Monday, January 31, 2011


..............courtesy of Sam.

More peeks from antiques dealer Sam's great space at 
SuzAnna's Antiques........gorgeous trumeau mirror, lamps.....

.....smaller shells and starfish, pretty oval china platters, saucy wood nymphs.....

...........antique upholstered furniture, tons of vintage buttons, and amazing selection of crystal encrusted chandeliers, fit for cottages and manor houses..........

Sam has it all, and it's all for sale at good prices!

Lots of fabulous painted furniture.

Come on by if you're in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.........or traveling through on a journey some place else here in our friendly south.  Susie, Jenny, and the girls would love to see you there.  I doubt you'd leave without taking something special back to your home.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hats off......................

This little project has been waiting in the wings for some time.  Much too shiny, floral papered hat boxes found at Tuesday Morning and requiring an update to make them look old - because you know I love vintage, especially the French/Nordic version.  

One of the Danish Jeanne d'Arc Living magazines (actually high quality keep-for-ever books) showed some lovely ones covered in off-white paper with a distressed finish. I already had this paper - saved from items store-wrapped over the past few years, perfect in color and texture.  Scissors, white glue, some cotton tape tea-stained and wrinkled, was all I required for the makeover.

PAPER, SCISSORS, GLUE.......and a couple of hours of pleasant cutting and pasting, (while the Italian love dish simmered - see previous post), and they were done.  I was pleased with the result, just imperfect enough with some wrinkles and seams obvious.  I added just one snippet of very old French fashion newsprint showing a hat similar to mine.

I have a collection of hats all made by a friend.  Love them, and I do wear them.  These two are Summer 'go to wedding' hats, and sometimes my Easter bonnets!  They will be stored in the 'new' boxes.

They sit up here in the 'French inspired bedroom' on top of the armoire and vintage blue-grey suitcase. I'm pleased with the makeover which was totally free and didn't take long.......aren't those the best kind!

Do you like hats?   If so, when do you wear them?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Recipe for love..........

I like to spoil my DH now and then!  With me being vegetarian, he's usually the only meat handler in the house and, don't tell anyone, he's not much of a cook other than slapping a burger on the grill once the ice is chipped off the Weber.  With warm cookout days still a dream, I gave in yesterday after listening to his pleas requests for a bowl of real homemade spaghetti and meatballs, soon.

MY recipe for Homemade Italian for Bob.
On a grey Winter's day, late in the morning, pour a nice glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry.  Sip and savour while thinking about the origins of two plump Italian sausages and a pound of ground round waiting on the counter.  Yes, we watched the Food, Inc. DVD just two weeks ago so I had great difficulty even going to the market for those main ingredients.

Drink to a future with free range piggies, cows, and chickens.
Slurp down the sherry, forget the disturbing movie, and just get on with it..................

Tip a jar of Dean and DeLuca's Puttanesca Sauce and a jar of H.T. Traders Arrabbiata Sauce into a large, bright red, jolly looking Martha Stewart ('cos we can't afford Le Creuset!!!) pot.  Add a can of Del Monte Petite Cut diced tomatoes to temper the spiciness and set over a medium low heat.  The days of making sauce from scratch are a memory.

Meanwhile brown those fat piggies gently in a pan while putting together eight chubby meatballs.  You have your personal recipe for those I know - this is mine.  To the pound of ground beef, add one beaten egg, 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, two beef flavoured bouillon cubes (I use OXOS from England - always fly back here with a suitcase full of them and their great vegetarian version too), freshly ground pepper, approx. 1/2 cup fine whole wheat bread crumbs.  Mix well, shape into 8 balls and roll in extra bread crumbs.  Remove the now browned sausages and cut in thirds, add to the bubbling sauce.  Brown the meatballs on each side by gently turning with tongs, drain on paper towels and add to the sauce.  When Martha's beautiful pot is at a full bubble, turn the heat down to very low, place cover partially on top...........and go do something really worthwhile for a few hours, such as recovering two old hatboxes with bargain paper - more on that another day!

As the evening draws in and Bob brings in logs for the evening fire, remove lid from the jolly red pot, give it a stir, and start another pot of lightly salted water for the pasta - y'all know how to cook pasta 'al dente'.  Here, I would prefer linguine or fettuccine, but Bob likes good, old fashioned, true spaghetti to twirl comfortably around his fork. 

