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Fabulous curb-find: dining table and chairs

One of our luckiest recent curb finds was a dining table and four chairs, which was sitting out in the parking lot of the apartment complex a few weeks before we moved out. What was odd about it, was that it was set up with the chairs all around it – as if it was waiting for a family of four to come along and sit down to an outdoor dinner! We drove past it a few times – the chair cushions were completely awful – but finally I couldn’t resist. Due to some odd twists, we didn’t really have a dining set for our new place, and I loved the light colors and “open” feel of the framing on the set. I thought it had sort of a garden/patio/bistro feel, perfect for what I envisioned in our open-concept kitchen/dining room.

We used a few wooden “place-holder” chairs for a few weeks immediately following the move, then I got to work recovering the seats on the found set. I’ve completed two so far, using 2″ foam, a linen under-lining, and some checked upholstery fabric in pretty garden colors.

Here’s one of the chairs “before” – seriously needing an upholstery intervention:

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Turns out, those brown covers are not original to the chairs – they were covers put on by a previous owner to cover the awfulness of the actual original cushions:

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Just gross, any way you look at it. Here are a few pictures from the re-do. This was a very simple project, basically just wrapping each piece of new foam like a Christmas present. My only goals were to get the pattern straight, keep the corners nice/not bunchy, and keep things looking tidy on the underside too.

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And here is one of the chairs completely finished.

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I think they are pretty cute in their new garden-y colors! And, for now, the set looks great in our kitchen/living room, keeping things light and airy without adding too much bulk to the room.

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I might… someday… try building a new harvest-style top for the table. But first things first: there are still two more chairs to cover.

More soon!

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It’s time for the greens of Ireland

Although March definitely came in like a lion around here, it doesn’t make me any less ready for some pops of GREEN. So I set about switching up the low, oval coffee table with a rather broad interpretation of “St. Patrick’s Day” – not a lot of shamrocks going on, but hopefully a bit of Irish green to get me through to Spring.

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I kept the silverplate bowl full of pinecones, but added a green-checked bow with green butterfly brooch –

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I’ve also set out my little faux-Limoges plate – I don’t care if it’s a knock-off, it’s beautiful!

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Little fluted-edge glass vases and a tiny pewter-look frame contribute to the theme…

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And some little birds –

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Finally, my bargain-book of castles to provide a peek into beautiful, ancient Irish history!

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Hope you are seeing some GREEN wherever you are!

I’m sharing my little bit of puttering… er, decorating… at Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage, at Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home, Seasonal Sunday at The Tablescaper, and at A Return to Loveliness at A Delightsome Life . Be sure to click through to each of these lovely blogs for oodles of inspiration!

More soon,

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Pretty, functional storage boxes

Have you seen these beautiful storage boxes? I love, love, LOVE them! The designs are by artist Susan Winget, and the construction is very sturdy although they are only made of heavy cardboard.

 

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I just love the various sizes, the romantic nature-inspired designs, the hidden magnetic clasp on the flap, and the pretty grosgrain bow adorning the front.

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I currently have… hmm, six of them I think. They hide things that I need and use but that are very unsightly in a cottagey mom-cave.

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They even come with a pretty gift tag attached – see it hiding in the ribbon on my shabby mail tin? It’s the modern-day version of vintage ephemera. It makes me wish that every product had an attractive, artistic tag – I would no doubt collect them!

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Here are my most recent acquisitions, 50 percent off at Joann Fabrics! Large size was $7.50…

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…and this very small one was $3.75.

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As much as I appreciate and use plastic storage tubs, I don’t like to have them in plain sight – even in rooms that aren’t my cottage haven. But these pretty and useful boxes are more than worthy to remain in full view – hiding the things I need but in a truly lovely way.

Do you have a favorite type of storage container that fits your style? How about a favorite nature artist? I am also a fan of Marjolein Bastin and Susan Branch.

More soon,

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PS – I’m linking my beautiful boxes to Patti & Paula’s “What’s It Wednesday” Party on their blog, Ivy and Elephants, and to Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage!

A Valentine table vignette

Last year I did a sweet little vignette for Valentine’s Day on “Grandma’s Table,” an antique piece I’m so pleased to have inherited from my Grandmother Verdie. This year, I decided to try something a little different by making a love-themed display on the low coffee table instead. (I know – daring, right?)

