Sunday, June 29, 2008

Never enough Red, White and Blue!

After seeing flags displayed this way on a house featured in one of my magazines I went on the hunt for the brackets and found them at:! I put two sets, one small and one large on both of the center columns on the front porch. I installed another two sets on the posts of the split-rail fence near the pool. You can never have enough red, white and blue! And, nothing says Independence Day like repeating clusters of Old Glory!
Happy 4th!

Must be some House!

This is the third time this year that we've had a clutch of baby Bluebirds hatched and raised in this little house on the woodshed. Must be Some house! 
They are just about ready to Leave the nest...
Welcome to our Garden!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

How cute is This?

Vintage Pyrex carafe and juice glasses... Too cute to pass up!

What if...

One of the many reasons it took me so long to decide which pair to pick at the Bird store yesterday is that I felt an obligation to pick two that liked each other, at least a little. I mean, what if I picked the two that spent their whole day trying to stay on opposite ends of the cage from the other? What if they stepped out of their dark little take-me-home box and into their new cage only to find that the bird they liked least back at the store was the one I chose to be their best buddy forever? I wonder too if the birds I left behind are happy that these two are gone now... Or maybe I picked the wrong two and each of them has a buddy or worse, a girlfriend now pining away for them. I don't know, maybe I'm over-thinking this but the whole experience felt like picking two kids off a playground of thirty-five, and expecting them to be best friends for the rest of their lives. I can tell you that if I that happened to me with a certain little girl I knew in the third grade, I would have been desperately unhappy.

Thankfully, when I came downstairs this morning I found Sheldon and Leonard rubbing their heads together! See? 
And, sharing a perch... I'm taking this as a good Sign!

One thing is for Certain...

Not painting the bedroom is no longer an option!
As the light changes so do the colors... 
So what I like in the morning I can't stand in the evening!
And, what looks great next to the chair doesn't look
so hot next to the bed! That's it... I'm going downstairs to 
find a dart to throw at the wall. Where it lands is my color!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Picking Colors...

We are terrible at picking paint colors and that's why in 23-years of marriage we have only NOT used white paint in four rooms of all the homes we've ever lived in. So after deciding to paint the bedroom so the new furniture will pop, and spending more in sample paints over the past two weeks than two gallons of premium paint costs, he said, let's just find out what George Washington painted his bedroom and go with that! So we headed over to Sherwin Williams to take a look at their Mount Vernon Estate collection. I took a piece of molding from the TV cabinet but we still couldn't decide. We left with another 2 quarts of samples and hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to make a decision. Wish us luck!
So many choices... How does anyone decide?
From the paint store we headed over to the Bird store
to pick out a couple of new birds to fill the void in the 
house left by Snow's death on Monday. Sadly, we're no
better at picking birds than we are at picking paint colors!
Love the Love birds but they are far Too noisy!
Finally, we settled on these two cuties... 
Meet Leonard and Sheldon! Named for our 
favorite characters on the sit-com Big Bang Theory...
Leonard is on the left and that's Sheldon on the right.
I hope they're happy with their new home and that
we are able to enjoy them for a long, long time. Oh! The 
owner of the Bird store told me that albino parakeets 
do not usually live very long so it's likely that Snow
just died of natural causes. I feel a little better now...

Sweet Friday!

Although I'm used to getting up earlier now for Summer hours at work, given the opportunity to go back to bed, I have no trouble drifting back to sleep... and that's exactly what Bing and I did this morning! Morning quickly turned into afternoon and before I knew it, it was one o'clock and I was beginning to feel guilt over wasting a perfectly beautiful day off. So I fired up the jet-pack and got on with it. Bing, however, was not in the mood to follow my motivations, as you can plainly see...
Come on, Bing... Gotta make the bed!
No, really... it's time to get up so I can make the bed!
I give up!
This look says, don't you have someplace to be?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's never been About the house...

Although the house is pretty great... for us, it's always been about the property!