Search for a bottle of good Italian wine, Chianti or a blended Tuscan red. Pile up Bob's bowl with steaming pasta, a couple of meatballs, sausages, and lots of spicy sauce.  Grate fresh Parmigiano Reggiano profusely, grate black peppercorns gently.  

Get my healthy Caesar salad out of the 'frig - propose a toast to Italy, their delightful people and fabulous food - and wait for all the love to show on Bob's face!

What special dish do you enjoying preparing for a loved one - and do you eat it too?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A lifetime of words.......

My life is full of changes.  The more I age the more I seem to stay active.  Yes, I consider myself a busy lady............even though I'm no spring chicken.  Three score and ten years are fast approaching but I have to admit I feel much younger, perhaps forty five! My forties were a roller coaster ride, many personal ups and downs, and a tough battle with cancer.  When all that was sorted and I picked up the pieces, I decided that I needed to make the most of my life because I'd been given a wonderful second chance.  I made decisions which have enabled me to have a good life, surrounded mostly by people who care about me, even love me......and a few who don't!  Absolutely nothing in life is perfect.

Life throws things at us.............some by way of the written word, others by happenstance. I love words. I thrill to opening a new book where the words look promising.  Flipping through a magazine used to be always enjoyable, now mixed feelings prevail.  This week I declined renewing my subscription to a well known home magazine because, after many years and many hundreds of dollars, I noticed they are charging me almost triple what they offer to a new subscriber.  I sent a letter to them explaining my cancellation decision, and had to add that their publication no longer truly thrilled me with so many pages of advertising.  Yes I know ads are necessary for revenue, I used to work in advertising, but they stoop so low now, double spreads of drug ads that I detest on paper as much as on the television screen at dinner time! I now prefer to spend my money on beautiful books and just a few international magazines.

My favorite decor and home magazines:

UK Country Living (Great Britain)
Campagne Decoration (France)
Cote Sud (France)
Jeanne d'Arc Living (Denmark)

And magazine stacks are dwindling as my book stacks grow taller.  

I don't buy all my books new. Often I browse the shelves of a couple of used book shops. I look for favorites on my list which may show up, and sometimes I discover a gem I wasn't familiar with but know would be a perfect addition to my collection.  Some I hold on to, others I read and then pass along to a friend who may also find enjoyment in its pages.

Words are odd things.  Sometimes we are full of them, spouting them out nonstop like a raging waterfall. Other times they stop us in our tracks making us tongue-tied, silent.  They can shower one in anger or caress one with love.  They are often noisy when spoken, quiet when read alone.
Words are very powerful and truly wonderful.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Remembering good hair days.............

 SuzAnna's Antiques is even a great stop on a bad hair time for a blow out in your bathroom, come on over and do it with a neat vintage dryer!

Some of those old 'paint by number' projects were so neat.

Bet these gals would have enjoyed a blow dryer had they been available then.

The dryer display is so attractive.................and in the '50's and 60's they actually made them in the prettiest French blue-grey colors with real wooden handles.

Do you use a dryer daily?  Are you having bad hair days? I've never had split ends until this Winter.  I get my hair cut (and colored too - shh, that's a secret) every five weeks, which usually keeps it healthy, but this year the long period of bitter cold outside, and the dry heat inside, has taken its toll and I've had to buy a really deep conditioner!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"She sells sea shells..................

..........on the seashore".  Ahhhh, the seashore, a place for relaxing, reading, sipping a drink, shelling, dreaming........

SuzAnna's Antiques is looking fabulous!  The holidays are now a memory and the darker wintry items are being replaced by light and beloved whites, creams and greys are visible in many booths.  Vanessa (who will be back from Brazil very soon) and I will be gathering treasures to display in our space also. 

My visit there on Friday afternoon brought thoughts of the coastline lapped by aqua shaded water with gentle white caps frosting the waves.  Spindly-legged sea birds run back and forth along the watermark pecking constantly at the flotsam and jetsam tossed toward the sandy beach........and wet, glistening shells beckon us to bend and gather.

Noticed recently - sea shells and coral appearing in decorating articles focusing on bringing lighter touches to the home ready for Spring and Summer. Our favorite antiques dealer and interior designer, Sam, (all images taken in Sam's space), has been busy changing out his display area at SuzAnna's.  He always manages to thrill me with his amazing collections, these stunning shells being his latest offering. Sam suggests planting white orchids in the large conch shells.

