Monday, May 27, 2013

Mother's Day project

For Mother's Day this year, we decided to have the cushions on my mom's porch swing redone.  We had given her this swing years ago to celebrate another Mother's Day.  Time, the sun, and elements had made the original cushions break down and we know that she really loves to read outside on her porch.

We called on MandiMoo Designs to make the replacement cushions.  She was awesome as usual!

We met her at the fabric store and she arrived with coupons in hand.  (We love it when someone helps us save money!)  My mom and I brought two dusty and rough looking cushions in a giant trash bag.  Mandi didn't even blink - she directed us to the outdoor fabrics and turned us loose to find the fabric.  My mom decided on the stripes.

We told Mandi that this was a Mother's Day gift, but there was no pressure to turn the cushions around in just a couple of weeks.  She was thankful, but then called just before Mother's Day to tell me that they were ready!

We finally made it over to help freshen up the porch swing with a new coat of spray paint.  We ran out of paint, but we have more paint at home and will try to get the second coat on soon.

We couldn't wait to put the cushions in place to see how it looked.

Everyone should have a MandiMoo Designs on call for sewing projects!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wedding season

 Wedding season is upon us!  We have several friends who are getting married this summer and fall and we have a whole collection of save the dates and invitations.  It is very exciting.

Yesterday was the wedding ceremony of my best friend from college.  The venue was this lovely abandoned church in rural Nebraska.  Settled at the corner of two shale roads, this church is surrounded by farm ground in three directions and the church cemetery to the south.

We arrived early to help with preparations and to assist with a couple of last minute decorating tasks.  We had very little to do as the decorations were simple and the bride has a beautiful, simple, elegant style that she incorporated in every aspect of the day.

The church doesn't have electricity or running water.  Simple was best!

The guest book table set the stage for the ceremony beautifully.  A vintage suitcase held messages from the guests to the bride and groom.

 The interior of the church was rustic as you would expect at an abandoned prairie church.  The walls held some original art and I was particularly taken with this near the back.
A view from the entrance to alter gives you a true sense of the space.  There was a set of stairs up to the landing with the guest book and the sanctuary had these lovely wooden pews.
The directional sign from the county highway to the shale road was very charming.
 At the reception, the center pieces were very, very cute.  The repurposed vintage drawers were lovely and the geraniums brought in a wonderful pop of color.
 The dessert table was full of great things to eat and the display was beautiful.  My friend made the serving dishes and I was lucky enough to receive one from her for Christmas this year.
 She did a wonderful job of blending vintage items and her repurposed vintage glassware to create multiple levels.  The cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, mints, Chex mix, and more looks so attractive on this table.

Overall, it was a lovely day for a special couple. We were so happy to celebrate with them!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Great book: Mary Coin

I just finished an excellent book, Mary Coin.  This work of fiction by Marisa Silver is based on the subject of the famous Migrant Mother photograph from the Depression by Dorthea Lange.

The story weaves together the lives of these two women - Mary Coin based on the life of Florence Owens Thompson and Vera Dare based on the life of Lange.  You also meet Walker and his significance is revealed as the story unfolds.

The book was heartbreaking at times and rich with beautiful language.  It was a story of love, loss, art, hard times, family, and finding answers.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New knife blocks and a game of pick up sticks

We outgrew our knife block some time ago and have been making our set up work as best we could.  On more than one night, we have been jolted awake by a knife or my kitchen scissors dropping onto the counter.  Once we figured out that no one was breaking into the house, we settled back into sleep.  And, I kept thinking that we had to replace that knife block.

I found a collection that I really loved in Viva Terra.  These bamboo boxes hold hundreds of small bamboo sticks.  The knife blades rest between the bamboo sticks and the blades are protected.  This option was a thousand times more stylish than our old set up and much more secure.   I loved the color options and settled on the large knife block in the bright red to hold our bread knives and other large knives.  The small block is in a dark gun metal grey and is perfect for our steak and paring knives.

