Monday, December 21, 2015

The Christmas Living Room

I promised you a look at the Christmas living room.  I had big plans for decorating this year, but as time went on I ended up with a pretty simple, farmhouse look to the room.  This is the year of "less is more" in so many of the tours I have seen. I'm all on board with that :)
 The sofa is primed with a ticking stripe covered pillow for long winter naps and some big red checks. If you have been around here for any time at all, you know I can't resist the gingham. The painting above the sofa was a gift from My youngest daughter, Victoria.  She knew that being a farm girl, I loved a certain famous cow painting that I had seen on a favorite blog.  This is not that painting.  Being her mother's daughter, rather than pay a rather hefty price for the original she painted this one herself and presented it to me on my birthday this past May.
 I love her version even more, of course. I had some old shutters in the basement that I painted and placed on either side. I like how the green shutters and blue and white plates pick up the colors in "Bessie's" painting.   I may have her knock off the Mona Lisa for me next ;)
 Our little reading chair by the window. You can't tell, but today is dark and rainy. Temps in the 40's and destined to be in the mid-50's by Friday. No white Christmas here! This chair catches the best light for reading though.  I brightened up the window sill with Poinsettias and the old red truck.  You can see the poinsettias are already dropping leaves. I never have much luck with them, but after Christmas I don't really want them to hang around anyway.  Do your poinsettias last or are you a killer like me?

 This is the first time I have ever had a table top tree.  We found the library table for a song at a yard sale this summer. I have always loved library tables and as the guy selling it was lowering his price just because we showed an interest in it how could I leave it behind?  It takes up the space we usually use for the tree so here we are.  To tell you the truth this little tree is a little too perfect for me.  We are talking about clearing a spot in the woods and planting a few trees every year so we can cut our own. We should have a magical crop by the time we have grandkids old enough to help us look for the perfect tree.  No, there aren't any grands on the way yet, but when they come along we will be ready! The mercury glass globe lights were a gift from Victoria, and she and Lauren hung them for me when everyone was home for Thanksgiving.  The little church on the bottom of the table was a replica of a church that still stands in a small nearby town. It was made by Earl's great grandfather who helped build the original church.  I saved this from a church "clean out" years ago without even knowing the family history that went with it!
 When I first decorated the tree I was going to be all coordinated and matchy for once.  No more kids at home, all I had to please was myself! Well, it just didn't look right.  Too bare, missing all the love and history our family has built into Christmas.  I ended up retrieving the old ornament box and hanging those ornaments that had been with us so many beautiful years. The canning lid photo of Victoria, made in first grade.

 the pretzel ornament Lauren made in Kindergarten, (amazing that those pretzels haven't turned to dust!),

 the little angel made entirely of pasta that one of them made in Sunday School, isn't she adorable!?

And the little bird ornament Victoria got for Earl on a first grade school field trip. She presented it to him and told him it was "the bird full of love", and that is what we have called it ever since :)

 My little collection of glitter houses continues to grow,

 and this year a very talented niece crocheted 3 tiny birds to add to Earl's collection. They are already treasured and will be added to the tree from now on.  Each one of these little beauties is not much bigger that a quarter!

It's all the warm little memory makers and touches that make me happy in my Christmas home.  Surrounded by handmade gifts and sparkling lights, my home makes me happy.

I will be enjoying time with family and friends, baking, and just relaxing for the rest of the week. I hope you can do the same. Thank you for stopping by, for saying hello and for sharing my little corner of the blog world.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Welcome to The Holiday Home Tour

Welcome to the second day of the Holiday Home Tour! I am so excited to have been asked by Cathy of 1929 Charmer and Judy of 20 North Ora, to be a part of the tour.  If you missed the homes on yesterdays tour, you will find the links at the bottom of the page.  Lets get started!

I'll be showing you the heart of our home and where a great deal of time is spent, especially during the holiday season!  That would be the kitchen. Step right in. This is truly a simple little cottage. The house runs around 1150 square feet and we have done a lot of living in that little footprint.  The kitchen was remodeled just about a year ago, with new counters, sink and lighting.  Since we do so much cooking and baking for gifts and parties, I like to keep the Christmas decorations warm and simple and the counters as clear as possible.  

