Thursday, May 28, 2009

apple cobbler, less than 200 calories in less than 5 minutes!

I had to share this recipe with you. It is SO YUMMY and less than 200 calories. This is from a cookbook I picked up at Bed Bath & Beyond called "Hungry Girl."

This recipe is for a breakfast / snack that turns out just like apple cobbler. (It would be incredible over frozen vanilla yogurt!)


(Recipe From Hungry Girl)

PER SERVING (entire recipe): 189 calories, 3g fat, 385mg sodium, 40g carbs, 3g fiber, 19g sugars, 2g protein

2 no-calorie sweetener packets
1-1/2 teaspoons Jello sugar-free, fat-free instant pudding mix, vanilla
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash salt
1 cup peeled apple chunks (any sweet, not tart, variety)
1 Nature Valley Maple Brown Sugar Crunchy Granola Bar (half a 2-bar package) **
** my store does not have this flavor, so I used Nature Valley Crunchy Oats & Honey

Directions: Place sweetener, pudding mix, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt in microwave-safe medium-large bowl. Add 1/3 cup cold water and stir until blended. Place apple chunks in bowl and toss in the liquid mixture.
I use an apple peeler/slicer - less than a minute to dice up a gala apple!
Cover the dish and microwave for 2-1/2 minutes. Allow it to thicken and cool for a few minutes before removing from microwave.
Here is that Oats & Honey granola bar crunched up

Meanwhile, place the granola bar in a sealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or can, until you have small crumbly pieces. Once apple mixture is cool enough to handle, stir in the granola pieces and devour immediately!
Makes 1 serving.

A little bowl of yumminess!

sometimes store-bought IS better than homemade

I have been using my weekly 40 and 50% off coupons at Michaels to pick up some of those really pretty Martha Stewart craft boxes. I have gotten the CD and the Photo boxes. While I was at Wal Mart, I picked up a plain white box and thought -- why not save some money and make my own?

Here you can see my attempt at covering the box. I just used fabric I had laying around and some Mod Podge. It all worked out OK, except once you put the fabric on, it makes it too bulky for the top to fit on right. In order to smoosh the top on, the sides if the box cave in a wee bit. Once you pry that label holder off on the front, the grippers don't want to hold anymore, so you have to hot glue it back on.

Furthermore, the inside of the Martha Stewart boxes are prettier:

I decided that the aggravation of sticky fingers, smooshed in boxes and undecorated insides were not worth it.

The photo box is normally $16... I used a 50% off coupon to make it $8. The craft box at Wal Mart was $5, plus I used about $5 worth of fabric and glue... So, really, with a coupon, it wasn't a savings. I suppose if you HAD to have something in your very favorite fabric, then making your own would be worth it. But since the boxes come in a pretty blue, as well as white, black and brown, I am happy with them as-is.

Monday, May 25, 2009

where white blends in, black stands out!

I had made a comment awhile back on one of the design blogs about people relying too much on the cottage formula of painting furniture white and distressing it with sandpaper. Now, don't get me wrong. Those rooms are lovely... I just don't really subscribe to that anymore. (And if you want to learn to distress furniture in a manner that doesn't ruin the edges - I described using wax awhile back).

Anyway... I have noticed how fond I am of using black for "pop factor." I think many cottagey sorts are too afraid of using black, thinking white is the only way to get the cottage look. But when used sparingly, black is not dark or sparse at all. It draws the eye, looks vintagey, and, I think, fun.

I took a few snapshots today to show you some examples...

Here are a series of hooks in the master bedroom. The wood plank walls in this room are a pale, pale pink called "Bella Pink." The trim and ceiling are white. Floors are hardwood. The black of the hooks catches the eye against the pale walls.

The blue lanterns flank the bed, hanging over the artwork above the nightstands.

The black scroll vent on the master bathroom floor really pops against the aqua blue floor. Since the walls are pale and the trim is white, that blue floor just screams in the room.

(Preservationists look away!) We rattle canned the original brass fixture in the entry way. I love the way the black pops against the pale blue walls and super-pale gray ceiling. The shades were originally a light amber glass, but I like the replacement etched ones better. Hence why we are renovating rather than restoring.

The living room walls are a light khaki green called Hazel Woods. I reupholstered a pair of side chairs in Amy Butler and painted the wood Black Licorice. I will paint the end table black as well. It looks great against the green walls.

I picked up this barrel chair at Goodwill. I painted it white and sprayed the wicker black, adding in black accents in the trim. The table beside it is an old sewing cabinet. It sits near the door in the living room and gives a nice place to put on baby shoes or read a story. Again, the black looks great against the wall.

