My Favorite Room

I love my house. I have said that in order to preserve my house I would either chain myself to it or take it apart piece by piece and drag it with me wherever I went.

I looooove my house. I love the old kitchen, the pantry made entirely of beadboard, the hand-hewn beams in my bedroom and the fact that due to plumbing being added in the sixties, I have three (3!) hot water heaters. That comes in handy when you have little girls.

But I really love Pumpkin and Sweetpea’s bedroom. They decided that they didn’t want to sleep downstairs because their things were accessible to the other kids in the house. I could understand that.

 

2

(The glass really is wavy. You aren’t drunk this morning. Well, I’m not – I can’t speak for you.)

So CH and I cleaned out one of the bedrooms upstairs for them. I stripped wallpaper off the walls and we moved out old mattresses (how do old houses accumulate mattresses? In every old or abandoned house I’ve ever been in, mattresses abound. Do they reproduce themselves?) and antique bottles and a whole lot of dust. I made colorful curtains and bedspreads out of vintage-looking fabric covered with roses and painted dressers in white, pink and green.

I love the small touches in this room. These are the hinges on all of the doors upstairs. Gorgeous.

3

 

We also left this light fixture.

4

 

We could have repainted and refinished the walls, ceilings and floors but we (ok, I) chose to leave everything as original as possible.  Target’s Shabby Chic line has got nothing on this room.

 

5

1

 

Guess where the girls sleep now? Downstairs in the nursery.

Maybe they’ll all three move back upstairs once the new baby takes over the nursery. Or they’ll decide they want to live in the barn. There’s really no predicting.

8 Comments

Filed under Padding the Nest

Waiting For Snow

Right now, all of my friends and neighbors are feverishly praying for snow. It’s become a rare occurance for our little corner of Eastern Virginia so any indication of snow is cause for a raid on the grocery store and a spate of school closings.

 2

 

Last night was really lookin’ like snow. It was as if a gauze had fallen over everything.

4

I was expecting to wake up today to a perfect white ground, but no such luck.

5

However, reports are still indicating a significant snowfall so all of us who aren’t in Wyoming or North Dakota or Pennsylvania are crossing our fingers and wishing for snow.

6

Because this shot would be so much better with snow coming down…

1

11 Comments

Filed under Farm Things

I Just Love…

11

 

Holidays with no pressure, don’t you?

 

14

 

There’s no preparing for 20 people to eat at your house, no presents to buy for every family member… not even a costume to go out and buy and then feel crappy because you didn’t make it yourself.

 

7

 

There are just candy hearts, chocolate and children scrawling on Valentine’s cards for their friends. How simple can a holiday get?

3 Comments

Filed under Farmgirls (and boys)

Girls’ Night Out

1

 

Girls’ night out is something of a rarity for me unless it involves three girls under the age of eight. It’s really something I should do more often but you know how it goes… you and your friends say that it really is something you should do more often and it gets put off and put off.

 

2

 

Not this time.

 

3

 

Last night Anna, Beth and I went to the new (“New” as in: it hasn’t been here for 20 years) Mexican restaurant in town. They really took a chance being seen with me in public.

 

5

 

I’m currently in my second trimester and my main goal in life is to shove as much food in my face as possible. I feel sure the place lost money on its free baskets of chips and salsa last night.

We stayed and talked and talked and talked until we were pretty sure the staff was just hanging around out of kindness.

 

4

It’s something we really should do more often.

8 Comments

Filed under Farmgirls (and boys)

It’s Way Too Early

6

 

I know, I know. It’s wayyyy too early to start thinking about Valentine’s Day.

 

2

 

But I went to the store the other day and all the cute little candy hearts and pink squirt frosting and sprinkles were out.

 

3

 

So today I made chocolate cupcakes (the best recipe EVER is on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa!) and let the kids go at it.

 

4

 

It was fun seeing what they came up with. And of course the Cotton Husband had to have a “contest” – seems like everyone was 1st in one category or another though.

 

5

 

Some of the kids showed great restraint …

7

 

and good taste.

 

9

 

But some…

 

10

 

did not. Right now she’s alternately pulling out every toy in the playroom and wrestling her sister to the ground. She should crash in an hour or so, right?

13 Comments

Filed under Farm Cookin', Farmgirls (and boys)

An Alternative to Photoshop

I don’t mean to be mean. I’m sure Photoshop is great, blah blah blah. But it doesn’t work for me – I’ve used it… the full version. And guess what? I didn’t think it was all that it’s hyped up to be. And it wasn’t very user-friendly. It’s also not budget-friendly. I don’t know about you but if I have an extra $600-$700 lying around it’s most likely earmarked for a kid’s dentist appointment, new tennis shoes, jeans without holes in the knees, car repairs … or quite possibly it’s my entire budget for Christmas.  Spending that kind of cash on Photoshop is just not going to happen.

If you find yourself in the same boat, I’m going to talk again about the FREE (!!!) program I found – available by download – called Photoscape. It might not work for everyone. If you regularly shoot spreads for Vogue magazine, this might not be your cup of tea. But it’s mine. I love it.

Here are some effects I’ve used on random pics of the kids using Playdoh.

(Note: All photos were resized to a width – or for vertical photos, a length- of 500 for faster upload. If you do this but also want to print out the photo, keep the original size saved!)