It's dark and gloomy today, cozy winter weather that makes it a little difficult to get a good photo.

 A tiered server keeps fresh fruit available and takes up very little counter space, it's also a pretty way to add some height and color. Some of these oranges will end up in gift baskets as an orange -grapefruit marmalade.
 If you look closely at the photo above, you can see the little niche that I keep our small collection of jadeite displayed in.  That little niche was a tiny built in cupboard when we moved in here 35 years ago.  There was another built in floor to ceiling cupboard where the fridge is now, an old 1940's fridge where the pantry is and a stove where the stove is now, and that was all. There were no counters or cabinets! I think the elderly people who lived here had a kitchen table in the corner that they used for mixing and eating. This little kitchen has come a long way since then.
Here is a closer look at the niche.  I added some cute little snowmen and some clementines for color. I also have some battery operated lights that I sometimes turn on for a little glow when it's dark and gloomy outside. 

It doesn't take much looking to see that I have sprinkled stars all through the kitchen and dining room.  I love them. They remind me of the star of Bethlehem.  These galvanized tin star lights were an outdoor solar light set from Target this summer.  The solar part went kaput pretty quickly, so I took the stars off the string and added them to a small string of battery operated lights for Christmas.  They look so pretty as it gets dark.
 I took the curtains down and attached some faux greenery to the curtain rods, then the lights. I get more light in the winter that way and the windows don't look so bare.
 My favorite candle holder, an old glass block star. I used to have a pair of these, one broke long ago and I have been looking for more ever since with no luck.
 On the back wall of the kitchen is my favorite star this year.  Earl brought home some birch logs from the family hunting cabin for some projects he is working on and was able to peel the bark off a fairly large log.  He made the birch bark star to hang on the wall. It is lit with battery operated lights and I absolutely love the way it turned out!  I flipped the chalkboard "bakery" sign over, it's on  an old cupboard door, and made the Christmas sign to go with the star.

 Here is a close up of the star, peeling bark and all. LOVE!
Back in the corner is the coffee bar.  I know, hot cocoa bars are all the rage right now but we seldom drink it. I sometimes make my coffee into a "mocha" with the addition of a little cocoa, but give me a good hot brew any day. I will, however, top my coffee with whipped cream ;) That "Let it Snow" sign makes me smile this year, it has been hovering in the mid 40's and even in the 60's this past two weeks. Unseasonably warm for December in Michigan!
Come on, grab a cup and turn around, this is the view from the kitchen to the dining room.  As you can see, the front door leads right into the dining room, that's the way it is with small cottages. No wasted space.  It's a pretty big room for such a small house. Good thing, because we like to host fairly large family dinners. I think the most we have had for Thanksgiving is 23 people!  The table belonged to my grandparents. It was used for years in their farmhouse, and I remember sitting at it many nights as a child, drawing, and practicing my penmanship for school. If you look closely, you can see the hanging star lanterns I put in the windows every Christmas. They give a pretty, warm glow to the room, and I always hope that if one of the family is coming home at night, that glow lets them know they are home where it is safe and happy and warm.
 Have a seat at the table, I made coffee and added some whipped cream :) Those gingerbread men are freshly baked and from an old Swedish recipe. I make them with extra spice and they don't last long.  Do you know how often I have wished I could sit at the table with some of my dear blog friends and just chat over coffee and cookies? Many times, and I know I have seen you express the same longing. I feel so blessed to have so many friends that I have made over the 8 years I have been blogging.
 More stars in the garland over the mirror. I have a small tree on the buffet we found by the side of the road.  It's filled with a collection of favorite bird and nest ornaments that we have collected over the years.  I added a few simple candles for color and sparkle and called it done this year.

 That's all for today.  I'll be sharing my living room and tree later this week. Thanks for stopping by and please, be sure to stop and say hello to the other houses on the tour that I have linked below!