Where white blends in, black pops out.

Sneak Peek: The Trim is Painted!

We have the trim painted on the front of the house. (Steven's back couldn't take another day on the ladder to do the back). We have yet to do practically all the windows on the house since we only have 2 done... but we think the trim on the front of the house makes a huge difference. The peeling dull gray is now replaced with cheery pale blue. We can't wait to see it all done since the couple windows I have completed look soooo good!
It was super sunny when I took this picture, so I am afraid everything looks a bit washed out... but you get the point.
Oh - look at that wisteria going nuts on the trellis I welded. No blooms, but it is growing freaking crazy!

Friday, May 22, 2009

schools out for summer

Ahhh... yes... it is that time of year when the kids come home from school and mothers want to run away. The boys' last day of school was Wednesday, and I am ready for them to go back.

I am not sure why, but my sons are not capable of getting along. We went to the grocery store to pick up some oat flour and whatnot, and they began hitting each other with the little bags of flour.


Why, oh why?

The bickering. The "he is touching me." All of it.

grumble grumble.

I need to find a job... before my sanity is gone!!! ;)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

garden snapshots...

While the boys were busy planting those foxgloves, I walked around a bit and took a few pictures of the gardens. Really, I have more flower beds than grass anymore. But, hey, less to mow, right? And besides... nothing says English Cottage like a cottage garden. :)

I love bunnies. I have a few of them sprinkled around the gardens. This one is nestled in lambs ear, coral bells, soapwort, and catmint.

I put a series of 3 birdhouses on copper poles last year. The clematis look so pretty climbing up the poles. (I used twine to help give them some support).

Lavender flanks both sides of the slate sidewalk that goes from the city sidewalk to the front porch. I plan to make some sachets for my family this year.

This is the honeysuckle that is growing up the left side of the trellis I welded for the front porch. Wisteria has madly taken over the right side but has yet to bloom.

This is a fraction of the little garden to the left of the steps leading to the front porch. It has Japanese peony, sweet pea, sea thrifts, allium, catmint, Russian sage, baby blanket carpet rose, bellflower, clematis and soapwort.

I would always come out and find a bunch of my plants mashed down and wondered why... turns out, the feral cats really love my gardens... especially all the catmint! This cat, who we named Kyle, is rolling around in a bed of obedient plant.

they work for cookies!

My two oldest guys were working so hard in the gardens today. I decided the space between the peonies and the front porch was begging for some tall, leggy foxgloves. Emery and Satchel did a terrific job putting in a row in that rather tight space.

Satchel (left) waits his turn as Emery (right) digs the hole for the first plant.

Satchel tries his hand at digging and decided it was rather difficult, so he watered with a watering can while Emery finished up the other 3 plants.

Good work, boys!

Also shown in the above picture, white foxglove, pink and purple salvia, purple catmint, pink peonies, Sarah Bernhardt peonies, and pink & yellow honeysuckle.

A close-up of their hard work. Foxgloves and peonies!

Monday, May 18, 2009

curtains for someone who does not like to cover windows...

With the new color scheme in my kitchen (white upper cabinets, gray lowers, chalky clayish walls, a few pink accents)... I decided my kitchen was not me. It is pretty... but I live in color. I didn't realize how domineering all the B&W colors would be. I have the stools at the bar are covered in hot pink damask. The chairs around the table have hot pink seats. I have pink accents scattered around, but the feeling is still too B&W.

I love the cabinets with the doors removed... I have some new projects coming up to give them a more period look...

I really love the pink Kitchenaid line. I have practically have the entire collection. (The food processor is great for soups!) Oh, and I love the beadboard backsplashes we put in.

I went on the lookout for colorful fabric for curtains. I actually like the windows being bare. (I did them with white trim and black sashes), but I think a punch of color at the windows may perk things up.

I love using black to draw the eye. I think many people are afraid of black and they think you have to use white to say cottage... not so!

I decided on doing a cafe style curtain with grommets. The cafe style will only cover half the window . The grommets will keep it from being too frilly. I wanted thin fabric so light would stream through them (I plan to keep them pushed to the side pretty much all the time anyway). I rounded up a few fabric options:

Floral Fantasmo by Alexander Henry

Pink Starling by Alexander Henry

Pink Zinnia by Alexander Henry

Normally I swoon for Amy Butler... but these Alexander Henry prints really called to me. I checked them out in person and ended up picking the first one (Floral Fantasmo). It has a cool 70s retro vibe, don't you think? The zinnia is amazing, but it's an upholstery grade so it was really thick and would not be sheer enough. I must make a pillow from that zinnia fabric though. Gorgeous!

