Pumped Up for Pumpkin Season!

This week’s High Five for Friday goes to Pumpkins!

Everywhere you turn, on doorsteps

in home decorating

or on magazine covers, pumpkins have taken over the landscape. And rightly so! A bright, deep, rich orange fruit, indiginous to North America, the pumpkin is an iconic symbol of autumn and particularly the Thanksgiving and Halloween holidays. If you would like to know the true story behind the story, check out this book by Cindy Ott- Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. 

Once you learn the history, you can appreciate the bountiful beauty of this simple fruit. The rich orange color is perfect for painting a room.

or creating the perfect centerpiece for a holiday meal.

This stunning vintage vignette from Casa E Trend is so rich and colorful!

Try adding some flaming drama to your home decor…

or perhaps a few chevron stripes to brighten up your space!

The original pumpkin pies were created by the pilgrims and presumably served for the very first Thanksgiving.

They hollowed out pumpkins, fill them with cream, spices, eggs and honey and buried them in the ashes of their campfires, then cooked until the spicy custard was ready to eat. No need to worry about the perfect crust!

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies

Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,

We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,

If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.”

Pilgrim verse, circa 1633

Now, I could conceivably dig a hole in the back yard, build a campfire and bake up some yummy pumpkin pies, (that would certainly make for a fun-filled blog…hmmm) or I could just stick to what I normally do: make my pies with Pumpkin-in-a-can from Libbys! So, in keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition of sharing our bounty, here is one of my favorite all-time recipes for Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle.

It is easy and incredibly delicious!  

Have a sweet Friday, everyone! Susan

Autumn in New England

It’s wanderlust Wednesday, and this week are taking a walk around Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield.

We could drive for hours and head out west to the Berkshires, or up north to the mountains (you know, that grass is always greener thing), but sometimes in the words of Dorothy: “Toto, there’s no place like home”.

As I was walking, I noticed that there was what appeared to be a rainbow next to the setting sun. Stunning.

One lone duck still hanging around- I think his buddies have all flown south. Is he lost? Or hoping for indian summer?

Benches awaiting some walkers to rest along the three mile path.

A perfect tree for Halloween! Tall reeds lining the shore.

The leaves are finally falling.

Is there anything more beautiful than autumn in New England? 

The perfect vantage point for viewing the changing seasons.

These images were taken with my Iphone (someday I am actually going to remember to bring my camera!) Happy leaf peeping! Susan

When In Wenham…

…tour some kitchens! Saturday, as part of a full-day birthday fun-day for my mom’s 85th, we took in the Wenham Museum’s Heart of the Home 5th Annual Kitchen Tour.

It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, perfect for leaf-peaping and pumpkin decorating!

as we travelled the North Shore on our kitchen quest. 

We had an opportunity to glimpse inside the lovely kitchens of homeowners who had graciously opened their homes for this good cause. Many were recently renovated, some eclectic and charming, some dramatic, each showcasing the style of the owners. Unfortunately, it was requested that we not take photographs of the interiors. So, the pics below are some that I garnered from the designers’ and realtors’ websites who were participating.

A few standouts, (imho): This blue and white South Hamilton kitchen created by lmk interiors, ltd. Warm and inviting, it instantly enveloped you in the glow of creamy custom cabinetry, blue and white florals and reclaimed heart pine flooring. (pup not included)

We loved the little touches like this desk/niche tucked under the staircase

and this (well-stocked!) wine bar.

In the very large estate at Bridle Path Lane, we were treated to a custom cherry kitchen by North Shore Kitchens with state-of-the-art appliances and many extra touches like the pot-filler faucet over the stovetop.

This home was massive, over 6400 sq, and is actually being marketed by Sotheby’s.

