Musings

Romantic Ireland

I watched “P.S. I Love You” last night- I did see it in the theatre when it first came out but I had forgotten just how romantic and heart wrenching the movie was – yes I cried a couple of times!  And it was filmed – or a small part of it at least – in Ireland!  Gerard Butler,Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Hilary Swank, and Harry Connick Jr ….  I love the romantic line – “If I kiss you it will be the end of life as I know it”.  I must be a crazy romantic – because I believed it! Ok, I’m laughing, but it is a wonderful romantic thought and I’m sure it can be TRUE!

Filmed in the Wicklow National Park – so beautiful!  Last April I had the opportunity to go to Ireland to visit my niece Sarah who is in medical school in Dublin and spent a day in the Wicklow Mountains – so beautiful!

My trip to Ireland was not planned – but was a welcomed diversion as you see I was really on my way to Africa, and was flying through London Heathrow.  You may remember there was an Icelandic volcano that created all sorts of problems for flights in Europe.  I had the misfortune, or fortune, depending on how you want to look at it, of being grounded for 10 days in London.  After I realized the full extent of the situation, I decided to take a train and ferry to Dublin to see Sarah – and what a great time we had!

Ahh Ireland – how could you not love it – with the cobble stone streets and pubs that truly are a place where everyone knows your name!  Doesn’t seem to matter what time of day or night it is – there is an Irish band playing – what a joyous way to live!

Not only were we able to see the beautiful Wicklow mountains, but we also traveled to the small village of Avoca – a very quaint area with a very well know mill where they make the most beautiful mohair blankets and scarves.

I always try to bring back something for my home from places where I travel (I have been very fortunate to travel places I never expected to go) and I always want that something to represent the country – something that I can always remember my visit.  And Avoca gave me just what I needed for my home.

Let me tell you just a little about Avoca!

ONCE UPON A TIME…

there was a Mill at Avoca Village, County Wicklow. Set up in 1723 as a co-operative where farmers could spin and weave their wool, the Mill’s uncoloured yarn was turned into tweeds and blankets. However, colour soon came to Avoca as vivid natural vegetable dyes in reds, greens, and yellows brightened the Mill’s output. These were soon recognised as Avoca Handweavers’ signature hues and the Mill thrived through the 1920s and 30s when it was run by a marvellous trio of sisters, the Wynns.

By the 1960s however, it had fallen into disrepair. Handweaving was dying and the looms grew largely silent. Until a young couple with a younger family took a flyer in the mid-seventies and the rest, as others might say, is history.

When Donald & Hilary Pratt bought the Avoca Handweavers Mill in 1974, it was a risky move. The then Dublin lawyer was handling the sale of the site for development. He ended up buying it himself despite knowing nothing about handweaving, but believing there was a future in the Mill’s past. The run-down buildings, the tumbling mill, the name itself had woven a spell of sorts. He left law and Hilary gave up her teaching job as they took over the Mill.  Soon the looms were humming again and Avoca began to colour the world once more.  I was transfixed with the colourful plaid blankets and spent a lot of time just looking and admiring and trying to choose what colour grouping I wanted to take home with me – it was a hard choice as everything they do is beautiful.  Not to mention the feel of these soft blankets, mohair, light weight and warm.  They begged to be touched!  I had in my mind the floral fabric that I had thought about for the den and took a chance that this would look fantastic together.  What do you think?

I think it is beautiful!  And warm – I have so appreciated it through this very cold winter – a great cozy up and watch television blanket!

Feathering the Nest · Flowers

Weekend Indulgence

On the way home from work last night I stopped at the florist shop that I have mentioned in a previous post and yes you guessed it, I indulged myself with a weekend treat – fresh flowers.  Yellow and red tulips and hydrangea – two of my favourite flowers!  Spent too much – but it just seemed the thing to do on a very cold and grey end of February day not to mention it was Friday evening!

Beautiful!

Tulips are one of my favourites, although I have so many favourites, it is really hard to only pick one.  These tulips bring together the colour of yellow and red – a theme in my living room.

And I could not resist buying one hydrangea – this just may be my favourite flower – and I love them in white, blue and pink!  I have a small rose bowl that comes from my mother’s collection of cornflower crystal – and this just seemed to sit so nicely on the top of it.

