Monday, 14 April 2014

First Bath Of 2014

Not me!  I take baths all year round.  Spring is here and the chickens get to take a dirt bath.

I let them out of the run while I was working on yard clean up and they made a beeline for the rose garden. They set right to, digging holes and using their wings to shoot the dirt up under all their feathers.  It's the chicken equivalent of a bubble bath.  Should I have brought them each a glass of wine and a good book?

Of course the bath has made them sleepy and they settle in for a nap in the sun. ~

Utah has found his napping spot on a pile of leaves right beside the wood pile.  Any mice that have overwintered there better take care because this old guy never misses his prey! ~

I do expect them to help me clean up all the fallen limbs this hard winter has left, so I roust them out and set them to work. ~

I guess I forgot these girls were in retirement.  Only one lays eggs.  At least they take care of any bug or grub problem in the grass.  Yum.

Kay did show an enormous amount of interest in my window cleaning.  I wonder if I could set her to doing housework.  She is named after an auntie that would have put Martha Stewart to shame with her housekeeping.  Hmmm.

It's been absolute heaven to be out in the yard and feel the sun on my face once again!  A bit of rummaging in the leaves and I find the first garden surprise.  Chives! ~

And, a little more rummaging and I find the sweetest and earliest of spring blooms.  This little clump of snowdrops never lets me down. ~

Yesterday, everything that resides here at Kellswater lived up to Margaret Atwood's admonition.

             "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."
We did and you'll be happy to know we took our baths! 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Reworking Silver Pieces

If you come across some silverplate that is absolutely ruined, it still can work great in craft projects. Pieces that have intricate detailing or style can find a whole new life, even if the original finish is beyond saving.

This tray was a throw out except that I liked the fretwork and I spray painted it gold for a Christmas display a few years ago. It was time for a repaint. ~

It took all of 5 mins. to repaint it in Wild Orchid craft paint.  One coat covered nicely. ~

I added a couple of raffia Easter bunnies, some plastic grass, a candle and piled it high with plastic eggs. ~

What, you aren't seeing eggs piled up in there?  That's because The Barbarians swooped in on either side of me and grabbed them as fast as they could.  They ran  ... I chased.  They swooped again, ran again and I chased again.  Twenty rounds of this madness and I gave up.  I'm sure I'll find the eggs the next time I move furniture. sigh  I don't think they fully understand what blogging is all about.  Use your imagination or show up here next time I attempt something like this and stand guard for me!

I snapped a pic of this idea that I saw at an auction.  This serving dish must have lost it's liner and someone has cleverly turned it into pin cushion for hat pins.  I may keep my eye out for a baby christening cup to turn into a pin cushion.

Next time you come across a piece of silver that you think has outlived it's usefulness, take a good look at the lines and see if you can't give it just a little more life.

Just so you don't think too badly of my barbarian kitties, Clara Jane helped me with my photo shoot.

She's added her favourite pipe cleaner toy to the display. ~

How could I possibly stay mad at that sweetheart for long!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Fifth Season

When you live in the country, you get an extra season between winter and spring.  It's called Mud Season!

Chic fashion for this time of year is a stout pair of these. ~

From the side door of my house to the chicken coop it is so deep in mud right now that I'm afraid I'm in one of those early western TV shows, where it seemed everyone fell into quicksand at some point in time.  I wonder where all that quicksand went.  It seemed such a regular thing in the old westerns and I've never seen any in real life.

Add a few downed tree limbs and this is a pretty attractive view. ~

But, not even the sight of all that mess could stop my excitement when a neighbour called and told me to check out the river.

The ice was breaking up! ~

Whole trees and debris of every kind swirled in the raging water.  Several docks floated down from upriver. I've seen some very odd things go floating by on the ice flows at this time of year;  toilets, lawn chairs and even a dead sheep once.

Just before it hits my flights of metal stairs, the ice turns away and I'm left unscathed for another year.  Yay! 

Nature is awesome! ~

Even mud season won't dampen my spirits today, because I know spring is following close on it's heels!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Does Your Stuff Own You?

I'm decluttering and decluttering and decluttering.  I've been doing it for two months and I'm still nowhere near done.  Stuff was taking over my life!

That sad part is, as a professional stager, it was my job to go into someones home and pry their junk away from them so the house looked nice enough to sell for the best possible price.

All my bookcases aren't enough to avoid these stacks of books on the floor. ~

I know all the psychology of helping someone let go of things that are weighing them down and making their life more difficult.  Yet, in my own situation, I don't stop and think about how difficult it is to run a vac over a floor that has books stacked on it.

What I like to call a craft room has become unusable for anything other than hiding stuff. 

Fabric spills out of shelving units ~

and can't be made into anything because the sewing table is piled high with stuff. ~

When the table is full, just pile it on the floor. ~

It wears me out.  It makes everything more difficult, if not impossible, in all this mess.  