I already have a nice collection of seashells, mostly gathered from Emerald Isle and Carolina Beach, but none the size of these!

I love Sam's furniture finds too - and he does a great job painting.  If only I had room in the cottage......................

...........and where shall we display our beautiful shells?  Sam had a great idea......once the birds have flown the coop cage, what better than filling it with shells for Summer decorating. 

Do you enjoy hunting for shells at the shore?  Have you ever discovered a really huge one?  If so, will you share your beach........and perhaps we can meet there on a warm Summer's day when the tide goes out!

The North Carolina seashore received a huge surprise 
yesterday, 4-7 inches of snow.  Quite an unusual Winter, 
lots of beauty, wish I was there with my camera!

Friday, January 21, 2011

France, being so far.................

French antiques at The Sleepy Poet, Charlotte, North Carolina

............means I don't get to see my family living there too often as they live way down south in the beautiful Minervois region. A trip across the pond is no hop, skip and a jump unfortunately! 

Early this morning an unexpected and much enjoyed phone call brought my sweet niece close as we chatted for a while. She's attending college in Perpignan and it's her first year away from home. Finding it hard going, and perhaps not quite the right spot for her to continue reaching for her dream career, she may return to the UK and continue her university education in Scotland.   

The funny part, and we giggled over this, is that the university requires proof that she speaks English before she is accepted to study there!  Born and raised in London, educated there until age 12 before moving to France, she speaks beautiful English of course..........without even a trace of a French accent.  This place of higher learning will be fortunate to have her as a student, speaking not only perfect English and French, but also Spanish!   

Thanks for calling Harriet - you made the day special for us.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Post War to Present Day Kitchen

While reviewing Mrs. Charles Darwin's Recipe Book recently, I looked through my own cookbook collection searching for some new soup recipes for these cold Winter days.  Later I found myself dropping off a small pile of books at a used book shop and, while waiting for them to be priced, drifted off to spend a little time in the cookbook stacks. When I go to this shop I vow I will not bring home more books, but of course I usually do.  My discovery this time was a like-new copy, half-price (but 'free' as I had a credit), of fun chef Jamie Oliver's ninth cookbook - Jamie's Food Revolution.

Leafing through I felt I was back in my Mum's kitchen in the 1950's, the concept being 'rediscover how to cook simple, delicious, affordable meals' from scratch, and then teach the recipes to a few other non-cooks in a pass it forward way.  Although I don't really need cooking lessons after slaving over a hot stove for many decades, I do like the way this particular book is written and presented with colorful photos of recipe steps and the glorious finished dish, all accompanied with Jamie's bits of {non} Queen's English such as, "whiz everything up", "a dollop of", "a few lugs of olive oil", "scrummy and rich".  So many of the recipes could have come straight from Mum's own kitchen so are familiar and fun in their rediscovery.  Already tried a few and they've turned out perfectly.

Jamie's book is dedicated to this incredible lady, Marguerite Patten, 'a British national treasure'. I purchased one of her many (160+)cookery books several years ago, finding it to be an incredible history of my own childhood years after the war.  Ms. Patten worked for the Ministry of Food during the second world war helping families prepare nutritious, appetizing dishes with their weekly rations and, although in her 90's, is still cooking and broadcasting!

Post-War Kitchen, Nostalgic Food and Facts from 1945-1954 ~ history between the pages of a cook book!

I'll share more of Post-War Kitchen another day - it's such a fabulous book with great photos and illustrations. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bed Time.................


Definition: An article of furniture to take rest in or on.

Isn't a warm comfy bed just the best place to be on a very cold Winter morning?

Carl Larsson's inviting Swedish bed.

THIS morning, the alarm woke me early.  I jumped up, turned it off, jumped back under the duvet for just five more warm minutes, but then knew I had to get up and get moving!

I've not had a chance to share with you the tales of my busy work days of the last couple of months. Let's just say it revolves around a townhouse renovation, continuous visits to DIY big box stores, and men hammering for hours on end!  Today I had to meet the carpet installers (re-scheduled from Tuesday when the most recent storm coated everything in a shimmering layer of silver ice) at 7:30 AM. Now, although just 9:30 AM, the still ice-covered back deck is also being demolished.  Another crew has arrived, hammers in hand of course!

Guess where I'll be early tonight, very early..........climbing back into my cozy bed, pulling the duvet over my head, snuggling with my cashmere-sweatered hot water bottle (love, love, love it - see here), thankful that someone invented the BED and all it's many comforts.

