly as big as Nibbles and Harvey were when we first got them just last May!

I was heading up the stairs this morning, casually looked out the window ... and there was a fuzzy little bun hopping about the rabbit coup! I started hollering and exclaiming about a bunny, to which Jane responded, "Mom. I know. We've had bunnies out there for a long time." When I explained about a baby bunny, she flat out called me a liar.

So out we ran in our jammies. To our delight the darling baby hopped out for a quick hello, before popping back into the burrow.
I've now discovered, it's quite hard to take a picture of an underground burrow. Mama and Papa bunny weren't too sure what they thought of me rootin' around down there, either. But from what I can tell they may have two tunnels underground.

 So. Darn. Exciting!

I happened to be working at school today and was able to whisper the news to Peter and Lucette. Oh how big their eyes got with wonder! Such fun they'll have thinking happy bunny thoughts all day long at school. I bet they can't wait to get home. I don't know how many more are down there, but we are on alert! Hurrah!

As we were discussing the event, Jane says to me (regarding the new parents), "Well. I guess thems are married. Must've had a wedding in their tunnel."

I like that idea very much!

Rapt Attention

 School was in session yesterday. They were given name-tags and seat assignments.

Each student had their own supplies and listened most attentively. They were very well behaved.

I think they might have had a crush on their teacher. I know I do.

02 October 2010

The Lady in the Black Fedora

"Who is this mystery woman," you ask? She lives a covert life at dusk, sleuthing her way around the city. And on one fateful day, not so very long ago ...

she struck thrift-store gold. After dropping a friend off at the metro train station, she slyly headed over to a honey of a shop. Only clothing items and mostly vintage. As we all know, thrift-stores in the city mock those in the 'burbs. Their elitist attitude is well earned.

It had been heavily raining and she was without a hood. Locals rarely use umbrellas in her part of the world ... they just aren't afraid of getting wet. However, looking like a doused feline is never a good look. With this realization at the forefront of her expeditionary musings, she headed over to the haberdashery section of the establishment. She was dubious. Her expectations were low, as outfitting her gi-normous noggin is always a challenge.

But then. She found it. A men's black vintage felt fedora with a grosgrain bow to the side.

She furtively glanced about to see if she would need to wield expert physical maneuvering against others honing in on the same glorious item. As luck would have it, she was unopposed. She placed the lovely artifact upon her head and it slid into place like it had been created for this very moment.

"Who is she," you continue to beg?

It was heard that her eldest daughter referred to her as an "odd detective" and chastened her to "hunch her shoulders" with increased effort.

But alas, we know not more. Her full identity remains an elusive detail, but she is said to have been sighted at a thrift-shop near you. Be on your guard ... she's ruthless.

Bringing Fall into the Living Room