Tuesday, March 31, 2009


One of the things I've enjoyed most since moving out into the semi-wilderness is seeing the different kinds of wildlife that live in or migrate through our yard. A couple weeks ago we found deer in our front yard! I'll try to get some picture of those at some point...
And last summer a turtle lived in the backyard. It was always a bit of a race who would find the ripe raspberries first! I also didn't take a picture of him...

In the meantime, here are some ducks!

There have been lots of them coming through, always in pairs. They hang out in our stream for a day or two and then move on to their next spot north.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Clever Compost

Now that we finally have a house of our own and have the recycling under control, Hubby and I decided it was time to start composting!

Actually, we did have a nice pile going a couple of apartments ago- the place we were living when we got married we intended to stay for a few years because the landlady was absolutely lovely. Unfortunately she passed away a little more than a year after we moved in and we had to move yet again. We still chuckle remembering how she used to lower notes to us in a basket from her kitchen window to ours! So sweet...

Anyway, while we have about half an acre of land around our house, there's no convenient out-of-the-way spot easily accessible from the kitchen, so an open pile didn't seem like a good idea.
So we headed over to Home Depot to see what they had in the way of bins, and the only one they had was this:

It's an old wine barrel! They drilled some holes around the side for aeration.

And put a hinged door in the top where you load everything in. Instead of using a pitchfork to turn the pile, you just roll the barrel around once a week or so.

I love that you can still read the label on the barrel!

I thought "How clever!" and "What a wonderful way to recycle!" and "I'll have an old wine barrel outside my kitchen, that's so cool!" and "This is going to make it so easy to compost!"

What I didn't think was "This barrel is way too heavy for me to pick up by myself!" Which it is. So, I guess compost turning will be a weekend activity when Hubby is home to help flip the barrel back upright!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Speaking of Flowers

Hubby brought home a bouquet of beautiful yellow flowers for me at the beginning of the week:

They are Ranunculus. I've never known about Ranunculus, but they might just be my new favorite flower!

When the bud first opens they look a little like a poppy. When they are fully in bloom they look like a rose, but they last FOREVER! I've had this bunch for a week, and they look as fresh as they day I put them in the vase!

I did a little research and it turns out that they will grow up here in New England. So when I saw a bag of bulbs at the Christmas Tree Shop for $3.99, I bought it! Just a couple more weeks and the ground should be soft enough to start digging the beds!

Trader Joe's had some beautiful Peach Blossoms that I couldn't resist:

And I don't think I'll be growing peach trees in my yard anytime soon, but they do look pretty in the living room!

And I finally have something to put in that vase I picked up at Home Goods last month!

Another great find in the clearance aisle!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First Flowers of the Season!

First that are actually in my garden, anyway...

Yay yay yay!!

Hopefully there will be lots more to come!

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Dining Set

After months of searching, and a few near misses with other sets, I've finally acquired a beautiful new dining set.

I found it at an antique store my mom and I ended up at when we drove down to Wrentham to check out a different- hugely overpriced and disappointing- antique store.
On our way back home we passed a hand-painted sign that said "My Grandmother Had That...Antiques" with a lovely little, well-used cabinet under it priced at $20. It seemed promising, so we decided to brave the mud and muck in the driveway and check it out.
What a good decision that was!
Buried under about 5 other pieces of furniture was this solid oak table from the 30's, with great carved detail. (It was the legs that got me!) When we asked about it the proprietress informed us that it had 6 matching chairs as well as a matching buffet!

The whole set needed a good cleaning and touch-up.

Murphy, Johnson and Old English to the rescue!

That would be Murphy's Oil Soap, Old English Scratch Cover, and Johnson's Paste Wax (in that order.) Check out what a difference it made on these chairs!

The one on the right has had the full treatment, the one on the left is how I found them (minus the dust...)

And you remember that buffet I was repairing last weekend? Well, it's all fixed now!

The front of the buffet has been cleaned, but not coated and waxed so the color will deepen on that a bit.
Actually, I haven't gotten around to the base of the table either! If you scroll back up to the close up of the legs you can see the difference between the table leg, which hasn't been waxed, and the chair, which has.
But isn't it pretty? And I LOOOOVE the storage room in the buffet! I'm already planning how to set the top...

I call it my Hogwart's set because of the random faux-crest on the chairs and buffet:

The best part? The table practically doubles in length when you pull the leaves out!

