Thursday, January 29, 2015

Calming Kitchen Corner in the Middle of Farmhouse Chaos

"I begin every major home project with both excitement and despair--anticipating the outcome but knowing first there must be chaos. . ."

I love our little farmhouse. . It's all the two of us need. . .but let me share with you a little of the chaos even the simplest project can generate. . Well. . .I say simple project. . .I suppose laying a new floor in two rooms isn't a small task. . .is it? . .No. . .But the problem wasn't the floor. . .It was where to put everything out of the way. . .Our house is so small--as in few rooms--that the slightest change can wreak havoc with our lives. . .



Makes the word SIMPLIFY laughable, doesn't it?


If it wasn't for my LIBRARY and this one corner of the kitchen, I'd be bonkers by now. . .

Hard to believe this is in the same house, isn't it? . .It's my one place of sanity. . .and I'll fight anyone who comes along and tries to clutter it. . .There are some things a person HAS to stand up for. . .(smile). . .

I do think John will be finished with the floor today. . .Then I'll begin putting everything back in it's place and clean the entire house from top to bottom. . .Is that the end? . .NO. . .I'll be creating FARMHOUSE STYLE in the coming months. . .Through this three year journey, I've tweaked my style and my thinking. . .In my mind's eye, I know exactly what I want. . .I've let go of much and settled on a certain style. . .It will be interesting to see how my vision turns out.

Can't wait to get started. . . 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Seasoning the Pots and Skillets

"Even if she (today's Southern woman) doesn't cook much, there is no more important heirloom than Mama's iron skillet. The iron skillet is THE essential tool of Southern country cooking, and as such it is a prized possession that is passed down from generation to generation, gathering unique character along the way. . ."

I can't imagine a kitchen without cast-iron cookware. . .and I cannot envision the older cooks in our family setting up any kitchen without their iron skillets and deep fryers. . .It's just not possible!
I've been very blessed to have acquired a family collection of coveted iron cookware pieces. . .READ MORE. . .

Sunday, January 25, 2015

SUNDAY: Sharing the Feast

"It is only by sharing  that we may make a feast"

It was early Sunday morning, well before the day broke light. . .I looked out the kitchen window. . .the ground glistening with frost. . .no movement anywhere. . .WINTER. . .COLD. . .STILL. . .

I shivered a little. . .wrapped in an over-sized robe. . .and fuzzy houseshoes. . .waiting for the coffee to perk. . .looking forward to those first warm sips to start the day.

Neighbors. . ."Where ARE the neighbors,?" I thought to myself. . .I haven't seen them since Fall. . .only an occasional truck or car now and then. . .Whatever happened to the days of family and friends gathering together on cold Winter nights for SOUP--or chili--or stew. . .Whether at homes or church. . .we gathered together. . .each with our contribution to the feast. . .SMILES. . .LAUGHTER. . .SHARING. . .

I poured my coffee. . .headed for the couch to snuggle with Boo. . .still DARK. . .still QUIET. . .still lost in my thoughts. . .
"STONE SOUP". . .I said to myself. . .I hadn't thought of that story in ages but somehow it seemed appropriate and not unlike our SOUP suppers of the past. . .
"Many years ago three soldiers, hungry and weary of battle, came upon a small village. The villagers, suffering a meager harvest and the many years of war, quickly hid what little they had to eat and met the three at the village square, wringing their hands and bemoaning the lack of anything to eat.
The soldiers spoke quietly among themselves and the first soldier then turned to the village elders. "Your tired fields have left you nothing to share, so we will share what little we have: the secret of how to make soup from stones."
Naturally the villagers were intrigued and soon a fire was put to the town's greatest kettle as the soldiers dropped in three smooth stones. "Now this will be a fine soup", said the second soldier; "but a pinch of salt and some parsley would make it wonderful!" Up jumped a villager, crying "What luck! I've just remembered where some's been left!" And off she ran, returning with an apronful of parsley and a turnip. As the kettle boiled on, the memory of the village improved: soon barley, carrots, beef and cream had found their way into the great pot, and a cask of wine was rolled into the square as all sat down to feast.
They ate and danced and sang well into the night, refreshed by the feast and their new-found friends. In the morning the three soldiers awoke to find the entire village standing before them. At their feet lay a satchel of the village's best breads and cheese. "You have given us the greatest of gifts: the secret of how to make soup from stones", said an elder, "and we shall never forget." The third soldier turned to the crowd, and said: "There is no secret, but this is certain: it is only by sharing that we may make a feast". And off the soldiers wandered, down the road."

