As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this nearly six-acre tract of land, this farmhouse, this domain—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Making a Colonial Floorcloth

I have admired colonial style floorcloths for years and years, but this is the summer that I decided to move from admiration to actually making one of my own! I searched and looked and watched youtube videos and Pinned to my heart's content, gathering ideas and inspiration. Then, after careful consideration and the recommendation of a friend, I decided to buy a kit for my first attempt. 

I went to Canvasworks Floorcloths online. Owner/artist Lisa Curry Mair creates gorgeous museum quality floorcloths, but she also sells "blanks" and kits. Preparing the canvas was one of the parts that made me nervous, and the kits come with the canvas already shrunk, cut, hemmed (yay!), and primed with the base layer of paint. The design is lightly penciled in for a guide in painting. I chose the Branch Stencil Kit, featuring a diamond pattern with a stenciled edge. 

(I enjoyed watching these short videos featuring the artist: one a feature spot from a Vermont TV station, and another from Vermont Public Television. Watch them to learn about the history and the process of making floorcloths, and to see some lovely examples of floorcloths crafted by the artist.)  

My kit arrived quickly! All my excuses were was time to begin!

I set up my painting station on the dining room table, laying a piece of (garish green) plastic table covering over the table for protection. (The sewing machine has nothing to do with it. That was Kati's work station for another project.)

Using black acrylic paint, I outlined a diamond shape with a fine brush,

and then filled it in using a wider brush.

I experimented with using painter's tape to mark off the diamond (eliminating the outlining step), and decided that it was more efficient and I liked the look just as well.

After I completed the diamonds and allowed them to dry overnight, I taped off the border...

 and painted it with my second color, barn red. 

After that was dry and the tape removed, it was time to stencil the branch design. (The stencil was also included in the kit. Paints were not.) I anchored the stencil with small pieces of painter's tape.

I stenciled the branch design in black. (To stencil, dip your stencil brush in the paint, then blot it on paper towels until it feels nearly dry. If you have too much paint on your brush, the paint may run under the stencil.)

After allowing the paint to dry for 24 hours, I applied four coats of satin finish polyurethane, waiting at least 6 hours between each application. 

I am really glad that I chose to use a kit for this first attempt at a floorcloth! It was quite helpful to have the canvas ready to go. I also appreciated the fact that the design was already sketched out, eliminating the need for me to do a lot of mathematics to figure out the size and placement of the diamonds and how wide the border needed to be before I could begin.

There were a few "flaws" in the kit, in my opinion. (Flaw might be too strong a word...maybe I should say areas for improvement?)

First of all, the kit promised a link to an instructional video. I read those instructions over many times, both before and during the process, and I never did find that link.

Secondly, I was a bit unsure at first whether the primed coat actually was the base color or if I was supposed to paint my base color over the primer. That was probably my misunderstanding, but I don't think it was perfectly clear in the instructions. 

My biggest problem with the kit, however, was the very incomplete instructions for the placement of the stencil! The instructions simply said to follow the diagram for stencil placement. There was no diagram. I went back online and used the photo from the website as a guide, but when I did what was shown, there was not enough room on the canvas to place them! Eek! Rather than go back and paint the border again and start over with the stenciling (or cry?), I sought advice and then decided to adjust the placement to go with what I had already done. This involved adapting the stencil to place a modified design in each corner to fill in some blank spaces. 

Overall, I am very happy with my floorcloth...and I am already dreaming about what I'm going to do next!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Savoring Summer {Week 12 ~ Cucumber-Dill Squares}

I am ending my Savoring Summer recipe series with a beginning: a super easy summer hors d'oeuvre! These Cucumber Squares are light and refreshing - perfect for wedding or baby showers, tea time, or as an appetizer for a summer meal. 

There is no real recipe, only a process, so I'll walk you through it. 


Cut some English cucumbers (long, seedless) into one-inch slices.
I like for them to be uniform, so I use a ruler to score them before slicing.
(OCD? A little.)

Trim a slice of the peel on all four sides, creating a (sort of) square, leaving the dark green peel on the corners.

With a melon-baller, scoop a small depression into the center of each square.
(If you don't have a melon-baller, use a small spoon.)

Fill each little depression with a small scoop of spreadable cheese.
I used Alouette Garlic & Herbs spreadable cheese, but you could use another. You could even make your own cheese spread, like Pioneer Woman's Veggie Cream Cheese Spread. That's got to be good!

Top each square with some fresh dill.
Or if you didn't plant dill in your herb garden this year (ahem), then go ahead and shake on some McCormick dill weed.

Have you been enjoying summer cooking (and eating) at your house? What is your favorite food season?

Week 10: Stuffed Peppers
Week 11: Peach Crisp

Or last year?
Fruit on Tuesday Week 12: Plum Kuchen

Or two years ago?
Salad on Tuesday Week 12: Autumn Chopped Salad

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunday Snapshots: Simple and Spectacular

Although those words seem to be opposites, they aren't always. Our Sunday gathering yesterday was a simple celebration of our our oldest daughter's birthday, but we think Kristin is spectacular (she is!) and so the day was both!

On the menu: crab cakes, Crash Hot Potatoes, coleslaw, and tomato/cucumber salad with a simple vinaigrette. Also on the menu: grasshopper pie for birthday dessert. Also on the menu: a little singing, presents, and party games. (Well...we played Apples to Apples which we play almost every week. But this week we had the new "Trendy" cards that Kristin and Brian had purchased to add to the original cards. Some of us aren't really "trendy," but it was fun! We played to categories like "So 5 Minutes Ago" and "Fired Up.") 

