Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spicy Moroccan Stew

There's nothing quite like a spicy stew to warm you up on a chilly evening. This vegan Moroccan stew is hearty and healthy, loaded with vegetables and a good dose of spices: cumin, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne and allspice. It smells amazing as it simmers on the stove, and is perfect served over couscous. 

If you don't like eggplant, you can omit it from the recipe, or peel it if you don't care for the skins. My husband is a little funny about the texture of eggplant. The first night we ate this stew, the eggplant was too firm and the skin not as tender as he likes. The second and third nights, the eggplant was much softer and we both liked it better. The next time I make this dish, I might peel the eggplant. I hope you give this delicious stew a try. 

Before this year comes to an end, I'd like to thank each and every one of you for visiting My Little Bungalow. I appreciate you all so much. Have a happy and healthy New Year!

Spicy Moroccan Stew

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced large
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 teaspoon, and we found the stew to be pretty spicy, especially the second and third nights!)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
4 to 5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1" pieces
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 small eggplant, cut into 1" pieces (if you don't like eggplant, omit it; you can also peel the eggplant if you don't like the skin)
1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Directions:
1) In an 8-quart Dutch oven or stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add cumin, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne and allspice and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add carrots, potatoes, squash, tomatoes and their juice and vegetable broth (vegetables should be covered by liquid; add some water if needed). Season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

2) Add eggplant, if using, and stir to combine. Simmer until eggplant is tender, about 30 minutes (if not using eggplant, make sure the carrots and potatoes are cooked until tender before continuing). Stir in chickpeas. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until chickpeas are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve stew over cooked couscous.
Note: this recipe makes a large pot of stew; you can freeze some of it for up to 3 months.

Adapted from Everyday Food

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Home Tour: Hillary's House

My friend Hillary lives with her husband and daughter in a charming 1927 brick bungalow which they have spent much time and elbow grease restoring to its original charm. I credit Hillary in large part for my interest in collecting things such as vintage ornaments and antique telephones and my interest in antiques in general. Entering her home is like stepping back in time. Their attention to detail is incredible, even down to the light switches, which they replaced with period-style push-button switches, as shown in one of the photos below.

Last weekend, Hillary was gracious enough to allow me to photograph her home, which is beautifully decorated for the holidays. In the living room is a large tree, decked out in vintage ornaments. Notice how their artwork is hung from picture molding using wire and hooks. We also have this molding in our home and hang our artwork this way, which I adore. Plus, it's so practical in old homes with plaster walls.
 

In this broader view of the living room you can see the beautiful built-in floor-to-ceiling bookcase built by Hillary's very talented husband. It provides wonderful storage and also hides the family's television. On the left side of the room is an antique Victrola, for which they have quite a collection of old records.


The built-in below -- one of two in the dining room on either side of glass-paned French doors -- is also the handiwork of Hillary's husband. It looks original to the house, doesn't it? Notice the vintage artwork and frames, and how the dried hydrangeas pick up the warm tones from the painting.


I've always loved this crystal chandelier in the dining room, which is original to the house. The wall color in this room is Crewel Tan by Sherwin Williams. My husband and I liked this color so much we used it in our guest bedroom.


A beautiful antique sideboard in the dining room is adorned with greenery, lights and more vintage Christmas decorations. The wine cork wreath on the swinging door that leads to the breakfast nook is one of many that Hillary and her daughter make as gifts for friends. Notice the push-button switch on the wall, to the left of the silver tree.


 
An original built-in cabinet between the dining room and kitchen provides plenty of storage for china and serving pieces. Across from the built-in is a breakfast nook with a Craftsman-style light fixture.



The kitchen, which the couple completely renovated, features a built-in Viking cook top and oven, custom cabinets and solid maple counters.


The large kitchen sink -- with two integrated drain boards -- was purchased at a salvage shop in Georgia before the couple even owned this house. They know a good thing when they see it! It works perfectly in this kitchen.


Adjacent to the modern refrigerator sits a small-scaled Sellers-brand vintage cabinet which holds a mixer and a couple of vintage juicers, and conceals a microwave. See that brick column? When my friends bought the house, the kitchen was clad in old (probably 1960's) "scenes of Paris" paneling, which they spent countless hours chipping away at. In doing so, they exposed this brick column. I like the earthiness it adds to the room. The original pine floors are also very warm and beautiful.



A vintage wall phone and cherry-red step stool add to the charm of their vintage-style kitchen.