It’s funny how the pictures don’t show you exactly what I see when I look at this. The objects are there, of course, but somehow I am able in my mind’s eye to blot out the background – the television, the electronics cords, the TV trays… I see that they are almost overwhelmingly distracting in my photos, but to me – well I hardly notice them when I am enjoying this little collection.

Anyway, here’s the table with some fun little bits and pieces on display:

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The table is a contemporary style, a dark-wood base with an oval glass top. I started by simply arranging a leftover sheer curtain panel.

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And added some love-themed items like my large silverplated bowl filled with pinecones and adorned with a layered rose-and-ribbon accent.

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A sweet framed photo of hubby and myself, from a very long time ago ;) …

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And this thrift-store-found Valentine-themed tic-tac-toe board:

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A little later, I snapped a couple photos of the whole display in candlelight – I love the floating candle with red and pink filler…

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It all looks lovely… if you can see past the TV trays and the television set! LOL

I’m linking my little table to the “What’s It Wednesday” party at Patti & Paula’s lovely blog,  Ivy and Elephants.

More soon,

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Removing tarnish from silverplate

I don’t know anything about silver. I mean, I know what it is – but as far as how that translates into how beautiful items for the home are made, how to identify them (and, more importantly, how to spot the imposters), and how to care for them? I don’t know anything.

So it was with some trepidation that I purchased this huge bowl at the Goodwill recently. It had two things going for it: the price, $4.99. And its shape – I was looking for a console bowl. It’s also quite large – about 10 inches across, and about 6 inches high. I used it as the vessel for our Christmas Day centerpiece, tarnish and all.

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Right this second, my local Goodwill seems to have hit the motherlode on items apparently made of silver – there are creamers, trays, chafing dishes, tidbit trays, and more, and all tarnished – some worse than others – just like this bowl. After doing some research online, I think that my bowl – an example of holloware – is the Georgian pattern by Sheffield Silver Co. and is likely silverplated copper with a tin-clad bottom.

Anyway, I know tarnish generally equals “patina,” and patina is good… but I wanted to at least see what the bowl would look like without the patina. While shopping for actual silver polish, I came upon a product called Tarn-X, which claimed to be a wipe on/wipe off product for removing tarnish from several kinds of metal. Worth a shot, I thought.

I decided to try the product on a smaller item first – this letter opener started out in life as a dinner knife in the “Queen Bess” pattern by Oneida.

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I opened the bottle of Tarn-X, poured a little into the cap, and used a Q-tip to rub it gently over the surface of the knife handle. I was surprised by two things: first, Tarn-X STINKS.

TO HIGH HEAVEN!

Seriously, rotten eggs mixed with hair perm chemicals or something – I am not kidding, it’s truly God-Awful.

And second, it worked! WOW, it really cleaned the tarnish right off! With virtually no effort on my part!

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So, stench aside, I decided to move on to my Sheffield bowl. I would pour some Tarn-X onto my cloth and wipe it onto the surface, but it seemed to take some effort to remove the tarnish on the larger piece. That was okay – I wouldn’t call it strenuous work by any means. Then inside the bowl, I poured a little of the product directly in and swirled it around, and it was truly an immediate result – the tarnish disappeared before my very eyes. When swirling started to get too close to the outer edge of the bowl (I didn’t want to slosh this nasty-smelling stuff ANYWHERE), I simply wiped the whole thing out with my cloth – and used a Q-tip to get into the crevices of the design. Here’s the result, after maybe 10 minutes of very minimal effort:

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I still need to apply a polish or glaze to slow future re-tarnishing, but I think both pieces look fantastic.

I’m not necessarily one to endorse a product, but I can tell you for sure that Tarn-X worked as promised on the items I was cleaning.

It stank, really really bad… but it worked, really really fast. I’ll definitely use it again, but I might plug my nose.

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I’m linking my bit of silverplate victory to the “What’s It Wednesday” party over at Patti & Paula’s lovely blog, Ivy & Elephants. Please click through for more fabulous ideas!

 

More soon,

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I am loving pink this winter!

