31 January 2016

This Fruitcake

 If I see fruitcake at a holiday gathering or any other place out in the wild, I will not eat it. I'm actually afraid of most fruitcake, especially fruitcake with GREEN bits in it. There is only one fruitcake I will eat, and it is surely one of the most delicious treats in all the world: Trappist Abbey (not Downton Abbey!) Monastery Fruitcake.

I've long been smitten with this fruitcake, so much that I've blogged about it on a few occasions. My late grandma used to purchase these fruitcakes from a catalog at Christmas. For years, I watched perplexed as my grandma, mom, and aunt swooned over them each holiday. Then one year I finally took a nibble. Oh, my. It was LOVE.

Then at some point (this was back in the dark ages before the internet) the catalog stopped carrying the fruitcakes, so we no longer enjoyed them at Christmas. Life happened, and I kind of forgot about them. Finally a few years back, something triggered a fruitcake memory and a quick internet search yielded GOLD. The fruitcakes were still out there and available for purchase, shipped straight to my door/mouth! :)

The fruitcake comes in a small square box (a larger size is also available but would be even more devastating to the fitness plan!) and measures approximately 4x4x4. You can see how much of my fruitcake I've eaten so far this holiday season! 

This is a very dark, dense fruitcake with none of those scary green bits. It's loaded with pecans and other treasures. And this one is all mine until it is gone. :)
Until next year, Monastery Fruitcake!

30 January 2016

Swiffer Love

 Every once in awhile, I crawl out from under my rock to partake of some of the modern conveniences that most people have known about for years. 
Case in point: SWIFFER.



I know what you're thinking: HOW HAS SHE BEEN CLEANING HER FLOORS ALL THESE YEARS? Yes, that is indeed a worrisome question, and I assure you that I HAVE been doing my domestic chores, but with a heavy vacuum. This new Swiffer is lightweight and works great on hard surfaces, just like they say on TV!

So what prompted the purchase of this new modern convenience? The new tile bathroom floor! During our bathroom remodeling project when we were using our guest bathroom, I wiped up the floor on my hands and knees each day with a wet cloth. But the master bathroom is a bit too big for that (plus the tile is bumpy on my knees!), so when Daughter suggested a Swiffer, I thought I'd investigate.

Sure enough, Swiffers are available sort of everywhere, and for only $11.99 you get the device plus a few wet and dry wipes! The handle itself is sort of ingenious (I have low standards!) as it snaps right together with those little rounded bumps and holes -- no instructions needed!

And look at this! See those little green Jetson-like ovals? They're designed for holding the corners of the wipe! Poke them in with your finger and off you go, Swiffering dust you didn't even know you had! (Well, dust you knew you had but were just ignoring...)

It's very clever, this modern convenience! So far, I've Swiffered all the solid surfaces in the house, with more Swiffering fun sure to happen this weekend...
...before it's time to crawl back under my rock!

29 January 2016

Feline Friday: Hunkering Down

 Our next snow event is a few days off, but Lily wants to be prepared! She is already hunkering down...

 ...fashionably! :)

27 January 2016

Bathroom Remodel: We are Done!

Warning: Long post! :)
I'm super excited to report that we are officially DONE with the bathroom project! Of course, I haven't hung anything on the walls or added many personal touches, but I'm in no rush for that. All the hard stuff is done and we couldn't be happier with how things turned out!
It's amazing to me how we didn't add any space to the bathroom but by using different materials and colors, it feels so much larger now.

In this post, I'd like to share a bit about what I learned through this process as well as a few before and after pictures. If you'd like to see more photos, just click on the "Bathroom Remodel" tag at the bottom of this post which will link you to all the posts I've done in this series.

