Chili’n Out

I have rediscovered the wonders of my Crock Pot. By mid-week I am looking to cook something yummy that requires little prep work, makes little mess and provides tonight’s meal, plus leftovers that will take us to the weekend and that I can save right in the pot. One of my favorites? Turkey Chili. Or Chili Con Carne (chili with meat). You brown the meat, chop a few onions, open some cans, then dump all the ingredients in the pot and off you go- the magic crock pot does the rest! Chili is fast and simple to prepare, one recipe makes enough for a small army (see below) and served with some shredded cheddar, a dollop of sour cream and some blue tortilla chips or corn bread-it is so delish!

Before I give you my Sparkpeople Healthy Recipe for Turkey Chili with Corn and Black Beans, a little “chili’ng” history via Wikipedia:

“In Spanish, the word “chile” refers to a chile pepper and “carne” means meat. The first documented recipe for “chile con carne” is dated September 2, 1519. The ingredients were boiled tomatoes, salt, chiles and meat. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of Hernan Cortez’s Captains and the source of the recipe, states in his book, that the Cholulan Indians, allied with the Aztecs, were so confident of victory in a battle against the Conquistadors the following day that they had “already prepared cauldrons of tomatoes, salt and chiles” in anticipation of a victory feast. The one missing ingredient, the meat, was to be furnished by the Conquistadors themselves: their own flesh.” YIKES!!!

Nowadays, we are a bit more civilized and typically purchase our meat at the local butcher shop or grocery store. My only conquest is beating everyone to the 10 items or less checkout line!

Now, although I am a country girl at heart, I am certainly not The Pioneer Woman, so I do not have a professional photographer handy to film each step of my cooking process. Instead, just click on the link for the Turkey Chili Recipe on– it is low fat, low calorie-212 per serving, and it is filling, spicy and delicious! I have made a couple of adjustments to the recipe: instead of frozen corn, I add this yummy stuff:

And I usually throw in whatever else I have in the fresh veggie bin that would benefit from a spicy bath, like mushrooms, zucchini, peppers. And if I have a little calorie “wiggle room” (that does NOT refer to my thighs), I will add some shredded low-fat cheddar cheese and a dollop of light sour cream. The best one I have ever tasted-Trader Joe’s Light Sour Cream- if you didn’t see the label you wouldn’t know it was low fat and low calorie- absolutely delish!

Now, if you happen to have a crockpot recipe- can be meat or vegan- low calorie or not, as long as it’s tasty- that you love to eat and would love to share, please send it to me @ and I will be happy to post it for everyone!

Old Cape Cod

“If you’re fond of sand dunes, and salty air, quaint little villages, here and there, You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod”- so the song goes.

We are fortunate to live only a little more than an hour’s drive away from our National Seashore, and equally as fortunate to have children who generously gifted us a weekend away at the Chatham Bars Inn. For those of you who have never ventured over the bridge to “The Cape”, Chatham is the quintessential Cape Cod town. Picture a quaint little village sitting on the ocean’s edge, cedar-clad homes and shake shingle roofs, the village lighthouse with it’s beacon lighting the way home for incoming sailors.Winter on the cape is calm and quiet, devoid of the thousands of tourists who flock there in the summer months to take advantage of miles of sandy shores and magnificent beaches. This time of year, solitude reigns, and while walking the beach with a few hardy souls, you may encounter a seagull or two, or the occasional pawprint in the sand, but this is the best time to enjoy all the beauty that the cape has to offer without fighting the crowds.

The perfect place for a weekend getaway, the Chatham Bars Inn has a long and storied history. Construction of the inn began in 1912, when wealthy Bostonian Charles Hardy purchased several parcels of waterfront land, with the intent of building a hunting lodge. Over the years, the inn has undergone additions, renovations and refurbishings, and what stands today is a spectacular historic resort with buildings scattered over 25 acres, all facing the Atlantic Seaboard.

Now this is not going to be a or review, but I will tell you that the service was impeccible, the room was lovely, breakfast was delectable and the main inn was breathtakingly, simply elegant. Not lavish and overdone, our room was so “Country Pretty”- white trim, soft blue accents, heavenly plush bed and a view of the ocean. A perfect place to unwind and reconnect before heading home for another work week.