1

This is the original. It needs a little sharpening… a little um, boost is maybe the word we’re looking for?? So I upped the saturation a little.

1a

It’s subtle but I think it works.

 

 

2

The original.

2a

I used a film effect on this one called Crossprocess. It gives a photo kind of a vintage-y feel and in the case of this particular effect, it bumps up the color.

 

 

3

The original.

3a

Simple. I changed it to black and white. I also brightened it a bit and added contrast. You get to choose low, medium or high. Or you can do this manually. Just click around in the program for a couple hours – everything is easy to figure out. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you might come up with something really cool!

 

 

4

Original.

4a

I used “Antique Photo” on this one. It’ll make the photo look old AND you can choose whether to keep it in color or change it to B&W or sepia – all in the same process.

 

5

This one needs some color.

5a

All I did was “boost” the saturation. If the color were too red (like it is a LOT for my redheads) then I would go to “Remove Color Cast” and take out some of the red while still leaving vibrant yellows or blues or greens.

 

 

6

Original.

6a

This is another film effect called “Agfa”. I love it. It gives such a soft, worn-in-old-jeans feel to a photo.

 

There are so many more things that Photoscape can do – add some blur, even add grain for that urban, gritty look. Darken, brighten, deepen, decolor (and gues what… that’s what they’re called on Photoscape. User friendly, isn’t it?). Play around with it (you haven’t lost anything, right?) and see what you think. It makes me sad to see people lamenting that they can’t do things with their photos because they don’t have Photoshop. Try Photoscape for yourself and discover all the things you can do!

Then send me the links to your photos so I can see ‘em! :)

2 Comments

Filed under Photography

Biscuits ‘N Gravy

3

I know what you might be thinking.

“Who has time to make biscuits and gravy in the morning?”

But hear me out… think about making this for supper. It’s cold, it’s dark and you want something without a lot of fuss. Biscuits and gravy make the perfect low-fuss, cold-weather meal. Trust me. Also? It’s cheap (ahem… frugal). You probably have all of this in your pantry right now.

 

1

Start with 5 cups of SIFTED flour. It’s important that you sift the flour first or the biscuits will be too heavy.

Then add 1 tsp of salt and 1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder to the flour. Mix well.

 

 

4

Mix in 1/4 cup of very, very cold lard. You can use butter, I guess but lard gives pastry this unmistakable flaky texture that can’t be duplicated.  Use your hands to work the lard into the flour. You want some of it to be coarse like meal but to also have larger chunks (like 1/4 inch in size) floating around in there.

 

 

5

Next… 1 1/4 cup of milk. Most recipes call for buttermilk but I never keep it on hand. I think you can make it with regular milk and maybe… lemon juice? I don’t know – I just use plain ol’ milk. Stir just until it’s almost cohesive. Don’t overmix or the biscuits will be tough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and very gently knead 4-6 times. GENTLY! Then roll out to about a 1/2 inch thickness with a rolling pin. If you don’t have a rolling pin, patting it out will do.

Then here is where the “tricks” begin…

 

6

Using a fork, poke holes all in the dough (going all the way through). Mine are a little far apart – you want them about 1/2 an inch apart.

 

IMG_3219

Using a biscuit cutter, a glass or a mason jar lid cut out the biscuit rounds. But don’t don’t don’t TWIST the cutter. This seals the dough and prevents it from rising. I didn’t always know this and I had some sorry lookin’ biscuits to show for it. Third tip – place the biscuits on the pan so that they juuussstt touch.

Don’t reroll the extra dough – just place it on the pan. The kids will like the shapes and you (for once since becoming a parent) will get to eat the nice, round, perfect biscuits instead of the stuff that turns out imperfect.

These will go into a 500 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes.

Let’s get started on the gravy. Mmmm… gravvvvyyyyy.

 

 7

This is my best friend in the kitchen. I can do without fancy kitchen gadgets (I prefer to be without those, actually) or the latest in stainless steel but I gots to have my bacon grease.

Pour some of this into a skillet… about enough to cover the bottom of the pan – more if you have a big family.

 

8

Get it hot using medium heat. Bacon grease has a high smoking point so don’t be afraid to get it really hot.

 

9

Next, throw in some flour. Use enough to cover all the bacon fat… start slow and keep adding. You can always add more but you can’t take it out, ya know! Stir it all around using a fork, a whisk, a metal spatula or whatever you like. Get all the lumps out of the flour.

Don’t leave it alone…. keep stirring it until it’s nice and brown like this:

10

 

Turn the heat down to low and add milk. You don’t want to scald the poor milk, for heaven’s sake.

 

11

Keep stirring until the milk heats up and you have no more lumps. Only add enough milk to get nice, thick gravy like this. Pour a little at a time until it’s just like you want it.

 

12

In the meantime, your biscuits are golden brown and flaky. LOOK at those flakes, would ya! Feel free to devour one with butter.

 

13

I like to break the biscuits apart and pour the gravy over. Yummmm.

 

To really make this a meal, add some browned sausage to the gravy and serve it all with a side of scrambled eggs.

I just love breakfast for supper, don’t you?

26 Comments

Filed under Farm Things, Farmgirls (and boys)