December 16 Tours

Anne's Attic Designs

Cherry Hill Cottage

On Crooked Creektt

Sweet Cottage Dreams

December 15 Tours

My 1929 Charmer 

20 North Ora

Ash Tree Cottage

Art & Sand

Junk Chic Cottage

Monday, December 14, 2015

A little Sneak Peek of the Christmas kitchen

Good Morning everyone! We are in the home stretch now aren't we? I am still adding final touches to the decorating and here is a sneak peek of the kitchen shelves.  I'll have the rest of the kitchen to show you Wednesday. I know you are all busy with Christmas prep, but I hope you'll take a moment to stop by and say hello.

 And while you're at it, save Tuesday for the first day of the Tour! Lots of lovely, welcoming, homey holiday decor and the chance to say hello.  Tours are one of my favorite things this time of year, and when I can tour at home on the sofa in my jammies, with a hot cup of coffee in my hand, I like it even more :)

What are you still working on? Decorating? Baking? Shopping?
Don't let the pressure of a to do list steal your joy. Remember what matters, when the presents have all been opened and the last hot cocoa drained, the joy we feel with our loved ones and the gratitude for a Savior who came to earth to give his all for us is what will be remembered.
See you Wednesday!

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Little Christmas

Are you all ready for Christmas? I am getting there.  I've been a whirling dervish for the last month, what with Thanksgiving, (and a wonderful surprise visit from Lauren and Brian who live in PA and had told me they didn't think they could make it!) and preparing for a Women's ministry Christmas dinner that Earl and I put on Saturday night with the help of some great friends and volunteers.  Now I can concentrate on getting the house ready and a little shopping.
The sunlight coming through the kitchen window this morning was so beautiful. It has been cold and frosty in the mornings and in the 40's during the day. Perfect winter weather as far as I am concerned, but unusually warm for Michigan in December.
 I have been doing a little crafting in preparation for the Tidings Holiday House Walk I am participating in next week.  I have jars and jars of these beautiful MOP buttons and I wanted a way to use and enjoy them.  These button stars seemed like a great way to do both :)
 Earl has been doing a bit of making of his own.  While he was hunting this year at the family cabin, he cut some birch branches for me. Some will be used by him for various projects and he peeled the bark off one log. It came off in the most perfect sheet and we really wanted to use it for something beautiful.  He decided a lighted star would be just the thing and I happily agreed. I can't wait until it's done. Just a few finishing touches and you'll see the end result on the home tour!

I have been sneaking peeks of your decorations and some of the home tours going on right now between etsy orders and housework. So fun to see everyone's decorations!  So how are you doing? Are you ready?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Getting Ready

Well it's Thanksgiving week. Since we have hosted for the past 30ish years I'm not in a panic, the house is getting its final cleaning and the turkey is thawing in the fridge.  I'm using the same plates and tableware as I always do, I'm not one to fuss over tablescapes.  The ornaments at our table are the faces of our loved ones.  I swear, the older I get, the less all the fuss means and the more it's all about my family. There will be some loved ones missing this year, eldest daughter and her sweet husband can't make it, but hope to come for Christmas. There are a few more who can't make it for various reasons, they will be missed but hopefully we will see them around the table soon.
I am so thankful for all we have.  Our home, our family and the love around the table.  I hope you are able to spend some special time with loved ones this week too :)

 I will admit, my head is all wrapped up in Christmas already.  I am slowly getting some decorations up, and this year I have been asked to participate in a Holiday Home walk with some other beautiful bloggers. 

I'm so excited, it's my first time doing this so I hope you'll come in and say hello when it happens.  I probably won't post again until after Thanksgiving, so I'll just say right now that I hope that this is a time to count your blessings and hug your loved ones. Enjoy the feast, enjoy the day and enjoy the festive season that begins right now!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Soup Weather

It's a cold and rainy November day here. I'm sipping coffee and listening to some Christmas tunes on Pandora, (don't judge).  The one good thing about this kind of weather is that it gives us a chance to  make some real live comfort food and for a lot of us that means soup!  
This time of year I start longing for some new recipes, the old favorites are good, but new favorites are a must, and this soup is a new favorite.   
I hit up my favorite source for new recipes, Pinterest of course, and found this Tortellini and Sausage soup.  Really quick and easy and soooo good.  I made a few adjustments based on what I had on hand.  The original recipe calls for Italian sausage,  I had regular old mild sausage and it was delicious.  I cut the salt in half , used low sodium and home made unsalted chicken broth and in my opinion it was still a little too salty. I also used pesto in place of the chopped basil because pesto is chopped basil right? I served it with home made bread and butter and it was a meal fit for a king.  It's ready in about 45 minutes. Here is the recipe with my adjustments and changes.  I hope you enjoy this, it's going to be on the menu a lot around here :)

