Monday 30 April 2012

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

My brother and his wife, my sister and her husband and I have started working on the rental property.  The initial work was all about taking truck loads of garbage to the dump. Then came the cleaning and repairing.  

That let us see what was salvageable and what was beyond hope.  Luckily, we all agreed on everything.  Like that would be possible!  We're siblings!  So, we argued and won or argued and lost and settled on what was most likely to sell the property.  We have already lost $8,000 on this property in the last four months and will have to use credit to make any changes or upgrades.

The evicted tenant stripped everything out of the building that she hadn't already broken, so we have a large square footage of flooring to buy and bathroom fixtures to replace. That will chew up most of our money.  We also want to address some not too attractive things that you find in very old buildings, which have been worked on by everybody who thought they could swing a hammer.  It's going to be DIY all the way and I thought you might like to see what we are doing.  I warn you there aren't any pretty after shots yet!

As my sister and I were painting the staircase, I mentioned that, if it were my home, I would close the door that led from the kitchen to the staircase and reopen the original door that led into the living room.  It's wonky where it has been cut for carpeting and someone had the brainwave to install a floor vent in it.  It also is a fourth door in the kitchen, making furniture placement difficult.

See what I mean about wonky? ~

It opened into a dark, tiny vestibule. ~

Behind the open door is a furnace pipe, the old door and 3 makeshift shelves. When this door is closed, you see exposed electrical boxes and there was an acoustic tile ceiling.  The ceiling is already down in this shot. ~

The staircase was very dark in the lower section. ~

It opened into a well lit upper hallway and was a little less gloomy at the top. ~

My sister slipped away and must have had a talk with my brother.  The next thing I heard was a skill sawing chewing through the drywall on the living room side.  That's a window, not a door, you are seeing to the left of the new staircase opening. ~

Here's the lighter, brighter, curving staircase! ~   

Now to clean up the electrical, remove the furnace pipe and install a new ceiling!  

Does anyone else have a man around them that will argue forever that a doorknob doesn't need to be changed but doesn't bat an eye over sawing through a wall?  My brother is weird!  Good weird, but weird!


Thursday 26 April 2012

The White Tulips Have Bloomed

Last fall I planted a row of white tulips.  Then, I was worried that they were not in a sunny enough spot.  The last two days have been unseasonably cold, with high winds and snow flurries.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this! ~

These ladies are very demure when the sun is hidden behind clouds.

When the sun deigns to shine for an hour or two, they are downright blowzy.  ~

Sunshine has the same effect on them as too may margaritas around a pool, have on me.  They get a little bit of a floozy, floppy look to them.  

I don't remember that happening when I was younger!

If the weather improves, I'll go out and tidy up the bed and that may make them behave themselves a little better.  These girls are in the front yard and I don't want the neighbours to see them this way!

Monday 23 April 2012

The Story Behind Blue Willow China

Several of my readers have commented on the Blue Willow dish I served my perfect poached egg on.  Willow pattern may very well be the most recognizable and beloved pattern in vintage china.  You can scarce find a person who doesn't remember that design on their grandma's good dishes or their mom's teapot.

I have ten 6" plates that I use as bread and butters or dessert plates, with my white china.  I always use one for my morning egg.  Why do I go to that much trouble? Because I'm worth it! ~

By the late 1700's, the popularity of tea sets imported from China spurred British potters to copy their style of decoration.  The first willow design may be attributed to Thomas Turner of Caughley Porcelain in 1780.  William Spode and Thomas Minton both copied his pattern in 1790.  The most popular colour was blue, followed by pink, green and brown.  It is always on a white background and the pattern is applied as a transfer.

The romantic fable associated with the pattern, and probably invented by Spode, has it's origins in England and has no links to China.

The most popular version is a tale of star crossed lovers; a wealthy mandarin's daughter and her father's lowly accounting assistant.  When the father discovers their love, he fires the assistant and builds a fence around his property to keep him away.  You'll always see a fence around the teahouse.  The boat in the pattern carries a rich duke, who arrives with a chest of jewels and plans to marry the girl.  The lover sneaks in and steals the jewels and the girl.  You see the couple running across the bridge to escape to an island, but the father is close behind with whip in hand.  The couple are killed.  The first versions didn't include the two birds.  Later versions had the gods taking pity on the lovers and allowing their souls to take the shape of doves and fly off together.  Awwww, how sweet!    

Without a doubt, Jane Austen and her heroines dined from this very pattern! ~

Anne Shirley will have had a piece or two in her House of Dreams and Carolyn Ingalls may even have had a teaset by the time she reached Plum Creek.  

