That’s A Wrap!

Do you ever have an image in your head of a specific product, and you can’t find anything like it in a store? No? Well I do. Drives me nuts. Don’t know why I just can’t be like everyone else and do things the easy way!  In preparing to wrap a gift for a bridal shower today, I knew I wanted to go with an old-fashioned look for the package. I tried to find wrapping paper that would fit the bill, but nothing even came close to the look I was going for. Since I couldn’t find the right paper, with little time to spare, I decided to create my own.  Quick, cheap and easy. (I’m sure there is a joke in there somewhere…) Grabbed a roll of kraft paper (made from 100% recycled materials-yay!) 


a pre-cut stencil

and some brown acrylic paint.

Rolled out and cut the right amount of paper to cover the gift. Placing the stencil in a repeat pattern all over the paper, I applied the paint with a piece of sponge, with a light touch because I wanted a more faded, aged look.

Once complete, I allowed it to dry- almost instantly- then wrapped the package. For the ribbon I used some jute.

And created the bow with a touch of blue hemp, because the bride-to-be really likes that color combo.

For the tag, I made a little chalkboard sign that she can re-use. (Instructions to follow soon…)

Finished! A gift with my own personal stamp. (Sorry, not a great pic, but you get the idea, right?)

This was a weekend jam-packed with family and friends and loads of fun, with a wedding and a wedding shower on the calendar. Whew! Hope you had a fun weekend too! Monday, Monday… Susan 

My Desktop Cookbook

Can you believe it’s Friday already?!! The summer flew by, and we are well into fall and then (dread) winter. With the holidays fast approaching, my thoughts are already turning to yummy delicious recipes that I’ll be serving for dinners and parties. Over the years, I have accumulated stacks of cookbooks and printed recipes, some well-loved and worn, most of which now sit idly in my kitchen cupboard.

Although I still enjoy thumbing through hard copies for inspiration, when I need a favorite recipe at my fingertips, I turn to my Desktop Cookbook 

on my Ipad, this week’s High Five For Friday! Feature.

This FREE! app allows me to search for, save, share and print recipes, my own best-loved, and the millions more being added from every cooking source imaginable. Once you download or input a recipe, you save it into a category along with any additional information including the recipe’s origin, how many it feeds, the best wine pairing.

So, so many times I have stopped at the grocery to grab a couple of ingredients for a recipe, without, of course, a shopping list in hand. I just open the app on my phone, look up the recipe and go. Or, I bring a goodie to work (hello, cookie swap!) and everyone asks for the recipe. Just open up the online cookbook and print the requested recipe. A second High Five goes to the Chef Sleeve. The sleeve is a sheer plastic sheet that slides over my Ipad to keep my greasy fingers and messy splatters off the screen, while allowing full touch screen control. Cooking session ended, sleeve tossed, sparkling Ipad. Brilliant! Now, since I do have my cookbook open, I figured I would share one of my favorite fall recipes: Apple-icious Streusal Cake. This cake is so moist and absolutely delicious, is a perfect dessert with ice cream or a treat with my morning coffee. You can use any type of apples- how many bushels have you picked so far this fall?! Just make sure you peel ’em!

I guarantee this cake will become a family favorite! If you have any questions about the recipe, you know where to find me- in the kitchen, on my Ipad, gathering recipes for the holidays. Unless I am out shopping for shoes for the next fabulous wedding we are attending this weekend. Blog to follow.  Susan

Sweet Switzerland

On this week’s episode of Wanderlust Wednesday:

A couple of summers ago, when Coach and I were headed to Italy for a family vacation, we decided to take the “long way” and fly to Amsterdam, followed by a train trip to Zurich

and then another train ride through the Alps to Milan, Italy.

Coach and I are often the topic of our friends’ travel jokes, as many of our trips are truly on planes, trains and automobiles and well, boats. The plus side? You use frequent flyer miles so it’s cheap and you get to see more stuff.  The down side? A quick trip across the pond can turn into a mecca. C’est La Vie.  Sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the view.

The movie Heidi, starring Shirley Temple, was a favorite when I was young, and Switzerland was definitely on our bucket list, so a stop there made perfect sense. And so, although we only stayed one day and night, we had a chance to tour the beautiful city of Zurich. The city streets were lined with colorful buildings,

Swiss flags in full display

and even an occasional cow on a condo balcony. (I have no explanation for this)

Zurich is a city that is, in reality, as breathtaking as the postcards and travel posters would have you believe. 

