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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Garden Center Super Buy!

Just wanted to gloat about share our super score at Weston Nurseries last weekend...

Not only did we have 2 Groupons to redeem ($20 for $50 worth of merchandise), but when we got there we discovered that they were running a "cart promotion", where everything you could fit on 1 cart was 30% off.

We picked up 2 "sixteen candles" summersweet shrubs to plant on the side of the house, right under the living room window. It's a native, deer resistant bush with wonderfully fragrant white flowers in the summer, so it's perfect under an open window.
We also picked up an ornamental maiden grass (Steven loves these) to hide the gas meter on the side of the house. They are super hardy, full, and will grow to about 5'.
And, my favorite part of the purchase: 2 David Austin "Abraham Darby" rose bushes.
I have major performance anxiety when it comes to keeping these healthy and alive...but I just couldn't resist. They are gorgeous, with apricot pink super full blooms that smell amazing.

Not sure where they're going yet, but I would love to add a bench seat to our wedding arbor (which Steven built for our wedding day!) , then plant these around it. Wouldn't that make for a lovely little garden refuge?

In the end, we got $150 worth of plants for...$49. That's...carry the two...~67% off.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Downstairs Reno UPDATE

The plasterers started on Saturday! They've finished repairing & skim coating the foyer and the stairway, and it looks SO different already. So smooth! And I really like the way the wet plaster smells...weird, I know, but to me it smells like...progress.

They should be completely finished on Tuesday, so hopefully we'll be painting all Labor Day weekend. (Appropriate, no?)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Greek Night

One of our favorite meals on our 2008 trip to Greece was the ubiquitous, fast, cheap and delicious gyros pita. I attempted to recreate the glory by loading some grilled pitas with green peppers, tomatoes, feta, and spicy beef souvlaki (the spice rub was a variation on the recipe here). I topped it off with a generous dollop of homemade tzatziki and even made a little foil jacket to give it some street cred.
I think I made Steven want to marry me all over again with this one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vintage Love: Blue Mason Jars with Zinc Lids

I love these beautiful vintage mason jars and think they'd be lovely for the pantry, or as vases, or even as drink glasses at a picnic....

They're all over Etsy, and I'm forever adding them to my favorites list just for the heck of it. Of course they'll all sell before I'm anywhere near decorating the kitchen...but I do it anyway.

Have a great weekend! ~LT

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Frugal Fix: A New Used Fridge

For almost a year, we used the refrigerator that came with our house. It was pretty nasty, but it was free and it worked...so I figured we wouldn't replace it until we renovate the kitchen (in which case, a crummy drippy old fridge would be completely unacceptable).

A great frugal mentality in some ways, yet maybe a little extreme if you're secretly praying that nobody ever rest their eyes on your fridge, lest you be mortified.

Steven and his Craigslist obsession to the rescue! :)

He found a 4 year old used Maytag refrigerator in great condition...for $125.

We scrubbed it down, bought new storage racks for the freezer, and gleefully hauled the old fridge off to the dump.

Now, I'm no neat nick, but I do love to sort/organize/purge things. Give me a box of junk, a pile of papers to be sorted, or a closet to be cleared out, and I'm as happy as a clam. No idea why this is, but obviously cleaning out the old fridge, tossing out any nasties, and organizing the new fridge was a veritable TREAT for me. I even forbade Steven from helping, just so that I could have the job to myself, LOL. (freak)

Ah, a great deal (a steal!) and a freshly organized fridge? Isn't that everyone's idea of fun? ;)

On a related note, I wanted to share this great frugality post from Get Rich Slowly. Considering how much time, money, and brainpower is spent in this world trying to get us to buy buy buy because we neeeeeeed it...it's always nice to review the counter argument: that frugality is all about identifying what IS and what ISN'T important to us and spending our hard earned $$$ accordingly.

For example, we recently went on a little trip to a local garden center, Attleboro Farms, which was running a promotion on perennials ($8 per plant if you buy 10 or more), so we loaded up.

When we got home, I said to Steven: "Do you realize that we spent more on these plants than we did on our refrigerator?"

We got a good chuckle out of that. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Honey-Glazed Peach Tart with Mascarpone Cream

I had a hankering for peaches, and since I won't even bother with grocery store peaches anymore (I've been disappointed by those deceiving, desiccated impostors too many times), I trucked on down to the farmers' market for some REAL peaches. Ahhhhh, fuzzy sun-ripened goodness.

One serving of summer, coming right up.
Recipe here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Secrets Under The Wallpaper

We made some more progress on the downstairs renovation project this weekend and stripped all the wallpaper off in the parlor/future "girly sitting room". Lo and behold, more house history was revealed. Not a mural this time, but what appears to be a chimney flue. We had always marveled that our house doesn't have a fireplace, and this provides a clue as to how the house was heated in the early days. It appears that there was a wood stove hooked up in the parlor at one time:

It even looks like piece of the flue is still embedded in the wall.

Another interesting tidbit was revealed when my mom first laid eyes on the murals in the DR...she immediately determined that there had been some significant changes made to the walls, based on the murals themselves as well as the skim coated areas. You can see in the picture below that there was most likely a closet to the left of the main doorway. At some point it was closed up & the same closet space was made to open up to the foyer (as it does now).

Additionally, she realized that the french door opening between the DR and the parlor is not original. Look at the mural in the picture below...the doorway clearly cuts off half a mural, and the mini panel in the top left is identical to those above the other single doorways.
In fact the skim coating in the pic below makes me wonder if there was another wood stove there (the chimney hookup discovered in the parlor is on the other side of that same wall).

