Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Tree

Well not THE tree, The live tree is still loitering on the back porch waiting to be trimmed and popped in a stand.  I like to have a tree in the dining room though and I needed a new one.  The last tree I used in here was a curbside rescue about 20 years ago and finally discarded last year.  It was no prize when I snagged it but you know with lights and ornaments it's harder to see the imperfections.
Enter this 6 foot flocked tree. $30 from Walmart, I think I got the last one in the store.  It looks pretty darn good for a $30 fake, certainly better than the dusty, crusty I discarded last year.  I raced home and couldn't wait to put it up. I'm in full on decorating mode now. I can't be stopped. So I pulled it out and started fluffing and forgot I was wearing a black sweater.  I looked down and I was flocked.  The tree and I? We match.  I expected a little shedding when I set it up, aside from the pile I'm wearing and the pile on the floor, the tree still has plenty so I'm happy. I got the lights on and now I'm forcing myself to change my sweater and get busy on dinner before I do any more.   I'm also loving my table runner and that silver mercury glass lighted tree. I got the last one of those too, at Homegoods. If you live in my neck of the woods you're out of luck. Sorry. Both were purchased with a gift card from my eldest daughter. She knows what mama likes :)  I'm off to get dinner started, then more decorating!  And I know, two posts within two days? Whaaaaat?  I'm on a roll.



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A little Christmas Decorating

Finally, a moment to visit! I have been crazy busy, (emphasis on crazy) since mid-November.  We spent most of the week of Thanksgiving with our kids in Pennsylvania. What a wonderful time having all of us together for the holiday!  That doesn't happen much any more so I treasure it when it does.

The following week our youngest daughter came home on Saturday for a daddy & daughter baking day. I love that they share those special times with their father. I get to hang out and chat and then we get to sample the results! What could be better?  On this day they tried a recipe from a new magazine.  It's a vegan chocolate tart with salted oat crust.  Rich, decadent and so yummy!  We aren't vegan, but we don't turn up our nose at recipes like that! I would make it again, but tiny pieces are all it takes to satisfy any one's sweet tooth. You can find the recipe here.
 As soon as we came home from Thanksgiving I hit the ground running for our church's annual women's ministries Christmas dinner.  Over 100 ladies attended and I cooked the main course because, A. I am cheap and I KNEW I could make it for less than catering prices, and B. That little voice that is supposed to be inside your head asking, "do you think that is really a good idea?" was napping.  It all came out fine but it seriously took up my whole week and when all was said and done the house looked like it had been hit by a tornado. 

All that to say, I am just now getting things in order, catching up on the mountain of laundry and starting to decorate for Christmas.  Yesterday I saw on someones blog that there are two more Monday's before Christmas and I almost fainted.  Why does this season go so lightning fast?! 
 So I started bringing up decorations one armload at a time from the basement. I'm not bringing everything up at once, the mess overwhelms me.  I would rather make numerous trips for some reason than look at it all at once.  I have tucked a few Christmas touches in among the Jadeite on the kitchen shelves.  I also discovered rice lights this year and I can't get enough.  Battery operated, I even found some that are remote controlled so I don't have to fumble for the little control boxes tucked out of sight. LOVE!  They add a little sparkle to so many places, and no cords to deal with. Winning!
 I also hung some big lighted stars in the bedroom, they are lit by very low watt night light bulbs so they just have a soft, romantic glow.  They look so pretty even on an overcast day. Excuse the bad photo, it was taken with my phone, which does not have the best camera.
 To the left of the bed is a floor to ceiling shelf. At one time I had all my sewing fabrics and accoutrements in these shelves. Since the girls got married and moved out, and I have a craft room, I finally got the sewing stuff out of here and it is just our bedroom. Yay!  I still needed to store some trims and various things, and I solved that problem with covered baskets in various shapes and sizes from Salvation Army.  I love the look, and everything is contained.
 I tucked a few little domed Christmas houses on the shelves along with some flocked branches. I love how they look with the texture of the baskets.
This cute little dome came from Home Goods, and I couldn't resist it because of the oval shape and rustic wood base.   I'll be sharing more  about these shelves soon.

Have you finished your decorating or are you just getting started?  Remember, only two more Monday's before Christmas! (Gahhh!!!)