From this I have learned, although I like looking at pictures of black and white rooms, especially pure white, I can't actually live in those rooms. They are gorgeous. But when I sit in them, I feel.. well... not claustrophobic... but a bit pent-up. I really like my neutral rooms with brighty poppy bits of color.

Has anyone ever had a similar situation? Or am I the only weirdo who has to have some color to punch it up?

so I am climbing on my roof when I realize I am not a cat nor SpiderMan...

A reference picture, if you will... this is a before picture so you can see how stinking high the sides of the dormer are.

You know how we have been working on painting windows and dormers? Well... it is time to get the sides of the dormers painted. I decided this weekend that I would be the one to brave the roof and get them painted.
Now the fronts of our dormers are on a mild 25 degree slope... but to access the sides of the dormers, you have to crawl out onto the steep roof... our pitch finder revealed the slope of the main roof to be 40 degrees... just shy of a 45 degree angle.

OK... let me say this about a 40 degree angle. You can't sit on it. You can't lay on it. If you try, you will just slide down the roof, like you are on a kid's slide at the park, to your death. I was clinging to the roof by maintaining a death grip on the edge of the shingles. Steven was standing on the flat roof, trying to keep me from sliding down. He'd dip the paint brush in the can for me, I'd slap on a bit of paint with my free hand, then pass back the brush.
This did NOT work well.
I should also mention our roof does not have those new textured shingles. Our shingles were put on in the 40s, so they are frail and very slick. Your shoes get zero traction. I was trying to pull myself up, scrambling with my feet, but would just slide back down.
My next plan of attack is to wear a harness, and we will tie me off to something on the other side of the house so I will have a rope to pull myself up. Just like climbing the rope in gym class, but while holding a paint brush, with a house full of sorority girls next door watching me. (And possibly recording with their cell phones in case I fall off so they can sell the vid to America's Dumbest or something.)
OK... off to get limber now... and find my kid's Spiderman costume...

Friday, May 15, 2009

best. cabinets. ever.

I know, I know... I just finished painting my lower kitchen cabinets "bunny gray." But then I saw this picture in a magazine and fell in love...


maybe the dream kitchen will get pink lower cabinets when we renovate the kitchen.

dare to dream...

pay it forward

A bleeding heart in my shade garden... I love how the redbud tree sprinkled its flowers everywhere like pink confetti!

A couple weeks ago, Steven and I were at the little grocery store in town picking up a few things for dinner when a neighbor from down the street commented on how nice our yard is looking. "I love walking by and everytime there is something new. Sometime I would love to just walk around and look at everything."

I was beaming. I think it is a cool compliment when a neighbor recognizes your hard work.

Another time, someone was asking about the house. They commented that our house was always a favorite of theirs. They mentioned they'd love to have a peek inside.

The little comments like that make you realize what you do IS important. I spend hours working on the yard or the house, and maybe I put too much effort into deciding which white paint is just-right for the cabinets. Considering a week later, one of my kids will manage to spill chocolate milk all over them and not clean it up. So I will sit there, staring at the chocolate milk stains and think, "Why do I even bother when no one else seems to care?"

So when someone, unprompted, tells me I am doing a good job - it lifts my spirits and I carry on.

I think we all need that right about now. Heavens knows how much longer my job hunt will go... but at least I feel like I am spending my time wisely now.

So today, when you are walking about your neighborhood, be sure to compliment your neighbor on something. It will make their day!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

3 R's: Restoration, Renovation and Remodeling

Reading blogs, listening to fellow DIYers, you will hear people throwing around restoration, renovation and remodeling around a bit, using them almost interchangeably. Actually, these are three very different ideas and I thought it would be helpful to take the time to clarify.

Restoration is sometimes referred to as preservation. It is the most ambitious (and expensive) home project ever. It is also the most restrictive in terms of individuality and owner input. There is a book I often refer to called Renovating Old Houses. The author, Nash, refers to restoration as "the processes by which a structure is stripped of all later additions and returned to its original condition."

An example would be, removing a porch that was added on to the front of the house. This can be a huge ordeal. Imagine your house originally had a second story sleeping porch that was later converted to a bedroom, complete with siding and windows. A true restoration would revert all these changes back to its original design.

A restoration can be rather limiting as far as materials go... Forget using all those fancy ceramic tiles in your bathrooms or kitchen. And don't you dare paint your woodwork! You will quickly find out how expensive antique plumbing is as well.