Even the shelf below the vintage medicine cabinet in the bathroom has been adorned with Christmas decorations.


I hope you have enjoyed this tour of a lovingly restored 1920's home. Thank you, Hillary, for sharing your family's beautiful dwelling with us! Happy holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Our New Fence

Back in October, I posted about some big changes to our yard. We started by removing a large tree from beside our house. Then in November we replaced all the chain link fence with wooden privacy and picket fencing. The fence that separated our yard from our neighbors to the left was in bad shape, so we approached them about removing their fence and putting up a new fence on our property, and they agreed. You can see the before photos here. 

Here is the new side entrance. I love the little gate and the copper caps on the posts. I couldn't resist adding a Christmas wreath to the gate since this is the entrance we use most often. It adds a nice touch of holiday cheer!


Here's the new double gate into back yard. I'm envisioning a hydrangea bush in the corner, outside the fence. Or maybe a rose bush ...


Below is a view of the new privacy fence in back yard. The old chain link was fairly close to the bird feeder. See how much space we gained by moving the fence back to just inside our property line? I'd like to plant a few tall-growing junipers along the back of the fence for additional privacy, with one in the corner to hide the ugly telephone pole. My husband and I love Japanese maples so we'd like to incorporate at least one into the landscape plans. We've talked about adding a floating deck next year -- and maybe a fire pit, depending on our budget. 

It will take some time, but I think our yard will eventually be a peaceful and beautiful place for us to relax and entertain. If you have any landscaping suggestions, please share them! I'd love to hear your ideas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pistachio-Chocolate Biscotti


I've been wanting to make biscotti for quite some time, but like so many other recipes, biscotti remained on my list of "things to make." Well, I finally did it, choosing this delicious pistachio-chocolate variety. Now I'm hooked. I can't wait to try different biscotti flavors: almond-ginger, cranberry-walnut, whole wheat raisin. Can you guess how I'm going to spend some time off at the holidays? 

Here's the recipe I adapted for pistachio-chocolate biscotti. If you haven't tried making biscotti at home, you must. It's easy, and I think these would make lovely Christmas presents, don't you? 

Pistachio-Chocolate Biscotti

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup mini chunk dark chocolate pieces
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Hershey's extra dark cocoa powder

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in pistachios and chocolate chunks.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter, vanilla and cocoa powder. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined (dough will be stiff; mix with hands if necessary).

3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. Divide dough in half and place on sheet. Shape each half into a 2-1/2" x 12" log and sprinkle tops with 1 tablespoon sugar, divided evenly. Bake until risen and firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on sheet, about 30 minutes.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/2" thick slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake until biscotti are dry, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 1 week.


Adapted from Everyday Food

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Cards

I discovered Great Arrow cards several years ago at a local store and fell in love with them. These beautiful cards are silk-screened by hand and made in the U.S. from recycled materials. Their designs are modern and graphic, their colors rich and vivid, and they have the most wonderful velvety feel. 

Messages are simple: "Season's Greetings" and "Warmest Holiday Wishes." This year, each of the cards I'm sending out have 3-dimensional details -- the copper-colored deer on one and the torso of the snowman's body on the other. They're like little works of art, aren't they? Imagine how much fun it would be to design them!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cardamom Coffee Cake


Are you familiar with the spice cardamom? I know it from our favorite Indian restaurant where they use it to flavor kheer (rice pudding), but I hadn't cooked with it until I made this fabulous coffee cake last week. The flavor of cardamom is unique -- similar to ginger with a hint of clove and nutmeg. I was curious to learn more about the spice, and found this page on Wikipedia, which states that cardamom is the world's third most expensive spice (following saffron and vanilla), and that Guatemala is the largest producer and exporter of cardamom in the world. Interesting.

The morning after Thanksgiving I wanted to make this cardamom coffee cake (like I hadn't spent enough time in the kitchen), but I didn't have any cardamom. So I phoned my husband, who was on an early morning outing with the dogs, and asked him to stop by Whole Foods. They sell it in bulk, which is good because I didn't need a lot. Priced at about $24 a pound, a small amount came to roughly $1.60. I needed 3/4 teaspoon for this cake, and I have just shy of three tablespoons remaining.

While the cake was still slightly warm, I cut a small piece. It's delightful! When my husband tasted it, he raved, saying it's one of his favorite cakes. I agree. In the days following, I heated each piece briefly in the microwave for 17 to 20 seconds. Fabulous! We ate it morning, noon and night until it was gone four days later. 