It's daylight now. . .the sun is bright. . .the last bit of frost is gone. . .Inside I'm rattling pots and pans. . .looking for the right size. . .gathering the last of the winter vegetables. . .as John comes staggering in. . .half asleep. . .pouring his first cup of coffee for the day. . .

"Whatcha cooking?"
"We're having company for supper. . ."

1 sweet potato
2 carrots
1 lb squash
2 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper
1 cup onions, peeled and cut into 1/4" wedges
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup pureed tomato (or tomato sauce)
2 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp cayenne (to taste)
1 (10oz) package frozen peas
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste
croutons for topping
Peel sweet potato, carrots, and squash, cut into 1/4-1/2" pieces. . .Peel and mince or press garlic. . .Cut bell pepper into 1/4" strips. . .Cook sweet potato, carrots, squash, garlic, onions and 1 cup of broth in a covered pan for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a few tablespoons of water if mixture begins sticking to the pan. Bring to a boil. . .Add 1 more cup of broth, along with the bell pepper, tomatoes, lime juice, and cayenne. Return to a boil and reduce heat. . .Simmer covered until vegetables are tender, about 12-15 minutes. If stew sticks to pan, add more broth. . .Add peas and stir occasionally until hot. . .Add salt and pepper to taste. . .Ladle into bowls and garnish with croutons.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Chair and A Spare

I can't believe my luck. . .Driving down a Missouri highway, minding my own business, lost in my thoughts, I begin to see something taking on some kind of form way up ahead. . .My junkin' instincts are on high alert. . . My foot gets a little heavier on the gas. . .I begin to shake my head as I get closer. . .a big smile forming on my face. . .

"One (wo)mans junk. . .Another (wo)man's treasure"
I thought to myself.

This has happened to me before--when I least expected it. . .but this time I STOP and CONSIDER. . .Did I REALLY want two more chairs to clean up and store with my other fifty or so? . .After all, I've been cleaning out and cutting back on junkin' lately. . .because I have found I already have so much and need to purge some of the possessions. . .Add two more? . .Where will I use them? . .Hmmmm. . .Wouldn't they go well in the log cabin?. . .or by the fireplace in the house?. . .Wouldn't Boo enjoy one there? . .What will John say when he has to unload the car and find a place to store them?
Do I dare load them up and carry them home?

OF COURSE.!!!!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

From Kitchen Pantry to Peaceful Library

I LOVE books. . .it's my one weakness (smile). . .So it wasn't a major decision to clear the pantry shelves and make a library retreat for myself. . .

I'm trusting you with my secret hiding place. . .my 'hidey-hole'. . .Here I can retreat from the world and take some time for myself surrounded by all the books that I love. . .Over the years I have acquired quite a collection on subjects that I enjoy. . .books on decorating, architecture, quilting, 18th and 19th century history, local history, costumes and vintage fashion, cookbooks. . .Oh My. . .the cookbooks!!!!

Maybe I have one more weaknesss. . .Here's just two shelves of them. . .I have. . .let's see. . .one-two-three-four--five shelves of nothing but vintage cookbooks. . .AND. . .more hidden away in the wicker baskets above. . .

I prefer 18th, 19th, and early 20th century cookbooks, whether original or reprints. . .I simply cannot pass one by. . .I pick them up at yard sales and flea markets mostly and at little expense. . .

I know what you're thinking about me housing so many books. . .In this new age of tech and ebooks and readers, why bother with a library? . . .Why not depend on Pinterest for recipes and inspiration? . . .The simple reason is that I love holding a real book. . .I love the way it feels. . .I love the way it smells. . .and I can certainly flip through a number of books much quicker than running through Pinterest pins. . .Don't get me wrong. . .I love Pinterest. . .It's great for visual inspiration. . .but when I want more, I turn to real books.

While John has been putting down the new living room floor (photos later), I've been cleaning out the library. . .simplifying. . .Looking for the floor underneath so much clutter. . .Clearing shelves of down-right junk. . .I've carried boxes and boxes of donations to Goodwill and over a hundred extra books to the public library. . .Once the floor was found (grin), I decided to move the comfy wicker chair in--much more relaxing than the cane bottom chair I had. . .With a few more comforts of pillows and a throw, I've found it hard to stay away. . .

It's small. . .but cozy. . .in fact, it's so cozy that I've been known to doze off into a dream world from time to time. . .a GOOD THING on any cold, wintry day. . .

I did make space on the shelves for any books I might find in the future. . .although, if I add too many more, it will require another purging or a larger library. . .Hmmmm. . .That's something to think about. . .I think I've told you that I have one more house to build in my lifetime?