Our hotel, the Schweizerhof, was situated directly across from the train station, which made for easy transport of our luggage. Oh, wait, that’s right, the airline LOST our luggage in Amsterdam, so we arrived with only carryon bags in tow. I spent the entire day fretting about how I was going to have to go shopping to replace everything I had packed for our Tuscan vacation. Do you have any idea how expensive Switzerland is?!?So while I obsessed, we strolled through the city, from our lovely hotel at one end, to stunning Lake Zurich at the other. The shopping and tourist district flanks both sides of the Limmat River that flows through the center of Zurich.  

Coach and I stopped for lunch at the outdoor Cafe Odeon. Apparently many famous personalities have graced the patios of this eating establishment, including Albert Einstein, James Joyce and Mussolini (I guess that explains the great train system). I am going to assume that most were smart enough not to order this gigantic Bagel Bacon Cheeseburger that Coach did. Gross.

When I think Swiss, I think of two things: watches

and of course, Swiss chocolate. Seriously!?! Have you ever seen a more exquisite candy storefront than this?

Rows upon rows of chocolate-dipped fruits and cookies enticed shoppers to come in for a tasty sampling.

As the day turned to dusk, the buildings along the river glowed in the evening sunset.

Coach and I retreated to our hotel, only to discover that our luggage had not yet been found. Until 2AM. Knock on the door. Luggage outside. Yay! In the morning we took our trains to Florence, Italy, where we picked up our car to head to San Giminano. All of a sudden, Coach reaches into the pocket of his shorts and pulls out this GIANT 3# metal key fob from our Zurich Hotel!! Room 522. Yikes!

A great (unintended) souvenir of our stay in sweet Switzerland. If anyone is heading to Zurich, let me know. I’ll give you the key to return it. In the meantime, always remember to find joy in your journey, no matter how long it may take. Susan

“Fall”ing for Vintage Flair

Taking advantage of another gorgeous fall Sunday, Coach and I headed back to the Vintage Bazaar at Pettengill Farm in Salisbury, Mass. If you recall, we visited back in the spring, and instantly fell for the vibe of this rustic country bazaar. If you love re-furbished antiques and junque, like these adorable re-purposed suitcases from Yellow Chair Market  from Melrose, Ma.

or this stunningly colorful repurposed silver-turned-enamelware by BMc Vintage Design Studio)

or just taking in a quintessentially New England fall fair, this is a go-to destination! I love the sights and sounds of a fall country fair featuring live music, local foods and hundreds of shoppers happily strolling though the fields filled with imaginative offerings. Where else could you find life-sized pumpkin people

or perfectly pretty hand-crafted ceramic teacups and plates from Elizabeth Benotti

and funky furniture from her sister from My Simple Home Life who Renovates, Revamps and Remakes castoffs?

We discovered unique shelving and benches created from old wooden palettes,

all-natural, deliciously flavored goat milk soap from Magic Moon Soapworks (great for the complexion, I am told)

and spectacular re-purposed glass flowers spilling out of a garden pot from Creative Glass Works?  Creative Glass Works BostonOn our previous visit, we had discovered the work of Jess from Jwrobel, an artisan who re-cycles time-worn pieces into new treasures. Loving this bench re-purposed from an old headboard.  

The folks from a new vintage shop in Newburyport called Ivy Lane

were introducing an eco-friendly line of yummy paints and waxes from CeCe Caldwell. Even the quart containers are bio-degradable! Can’t wait to try these on my next D.I.M. project!

This time around, the fair was sharing their grounds with a vintage motorcyle show. This sparkling aqua Harley-Davidson was a show-stopper.

Can you imagine me out and about on this so pretty pink Vespa?!?

The vendor was trying desperately to entice me to purchase one (for a mere $4,000!), and I was strangely drawn to this PINK bike, until she mentioned the hot pink matching helmet. Yeah, my hair and helmets, not so much. Just a bad hair day waiting to happen. Move on.

Pettengill Farm, “a flower farm of distinction” that hosts this bi-annual vintage bazaar is a charming family-owned endeavor, with just the right touches of vintage and modern scattered throughout the property. These “cat shovels” were cute (I cheer whenever I see something that may have ended in a land-fill being repurposed into something fun and decorative) This recycled ostrich sculpture is fun- I think he would have looked great in Coach’s garden!

Kept spotting these peacefully charming fish sculptures scattered throughout the gardens

so I floated on over to “Fish in the Garden“. These life-like creatures are created from ceramic and stainless steel, and they curve in a way that mimics a school of fish. Lovely. Peaceful.