I learned a lot in working on this project. Here are just a few points that come to mind, which I hope will help anyone who might be embarking on a remodeling project!
  • Scour Pinterest for ideas you love. Know what you like and what you don't like.
  • Consider both functionality and style. A remodel that looks great but doesn't function well is not a good investment, in my opinion!
  • It's not easy to find light fixtures and plumbing fixtures that match. Try to pick them out at the same time.
  • "Oil-rubbed bronze" means different things to different companies. If matching metals is important to you, carry a sample with you to the store.
  • Be prepared for a lot of dust in your house!
  • Know your budget before you start.
  • Take EVERYTHING out of the space before you begin.
  • Things can take longer than expected. It's OK. It's better to proceed slowly than to rush and not be pleased with the results.
  • Quality workmanship shows and is worth the extra expense.
  • ALWAYS test colors. ALWAYS get a sample and bring it home before making a decision. That goes for flooring, grout, wall-covering, paint, stain, window coverings...ANYTHING with a color.
  • Proceed slowly in your decision-making. You don't have to have everything picked out at the beginning of your project. Colors and materials look much different after they are installed so allow yourself the chance to tweak your design as you go. 


  The first step (and most defining, from a design standpoint) in the process was to choose a new cabinet. The color and style of the cabinet set the tone for the rest of the bathroom. The new cabinet is walnut with a counter made of Livingstone. It's quite a bit taller than our old cabinet (we love that feature!) but otherwise it's almost exactly the same width. We also replaced the large mirror with two smaller mirrors to match the vanity.

Cabinet area BEFORE:

Cabinet area AFTER:

Once the cabinet was ordered, we could move on to flooring and other decisions. Everyone (with the possible exception of Tinsel!) was very happy to see the old carpet go! These days, most people opt for a hard surface in their bathroom. Carpet is very difficult to keep clean in that type of space! We chose a 1" hexagon tile from The Tile Shop. I am very happy with the tile and surprisingly, it hasn't been cold this winter!


Floor AFTER:

One of the biggest changes in the bathroom was the removal of the corner tub. I'm so happy we made that decision! Opening up that space allowed us to expand the shower and just makes the entire area feel more open. Eventually I'll probably put some type of large ottoman in the space (bigger than the tiny one that is pictured below).

Corner space BEFORE:

Corner space AFTER with the tub removed:

Our old shower was one of those plastic pre-formed shower stalls with sliding doors. The doors have been really hard to keep clean over the years, so we were happy to try something new. The new shower is about one foot wider than the old one (although it feels bigger than that because of the materials) with subway tile on the walls and glass doors. We were concerned about keeping the glass doors streak-free, but a good coat of Rain-X and a trusty squeegee after every use seem to be doing the trick!

Shower BEFORE:

Shower AFTER:

Another big change involved the wall-covering. Because of the difficulty in removing all the green wallpaper, we opted to cover it over. I love the look of wainscoting, so we decided to put that around the main area of the bathroom with a textured brown wallpaper above it. We (SPOUSE!) just wallpapered right over the top of the green paper with no issues. Much better than stripping it and taking chunks of drywall with it in the process!

Mega-credit goes to our great contractor for re-creating the wainscoting I found on Pinterest in this inspiration photo!

Wall-covering BEFORE:

Wall-covering AFTER:

By the way, we LOVE the hooks! I found the idea for hooks on Pinterest. Super handy for wet towels!

  Another big change involved the window coverings. The curtains were in place when we moved to the house 22 years ago, but we added the mini-blinds shortly after arriving. As much as I loved them at the time, I came to really dislike how difficult they are to clean. So we removed the curtains and replaced the mini-blinds with simple window shades. I love them!

Window coverings BEFORE:

Window coverings AFTER:
 Lighting was an area that ended up being more difficult that I would have predicted. In addition to changing the sconces above the cabinet, we added a corner light which is primarily decorative but does add a nice ambiance. Our old "Hollywood" type light fixture over the cabinet put out so much light you could practically do surgery, so we replaced some of that brightness with can lights in the ceiling.

 Lighting BEFORE:

 Lighting AFTER:

Spouse did a great job of figuring out which switches should govern which lights, all of which now have dimmers.

Other than replacing the hardware, our old linen-type closet didn't change, but I completely cleaned it out and only brought back in the items we truly need. I also took the opportunity to re-organize and label the contents. This is a little thing, but it makes a big difference! We will update our clothes closet in the next phase of this project. (Get ready, Spouse!)

