Our Excellent RV Adventure

Well, we finally did it. We rented an RV and went to the Cape to get a feel for the lifestyle and figure out if we might want to purchase one. As you might have guessed from the name of this post, I believe the answer is a resounding ‘YES’!

RV ADVENTURE

Many people who know me might be surprised to learn I was driving this glorified truck, cooking outdoors on a small propane grill, using the shower facilities on the campsite alongside spiders and other creepy crawlers, and generally embracing the rustic and casual lifestyle. My friends are more likely to imagine me spending a day at a Spa getting kneaded and waxed and primped. Come to think of it, so do I.

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But I love nature. I love the outdoors. And I love the freedom RV’ing allows. Now, make no mistake, we had full hook ups, and all the other amenities one might expect in a new RV. I am, after all, not quite ready for a corn cob pipe and overalls.

Now about that RV. Wanna see the inside?

Here’s the Queen size bed. It was comfy and cozy, but upon seeing it I bowed to the Pilates Gods and thanked them for keeping me limber. Forget about making the bed every day. It’s almost impossible to tuck the sheets in. I just gave in to the fact things wouldn’t be perfect for a few days, while making a mental note to self *get an RV with full access around the bed*. 

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At night, we removed the table and watched countless episodes of Breaking Bad from this spot (best show EVER!!).

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I never used the Barbie oven or stove top. No amount of Pilates would provide the flexibility I would need to cook in this kitchen. Practically NO counter space. There’s a little fold up table to the left of the sink, which, by the way, would rattle like crazy while driving if we forgot to put it up. And you see that little wand for the blinds above the sink? We finally figured out we needed to remove it while driving or that too would shake like a James Bond martini. And should I mention we each hit out heads on the cabinet door near the entry when we forgot to close it about a million times?

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Here’s the bathroom, and I use that term loosely. A hobbit would feel claustrophobic in here. Which explains why I was happy to shower alongside spiders using the campground facilities. And did I mention there were spiders? Hah! Spiders would run from the insect I saw the first day I showered! There was a bug the likes I’ve never seen before, just making himself at home by my feet in the shower. This thing was at LEAST two inches long by about one inch wide. A lesser woman would have run with her feet touching her head, but I’m macho in case you didn’t know. 

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So there’s the penny tour. Our renting experiment was a great exercise is learning what *not* to buy. We’re thinking maybe something around 28′ with a slide-out would be just about perfect. We shall see.

One thing we did think was adequately sized were the windows. We found THAT out when we left the keys locked inside the RV and Fisherman had to boost me up with his hands while pushing me head first inside. And yes, the visual of my ass hanging out the window was every bit as funny as you might imagine.

Now let’s move on, shall we??

Now how about a blow-by-blow of our trip? You know you’re dying to hear all about it ;).

Here’s a shot I took of our neighbor across the street from our RV the night we first got there. Lots of people have park homes that are kept in this community year round and they come from places like Florida to spend the summers, or they live within a few hours and spend weekends almost year round.

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So many of the park homes or RV’s had sheds, and from what I saw, this community knows how to do sheds right. 

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shed 

The homes ranged from permanent structures, complete with screened in porches, to freestanding RV’s like we had, to trailers that have add ons like this one. I did some research and found that some of these homes are being sold for anywhere between $7,500 for a basic, dated trailer to $60,000+ for fully equipped and modernized park homes. 

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The weather cooperated, and we were able to enjoy time on the beach…

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with the seagulls…

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and the hundreds, if not thousands, of horseshoe crabs that washed up to shore and met their demise.

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On Thursday we did one of my favorite things. We took the short drive to the seaside community of Chatham, notable for being the easternmost point in the US and one of the Cape’s most well known and beautiful destinations, and took a walk around this lovely area. Here on the Cape understated elegance abounds, with weathered gray clapboard siding complete with white picket fences and window boxes filled with fire engine red geraniums.

These are the homes that make you want to leave the hustle and bustle behind, if only you had maybe a million or two…or three. In stark contrast to the opulent homes I posted about a few weeks ago in Newport, Cape Cod has a far more relaxed, livable and unpretentious vibe.

But don’t take my word for it. Come along with me on a walking tour!

yellow house

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Adding just the right amount of whimsy, neutral exteriors are often punctuated by a brightly colored door such as this. So charming! 

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beach house

Nestled amongst the casual and neutral colored exteriors of the homes in Chatham is this brightly colored storefront. Surprisingly, it didn’t look out of place or garish in any way, but rather cheerful and welcoming and a nice respite from the neutrality that abounds. 

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Our our last day there, we went to the beach and stayed till sunset. When the tide is out, you can walk for a mile or more before ever getting close to water. It was an interesting sight to see dozens of boats, almost as if they were shipwrecked and abandoned, simply waiting for the tide to come in and be called to duty.

Notice the changes in the light, all within a relatively short time span.

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We changed in the RV and went to dinner before heading back to the camp grounds for the night, something that certainly can’t be done in a car. On Saturday, we reluctantly said goodbye not only to Cape Cod, but summer. Inevitably, Autumn has taken hold here in Massachusetts. How about where you are? Are you putting on your flannel jammies yet? 