Click here for more info, if you happen to be in the market for a $1.95m home…

Along the way, we stopped for a celebratory birthday lunch at Cygnet in Beverly Farms. The unassuming exterior does not truly reflect the beauty and comfort of the dining room, with high-back cushioned settees creating a cozy and romantic atmosphere. Since we were celebrating 2 birthdays (my daughter and mom are birthday buddies), we just had to begin with a toast of Prosecco-yum!

and end with a scrumptious brownie sundae with two candles for the birthday girls : )

A truly fab lunch, but it took a little longer than expected, so we raced back to Hamilton to make it to the homes we had skipped over earlier. Our final stop, as the last bell tolled at 4pm, was at the Country Club Estates in Ipswich, to view a stunning kitchen designed by Wilson Kelsey Design, Inc. Striking white with black granite and marble and stainless steel,

with a breathtaking hand-painted ocean mural by Zoe-Design. Stunning. I wish I could have shown you all the kitchens, because there was a moment of inspiration in each one. Soft grey zebra-striped wallpaper graced one kitchen’s walls, and soapstone counters gave another its’ country charm. Perhaps next year the organizers will allow photos, so those who could not attend won’t miss out on what was an inspiring day. Now I am keeping my fingers crossed that I won the raffle prize! Susan


Hooray for Friday! What better way to kick off a weekend than with this week’s High Five: Chocolate!!  YUM. The food of the gods, derived from the cacao bean. It can be creamy…

or Steamy. or Dreamy. Gorgeous Eye CandyOr just fabulous candy…mmm, Godiva!



or Striped.

Solid and Heavy


Classic Milk Chocolate

Ohhh, those chairs!

Or deep rich dark chocolate.

If you tell me that dark chocolate is an antioxidant and promotes heart health, I’m in!

The perfect pick-me-up for those late Friday afternoon doldrums. So help yourself to a chocolate sampling and have a sweet weekend! Susan

From Russia with Love

On this week’s episode of Wanderlust Wednesday, we are off to the magnificent city of St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the stops on our Baltic Sea Princess Cruise. Touring for two days, there was so much to see, and to share, so today I will just show photos from the State Hermitage Museum.  This simple bronze sign on the building’s facade shows no indication of what awaits inside.

Begun with a collection of art from Catherine the Great, and housing over 3 million works of art and artefacts of world culture, this is one of the great museums on the planet. Oppulent cannot even begin to describe the decor- every surface glimmered in 24k gold.

Spectacular chandeliers graced every room. 

With only half a day to spend touring here, we were limited to the main building, The Winter Palace. Greeted at the entrance by these enchanting dancers, 

we kept pace with our tour guide, walking through room after impressive room, filled with velvet and gold

at breakneck speed, snapping pics along the way while she pointed out the works of famous artists and sculptors: “We’re walking, we’re walking, keep moving folks! Here are the Picassos

oh, and here is the Renoir collection (this happens to be one of my own personal favs: “Boy With A Whip”)

Would you like to see Michaelangelo’s “The Crouching Boy”

Or perhaps Leonardo Da Vinci’s Madonna and Child!?

“We’re walking, folks, please keep up!” Overwhelming is probably the best way to describe this day at the museum.

So much to see,

so little time.

At one point I believe our guide said it would actually take someone a full year to see this museum’s collection in its entirety. Certainly not going to happen in half a day! Following our whirlwind tour, we were treated to lunch at Cafe Literaturnoye, a spot frequented by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

We were bearly able to relax with some Russian vodka before we were back onto the bus for the rest of our tour! You’ll have to tune in next week for the castles and churches of from Russia with Love. In the meantime, I think I may have some of that vodka left…time for a martini!?! Susan 

Happy 100th Blog Day!

Unbelievably, this is my 100th post on Country Design Home! What started out as a marketing class project in the spring has blossomed into an almost-daily reveal of the trials and tribulations of my DIM (Do It Myself) life. My hope is that by sharing this ongoing saga, you will be sometimes moved, sometimes inspired and mostly entertained by my crazy attempts of decorating our lives in my little red house.

So it is only fitting that today, on my 100th post day, that I continue on with the Hall of Shame saga, one of my very first writings. What started back in April as a pre-Easter project has dragged on all summer and into the fall, as I have attempted a dozen different non-toxic ways of removing 150+ years of lacquer from the railings and balusters of my front hall.

