Friday, September 30, 2011

Let's Go Antiquing!

Last weekend I enjoyed spending the day at the Liberty Antiques festival, and although it was rainy and very muddy, I came home with some awesome antique and vintage pieces at incredible deals.

An Empire Style mahogany and walnut plant stand/side table:

A 19th century signed and framed oil painting of a young girl feeding the chickens:

I found more chicken-related art for $5 a piece: a pair of two super cute framed Colonial scenes with chickens, painted on velvet. I don't know why but sometimes I'm a sucker for 1960s Americana.

In addition to the treasures above, my husband BJ received some very cool graduation gifts for finishing his Ph.d., a few of which I couldn't resist featuring them here on my blog:

Antique inkwell desk set:

WWII-era wooden ammunition storage box:

1960s vintage brief case/leather satchel:

I have to admit I'm a little jealous of his loot!

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Gearing up for Fall

Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year.  The smell of the leaves falling, the cool air, warm sweaters, apple cider, dishes that feature pumpkins and winter squash- I love it!

The past couple of weekends have put me in the mood for fall, and I love to bring natural elements of the season inside my home too. Here's how I've been embracing fall in my home decor:

My fireplace mantel nearly always gets a makeover each season, and autumn is no exception. For the Living Room mantel shown here, I used a collection of items that often sits on the mantel combined with a few pieces of my brown transferware, wildflowers with mums, colorful squash and gourds, and a ghoulish-looking black crow.

A fall-inspired mini-wreath hangs on my china cabinet.

My fall decor could not be complete without fresh pumpkins and beautiful mums embellishing the entrance to my home.  I love non-traditional, "heirloom" pumpkins and pie pumpkins for decorating. They are not only unusually pretty, but after they've served their purpose as decor when it is time to switch to Holiday greenery you can use them for baking, soups, and general cooking. They last forever!

My half-eaten pumpkin scone and tea; I forgot to take the photo until I had already indulged a bit.

And lastly, the beginning of autumn always brings out the baker in me, cooking with seasonal fruits like apples, pears, pumpkin and squash with warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove. Over the weekend we made some pumpkin scones for a brunch we hosted- the perfect way to start the season officially!  Below is the recipe:

2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cold butter
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin (can used canned or fresh pureed pumpkin)
1/3 cup milk

In large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pie spice, salt and baking soda. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, pumpkin and milk; add to crumb mixture just until moistened. You can add pecans if you like. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead 10 times. Pat into a circle, cut into wedges and place wedges (separated) on greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with jam, apple butter, or honey.

 Be sure to stop by soon for my autumn-inspired table setting. Happy Fall, everyone!

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day Trip of the Month: Asheville, NC

 I. love. Asheville.

It is such a cool town- the downtown is wonderfully preserved and with much of its historic building stock rehabilitated and vibrant. I can't tell you how many cool shops, studios, galleries, music venues and other establishments I wanted to visit but was unable to due to time constraints. The historic districts are lovely and of course the setting with the mountains provides for breathtaking views all around.

Antiquing at the Antique Tobacco Barn

Antiquing in Asheville is some of the best I've experienced anywhere, with tons of shops and some huge spaces with row upon row of vintage eye candy. We visited the Antique Tobacco Barn, with over 77,000 square feet- you can easily spend an entire afternoon there! I came home with a much-desired antique split oak tobacco basket that I hope to hang somewhere in my house.

Our Bed & Breakfast

And don't even get me started on the food. Everything we ate last weekend in Asheville was phenomenal. I'd go back just for the food alone every year. We enjoyed three-course gourmet breakfasts every morning at our B&B (which featured dishes like bananas foster homemade waffles, cranberry & cream cheese pastries, apple crisp, and baked cheesy crepes with spinach, ham and peppers with eggs on top. Yum!) We also dined at Tupelo Honey Cafe, Nine Mile, and the Bistro located on the winery at the Biltmore Estate. Each was excellent in its own unique way.

Of course, we couldn't leave Asheville without spending a day at the Biltmore. Constructed for George Vanderbilt in 1895 and designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, the Biltmore Estate embodies all of the opulence in fine art and architecture so sought after by the wealthy during the Gilded Age. The grounds consist of numerous gardens, preserved forests, various outbuildings for gardening, riding and hunting activities, and of course the grand mansion itself. Visit the Biltmore Estate website to learn more.  I'll leave you with a few snapshots of our time at Biltmore:

stopping to smell the roses in the rose garden

One of the ponds in the Italian Garden; notice the reflection of Biltmore House.

A breathtaking grape arbor and pathway lined with fountains lead
up to the main house.