The cardamom lends a warm spiciness to the cake, making it perfect for the winter months. Enjoy it with a cup of afternoon tea. Or with breakfast. Or as dessert. Below is the recipe, which I changed slightly (used orange zest instead of lemon). Enjoy!
  
  
Cardamom Coffee Cake
  
Ingredients:
3 cups flour, spooned and leveled
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup milk (I used skim milk)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 heaping teaspoon of finely grated orange zest (or you can use lemon zest)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9" square baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until crumbs form. Reserve 1 cup crumb mixture.
2. Whisk milk, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, cardamom and orange zest into remaining crumb mixture until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan and sprinkle reserved crumb mixture on top. Bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store cooled cake in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days.

adapted from Everyday Food

Monday, November 26, 2012

In the Pantry


hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Are you still eating leftovers? What do you do with your leftover turkey? My husband makes a killer turkey and rice soup, which I enjoyed years ago before I stopped eating poultry. I do miss that soup!

While we're talking food, I thought I'd share with you a few staples I like to keep stocked in the pantry at all times. They're things I may need at a moment's notice for supper, or foods that just "feel good" to have on hand, such as my favorite jams and teas. Here are my 10 favorite pantry staples:
  1. Bonne Maman preserves. You'll find a couple of jars in our refrigerator and an extra in the cupboard. All flavors are yummy, but my two favorites are orange marmalade and cherry -- fig is great too. My husband loves blueberry, strawberry and raspberry.
  2. Herbal teas. I stock a variety of Stash brand teas at all times. Lemon Ginger, Christmas Eve, and Mellow Moments (peppermint, chamomile, spearmint, lemongrass, cinnamon) are delicious. I gave up caffeine years ago, so when I crave a hot beverage, I reach for one of these. I keep a few bags stored in the vintage Hoosier cabinet tea canister shown below (I love shopping antiques stores for old jars!).
  3. Canned tomatoes. Diced or whole. I use them in so many recipes!
  4. Canned beans. Black, pinto, garbanzo, kidney, cannellini ... I use a lot of beans in our meals. They're a good source of vegetarian protein. If I were more disciplined, I'd use dried beans instead of canned. They're less expensive and better for you, I'm sure, but canned beans are super convenient. Which do you use: canned or dried? 
  5. Vegetable broth. I use it in any recipe that calls for chicken broth. 
  6. Spices. It's really important to have lots of spices on hand: curry (which we use in practically everything), crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, oregano, basil, thyme, parsley. For baking, I always have cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice in the cupboard.
  7. Vanilla extract. I only use Nielsen-Massey Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract. It's pricey, but worth it!
  8. Dei Fratelli pizza sauce. I've tried a lot of pizza sauces and this one is a nice blend of tartness and sweetness. I add dried oregano for some extra zing.
  9. Rice. We keep a variety on hand: brown rice, wild rice blend, Jasmine, Basmati -- even black rice, which looks dramatic on the plate and is a unique choice for a dinner party.
  10. Kalamata olives. Great on homemade pizza, and essential for making one of our favorite dishes, penne with tomatoes and olives.
So, what are some of your favorite pantry staples? Do share!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks & Our Holiday Menu

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for so many things: my husband, my home, my health, our friends and family, and of course our two adorable dogs. I am thankful that I am employed when so many are not -- and that I love my job and the people I work with. I am very blessed.

We are hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house again this year. I love Thanksgiving, and enjoy welcoming family into our home for a good meal and togetherness. Here's what is on the menu this year:


  • Turkey breast (for hubby and our guests)
  • Wild rice dressing (recipe below)
  • Stuffing (this year I'm trying Arrowhead Mills organic savory herb; I'll use vegetable broth to make it vegetarian)
  • Corn casserole (made by my mother-in-law)
  • Steamed French green beans
  • Maple-whipped sweet potatoes -- Everyday Food recipe
  • Biscuits
  • Cranberry conserve -- Ina Garten's recipe
  • Pumpkin pie

Every year I put out these cute turkey candle holders from Williams-Sonoma.


Wild Rice Dressing

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 boxes (6 ounces each) wild rice blend (discard any seasoning packets)
1 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley 

Directions:
1) In a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season generously with salt and pepper.
2) Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in wild rice blend. Return to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover; cook over low heat until rice has absorbed all liquid, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
3) Transfer rice to large bowl. Stir in toasted walnuts, dried cranberries and parsley. Season again with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or hold at room temperature for up to 5 hours.
Note: to toast the walnuts, spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
From Everyday Food

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Banana-Blueberry Muffins





Got a couple of overripe bananas? Here's a great way to use them: banana-blueberry muffins. I first made these muffins in 2010 and they've been a favorite ever since. They're made with whole wheat flour and wheat germ, but don't be fooled -- they are delicious! We keep blueberries stocked in the freezer from the previous summer's picking, so the necessary ingredients are always on hand. 