Tortellini, Spinach and Sausage Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 lb mild pork sausage (or Italian sausage)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes)
32 oz. Chicken broth
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped basil (I used pesto instead and it was delicious!)
1 teaspoon pepper
1 package tortellini
1 cup chopped fresh spinach

1. Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over med-high heat. Heat olive oil  and add diced onion.  Saute until onions are soft.
2. Crumble sausage and garlic with the onion. Cook until sausage is no longer pink.
3. Stir in tomatoes, chicken broth, basil and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Let soup simmer for 20-30 minutes.
4. Add tortellini and spinach and simmer for about 10 minutes, until pasta is tender. Salt to taste.
5. Serve with shredded Parmesan.

This made enough for the two of us to have leftovers for Lunch and dinner the next night.  I found that the pasta absorbed a lot of the broth overnight so we ended up adding another can of chicken broth to the leftovers. It was just the right amount to bring it back to soupiness.  

What is your favorite soup? Have you tried any new ones lately?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Autumn Warmth

Even with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I hadn't spent much time decorating the house for Autumn.  I had gathered my little pile of pumpkins and gourds and tossed them in a vintage tool chest on the buffet in the dining room.  They were starting to look a little tired, or I was getting a little tired of the look, so when Stacey contacted me to participate in a Thanksgiving vignette party it was just the kick in the pants that I needed to get off my duff and start digging for a fresher look.
 I headed for the dungeon basement and started digging.  I had actually forgotten about the brown transferware tureen I had, and that candle left over from last years Christmas clearance sales.  I had a bit of last years foraged bittersweet tucked away too, along with an old frame and some faux ivy in my craft stash.
I brought my Boston ferns inside last night, (good thing because it was 23 degrees outside last night!) and tucked a few sprigs in a clear glass vase along with the bittersweet.  Those are not two things I would normally put together but they seem to be working.  I like the green, brown and orange color scheme. The green brings a little bit of freshness inside :)
Bright and beautiful, thanks Stacey!
Be sure to go visit these other bloggers for more inspiration :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Oh, October.

I'm back, Estate Sale behind me, (yay!) and most of October with it.  I've been busy as a bee, getting ready for the holidays and winter. I know most people do their major cleaning in the spring, but something about the idea of being trapped inside for the winter makes me want to redo everything. Everything!
So along with trying to get things cleaned up and ready for cold winds blowing, we have also been enjoying another good apple harvest. Our wild crabapple was loaded with beautiful little apples again this year and we made a big batch of crabapple jelly using this recipe. It is sooo good! I am not usually big on jams and jellies, but this stuff is the bomb and my favorite way to have it is on fresh home made bread, slathered with warm brie. Something about the tart flavor of this jelly just sets off the creamy richness of the cheese in the best way imaginable.
 We had 14 jars of the clear, ruby red jelly so we made some of my Honey Wheat French bread, got a wheel of brie and added a jar of the jelly for each of our pastors.  It is pastor appreciation month you know. 
 If you haven't told your pastor you appreciate him/her, you still have 4 days to do it in October. Of course don't let missing it in October stop you. Appreciation can be expressed any time. :)
 Finally, look at what we passed last night on our walk. Just look!  It seemed that every tree was in its full glory, each one prettier than the last.
 There was that spicy scent of leaves in the air, could someone just bottle that? Please? I left the path just to hear the crunch of the fallen leaves.
The air was cool and crisp, the setting sun shone through the leaves like stained glass, and I couldn't help but think how fleeting this all is. It has to be breathed in and soaked up and stored in memory until it happens again next year.
Enjoy your October, I'll see you in November!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

This and That

Isn't Autumn beautiful?  It's warm but threatening rain today so I'm catching up on some indoor stuff and that includes a quick post. I sometimes wonder how I found time to post so often back when I began this little journal.  I think we all have an appreciation for how long the photography, editing and posting can take.  Sometimes I find it hard to fit in with all that is on my plate.
So while I have a moment, I'll just do a quick recap of what I've been up to lately.