 

In other news…I’ve been busy booking us into a few places in Florida for the months of January and February. We’re spending January on the east coast and February on the west. Those two months can be the bleakest here in the Northeast, and it will be nice to get away for an extended period of time. Something we haven’t done in a very, very long time.

 

 

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Styling Tips for Console Tables

Looks like I’ve succumbed to the Fall decorating bug. Even though I decided to keep things simple this year and use what I already have, I made the mistake of going to HomeGoods the other day. Need I say more? Probably not.

But that’s never stopped me before. 

 

I love console tables. They’re easily one of the most versatile, multi-functional pieces you can own. They’re fabulous in entryways, mudrooms, behind sofas…just about anywhere you might need a narrow piece to showcase some treasures or provide a handy place to throw some keys.

 

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I finally finished painting these shelves. In their previous life, they were placed one on top of the other vertically in sets of two, back to back, and housed our sheets and towels in a narrow closet in our master bath. They were a little too narrow to be as functional as I wanted so I replaced them with wider shelving and decided to repurpose them in a hallway just outside our bedroom and turn them into a console table.

hallway console

 

We bought some wooden legs at Home Depot and attached them to the sides, turned them horizontally and arranged them so they weren’t identical for a bit more interest. I started out using some Milk Paint in Lucketts Green but quickly realized that was overkill. These shelves are so poorly made and cheap they weren’t worthy, so I used some paint I had leftover from a previous project and it worked out fine. It turned out to be a pretty good match with the existing rug too.

I was going to call this post ‘a console table two ways’, but then it turned into three ways, then four. I was a little outta control. I tried a few different items and as of this writing still haven’t settled on what I want to end up with. The one thing that I know will stay is the rice paper lamp on the right. It gives off a lovely glow but boy, is it hard to take good pictures of that! Actually, this entire space is one of the most difficult to photograph. To the right is a door that leads to our deck with a glass panel that casts such a glaring light I had to cover it with some fabric to soften it a bit. Oh, the things we bloggers do!

Now on to some styling tips…

 

1 – Don’t over complicate things

 

I think styling can sometimes be a little intimidating. There’s a fine line between too simple and too busy. This first example is about as simple as it gets! In looking at it, I think I need one more thing on the bottom left, but I think it shows that not every ‘cubby’ or space needs to be filled. Don’t be afraid to let a space breathe.

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2 – Use different textures

 

Texture is one of the most important elements in a space, and yet it’s one aspect of designing so many people don’t even think about. To give a space life, combine shiny finishes with dull, or try a chippy or rough texture with some bling. Think old shutters with shiny crystal. So pretty, right?

(This ModPodge bowl was lots of fun to do, and was featured on ModPodge Rocks. It’s one of my most viewed posts so click here if you’d like the ‘how-to’.)

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hallway console

 

3 – Don’t forget scale and proportion

 

Varying heights create interest, and keeps your eye moving around the space. Have a statement piece like this one, or a lamp to add height and function.

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4 – Create a theme

 

Here’s a big surprise for you (and yes, that was sarcastic). For this table, I went with a nature inspired feel. This is the one thing I got at HomeGoods. It’s long so it takes up a fair amount of space on the table and is super versatile! I can use it on the mantel, the cocktail table, even the antique ironing board by the dining table. Love stuff like that!

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5 – Don’t be afraid of neutrals

 

Now, that’s a tip you don’t hear too often, right? With few exceptions, I decided to use neutrals almost entirely for this table. The rug, painting and the console itself brings more than enough color into the space.  Be aware though, if you opt for neutrals, varying textures becomes even more important.

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Although I like this piece, I’m leaning more toward the chunkier one in the second picture. What do you think?

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I’m also in the market for another console table for the master bedroom, but I’m looking for something a little unique and artsy, but affordable. I should have gone to Brimfield to look for one this week, but…

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This will be a first for both of us. The closest either one of us has gotten to camping was sitting around a campfire making smores in our friends’ backyards, so it should be interesting. We spent the better part of today getting ready and gathering together what we need. I’ll have lots to share next week! 

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A Week In Newport

Newport Rhode Island is a place like no other. More than any other town, it stands as a visual reminder of the Gilded Age, the period between 1878-1899, when Americans who achieved monumental wealth celebrated it in ways never before, nor since, seen.

A few weeks ago my friend invited us to spend the night at a house she was renting for the week (pictured here), located approximately 30 minutes outside of Newport.

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It sat so close to the ocean that the water, when the tide was in, was just feet away from the house. If you look closely you can see the lines in the sand where the surf settled. Fisherman and I slept on the lower level which consisted of a bedroom and powder room,  but we had a front row seat to ocean views, and the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore lulled us to sleep.

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We hadn’t given much thought originally to extending our trip into Newport, but once we decided to do so I did some research and found an excellent deal at a B&B located in the heart of town. The deal was so good I was afraid of what we might find (it had mixed reviews on TripAdvisor). In fact, I felt compelled to bring our own sheets and towels fearing bed bugs or other such creatures that go bump in the night.

Thankfully, my concerns were unfounded. The room, while small, was tastefully and simply decorated with lovely antiques, and was sans any bed bugs.

This picture was taken along the famous Cliff Walk, a short walk from our B&B. Look closely. Do you see a dog’s face in the rocks? 