P.S. I know its a little late, but if you are looking for some cute advent printables or boxes for tiny gifts, check out my Santa Box pattern found here .  They are loads of fun and easy to make :)
http://kathyscottage.blogspot.com/2011/12/merry-christmas-from-kathys-cottage.html

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Homekeeping 101 - The Pantry

I'm going to start this post with some lovely photos of Autumnal beauty. The golden maple outside our front porch as I mowed the lawn for the last time this year on a sunny 73 degree day...
 These darling sunflowers my sweetheart had waiting for me after a weekend trip away to visit my precious daughter, Lauren, in Pennsylvania...Love!  Ok, now for the not beautiful part.  You may have noticed the name of this post. Homekeeping 101 - The Pantry.  It turns out that my daughter has some friends who would like me to do some posts on some of the things I have learned over the years on that subject.  I'm sure we can all look back and come to the conclusion that we have learned a LOT since those first few years of marriage and learning to manage our own homes! So, I promised to do a series on some of those things. Meal planning, keeping a pantry, easy meals with basic ingredients.  The next photo is not so pinterest worthy as the first two, unless it's as an example of a "before" remodeling project. I can't believe I'm putting it up here but for all it's ugliness, it is one of the hardest working areas in our home and you've been my friends a loooong time:)
 I present to you the dungeon,, er, basement pantry.  Yeah, it's in an unfinished basement circa 1945.  In the 35 years we have lived here it has had a few minor water issues so it is just not feasible to finish it.  Earl built these shelves years and years ago and as much as I hate how they look, I love how they work!
Excuse the board leaning against the wall in this photo. It was left there by the chief woodworker and head of building projects in this house. Aka, Earl.
This pantry saves us loads of money in so many ways.

First, when we see an item that we use regularly on a deep discount we can stock up.  We do rotate and put newer items to the back to keep things fresh. Let me tell you, this is like having a mini grocery store in our basement. 

Secondly, when I'm in the middle of baking and run out of flour, sugar, commonly used spices or extracts, I don't have to go to the store, I go to the basement.  This is especially nice in the winter.  It not only saves gas, but it keeps you from going into a store and picking up all those things that catch your eye that weren't really on your list.

Third, when everyone else is standing in line buying emergency supplies for that big Michigan winter storm, I'm snug on the sofa with a hot cuppa, reading a book.  I know I'm stocked with essentials.

I think the best things to stock in your pantry are  the basics of every day cooking. I know I've seen lists in magazines that made me scratch my head in wonder for all the strange oils, condiments and ingredients that I have never in my life used. Start with what you use most!  Canned broths, tomato products, (crushed, sauce, paste), pasta sauce and pasta, beans, and home canned fruits, vegetables and jams, basic oils like sunflower and vegetable oil, ketchup, mustard and mayo, baking essentials like flour, sugar (white and brown) salt, soda, baking powder, cocoa , and your most used spices. Don't forget vanilla, wines and liqueurs for flavoring your cooking. We don't drink, but we cook with wine, and the liqueurs are often used in holiday baking as a flavoring.

We have a shelf for paper plates, cups and plastic utensils, a shelf for foil, saran wrap and sandwich and freezer bags. 

If you are just starting a pantry don't expect to fill it all at once.  Pick up a few items every time you shop. Yes, at first it may stretch your budget, but as you build up a good selection of regularly used items you will find that you have the freedom to buy when they are on sale rather than when you need them immediately.  You will also find that, if you have it stocked properly, you can throw together soups, chili, and a lot of other easy and low cost meals just by shopping the pantry. 

Earl and I often bake and cook for large groups of people.  We shop the after Christmas sales for really great prices on chocolate chips (I have gotten name brand for 69 cents a bag!), nuts, dried cherries and craisins, and other dried fruits.  We use these throughout the year to add flavor and a little something extra to our baking.  Keep an eye open for great baking deals as the Christmas baking season approaches, but most of the above items show up in deep discounts in January when the stores need to get rid of the leftovers.  Be prepared to buy in bulk. When you get nestle chocolate chips at 75% off you can stock up for the year! They keep just fine.

I know a lot of my readers don't need this advice, but I bet you have some great advice to give! Do you keep a pantry? What do you keep in it?  Lets leave some great homekeeping tips for the next generation!













