Road Trip Ruminations

Friday, April 26, 2013 by
Road trips.  An opportunity to expand your horizons.  To be bold and adventurous and see what you can discover.

It all started with this musical being on the Bucket List for Teenaged Daughter and me.  Last chance to see it was in NYC last fall, and we decided on Mamma Mia instead.  So fun!  Then earlier this year, some internet browsing revealed that the Broadway tour of Wicked was coming to Rochester around the time we both have our birthdays.  Rochester…who knew?  Let’s get tickets and figure out the details later.  That’s how it works around here.  Road trip, here we come!
Along came the big weekend, and we had this poignant moment at the border.
Tragic events in Boston during the week made this border crossing a long and sombre one.
Once we were across and Teenaged Daughter had navigated us through a pit stop and into the right direction she quickly got bored and took hold of the camera.  Along with some crazy Selfies, she took this fantastic shot.
Ah, the open road.  Discovery and inspiration await us, and there is a feeling of solidarity as we navigate it together.
First stop, Wicked.  Fantastic.  If you haven’t yet seen it you must make an effort.  If you have, what was your favourite thing about it?  The costumes from the Emerald City were spectacular.  Check out some of the hats and gowns.
The story is a great exploration of finding your own path in life, and a tribute to real friendships.  Best line from a song…Because I knew you I’ve been changed For Good.  True words.
The next day, a walk around the neighbourhood of the theatre and our hotel was like this.
I wonder how my life would be more creative if I lived in a blue house?
And many more opportunities to take pretty pictures…can’t go wrong with an old tree, weathered fence and wildflowers.
A happy discovery…Rochester is home to the Eastman House!  George Eastman was the founder of Kodak and modern photography, and generous patron to the arts and sciences.  We made a visit to his historical home.
Now this is a civilized way to start and end your day.  So exquisite and beautiful.
Can you imagine having a conservatory like this in which to soak in the light…the space…the view…the elephant head?
And check out this library.  Music, writing, books, art, light, fireplace…all my favourite things.  I could live in a room like this.  Couldn’t you?
Ah yes, a good road trip.  We’ve expanded our horizons and deepened our relationship.  Happy Birthday, Teenaged Daughter.  What’s next on the Bucket List?
I leave the rest of you with some decorating inspiration.
Be bold.  Expand your horizons.

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Birthday Cake Musings

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 by
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Hello, lovely readers.  What does the last half of April hold in store for you?  In our household, we are in full-on Birthday Season.  Four birthdays in two weeks.  Wow.  It can be a challenge to make each of us feel celebrated.   And then fit in all the parties and family events that are part of having a birthday.
Several little traditions have managed to be kept.  One, being able to choose a Special Birthday Cereal.  Usually they look like this.

Something normally found in the craft cupboard in this house.
Also the birthday person gets “woken up” with singing and gifts.  It’s a bit of a miracle to have kept that tradition alive this long!

Finally, they are allowed to choose what’s for dinner, and have birthday cake for dessert.  Here’s where I have not only managed to keep a tradition alive, but even step up my game.  Yes, ma’am.  Cake for dessert.  Sometimes on a weeknight.  From scratch.

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When four cakes are happening in two weeks, chocolate needs to be part of the rotation.  My recipe is from this fabulous cookbook.  I asked for it when it was first published since I am a big fan of Trish Magwood.  Accomplished, down-to-earth, beautiful and mother of three.  Also I love cookbooks that have gorgeous photography and have little tidbits and anecdotes as well as great recipes.  At the time I thought this would be a great coffee table book.  I do have cookbooks that are pretty much just for display.  But this one has spent so much time on my kitchen counters being dripped and spilled on that it’s no longer worthy of display. 

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Now I’m no amazing baker.  Believe me I’ve had my share of baking disasters.  But this recipe hasn’t failed me yet, and everyone always loves it.  It’s just a simple, humble, home cook’s recipe.  Perfect for birthdays.  Really, everyone could have this in their repertoire. 

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It is SO exciting for the family to see this going on in the kitchen.  Not an everyday affair, for sure.  A little TLC to help the birthday person feel celebrated.

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In the same recipe are instructions for a mocha icing which is so delicious.  Once again, from scratch.  Yes ma’am.  Anyone could add this to their home-cooking repertoire as well.  It’s important to introduce children to the concept of mocha at a young age to help them grow up to be coffee lovers.