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Have you ever seen a fence with locks on it and wondered its significance? Apparently couples place a lock on a bridge, fence or gate to represent  their love. Typically their names or initials are inscribed on the lock and the key is thrown away to symbolize unbreakable love.

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A trip to Newport would not be complete without a tour or two of its famous mansions. The Breakers, Newport’s ‘Crown Jewel’, is arguably the most famous of them all and has long been Rhode Island’s most popular tourist attraction. Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt III, it consists of 70 rooms (33 reserved for the help) and I believe is approximately 128,000 square feet. And to think this is what The Vanderbilt’s called a ‘cottage’!

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No interior pictures are permitted on any of the tours. You will just have to use your imagination when I tell you many of the ceilings would give the Sistine Chapel a run for its money. Countless ornate, hand carved moldings, covered in gold leaf, sparkle throughout this opulent home. This masterpiece of French and Italian influence amazingly took only two years to build (1893-1895) at a cost of over 7 million dollars, which is equivalent to over $150 million today. Many sections of the home were built in Europe then taken apart and shipped to their final destination in Newport. Whether the ornate character of most of the Newport Mansions is to your liking or not, one must appreciate the exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail that is apparent throughout these homes.

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At the back of the mansion to the right, is this large but oh-so-charming home that stole my heart. Imagine waking up to that setting every morning!!

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We toured one other mansion, ‘Marble House’, built by William Vanderbilt (Cornelius’ younger brother) between 1888-1892, as a gift to his wife Alva for her 39th birthday. True to its name, the house has 500,000 cubic feet of marble. Marble floors, ceilings, walls…just about everything imaginable is marble.

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Having divorced in 1895, just three years after the completion of the home, Alva and William didn’t enjoy Marble House as a couple for long. After William’s death, she had this Chinese Tea House built where she hosted rallies for women’s right to vote. Her political activism was in stark contrast to her sister-in-law Grace (Cornelius’ wife), who very much played the role of a high society ‘proper’ lady. If you’ve watched Downton Abbey, does that call to mind any similarities between Mary, Edith and Sybil?

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How many faces can you find in this tree? I see eight, once of which looks like a monster. Hint: it’s toward the bottom right side of the tree.

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On our way home we stopped off in the upscale community of Watch Hill and had lunch. Afterwards we took a short walk to The Ocean House, a fabulous resort that recently underwent a $157 million dollar renovation. Yes, you read that right.  

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A short walk from The Ocean House and you can catch a glimpse of Taylor Swift’s home. Rumor has it this lovely home was in ruins and was purchased by her for $4 million. Looks like she did a fabulous job of returning this stately home to is original glory.

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Here’s a view from the beach. Apparently, the front of the house is constantly being guarded and we did in fact see guards while we were there. I found it amusing that there was also two signs on each side of the gate reading ‘I knew you were trouble when you walked in…No Trespassing’.

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In contrast to many of its neighbors, this home is fairly modest, but I love it, and I have a feeling many of you reading this would rather have this one than some of the other behemoth mansions we’ve seen so far.

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Visiting Newport is like stepping back in time. You can almost hear the sound of the galloping horses in a game of polo, or the laughter of the children on the great lawns playing croquet, or the excitement of the crowds as Harold Vanderbilt, and expert yacht racer, defended the America’s Cup. 

Without exception, these fabulous homes from America’s Gilded Age are our windows into a time of rapid change and creativity in American culture.  Technology was advancing at an unprecedented pace, bringing with it fortunes we can barely comprehend. I’m glad that for us and future generations to come, most of these homes have been preserved as museums and are now part of our cultural heritage. Without them our appreciation and understanding of this fascinating period in our history would be severely handicapped.

If you’d like to learn more about the Vanderbilt’s and the fabulous history of Newport, go here, here and here

 

In other news…we have the grandkids this weekend, and this week we hope to work on the storage under the deck, installing the lattice and trying to fix up any openings that could potentially be considered ‘welcome home’ signs for a few critters. 

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Canning 101 (and a bonus recipe)

As I type this, it’s a bit rainy, perfect for catching up on some things indoors like canning. Last week I mentioned I was going to make some tomato sauce and I did, but unlike my original intentions to make the same recipe as this one, I mixed it up a bit. Tomatoes are at their peak right about now, and I fully intend on taking advantage of the great prices that are available but once a year. 

 

CANNING TOMATOES

 

Based on some conversations I’ve had in the past, I’m convinced that most people think canning is a lot more complicated than it actually is and are intimidated by the process, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy and downright therapeutic. There’s something about seeing those sparkling jars all lined up in my pantry that gets my heart to flutter. ;)

 

CANNING 101

 Source

 

Before I get to the recipe, I’m going to share some tips which will hopefully save you some time and money should you decide to give canning a try. These are just a few of the books/magazines I have on canning. You see that one in the front by BHG?? It’s on the newsstands right now, and has tons of beautiful, easy to do recipes as well as a handy ‘how to’ guide on canning basics.  

 

CANNING 101

 

1. Can what you like to eat and know when it’s available:

 

This may sound quite simple, but I’ve been known to can many foods that were not my favorites, only to have them sit on the shelves and go to waste. I’ve also missed the boat on a few things I’ve wanted to can because the prime season was over. Since every area is different, I can’t tell what’s in season where you are, but a quick search for farms in your area will give you some ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

CANNING 101

 Source

 

2. Make sure you set aside a full day for the process:

 

I know. This is a huge time commitment, but it includes picking your fruit because it’s best to gather your fruit or veggies and can the same day. Plus, if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to make sure you’re not rushed the first time around.