OK, next is renovation. This is where I tend to be, even as a historic preservationist. Renovating my house has given me an appreciation for the history of the home, I always strive to honor the integrity of the home and the builder, but I don't feel so confined that I cannot make some tasteful updates. And example would be the aqua-blue hardwood floor in my bathroom. Of course, an period-correct bathroom would have had hex tiles. (Our builder, Spurgeon, always used hex tiles in his bathrooms.) However, since this room was added on to in a 1940s remodel, it had hardwood floors. When riping out the damaged floor, I decided to keep it hardwood and out in new oak flooring. (Nope – not engineered wood.) Our project was an emergency one with little budget, else I might have put in fancy aqua Ann Sacks penny rounds... At any rate, the blue paint gives it a modern feel against the Victorian baseboards. Renovation gives you the freedom to integrate your personal tastes into the original design. And you can save a bit of money, and still get a beautiful room, with reproduction pieces.

Now for remodeling. Shudder. OK, on one hand, someone buying an old home that might have been completely demolished is a good thing... but sometimes people “make the house their own” so much that very little of the original house remains. Sometimes people do this with the best of intentions without even realizing they are remodeling and not renovating.

Here is an example... there is a house down the street from me that, when you first look at it, you think, wow – that is a gorgeous house. But then, if you look a little closer, you realize the owners gutted the house and completely changed it. They made it look great – but it is nothing like the house it once was. A Folk Victorian with a tasteful bit of gingerbread is now a stone-facaded Italianate. It is lovely, yes. They saved a house that might have been knocked down. But the original house is pretty much gone.

I say all this just to educate. Do not feel bad at all about wanting to make something your own. Some preservationists would just die if they knew I spray painted one of my original-to-the-house brass light fixtures. The fixtures in black just POP like mad against the pale blue walls of the entry way. The black makes a statement. It reflects my tastes. Is is historically accurate? No. But, I don't intend to live in a museum. (And with four active little boys, I simply couldn't if I tried!)

Monday, May 11, 2009

happy birthday!

Well folks, last week my two youngest boys and I were sick. Dane, who celebrated his 4th birthday on Sunday, is back up-to-speed... but Bowie, our baby boy, is still not feeling well. My accounting exam is due tomorrow, and I have gotten nothing done around here, it seems. Yikes!

At any rate, Steven is downstairs working on the screendoor, which of course is a bigger project than we anticipated... and I am keeping an ear out for Mr. Bowie to wake up from his nap. In just a bit, I will need to run Dane to his wrestling practice and get dinner served up.

But enough of that, here is something fun. Emery had his recital on Saturday at Baker University. He did a fabulous job on his cello.

Dane turned 4 on Sunday. He has been obsessed with hot air balloons for about a year now. Can you guess what kind of cake he wanted? I really enjoy baking each of my little guys' birthday cakes every year. Dane's hot air balloon cake is a butter fudge cake with sweet cream filling and almond buttercream frosting.

Happy birthday, Mr. Rotten Pants!

Friday, May 8, 2009

a historic preservation approach to guttering...

Photo: Alpine Rain Gutters

Jayhawk Guttering visited today and did a fabulous job installing our new copper-metallic flake gutters and round downspouts. I thought it would be a great time to talk a little about gutters, downspouts and historic preservation...

Some houses were built to not have gutters... but here in the Midwest, with our wet Springs, that would not be advisable. Your foundation and landscaping would not be happy.
There are 2 styles of gutters. K-Style and Half-Round. A K-Style gutter is what is most used. It is the angular style of gutter meant to be flatly mounted to fascia boards. Flat mounting if the key here. Most applications use 5 inch, but for a large roof a 6 might be used. (We used 6 inch.) Half-round gutters are, well, gutters that look like a tube cut in half. They are meant to be used in situations where there is no flat fascia board for mounting. The gutter would hang free of the roof and trim, by a bracket.

Photo: Benchmark Roofs (K-Style Gutter & Rectangle Downspout)

Some houses had built-in gutters - and actually a few of the old Spurgeon houses around here still have the built-in gutters. They work well if the owners keep them properly maintained and free of debris.

Photo: Gutter Supply (Halfround gutter and round downspout)

I should mention that if you were going totally old school, you could have wood gutters installed... but man, that would be expensive!

Now downspouts. There are 2 kinds - rectangular and round. K-Style gutters usually have rectangular gutters, and half-round and built-in gutters usually have round downspouts.