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Add some colourful candies and a colourful candle and you have the makings of a simple yet special celebration.  That should be the beauty of having a birthday.  One day to be specially noticed and celebrated just because.

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Lighting on a Budget

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 by
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According to Kimberley Seldon, who is a brilliant decorator and equally great teacher, the number one thing that makes an interior look dated is the lighting.  Yikes!  Harsh words to those of us on a decorating budget.  Or who have better things to spend their money on like vacations and shoes.  Lighting can be Really Expensive. 
So my biggest lesson when shopping for lighting is this.  The priorities are function and form, probably in that order.  Shop diligently for something that will meet your lighting requirements.  What size is it?  How bright is it?  Is it hard-wired?  Is it adjustable?  And shop for something that is classic and transitional in form.  It will see you through many more years without looking dated.
What NOT to worry about:  the shade and the finish.  Every big box and discount department store sells shades and these can be easily switched out.  Some of my favourite sources are Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire and Homesense.  And the finish…also easily changed.
So let’s learn from some new lighting that came into the master bedroom recently.
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These are the bedside lamps, found at Sears online for less than $80.  Also there was a deal if you bought two.  Score.  So the function was perfect.  A wall sconce which could be plugged into an existing outlet.  No re-wiring required, and I need all the room I can get on my bedside table.  I tidied it up for the photo but in real life it is piled with books, magazines, creams, lotions, beverages, food, books, and did I say magazines?
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Also it has an adjustable arm and three levels of brightness.  Perfect.  The finish however is kind of weird.  A pinkish sort of brushed metal that I don’t really understand. 
For the ceiling fixture I was looking for a simple pendant with a drum shade, a very short stem so it would sit close to the ceiling, and a diffuser across the bottom so we weren’t looking up into a light bulb.
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You’ll never guess where I found it…Wal-Mart!  Actually!  Less than $30!  So again it’s perfect, except for the finish which looks pretty cheap.  (Well, I guess it is.)  And once you’re at this point, your best friend is a can of spray paint.  For this project I went with the advice of the always-genius Nate Berkus.  If you ever watched his show when it was on, you know he was a big promoter of spray paint for updating or co-ordinating your decor.  But who knew you could get it in an oil rubbed bronze?  Well, Nate, of course.  Oil-rubbed bronze is a great finish for a classic, timeless look.
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So this is the product I used.  Since I was impatient waiting for the weather to warm up to paint outside,  I painted down in the basement.  (Well, technically Husband did.)  When the instructions say Well Ventilated Area they are not kidding.  Open up every window in your entire house.
And here is the fabulous, finished, co-ordinated result:
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You can see in this close-up how it has the great sheen and texture of a real oil-rubbed bronze finish.

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I’m in love with the results.  Just the upgrade I was hoping to achieve in our master bedroom.
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So now, Kimberley Seldon, at least it’s not the lighting that makes this room look dated.

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Easter Bits and Pieces

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 by
So Easter has come and gone for another year.  There were lots of fun traditions that we managed to fit in.  The combination of family time, good food and some candy of course made for a memorable holiday.  Easter lilies are such a beautiful symbol of the season.

I also managed to defrost the outdoor urns enough to replace the evergreen and dogwood branches with some pussywillows and my crocuses from inside.  The blooms are spent but the foliage is so delicate and pretty.

On Good Friday my Family came for lunch.  Here you can see part of the tablescape at dessert time.
It’s also tradition for us to colour eggs on the Friday or Saturday before Easter.  The kids all insist on participating every year, which I love, and it’s a lot of fun.

These saturated-colour eggs we do every year.  I make up several glass bowls of different colours, deep enough to submerge at least a couple of eggs at a time.  The colour recipe:  boiling water, a big splash of white vinegar, and a dab of this icing colour paste.
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Covering different parts of the egg with elastic bands, stickers or crayon between colouring it in several different colours makes the cool designs you see above.

This year I tried a new idea from Pinterest.  Brown eggs decorated with a white paint marker.  All the kids were into it and they turned out really pretty!

Magically the Easter Bunny shows up during the night, steals the eggs from the fridge and hides them in the backyard.  Super-fun!  Every year on Easter morning.

Do you think he’ll find it?  He’s pretty tricky, that Easter Bunny!

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