Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy New Year!

A few days late to be sure, but why not wish happiness on more than day one?  I am seeing so many who have chosen a word or resolution, I must be a slacker extraordinaire, because I tend to think a New Year should be a blank slate. A time to let the pressures of last year fall away leaving the white nothingness of a clean sheet of paper to write my life on. Oh I do wax poetic.  Truth is I know I am not one for feeling pressured to chose a word or affirmative life action, so I tend to sit back and give myself the first few weeks off.  No pressure or expectations. It's actually a great way to start the year :)

Just to catch up on what has been happening, which is precious little to tell the truth, we spent New Years Eve with friends and actually left by around 10pm.  Both exhausted for some reason and just not up to hanging on until Midnight. We were well asleep by the time the New Year crept in, but were awakened by the mortars going off next door. No rest for the weary apparently, but I just realized I even freed myself of the expectation of staying awake until New Year.  I rock lowered expectations.

The next day was the big extended family Christmas party and Earl made his yearly Bushe de Noel, this time in the form of a birch log.  The outer "bark" is white chocolate with dark chocolate knots and details. The top is meringue piped in circles, baked and laid on top of the cake to simulate  the inside of the log, and the cute mushrooms are meringue too.  The cake itself is yellow cake layers with chocolate ganache filling. It was as tasty as it is pretty.  I always love seeing what he will come up with :)
You may remember my not so subtle hints for a certain traveler to think of Christmas while they were in England this autumn and pick up an Emma Bridgewater something for their mama.
Well the ever so gentle, almost subliminal suggestion worked beautifully and this little gem was waiting for me under the tree.
The other side of the mug says, "Mum is the best" and the inside rim says, "Mum is kind and strong"
It came with a darling Emma Bridgewater towel too, but the message on the mug just touches this mother's heart :)

I spent yesterday taking down the Christmas decorations. As much as I love the lights and fun of the Christmas décor, something about January calls for calm and quiet. It may be the only time of year that I actually wish I had an all white house.  At the moment it almost feels too blank and empty after the tree and lights have been removed. I have a very hard time with "winter décor" because I hate winter. I am over it completely by January 2.  Anything winter themed is not appealing at the moment. I am working on keeping some of the mercury glass and white decorations out in an attempt to spice things up. So far I have one corner of the living room redecorated.
Yes, I know the cords show, part of my easy going January attitude ;)  This is our library table, because this family librarys a lot.  Books tended to be strewn over every flat surface of the living room until we found this gorgeous table for a steal at a garage sale.  Now the books go here.
Family photos, a few silvery accents and some battery operated candles that are on a timer so I don't even have to light them.  Some of these items will eventually be moved as there are a few large items of furniture that I will be taking out of this room in preparation for a new flat screen tv that is coming soon.  2017 will see some improvements in the house, as most years have.

Now I am off to strip the old wallpaper off the walls in the back entryway! The new wallpaper is on it's way and with a little paint and elbow grease I will have a sparkling bright entry in a week or so.

I hope your New Year is going smoothly, and happily.  Ease up on yourself and enjoy a few weeks of possibilities and low pressure! And thank you to all who have been stopping by for so many years.  It makes me smile to read each comment!







Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Tour



I wouldn't blame you if you were tired of seeing Christmas splashed all over blogs. We've been enjoying the decorations for weeks now.  I have to say though, this isn't your normal tour. I'm not a decorating blog, I don't claim any amazing design skills or fancy pants ideas to make you run right out and copy, not that there is time for that now.  Most of you have been visiting for years. We are old friends. Do you know I've been writing this blog coming up on 10 years?

Yes, I think you know what to expect by now. This is just real life.  Well, cleaned up real life with all the junk stashed in the room you won't see, just like it would be if you came for coffee. ;)

So grab a cup and take the tour. we'll visit like the old friends we are. And if we are new friends, welcome!  I don't put on any airs, grab a mug and lets take a look at Christmas here in the cottage.
 We can start in the kitchen. I made some gingerbread boys this afternoon. I wish you could smell the gingerbread baking. truth be told, I baked them for the smell as much as the taste. It smells like Christmas :)
 I found the cutest little cheap tree at Walmart this year. $18 and it fits in the corner of the kitchen just perfectly.  I also found the most awesome rice lights to go on it. There is no plug over there so I needed some battery operated lights. I found these on amazon and they come with a remote so I don't have to fiddle around digging for the on and off switch.  I used them on the birch star Earl made me last year too. I love that thing.  You'll see a lot of stars in the house as we go through. See the cookies cooling on the stove?

 Over by the fridge I just added some bright red accents to the shelves full of Jadeite.  I lit the shelves with some more rice lights to brighten the dark corner and add a little sparkle.
 If you turn around and look from the kitchen you'll see the dining room.  I love my flocked tree in the corner. Earl has it covered in the bird ornaments he has collected for years.  Since we spend so much time in the kitchen and dining room I like to have a tree out here where we can see it.
 My eldest daughter gave me the table runner as an early Christmas gift. I had these lighted galvanized stars from last year and thought they would look cute woven into the greenery.
 The living room is next. I had a stash of plaid flannel so I whipped up some pillow covers for winter. They are so soft and bright and cozy.
 Across the room is the table top tree we cut last Saturday.  We had the best time! It was a crisp winter morning but not so cold that we were uncomfortable. We rode the wagon into the field and found our tree.  Then we stopped at a beautiful inn built in 1850 for lunch.  It was a perfect day, and we decided it would be our new Christmas tradition.  That large bookshelf on the left will be leaving soon. We are joining the 21st century and replacing our old tv with a flat screen.  We are going to need that wall!
 Come into the bedroom.  I dug an old quilt, that my great grandmother made, out of storage and used it on the bed.  It's pretty fragile, some might consider it a cutter, but I plan to mend it where I can and use it gently.  The tartan pillow came from a craft store, but my favorite part of the Christmas décor in here are these...
I hung these paper stars over the bed, illuminated with 3 watt nightlight bulbs they glow so beautifully at night!
Ahhhh, I will be leaving these up for a couple months just because I love the light. And that's the tour! Stars and lights and trees, and cozy plaid flannel. Here in Michigan it's a VERY white Christmas so far and until January 2 I'm loving it. After that I want to spend the rest of the winter somewhere tropical.  I hope you enjoyed the visit and I hope you are tucked snug in your homes surrounded by Christmas lights and things that make you smile.  If I don't see you before Sunday,
Printable Christmas Greeting Card - Watercolor Wreath





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!