This beautiful setting I am so fortunate to call all mine reminds me daily of being in Pebble Beach or Pacific Grove where the deer are unafraid and never seemed to mind us strolling by as they nibbled on the Links along Seventeen-mile Drive or on the grassy Dunes in front of Point Pinos lighthouse at Asilomar. Of course, there are several things missing here that I loved about living on the Peninsula - Top of the list are Mom and dad, San Carlos Cathedral, the Carmel Mission, all my friends, the rocky Pacific Coast, Big Sur and the cuisine. Really, don't get me going on the list of 11,404 things I miss about Monterey! Life and its trade-offs... There, it costs a million dollars to own a view like this - here, this view is mine for only what it costs me every day to miss those 11,404 things.

This is what I'm talking about...
She comes to nibble up whatever cracked corn the ducks don't finish
These sweet, gentle creatures find what they need here with us...
I hope they know they bring much more with them than they take

Monday, June 23, 2008

A bit of Sad news...

Snow died today... I have no idea why - Brandon just called me at work to say that when he went into the den this afternoon he found Snow lying on the bottom of her cage. I asked him if she might just be sleeping, but Brandon said, "The bird's dead, Mom." 

I always said that because Snow picked me and I never really wanted a bird I wouldn't get another one when she expired. However, that was right after I was told she could live to be fifteen and I invested in this huge new cage for her. And, before I got roped into holding $150 in store credit at the Bird store where Brandon ended up returning his bird after he realized he didn't have the time it required - No cash refunds... store credit only. And, yes, that was me resisting the urge to tell him, I told you so. So I guess I'll either get another bird or find someone that wants a really nice flight cage and some store credit at the Luv-N-Birds bird shop!

We buried Snow in the garden this evening in a biodegradable lunch bag... I'm okay with giving her back to the earth. Unlike Herman, my hamster, who was buried in a very heavy glass pickle jar behind my dad's motor-pool in Frankfurt and is most likely still there. I was thirteen and very concerned that bugs might get to her so I used a whole roll of electrical tape to ensure the lid wouldn't somehow come unscrewed four feet underground. 

I enjoyed Snow very much and will miss her singing every time the phone rings... 

I showed up and Passed!

Seems I wasn't the only one thinking about how to opt out of today's final cake decorating class because half the class didn't show up! No... really! Karen, our instructor said they all, "chickened out." She also said this happens quite a bit. Hum... But I showed up (because I could not let this beat me!) and while I'm not at all reconsidering my decision to check this off my list of things to do twice, I will say that I am glad I took the class. I always wanted to learn how to decorate cakes and now I know that with $100 in cake decorating tools, enough patience, time and icing, I can do it. Still doesn't mean I want to though!

My finished cake:
All the elements are there!
Roses, drop flowers, leaves, shell and ribbed borders...
Miss. Karen
Everyone taking photos tonight got the same pose and look!
A very pretty Daisy cake
Beautiful cake - Great message!
Such a funny lady! She cracked me up because every time
Karen told us to switch to another tip or pull out a tool 
this lady would say that she didn't see a need to buy that.
She often commented that I seemed to have bought
everything and asked me several times if I planned to go
into business decorating cakes after our class was over... Ah, 
NO! She usually came to class without any icing or she'd 
bring what looked like the same icing several weeks in a row,
and then ask Karen why it was either too runny or lumpy. 
She also said she didn't want to invest in too many colors.
And, I worried that I complained out loud too much... Ha!
This lady has had lots of practice - this was her fourth 
cake decorating class and it shows! She told me she 
started making her roses last Tuesday. Wow! 
Very nice!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I cheated... But Just a little!

I started out my day plotting how to avoid tomorrow's final for my cake decorating class... The thought first occurred to me this morning after I discovered the roses I put into the refrigerator to dry yesterday looked less like roses than they do flat, swirly smudges blobbed out onto parchment paper. WTH?

Disastrous roses aside, the thought of ditching class crossed my mind again while I was lounging in the pool because since it was over 80-degrees and the last thing on my mind was going into the house to bake cakes. So I spent the better part of the morning fretting about how I could NOT go to class... I even thought about making a call to ask how failing this class might affect my so-far-perfect 4.0 GPA at Forsyth Tech. Is it even a grade class? I wondered... Ugh!