And then of course the new powder room begged for some flowers as well – and once again – something from my parent’s home – a white pitcher and bowl and a tiny antique stand – a nod to my past.

It is always interesting to meet people – and when I was purchasing the flowers I talked to the owner and told her how much I enjoyed walking past every day and seeing the beauty inside – which she constantly was changing and updating and making so appealing to the eye.  This is her first business and they started at this location and have been very successful.  I love hearing this – I applaud those who follow their dreams and do something a bit risky – but have a passion for what they do!  Way to go!  I know I sure have enjoyed watching them grow!  And interesting – she so appreciated that I let her know how much I noticed what she was doing – there is a lesson in that – I learned that from John Maxwell – but that is another story in itself!

These flowers, a product of their business have made my weekend just a little bit brighter!  Beautiful!

Feathering the Nest

Powder Room Makeover

Welcome to my powder room makeover!

The powder room is just to the left of the  main entryway and front hallway.

A small room can take a punch of colour – and apricot was my inspiration.

As you can see my hallway has a yellow striped wallpaper on the top half of the wall with Benjamin Moore White Down painted on the bottom half.  The living room has touches of apricot red in the floral fabric on my chairs.

I wanted to have a touch of this colour showing as you sat in the living room and looked toward the front hall .

I did not take before pictures – as I began this makeover long before I thought about showing it on a blog post!  However I can tell you it was a basic powder room, with builders off white paint on the walls and a pedestal sink and standard oval unframed mirror – very average and somewhat boring.  The bones were good however – the room has a small round porthole window – very beach like – but other than that everything needed a good facelift.

The first decision I made was to install bead board and chair railing on the bottom half of the wall giving it that old country feel.  I then chose a bold and colourful wallpaper on the top half –  a Farrow & Ball paper in the colour of apricot red with a leaf pattern.

I replaced the pedestal sink with a wooden wash stand  – added a marble top and a washbowl sink – all purchased for a very reasonable price at Home Depot.  The faucet adds a very modern tone to what is a very old fashion country look.  I love to mix old with new, contemporary with antique.

My house has a very beach cottage feel – you will notice the sea shell – I found that on the beach in Cape Code when I was very young and on holiday with my family – some things are worth keeping over the years.

Finding the mirror – the right size for a very small space proved to be difficult – I finally went to my neighbourhood framing shop and had them make a mirror made to measure -as you can see I chose a very simple metal modern look – mixing the old with the new – and matching the faucet somewhat.

I would like to replace the knobs on the washstand with glass knobs – I know that Restoration Hardware has just what I might be looking for – that is still to be accomplished.

In the past couple of years I along with my siblings have acquired a few things from the home of my mom and dad as they moved into a retirement home.  The picture to the right of the washstand of sheep being herded by a modern day shepherd is from my mother – I love this piece – the size and shape of the picture, the gold antique frame  – it is very meaningful to me.  A home should incorporate things that have meaning – and memories – that is what makes a house a home.

This small round mirror is also from my mother – she found this frame at a garage sale and had a mirror put in it – I learned many decorating tricks from her – it is perfect for this space and not only helps to bring more light into the small room – but matches the round window perfectly.

All of my towel bars are from Restoration Hardware  – very good quality – and a great look.

A small room can take a punch of colour – I am never afraid to use it- I love it – and reds/pinks/apricots and yellows are such happy colours – cheerful on a grey day – and full of life on a sunny day.  Beautiful!

Traditions

Traditions II

Family Traditions …..weddings of the past….

Recently I posted a picture of three generations of wedding dresses – a picture taken at the time of my niece Laura’s wedding.

As a quick follow up I thought I would post pictures from those weddings….and here they are.

My mom and dad were married well over 50 years ago… the wedding was simple but elegant..or so the pictures show..I was not there of course ….her dress very beautiful….and her bouquet a gorgeous bundle of red roses had satin ribbons trailing down with tiny rosebuds tied on the ends…it was more beautiful than any bouquet I have ever seen.  My dad always wears a suits well …still does to this day.  This was a very fine made suit from my uncle Wilf’s store – and my Aunt Lena altered my mom’s dress – the lace inset with the satin scalloped edging was her design and handiwork  – and in my opinion this makes the dress.  Such a handsome couple!