It’s A Sign

There is a scene in Sleepless in Seattle when Meg Ryan and Bill Pullman are celebrating Valentine’s Day in a New York skyscraper- remember the “Dom Deloise” champagne scene? As “Annie” is pondering their future together, she gazes out the window and is taken aback when she spots the Empire State Building slowly blinking into a thousand red lights creating a 15 story valentine heart. She breathlessly states “It’s a sign”, hands over the engagement ring and takes off to meet Sam and Jonah (and Howard ) on the top of the Empire State Building. Happily Ever After.

Signs are everywhere. Sometimes confusing. Sometimes amusing. 

They inform us, guide us to our destination and welcome us safely home.

Signs are also a harbinger of things to come: the first budding crocuses are a sure sign of spring, and the anger of a dark green sky warns of a threatening storm, a valentine’s heart the sure sign of a budding romance.

Trending right now in design, decorating with signs is a creative way to tell your story. Any home catalog or magazine you browse through, any Pinterest Board you find, any decorating websites you drool over all feature signs as a way to add colorful art to your walls while sharing something about yourself.  Signs can be artistic, nostalgic, funny or sarcastic- the possibilites are endless-but in your space, they should tell the story of you.

The signs I have scattered around my home tell my story, and trigger memories of people and places in my life. This montage is at our back door, so arriving guests can be welcomed into the chaos, enjoying the humor in our home.

The Red Sox have broken my heart for countless summers, but this sign evokes images of hot summer nights at the ballpark with a hotdog and beer, rooting on the home town team.

You can’t look anywhere without catching a glimpse of this Keep Calm and Carry On sign that was a poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the event of invasion. Now adapted into hundreds of humorous designs, Keep Calm is one of my favorites (click on the cupcake sign for some of my other favorites on Pinterest), and serves as a daily reminder that when my crazy life gets a bit out of control to just stop, take a deep breath, then keep moving forward.  I think its a sign.

Country Design Home Unplugged

I know what you were thinking, that you were going to be treated to some soft, acoustic country music while you read my latest blog. Yeah….no. Today’s topic: how to unplug your toilet. When you live in a house built in 1857 (Click here for quick History 101), there are always ongoing repair and restoration projects-old wood, old wires and old pipes make for a constant drain on the pocketbook and the patience. Recently we have noticed that our toilet was running very slowly, and taking two to three flushes to clear it out. Could it be due to our recent brush with a stomach bug? Not to be indelicate, but a lot of time was spent on the “throne” in the past couple of weeks- let’s just say we should’ve had stock in Charmin’.

Speaking of thrones-nice segue, huh?- while we were in Paris a couple of years ago,we were fortunate to be paired with an incredible tour guide named Thierry. He educated us about all things French while we strolled through the palace and grounds of Versailles , entertaining us with anecdotal stories about King Lous XIV & Marie Antoinette. One of everyones favorites: back in the day, toilettes were placed in plain sight of everyone, so you could do your “business” while you were doing business! The king had several highly stylized toilettes, think Kolher by Elton John- decorated as if they were “thrones”, where he perched throughout the day. Not sure if this is true or not, but it made for an enjoyable afternoon of pondering the inner plumbings of the king while visiting the city of lights.

OK, back to modern day plumbing. We tried plunging it and flushing it repeatedly, with little result. So, rather than call the plumber, I turned to the internet (thank you, Al Gore) for the solution to my dilemma. I read several articles about how to clean it out naturally, and this seemed logical, and cheap, so I gave it a shot. For complete instructions, click the toilet. Essentially, you pour a generous amount of dishwashing soap into the toilet, add a large pot of boiling water (do NOT do this with bare feet!) poured from high above the toilet, wait a minute, then flush. Rinse, repeat, if necessary-which it was. I hated wasting that big bottle of Dawn Hand Renewal infused with Oil of Olay, but I figured it was a lot cheaper than the plumber’s bill, and it made the bathroom smell amazing! And guess what-it worked!! But only for a short time, so now we are back to square one. Anyone know a good plumber I can call? I know it won’t be Joe the Plumber-remember him from the last presidential campaign? Apparently he just won the Ohio Congressional Primary- too bad he wasn’t from Flushing, NY. Now that would have been great blogging material.

The Three “R’s” – Re-Imagine, Re-Purpose, Re-Love

Like most working women, I treasure the weekends. They allow us some free time to catch our collective breath and unwind, before gearing up for the upcoming work week. Saturdays are cleaning and errand day, but Sundays are usually saved for special projects that I have set aside, typically involving crafting, sewing or home improvements. Today was a “3 R’s Project”: Re-Imagine, Re-Purpose, Re-Love. I was a DIY fanatic well before HGTV and the DIY Network came along. My mantra? “Sure, I can do that!”