Here's a tip: when I notice bananas ripening very quickly and I know I won't have time to bake with them right away, I toss them in the fridge. The peel turns brown, but the fruit doesn't. Refrigeration slows the ripening process and buys me a few extra days until I can make some yummy muffins or bread with them. Click here for a chocolate banana bread recipe I posted in October, in case you missed it.

Banana-Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together flours, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

2) In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, mash bananas; stir in milk and vanilla.

3) With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and banana mixture to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix just until combined. Fold in frozen blueberries.

4) Divide batter among muffin cups (I use a small ice cream scoop to do this). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of muffins comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer muffins to a rack to cool 10 minutes more.

Enjoy!

recipe adapted from Everyday Food

Monday, November 12, 2012

New Bed Linens!

We've finally given our bed a face-lift with new linens. It's embarrassing to admit, but we've had the same comforter, shams, throw pillow and bed skirt for a very long time. I tend to keep things until they wear out: clothes, cars (I had my last car for 16 years), appliances, televisions ... you get the picture.
 
So the story of our old comforter goes like this. Remember when Martha Stewart first came out with her line at Kmart back in '97? Well, it was probably a year later that we bought our comforter set there (yes, Martha Stewart brand). To be honest, my poor husband never really liked the pattern and would complain about it from time to time. But since the comforter was still in good condition, I always talked myself out of replacing it, figuring we didn't really "need" something new.  

 
I guess I finally got to the point my husband had been at for some time. I had grown tired of the pattern on that old comforter set and it was time to pull the plug! The two of us sat down at the computer and browsed various sites. We like what Crate & Barrel carries, but the patterns tend to be more modern, and we agreed that modern wouldn't work as well in our room. 


Pottery Barn has nice patterns and good quality, and the dimensions of their queen duvets are the same as what we had (C&B's queen size duvet is larger). So we chose Pottery Barn's "Charlie Paisley" organic duvet cover and shams in natural, and a PB classic bed skirt in linen. As a finishing touch, I ordered a beautiful feather and down-filled accent pillow from Room & Board in a color called wolf. The front of the pillow is mohair and the back is linen. It's simple, but elegant.

We are both very happy with our new bedding. But the best part for me is hearing my husband exclaim over it when he walks into the room. Our bedroom has finally gotten the face lift it has long needed. Oh, and in case you're wondering what I did with the old comforter, well, it's inside the new duvet cover, of course!

P.S. Happy birthday to my hubby, whose big day is this weekend.




Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wood Oil


Here's a simple, but good, thing. I bought this butcher block oil by Parker & Bailey at Restoration Hardware a (really) long time ago, and rediscovered it in my pantry a few months ago. Made of food grade mineral oil, it's great for keeping wooden cutting boards and utensils from drying out and cracking. The cutting board above was getting quite dry, but a coat of this oil brought back its rich color. You can go to the Parker & Bailey web site to view and purchase the product, which now has a new look and a new name: Wooden Ware Cleaner & Conditioner. There are other mineral oil products on the market that I'm sure are also very good. Since this bottle is getting low, I'll be adding it to my shopping list soon.
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I have received no compensation for featuring this product; the views expressed are my own.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies

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Yum! Wait, make that double yum! These Mexican hot-chocolate cookies are delicious. This cookie recipe may very well be one of my favorites. The combination of chocolate, cinnamon and chili powder is amazing -- and a little exotic. I do recommend you enjoy them with a tall glass of cold milk.
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You can watch a short video of Martha Stewart and John Barricelli making these cookies and find the Everyday Food recipe for them here.
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The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of chile powder (they suggest ancho), but since I didn't have that, I used chili powder -- you know, the kind that contains a blend of spices and is used in making chili? Well, it worked just fine. But next time, I will use chile powder so I can compare the two. The chile (or chili) powder is combined with sugar and cinnamon and the cookies are rolled in the mixture before being baked. The result is a soft cookie with a slightly crunchy exterior. Yummy!
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A note about cream of tartar, which is called for in this recipe. I didn't have any in my pantry, so I looked online to see if there were any substitutions. Most of what I read suggested not substituting anything for cream of tartar, so off to the grocery I went. 
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While online, I learned some interesting facts about cream of tartar, which is the culinary name for potassium bitartrate, a by-product of winemaking. It crystallizes and collects in the fermentation tanks before being removed and purified to create the white powder we purchase as cream of tartar. It's frequently used to stabilize and add volume to egg whites when making meringue. It also prevents sugar from crystallizing so it is sometimes added to syrups, icings and caramels. I didn't know anything about cream of tartar, so I found this very interesting.
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I hope you try making these Mexican hot-chocolate cookies and if you do, please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Beautiful fall color, and a prayer