My sister Carol was married close to 25 years ago….her dress very similar in style to moms…a modern version…or should I say a later version as it was 25 years ago!  She carried a bundle of white roses and asked for white trailing ribbons with rosebuds tied on the ends just like mom had done….traditions are so important and although others would not know of this nod to the past our mother did….and that is what was important.

I remember so well making her veil and completing it the night before….crazy we were! Such an 80’s style veil and the hair as well!  But very beautiful she was….and still is!

And my sister Sandra, married in the era of the hats …. very trendy….she made her own wedding dress ….and it was perfection….she is an excellent seamstress….no doubt about it.  And she was a very beautiful bride…as you can see!

It is always fun to take a walk down memory lane….beautiful memories!

Feathering the Nest

Flower Power

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love fresh flowers. There is just something beautiful about having flowers in the house that makes me smile.

And there is nothing like walking by a beautiful flower shop and seeing buckets of fresh flowers, all grouped in colour blocks that breathes fresh air into my soul.

I walk by this flower shop everyday on my way to work, and I imagine what it would be like to work in that shop surrounded by the beauty everyday, and creating works of art for a living – wow – wouldn’t that be fun.  (Of course when I walked by this past Saturday and Sunday as they were preparing for Valentine’s Day  and saw them madly working from early morning to late night preparing  –  my dream got a dose of reality – as beautiful as it is – its hard work!)  You ask  why was I walking by on the weekend? Well, I was downtown visiting my brother-in-law in the hospital who was recovering from bi-pass surgery – and it just so happens that he received a beautiful bouquet from his work place from this very same flower shop – I was delighted to see one of the amazing creations close-up – it was a work of art!

I think it is my love of flowers that has always attracted me to fabrics that have a floral pattern  – but I have to say there are very few that I love enough to use in my home – but when I find them – I grab them.  I love the look of faded linen and imperfection – I want the fabrics to look used, and tea stained – soft yet strong – beautiful but not so feminine that a man would not feel comfortable in the room.

This fabric has enough masculine colour in it that when mixed with sand coloured linen and taupe velvet and olive leather, looks soft and beautiful, but not cute and frilly.

It looks so much like these flowers …

Although I have this fabric on cushions….

I’m not afraid to cover wing back chairs – this fabric is meant to be seen!

And just in case there is not enough floral pattern in the house …..

I have found another floral pattern for the den …..

I love the rich colours and the linen look – stay tuned – I have been working on a den makeover  and will share more very soon!

Flowers – in small doses and large doses – beautiful!

Traditions

Traditions

I am a traditionalist – I’m sure of it – I tend to like traditional decor – although not heavy and stuffy by any means – I like clean lines and a bit of the contemporary or modern feel – but if I were to describe my style it would be comfortable, cosy, relaxed with a slight country flare – very traditional. I like mixing the new with the old – antiques with modern  – most of all I like to walk into a room and feel like I can live in it – that I can sit on the sofa, and put my glass on the coffee table. But I digress – we can talk about decor styles at another time – my point is – I like tradition.  There is just something warm and comfortable about creating and continuing traditions – things that are passed on – or things that remind you that you are part of a family.  A tradition can be anything – as simple as serving Ruffles potato chips with homemade onion dip before Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner, or singing the  Grace “Be Present At Our Table Lord” before special family dinners, or hanging Christmas stockings in a special spot on Christmas Eve, all traditions that we practice in our family.  Traditions are especially important or significant as families grow and babies are born, and children grow up and pass these traditions on from one generation to the next.  And creating new traditions is equally as important as passing on old traditions.  I suppose it is all about celebrating family – remembering the past and celebrating the future.