The Conservatory, where the tropical varieties live

The Walled Garden

If it's not too far of a drive, I highly recommend a weekend getaway to Asheville, NC- I promise it will not disappoint!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Late Summer Vegetable Canning

So.....I am a little late with my vegetable canning efforts this year as it is nearly Fall already! Nevertheless, I thought I'd post about my first experience with canning vegetables: specifically tomatoes.  Armed with my new pressure canner, pickling salt, mason jars, and all the necessary equipment, I was ready to tackle the art of canning tomatoes.

Our nice heirloom tomatoes pooped out on us this summer due to the intense heat, so I had to supplement the tomato supply with some local farmers' tomatoes I bought.  Following the instructions for tomatoes in Canning & Preserving with Ashley English, I prepared the jars and canning equipment and started on the recipe.

Canning tomatoes has a way of taking over all of the available space on your kitchen counter, plus using up all of your cutting boards and kitchen towels!  Be prepared for your kitchen to get quite messy!

As a beginner, I had to read the instructions for the presser canner two or three different times to understand fully what I was doing. To make a big batch, you have to prepare them in small batches in order for your jars to fit in the canner together. Simply put, after sterilizing and heating the jars, place the heated jars on the counter. Fill each with the directed amount of pickling salt and lemon juice, then funnel the prepared tomatoes into jars, securing with the heated lids. Place the filled jars into the pressure canner filled with 2-3 inches of water, and then follow the instructions for pressure cooking. After the cooking is complete, let jars cool and prepare a new batch.

Although it makes for a lot of work, having a nice batch of canned tomatoes to last through the winter is well worth it!  In addition to plain tomatoes, think about canning tomato sauce, spicy salsas, and roasted tomato and pepper chutneys.  Having a good stock of tomatoes and sauces in your pantry makes it easy to prepare meals such as pasta dishes, soups and stews, pizzas, and even side dishes. I hope to try all of these soon plus try my hand at canning other vegetables such as green beans, pickled beets, okra, peas, roasted corn chutneys and relishes.

Have you been busily canning anything in your kitchen lately?

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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Living Room

Today  I am linking up again with Cottage and Vine's Room by Room series to give you a tour of the Living Room!  Living Rooms are disappearing quickly from homes in favor of the Family Room - many newer homes lack the option of a separate Living Room altogether and instead have one big "great room." Historically a Living Room today as we know it may have functioned similar to the "parlor" in the nineteenth century home. The concept of the home's primary living space changed during the mid-twentieth century when televisions were introduced into the home and the main living area transformed into an arrangement of furnishings centered around a TV. While a large "great room" can indeed be very functional in this way, I like having clear divisions of spaces in my home.

My Living Room
I must admit, I vacillate between loving my Living Room and not wanting one at all, preferring to use the family room as our primary space for convening. Perhaps altering this space's function would encourage us to spend more time in it. On the other hand, I love having a Living Room for entertaining, for formal gatherings and Holidays, and simply to have a pretty room with a cozy fireplace free of a giant, out-of-place-in-a-historic-house, big screen TV. We are fortunate in our home to have both a Living Room and a Family Room (the latter in which we can enjoy TV time).

I like a neutral Living Room that I can seasonally decorate without things seeming too overwhelming. I love antiques and vintage pieces, of course, and I am pleased with how they contrast with our new sofa. The one thing that's still missing is a nice armchair or pair of wingbacks. Someday I envision a pair of graceful wingback chairs upholstered in a classic brown check. We have a beautiful armchair from the Pottery Barn outlet in the family room that would be perfect for the Living Room, but since it is such a great spot to in which curl up and lazily watch TV, we have yet to move it. Another reason why combining these two rooms someday in a different house might work out well for us!

My Family or "TV" Room

Our Family Room gets lots of natural light

I use my Grandma's old safe as an end table

Do you have two living areas? If so, do you prefer to turn one into a different function?

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Church Pew Bench

We are the proud owners of a ca. 1920s pew formerly used in our very own church we attend! After being replaced the older pews had been given away to congregation members or discarded. Our dear friends gave us a pew that wasn't being used since they know we love antiques- what a blessing!

We decided to use the pew as a bench on our front porch since it was already painted and would be somewhat protected from the elements. The pew was fairly beat up and needed some work, but I didn't mind. A few weekends ago when we hosted family and friends to celebrate my husband's defense of his doctorate degree, we pulled a table up to the bench with chairs for outdoor seating on the front porch. 

I think it works rather well!  I will treasure this piece always as a relic from our sweet church that we have come to love and depend upon as our Christian family.  A new use for an unconventional piece. Do you have unusual pieces of furniture that you have recycled into new uses?

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