 

 

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Right now in the northeast, tons of produce are in season such as blueberries and picking them makes for a nice family activity.

 

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3. Before you begin, make sure you have all the necessary supplies:

 

Few things are more frustrating than getting stopped in your tracks because you didn’t have the proper amount of rings and lids, pectin, jars, or whatever else you may need. This Amazon link has pretty much everything you might need and more for starters, but keep in mind you probably already have some items on hand. For one, you do NOT have to buy a canning pot. All you really need is a large pot, tall enough to hold whatever sized jars you’re using. In lieu of a rack that typically comes with ‘canning pots’, line the bottom of your pot with a clean kitchen towel to prevent the jars from direct contact with the heat and rattling around. 

 

CANNING 101

Source 

4. Start out with the easy stuff:

 

Jams are some of the easiest items to can, but if you like apricots I found this recipe to be just about the easiest I’ve ever done.

 

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5. Remember…safety first!

 

While canning is not complicated, you need to follow correct procedures to avoid spoilage. Only follow trusted sources and don’t cut corners. I recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for beginners.  It’s reasonably priced at less than $13 and you’ll use it again and again.

This recipe, like many others, can be adapted to suit your tastes. If you don’t like onions, don’t use them! Prefer more or less spice? No problem. Adjust the red pepper and/or jalapeños accordingly.

Now on to the recipe!

Spicy Tomato Sauce
A delicious tomato sauce perfect for any tomato based dish. Try it as a sauce for pizza, chicken parmigiana, or simple spaghetti and meatballs.
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Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 12 pounds of ripe, Roma tomatoes (these are best for sauces since they provide the best flavor and thickness). Before starting, peel tomatoes by cutting an 'x' in the stem end and place in boiling water until you see the skin split. Remove and set aside.
  2. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  4. 6 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  5. 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  6. 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  7. 1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
  8. 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  9. 2 cups fresh basil snipped into small pieces
  10. 1 1/2 cup assorted herbs such as oregano, thyme, flat leaf parsley
  11. 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  12. 2 jalapeños, chopped finely (optional)
  13. 4 tablespoons lemon juice (to place in quart jars just prior to filling)
Instructions
  1. 1. In a large 8 quart pot over medium heat, place the onions and jalapeños and sauté lightly. Add garlic, being careful not to let it turn brown. If you have a hand held blender, place tomatoes into the pot and puree. If you don't have one, working in batches use a food processor then place in large pot with onions.
  2. 2. Add brown sugar, salt, wine, and black pepper. Bring to boiling, stirring frequently and reduce heat to low-medium. Simmer, uncovered for approximately 80 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chopped herbs and crushed red pepper.
  3. 3. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice into each of 4 quart jars that have been sterilized. Ladle the hot sauce into the jars, leaving 1/4 headspace. Wipe jar lids and screw on bands lightly.
  4. 4. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes. Remove jars and let cool on wire racks.
Notes
  1. Tip: If you are able to press the center of the lid in, you do not have a proper seal. Turn over the jar and let cool. This usually does the trick. If not, refrigerate and use within one week or freeze in freezer proof containers.
  2. Before beginning, sterilize your jars in a water bath for approximately 10 minutes. Toward the end of the cooking process, I place my jars and lids in a 200 degree oven to keep them warm. This step is optional.
HouseHoneys.com http://www.househoneys.com/
 

 

In other news…the storage area under the deck is coming along. The lattice has been delivered to the store, and Fisherman will be picking it up today. We’re headed to Rhode Island this week so that project is on hold a bit, but the good news is I should have some pretty pictures to share next week of the gorgeous mansions in Newport! 

 

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Bears, Painting, and Tomatoes

It’s barely past mid August, but the chill of Autumn is already in the air. The gentle night breezes are slowly but surely bringing autumn to us, easing us ever so gently into cooler weather.

We are already seeing Halloween candy in the stores. Soon, Christmas decorations shall follow suit. I sometimes wonder why retailers seem to rush the seasons. I don’t think it’s just my imagination that each year the onslaught of bags of Almond Joy and Reeses arrives earlier and earlier. I suppose they wouldn’t do it if people didn’t buy their products.

We should all try to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Here in New England, summer is all too fleeting not to be savored. We spent the weekend exploring some local farms, listening to country music at outdoor concerts, shopping for treasures at tag sales and cooking s’mores over a bonfire. Much better than visiting Walmart to buy some Halloween candy, don’t you agree?

But it hasn’t been all play and no work, and we haven’t been without our share of mishaps. Our local bear in residence made sure of that.

We’ve been working on building the storage area beneath the deck for several days and one of the many reasons we need this space is to store our garbage. We don’t have a garage or a shed, and now that we are at the cabin full time, the garbage is vulnerable to the bears that have made our community their home.