Along the way we ran into some local friends who had read my previous June blog about the Vintage Bazaar and decided to check out the fair for themselves. They were having a great time, with grandchildren in tow wearing crazy balloon animal hats. Happy to discover that my blog is reaching and informing my readers, and that helps to reinforce the small part I play in the blogging world. Have a terrific Tuesday everyone! Susan

“An Apple A Day…

…makes for great pie!”

Today, September 22,  is officially the first day of autumn. In New England, that means saying goodbye to summer style with aquas and blues and cool ocean hues. And saying hello to autumn – warm and cozy colors, fallen leaves crunching underfoot

pumpkins in patches…

and apples to pick!

While flipping thought this month’s issue of Country Living Magazine (which, by the way, is dark and moody halloween-y genius-check out these candy apples…)

I spotted this pullout ad from Glidden Paints.

Now, I normally go through a mag and immediately pull out and toss all the card ads, but this one caught my eye. Luscious fall colors called Granny Smith Apple, Macintosh and Golden Delicious. Yum. So I hopped onto their website and discovered these great interactive color idea boards. This one is for Red Delicious.

You choose a color, they show you a room inspiration plus they add complementary colors to complete the palettes. Brilliant! Along with the Granny Smith Apples,  I found fall-inspired color schemes like Pumpkin Patch Crisp Autumn Leaves 

and Cinnamon Stick, all of the colors true to their natural counterparts. 

Now in my dream design world, I would change my room’s paint colors with every season. But since my overall success rate with my current DIY projects (see Hall of Shame) is pretty poor, I decided it would be simpler to change a few accessories to add those warm autumn hues to my spaces.  This picture was sitting idly in the basement, waiting for its chance to shine.

Paired with a few pieces pulled from other parts of the house, I was able to create this fall-inspired vignette in my kitchen. Just take a look around your home and see what inspires you! Now if you will excuse me, I have an apple pie to bake. Happy Autumn!  Susan

High Five For Friday!

Yup, we’re all happy it’s Friday! End of another work week, hopefully got something fun planned for the weekend.?!. (Heading off to the Vintage Bazaar at Pettengill Farm– you should check it out too!) This week’s High Five For Friday goes to Buffalo Plaid Curtains. I wrote a blog post about Buffalo Plaid a few months back. Not only was it one of my most popular posts, it also continues to be one of my most “pinned” boards on Pinterest. Buffalo plaid gives a country feel to any space and can be paired nicely with anything from toiles to solids. If you are searching for a fresh look for fall and the upcoming holidays, why not change out your kitchen curtains and add a little country flair? If you’re lucky enough to live in Massachusetts, you can visit your local Country Curtains store, or shop online as well.

Happy Friday everyone! Susan

Essential Estonia

When we first saw Tallin, Estonia listed on our itinerary for last summer’s Baltic Sea Princess Cruise, I thought “Hey, isn’t Estonia that fake country that was in “The Princess Diaries!?” (actually, that was Genovia). Having never even heard of it, we really didn’t know what to expect until we approached the docks, spying the ancient towers of the town of the capital city of Tallin in the distance. Once inside the walled city

we were instantly transported back in time, surrounded by great stone churches including St. Olav’s Church– and yes, we did climb all the way to the top of the tower!

Climbing that narrow stone stairways was most definitely not for the faint of heart…but well worth the trip- what a view from the top!!)

360 degrees of spectacular sights greeted us

from the docks to the city center (thankfully there was a grill at the very top, so no chance of toppling out!)

We strolled through the walled city

taking in all the sights, including the chunky tower know affectionately as Fat Margaret – can you see where she gets her name?and the bustling Town Hall Square filled with shops and tourists alike.

The stunningly colorful architecture gives you the illusion of being on some medieval movie set,

I think Shrek and donkey may have gotten lost …

Although the official languages are Estonian and Russian, most of the vendors and townspeople spoke English, so it was quite easy to navigate our way around through the city, shop the local artisans

and dine in the famous Olde Hansa. 

Our lunch at Olde Hansa was one of the highlights of the day, sitting in the brilliant sunshine, enjoying the local cuisine. Although we passed on the Wild Boar and Rabbit Roast, we did enjoy a platter of oven-baked cheeses and herb beer. We tried to buy these amazing mugs at the restaurant shop, but they were not for sale!

If anyone knows a potter who could replicate these, let me know- they were fantastic!! What we did purchase was this hand-wrought, iron and copper candle lantern that now hangs proudly in our kitchen.

The salesclerk literally took it down from the wall and wrapped it up, screws and all, for us to take home. Try explaining that bundle to airport security.  So another great stop on our Baltic Sea tour, Estonia definitely being one of the highlights of our trip. And that’s no bull!!