These arrived in the middle of the week and I was not in the right frame of mind to unpack them on the first evening.  I let the box sit in our dining room and we walked around it time and again.  I decided to tackle the unpacking one morning.

I, of course, decided that I would keep my promise to unpack the box on the designated morning, even though I was running a little later than usual for work.  I thought, how long can this take?  I told myself to be very careful when unpacking the box which included each block in a separate box (clearly marked to show which way was up), cushioned by packing material and carefully wrapped in tissue paper.
This is how the sticks look when they are nestled appropriately in the blocks.  Nice and orderly.
This is how the sticks look when the new owner temporarily loses her mind and turns one of the blocks upside down while taking off the final layer of tissue paper on the last block she was unwrapping.  Then, the new owner gets to recruit her husband to help pick up hundreds of sticks before work at approximately 7 a.m. when she should already be driving to work.  Hmmm...this project should just take a minute.
Later that day, I was in a meeting and someone cited a great literary work that expresses that one might endure a disaster to avoid a larger Disaster later.  I was reminded that my mom always tells me that an unexpected delay may be the Universe's way of keeping us safe (protecting us from a Disaster ahead).  I tend to be ok with missed exits and needing to drive ahead to circle back, turning around when I have the nagging feeling that I left something on at the house or forgot to pack something for a trip, or to stop to pick up sticks before work.  I was extra thoughtful when I drove by a fellow commuter on a motorcycle that was having a one-on-one chat with our county sheriff that morning.  Perhaps, my mishap kept me from a speeding ticket?

I do really like my knife blocks.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Something waxed the rooster...

"Something waxed the rooster"...and other strange things said in my house.

We often laugh about some of our conversations, thinking that if someone were listening in, we would either be committed or arrested.   In our attempts to find humor, we sometimes have strange conversations or choose strange phrases, like referring to a dead rooster as getting "waxed."  On my commute to work that day, I kept thinking about how many professional women in our country had a conversation about a dead rooster before 7 a.m., let alone any time of the day.

Last Thursday morning, my husband finished morning chores and returned to the house.  He let me know that our one, lone, survivor rooster was dead by telling me that "something waxed the rooster."  This is the same rooster that escaped the gathering of the roosters for butchering last fall...the one that was last seen that morning running down the middle of our paved county road towards our neighbors.  This is the same rooster who returned to the yard and roamed around the pen until we took mercy on him and let him back in the pen.

At the time of his passing, we thought that he might have died of a heart attack after chasing our new chickens around the pen.  We had decided the night before to put the new chicks, now adequate size to hold their own in the coop with the other hens and this rooster.  We thought if we added them at dusk, the old chickens would be a little groggy and by morning, they would just think, "hey, have you been here this whole time?"  We would save the new hens some of the annoyance of the expected establishing of the pecking order.  Maybe the rooster went a little crazy with all of the new hens invading his space.

In actuality, we now think that the rooster died a hero's death trying to protect his flock.  We woke up Sunday morning to 60 percent of our chickens dead or missing.  Something got into the pen and took out nearly all of our new chicks and left the survivors a little rattled.  We found where the varmint (of some sorts) broke through the chicken wire.  The postmortem on the situation was that we lost the prettiest of the new birds and we spent Sunday morning cleaning up and fixing the fence.  We think that the wind from our little thunderstorm kept us from hearing anything.

My husband was pretty bummed that he had worked really hard to raise our little chicks and to see them through.  We also counted ourselves pretty lucky that we haven't had this problem before. Now, we are being extra cautious about keeping the hens locked up in the coop at night and I am sure my husband's repair job on the fence will hold.

The ups and downs of farming...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sugar Pete Gift Boutique

There is a delightful little gift shop in Lyndon, Kansas along Highway 75.  Sugar Pete Gift Boutique is a small shop full of unique jewelry, art, vintage items, candles, scarves, and a lot of other wonderful things.

My mom first told me about the shop and during a trip through town, we stopped.  I have been back one time and found that the owner, Melissa, had some great new inventory.