The other night Fisherman and I were watching House of Cards downstairs (don’t even get me started on how much I love it!). It was around midnight, and we heard a suspicious bang. We immediately ran upstairs, turned on the porch light and were immediately confronted by the scene below. We then saw a bear running away in our driveway, but not before he had the opportunity to enter our porch by ripping the screen, waddling over the porch sofa (and I’ve got the dirty paw prints to prove it), opening up the garbage can and taking out the bag. Apparently, he dropped it when he heard us coming because that’s the bag to the left of the table on the floor. 

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We spent a good part of the day Thursday replacing the screen, which is a lot more time consuming than I ever imagined. We still have one more to do, but now that we are pros it should go faster. ;)

Here’s what we’ve done so far under the deck. We purchased inexpensive OSB board, which is about 1/3 the price of plywood. We built a basic frame, using the existing posts as support and painted the OSB with some leftover paint from when our house was done a few years ago.  This weekend we’ve ordered some vinyl lattice in tan to place over the boards to dress it up a bit and so it won’t look so boxy.

 

Deck Storage

Here’s a picture of the inside. The downside of doing this project is we had to block off a window in the downstairs bedroom. Most of the time that room is only used when we have guests and then they’re really just there when they’re sleeping. There’s another window so it’s not completely dark anyway. When we’re done, we will be gaining approximately 375 sq. ft of storage space, so it’s well worth it. I’ll post about it again when it’s completed.

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Beside painting the OSB, I’ve been doing some painting on a couple of projects. My friend gave me this cute tote that I decided to use for some kitchen gadgets that I use frequently. It was a lovely shade of sage green and I would have loved to leave it that way, but it didn’t look quite right in the kitchen so I dry brushed it with some ASCP in Emperor’s Red which had been toned down a bit with some black paint, and I let a little of the green show through.

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Wood Tote

I’ve also been painting some inexpensive particleboard shelves which I hope to turn into a hall table. It’s turned into a larger project than anticipated because it seems to need several layers of paint, but I’m just working on it when/if I feel like it and not stressing out about the end result. If it works, fine. If not, that’s fine too!  

hall table

It’s been several years since I’ve done any kind of vegetable gardening, but this year I bought two small tomato plants and they seem to be thriving. I was thrilled when I saw these two ripe tomatoes the other day! The containers are too small so I’m thinking the yield will suffer as a result. I’ll use bigger containers next year.

tomatoes

 

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I moved them yesterday from the side of the house to the deck. They get more sun here and the deck rails work to give the plants some support which they could use.

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I didn’t get any treasure at any tag sales this weekend, but I did get some flowers, plants and veggies. 

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I’ve been eating these blackberries while writing this post. Love them! Tomorrow I’ll be planting the flowers and making some tomato sauce (I posted the recipe two years ago and it’s one of my favorite sauces so be sure to check it out) and summer squash soup and maybe some of this soup which is also one of my favorites.  I love soup! Stay tuned for the easy and delish recipes.

 

In other news…looks like my name wasn’t spelled Dor_en on my BC after all, but rather Dorien, which I actually do seem to remember seeing that. I spoke with a different representative who is the one that told me that. I won’t get into too many details, but suffice it to say I’ve concluded if you talk to 10 different government workers, you will get 10 different opinions and instructions. I’m still working on getting a new BC, but in the meantime I’ve received a new passport which is a relief!

 

 

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EASY PRESERVED APRICOTS!

Apricots have never been my fruit of choice. They can disappoint you big time. What appears to be a pretty, plump orange globe of goodness is all too often mushy and mealy, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a mealy fruit. Another tidbit you may not know about me is I will buy fruit simply because they would look pretty preserved, and that includes apricots. Oh yes I do. The soft orange color speaks to me in a way that says ‘put me in some glass jars so your pantry can look pretty Ms. Househoney’, and who am I to ignore a pleading fruit?

Imagine my surprise when after making these I came to realize that the process of preserving apricots changes their texture! Instead of mealy, mushy fruit, I was happy to discover the texture was somewhat closer to that of canned peaches. Although I’m not typically a fan of canned anything, canned peaches have somehow managed to pass the taste test.

These preserved apricots are somewhat sweet in flavor, but not too sweet, and providing you don’t choose mushy apricots to begin with, their texture is anything but mealy. They’re perfect as an amuse-bouche, appetizer or even a savory dessert. What more could you want??

 

preserved apricots

I made these last week and Friday my friend and her hubby came over to stay the night. As is often the case, the conversation turned toward food and coincidentally my friend mentioned that although apricots were in season, she didn’t like their texture, so I brought these out on some crackers and goat cheese and I think I can say I converted her. 

The process of canning can be intimidating for some people, but since you don’t have to peel the apricots, and the pits practically fall out on their own, they truly couldn’t be easier to prepare. Just make certain the apricots are not at all green and not overly ripe and you’re guaranteed positive results.