I can seat 10 people! Without bringing in another table! Christmas is going to be so much more comfortable this year... (assuming I buy 4 more chairs by then...)

The second best part? I got the whole set for under $1,000!

Inside the top drawer there is this copper plaque:

It says "Quality Lincoln Furniture" and has a picture of Lincoln on it, just like a penny. I haven't been able to find any information out about that, but it'll be something interesting to keep an eye out for! That's one of the things I love about antiques, the story!

And you remember that lovely, well-used $20 cabinet? That went home with Mom!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Which Austen Heroine are You?

I bumped into this adorable quiz on a lovely blog that I (also) bumped into while looking at Tablescape Thursday over at Between Naps on the Porch. Unfortunately in all the clicking back and forth I somehow x'd out that blog, so I apologize for not properly assigning this credit!

This quiz is to find out which Austen heroine you are. As with all quizes, I'm not sure how accurate it is (it's SO difficult to answer questions about yourself!), but it certainly is fun!

If you plan on taking the quiz, you might want to pop over and do it before you finish reading here since I go on to reveal a few of the answers below...

Done? Ready to read on? All right...

My result was:

"You are Marianne Dashwood of Sense & Sensibility! You are impulsive, romantic, impatient, and perhaps a bit too brutally honest. You enjoy romantic poetry and novels, and play the pianoforte beautifully. To boot, your singing voice is captivating. You feel deeply, and love passionately."

Pianoforte, eh? Well, while my hands may have proved too small to ever contemplate a piano, no one can say I never had a talent where singing and instruments were concerned. Impulsive? I don't know. Impatient, surely...!

In reading through all the options (because a girl likes to know what she is NOT as well as what she is, no?) I came across this description, which is so much more appealing:

"You are Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice! You are intelligent, witty, and tremendously attractive. You have a good head on your shoulders, and oftentimes find yourself the lone beacon of reason in a sea of ridiculousness. You take great pleasure in many things. You are proficient in nearly all of them, though you will never own it. Lest you seem too perfect, you have a tendency toward prejudgement that serves you very ill indeed."

Now who wouldn't want to be described as "intelligent, witty, and tremendously attractive"?! But as for being the "lone beacon of reason in a sea of ridiculousness", well no... I would much more likely be a founder of the ridiculousness in the first place. I imagine, anyway... it's so hard to see yourself clearly!

So friends and family- what say you? Am I a Marianne Dashwood?
And what about yourselves?
Find out!

Monday, March 16, 2009

60 Degrees of Bliss

We here in Massachusetts finally had a beautiful weekend: two blissful days of 55-60 degree weather. So this is where I spent 1:00- 2:30 on Sunday:

A sunny spot on the porch (and the hat to protect my white, white nose from said sun), a nice cup of coffee, a magazine, and a borrowed dog (Nellie was with us for the week)... that's how a weekend should be!

The cats fairly evenly split their weekend between this:

And this:
"So okay," you may be saying, "You say you had a whole beautiful weekend and you only spent an hour and a half on the porch?"

Well, this is where I was the rest of the weekend:

In the garage painting and polyurethaning the stairwell banister.

In the kitchen, testing out more new knobs. (This one was a no.)

On the other side of the kitchen finally getting the iron trivet up on the wall.
Do you see how I cleverly avoided visible screws or hooks by using double-ended screws and fronting them with knobs?

Lions, no less! I couldn't convince Hubby to let me put these on the cabinets, but he agreed to just these two on the wall.
The trivet weighs between 15 and 20 lbs, so I had to anchor those screws really well!

I also found time to give Hubby one of the worst haircuts I've possibly ever done, which I won't put up a picture of... completely lopsided...

But the real time-consuming activity of the weekend was this:

Which is a whole other very exciting story!

One that I will tell you another day...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mirrored Indulgence

I have long coveted mirrored furniture. I have a thing for mirrors in general (whether because they are intrinsically sparkly, shiny surfaces or because I am overly vain, I'm not sure...) and I love interesting furniture, so mirrored accent furniture is the perfect melding of the two! Unfortunately, mirrored furniture is SO popular right now that it's still rather pricey, and no one is selling it on Craig's list, so I took a watchful waiting stance.

And boy did it pay off!

I really wanted a piece with a drawer to put by my front door so Hubby would have a place to drop keys and wallet when he comes home. And guess what I found buried in the bathroom department at HomeGoods the other day?

It's remarkable how difficult it is to get a good picture of that thing!

