Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lemon Cake

Lemon cake. To me, it's synonymous with springtime. This cake is one of those recipes that's foolproof, it always gets rave reviews, and it isn't complicated to make. It's my "go to" recipe when I need a delicious all-occasion dessert. I bake it in my grandmother's Bundt pan, which has a unique and ornate pattern (making it harder to get butter into all the crevices!). The glaze is made from sugar and lemon juice and there's a good dose of  grated lemon zest in the batter also. It's simply yummy, and the perfect cake to welcome spring!

So, what is your favorite springtime recipe? Post a comment and let me know!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Day in the Sun

I took this photo of Phoebe and Winnie on a warm fall day a few years ago. It's one of my favorites so I wanted to share it with you. Doesn't it look like they're both laughing and having the best time? I love how this shot depicts the joy of an afternoon spent playing in the sun, rolling in the grass, not having a care in the world. May we all have more days like this!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dining Room, Set for Spring

Spring has officially arrived, and not a minute too soon I might add. This winter has been quite ... well ... wintry. With the first day of spring comes the promise of warmer days and more hours of sunlight. Just what we need!

To celebrate the arrival of spring, I've put away the winter decorations in the dining room and brought out some fresh accents. A bowl of lemons (some real, some not), white candles and a natural fiber runner brighten up the table, while the dining chairs get their crisp, off-white cotton slip covers for the season. A new look for a new season!

Seen in the photo above, to the left, are a couple of interesting items we found at an antiques show: an old green glass wine jug from France, and on the windowsill, two vintage seltzer bottles from Argentina. The colors go perfectly with our wall color, which is Pennywise by Sherwin Williams. Here's a close-up of the seltzer bottles:

See this on Cottage & Vine's Room by Room party!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day and in honor of my Irish heritage, I recently made this delicious Irish soda bread. I did a little research, and while this recipe is not a "traditional" Irish soda bread due to the addition of sugar, eggs and raisins (making it more like a cake), it is very yummy and simple to make. It tastes best warm out of the oven, so share some with your neighbors!

Irish Soda Bread

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking sheet. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup raisins, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds (can be omitted if you dislike caraway seeds), 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1-1/2 cups buttermilk (I used reduced-fat buttermilk), 2 large eggs and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients to form a dough.

2) With lightly floured hands, knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Don't over-knead. Shape the dough into a 9" round and transfer to the buttered baking sheet. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Using a sharp knife, score an X into the top of the loaf (this allows heat to get to the center of the dough while it bakes). 

3) Bake until golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. This bread is best when eaten warm and just baked. To store, cool on a wire rack before wrapping in foil.

Wishing you a happy St. Patrick's Day!  

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Bathroom, "After"

Our little bungalow has one bathroom. Just one. This is sufficient most of the time. There are only two of us, after all. But can you imagine a family of 10 having to share one tiny bathroom? More on that in a future post ...

Meanwhile, I thought I'd show you some "after" photos of our bathroom, which we remodeled years ago (sorry, I don't have any "before" photos). I really love this room and the materials we selected: off-white subway tile, a Craftsman-style wood vanity and toilet from Lowe's, a medicine cabinet from Rejuvenation Hardware, light fixture from Restoration Hardware, glass shelf, toilet paper holder and double towel bar from Pottery Barn, and a ceramic tile floor.

On the shelf is a vintage Jadeite vase that holds cotton swabs and an antique apothecary jar with its original label. The bathroom cup is also Jadeite. On the commode, a vintage planter holds soaps. Installation of the medicine cabinet was actually the most challenging part of the entire renovation. In the wall was a vent pipe -- a very hard, metal pipe -- that needed to be cut and rerouted, and in doing so, the plumber's saw went straight through the plaster wall in the next room! No renovation project is without its problems, right?

Years ago, my mother made the shower curtain below out of a bed sheet to match her bedroom set. I believe it's a Laura Ashley pattern. Mom was good with a sewing machine; she made bedspreads, window curtains, shower curtains. Sadly, I did not inherit her talent. This shower curtain isn't fancy, and I realize a new one might improve the look of the room. But Mom has been gone 10 years now, and her homemade curtain is a lovely, daily reminder of her. I just can't part with it.

The "Rest Room" sign is an antique from a commercial establishment, and has a wonderful patina to it. We purchased ten antique glass doorknobs and brass escutcheons at a salvage shop, and replaced all the doorknobs in the house with them; they had been saved from a local 1920s-era hotel before it was torn down. These beautiful glass knobs replaced some rather unattractive metal ones that were probably not original to the house.

In the shower was a wood-framed window that someone had covered with a sheet of clear plastic and some awful plastic mini-blinds -- a nightmare to keep clean. Not long after we bought the house, my husband replaced them with a sheet of frosted Plexiglass. It was a good temporary solution. When we remodeled the bathroom, we replaced the window with this beautiful glass block. The diamond pattern has more of an old-timey look than your standard wavy patterned glass block, and it also provides more privacy. When the sun shines through, the diamonds create beautiful prisms.

The last items purchased for the bath were these two beveled mirrors found at a local antiques store. The shop owner went to England frequently on buying trips, and these mirrors were once part of antique English dressers. I love their imperfections and the way they add depth to the room and fill the wall space like artwork.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vintage Planters

I enjoy collecting and vintage planters are fun to collect because they're easy to find.  I like the hunt for them at antiques store and then finding the right spot for them at home. Some people may think they're ugly, but I find them charming, sweet and nostalgic. When these pieces were produced in the early to mid-20th century, they were inexpensive, utilitarian objects. Many have irregularities or imperfections that occurred during the glazing and firing process. That doesn't bother me, but I won't buy a piece that is chipped. I've been lucky to find these pots at very good prices. The four round ones above are by McCoy. The rectangular one in back is marked Imperial F72 - USA.

I like to grow succulents, and even have a Pinterest board focusing on these cute little plants. These vintage planters are perfect for growing succulent cuttings. From one large jade plant, I've started many baby plants, including the tall one in the photo above. 

The McCoy planter above has a bamboo design, and is a recent score from an antiques shop. The copper pot on the right is one that my parents brought back with them from their trip to Paris, France, in 1967. I actually have two of the copper pots they bought there.

The tall vase is McCoy. I adore the color and the swirly pattern. The green planter is also McCoy.

The stacked planters above are marked Cookson 926 and 106. I like the patterns and the color green.

The orange pot is McCoy as is the green one with the Greek key-like pattern. I really like the orange one, as orange is my favorite color (actually, both orange and green are my favorite colors!).

Are you a collector? What do you like collecting, and why? Please leave a comment by clicking on "Comment" below. I'd love to hear from you! Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow. 

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