apricots

apricots

apricots

Easy Preserved Apricots
Serves 12
Apricots are fabulous candidates for canning. The process changes their texture in a way that is sure to please, and the end result is a somewhat sweet, versatile concoction perfect for an appetizer, amuse-bouche or savory, sophisticated dessert.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 3/4 cups plus 1 quart water
  2. 1 cup sugar (I used superfine but regular is ok)
  3. 1/2 vanilla bean, 3 fresh peeled ginger root coins or 3 wide lemon zest strips (optional)
  4. 1 Tablespoon Fruit Fresh OR juice from three lemons (I used lemon juice)
  5. 3 pounds medium apricots
Instructions
  1. Begin by combining the 1 3/4 cups water and the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add one of the optional flavorings if using and turn off the heat and cover.
  2. To keep the fruit from browning as you prepare it, combine the remaining 1 quart of cold water and the lemon or Fruit Fresh in a large bowl and stir to dissolve.
  3. Cut the apricots in half, using the dimple as a guide. Remove the pit and place the apricot halves into the prepared water. If there are any brown spots or rotten parts of the apricots, remove them.
  4. Line up the sanitized jars and tuck the apricots inside. You should get about 12 halves in each jar.
  5. Remove the optional flavoring from the syrup and reserve for a garnish. If you're using the vanilla bean, snip into 3 pieces.
  6. Return the syrup to a boil and pour it over the fruit, leaving about 1/2 inch head space. If you see any bubbles inside any of the jars, run a chopstick or plastic knife along the sides to dislodge any air bubbles.
  7. Clean jar rims, close and place in a boiling water bath for approximately 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the water bath for an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Remove with a jar lifter, label and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. After opening, refrigerate.
Notes
  1. *Jars should be sanitized and ready to go before starting the canning process. They can be placed in a dishwasher and run through the cycle, or in a boiling water bath for about 10 minutes*
HouseHoneys.com http://www.househoneys.com/

apricots with cheese

 

In other news…

Fisherman and I have been busy the last few days working on the storage area under our deck. When we’re finished, we will have more than 350 sq feet of much needed storage space, and we should be finished by next week! I can’t wait!!

 

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DIY FRUIT INSPIRED UMBRELLAS!

 

FRUIT INSPIRED UMBRELLAS 

 

In the cute factor scale of 1-10, this project is off the charts! I had so much fun making these umbrellas, I was kinda bummed when I was finished! 

The folks at ScotchBlue™contacted me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would be interested in making these umbrellas using, you guessed it, ScotchBlue Painters Tape™.

Really? Who wouldn’t be?? I mean, who doesn’t love a project that’s easy, cute, and inexpensive to pull off?

They sent me the tape, and since I had the paint on hand, I just needed the umbrellas. I found red and green umbrellas at Job Lot for just $5.00 each and I was good to go. 

 

Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

 

Umbrellas (Red for the Watermelon and Lime Green for the Kiwi)

Scotch Blue Painter’s Tape Original Multi-Use™

Fabric Safe Craft Paint

Black Permanent Marker (This is completely optional. I used permanent marker for the ‘seeds’, but the original instructions, which you can find here, used black paint).

Xacto Knife 

The original post, done over at StudioDIY for ScotchBlue™, has the complete, super-professional step-by-step instructions, so head on over there if you think you’d like to give this project a try. 

The first umbrella I tackled was the kiwi. Out of the two, this one was the fastest. I pumped this cutie out in about an hour!

 

Kiwi

 

 kiwi umbrella

 

1 – Paint a circle at the top of the umbrella either in light green or white. You can use a paper plate to guide you or just freehand.

 

*Tip* The little ‘bumps’ in the spokes of the umbrella are great guides.

 

2 – Make some stencils with the ScotchBlue tape for the seeds. Since you will need a few, layer three or four pieces of tape on top of each other and cut through them using your Xacto knife, then carefully separate.

3 – Place three stencils in each umbrella section and using either your permanent marker or paint, paint your seeds.

4 – Now you’re almost done! Place a piece of tape around one inch from the bottom of each umbrellas section and paint brown below the tape line. Remove tape and let dry.

 

fruit umbrella

 

umbrella

 

 Watermelon

 

1 – For the watermelon, working in separate sections, run a piece of tape around 3″ from the bottom. Paint this area green. (You may find you will need to do two or three coats since the red umbrella background is a bit dark.) Let dry thoroughly.

2 – For the white, place a piece of tape along the top edge of the green section, just below the edge of the top, making sure no red is showing.

 

*Bonus* This step will also help to hide any potential bleeding you might have gotten from the green paint.

 

Place a second piece of tape about an inch above it. Paint this section white.

 

watermelon umbrella

3 – Now for the seeds! Place the stencils in each section, working one section at a time. I followed the original instructions and painted five and then four on top as illustrated. 

fruit umbrella

watermelon umbrella

watermelon umbrella

 

 

umbrella

 

I love, love, love these umbrellas! I’m keeping my eyes open for a yellow or white one so I can make a couple of others that I’m thinking about.

Two important tips:

1 – To prevent potential bleeding, make sure your tape is flat against the umbrella, and don’t overload your brush.

2 – Make sure the umbrella is dry before closing!

 

Disclosure: Aside from the tape, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

 

In other news…I’m still having challenges regarding my name and Birth Certificate (remember…Dor_en?), but hopeful that I finally have gotten in touch with someone who is willing to help. Fingers crossed!

 

 

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A ‘Day of Days’! The Wedding Photos Are Here!

 

 

Since I’ve always believed a picture is worth a thousand words, I will remain uncharacteristically quiet. Enjoy!

 

 

If you’d like to hear Sarissa & Josh’s Wedding Song while viewing, just click on the left arrow.

 

 

 

That Love is all there is,

Is all we know of Love.