1. For the past two weeks I have been helping a friend set up and price an estate sale for her late mother in law.  I strongly encourage anyone to do this because I guarantee it will give you the final push to clean out all those possessions hiding in closets, basements and drawers. Do it for yourself. Do it for your children.  I mentioned we have been at it for two weeks right? Sometimes it has been 10-12 hour days. This weekend is the sale. Needless to say, I won't be back posting until after it's done.

2. Yesterday I took the day off to go to the dentist, (blerg, there is a root canal in my very near future). and since it was a warm sunny day, and possibly the last we will have for a while, Earl and I tackled washing the windows.  In my head, before I start, I always think it won't take me long.  I am so silly.  But after washing the windows, and scrubbing the screens I am so happy to see the sparkling clean view I have to say it was well worth the effort.  I used Rain-X on the outsides of the windows hoping they will stay cleaner longer. I saw it on Pinterest, I'll let you know how it works. Of course it was also the day the ladybugs decided it would be the last warm day for a while because they were trying desperately to get in while we tackled the job. How do they know? 

3. I am working on some new designs for the etsy shop.  Loving how they are turning out. I can't wait to show you. Soon!

4. The leaves are at their peak, the garden is mostly gone due to a couple nights below 32 degrees, but my little golden marigolds are hanging strong.  I love you little golden flowers.  Unfortunately, as soon as the rain is past, I need to go out and dispose of the last hanging baskets and do some garden clean up. But the marigolds stay until the last.

5. It was another good year for apples and we made some of the best cider from our apples, our neighbors apples and an old tree we found growing wild. I have heard that the more varieties you use in your cider the better, and I have to agree with that. Best cider ever! I have some frozen for when daughter and son-in-love come to visit from PA, made some for daughter and son-in-love who live nearby and I plan to make more in the next week.  Also, today is wild crabapple jelly day.  I'm thinking a jar of that with some brie and home made bread for Pastor appreciation this month. :)

What is keeping you busy?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pumpkin Patch

I have been wanting a big pumpkin patch for several years now.  A patch big enough to satisfy my pumpkin greed would take up a huge area and the thought of either killing all the grass underneath the vines or having a mess of weeds covering 1/4 acre or more has kept me from pursuing the patch of my dreams.  This year we planted a large galvanized tub with pumpkin plants, gave the vine a structure to climb and waited for the magic. 
We got lots of vines, huge showy flowers, and not a single pumpkin.  
Kathy's Cottage Oct 2015
Around mid summer we noticed a healthy plant sprouting from the compost pile.  As it grew to amazing proportions we realized it was a pumpkin, or actually several pumpkin vines.  I must have tossed last years decorative stock on the compost and never thought another thing about it.  This is the harvest from those vines.  A few got eaten by wildlife, and there are still many little tiny pumpkins forming on the vines.  My favorite is the really warty one.   Aren't they wonderful? 
Kathy's Cottage The Pumpkin Patch
Proving once again that God is a far better gardener than I will ever be.  I think these will go back on the compost when I'm done with them.  Maybe I can keep the pumpkin patch going :)

The trees are just beginning to turn here, a few in full glory and a few just starting to change.  The sun is shining today and I need to be outside for a while. I can hear the birds singing and there are apples to pick and make into cider, crabapples to harvest and make into crabapple jelly. It's been another good year for apples and I have to use as many of them as I can.  There is a walk in the state park along a path completely golden with oak trees in our near future, and I can't let the week pass without a fire outside and possibly some s'mores.