Abandoned Virginian farm house

I'll soon be reworking parts of this blog. . .updating the tabs and adding new links. . .We've changed our home almost entirely from the beginning of this journey. . .My bedroom is in the process of change and John is almost finished with the floors. . .Once those are done, I can begin final work on the living room, too. . .This year promises to be THE YEAR that the major renovations to our house are finished on the inside. . .I'm so excited about it. . .Sure hope you'll stick around for the finale. . .

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Blue Room Challenge

When I see the 'new' pastel color palettes on Pinterest and elsewhere on the net, I have to smile. . .especially when I remember using pastels with white. . .what? . .seven years ago? . .Over the years I've pretty much decorated following my instincts no matter what everyone else is doing. . .Yeah. . .I'm a rebel (I am from the South, you know). . .I do keep up with the times but there's something within me that has to tweak it into my style--my style at any given time because I do change--never straying too much but ever evolving.

And so it was with my parent's home--a fourteen room house that was built by my Grandparents in 1948-49. . .It was pretty well dated. . .I think the last time Mom did any major decorating was in the 1980s. . .They maintained the house well, so it was mostly cosmetic work we had to do.

A challenge?. .Yes it was. . .I wanted it simple. . .I was also limited in cash flow. . .so I decided to paint most of the rooms in soft whites. . .but in the guest room to leave the walls blue with lots of soft white accessories and linens. . .I also wanted to see how many items I could remove and not put back. . .see how simple I could make it. . .I had no budget for the change and would have to rely on my fabric stash and items on hand. . .I've known for a long time that style doesn't have to cost a fortune. . .In fact, it doesn't have to cost much at all. . .A little imagination can go a long way.

One of the secrets of implementing simplicity is choosing a minimum of colors, keep it light and neutral, choose larger objects as focal points. . .The heavy mahogany four-post bed with lots of draped satin fabric had to go. . .Walls and shutters painted soft blue and an off white carpet remained to gave the illusion of a room much larger than it's 10'x12' size. . .Once I removed the other heavy mahogany pieces the room began to fill with light . . .It was fine for my Grandmother and then my Mom but I was feeling claustrophobic. . . I checked my stash. . .2.5 yards of single knit lace. . .9 yards single knit sheer stripe fabric. . .one thrift store woven cotton bedspread with the fringe missing. . .miscellaneous pillow shams and cases. . .a make-do round table from the back of the closet. . .

I started with that table. . .

I decided to try my own twist on this one, drape the knitted lace over the top and allow the softness fall and pool on the floor. . .Simple enough. . .I found a piece of an old white sheet and threw it over the table for the lining. . .No cutting or sewing. . .just tucked the excess under the table. . .Then I draped the entire 2.5 yards of soft knit over that. . .tucking those edges under but bringing them out into the room. . .about five minutes worth of work. . .so soft and feminine. . .easily removed and washed. . .simple. . .elegant. . .

Using the louvered windows as a back drop, I thought the flowered shams in blues, pinks, lavenders and white would be a good transition from the blue walls to the white linens. . .There is a short headboard behind the pillows but I kept it low so that everything flowed for the eye. . .

For the accent color--that little extra--picking a color in the shams--I simply hung a toddler's lavender dress. . .The contrast was just enough. . .

For the bed, I laid the sheer knit across the box springs from side to side for a dust ruffle and then wrapped the mattress with the fringe-less bedspread modern style. . .A silk tree on the opposite side of the bed emphasizes the cottage garden look. . .A white painted dresser and mirror were placed  on the opposite wall. . .(Sorry I didn't get photos of that). . .The result? . .I was pleased. . .It is now an inviting guest room, void of clutter, calming to the eye, and plenty of room for luggage and personal items. . .

Remember. . .I decorated this room several years ago. . .What is the trend today? . .Well. . .We're seeing pastels on the net more and more--soft blues, pinks, and yellows teaming with whites and neutrals. . .Lots and lots of pale blue. . .Now I ask you. . .Am I a trend setter or just lucky? . .(a wink and a grin). . .Maybe a little of both?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

SUNDAY: Skillet Season

I heard the sound of clanking metal and I knew Arbner had arrived. Each morning when she came to care for the babies and tidy the house, she stopped at the kitchen stove to begin the ritual of seasoning my new iron skillet. This had gone on for well over a month and I had begun to regret ever buying the darn thing. The sound of clanking metal and slamming cabinet doors before eight o'clock every morning was almost unbearable. She would heat the oven, give the skillet a good 'greasin', and plop it in the oven for its daily 'seasonin' session.' She only removed it as she left in the afternoon.