I found the most unusual use of the pattern on a blog called Pigtown Design. Imagine having a Blue Willow ballgown! ~

You might want to be on the thin side to wear this so you don't look like one of those 70's wallpaper murals entering the room! 

Sunday 22 April 2012

Stewards Of The Earth

I feel that I'm carrying coals to Newcastle when I talk about treading lightly on the land to my blogging friends.  You save the land fill sites from light fixtures, dressers, plastic planters and skids.  You make your own natural laundry detergent and grow your own carrots.  You can your own food and compost, knit and sew.  You have made excessive consumption totally uncool and your Pinterest boards have made reuse chic!

So, pat yourselves on the back today and know you will stay committed to rescuing chairs from the roadside and china from the thrift stores.  Feel good about raising children that can plant a radish, feed a chicken and even make a meal on a stove, instead of thinking all food comes from driving a fossil fuelled vehicle up to a tiny window.  

There is a native American philosophy that says to look at how your actions today will affect seven generations from now.  You are going a long way toward changing attitudes.  I thank you, the earth thanks you and your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchild thanks you!

I made a happy little reminder of how we all want the earth to be by adding this vintage, child's toy lead cow and calf to my moss terrarium.  ~

I plucked some tiny branches from a tree in my yard to give her a shady place to watch over her baby. ~ 

Have a day filled with awe for this wonderful planet we call home!

Friday 20 April 2012

The Perfect Poached Egg!

I love eggs!  Seriously, I could live on them.

My favourite breakfast is poached egg, on whole wheat toast with unsweetened grapefruit juice.  I got started on this when I was a teenager and my mom was going to Weight Watcher's.  Back in the day that was one of their breakfast options.  This is way, way, way before they had the points programme!

A poached egg can be a thing of beauty or a runny, stringy mess.  So, I've studied every technique out there to get a perfect poach every time.

I start with a free range or free run egg.  There's more body to the white and the yolk is a lovely, orangey yellow colour.

Bring a couple of inches of water to a boil in a stainless steel pot.  Add about 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar to the water.

Take the pot off the burner to let the water drop down just below the boiling point and swirl the water with a spoon.  The combination of vinegar and whirlpool action in the water will stop the white from separating into stringy stuff.  Carefully crack the egg into the water and return to the burner.  Turn the heat down to low and pop down the toaster.

By the time the toast is done, your egg is ready. ~

I use a slotted spoon to lift the egg out of the water and let it drain for a couple of seconds.  The white is cooked through but not rubbery.  Runny egg whites are gross!  Bleccchhh!  Place the egg on a lightly buttered piece of toast. 

Next to eggs, I love pepper!  I've added a good grind of mixed peppercorns to mine.

Look at the colour in this free range yoke! ~

I didn't have time for any staged shots, so you see crumbs and all here.  I just had time to gobble this down before I went off to work on my rental property!

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Look What's Blooming!

My red tulips bloom first and are on the wane. ~

I'm anxiously waiting for the white tulips I planted last fall to open and fretting over whether they are in a sunny enough spot.

The new kind of Forget Me Nots, that I put in last year are starting to bloom ~

The first two bunches have opened and the leaves have dark green veins on a dusty white background.

But, the show stopper this week is this! ~

Trillium grandiflorem (White Trillium)

I live in Ontario and the Trillium is our emblem and official flower.  It's a small, woodland plant from the lily family.  The flower is made of three leaf like bracts, for the petals, that are pure white.  As the blooms age they turn to pink.

The seeds are spread by ants who swallow them and ummmm redeposit them elsewhere. They are very delicate and difficult to transplant.  I was lucky to have two of them take in my front yard.

It is common belief that it is illegal to pick Trilliums in Ontario, but that is only true in conservation areas and provincial parks.  Still, you don't ever want to pick them as it seriously injures the plant.  Without the bracts, the plant can't produce food for next year and may take many years to recover.

Only fairies should pluck the blooms and only when they are in dire need of new haberdashery! ~ 

Aren't these the dearest little flowers?  I'm sure the first ones were planted by dryads!

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Getting What You Need, When You Need It!

I have been working away at cleaning up my rental property since last Thursday.  My sister and brother are partners in this property and both had heavy commitments over the weekend, so I soldiered on myself on the days they couldn't be here.

I keep searching for the positive in this situation.  I focused on how surprised and pleased my partners would be that so much was accomplished while they were away.  I read all your kind comments of sympathy and support.  I tried my best to not let bitterness settle on my heart over all the tenant had done.  I wanted to forgive her and move on!

On Sunday, friends spontaneously showed up, armed with cleaning supplies.  Wendy cleaned all the windows and that took some doing!  Dan fixed broken kitchen cabinetry and killed the biggest spider this side of the equator!  As much as the actual work was appreciated, it was the kindness that I needed at that moment.