In between, there were some simple activities.

Kristin is teaching a unit on architecture in her homeschool and Bekah is intrigued, so Kristin offered to bring some of the activities on Sundays so that Bekah can participate. Yesterday they learned about cantilevers and practiced with some building blocks. Here they're watching a YouTube video tour of Fallingwater, the famous house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Others are looking through the ads in the Sunday paper, or talking.

A sniffly little girl asked Papa to read her a book.

"Simple" activities? Or are they "spectacular"? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Anna's Cookbooks

I now have several of Great-Grandmother Anna's cookbooks.
I find them intriguing, their faded covers and taped spines and glimpses into another time.

This one is a wartime cookbook.

And isn't this one fun?

We had a chuckle reading some of the suggested daily menus.
(That's a lot of food! And we suspect that any followers of these menu plans spent much of their day in the kitchen!)

But the one I love the most is this one.

It was Anna's own collection of recipes.

I love that they are recipes that she used, and that they are recorded in her handwriting.

Later in the book, there are recipes in my Great-Aunt Minerva's (Anna's daughter's) handwriting.

There are also recipes that were clipped from the Baltimore Sun. 
They are now yellowed with age, but are fascinating glimpses into another era.

When I took these photos, I grouped them with a bouquet of zinnias
as Mom tells me that Great-Grandmother Anna planted zinnias in her yard.

Come autumn, there will be some vintage cooking in my kitchen!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Savoring Summer {Week 11 ~ Peach Crisp}

This week's recipe falls in the "tried and true" category, so when Kati brought home a bag of peaches from a friend, I knew that some of them would end up in this crisp! (This dessert is worth turning the oven on for an hour.) 

Nothing says summer like warm-from-the-oven crunchy peach crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside. 

Okay, maybe other things (garden tomatoes, corn-on-the-cob, homemade ice cream) say summer too, but this sure does say summer at our house!

photo by Bekah

{with a crunchy oatmeal topping}

6 cups peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup nuts, optional (I used pecans.)

* * *

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Stir together peaches, sugar, and cinnamon. Place in greased 2-quart baking dish. 

Mix oats, brown sugar, and flour. Cut in butter until crumbly. (Stir in nuts, if you're using them.)
Place on top of peach mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, until topping is golden.

  • This crisp is great with other fruits too! Try blueberries, cherries, apples...
  • Sometimes it's fun to make this in ramekins for individual servings. After mixing the fruit, sugar, and spices, place in greased ramekins. (Fill your ramekins about 2/3 full, leaving room for the yummy topping. The size of your ramekins determines how many you will need.) Then divide the topping among the ramekins. 
  • Don't forget to add some vanilla ice cream or a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream to the top of each crisp when you serve them!

Join me next Wednesday for the final recipe in my Savoring Summer series!

Looking for a recipe from another week?
Week 1: Marinade for Chicken
Week 2: Black Bean Salad
Week 3: Cappuccino Pops
Week 4: Roasted Sausage and Vegetable Pasta
Week 5: Easy-Freezy Vanilla Ice Cream
Week 6: Farm Fresh Corn Chowder
Week 7: Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Week 8: Jill's Dill Dip
Week 9: Apricot Upside-Down Cake
Week 10: Stuffed Peppers

Or last year?
Fruit on Tuesday Week 11: Cheesecake-Stuffed Peaches

Or two years ago?
Salad on Tuesday Week 11: Asian Chicken Salad

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Morning Chat

As August whirs right along, I thought I'd stop in with a little chat.

See that big smile on my girl's face? She bought a car this past weekend! I don't know who is happier, Kati or me. Her old car (a hand me down from her Dad) was on its last leg (wheel?), and we prayed every time she left the driveway. Whew! Thank the Lord for watching over her...and for these new wheels!

Ron had birthday celebration #2 on Sunday. The meal featured homemade oyster fritters, a special request of the birthday boy. Three of the eleven people enjoyed them. (Have you ever eaten an oyster fritter?) More of us enjoyed the Boston Cream Pie that we had for dessert! 

Singing ♫ Happy Birthday ♫ to Papa (Dad) 

Speaking of birthdays (actually we are "speaking of birthdays" all month long!), Owen's birthday is this week. He had his party with his sister Maddie over a week ago, but tomorrow he is officially 8!

Happy birthday, Owen!!

August isn't just for birthdays; there are three anniversaries too! (As an aside, we have asked Kati and Bekah to consider choosing a different month when their time comes.) 

Brian and Kristin celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary yesterday. It seems like yesterday, and it seems like forever! Kristin shared some sweet pictures and memories on her blog. Happy anniversary, you two!

I had a great idea, so I thought.

I bought all of my August cards (ten of them, I think) at the end of July and put them in my card organizer. That way, I wouldn't forget to buy a card and have to scramble at the last minute. Genius, right? Piece of cake (so to speak). 


I have discovered that even if I have all of the cards selected, purchased, and filed, I still have to remember to give them! And that, my friends, is the flaw in my system. I am "a good forgetter" as Bekah once told me. Sigh...

Although I love to organize and be organized, it is an uphill struggle. I continue to work through my summer list. We have checked off all of the fun stuff except for one thing (which we plan to do this week!), but I'm still chipping away at all of those organizing tasks. 

The floorcloth, however, is nearly done! I'll be doing a post about it next week: detailing the process, sharing what I learned, and, of course, showing the finished project! 

Let's chat! What's left on your summer list? What things have you accomplished?

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