It's all very interesting, as there have been a number of details that made us wonder what was done when. We have pictures of the dining room as early as the 1940's, and in those the layout is the same as it is today. Steven hypothesized that maybe the current DR was actually the original kitchen, and only with the upgrade to a steam heating system (when?) were the doorways opened up and the current kitchen (the whole back section of the house?) added on. Possibly...

It would be interesting to dig up some of this info. Did people pull building permits in the early decades of the 20th century???

Monday, August 16, 2010

Veggie Garden Today

I wanted to share the most recent pictures of our first veggie garden.

It's looking pretty good, I'd say. There are a bunch of green tomatoes (not so much as a *hint* of red on any of them)...hurry up!!!! :)
The eggplants have really started blooming & producing, and the acorn squash...well, it's taking over the lawn.
The plant I thought was a cantaloupe has itsy bitsy little babies on it and it turns out it's actually a CUKE. (upgrade!) There are 2 leeks and 1 green bean plant that managed to make it through a rather rough start, and the celery root looks good.

In general, it's been mostly a SUMMER SQUASH harvest so far, with a green pepper here, eggplant there...
But I did just pick this honker of a kohlrabi!
So all in all, we're pretty happy with the garden. I already know I'll do a bunch of things differently next year (MORE compost, do a better job hardening off the seedlings, more green beans, fewer squash*, better rows, etc.)...but it's been fun this year and I'm just glad we have anything growing! I can't wait for some tomatoes!

*The majority of the squash was given to us by "the garden fairy". For a couple of weeks in the early summer, I'd go out to the garden and find pots of seedlings left on the edge of the veggie patch...no note, no indication of who left them, nothing. Just offerings. My mom and MIL both denied dropping them off. Despite the mysterious nature of their origins, I planted *almost* all of these mystery plants, not knowing what they were, just that they looked like a squash/melon/maybe cuke? I said to Steven "I sure hope we like whatever I just planted 12 of...."

Then one day our neighbor in the back, whom I don't know, stopped by as I was checking out the garden (and yammering on my cell) and told me that HE was the garden fairy. well, he didn't use that term...He told me what they were (summer squash and acorn squash), didn't say much else, and I haven't seen him again. It was kinda funny...such an overtly friendly gesture from a rather reserved person. Anyways, he'll be finding a basket of squash on his porch any day now...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Inspiration: Bedroom

"All's right with fresh towels, snowy underwear, and a bed that welcomes the body."
-Frances Mayes, Every Day in Tuscany

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Appleton Creamery, Magical Breakfast Cream, & Homemade Yogurt

While up in Maine last month, we stopped by the Belfast Farmers' Market for the first time.

There was an impressive selection, but my favorite stand by far was that of Appleton Creamery, an award winning artisan cheese maker in nearby Appleton, Maine. They had a stunning variety of chèvre (rolled in herbes de Provence or marinated in olive oil or encased in beeswax or seasoned with maple and peppercorn...), as well as an assortment of other dairy products. And samples of everything! Steven buzzed around from sample to sample like a honeybee among flowers...I'm pretty sure he tried every. single. thing. :)
One product that immediately caught my eye was the sheep's milk yogurt. I love yogurt (so versatile!) and have been incrementally moving away from the mainstream brands of my youth--Yoplait, Colombo, etc--and towards the brands that take a more minimalist approach to the ingredients...no thickeners, HFCS, preservatives, etc. FAGE is my favorite.

Another reason for my heightened interest in the artisan yogurt was the fact that just that very morning I had been flipping through the French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano.

(Not a huge fan. While I like her philosophy--basically a low quantity, high quality approach--I frankly found her delivery to be a little...smug. A lot of "I always..." and "I can't understand why anyone would ever..."...Bleh.)

However, she absolutely raves about yogurt, and that's something I could get behind. She calls it every woman's secret weapon, and shares a family recipe for Magical Breakfast Cream: a mixture of yogurt, honey, flax seed oil, lemon juice, grains and nuts. She swears by it as a sort of detox, perfect for when you're feeling a little bloated or like you've been a little too indulgent and need to reset.

So I decided to buy the sheep's milk yogurt, and when I asked the vendor how long it would keep, she assured me that it would be fine, unopened, for about month. She then added:

"I just made it last night, so it can't get any fresher."

Wow. That just floored me. I wanna play!

So I looked into it, and making your own yogurt looks pretty easy (in fact, it's basically 100% analogous to the way we grow bacteria in the lab when we need to produce a ton of DNA. weird.) I definitely want to give it a shot, and after some research, I added this baby to my Amazon wish list:
It's a yogurt maker (basically just an incubator) with 7 glass jars, so none of that alarming plastic leaching talk. Can't wait to try it out!

(Bubba voice): yogurt + honey...yogurt + fruit preserves...yogurt tzatziki...yogurt hamburgers...yogurt pancakes...yogurt casserole...yogurt gumbo...yogurt sausage...yogurt smoothies.......


p.s.-the Magical Breakfast Cream is actually really good...with lemon and honey, how could it be bad?
p.p.s.-Appleton Creamery hosts cheesemaking workshops! Yes, please.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Mystery Plant Blooms...

Remember this plea for help in ID'ing the mystery plant growing near our side door? Well, it's been babied this year and lookie lookie:
It's a beautiful hibiscus!