There are no BEFORE pictures of the inside of the linen closet. It was way too scary to show you! But you can see the door at the right of this photo.

Linen closet AFTER:

Thanks to all who have followed along on this remodeling adventure with me! If anyone has any questions about the process or products we used, please feel free to leave me a note in the comments!
Stay tuned (as soon as Spouse recovers!) for the next phase in this process, when we will be updating our adjoining bedroom and closet! Can't wait! And this time, we WILL be stripping wallpaper! :)

25 January 2016

Recipe: Penzeys Northwoods Chicken Stew

Note for those who are punctuation-sensitive, like me: "Penzeys" does not have an apostrophe! Trust me, I checked multiple times. :)

Today's recipe for Northwoods Chicken Stew is one I've made many times over the years but for some reason have not shared! I found this recipe in a Penzeys Spices catalog a few years back. In addition to the word "Northwoods" in the title which just makes you feel all warm and cabin-y, this is a delicious winter stew. It makes a LOT, so you'll have plenty for leftovers or for freezing.

As usual, I mixed it all up early in the day and let it simmer for a few hours in the crock pot. I really like not having to worry about dinner at the last minute! As it turned out, it snowed this afternoon, making this a perfect recipe for chilly evening!

I love Penzeys Spices. We're lucky to have a store in our area, and I enjoy going inside just for the wonderful aromas. Beyond that, their spices are always great. You can find anything you might need there, from many varieties of cinnamon to wonderful spice blends like the Northwoods Seasoning which is used in this recipe. While you're visiting Penzeys, you can also pick up a free catalog and recipes. Over the years, I've made several recipes from the Penzeys catalog and have always found them to be wonderful!
The last time I was at Penzeys, I bought some Indian spice blends and a big bag of Northwoods Seasoning, almost enough to fill this bottle! Northwoods Seasoning is a blend of paprika, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and ground chipotle pepper. It has just a little bit of kick but not too much.

 If you don't have a Penzeys store in your area, definitely check out the website for many great spices and spice blends as well as yummy recipe ideas!

I cannot find this recipe on the Penzeys website (go figure!) but I did find it HERE if you prefer an online source. 

Northwoods Chicken Stew
Source: Penzeys Spices

23 January 2016

Rosemary in the Air

 Over the summer, I kept a few different herbs in small pots on the patio, including a small container of rosemary. When it was time for fall clean-up, my rosemary plant was still going strong so I decided to take it inside. I had read online that rosemary is difficult to keep indoors, so I didn't hold out much hope for it.

But it's now January and my rosemary plant is not only still alive -- it's thriving! I've been watering it every couple of weeks, not letting it dry out too much. I keep it in a sunny window and don't pay too much attention to it!

 I love the scent and taste of rosemary, but I don't use it much in cooking because Spouse doesn't care for it. He doesn't mind its juniper-like scent, so one day I cut off a few sprigs and put them in my small crock pot with some water. I added a bit of lemon juice and let it simmer with the lid off.

What a wonderful, fresh scent! I'm really glad this little rosemary plant is still alive and well. I hope it lasts through the winter, even if I only use it for aromatherapy! :)

22 January 2016

Feline Friday: WANTED!

worse than ever before!

We awoke one morning to THIS.
The Napkin Bandit struck again...reaching new heights -- or lows!

Have you seen our suspect?
She's completely adorable (with just a WEE bit of naughty mixed in) and worthy of snuggles! 
Just hide yer napkin basket! ;)

19 January 2016

More Holiday Decorating

 I have WAY too many Christmas decorations. I know that fact year-round but especially when it comes time to put them all away! The way I'm currently storing things actually makes it kind of hard to find pieces I want to display together, so I may want to re-visit my organization methods next fall. But not this year! I'm just happy to have it all packed up for the season. Whew!
When I was putting out my Christmas decorations this year, I found myself looking back on my blog for the past holiday season as a reference. I should probably print out those "decorating" photos and put them in a little scrapbook, but that's not happening anytime soon! :) So here's another holiday decorating post that I can look back on next year! I always enjoy seeing how friends decorate for Christmas, and I hope you find something in this post that you enjoy or that brings back a happy memory!