Over the years, I have created extravagent wedding cakes, painted folk art, and more recently, I create and donate T-Shirt Quilts through “Threads Of Hope”– all the while working on refurbishing and restoring my 1850’s homestead. I never shy away from a project, whether its re-clapboarding the front of the house, baking a fantastic cake for a party, building a fieldstone wall, adding wainscotting to a room or crafting a quilt for an auction. I’ll try anything, with the exception of electricty. Attempted to splice some wires once with shockingly bad results. Lesson learned. I love re-using, re-cycling, re-beautifying things and giving them a new purpose.

Today I re-covered two pillows for my living room due to the “decorating domino effect”. Not sure what that means? I’ll explain. My living room is decorated in shades of blues and creams with brown accents. Recently I purchase a new rug for my dining room-red and white and gorgeous! So now the dining room rug has found a new home in the living room. Unfortunately, the transported rug is in shades of blues and reds, so exit the brown accents from the living room and enter the reds. Therefore, the brown and blue pillows needed new covers to co-ordinate-got that?

Now, dropping $50.00 for a new throw pillow is not something I am able or willing to do. My shopping is a constant struggle between want and need, and throw pillows typically don’t fall into the need column within my limited decorating budget. So, having two perfectly good down-filled pillow inserts, it was time to pull from my fabric grab-bag to re-cover them. Disclaimer: In a previous blog, Map It Out, I described my husband as a pack-rat. I want to state here that I do have my weakness when it comes to saving:fabric.

I save left-over fabric pieces, curtains, sheets, bedspreads, pretty dresses, in the event that I might need a scrap or two for a project someday. In my defense, I do a lot of quilt-making, painting and crafts, and fabric scraps are used for everything from rags to ruffles. Today, I pulled a lovely old blue Waverly Toile Valance out of my bin, and with that discarded window treatment I made two new covers for my living room throw pillows-love them! The cost? $1.78 for the covered button kit I purchased at Joanns (using a 50% coupon, of course). Had I gone shopping for those same two Waverly-covered, down-filled pillows, I would have paid upwards of $45 each, and with all due respect, they would not be nearly as pretty as the ones I created today.

So another Sunday gone, another re-purposing project completed-time to go clean up the dining room and gear up for another Monday morning. In the meantime, I can check pillows off the list of things to re-imagine, re-purpose and re-love.

Color My World

As Petula Clark (for those of you unfamiliar with the 70’s pop princess, click on the link)  once sang: “Oh, you can color my world with sunshine yellow each day, yes you can color my world with happiness all the way. Just take the green from the grass and blue from the sky up above, and if you color my world just paint it with your love..” So many of the colors we choose for our homes are culled from nature’s immense beauty, and those colors are a reflection of who we are, and that makes us happy and content in our spaces. My mother always said that when you walk into your home at the end of a long day, it should make you smile.

When I imagine “blue from the sky up above”, I think of a sunny day with brilliant blue skies filled with fluffy white clouds, whereas someone else might imagine a dark, treacherous horizon over a stormy ocean, turning the brilliant blue to a deep gray-green. Nature’s furious beauty provides an unendending variety of colors, well beyond those seven featured in a rainbow.

Recently, my mom asked me to help her re-do her master bedroom. She complained that the lack of color of the walls made it difficult for her to sleep, and that the space felt uncomfortable to her. She is an artist, painting in oils, pastels and water-colors and has lived a color-filled life. She lives in a townhome built in the 70’s, around the same time as Petula released her number one single “Downtown“. The townhomes are very nice, but are essentially devoid of architectural details- neutral beige is the standard color palette. 

Enter Mr. Benjamin Moore, with a gallon of Blueberry Hill (hmm, just wondering if that’s where he found his thrill…). The color description?

blueberry hill 812

Reminiscent of picking sun-ripened blueberries on a warm summer day, this deep, saturated blue captures the purple cast of a bowl of fresh berries.

Yum! Right?! You don’t even need to see the color swatch to know exactly what color this is, but just in case:
So we painted the feature wall Blueberry Hill, the remaining walls White Dove. We transformed her bedroom with many of her existing furnishings and a little help from HomeGoods, from a blah, beige box into a space that makes her smile. And isn’t that what coloring your world is all about?