So I found it buried behind some hampers stacked in the bathroom department marked $139.99, which is more that I had to spend. But the knob on the door was completely missing and you couldn't pry the door open.


BECAUSE HomeGoods is super at marking down damaged goods. Sometimes it's a standard 10%, but sometimes they surprise you, so it's always good to ask!
So I did.
They, too, tried unsuccessfully to pry the door open. When they failed they moved directly to the markdown machine where they noticed that not only was the piece "damaged", but it was dated from October and was due for a couple rounds of post-Christmas markdowns! The first markdown-round brought it down to $94, which was great. But they kept going and the price ended up at $67!
And that's exactly why it's now in my home.

A screw in the empty pull on the door got the door open in a jiff. I popped on a little crystal knob, and now it's perfect!

Except... I've discovered that I need to be a little more careful about where I stash my clutter. Can you see my workout DVD collection reflected in the drawer there?
Well, they really needed a new home anyway...

Craigslist: Glass Coffee Table

I acquired a new coffee table from Craig's list! It's not quite as chic as the one I was dreaming about, but it's a good starting point!

It'll take a little sprucing up to make it just right, but I love the shape! And heck, that piece of beveled glass on top alone is worth the price I paid! The lower tier is a perfect place to stash the current round of magazines, too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

There Are Things Coming Out of the Ground!

Two days ago it snowed about four inches at my house. Yesterday was 44 degrees and most of the snow melted away.
Last night Hubby mentioned that he has seen crocuses peeking out by his office. The conversation went something like this:
Me: "Did you see that?" Gesturing to a flowerbed passing by on the TV screen during CSI:NY. "Flowers! Do they already have flowers in New York?"
Hubby: "Probably. I saw some crocuses coming up already."
Me: "Where?"
Hubby: "By my office."
Me: "Why? That's north of us! Why would THEY have crocuses already?!"
Hubby: "We probably do too. Have you looked?"
Me: "No..."
So on the way out with the dog last night I grabbed a flashlight and looked. And lo and behold- we do have sprouts!
In between the rain showers today I (intrepidly) ventured out to do a little exploring and documentation. Despite the piles of remaining snow and the gravel and road salt that had been piled on top of the garden we planted around the mailbox last fall:

we actually had a few different kinds of plants coming up. I broke out the little shrub rake to clear the area out a little and found these:

As well as these:
Neither of which I can remember the name of. I mean, I know they are either crocus, or hyacinth, or tulip, or daffodil, or freesia...I just don't quite recall which we actually planted. It was 5 months ago!

Anyway, I got so excited about those that I decided to go around and clean up the rest of the garden too. I realize it's still a little too early to clear out the leafy cover, but I went around and trimmed back all the dead stalks. And while I was at it I thought that if there are things growing already, the mint MUST be coming up, too.

And it was!
Then I noticed a plant right under the dogwood tree had some green coming up.

Wait, mums are perennial? I had no idea! I thought they were a two-month wonder, so I hadn't even tried to keep that one alive!
And then I realized that the peonies ought to be coming out about the same time as the others, and I couldn't help peeking. I mean, it's not like opening the oven, right? As long as I cover them back up before it freezes again they'll be fine... right?

I transplanted two sets of peonies last fall, and I had no idea if they would survive or not (despite VERY carefully following the advice of my horticulturally proven aunt, I might still have messed up!)
First, the potted ones I'd been carting from apartment to apartment for about three years. They'd never bloomed in the pot, and they usually didn't make an appearance until much later in the year. But they must like the soil here!

The other transplant was an ENORMOUS mature plant that had irrationally been planted between two huge cypress trees and behind a giant phlox, which made the plant impossible to see. So I dug it up (my aunt said that fall was the time to move peonies) and moved it forward a few feet so that in the spring I can move the giant phlox back to where the peonies were, thereby allowing ALL the plants to be seen! The bed they were in was still a little frozen so I had to look a little harder, but my effort was rewarded!

And there was one more thing I found in the garden that I had forgotten would be there:

Skittles! He loves gardening, but he's a little camera shy!

