Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Huckleberry Finn: A Farewell River Cruise

"And afterwards we would watch the lonesomeness of the river, and kind of lazy along, and by and by lazy off to sleep. Wake up by and by, and look to see what done it, and maybe see a steamboat coughing along up-stream, so far off towards the other side you couldn't tell nothing about her only whether she was a stern-wheel or side-wheel . . . "

Mark Twain, Huckbleberry Finn

A few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary.  I wish I could say that it was the most romantic of the 16 . . . but it wasn't. 

Instead of holding hands and reminiscing about our years together over a candle-lit dinner, we spent our anniversary . . .

in Idaho . . . 

in an alfalfa field . . . 

in a hotel suite that smelled like Spray 'n' Starch . . . 

with five children. 

My husband's nephew was getting married the next day, and we had dutifully made the trek with our children to the gem state for the big event. 

My children have never been more ecstatic than when they discovered that EACH side of the hotel beds had its own light switch, which they then used to create a strobe light effect in our room by turning them on and off and on and off and on and off and on and off . . . 

(Thank you, Marriott, for providing only the very best for your customers.)

I've never been more ecstatic than when they all finally fell asleep . . . 

 at 1:00 AM. 

That is when I leaned over the port-a-crib and whispered to my husband, 
"Happy Anniversary, sweetie. Your nephew owes us." 

Ever since returning home from Idaho, I have been thinking about a REAL anniversary getaway---one without Happy Meals and sippy cups and backseat bickering. 

As a farewell homage to Huck Finn this month on Be Book Bound, I've been looking for romantic vacations along the Mississippi River.  Today I came across this steamboat river cruise.  

Ever since I laid eyes on the steamboat's grand staircase . . . 

its elegant dining room . . . 

its river-view accommodations . . . 

its stunning theater . . . 

its antebellum Ladies' Parlor . . . 

and Mark Twain salon . . . 

I knew this is how I wanted to spend my anniversary.

I admit it: watching the sun set on the Mississippi River with my husband isn't nearly as adventurous as wrangling five hyped-up children into hide-a-beds and hotel sheets on the third floor of a Springhill Suites somewhere in Idaho, but I'm willing to give it a try.

So farewell, Huck Finn.  
Goodbye, Mississippi River.  

Someday soon I hope to steam along your banks as I properly celebrate 16 years with the love of my life.

And as for the kids . . .

Well, we'll be sending them to stay with my husband's nephew.

Sharing at . . .

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Huckleberry Finn: Peach Pie

"He can have a rope ladder; we can tear up our sheets and make him a rope ladder easy enough. And we can send it to him in a pie; it's mostly done that way. And I've et worse pies."
-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

I wait for peach season like it is Christmas and I am a five year old child. Peaches are my favorite fruit, and I buy them by the case full. This week, amongst several other dishes, we are enjoying a beautiful old fashioned peach pie. And trust me: the pictures look tasty, but they still don't do it justice. 

Simple, Delicious, Old Fashioned Peach Pie
10 Peaches, skinned and sliced
2/3 C Sugar
1/3 C Flour
1 tsp Almond extract
1 tsp cinnamon 
1/4 tsp nutmeg (if desired)

Toss all of this together and place in a pie shell. Dot with butter, top with crust and bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower the temp to 350 for another 40 minutes, and take out and cool. Serve with almond flavored whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

I wish you MANY slices of peach pie in your future :)

Sharing at . . . 
Savvy Southern Style
Southern Lovely

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Huckleberry Finn: A 5-Minute Message Board

"When he wants to send any little common ordinary mysterious message . . . 
 he can write it on the bottom of a tin plate with a fork and throw it out of the window."

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

Receiving and delivering messages around here is not our strong suit.  

When it comes to remembering and writing down information, my children have the attention spans of gnats.

But I'm at fault, too. 

I try to avoid listening to phone messages in the first place, much less writing them down.  I think it is my silent rebellion against the answering machine with its bossy flashing light telling me that there just might be something more important to attend to in my day than categorizing Pinterest boards.  

Pshaw.  As if.

But every time I see those cute fabric message boards with their crisscrossing ribbons and happy fabric, I wonder if there is a side to the message world that I haven't considered.

So this week I decided to swallow my pride, put my Pinterest boards on hold, and break out the glue gun. 

The only problem was that I literally had about five spare minutes to fiddle with this project.  I figured that if it was an utter disaster, I was only out 5 minutes, and I probably didn't need to organize my messages anyway.  Then again, if it was a smashing success, I had a completely legitimate reason for pinning my project (and 10,973 others while I was at it).

So off I went.
  1. I removed the glass from an inexpensive 16x20 frame.  
  2.  I then hot glued a rectangular scrap of quilt batting to the glass within 1/2 inch of the glass edges.  
  3. I laid out a piece of fabric I had left over from my LAUNDRY ROOM MAKEOVER and placed the batting face down on the fabric.  
  4. I pulled the fabric tight and glued it on the backside of the glass.  
  5. I strung the ribbons across the fabric and hot glued them on the back of the glass as well.
  6. Finally, I CAREFULLY placed the glass back in its frame, replaced the back, and hung it on the mudroom wall.
WARNING:  If you are thinking of turning one of your own frames into a message board, USE THE CARDBOARD BACKING AS YOUR BASE for your batting, fabric and ribbons INSTEAD OF THE GLASS.  The glass seemed like a good idea in the beginning, but I wouldn't do it again.  It is simply too fragile and nerve wracking to work with when you have a tight fitting frame, one minute left on your project timer, and children who are using your kitchen/craft space for races.