I have scrubbed and sanded them, tried several “eco-friendly” deliciously-scented stripping products that transported me to a luscious citrus grove (that could have been the fumes talking…)

but never quite did the job. So this past Sunday, determined to finish this project in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I brought out the big guns. Minwax Antique Furniture Refinisher. Big yellow can. SKULL AND CROSSBONES. POISON. DANGER.

Takes off the finish, but not the original color. Perfect. Opened all the windows, got all the fans blowing. Readied the supplies.

Donned my Nitrile disposable gloves, grabbed the steel wool. Go. Within moments, the lacquer melted away, leaving the lovely patina and soft caramel color of perfectly aged wood.

Finally! So, as I am moving along the railing, scrubbing away years of lacquer and grime, I started thinking about all the hands that had gripped those railings, including those of our children, now grown and gone. Over the years, they ran up and down those stairs a million times, grabbing that railing, leaving indelible fingerprints and memories that can never be scrubbed away with a steel wool pad… Snapped back to reality when I happened to look down and notice that, along with the wood finish, the liquid appears to be eating away the tips of my disposable gloves!

Hmmm. Check the front of the glove package: “perfect for painting, stripping paint, chemical handling”. Then, the disclaimer on the back:not intended for prolonged, direct exposure to harsh chemicals. Do not use if glove is torn or punctured“. Yikes! Grabbed my industrial orange Home Depot gloves (these are great for anyone that does lots of home and gardening projects. They come in a package of 5 pairs cheap). 

Added another layer of plastic gloves under the orange ones, just to make sure I still have fingertips when I am done-did you read the can?!?Three hours later, I ran out of stripping liquid and steam. The top railings and balluster are finished and look amazing! The rest of the hall looks more like a crime scene than a DIM project…

So I go to open the front door to let in some more fresh air, and find a very sweet surprise!

“Bee”atrice, my beekeeping friend, has left me a jar of her very special home grown, freshly-harvested honey! A few months ago, I wrote about her new hobby in “The Secret Lives of Bee-Keepers“.  I am excited to give the fruits of her labor a try! In the meantime, it’s back to Home Depot for more stripper and gloves. And, a special thanks to all of you for reading my blog (over 20,000 hits!) and sharing your comments about our crazy DIM lives in those past 100 posts. As long as there are projects to complete and lives to live and moments to share, I’ll be blogging about them! Susan

Heard It Through The Grapevine

With fall here and my decor most definitely taking a rustic turn, I thought I should make a new grapevine wreath to replace the old pre-fab one I bought a few year’s back at my local craft store.  That’s right, make a new one. Because, as most people do, I have a grapevine arbor in my back yard. I know, I mean, seriously?!

Years ago we disovered the vines down behind the barn, and one summer coach decided to build an arbor to keep the grapevine off the barn. We don’t typically have grapes on the vines, which is unfortunate, since I do like a nice glass of chardonnay…

This is the perfect weather to gather up a bunch and wind them into the shape and size I would like. This is the basic how-to: You can use a pre-shaped form, but I prefer a freestyle, more natural appearance. Start by cutting a whole bunch of grapevine. Snip or pop off all the leaves, leaving the curly tendrils (the look nice and they are functional too!)

Using a thick, long vine, create a circle approximately the size that you would like the finished wreath to be.

Begin adding more vines, winding as you go, using the curly tendrils to hook each layer on the next.

Keep adding and winding until you have the size and shape you like.

The nice thing about decorating grapevine wreaths is that you can pretty much just tuck in the ends of the garland or leaves without glueing.

Adding some pumpkins and berries with my trusty glue gun keeps them secure.

I have never been adept at making bows. One of my big craft fails

But I sought a little help from my good friends at Pinterest and voila! A really cute bow!  I attached that and my  little chalkboard welcome sign with some jute, which also serves as the hanger.

Welcome Home! I hope you fall for grapevine wreaths too! (and if you need any grapevine, I happen to know an arbor you can visit- just bring the wine)  Susan

High Five for HomeGoods

So while I was taking photos of our guest bedroom for my blog,  I started looking around and realized that most of the decor in the room was purchased at HomeGoods! It was not intentional, and it was all purchased at different times over the past couple of years since my daughter moved out. Since her childhood bedroom has become my dressing room, I have decorated it with things that make me happy. Pink is my color, and I really can’t use it anywhere else in the house, so I have decorated the room inspired by this happy rug, purchased at HomeGoods.