Why all the fuss? Because in class last week the instructor passed out photographs of beautifully decorated cakes - they were copied right out of the Wilton master decorating book no less, because we're all masters after only four classes... (this is me rolling my eyes!) So, when everyone in class had a photo, the instructor said we are to duplicate the cake for our final project. Worse, the photo she handed me features roses, a decoration I couldn't seem to get the hang of, no matter how much I practiced... Then it hit me! I jumped out of the pool and went to the grocery store to BUY my cake - maybe even one loaded with roses! At first I thought I'd just buy a cake or two, since I needed a double-layer, rectangular cake and scrape off all the icing, re-ice it and call it my own. Brilliant! After all, I'm taking a cake decorating class, not a cake baking class!

Turns out I wouldn't have to undress cakes at all because when I explained to the bakery lady at Harris Teeter what I was trying to do she said she'd happily sell me two of the single layer sheet cakes they use as the base for all their decorated cakes. I could even choose from white, chocolate or marble cake - Yea! And, in case you're wondering...the price is the same whether the cake is iced or not! $10.99 each - But so worth not having to bake my own! Looking back, I could have asked her to cover the layers with some of that icing I paid for - However, since I didn't want to do anything to make me look ungrateful for the extra pool time she was selling, I took the naked cakes and ran. Also, after I shared with the bakery lady my story about the rose-blobs, mainly hoping she'd offer to bang out 20 roses for me for a fee (I mean I was wearing my best, name your price face!), she said that my results were typical of the type of icing my instructor is having us work with, then she suggested making my own buttercream. And, what do you know? It worked! I don't stink at making roses after all... Well, let's just say I don't stink as much as I thought I did.

My two Harris Cheater (HA!) cakes stacked up to form one double-layer cake:
Buttercream roses on the Left - Yesterday's effort on the right
Click to enlarge for detail to fully appreciate rose blobs
Much Better! Tomorrow all I have to do is apply my roses and
complete the other decorating elements of my assigned cake
Another slow-cooker Success! I put a Boston Butt into
my slow cooker on Saturday - poured maple syrup over it
and topped it with brown sugar and apples - Cooked for
8 hours on high. Before I went to bed last night I pulled all
the meat off the bone and separated it from the fat and put it
into the refrigerator. This morning I shredded the meat and
returned it to the slow cooker to cook on Low in a honey BBQ
sauce. I served it on fresh sesame buns with German potato
salad. Yum... And, best of all... No cheating required!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chopping broccoli!

A morning off leads to broccoli salad! To explain... Hanes is testing summer hours so in exchange for 4, 10-hour days we have Fridays off through August 15th. Another reason to love Summer! Any way, having to get up at 5:30AM every day this week meant sleeping in this morning wasn't going to happen so I was wide awake for the early-morning gardening shows that run on UNC-ED TV. And, that's where I saw this recipe for broccoli salad I just had to try. It's yummy! One tip though, do not use all of the dressing the recipe calls for because if I had, my salad would have looked more like soup. Also, I recommend going to the extra effort of baking the bacon. I bought good center-cut bacon from the butcher and baked it on a cookie sheet with a rack on it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then I put it under the broiler to crisp it up for another 5 minutes on each side. I also blanched the broccoli for 5 minutes and then put it into a big bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. This made my broccoli a bit more tender and deepened its beautiful green color. This salad was the perfect side for dinner tonight! Recipe follows... 
And what was dinner? Well, I marinated filets in a splash of red wine and soy all day then rubbed them with olive oil and John Pisto's Monterey seasoning, sea salt and cracked black pepper. To go with them and my fabulous new broccoli salad I grilled boiled red and white potatoes and a beautiful vidalia onion. Of course, I cored the onion and stuffed it with unsalted butter and a beef bullion cube - it's like eating French onion soup candy. Desert was strawberries with creme fraiche - Fantastic!
1 head fresh broccoli cut into bite-size pieces
(I blanched the broccoli whole)
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup red onion chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sunflower seeds
10 slices bacon

Place bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Crumble and set aside (I baked my bacon on a rack and drained it on a paper towel to remove as much fat as possible)
In a salad bowl, toss together broccoli, raisins and red onion. In a separate bowl, whisk together white wine vinegar, sugar and mayonnaise and pour over broccoli mixture (I chilled my dressing all day to allow flavors to blend and did not use all of it - I used only enough dressing to coat the broccoli lightly) 
Refrigerate salad for two hours
Before serving sprinkle salad with sunflower seeds and crumbled bacon - Toss and serve!