At the Cottage of Stone, I fudged a bit on this. We originally priced half-round gutters, and it would have doubled the cost of materials. And really, our house would have most likely had built-ins that were changed to K-Style with the 1940s remodeling. So we went with some upgraded K-style gutters but chose round downspouts. We thought it gave it a little more curb appeal and looked more in keeping with what we are going for. Since this is not a preservation or restoration but a renovation, I take a little creative liberty. (As we will when it comes time to re-roof!)
Cottage of Stone - Copper-Metallic K-Style Gutters

Cottage of Stone - Round Downspouts

Happy Weekend

Sorry for the lack of postings this week... I was all set to work on the screen door and get an update up for you... And then, I get terribly sick. And I absolutely hate throwing up. I fight it tooth and nail, really. And then the baby got sick, from all ends, so we took him to urgent care to be sure it wasn't one of those wacky illnesses going around. It was just a tummy bug and he is feeling better today, but I could have done without him puking in my car yesterday.


So now that we are all well again today, Steven and I will be working on the screen door and finalizing things for our fabulous gutter install. Yeah!

How great it is to be back in the land of the living.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bob Villa has nothing on me...

OK, so Bob may be a better carpenter... but my peonies are prettier!

With Steven busily working on the fascia boards for our gutter install this week... I am left to work on the screen door alone. You see, I have been wanting a screen door forever. Unfortunately, our front door is just too stinking tall to get a stock one. I could have one custom made - but pricing those out was well over $500. I think I could do it myself so much cheaper and have exactly what I want.

So... that said, I spent some time sketching out how I think a screen door should be put together. I don't want that little cross piece in the middle of my door, so I got creative and came up with a very sturdy, rigid door that does not include a crossbar.

I took my ideas to Home Depot where a super nice guy listened to my ramblings. He agreed that my plan should keep the door sturdy enough to not need the crossbar, and he helped me select the materials I would need. I told him I'd be back tomorrow...

I will require Steven's help to remove the storm door and frame since they are quite heavy. And I will have him double-check my measurements since he is Mr. Meticulous. (I am telling you... He thinks having something a 1/16th of an inch off is too much).

Then I will begin constructing my door. I cannot guarantee that my door will be within 1/16" tolerances. I cannot guarantee that it will actually be rectangular in shape when I am done. It may be more of a sad little parallelogram... but dammit, I will have tried!

Wish me luck! And if I am successful, I will post up a DIY. :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

the 3 / 50 project

Another cool happening... Click the logo for more info.

From their site... The idea is to commit $50 each month to locally owned businesses, total. Maybe that means rethinking where you currently invest your money, opting to pick up that birthday card or pair of jeans in a locallly owned business instead of the big box you’ve been going to. Or maybe it means eating out once a month because you realize slamming the breaks on all spending stalls economic recovery. It’s just that simple.

Pass it on....

treasure hunt! and someone explain pottery barn to me!

Such a productive weekend here at the Cottage of Stone...

This was the first Friday of the month, so it was our Date Day at Good Ju Ju. Steven picked up an old metal kitchen cabinet for the basement. I got an old enamel pitcher and bucket just perfect for planting:

Remember the Juncus I blogged about? Here he is in a sweet little pitcher.

Here is the old bucket. It already had a drain hole added there, just under the handle there.
That night, we hit the Auto Swap Meet in Lawrence, KS. We did score some cool stuff for my "Project Mom-Mobile" - which is my old Rambler wagon that actually will haul some serious butt when it is done... Anyway... As we were getting ready to leave, we spotted 2 old trunks. We cannot resist trunks, even though we have 3 already. The guy sold them to us 2 for $25. Score! One was painted green, the other still gorgeous and unpainted (and even had the old package trays inside). I knew right away what to do with the green one. (The other one is in storage and will probably be a toy box when we finish up the kids' rooms.)
Here is the green trunk, ready for painting.
Altogether now... The trunk was painted heirloom white. I picked up a pink hydrangea to pot in the old bucket. The rhododendron in the blue pot is looking a little sad. He was getting too much water in the yard, so I replaced him with a Twist & Shout Hydrangea and put him in one of the pots from my milksugar etsy shop.

I think what I love about old trunks is the detailing. The hardware is always so pretty.

Oh, here is just a snippet of the new rug for the porch. It really brightens up the space. I am happy with it for now (since it was $20). Eventually, I'd like to get something else that didn't include yellow/orange.
OK... so a little more about trunks. I have been collecting them awhile now and always manage to snag them on a good deal. Good JuJu usually has several, but for the most part, they paint theirs up and I like them left au natural. I have noticed in Pottery Barn that trunks must be making a comeback. Only theirs sell for OMFG prices.
So I ask you... why would someone buy a new trunk (which IMO, has no character) for over a $1,000 when you can get an antique one for under $100? I like looking at the PB catalog for ideas.. but cripes, people... I guess someone people just need to spend the big bucks to feel like they got something of value.