How are you enjoying the autumn season?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Playing Catch Up

Well goodness, I can't believe it has been nearly two months since I posted! I originally planned on taking the month of August off.  There seemed to be less and less people posting over the summer months and it seemed like a great time to get some things done and enjoy the last of summer.  Earl and I enjoyed a simple day out for our Anniversary, out to Ann Arbor for the day, hitting the little shops, farmer's market and ethnic restaurants. There is never anything going on in early August so we plan on a fun little trip later.
The following week I came down with what was diagnosed as a sinus infection and spent the week mostly in bed, and after a round of antibiotics and no improvement I returned to the Dr. and ended up in the hospital for emergency surgery.  Nothing serious, I'm really all better at this point but between the week I was ill, the surgery week and a week of recovery there went August!
Zinnia's from the farmers Market
 The beginning of August I enjoyed the lushness of the garden. Everything was blooming and growing so beautifully.
 The sunflower in the upper left corner now looks like the sunflower in the center bottom row. Still beautiful in a way as it provides seed for the birds we love to watch so much!
The back porch under the pergola was dripping with flowers. Unfortunately, 3 weeks of neglect as I recovered means the hanging baskets are going in the trash and will need to be replaced with something else.  
We had a bumper crop of cucumbers just as I got sick.  After my surgery I had to throw them all away. Fortunately we had been able to share some with friends and family, at least someone got to enjoy them!
This past weekend a dear friend from Florida came for the weekend and we had a great time catching up. This weekend we have another big party to prepare for.  Barbecue for 30!  Another bumper crop of apples means I plan on making some fresh cider.  September is a busy time, but this year I am enjoying the coolness so much after a blistery week or two in August.  I know, those of you who have entire blistery summers are laughing at this Michigan girl, Lol. I admit I have a very narrow comfort zone when it comes to temperatures.
I hope to continue to catch up with everyone  and get back on the blogging bandwagon.  I'm ready for a come back :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tapas Party

It seems another week has passed and all I can plead is summer.  It has been an especially busy one, probably just like yours! I promised more details on the Tapas party and here they are.  Now in retrospect, I would never try this for 30 people again, at least not in a small cottage kitchen with limited space to prep and clean up.  We were running to get each course ready and we were blessed with 4 very capable volunteers.  Having said that, one of the great things about this kind of party is that almost all of the foods can be prepared ahead of time and just put on the plate.
 This first course consisted of grapes, almonds spiced with paprika and fresh rosemary, marinated olives and mushrooms, toasted whole grain baguettes and herbed olive oil for dipping the bread.  Super easy.  We served four courses and we tried to include different flavors,( sweet, savory, pickled), and different textures in each course.  Recipes were found on Pinterest and can be found by following the links in the description.

I didn't get a photo of the second course that night, once again, running! but I did find a photo on my phone from trying this out at my daughter's house to see how it all went together. They loved being our guinea pigs:) The second course consisted of an assortment of cheeses including manchego, brie and goat cheese with wild blueberries (Costco!), an assortment of cured meats including prosciutto, summer sausage and salami, assorted crackers, dried cherries drizzled with honey, sliced guava paste, and pickled beets.  I know that sounds like a lot, but each board served 4 people so there are only a few bites of each thing for per person. One of the reasons we felt the need to try it out was to see if these small bites would be enough. They were! You can, of course offer less choices, maybe just one or two different things with a little more in each serving.  It is a menu that can be anything you want it to be!
The third course was Pork empanadas with thyme, melon skewers, dilled green beans, and those little forks sticking up in the middle were dried figs stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with lavender and thyme infused honey! Oh my goodness, so good.  The recipe I found actually called for fresh figs and I couldn't find them anywhere. Maybe they aren't in season this time of year? But the dried figs worked fine and were so delicious, we loved the infused honey too.

The final course was small servings of lemon cheesecake with lemon curd and white chocolate raspberry cheesecake with raspberry sauce and chocolate ganache...and a teeny scoop of raspberry sorbet.  No photo because by then we were all beat and surrounded by dishes.  I have my limits.  It was all served outside on a perfect, warm evening with candles and flowers on the tables and good friends laughing and trying new things.  The best thing about this type of party is the slow way it is served, one course at a time, which leaves plenty of time for conversation and relaxing around the table.

If you are interested in checking out the Tapas board and the pins I used for inspiration and recipes you can find it here.

We find summer to be the best time to entertain. With a very small house and a very large yard and garden, it's just easier to have as many people over as we want to.  How about you, do you prefer to entertain inside or out?