Wednesday, October 26, 2016

This and That

October is drawing to a close. The trees are finally reaching their peak color around here and it is so beautiful.  I wish the lovely days of  Autumn lasted longer because it was 34 degrees when I woke up this morning and the high is only supposed to reach into the low 40's. It's been blustery and grey for days and I have to say, in spite of the mums and trees and pumpkin fun, I have to admit fall is not my favorite season. Don't get me wrong, I love aspects of it all to pieces, but I need sunshine, a growing garden and the promise of fireflies and crickets. Mostly I need sunshine and the shorter days do not thrill me.  Winter in Michigan can be brutal. Time to hunker down and count the days until the winter solstice when the days get longer.
 In the meantime, I will be busying myself with baking, and decorating.  I plan to have a pie baking party sometime in November to show some friends the finer points of pie crust.  It isn't hard once you understand the process. My mother hated to cook and bake, so she always asked me to do pie crusts. I watched my little grandmother on the farm as she baked pies and everything else.  That dear woman still ranks as one of the best cooks and bakers I ever met. At 7 years old I became the maker of crusts. I was too young to know it was supposed to be difficult so I wasn't intimidated.  Teach your kids to cook and bake early so they have the confidence of youth!  I used leaf shaped cookie cutters that I got on clearance from William Sonoma a few years ago to make the top crusts on these fresh peach pies, but I just saw a similar set at Michaels for a good price.  If you use a coupon it would be a great price!
 My main decorating project will be this, the back entryway.  It is tiny. Super tiny even.  Really just enough room for the door to swing open but it is right off the kitchen and it's the door we use most often.  I looked back at old posts and this photo is from 2007, (my first year of blogging!) and I said the wallpaper was put up a couple years before that.  So 2005? Ready for a change? Yes!  The green trim will be painted a bright white and the wallpaper will be replaced with....
This. An anaglypta, or raised design that can be painted. It will give some texture and pretty pattern to the entry but I will be able to update the color easily without stripping the paper, as an added bonus it is fairly inexpensive.  I haven't decided whether to keep the blackboard paint or beadboard over it or maybe just use the wallpaper there too. I know I have seen lots of opinions that blackboard paint is still going strong, I think I might just be ready for a change.  What do you think?  Is blackboard a trend that has seen better days?
So here is my next question, when do you switch out the fall decorating for Christmas?  November 1 or after Thanksgiving? I already feel the siren call of Christmas. Maybe just a little here and there in November?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

October

The year is flying past! I don't do as much seasonal decorating as I used to, but I like to decorate the front porch and a few areas inside.  I wanted to keep the beautiful red geranium and bacopa baskets my daughter, Victoria, made for me for Mother's day. They have weathered this hot dry summer so beautifully!  
 Adding some orange accents did the trick. True to form I have a hard time passing up the seasonal flowers at the farmer's market, so the orange mums came home to join everything else on the porch. The pumpkin came from Kroger and I added a pumpkin accent pillow to the front porch chair.  The birch branches were cut and brought home by Earl last year after he visited the family cabin up north for the annual family hunting party.  The branches stay tucked into an old copper pot season to season and I decorate around them.
 The basket on my front door gets a few fresh seasonal flowers, leaves and a little pumpkin pick.  It is so easy to change out and I always love the new look.
Inside, I gathered the pumpkins that grow year to year on our compost heap and piled them into a dough bowl that my sweetheart carved.  That man is so talented! I tucked in some sweet autumn clematis, lemon verbena and rosemary from the herb garden along with some teeny battery operated fairy lights on copper wire.  The greens were tucked into some floral water tubes. You know those little green tubes the florist uses to keep flowers fresh until you can get them into water? I had a small collection and they really helped keep the herbs fresh longer. The pumpkins and greens helped hide them.

And that is about the extent of the decorating around here.  I'm mostly drinking coffee, working on etsy orders and working up the gumption to strip wallpaper off the tiny back entry so I can redecorate. I also want to cover the old living room love seat, make new throw pillows, finish the quilt I'm working on for my son in law, finish the quilt I started for a sweet little great niece, finish planning the annual women's ministry Christmas dinner for our church,,, hmmm, I think I see why I'm not getting everything done.
But it all will, so time to put down the coffee, er maybe I'll take it with me, and get crackin'.
Wish me luck and lots of energy! ;)