Friday, April 29, 2011

Sweet Baby Nursery

My new grandson, Nicholas, is one week old today, and he's doing just great. He's the cutest little snuggle bunny!

I thought you might like to see some pictures of his nursery. My daughter made the major decisions on the nursery decor, and I helped out with window treatments and some of the finishing touches. It's a bright, sunny room, but the soft kiwi color on the walls makes it feel very serene. The room is a modest 10' x 10', but we packed a lot of cuteness into those 100 square feet.

Sara found a ready made bedding set that she liked, and we built the decor around it. The colors are blue and green with a touch of chocolate brown.

The patchwork baby quilt is embellished with embroidery and applique.

The transportation theme carries over onto the crib sheet. The bedding set includes bumper pads, too, but it's recommended that they not be used with infants, so they're put away for now.

The framed pictures on the wall are embroidered on fabric; the vehicles on the mobile are knitted soft sculptures.

Grandpa Fred refinished this glider rocker that I found at a thrift store ...

... and I made soft, baby blue cotton chenille covers for the cushions. Great Grandma Saundra made the adorable flannel baby quilt, which features appliqued animals with three-dimensional feet and paws.

Chenille cushion cover

I like the simplicity of the window treatments - tab top box-pleated panels with piped banding. I used white cotton sateen for the body of the draperies and blue, green, and white polka dot fabric for the accents.

Green and white gingham buttons hold down the tabs, and 1/8" welt of the same green check edges the banding on the leading edge of the panels.

The relaxed Roman shade is purely decorative, with no hazardous cords on the back side. I simply sewed on the rings at 6" intervals and fastened them together to form the folds. A blackout roller shade behind the fabric shade provides light control.

If you'll remember, I made what seemed like miles of fabric pennants for the baby shower that I hosted for Sara a few weeks ago. Clever girl that I am, I had plans for those pennants! We used them as a border on two of the walls in the nursery. They look so cute!

The transportation theme continues on the changing table pad, as well as the diaper stacker and laundry hamper. The changing table itself matches the crib.

A vintage armoire, painted white to match the other furniture, provides lots of extra storage.

The dresser area is still a work in progress, but will provide lots of room for the odds and ends that accumulate in a baby's room.

The dresser was refurbished with new knobs and given a fresh coat of zero-VOC paint.

The shelf holds picture frames that are awaiting photos. Filling them shouldn't be a problem since I can't resist taking pictures of a certain little cutie-pie!

The flowers that bloomed in the egg cups on our mantel at the baby shower have been planted in the flower pot that held an arrangement on the dining room table. It's fun to display pictures of mom and dad as babies and compare them with the new baby. Hmmm, does he look like mom or dad?

The baby clothesline that was used as a mantel decoration at the shower now adds a whimsical touch to the nursery.

The nursery is so sweet and cute, and it was done on a modest budget. It has a fresh, happy feel, with its party pennants and cheery polka dot fabrics. And, best of all, we now have a happy, healthy baby boy to enjoy it! 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Look What the Easter Bunny Brought Us!

Sweeter than a handful of jelly beans, cuter than a chocolate bunny, it's
baby Nicholas!

Easter Sunday, April 24th

My brand new grandson finally arrived (two weeks overdue!)
on Friday evening, April 22, 2011,
all 9 pounds of him.
Pure perfection. What a blessing from God!

I can't get enough of holding him!
Great Grandma Saundra LOVES the new addition to the family

The whole family is overjoyed that everything turned out so well and Nicholas is a beautiful, healthy baby. Thank you to everyone who prayed for us and sent good wishes our way. Isn't he wonderful?

A new baby is like the beginning of all things -
wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities.
Eda J. LeShan

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daffodils & Daredevil Squirrels

I've been tied up with other things and haven't had a chance to work in my sketchbook for a few days, so I thought I'd share a page I did last March. From the dates on these sketches, it looks like spring came a little earlier last year.

The daffodils are finally blooming in the woods along our driveway. They look so cheery amidst all the tired brown leaves from last fall. There's a squirrel who makes his home in those woods, and I think he has a daredevil streak in him. Every time I drive out that way, he leaps from a tree and makes a mad dash across the driveway, right in front of my van, disappearing down the hill on the other side of the road. Every time! And it makes me shake my head and smile, every time.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mom's Pickled Eggs

Pickled eggs have been a tradition in our family for as long as I can remember. We come from Pennsylvania Dutch country where a big family dinner isn't complete without a big bowl of colorful pickled eggs and beets on the table. This is the recipe my mom has always used, and my grandmother before her. When you're trying to come up with ideas for using up all those hard boiled Easter eggs next week, you might want to give this recipe a try.

9" x 12" sketch

The recipe is so simple - the hardest part is peeling the hard boiled eggs! After marinating for several days (or longer) in a mixture of beet juice, vinegar, sugar, and salt, the eggs are ready to eat. And they're pretty as a picture, with that glowing yellow center and shades of pink and purple surrounding it.

Here's a text copy of the recipe, in case you'd like to print it out:

Pickled Eggs and Beets

1 pound can of beets
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
8 hard boiled eggs

Empty the beets and their liquid into a small saucepan. Add vinegar, sugar, and salt. Heat just until the sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature. Place the eggs in a container. Pour in the beet mixture, and add enough water so the mixture covers the eggs. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2-3 days.