Okay I will admit that one of my biggest pet peeves for a long time has been the “paint it pink” syndrome. This is where a manufacturer takes a product, paints it pink, and slaps a “for the ladies” label on it. Without any further thought as to what might actually make women want or need the product – they think, “If we paint it pink, we can sell to the ladies.”

But despite my loathing of “paint it pink” as a marketing strategy, I do love the color! And this winter I seem to be surrounding myself with a lot of it! So I thought it would be fun to round up a few things I am currently loving that are PINK and participate in Pink Saturday over at the lovely blog, How Sweet the Sound.

Here are some of the pinks in my home right now: the leather cover on my new Kindle Fire HDX:

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Some of my favorite ornaments on my Valentine’s Tree:

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… and the pretty silk carnations sitting next to them!

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These sweet, cottagey socks:

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And the color scheme of this beautiful cooking magazine from – of all places – the local grocery store! This is their own in-house publication and it’s VERY nice. I am REALLY loving the raspberry-and-white combination!

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Be sure to head over to Pink Saturday and look for more pink-themed posts! It’s like a breath of Spring in the middle of winter – and with something called the Polar Vortex having just passed through here, we can use it!

More soon,

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My Christmas Village – I know you were worried

Remember last year when I wrote about acquiring pieces of the Precious Moments “Sugar Town” Christmas Village – almost against my own will? It started by getting into a huff about being out-bid on Ebay, and escalated from there. I ended up with 12 total pieces, and finally stopped after finding a great bargain on the lighted chapel figure. Here’s the little scene I created this past Christmas with the pieces I had collected:

 

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Yes, I ended up liking these pieces more than I thought I would… they made a sweet addition to Grandma’s Table for Christmas.

 

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I’m happily rejoining one of my favorite link-up parties, Vintage Thingie Thursday hosted by ColoradoLady – these pieces are, unbelievably, 20 years old already (though they are new to me)!

Hope you have had a lovely week!

More soon,

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Baked French Toast

Do you know what the only thing is that I dislike about French Toast? It’s the fact that I, as the cook, am still dipping bread slices and cooking them up while the rest of the family is enjoying their meal. Seems like a small thing, I know – but it has driven me nuts for years. YEARS, people!!

Same with pancakes – “What do you mean, you guys are done already? I’m just sitting down with my plate!”

And that’s where baked French toast comes in! This stuff is seriously wonderful and I found it… where else – on Pinterest! The original pin came from Rach’s Blog. She shared the recipe, plus suggestions for alterations, and her readers have commented in droves over the past few years with their tips, successes and challenges. For my first attempt, I followed Rach’s original directions except that I left the crusts on and I did cover the dish with foil for the first 25 minutes or so of baking.

I decided to make this for New Year’s Day brunch for our small family, so, because it had to refrigerate overnight before baking, I assembled it on New Year’s Eve. It turned out great! I didn’t take step-by-step photos, but this picture is how it looked after baking. (You can’t see all the goodness in the middle and bottom of the pan – it’s perfectly coated with egg mixture and there’s a layer of butter and brown sugar on the bottom.)

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And here’s the recipe, using the steps I used.

Baked French Toast

Ingredients
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 loaf Texas toast (uses 12 slices)
4 eggs
1 – 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar for sprinkling, if desired

Evening before serving:

1. Melt butter in microwave.
2. Mix brown sugar into melted butter.
3. Pour butter/sugar mix into bottom of pan and spread around to evenly coat the bottom of the pan.
4. Beat eggs, milk, & vanilla
5. Arrange a single layer of Texas Toast in the pan
6. Spoon and spread half of the egg mixture on the first bread layer
7. Add 2nd layer of Texas Toast
8. Spoon on and spread remaining egg mixture
9. Cover & chill in fridge overnight

On serving day:

1. Sprinkle cinnamon on top layer of bread.
2. Bake, covered, at 350 for 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake 20 minutes more.
3. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.
4. Serve warm with butter and maple syrup

 

Over on Rach’s blog, some readers’ dishes came out too soggy in the middle. I don’t know why, or how you would fix it if it happens… I just know that in the dish I prepared, the texture ranged from crunchy/toasty on top to soft and moist in the middle, to a bit gooey near the bottom – something for everyone!

Hope you get a chance to make this. If you do, report back here on the results!