Beware the Ices of March

So, we thought we were going to get through this glorious winter relatively unscathed, right? Damn that Puxatony Phil- one month to the day after he saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter, Mother Nature finally co-operated and dumped a few inches of snow on us. When the snow turned to rain yesterday, I figured this morning’s commute would be on dry roads with nary a snowflake in sight. Imagine my surprise when I opened the back door to let the dog out and saw this picture!

The beauty of the freshly fallen white snow contrasting with the red and black of the barn got me to thinking about the color white and how it translates to design. White stands for purity and innocence- think angels and brides,

goodness and cleanliness- think doctors and nurses or good vs. evil

and brilliance and light. To the human eye, brilliant white can be painful and blinding, which is why, in decorating, it is best to add even the smallest amount of contrast, so that the room does not appear to be too stark.

According to Benjamin Moore (my absolutely all-time favorite paint), the white color palette is their top-selling paint choice, and boy, do they have white paint choices! White Dove, Linen White, Cloud White, China White, Decorator’s White, Najavo White, Atrium White-the list is endless- all clear and natural and absolutely versatile. Whites can be the blank canvas for modern, traditional, french country, shabby chic or farmhouse country design.

It can be sleek and sophisticated or friendly and warm, depending upon the hard and soft furnishings. It can fill a room with light or create a dramatic frame for a window or dark-hued wall.  Here are some of my favorite white spaces on Pinterest. Enjoy!

Taking the Leap

Since today is February 29th of a Leap Year, it only seems fitting that I should talk about weddings. Why, you say? Because folklore has it that this day was set aside by St. Patrick, back in Ireland in the 5th Century, for hopeful brides to declare their love and propose marriage to their intendeds. Turns out that St. Bridget had complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait forever for the proposals they were hoping to get. So he offered this one day, every FOUR YEARS, for brides to pop the question. Seriously?

Fast forward to 2012. I am not certain about who did the proposing, but this year we have the honor of being invited to several weddings, including those of our niece and also the children of some of our closest friends-most of whom we have known since they were toddlers. The weddings are being held on a city rooftop  a Caribbean beach resort  a yacht club and a rustic country barn All unique, as are the brides and grooms, but with one thing in common-love. We wish each and every one of them a lifetime of happiness.

Map It Out

I have made many decorating mistakes over the years, primarily because I didn’t take the time to put together a decorating plan before beginning a new project. Taking existing pieces-adding and editing as you go-can be fun, but frustrating. Many times I have fallen in love with an item and brought it home, only to discover that it really didn’t work in the intended space. Pinterest makes it easy to put together a cohesive plan with a color board that springs from an inspiration piece- in this case, the yellow and gray antique maps.

Ah, the map story. My husband is, in kind words, a pack-rat. He is a collector of all things historical. We have a barn full of books, muskets, harpoons, political campaign buttons, old tools, posters and art. He loves yard sales, and came home one day with an armful-probably 20-of the aformentioned maps that he had purchased for a very reasonable price-intending to sell them for profit. What he didn’t tell me was that he went back later and purchased the remainder of the lot-over 160 maps!!! Two years later, they are still squirreled away in the barn, while he discovers that no one is really interested in his maps. Except me. But he won’t let me use them for decorating. Because someday somebody will want to buy them. Sigh.

via Map It Out.

The Red Truck

I am the proud owner of a brand new 2012 Honda CRV. It’s a pretty silver color, has a moonroof, AWD, a backup camera and it’s Bluetooth enabled so I can talk and drive hands free, listening to my ITunes or Pandora. It’s super comfy and the back is large enough to hold anything I can haul out of HomeGoods. Even has a roof rack for the yet-to-be-launched kayaks! (but that’s a story for another day) Dream car, right?

Nope. My dream car is an old-fashioned, shiny, fire engine red pickup truck, a farmer’s best friend. Used for everything from transporting chickens to market to carrying hay, that truck is the vehicle I have wanted for years. Part of the allure is surely the color- RED – the color of fire and blood and one that evokes feelings of energy, confidence and courage. That truck of my dreams has served as inspiration for many of my bold home color choices, including the exterior, the barn and my dining room walls. I may never own one, but I can thank the red truck for shaping my design sense: bold, functional, country, pretty.


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