I tackled my bedroom first and it felt so light and airy with all the clutter removed that I was inspired to make this craft room usable.  It's not finished, but two days of hard work have made an amazing difference and there is light at the end of the tunnel.  

All the time I worked, I thought of the difficulty in balancing sentiment and practicality.  You can't keep every single thing that meant something to you in the past.  Some of the kids art work has to go, right along with the birthday cards, fabric scraps and almost empty spools of thread.  Some things need to be passed on to someone who can use them, too.  My sister called and told me she was going shopping. When I asked her where, she said, "Your house.  I need a lamp and an end table and you have all kinds of them stored over there."  True enough.  I could give her a choice of four lamps and as many end tables.  It was a relief to see it gone!

I also thought of a young fellow that worked for me at my recording studio in the 80's.  He seemed to have no attachment to material possessions.  He lived in a single, rented room in someones house, didn't own a car and kept everything he absolutely needed to function, in the army surplus backpack he carried everywhere with him.

I never saw the slightest hint of jealousy or competitive behaviour in him and he was helpful to everyone he worked with.  He cared deeply about the music he worked on and was the ideal assistant engineer.  Money was never an issue with him.  He didn't really need much.  Time wasn't a problem either.  No matter how late the session ran, he kept right on working and was happy to catch a nap on the couch in the lounge before the next session started.  After all, he had all his stuff in that knapsack and he could be right at home no matter where he was.  

He became a recording engineer and was so well respected that a world famous engineer invited him to work as second engineer on a very prestigious album being recorded in England.  It was a simple thing for him to pick up that knapsack and cross the Atlantic.  I would see him when he came home to visit his mom and he never changed a bit.  I think it was still the same grey wool coat he wore and I'm sure it was the same knapsack that came back with him every time.  

In a few years he rose to the top of his field and moved on to producing albums that were critically acclaimed and earned him an enormous annual salary.  He bought a flat in an expensive London neighbourhood and had it professionally done up.  He deserved the success that he had earned without ever hurting anyone to get there.

One day he had a call from a musician in Africa, asking if he would come and work on an album with him. Today, this musician is considered a pioneer of modern world music.  But, as popular as he was in Africa, the budget for making an album was very small.  My friend admired the musician and was a fan of his sound but he couldn't walk away from offers of millions to earn a few thousand. He turned the project down.

That night, he came home to his flat and stood there looking at all his stuff.  He picked up the phone and started calling everyone he knew.  Did they want anything?  A stereo system, couch, artwork, dishes?  He gave all of it away.  Every single thing!  He called a real estate agent and told her to put the flat up for sale immediately at a price that would ensure it sold quickly.

His last call was to the African musician to tell him he would be on the next plane and ready to work as soon as he arrived.  

"No, don't worry about getting me a place to stay.  If there is a couch and a shower available at the studio, I'll have everything else I need with me.", he said.

His stuff wasn't owning him anymore.  

It all fit in here and was ready to go wherever his heart led. ~

Isn't there a little part of us all that wishes we were him?

I think I can let go of quite a few more things and maybe my heart will sigh a big sigh of relief!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Spring In A Basket

With spring officially here, I am already thinking of outdoor decor. How about painting up a basket to hold all those flowers that will be popping up in the gardens! ~

This little wicker basket on a bamboo stand started out as a $4 thrift store find. ~

The basket got a light coat of blue, latex paint. The stand had a shiny surface and rather than sand it, I mixed the latex paint with Plaster of Paris and water for a DIY chalk paint. ~

To make your own chalk paint, mix 2 parts latex paint to one part Plaster of Paris.  Stir until thoroughly mixed and there are no lumps.  Thin with warm water to the normal paint consistency.  That's all there is to it.

Now to give it all an aged look.  I mixed dark brown craft paint half and half with water to create a wash that would drip into the recesses. ~

As I painted on the wash, I wiped back with a cloth.  Don't worry if it looks too dark.  You can always lighten it up by dry brushing some of the original (in this case blue) paint on top of the brown after it has dried.

Just the right amount of age for my taste! ~

The sign is a blank piece from Michael's and I added a chalkboard paint centre.  It's the first time I've used chalkboard paint and it went on easily.  After two coats of paint dried, I seasoned it by rubbing a piece of chalk across it and it's ready for me to add whatever script strikes my fancy.

I'm not quite sure how this basket will be used on the front porch.  Clara Jane thinks she has found the perfect use for it! ~

Now, all I need is for the mounds of snow to melt away and the real daffodils to bloom for my basket of spring!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Grow Your Own Sprouts

My girlfriends and I went out for a shopping day.  They had a heyday in the clothing stores and my big thrill was the farmer's market.  What can I say?  I'm odd.

I'm itching to be outside gardening and a packet of mumm's sprouts looked like the perfect answer for a little indoor garden pretending. ~

I tried to grow sprouts years ago and it involved a tray with layers of paper towel, daily misting and a general failure with mouldy seeds.  In the day and age of Internet and clever bloggers, that has all changed. Someone figured out an easier, foolproof way to have a regular supply of sprouts at you fingertips.