I have slowly built a palette of black and white toile, with pink and green accents.  This vignette, with the exception of the photo of the extraordinary Jackie O (the frame yes, the photo, no) 

was all purchased at, where else, HomeGoods.

The vanity was a plain jane gray when I purchased it, so I spruced it up with some black and silver paint, and added the mirrored tile top.

The shimmery paisley ceramic garden stool gives me a great place to sit and apply my makeup.

Although the rocker was a vintage piece I painted a yummy watermelon color, the pillow and throw were HG as well.

The iron and brass daybed has been in this very spot for over 25 years, and I really don’t have the heart to paint it, scratches and all.

Everything on the bed was from HG, with the exception of the vintage doll and bear. Now by looking at this, I would image you must be thinking, “well, how often does she go there exactly?!” The perfectly honest truth is, often enough. And remember… which means it’s time for a shopping trip! Susan

The Luckiest

“And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it everyday
And I know
That I am, I am, I am The Luckiest”  Ben Folds

In this Year Of The Weddings, 2012, last Saturday’s nuptials were just as charming and fun as the young couple-Chris and Amy- who declared their vows before loving family and friends at a pretty little church in our hometown. Chris, who’s nickname is Lucky, was lucky enough to have found his true love, Amy- and it is clear that the same holds true for her.

Following the ceremony, we were off to the Danversport Yacht Club

for the reception, a beautiful venue on the North Shore of Boston with landscaped outdoor grounds overlooking the water.

A perfect greeting when we first entered the venue: strawberries and champagne

The centerpieces were colorful orchids floating in clear cylinders with a candle that burned all night!

The bridal party’s bouquets were a perfect complement to their deep aubergine dresses.

The first dance by the new bride and her groom. It is evident just seeing them together how perfectly meant for each other they truly are.

The sweetheart table photo cake- created by yours truly- was a surprise for the bride and groom, orchestrated by his mom and me.

Covered with black and white photos of them as children and the beautiful young couple they are today made for a fitting centerpiece.  The topper was their invitation on one side and a current photo of them on the other.

The real (scrumptious) wedding cake provided by Cakes for Occasions.  I love the We Do little love birds on the top- so cute!

The mark of a great wedding is when the dance floor is still full while the DJ is playing his last call dance.

Great wedding, great music, great family and friends, great food, and a great time was had by all. Congratulations to the luckiest couple! Susan

Beachy Bridal Bliss

This past weekend was a bridal blowout, with a fabulous wedding on Saturday and a beautiful bridal shower on Sunday. Boy, are my feet killing me from wearing heels all weekend- couldn’t wait to get back into my sneakers! The shower, held at The Rudder in Gloucester, with a view of Rocky Neck harbor, was in honor of my lovely niece Lindsey and her awesome fiance Matt,

who are being married on the island of St. John USVI at the end of November. So naturally, the shower’s decorations, all hand-crafted by the mother of the bride, her gorgeous sisters Jamie and Sarah

and her bridal party, were natural and beachy. So cute! Our takeaways were bottles of wine with specially printed labels- Eat, Drink and Be Married- LOVE THIS!!

They were wrapped in hand-made and stenciled burlap bags, tied with jute and a starfish bottle stopper.

And for the little girls, there was soda pop with special labels-colorful and cute.

The tables were decked out in white linen cloths and hand-fringed burlap runners, with stunning white arrangements of hydrangeas

and white flower bouquets surrounded by white votives.

Handpainted driftwood signs- perfect for a beach theme!

The cake. AMAZING. Delicious and gorgeous!

So after eating and drinking my way through this weekend, the reality sunk has in that in two months time, I will be on a beach in St. John. Found an amazing dress. To make it work, I need a tan and a waist. Sparkpeople here I come! Anyone care to join me?!?

The Turquoise Project. Two Months. Twenty Pounds.

Any words of wisdom, help or encouragement would be greatly appreciated. The countdown begins today. Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted! Susan

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