Sunday morning, my husband took the dogs for an early walk along this path lined with beautiful maples and a little stream, then stopped at our favorite bakery for some delicious almond croissants. I thought I'd share a few of his photos showing the beautiful fall color. We're enjoying it while it lasts. 

On a more serious note, my prayers go out to all those on the eastern coast of the U.S. who are being affected by Hurricane Sandy. Stay safe! 
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Stump Removal

As I posted recently, we've had a very large tree removed from a tight space between our house and our neighbor's house. What was left was a very large stump. This week a stump grinder came with this snazzy (and very expensive) machine. It's operated by remote control and the operator must be very skilled in using it. The tree's massive roots had grown right up to (and under) the sidewalk over the years, and I was so impressed at how much of the roots the operator was able to grind without hitting the sidewalk, which would have taken a chunk out of the cement. It was fascinating to watch the huge blade shave away the wood, bit by bit. I am grateful to Will, whose team did an amazing job removing the tree, for recommending these guys for the stump removal. It's a great relief to have this project finished. Now for phase two: replacing the chain link fence with wood. Stay tuned for photos and updates!




Look at the beautiful mulch we're left with!

 
Here's a "before" photo of the tree ...


And the stump ...



Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Welcoming Front Entrance


While strolling the sidewalks of an historic neighborhood last month, I spied this front entrance which really appealed to me. As soon as my husband and I stopped to admire the home, the owner's two dogs -- a little brown poodle and a cream-colored cocker spaniel -- came racing to greet us as if we were old friends. I told the home owner that I admired her front entrance, and asked if I could take a photo for my blog.

Here's what I like about this entrance: first, the colors. The brownish grey of the front door, columns and porch floor, the lighter grey of the siding (notice the smaller size of the clapboard), the white trim and the pale blue of the porch ceiling -- and how they all work beautifully together. 

I had always heard that in the South, porch ceilings are frequently painted various shades of light blue or aqua to scare away evil spirits. I did a search online to find out more about the history of blue porch ceilings and found this article on the Sherwin-Williams Stir site. Apparently it's true: historically, many Southerners painted not only their porch ceilings blue, but also their doors and window frames to keep them safe from haints, or restless spirits of the dead. Another theory for pale blue porch ceilings: they repel insects. Check out the article to learn more -- it's very interesting.

Another thing I love about this entrance is the schoolhouse light fixture. Whether or not it's original to the house, it appears to be vintage, and I think it's perfect on this porch. The style of the front door is also very appealing with its 4-over-4 windows, and the transom window above. Notice the 12-over-1 windows to the left of the door -- beautiful! 

I also like that the house numbers and mailbox are more modern but still blend well with the historic features of the home. The palms in the large containers on either side of the steps and the small planters on both sides of the front door soften the lines and create a welcoming entrance. And of course, there's the sweet Cocker Spaniel chewing on an old rubber ball. Nothing makes a home more welcoming than a friendly dog or two!

So what do you think of this front entrance? Does it appeal to you?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Changes to the Yard

We're making big changes to our yard, slowly but surely. For one, the large oak tree between our house and our neighbor's has been taken down. I admit, I was a little sad to see it go, but considering the damage its roots have done to our property over the years and the advice we've received from several certified arborists to have it removed, it was really the only sensible choice. We've seen the tree get thinner over time, and the leaves begin to turn brown and fall earlier and earlier each year. The fact is, the tree had reached its limit due to its location, which, as you can see, was just feet from our house and our neighbor's house.

Before:

During:

After:

We also had the privet removed from along the side fence (which belongs to our neighbors and isn't in the best of shape), and several smaller trees and brush removed from behind the chain link fence. We will have a 6-foot privacy fence installed along the back to replace the chain link, and since our property line goes back several feet past the current fence, we'll be gaining more yard. After the fence goes up, we'll begin landscaping plans. I'm so excited!

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

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