Recipe Notes:
- It's best to use a tall jar or plastic container to marinate the eggs. It takes less liquid to cover them than when using a wide bowl.
- The longer the eggs marinate in the liquid, the darker the color and stronger the flavor will be. I like them after they've marinated at least 4 or 5 days.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pole Swags & Celtic Applique Pillow

If you were adding a room onto your house, what would your wish list include? Plenty of space? Lots of windows to let in the sunshine? Perhaps hardwood floors, high ceilings, and built-in storage? My client got all that and more when she and her husband added a wonderful music room to their house. They also found a home for their grand piano and full-size pipe organ!

Music room,  before window treatments

Their music room is a great space for entertaining, but with the soaring cathedral ceiling and all those hard surfaces bouncing the sound around, it needed something to soften it a bit and warm it up without blocking the view or the sunshine - and without affecting the acoustics.

Pleated pole swags in a traditional floral fabric now frame the windows and add some color and pattern to the off-white walls. Cellular shades offer privacy and light control. Since there isn't an overabundance of fabric draping the windows, the acoustics are unchanged.

Over 25 feet of window seat cushions were constructed of a sturdy embroidered cotton fabric that looks great, but won’t fade in the sun. The client’s granddaughters love to curl up with a book on the window seat, propped up against the pillows, whiling away the hours on a rainy day.

I made several pillows out of the floral fabric, and they look great on the red leather sofas and striped wing chairs. One little lumbar pillow was embellished with a simple Celtic applique cable design in red and green silk.

The floral fabric was carried over into the adjoining dining room in another swag treatment, but instead of the casual pole swags, I used a more formal board-mounted swag and jabot treatment. The colors in the fabric coordinate perfectly with the beautiful antique stained glass lampshade on the buffet table below the window.

There is a different feeling in both of these rooms now that they have pretty window treatments hanging at the windows - they feel complete. But I think my client's favorite thing is the little applique pillow!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pasta with Asparagus - Delicious!

When my parents lived on the farm, my mother used to have an asparagus bed that produced a huge crop every spring, which she generously shared with me, so I have quite a collection of asparagus recipes. This is the one that I pull out most often when the those pretty green spears find their way into my grocery cart this time of year.

The recipe is flexible - you can add or subtract ingredients to suit your taste or what you have on hand. The original recipe called for lots of butter, but I've cut back on it, and I think it tastes just fine this way. You could even use all olive oil, to make it heart healthier. Check out the Recipe Notes for some other options and variations.

 Pasta with Asparagus

1 pound fusilli or linguine pasta
3 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
4 oz. ham, cut in small pieces
1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus
1 small onion, sliced
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ c. roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 T. chopped fresh parsley or 1 ½ tsp. dried parsley
½ c. grated Parmesan cheese + extra for serving

1. Break off tough ends of asparagus, and slice the stalks diagonally into 1” pieces. Prepare the ham, onion, garlic, red peppers.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Sauté the ham pieces in a large skillet just until they start to brown a bit, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.
4. Melt the butter in the skillet, along with the olive oil. Add the asparagus and onions. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until crisp tender.
5. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
6. Add chopped red peppers, salt, pepper and parsley. Cover and cook for 3 minutes or until asparagus is tender.
7. Add pasta and toss all together. Add the ½ cup Parmesan cheese and lightly toss. Serve with extra Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Recipe Notes:
- The recipe originally called for linguine pasta. Since I have to eat a gluten free diet and I haven't found GF linguine yet, I use gluten free Tinkyada Brown Rice Fusilli, which is pictured above.
- Fresh red sweet peppers may be used instead of roasted red peppers from a jar. Chop the peppers and saute them with the asparagus and onions.
- Fresh spinach is a nice addition. Chop it lightly and add it in step 6.
- I keep the ham to a minimum in this dish - it's mainly just an accent - but you could double the amount for a meatier dish.
- If you love garlic, you'll definitely want to add an extra clove to intensify the flavor.
- A sprinkle of red pepper flakes will really add some zing!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Creative Therapy - Trying Something Different is a Good Thing

Sometimes it's fun to try something different. Step outside your comfort zone and get a little funky and crazy! It might mean making an exotic dish for dinner, or buying a wild pair of shoes to jazz up a dull wardrobe, or just tuning into a radio station that's different from what you usually listen to. It adds some spice to our lives, and some FUN!

Can you tell I was feeling kinda wild and crazy the day I did this sketch of my sun room? I thought I'd try something different - crooked lines, weird perspective, almost a coloring book look. I used a fuschia Sharpie to draw the lines, then added some watercolors. Isn't it cheerful?

When I came across that one in my sketchbook today, it put me in the mood to do another one of these fun, casual sketches. Here's a corner of my living room ...

No, I don't really have pink woodwork in my house. I was just having fun with color. It's been another one of those gray days here, with fog, snow, rain, and just a hint of sunshine once in awhile. I felt like painting something bright and happy to give myself a little lift. Life doesn't have to be so serious all the time, does it? Polka dot walls might actually be kind of fun!

Here's a corner of my workroom ...

I have so much drapery work waiting for me - I really should have been sewing when I was down there sketching, but these little paintings don't take long at all to complete, and taking an hour for a little creative therapy pays great dividends. I'm ready to tackle those pillows and valances with renewed energy and a much better attitude.

What kind of Creative Therapy do you make time for?
Leave a comment - it just might inspire someone
to try something new!
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