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! 

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.




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!





Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chocolate Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of my favorite quick breads to make, and this version, with its chunks of bittersweet chocolate, is definitely my favorite recipe.

Chocolate Banana Bread 
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 5 x 9" loaf pan.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 and 2/3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter (at room temperature) with 1-1/4 cups sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add 2 large eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down bowl as needed. Beat in 1 and 1/2 cups mashed overripe bananas, 2 tablespoons sour cream (I use reduced fat sour cream) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey brand). Beat in flour mixture just until incorporated; stir in 6 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used a 4 oz. bar of Ghirardelli; it was plenty of chocolate for me).
4) Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. A toothpick inserted into center should come out clean. 
Let bread cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack. Store tightly wrapped up to 3 days, or freeze up to 3 months.
Recipe from Everyday Food

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