-Emily Dickinson

 

elegant wedding

 

If my love were an ocean,
there would be no more land.
If my love were a desert,
you would see only sand.
If my love were a star-
late at night, only light.
And if my love could grow wings,
I’d be soaring in flight.

- Jay Asher

 

elegant wedding

 

I knew the second I met you that there was something about you I needed.

Turns out it wasn’t something about you at all.

It was just you.

-Jamie McGuire

 

elegant wedding

 

 Living in love is the highest octave of the miracle of our life.

-Peter Megargee Brown 

 

wedding pics

 

There is nothing holier, in this life of ours, than the first consciousness of love

- the first fluttering of its silken wings.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

elegant wedding

 

There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing

moment.

– Sarah Dessen
 

june wedding

 

And I’ve realized that the Beatles got it wrong. Love isn’t all we need—love is all there is.

– Morgan Matson
  

brooch bouquet

 

Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.

– Hilary T. Smith

 

elegant wedding

 

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time

Like dew on the tip of a leaf.

-Rabindranath Tagore

 

elegant june wedding

 

No matter where I went, I always knew my way back to you.

You are my compass star.

–Diana Peterfreund

 

 first look

 

I love you
Not only for what you are
But for what I am
When I am with you

-Roy Croft

 

first look

 

Explaining love is like explaining poetry.

-Michael Drury

 

first look

 

Where there is love, there is life.

-Mahatma Gandhi

 

elegant wedding

  

Life is the first gift,

love is the second,

and understanding the third.

-Marge Piercy

 

elegant wedding

 

And in her smile I see something more beautiful than the stars.

–Beth Revis

 

wedding

 

Love is a force more formidable than any other.

It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured,

yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment,

and offer you more joy than any material possession could.

-Barbara de Angelis

 

wedding

 

We do not know where we are going,

but we are on our way.

-Stephen Vincent Benet

 

wedding in ny

 

I never loved you any more than I do, right this second.

And I’ll never love you any less than I do, right this second.

 –Margaret Stohl

 

wedding in ny

 

Love and light cannot be hid.

-James Kelly

 

elegant bride

 

Love is the only gold.

-Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

june wedding in ny

 

It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death.

-Thomas Mann

 

elegant ny wedding

 

Speak to me only with thine eyes,

And I will pledge with mine. 

-Ben Jonson

 

elegant wedding

 

For love is heaven,

and heaven is love. 

-Sir Walter Scott

 

elegant wedding

 

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life, for which the first was made.

-Robert Browning

 

elegant wedding

 

Those who love deeply never grow old; 

they may die of old age, but they die young.

 -Sir Arthur Wing Pinero

 

elegant wedding

 

How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breath and height 

My soul can reach 

-Elizabeth Barrrett Browning

 

new york wedding

 

To Teach Our Children

To Love Life

To Love Themselves

To Love Others

Is a Gift.

And Although It Is Bittersweet

To Teach Them To Live, and Love, Without Us

Is The Greatest Gift of All

 

Want to see more wedding loveliness? Here’s a slideshow I put together :)

 

All Photos Courtesy of Joshua Zuckerman Photography 

 

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Have You Seen My Sidebar?

Psssst…right there. On the right. Just scroll down a tiny bit.

See it? That cute little illustration of a chair?

I know. Adorableness.

You know how when you see something…or meet someone…you immediately feel a connection? 

As bloggers, I’m pretty sure most of you know exactly what I mean.

Maybe the connection isn’t in a ‘this is life-changing’ kind of way, but more of an ‘I’m inspired’ kind of way.

Or in a ‘I wish I could do that!’ kind of way.

Oh yeah. You know what I mean. ;)

Enter Beth Briggs, an unbelievably talented illustrator whom I crossed paths with when she commented on my brooch bouquet post. When I returned the favor and visited her blog, I was blown away by her talent.

I love, love, love her work! Her colors, her style, her passion…all come through in each and every one of her gorgeous illustrations.

As soon as I saw her work, I immediately knew I wanted to share it with you all, so I asked her for permission to use some of her illustrations in a blog post. I was delighted when she not only agreed, but asked me to send her a couple of photos that I liked of the cabin so that she could draw up some illustrations for my use. 

Oh Happy Dance!

I knew immediately the picture I would use. It’s a picture that exemplifies life at the cabin. Relaxed, rustic and colorful :).

rustic porch

And here is what Beth came up with! How cute is this?? 

 

rustic porch

 

I threw another picture in the mix for good measure…

rustic vase peonies

 

Be still my heart!

 

rustic vase

 

From time to time, I think about changing my header. Unlike my current header, I am drawn to headers that don’t have defined beginnings and endings. Headings that are simple, but not boring. Elegant, but not fussy. Maybe the above chair, blog name and my tag line (‘inspiring ideas for creative living’) and not much else.

But Beth convinced me to keep my header as is. If she thinks it’s cute, that’s good enough for me. Still, when I am ready for a change, Beth will be the first person I contact. 

Her niche is fashion and bridal illustrations, but you can see she’s multi-talented.

 

beth briggs illustrations

 

Mucho multi-talented.

beth briggs illustrations

 

Check out her Etsy shop here or her blog here for some serious gorgeousness.

And did I mention Beth sent me the hard copies of these illustrations? She’s not only an amazing artist, but a generous one as well. 