The skillet was not a pleasant subject between Arbner and me. I was in my mid-twenties and she had to be over seventy, so according to her I still needed 'tendin.' She always had a lecture waiting for me on baby-rearing, cooking, or just life in general. I would hear her mumbling low, 'I don't know why she went out of here and bought a bran'-new fryin' pan--she oughta known better than that.' I would smile to myself and hope that would be the only admonishment I would receive that day.

One morning, I listened to the banging and mumbling in the distance as I looked down at my beautiful baby girl. As I gazed at her little porcelain face, I realized I held in my lap an unseasoned skillet. Every day I would slowly and patiently 'season' her in hopes that she would one day become the lovely Southern lady we all want our daughters to be. It is a slow and tedious process. Southern belles and Southern skillets--don't get in a hurry on either one. It's an hour-by-hour, day-by-day, lifetime endeavor.
(from THE GRITS GUIDE TO LIFE, story by Sandy Eichelberger)

Although this story comes from my GRITS (Girls Raised In The South) book,
I think it covers most every one of us. . .everywhere. . .
It's certainly worth a little thought. . .
for Moms, GrandMoms, and Great Aunts (like me).

So excuse me while I go 'season a pot'. . .with a little love. . .


Thursday, January 8, 2015

We Make You Kindly Welcome

Does the title give you any clue as to where John and I have visited lately? . .If you think it might be connected to another century. . .you're right. . .and I have put together a little vignette that was inspired from our trip. . .

Christmas decor came down on the last day of 2014. . .I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the  'stuff' that accumulates every Christmas season. . .Time to get back to basics for me. . .I have a way to go before I reveal other parts of the keeping room. . .but am very pleased with this little collection.

Here was my inspiration . .

Yes. . .It's Shaker. . .Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky to be specific. . .We were on our way there the day we stopped and visited with Old Time Cindy. . .She lives about an hour from the village. . .Lucky girl. . .

John and I spent a four day weekend at Pleasant Hill. . .Our room was in the East Family Dwelling--actually occupied at one time by the Shakers during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  . We had to hang our clothes on pegs. . .slept in reproduction beds. . .relaxed in Shaker rockers. . .The room was huge. . .but sparcely decorated in order to give us the real feel of the time. . .There WAS a TV (surprise)--looking oddly out of place--and a private bath. . .Thank goodness for that. . .The first night we were there was on a Thursday. . .Only one other couple shared the entire building. . .I ended up roaming around the big old three story house, checking out every nook and cranny. . .the upstairs. . .the downstairs. . .the kitchen. . .the eating room. . .the architecture. . .by (electric) candle light. . .It was great fun. . .I MUST to be an 'old soul'. . .don't you think?

We were visiting for a specific reason. . .one I'll tell you about a little later. . .but we had plenty of time to explore the buildings and shops. . .

I picked up several items for The Country Farm Home at their gift shops and in the nearby town of Harrodsburg. . .It has been hard for me to contain myself through Christmas until I could display just a few of them--along with a few of my 'oldies but goodies'. . .I reviewed the hundreds of photos I took at Shaker Village and chose a few like the ones above to inspire me. . .the straw brooms. . .the baskets of wool and flax. . .the old photos and needlework. . .the Shaker welcome. . .and the chickens I fell in love with at the gift shop. . .


WE MAKE YOU KINDLY WELCOME. . .I totally love that. . .I sure hope that's the way we make you feel when you visit with us. . .whether online or in person. . .a place to make yourself at home. . .part of the family.

Stay warm and safe everyone. . .Winter is definitely here for the vast majority of us. . .
"Put another log on the fire, Dear."


Sunday, January 4, 2015

SUNDAY: Grandmother's Apron: Wrapped in Love

"The principle use of Grandmother's apron was to protect the dress underneath, but along with that, it served as a holder for removing hot pans from the oven; it was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. From the chicken coop the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids; and when the weather here was cold, Grandmother wrapped it around her arms. Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled it carried out the hulls. In the fall the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees. When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds. When dinner was ready, Grandmother walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner. It will be a long time before someone invents something what will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes."

Flossie Drucella Duncan 1940s

A little melancholy today. . .
Remembering my 'Granny' with much love and thinking how her apron
was used for so many tasks and chores in the same way. . .As I look back, that simple apron is a symbol of Granny's love for her family and the hard work she did in order to make a house a home. . .and. . .it offered comfort and care and a haven of protection when a certain little grandchild needed  it. . .
Hoping you, too, have such wonderful memories.
There's nothing like a new year to bring on some sentimental reflection. . .I feel wrapped in love once again.


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