When my niece Laura was married this past summer she had a trousseau tea – (that is worth a whole blog post on its own) – and at the tea she displayed her mother’s wedding dress and her grandmother’s wedding dress, along with her own wedding shoes and some of the jewelry that she would be wearing on her own wedding day.  On the day of her wedding (August 7), her  dress was hanging ready to wear in between her mother’s and her grandmother’s dress, and the photographer grabbed a picture of it – which I have posted here.  Somehow this image tells the story of  generations – all beautiful creamy satin dresses, with slight changes to adapt to the style of the times.  My mom’s dress is hanging on the left and Carol’s on the right with Laura’s in the middle.  Wedding dresses always had sleeves – that was what was appropriate – now it is difficult to find a dress with sleeves – times have changed for sure!

A backless dress would never have been worn by my mom 58 years ago and not even  25 years ago for my sister  – but as you can see, traditions do change!

But what has not changed is the importance of the wedding dress – the thought and care that goes into choosing it – and the care that is taken in ensuring that it is a work of beauty.

And what has not changed is the importance of this event for families – the celebration is significant – and it should be – a new beginning in relationships – a welcoming of a new family member – significant for mom and dad as well as for the extended family.

And I know that Laura very much missed her grandma on this special day – but was so very very pleased she had her grandpa with her – and he was very proud indeed of his sweet grand daughter!

Traditions – the wedding celebration is one that has great significance for families – and I know that my sweet niece Laura was truly a beautiful bride on her wedding day – I could not have been prouder!  It was a beautiful day!

Musings

Sweet Hearts

When I think of Valentine’s Day I think of red roses, little tiny cinnamon candy hearts  – pure sugar (which I am so addicted to), beautiful valentine cards made of white paper lace doilies and shortbread cookies in the shape of hearts all decorated with pink and white icing.  These are mostly memories from childhood  – well not the roses so much – and come to think of it not the cinnamon candy hearts either as that obsession is rather current.  But I do have childhood memories of exchanging cards inscribed with “Be Mine”!  Really, Valentines Day is about sharing with your loved ones – as Paula Dean says in her latest blog, “it needn’t be a lot of hoopla, just a spectacular cake and a cup of hot chocolate set up in a cozy spot.”  And of course she makes the spectacular cake – and what could be better than a red velvet cake on Valentines Day!  I will try and find the recipe -it looks very do-able – except for maybe the fancy decorations on the icing – but that can be altered no doubt!

I think Paula is right – if the focus of Valentine’s Day is love, then why not find a way to do something simple and meaningful – not outrageous and expensive, and certainly not stressful!  And make sure that you include all those you love – the special people that mean a so much to you.

Paula suggests baking a red velvet cake – a great idea!  I will suggest making shortbread cookies in the shape of a heart and package them up for wee gifts.  And I have just the receipe for you!

This past summer my sweet niece Laura married her sweetheart Eric and we made shortbread to celebrate.

My sister Carol, Laura’s  mother had bought cookie cutters in the shape of a “E” for Eric and “L” for Laura hoping to use these at some point along the way leading up to the wedding  – and we decided at the 11th hour to make these cookies as a bit of a surprise for Laura and put them in the gift bags for guests.

And so began the hours of baking dozens and dozens of cookies, and cutting each shape carefully – the “E” was much harder than the “L”!

Some like to bake shortbread lightly so that there is little to no brown on the edges, but I prefer to make mine slightly browned as I think it gives it just that little extra crispy texture and it melts ever so nicely in your mouth – maybe the melting is all about the butter really!  And yes, you can decorate with icing but I prefer just to sprinkle with sugar – it gives it that very homemade feel – and they really taste good that way!  (And notice they don’t look perfect – they just look homemade – and that is fine with me!)

And so we packaged the “L” and “E” and put them in the gift bags with a few other treats and the shortbread was a great hit with the guests!

So why not make some sweet hearts for your sweet heart this week – your kids can give them to their friends – or better yet – you can sit down in a comfy chair and spend some time with someone you love sipping tea and eating shortbread!  Now that is a beautiful thought!

Shortbread Cookies:

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar

1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

For Chocolate Dipped Shortbreads:

6 ounces (180 grams) semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Shortbreads:In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a handmixer), beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated.  Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour.

Preheatovento 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the doughinto a 1/4 inch (.6 cm) thick circle.  Cut into rounds or other shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter.  Place on the prepared baking sheets and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. (This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked.) Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.