More on the renovation story later - meanwhile let's just say, be grateful there are men who work outside in freeze your you-know-what off 23 degrees.  Chipping ice off wood does not look like fun...........laying carpet is definitely the better job today!   

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cheese heaven.................

Like the majority of Brits, I'm a true lover of all its many disguises, hard for grating, creamy for spreading, and every tasty morsel in between.  Perhaps this is the reason for those few extra pounds which refuse to budge.  What the heck, life must include some culinary pleasures..........mine is definitely cheese.

Growing up, one of my fondest memories is of my father coming home late in the evening from his work and having his 'cheese and biscuits' before bed.  Doesn't sound too healthy scoffing back a big chunk of mature Cheddar, several heavily buttered Jacob's Cream Crackers, with a generous spoonful of tasty Branston Pickle chutney on the side, at 11PM..............and then turning in for the night!  But that's what he loved and I must have his cheese gene.

These have to be two of my favorites.  Stilton, made only in the northern counties of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and a matured Cheddar from my own area down south, the West Country. Thankfully, good old COSTCO is also into quality cheeses.  They must have sent someone shopping across the pond just for me.............because these gorgeous cheeses were waiting at my local store just in time for the holidays!

Yes, even my Dad would have approved.  Bring out the crackers and chutney, time to indulge in England's best.

Do you have a favorite cheese?  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mrs. Charles Darwin's Recipe Book

This time of year, once the 'holidays' are repacked into their storage boxes and stuffed in the attic or basement, small pleasures return to everyday life.  How peaceful to sit by the fire on a late Winter's afternoon when the necessary chores are completed for the day.  Dinner preparations are done, the candles are glowing, we pour an aperitif, throw on another log and a shower of sparks crackle and pop on the hearth. Through the windows I watch the birds arrive at the feeders for their last meal as dusk descends.  A large grey cat pads softly across the deck going who knows where for the night........snow is forecast.

The perfect time to pull out a new book.............received as a gift, purchased online, or with a gift card at a local bookshop, even borrowed from the library, or one that's been sitting on a shelf waiting patiently for you to find the time to open the cover and start reading.

Lucky me..............I recently received another beautiful book to read and review from publisher Glitterati Incorporated.

We English, often known for our eccentricities, have historically been at the forefront of the cooking scene, but not always described in glowing terms.  The peculiarity of some foods, and cooking methods of such, have been much lambasted.  The words, overcooked, mushy, grey, soggy, come quickly to mind. Travelers to the British Isles would return to their homeland bad-mouthing the poor and often inedible offerings, from ritzy London dining establishments to railway cafés out in the distant counties.  Much of that was true at one time.  However, away from the commercial restaurants there was always beautiful food being prepared in Britain's homes, be it the country estate of a wealthy duke, or the remote thatched farmhouse on a wild moorland......

      .............and then there was Mrs. Charles Darwin.  

Emma Darwin ~ 1840

Emma was married to her cousin Charles Darwin, both of whom were grandchildren of Josiah Wedgwood, of pottery and china fame.  Charles became world famous as a 19th century scientist and intellectual, and was author of many books on evolution, including On the Origin of Species.  Emma took time from caring for her husband whose health was poor, and giving birth to ten children, to run their household alongside several servants, like many Victorian women of her status.  Responsible for the domestic space at their comfortable country home, Down House in Kent, including feeding the family and entertaining, she also directed the kitchen staff and kept the accounts. 

In this beautifully photographed and illustrated book, based on Emma's small, handwritten recipe book, we not only are immediately absorbed by the story of this famous Victorian family in the brilliant introduction, we are also privy to viewing the original recipes written in Emma's own handwriting and the modern day versions of preparing some very interesting dishes.  It's not known how much cooking Emma did herself, but her knowledge of the way a kitchen was run was good.  Her recipes are what we call 'good plain cooking', but the chapter titled Puddings and Sweet Things shares marvelous rich desserts loaded with cream, eggs and fresh fruit, apparently loved by Mr. Darwin.  

Guess where I'll be on these cold wintry days - whipping up some great new dishes, and not one will be soggy or grey!

Mrs. Charles Darwin's Recipe Book is a great book for cooks interested in the Victorian era kitchen, recipe book collectors, and those who enjoy British history and stories of famous families.

Available here from Glitterati, Incorporated.