Nothing says summer like Hydrangea blossoms! Loving the blue... waiting for pink!

Everything around the pond has grown in beautifully
Hundreds of different shades of green...
The hostas have never been lovelier
Well hello new tomatoes! Hurry along now, I 
have basil and mozzarella waiting for you!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

As nice as I imagined...

And, it's truly as comfortable as it looks! I am so thrilled to finally have this Thomasville Felicity slipcover chair and ottoman. I've been watching it at the Outlet in Thomasville for more than two years - Today was MY day!

Mom just ordered a chair and ottoman Similar to mine from Pottery Barn and she paid over $1,300 for the set. Mine? Just $295 for the chair and $99 for the Ottoman - Really!!
Perfect! And, I bought an additional slipcover in the Teal color so if
I ever get tired of this neutral (they call Sea Salt) I'll have another option!
I paid $50 for the extra slipcover for the chair and only $25 for the Ottoman
They call it blue but I swear it looks like Tiffany & Co. Teal. Stunning!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I love it!

I couldn't help myself... I had to go back to the Thomasville furniture outlet for the Felicity chair and ottoman. I've been watching that chair and ottoman set for two years and really should have bought it when we bought the bed and armoire on Memorial Day but I didn't want to press my luck... After all, it's not every day he's in the mood to shop for furniture! Recall my Memorial Day post on 05/26 and (See!!) the Felicity mantle bed and armoire we picked up for only $800 that retailed for over $7,000. Love it! The bed and armoire look AMAZING in our room - See?

Nevertheless, I talked him into going back for the Felicity chair and ottoman this weekend. Of course, the first words out of his mouth were, if you had said something on Memorial Day we would have saved 20%. Oh well... Who cares, and what's $80 when you're saving $900? For a similar chair/ottoman set Pottery Barn wants $1,300. And, retail on the Felicity chair and ottoman at Thomasville was $1,400 too but at the outlet the chair is $295 and the ottoman only $95. Yea!

So I finally got my chair and ottoman (they will be here tomorrow) - AND, I bought the slipcover set for it in the beautiful Tiffany-teal color that's part of the collection too. I love that color (see the sofa in that color in my 05/30 post) but I'm afraid to commit to it so with the slipcover option I can keep the chair and ottoman in the neutral color I ordered (sea salt) and put the slipcover on if I decide to change things up. Also, if he's serious about painting the bedroom I may decide I love the teal better, depending on the wall color we pick... So who knows? All I know is that having options works best for me and since the slipcover for the chair was only $50 and the slipcover for the ottoman was only $25, I had to have them. They also have a pretty mossy green I might have to have too!

Which so brings me to the point of this post... Once again, I didn't want to press my luck Saturday so I didn't tell him that I was feeling like I really couldn't live without the matching table. And, since my saleslady said they have another 20%-off sale planned for the last week of August for Labor Day, I thought I had time. But when I called to see how many tables they have left yesterday I found I'm out of time since they are all gone. Thomasville still makes this table but the white finish option is Discontinued and worse, what is on the floor at the outlet is all that's left. So I had no choice... I asked my saleslady to pick the best one of the last two left and charge me for it. I am so glad I did! Now I really can't wait to get my chair and ottoman - with them and this table in the bedroom I've created the perfect spot to curl up to watch TV, read or play on my laptop - and the fact that this beautiful table gives me another spot to store and display things is a Complete bonus!
I brought in my desk lamp - it'll do until
I can find the right one
Love, love, love it!
The finish matches all the bedroom furniture...
Obviously, it was meant to be!
My saleslady said they got a Big truck in today and that
there are lots more pieces of the Felicity collection coming in...
I may have to go back!