I joined them at their home, that evening, to watch a TV show.  I don't have TV and there was something I particularly wanted to see.

What could bring one daughter from her farm and the other daughter from Brooklyn, to Toronto for the weekend?

Emerald, front row seat tickets, sent straight from Harpo, for the Oprah live Lifeclass Tour! ~

Farm girl, on the left, had been chosen to ask a question. She never got the chance to ask her question. I never did see my girls on the show.

Still, I think it was meant to be and I was meant to watch that show.  The subject was "The Power Of Forgiveness".  What would you say it is, when a woman with no TV, exhausted mentally and physically, goes to a friend's house to (maybe) see her daughters on TV and has four of the top rated speakers tell her how to do the very thing she has been praying to be able to do?   I call that divine intervention! 

If you are really, really trying, I believe you do get what you need, when you need it!

Saturday 14 April 2012

It Takes Some Courage!

Sorry to have been MIA this week!  I couldn't decide if I should pretend I was vacationing on a tropical island, without Internet, or tell you what I have actually been doing.

I mentioned before that I was in the process of evicting a tenant.  I wanted to let the subject drop and promised myself I wouldn't tell you how many thousands I was going in the hole, how much damage was done to the property or how badly eviction day went.  I kept searching for the positive element in all of this and wasn't finding any.

Let me clarify that I am not a landlord by choice. The property belonged to my mom. When she passed away, the recession was in full force here, there was a very public and volatile native land claim going on in the next town and the building was in serious need of repair.  Needless to say, we could not find a buyer at any price.  There were no funds to pay taxes, utilities or maintenance.  My brother, sister and I decided to buy the property from the estate, do the repairs and rent it out until the market stabilized.

That's not the courage part.  That's the dumb idea part! ~

We trudged through 3+ months of legalities to get out of the mess with the tenant.  She moved her boyfriend and another family of four in with her.  She got a puppy. We were under a no harassment restriction while the process was crawling along.

The neighbours endured her friends tossing beer bottles in their yards.  They endured her kids running all over their yards and breaking down fences.  They tried to ignore the obvious signs of drug dealing going on.  Still wondering where the courage comes in?  I can tell you it wasn't found in the sheriff who was too scared to enforce the order and left us to get her out.  Wasn't he the guy wearing the bullet proof vest!  What did he expect me to do?  Threaten her with a home decor craft?  Point my glue gun at her?

The courage comes in over that puppy!  One neighbour went to her to complain about it being shut up in a non-insulated shed, in the winter, that was filled with broken glass and garbage.  He had the door slammed in his face.  He couldn't stand the cries of the little thing all night and would sneak in after dark to feed it.  Maybe that's not a lot of courage, but it's at least trying.

Then, the daughter of the tenant told another neighbour that her mom had run over the dog in the driveway and it was dead.  A week and a half later, I see the puppy limping up to the tenant's door and crying to get in.  It's the day before eviction day.  What on earth am I going to do?  My sister tries to coax the puppy to her but it will not come away from that door.

Then we see an SPCA van slowly driving by.  My sister hails it down and asks if they are looking for an injured dog.  They are.  Someone has called it in.  That someone had to give her name or they would not come, though she had told them she was afraid of retaliation.  She couldn't bear to watch the suffering and agreed to file the complaint.  She is a young mom of two kids and had to wait feet away from my rental to pick up her kids from the bus every day.  That took courage!

The SPCA guy banged on the door until they finally answered and managed to talk the babysitter into surrendering the dog.  He knew he would have to come back and formally charge the owner with animal abuse.  He was nervous to come back, but he did it.  Handing over that citation took courage!

The puppy had a compound fracture, left untreated for over a week.  The vet said it was in extreme pain and the leg would have to be amputated.  The SPCA is pursuing court action on the animal cruelty charge.  I can't urge you enough to support your local SPCA.  They may be the only hope one little puppy has!

They are certain the puppy will find a home as soon as it is well again.  I call that young mom our village Freedom Fighter now!  She's tiny and she's young, but she did what no one else did and she deserves the title!

Just as I was struggling to maintain faith in people, she came along and restored it!


Monday 9 April 2012

Inside The Famous Bitter End Nightclub

Since you were all so kind in your words of encouragement to my daughter, as she tackled her live show at The Bitter End, I thought you might like to take a peak inside the club.

This is the oldest rock club in NYC and everyone who is anyone has played there on their way up!