Have a wonderful Wednesday… Susan

Simply Black and White

Great news from Washington D.C. yesterday, and it has nothing to do with the upcoming elections! A new baby Panda Bear was born at the National  Zoo! A four-ounce bundle of hairless joy, (who shall remain nameless for 100 days, bowing to Chinese culture) was born to Mei Xiang (pronounced may-SHONG), her second offspring born at the zoo. So, in honor of the panda, a few inspired black and white interiors to share with you today.  Black and white decor can be clean and modern, like this bedroom from Zack Benson or a little softer and romantic, just by adding a yummy toe-scrunching carpet and a touch of bling from The Decorholic

Black and white makes for a dramatic entryway, such as this one from LDa Architecture and Interiors

Don’t you just want to come in this sun-filled space and sit awhile?!? From Kim E. Courtney Interiors and Design, Inc.

Black and white makes for dramatic dining spaces as well. These chairs from Ramsey Interiors…oh my!!   One bright accent color such as pink, pops off of a black and white background and adds a touch of drama…

Which I love, along with this fabulous chair, also from The Yellow Cape Cod!!

Black and white can be dramatic and bold: this striped room from Usona

or simply charming like this bedroom from Pur Style Home

or a newborn panda cub  (awww!) For additional photographs and black and white inspiration, check out my ideabook on Here’s hoping you have a “beary” nice Tuesday! Susan

Since my decorating point of view is simply country style, I am always drawn to interiors and products that help me create that look. I realize that many folks appreciate, but don’t necessarily decorate with that homespun, down-home casual look, but I believe that one “countrified” piece can fit into any room, into any decorating scheme. It is all about blending and mixing pieces to come up with the perfect eclectic design for you; a style that stands the test of time. More importantly, a style that makes your house your home, whether it’s Refined Rustic

Country Pretty

or Mid-Century “Mad Men”.

Each week, on Features Friday, I am hoping to share a couple of items/ideas/recipes: anything that might inspire you to add a touch of country to your space! I will provide you with links to the sources we have used and the products that we love. First up: Lt. Willard Moses Lighting from The Great Windsor Chair Company. Located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Great Windsor Chairs sells a huge selection of country-style farm tables, chairs, clocks and lighting. When Coach and I were remodeling our kitchen, we needed the perfect chandelier, as it is the focal point and centerpiece of our space. We found and purchased this one online, hoping that the quality and style were right for our room, since we had never seen this brand in a local store.

Hanging from the vaulted ceiling, it instantly conveys that “country” feeling we were looking for, and it provides elegant ambiant lighting. LOVE. Another company, Urban Chandy, creates these uniquely rustic chandeliers from re-claimed lumber and vintage-look bulbs. Fabulous! These rustic pieces would work just as well in a country setting as in an urban, modern design. You can shop their stylish lighting on

If you have something to share, whether it’s a recipe, furniture source or design idea, I would love to share with my Country Design readers! Send a photo along with the link and information to T.G.I.F. everyone!!! Susan

“Dude, Where’s My Hammer?!?”

Since my last blog, I have had a bit of wrist re-furbishing, and typing left-handed is proving to be quite slow and tedious. So in the interest of my patience and sanity, the next few blogs (until the cast comes off) will be short, sweet and photo heavy. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Since my D.I.M. capabilities are severely limited at the moment, I am going to share a few recent projects that you might like to try. Since Coach and I are forever working on some home-and-barn improvement project, tools and supplies are constantly being moved around. It seems like whenever it’s time to hang a picture or sand a piece of furniture, the necessary tools are nowhere to be found. SO FRUSTRATING!!! How many of you out there in cyberspace have a junk drawer? Well, we do, and its so stuffed with junk I usually can’t find anything!

So, rather than going out and purchasing a fancy tool chest, I found some old plastic bins kicking around in the basement, and decided to use them to create my Home Improvement Command Center HICC for short.

In each labeled drawer there are the tools specific for that task. Stick: glue, duct tape, masking tape- anything that sticks-get it?

Cut and Scrape: razor cutters, blades, paint scrapers, chisels.

Screw and Drill: drivers, electric and manual, phillips head and flat head, along with the many drill bits we have purchased over the years because we couldn’t find the right one when we needed it. 

Hang: for pictures, curtains, rods (well, the rods don’t actually fit in these bins, but are you getting the hang of this?!?)

There are many more, including POUND, WRENCH&PLY and BRUSH- all pretty self-explanatory. Right after I completed this project, Coach came to me and said “Hey, I was looking for a hammer and found it right away- in the pound drawer!” HICC complete. Mission accomplished. Now if we can just remember to put them back! Have an inspiringly organized day! Susan

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