More soon,

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My first-ever (annual?) cookie swap!

I mentioned in my holiday wrap-up that I hosted my first-ever cookie exchange party on December 8. Have you ever attended – or hosted – one of these? I hadn’t attended one for many years – and had never hosted one before. I will just say, it was about as stress-free (for me) as I could possibly make it, and that was my goal – I didn’t want to create a monster! Everyone had a great time, including myself.

Generally, a cookie swap party is where guests bring a TON of their favorite homemade cookie to share, and everyone goes around the table collecting up massive amounts of all the cookies to take home and/or give as gifts. This requires guests to bring anywhere from six to nine dozen cookies apiece – at least, that’s what I’ve read. I wasn’t really comfortable asking guests to make nine dozen cookies – it just seemed like a huge time commitment, in addition to attending the party, at a very busy time of year. So, my party was more of a cookie sampling recipe exchange than an actual cookie swap. Although as it turned out, there were plenty of cookies for each guest to take home a plate full!

Here’s me (second from left) and my guests – Shirley, Val, Molly, Penney & Vicki:

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I chose a Sunday early in December for my party – I wanted everyone to have time to make the cookies they’d sampled, in their own holiday baking. Each guest was asked to bring 3 dozen cookies, homemade and “holiday special,” along with 12 copies of their recipe to share. I also asked each guest to be sure to RSVP by a certain date so I could plan for the right numbers.

As they arrived we set their cookies on pretty plates and platters on the cookie table. As a kick-off to the party, we played a memory game where each guest introduced herself and talked about the cookies she brought – then guests had to match up each person with their cookies on a scorecard. Following this game, we sampled all the cookies and chatted about the merits and challenges of each one – we had Oreo Balls (aka “Chocolate Salty Balls,” Coffee Cookies, Alfajores, Easy Peanut Butter cookies, Gum Drop cookies, and Pretzel Turtles.

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We also played my own original game, “Christmas Movie Mix-Up.” For this game I wrote one-sentence summaries of the plots of 8 Christmas Movies, and they had to guess the movie name based on the plot summary.

The final game was “Who’s Going to Make It Up the Street in the Snow,” because, being Iowa in December, it had started snowing early in the morning! Fortunately this didn’t keep anyone from attending, but by the time the party ended we had a couple inches of it to contend with. Fortunately everyone won this game and made it home safely.

 

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In all the day ended up full of fun, friends, and winter beauty. I’m SO glad I did it, and will definitely be hosting another cookie party in 2014!

More soon,

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Simply Spring

I remember taking the dog and the garbage out on Wednesday night this past week. It was dark out, maybe about 40 degrees, and the pavement was wet (our latest snow was still melting)… but I noticed immediately that the air felt “fresh”… not heavy and damp… and I thought, FINALLY it feels like Spring! The last few days since then have been a delight – although I’m stuck inside working throughout the week, I’ve appreciated the chance to sit out on the screened porch when I come home. Today it’s rainy but the temps will climb into the upper 50’s so I’m very happy about that! I plan to do a little junking here after awhile, but first I just wanted to share with you my very simple “Grandma’s table” – which I’ve updated for Spring.

If you’ve seen my last few posts featuring this little table, you’ll notice that it’s pretty bare – it just feels lighter and fresher, like the air on Wednesday night!

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I’ve temporarily replaced the pink frothy tablecloth with this vintage print cloth which captures Spring colors, and set out just a few treasures.

 

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My pretty new bust (that sounds a little odd – no, I am not showing off my decolletage!)…

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… and Mr. Duck atop a selection of “Victoria” magazines appropriate for the current (and approaching) seasons –

 

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In particular, this issue from 2010 just delights me with is Spring colors, beautiful flowers, and heavenly strawberry dessert!

 

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The throw blanket and selection of pillows seen in the background are a nod to the fact that it can still be chilly even if things are (finally!) warming up… but I’ll be changing those out in the near future. I’m going to try a slipcover for that loveseat and try to “summer things up” a bit!

I will be linking this simple, happy little table to Marty’s wonderful Tabletop Tuesday party over at A Stroll Thru Life!

Now to head outside, tramp around in the mud, and see what greenery is popping up!

More soon,

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