 This barn board box was a gift from a sweet gal I work with. When a barn on her family's property was being torn down, she salvaged the lumber, then her husband and uncle built boxes for all of our Memory Bound staff plus a few extra for family. She filled them with greenery and holiday goodies for our Favorite Things party. I love the box so much that I put it on our kitchen table where it would be seen every day, adding the glittered wood snowflakes (which I made for a different project but didn't use!) and a couple of my favorite ephemera cards. The box made a lovely centerpiece throughout the holiday season.

The vintage wreath belonged to my maternal grandma. At Christmas, she hung wreaths (including some made from cellophane) in her windows. I was thrilled to find a box of the wreaths when cleaning out my parents' garden shed. The little lantern hung in my mom's kitchen year-round. It now hangs in ours.

Speaking of lanterns, this one belonged to me as a child and was used for camping and outdoor activities. It's not specifically for Christmas but since it's red, it works nicely as a holiday decoration. The little elves belonged to my grandma.

The cup also belonged to me and was (of course) used for Santa's cookies and millk.
The Santa with the donkey is one that Spouse and I picked up many moons ago as part of a very small "old world Santa" collection. The "NOEL" canvas is from a floral canvas series I am teaching at Memory Bound. The milk bottle is one I painted last fall, filled with some new greenery.

My daughter made the sweet mouse (correction: I understand that he's actually a reindeer with no antlers!) and the snowman from a kit using large plastic pop bottles.The little sled belonged to my mom, as did the two largest wooden deer. The smallest deer (who is now antler-less) was made by Spouse many moons ago. When my folks first purchased those large deer, Spouse tried to prove how "easy" they would be to make. (Maybe he was thinking of a side business???) Suffice it to say that it took him WAY longer than he expected to fashion that deer! We still laugh about that!

I put out a smaller version of my village this year, with only five buildings on each side of the fireplace.

It takes a huge amount of time to put up the 30+ buildings in my collection. I just didn't have it in me this year!

This is another Santa in our very small Santa collection. He is hand carved from a piece of wood.

I found this little wire basket last year in a great thrift store in the town where Bailey did her student teaching. I normally keep it in my craft room but I thought it would be fun to fill it with Christmas goodies this year. I filled the little jar with red wooden Bingo chips, added some matching paper to the lid, and tied it with twine and a jingle bell. The little card is from my stash of vintage ephemera cards (possibly from October afternoon?) which I love to use for holidays.

This table includes a few special items. The old world Santa JUST fits inside the domed stand I bought last year, and I made the JOY card in a class at Memory Bound taught by Tammy Tutterow. But the sleigh bell is the most special memento of all. When I was cleaning out my grandma's house, I found the bell tucked inside her hope chest, so I took it to the nursing home to ask her about it. Grandma told me that every Christmas Eve, Grandpa would ring a string of sleigh bells outside their old farmhouse, and the kids (including my dad) would quickly scurry under the covers. This is the only bell left, and I was honored when she told me I could keep it.

We've been putting our large tree in the entry way for many years, and it seems like that's the perfect spot for it. You can see it through the window from the street.

In addition to the presents, I added a few meaningful items under the tree. Teddy belonged to my maternal grandma and is over 100 years old! My mom actually took him to the fair in competition one year, where he received a blue ribbon! For now, he only comes out at Christmas. He is sitting in a doll bed that belonged to my mom as a child. The tiny quilt was made by my grandma. The books all belonged to me as a child.

The apples (missing their stems!) also belonged to me  and have tiny wooden dishes inside. The lid comes off the apple and inverts to become a table. I love these apples and played with them often as a child! I found the little moose/reindeer a couple of years ago. We were driving home from Indiana and got snowed in at a hotel next to a Goodwill. It was my birthday, so I thought I'd do a little thrift store shopping! This cute little guy had to go home with me. :)
Not everything I have shared in this post is a family heirloom, but everything does have meaning and a story. For me, those are the most special kinds of holiday decorations. :)