These posters are all originals!  Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Band, Bill Withers! ~

Carly Simon, Arlo Guthrie, Dion, Harry Chapin, Cat Stevens! ~

How about Lady Gaga when her hair was still brown?  That's her in the framed pic. She didn't wear many clothes then either! ~

Katie said it was a first to see her name in ink instead of chalk! It may not be lights, but it's an upward move. ~

The live feed made her nervous, but she settled in after the first song and decided to enjoy the moment. ~

This is the first time I have watched a live feed. Hey, high speed only became available to me a year ago and I pay through the nose for limited data use!  Here I sat, in Canada, and it was just like I was in the room with her.  Her sister in laws and myself were messaging her husband, who was at the club, throughout the show via FB.  Sometimes, we forget how amazing these new technologies are!

Thanks to all my blogging buddies who said a little prayer and wished my girl well!  It must have worked, as they have asked her back and a world class record producer has agreed to do some demo work with her.

Did you guys know you had such clout in the entertainment biz?

Move over Simon Cowell; the blogging ladies are picking the stars now!

Saturday 7 April 2012

I Can Take A Hint!

On Good Friday, my daughter, her husband and their six children came home for their Easter visit.  It was a lovely, sunny day and the kids played in the yard while the adults soaked up the sun and chatted among ourselves or over the fence with the neighbours.

The kids have a toy box in my spare bedroom and were in there getting some favourites to take outside.  I had forgotten that I had put a pile of school photos on the dresser in there. Usually, the current school pics hang on a little 'birds on a wire' line in my library.  I had taken them down at Christmas and never put them back up.

I'm thinking somebody wasn't too happy with this oversight.  After everyone had gone home, I found this. ~

Grandma will have our pictures in the library if we have to put them there ourselves!  It's not the most chic arrangement but I get the hint.

Of course, I did not see my youngest daughter and granddaughter as they are still living their Brooklyn adventure.  Through the miracle of the Internet, I will be able to see my daughter perform live at New York's oldest rock club, The Bitter End.  Katie auditioned for and won a spot on the singer/songwriter sessions!  She plays at 7pm on Easter Sunday (I know, I know but the entertainment biz does not shut down for holidays) and it will be streamed live.  This is an important chance for Katie to have her song writing heard and she is nervous and excited and counting down the minutes until she gets her shot at showing what she can do.

Just to stand on the stage that hosted such talented songwriters as Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul & Mary and Neil Diamond is beyond what Katie ever imagined!

If you live in NYC you may want to pop over to Greenwich Village to catch the show.  Any of those who want to watch the live feed, tomorrow evening at 7pm, you can find it by clicking Here.  It's a short performance, just 15 mins. long.

Maybe, you'd consider saying a teeny, tiny prayer that it all goes well for her!

Happy Easter everyone!!!

Friday 6 April 2012

What Would I Do Without Paint?

I wanted an Easter egg tree to hang some little ornaments that were gifts to me.

Pottery barn had a cute one. ~

But, yikes, the price!  This one was $74.79.  What are those people thinking?  I have a hard time spending that much on a 8' tree to plant in my yard!

In a corner store I found this one for 89 cents. ~

It's a little garish.  Okay, it's a lot garish!  It's wood and the branches are flexible, so maybe I can do something with this.

A little grayish white craft paint helps.  An image downloaded from The Graphics Fairy gets Modpodged on and that helps a lot!  Some watered down brown paint gets wiped across it all to add a little age.  A couple of strings of beads attached with a glue gun and this is getting cute!

I have somewhere to hang the little glass eggs and ducky now! ~

Let me think, now.....$74.79 or 89 cents?  Hmmm.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Easy Peasy Pillow Redo

It's down to the last minute sprucing up for Easter weekend and time to switch out some cushions in the family room.  Out go the heavy fabrics and winter colours and in come the cottons and off whites.

Storage is a huge issue in this old house and I prefer to add a cover to an existing pillow.  I bought a neckroll cover in a light beige cotton for $3.99 at Oxford Mills.  I couldn't make one for that and it fit a roll pillow that I already had.

I downloaded an image of a wild bunny from The Graphics Fairy and printed it out on a laser printer.  You need an ink based laser printer or a photocopy to do this.  Instead of using the Citrasolv transfer method, I used a clear Chartpak blender pen.  You can buy these at art supply stores or online for under $10.   To see how to do transfers click Here.

In under 10 minutes I had that dark pillow looking like this. ~

It's a touch of spring on an otherwise dark chair. ~

This one is so quick and easy to do!  

I'm sharing the bunny with:
These Peas Taste Funny
Sweet Talkin' Sunday
Saturday Nite Special
Creative Bloggers Party And Hop
Uncommonly Yours Link Party
Tell It To Me Tuesday