For $4 the mumm's Crunchy Bean Mix guaranteed that my seeds were organic and free of pesticides. You can buy them at health foods stores and some garden centres.

All you need is a canning jar, some cheesecloth, pesticide free seeds and water. ~

Put 2 tbsp. of the seeds in the jar.  Cut a piece of cheesecloth to cover the top of the jar and fasten it in place with a sealer ring. ~

The cheesecloth is going to allow you to add water and drain it out without any of the seeds escaping the jar.

I followed the instructions on the seed packet.  Cover the seeds in water, swish them around in the jar and drain the water out.  Repeat the process.  Make sure all the seeds have fallen back to the bottom of the jar and add water to cover the seeds with an extra half inch or so.

Let it sit for 4 to 6 hours. ~

Drain the water off and the prep part is all done.

Lie the jar on it's side away from direct sunlight.  I put mine in a kitchen cupboard. ~

Twice a day, add water, swish the seeds around and drain the water back out.  By day two, I could see tiny sprouts growing. ~

This is exciting!  Not only am I getting the jump on the growing season, but these sprouts are chock full of nutrition.  You seriously have to click on this link to Get Healthy Life.  I guarantee you will be amazed at the health benefits of incorporating sprouts into your diet!  A quart sealer of sprouted seeds costs about a quarter.

By day five, the sprouts were a nice size for adding to sandwiches, stir fries, veggie soup, fried rice, etc.

Try to get a close up of the sprouts and get photo bombed by the ever helpful Clara Jane. ~

How many of you are making a mental note to never eat sprouts at my house because the cat stuck her nose on the cheesecloth?  I know you are!

This is a really fun project to do with kids.  They see them grow and that always helps to get them to try something new.

By day five I have a bowl full. I can keep them in the fridge, in a covered container, for about a week. ~

They won't last a week in this house.  The chickens went wild over them!

Friday, 14 March 2014

My Own Bit Of Ireland

I may have spoken a tad too soon about springs arrival.  Another foot of snow has fallen and the wind wailed around the house.  It was the perfect time for my furnace to conk out!  While I waited for the repairman to come, there was no better time to create a bit of the Emerald Isle and will myself far away from a Canadian winter.

I had in mind a bit of Irish countryside and the table in front of the old, chippy door has a bit of greenery on it already.  The herbs are in a sorry state by this time of year but I'm not giving up on them yet!

This is the rosemary I was growing to shape into a Christmas tree.  I think it's coming along quite well, don't you?  Why did I even attempt that when I was a dismal failure with a bonsai? ~

The basil will stay until there isn't a single leaf left to pick. ~

Let's pretend they are trees and build from there.  Green sequined fabric for grass, some coins for good luck and green candles that I can't light unless I stand guard over them, or I'll have barbarian cats on fire! ~

I've a new shamrock.  They ate the 20+ year old one and then knocked it over repeatedly to make sure it was dead.  I am determined never to become attached to a plant again.  Or, harbour deranged cats!

I told my sister I was looking for a cheap fountain and she found me this sweetie for $2 at a thrift shop. ~

The crystal ball spins on the water and turns colour.  The little mill wheel fits in perfectly with my family story.  We came to Canada by rather odd means.  My great, great grandmother, Susan O'Neill, was the niece of the lord of the castle.  She was protestant.  Somehow or other, she wound up marrying a Catholic priest.  Say what!  Her family bought him a flour mill.  Obviously a change of career was in order for him. They had my great grandmother while still in Ireland.  With famine still ravaging their homeland, they decided to sell the mill and move to Canada where they bought a farm and he became a circuit minister.  I have a weird family.  It's a miracle I turned out so normal!

I thought the barbarians would be a problem around the fountain but they seemed to be afraid of the sound of the pump and stayed away from it for a whole week.

Then, Clara Jane remembered that she is obsessed with water.  It's impossible for me to brush my teeth without spitting toothpaste onto the cat that is batting at the water.  She's fallen into the tub with me at least four times while I've been taking a soothing bath.

So, Cara Jane the Irish barbarian, decided to check this thing out. ~

Batting at that crystal ball and sending water flying everywhere is tons of fun!

Thank heavens she can't reach the Celtic cross hung at the top of the door.  At least I don't think she can. ~

At night, I can imagine myself far away, nursing a glass of Bushmill's and listening to water flow through that mill from so long ago. ~

And, if she's sleepy enough Clara Jane will leave the magic orb alone. ~

If all of that leaves anyone in doubt of my heritage, the little shelf in the library has the family banner that declares this the 'Land Of The O'Neills'.  The spelter urns, Beleek basket weaver and china angel are all from Ireland and I think my ancestors will be looking down with a smile.

Happy St. Patrick's Day and may you have more luck than the Irish have ever been known to have!