All images from 
Mrs.Charles Darwin's Recipe Book 
Revived and Illustrated
By Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway
Copyright 2008 
Published by Glitterati, Inc.

Note:  I feel a small personal connection to the Darwin/Wedgwood family.  I discovered, while reading this wonderful book, that one of their china patterns was Wedgwood's EDME.  I have a much-loved coffee service and a graceful vase in this plain but elegant pattern.  Also, in the elegant and historic Hesketh Crescent where I often stay when visiting my hometown in England, one apartment displays a plaque by the front door.  Engraved are dates in the Summer of 1861 when Charles Darwin stayed there with Emma, and their daughter Henrietta, while researching and penning notes for another book following the publication of On the Origin of Species, the book described by Thomas Huxley as, "the most potent instrument for the extension of the realm of natural knowledge which has come to men's hands, since (the 18th century) publication of (Sir Isaac)Newton's Principia."  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Decorating ideas..............

Over Christmas I LOVED this old metal much so I don't really want to take it down and store it away for almost a year!  It fit perfectly in the corner of the dining room, twinkling in the velvet dark of winter nights.

But, hiding it in the depths of the attic is necessary despite thoughts of it in a new guise, perhaps as a Valentine tree, or an Easter tree, and so forth.  No, have to get the cottage back to normal. Remember that word I've been sharing for several years................


The kitchen only has one 'holiday' item remaining, the IKEA  lantern.  It will stay for the chilly days ahead because it blends in with bright red soup pots..................warming up my neutral kitchen.  I like it burning in the evening while sipping an aperitif and making dinner, and in the cold morning when the rooster crows announcing time to make rib-sticking healthy oatmeal to start a Winter's day.

This regal crown was another holiday decoration I enjoyed.  Because it's grey and goes perfectly with much of my French/Nordic decor in the dining room, I'm thinking of keeping it out for a while longer, however the now brittle and dropping Pyracantha berries will have to go out to feed the birds.

How about the white pumpkins, bless their sturdy hearts!!  Yes, same real ones used for Autumn/Halloween decoration, these babies will not give up, still firm and plump with not a sign of old age!  How can I bring myself to toss them on the compost heap, or worse leave them for the yard waste pickup on a freezing, wintry Wednesday morning?  

How about Valentine pumpkins?  A pretty red or crystal heart on a silky ribbon snuggling around the stem would brighten up a February day.  What do you think?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cleaning queen for a day...........

Wednesday I spent a few hours at SuzAnnas Antiques, sweeping, dusting, fluffing, and primping the booth after removing all vestiges of Christmas Past.  Vanessa, my booth partner, who has gone home for an extended visit, is enjoying time with her family..........and warm Brazilian beaches, lucky gal!

I was pleased with sales over the holiday season even though several items I thought would sell as delightful gifts, such as the neat Queen door hanger, and the sweet crystal beaded bowl, didn't!   

Thoughts of Spring are making re-decorating lighter and brighter in the antiques/vintage business.  A little yellow here and there as in pretty pastel bowls.....................

...............and I added a pair of delightful English Carlton Ware Fruit Basket pattern grapefruit bowls.  Made in the early 1930's, these are in perfect condition without crazing, chips or cracks. I've found one other grapefruit bowl selling online for $90, I am selling this pair for $50 - a steal for a collector, or a lovely gift for someone who loves rare, embossed china.

An urn holding pale yellow tulips on a large wooden trunk is a great piece for storing all kinds of things as you organize - well you are organizing these days, aren't you?  Around here so many odds and ends need a new home, either here at the cottage, or somewhere else far away!

More pretty Spring inspired items will be showing up in the weeks to come.............even though we may be shoveling a lot of snow again within a few days!  

Do you love being snowbound.......for a couple of days? 
Do you make good use of such time - organizing perhaps - or curl up by the fire with a hot chocolate and a great book?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lying in..................

I did this the morning, something quite unusual for me. 
 Stayed snuggled in the warmth of my bed.
  Last night I read late into the night. The clock struck a single digit following the midnight hour, then I switched off the light. 

What am I reading right now?  The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim, a gripping story spanning 30 years (1915-1945) of Korean history under the occupation by Japan, most of which I was not at all familiar with.  

Today I have the usual errands to run, chores to complete.......including putting away decorations.......but I don't have a set schedule for a change.  Later I'll be picking up the book again, but definitely not reading so late into the night!

One of the 'shop kitties' at Revival Antiques ~ napping in elegant comfort.