It may be another month or more before I can start digging beds and putting in new plants, but what a tonic this preview turned out to be!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mehendi Fun

Last week I was in such a flutter trying to get the house and menu ready for two dinner parties- one on Sunday and the other Thursday- that I got completely ahead of myself. Meaning I woke up Wednesday to find that the house was clean, the table set, the shopping done, even the laundry done! I had nothing left to do!
So, I broke out a mehendi cone and painted my hand. Rather, I drew on my hand... Anyway, if you want to try it yourself, it's not all that difficult. You'll need:

- Mehendi: I buy prepared cones from the Indian store, which is easiest, but if you want more control over the quality of the paste (and depth of color) you can buy powder and mix it yourself.
- Plenty of paper towel: for practicing lines and dots when you start, clearing the tip of smears and clogs, checking the consistency before you start your design, and to fold or roll into tiny points to clear up any flubs.
- Scissors: to adjust the width and angle of your tip as you go.
- A nice dark surface (or cleanable one!) on which to work.

You'll also need some inspiration for a design. There are LOTS of great designs available online. For this particular session I was inspired by the inside of a tea box!

Before you snip the top off the cone, squish the paste around a bit to make sure it's well mixed. You don't want all the liquid running out the tip leaving dry lumps somewhere in the middle! Start with a very very small opening- you can always make it bigger! Try making a few lines and dots on the paper towel to check the opening size. The practice is good, too!
When you're ready to start, it's generally easiest to draw in the largest design element(s) and fill in around them. And when you do get to the filling in part, use the candle lighting method- start with the parts farthest from your drawing hand so that you have a spot to rest your drawing hand as long as possible. (Except, of course, when lighting candles it's so you don't burn yourself!)

If you're like me, you're slow at the application and the places you did first will start drying before you finish. Some people apply a mixture of lemon and sugar at this point to keep it damp and make it stay on the hand longer. Personally, doing that drives me crazy! I don't think it makes much of a difference in the result, but it makes it IMPOSSIBLE to do anything in the meantime because your hand is so darn sticky!
I let the paste flake away as it dries. If you've used good paste you'll see the color developing into a bright orange within an hour.

After a couple of hours I invariably get a little impatient with the bits that are still clinging, which I scrape off with a butter knife. The one thing you DON'T want to do is get your hand wet! For some reason that seems to halt the color development altogether. And let me tell you, when you've spent two hours painstakingly penning the design out on your hand, it's INCREDIBLY frustrating if the color doesn't take!
If however you are patient enough, after 5 or 6 hours you'll have something like this:

Depending on the paste you used the color may develop to a dark reddish brown over the next 24 hours. The color will start to fade in three or four days, and is usually completely gone in a couple of weeks. After about one week you can really only see it if you're looking, at which point Hubby insists it looks like a skin disease!
In the meantime, however, you will discover yourself an instant fascination for just about every Indian person you run into! And there's also the lovely (and occasionally overpowering) herbal fragrance that you can smell as long as there's a speck of color on your hand!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Flower Show vs. Patio Show

There is a difference between a flower show and a patio show, and someone really ought to explain that to the organizers of the Central MA Flower and Patio Show! We were all really hoping for a mini-vacation in the form of some great hot-house flowers for sale and inspiring garden layouts. What we got was about ten companies selling patios, fencing and waterfalls, one person selling bulbs and lovely hand-made pottery, and about 75 other people selling things like windows, brooms, and Verizon Fios...
A little disappointing!
BUT! There was one gentleman there selling beautiful metal home and garden accents where I couldn't help but buy a couple things.

This ENORMOUS white iron trivet is one.

For the moment it is on the kitchen table, but once I find strong enough mounting hardware I would like to put it on the wall above the table (Jack the camel will move to the dining room) in a way that I can still take it down and use it as a trivet.

I also picked up an adorable woodpecker door knocker:

There's actually a window right in the middle of both of our doors, so I might end up mounting this guy decoratively on the door frame instead. But I figure that's fine since really, who ever uses a door knocker when there's a door bell anyway?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Idly and the Anti-Idly

Hubby and I made our first attempt at idly making the other day. We were having some friends over for dinner, one was a vegetarian, and the other was unable to eat dairy, which meant that I couldn't cook (everything I know how to cook has either lamb, pancetta, cheese, or all three!) And we thought a simple idly and dosa dinner would be easy enough.

Boy were we wrong! Actually, the dosa and idly prep itself was not too difficult, but we kinda underestimated what was involved in all the side dishes! But we (and by we, I mean Hubby) got it done and finally it was time to cook the idly. And I have to say, most of them came out quite well!

Looks like idly, right? Tasted like them, too!

But something went wrong somewhere in the middle of the pot:

Hence, the Anti-Idly... ha ha!