What a fun, small town find!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Napa Valley adventures: di Rosa Gatehouse Gallery

On our last full day of spring break vacation, we drove back to San Fransisco via the Sonoma Highway.  Our guidebook gave the di Rosa art gallery/preserve rave reviews.  We thought the description sounded interesting and decided to take the tour.

We had a nice time.  Our tour guide was a hoot. She easily had to be 90 years old and was fully decked out with a well  coiffed hairdo, perfect make up and stylish clothes.  She gathered us for the tour and then took us behind the main building to load into the trolley for a trip to the main house.  The trolley was a converted cattle trailer with benches, pulled by an old pick up.  This little wisp of a woman jumped behind the wheel and expertly carted us to the next stop.

She was also a task master.  She would brief us on a portion of the exhibit, set a meeting spot and then give us time updates.  She would push us along and tell us there was more to see before we moved on to the next stop.  She also told my husband that he was "out of bounds" for walking an extra 10 yards down a path.  The meadow was not "on today's tour."

I had a lot of fun with the "out of bounds" phrase for the rest of the trip.  Anytime it was even remotely appropriate, I told my husband that he was "out of bounds."  I may have to resurrect that joke.

One of my favorite things was the peacocks on the grounds.  Our guide called them "pea fowl."  What amazing birds!  Check out the display - what a show.  Worth the price of admission.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Napa Valley adventures: The Farmstead

 I am slowly catching up and remembering great details about our trip to California over spring break in March.  While I was running on the treadmill last night, I ran through our photos and decided to share more about one of our restaurant finds.

The Farmstead restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena was easily one of the best meals of the trip.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere was casual and fun.

One of the first things we spotted when we pulled into the drive was this beautiful green Ford.  We felt at home already.

We also loved that there was so much to do at one stop - a great restaurant with delicious food, olive oil and wine tastings, and educational activities, a farmers market and more that were not happening that afternoon, but were part of the offerings.
 The beautiful white farmhouse had the olive oil and wine tasting room, along with a little retails space.
 I really loved the use of the galvanized water tanks for planters near the restaurant entrance.
 It was cool and rainy, so we couldn't dine in the outdoor area.  I loved the overhead lights and the great fireplace!  The bar stools are also some of my favorite style.
 The interior had some vintage farm equipment and those great teal green metal chairs.  I would take a whole set of those chairs in a heartbeat.  I also loved the cow head hung high on the wall.
Near the front of house area, the open kitchen sits as a backdrop.  It was a very, very cool place.  And, the food...wonderful!  There point of view is a true farm to table experience.  They also don't have a large corkage fee, instead charging a very modest $2 per bottle which they donate to a local non-profit.  We noticed that the corkage fee when we were visiting went to the local FFA chapter.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Home solution: Our entry way

We feel really lucky.  We fell in love with a beautiful piece of furniture that would solve all of our problems related to coat storage.  The new problem - the price and the shipping costs were way more than we wanted to pay.  I did my usually waiting for a sale and finding coupons, but we were still not comfortable with the price.

We were still highly motivated to fix our coat problem.  Our previous "coat closet" was also the closet in one of our guest rooms in the back of the house.  The proximity of the closet to the front door caused us to just drop our coats on the backs of chairs around the house.

What to do?

We took a closer look at our catalog solution and discovered that it was metal square tubing and angle iron.  If we could find a good welder, we could replicate the design.  We did some asking around and found one of parents in my husband's school district.  He took a look at our pictures, took the dimensions we had in mind for the space, and talked to us about price.  He was going to charge about as much as the shipping cost of the catalog piece.  Sold!

My husband bought the wood for the bench and storage shelf.  Our neighbor helped him glue and plane them.  My husband put on the finish and spray painted the metal frame.

And, we have a completed project!

I added a leather storage box with a lid for all of our scarves, hats and gloves.  I am thinking of adding another for umbrellas.

We are super happy with how this turned out and look forward to paring down our coats since now we can see them all at once.