Here’s a picture of the hard copies as well as a small watercolor I did in a class a couple of weeks ago. The instructor outlined the flower and we basically painted inside the lines, but it was a lot of fun and I learned some cool techniques!

illustrations

Beth, if you’re reading this, thank you for sharing your talents with me! I will forever cherish the beautiful illustrations you generously sent me. They’re perfect!

 

In other news…

 

I’m going to end each post with ‘in other news’ going forward. Sometimes I find that even though I may want to tell you all about a project in a post, there may be other random things that I want to write about that may not exactly fit in, like I did here, so this is how I’m getting around that challenge ;). 

So for today’s ‘other news’ I wanted to let you know yesterday I received the digital copies of the wedding photos. All 848 of them! Took a while to download (an hour) and longer to sift through them, but it was time well spent. They’re stunningly gorgeous and I can’t wait to share them with you!

 

 

 

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Revived Primitive Console

PRIMITIVE DRESSER

Calling this console ‘primitive’ is a bit of an understatement. No, it’s a HUGE understatement.

It was a hot mess.

It had decades of dirt embedded in both the exterior and interior and the wood was gouged in so many places it made my head hurt just thinking about how I was going to tackle this.

BUT…it was only $20, has great storage potential, and I knew I had the perfect spot for it. 

I found it a few months ago and since then it just sat waiting patiently while I moved on to FAR easier projects like this milk paint cabinet and my jewelry organizer (which, btw, I LOVE!).

 

dresser for storage

 

I really liked the color, and although the chippy finish was a bit extreme, I didn’t hate it. Not at all. In fact, I was tempted to just give it a good cleaning and call it a day. I was putting it in our basement which is decorated in a rustic cowboy/cowgirl theme so it would have been fine as is.

 

rustic dresser

 

The problem, or one of them, was the right side wasn’t painted in the same color as the rest of it.  I guess that side was up against a wall in its former life and whoever painted it turquoise didn’t think it was worth the trouble to move it. 

 

rustic dresser

So…since I knew I had to paint the side I decided to just give the entire piece a good cleaning and a new coat of turquoise paint. I got some TSP, a scrub brush and a toothbrush and got to work. I didn’t want to overwork this piece, though. As the title of this post implies, I just wanted to revive it.

Think a little botox, not a full on face lift.

mod podge dresser

 Notice the stellar paint job?

rustic console

The other issue with this piece was the condition of the top. When I found it, it had some metal shelving that was piled on top of it, and from the looks of it it was probably like that for years. Cleaning it only made a slight dent in the appearance, so I knew it was time to bring out the big guns. 

rustic dresser

So…I sprayed some paint stripper and left it overnight and this is what it looked like after I scraped off not one, not two, not three,

but four layers of paint.

 

Oh, and there was also some paper that had been glued on at some point and painted over. 

rustic console

I filled in some of the gouges with wood filler, put two coats of stain (Ipswich Pine) and two coats of Hemp Oil. The resulting finish is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, BUT, it’s very appropriate for the piece itself as well as the room it will be in. I wasn’t going for perfection. I wanted to clean it up and make it the best it could be under the circumstances.

Remember…botox, not surgery.

rustic dresser top 

For the outside I just gave it a quick coat of some turquoise paint and scruffed it up just a bit, but I was struggling with what I should do with the inside. I didn’t want to paint it the same as the outside but I didn’t want too much of a contrast. I looked at the painting that it would eventually be sitting under for inspiration and decided on blue. Then I remembered I had some wallpaper that I had gotten for free at a church sale last year which had shades of turquoise, some blue and lime green, so I cut it to size and used some Mod Podge to line the shelves.

I painted the back with two coats of blue paint I custom mixed, and the insides of the doors lime green and blue. (This picture was taken after one coat.)

rustic console

 There…isn’t she starting to look a little better?

rustic console

 

One of my favorite parts of this piece is the hardware. Rusty, but charming ;).

  

 dresser hardware

 

 dresserhardware

 

dresser-10

Here she is in her new home, which is actually our basement, aka Fisherman’s man cave. It’s a walk out, but this spot is tucked in a corner with very little natural light.  (It’s hard to tell but the sexy cowgirl’s vest is dark blue.) 

I think I’ll be putting photo albums inside, if I ever get around to sorting through the thousands of photos we have and organizing them! 

 rustic dresser

 

In ‘other news’, apparently my name isn’t ‘Doreen’. It’s Dor_ne. At least according to the Department of Health.  Remember when we moved and our important documents were stolen? Well, I ordered a new Birth Certificate and they told me their records show my name is spelled ‘Dor_ne’ and unless I give them certain obscure documents, i.e., a letter from the hospital where I was born, immunization records, a school admission form, etc. I will need to go to court to have my name legally changed to ‘Doreen’ if I want a Birth Certificate! Isn’t it bad enough everything was stolen, now this??! The hospital doesn’t keep records longer than 15 years (I called).

I don’t remember my name being spelled that way on my Birth Certificate, and I have been able to get a passport and driver’s license with my correct spelling, so WTH? I’ve requested they show me what their records look like, so we’ll see.

Thank goodness I have an expired Passport (the new one was stolen) so I can get another one using that and my driver’s license. We’re not planning on any overseas trips soon, but I think I better get on it nonetheless.

Then I can start organizing my photos…

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