I was reluctant at first, but I am now a card-carrying member of the Message Board Society.

And no kidding, all it took was 5 minutes.

It's not perfect.  It could probably use more measuring, less ribbon, and some blingy medallions for the crisscrosses, but at least it is a step toward being responsible message takers around here.

Feel free to call me so we can talk about it.

But I must warn you, I'll probably let the machine get your phone call while I get these pictures up on Pinterest.

So leave me a message.

You never know . . .  it just might end up on the board.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Huckleberry Finn: Solving the Zucchini Mystery and a Recipe

"I couldn't hardly get my words out, I was so anxious; but I told Tom as quick as I could we must jump for it now, and not a minute to lose -- the house full of men, yonder, with guns! . . . Then there was a rush, and a bang, bang, bang! and the bullets fairly whizzed around us!"

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

I walked outside today to find a club-of-a-zucchini in the middle of my lawn. As I got closer to the behemoth, I realized its surface was riddled with small holes.

Now, I have to confess something here.  I wasn't as perplexed by the enormous vegetable on my lawn as I was by its holes, seeing as I find all SORTS of random objects in my grass, from spatulas to writing utensils.   (Ah, the joy of having children . . . ) 

In my mind, I quickly ran through the list of possible hole perpetrators.

Decay?  Maybe.

Squash bugs?  Perhaps.

Aggressive birds?  Most likely.

But then I looked more closely at the holes.  Nestled snuggly in the thick of the zucchini skin were several white BB gun bullets.

Unless the local magpies had recently been brushing up on their Air Soft skills, I realized that
my 11-year-old had come up with yet another use for zucchini:  target practice.

Now, if you aren't into vegetable warfare, or regard your garden produce with more respect than we do around here, you may want to consider using your own zucchini for these instead . . .

I made a batch of these today with bullet-free zucchini from the garden.  The cookies are soft, moist, and the perfect way to use up a few more of those prolific gourds.  

Besides, these cookies are smothered in cream cheese frosting.  
I'd eat a gun-wielding magpie if it was smothered in cream cheese frosting.

Here's the recipe:

Frosted Zucchini Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 cups shredded zucchini 
(I squeezed some of the water out of the zucchini first)
4 cups flour


4 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 cups powdered sugar (depending on how thick you like your frosting)

Cream butter and sugars together until smooth.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients and add to butter/sugar/egg mixture.  Finally, add zucchini and mix until blended.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet at bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool and then spread frosting on top.

If you like these cookies, you'll have to try THESE.  I'd give both a "5 Bullet Rating".

Happy shooting cooking!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Huckleberry Finn: Laundry and Mud Room Remodel

"I clumb up the shed and crept into my window just before day was breaking. My new clothes was all greased up and clayey, and I was dog-tired.  Well, I got a good going-over in the morning from old Miss Watson on account of my clothes; but the widow she didn't scold, but only cleaned off the grease and clay, and looked so sorry that I thought I would behave awhile if I could."

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Trouble spots.  I seem to have them everywhere---on my lawn, on my carpet, and on my body (like that pesky "spot" between my kneecaps and chin).

But I'm working on them.  I have fertilized the lawn, I have spotted the carpet, and today I let a neighbor talk me into going to a nearby playground/park to "work out."  I was envisioning a less-than-rigorous routine of going down slides, doing underdogs on the swings, and hanging from some monkey bars.  I mean, what else could you possibly do at a playground?

Well, you could do stair-steppers on park benches until your behind starts to spasm.

You could do lunges across the grass while the other mothers at the playground shield their children's eyes from the unpleasantness of it all.

Or you could do football squats, and silently compose your last will and testament as you anxiously wait to die.

You could do all those things.  And I did.  I have no weight loss to show for it, but I do have a terrific limp and whimper when climbing stairs now.

As bad as these trouble spots are, none of them compare to my home's largest trouble spot:  the laundry room/mud room.

How is it that the room where clothes go to be cleaned is always the dirtiest room in my house?  Forgive me as I give you a brief peek into our "mud room."  This was on a good day.  Don't judge.

Our shelf and bench system just wasn't working for us.  No one actually "sat" on the bench to take off their shoes.  Instead, they just "sat" their junk there.  And every time one of the kids needed a backpack or a baseball cap off of one of the hooks, I would find a pile of once-hanging items on the bench.  Argh.  

Never mind the fact that the laundry room is so sedate with its dark putty walls that I needed a can of caffeine to stay awake long enough to do a load of laundry.  (And you all know how much I love to do laundry.)

This has been our troubled story for the past seven years.  

Until this week.

Several night's ago I lay there awake trying to figure out how to make our laundry room/mud room functional for our family.  As I enumerated our needs in my mind, I realized how we could do it.  I shook my husband awake and told him the exciting news.  He wasn't nearly as excited as I thought he'd be.  

Go figure.

With a few hours of sleep under his belt, hubby caught the vision and we went gangbusters on our project.  

We had lots of help along the way with construction . . .

and painting . . .

And a few days later we had this to show for it . . .

With a happy new color scheme and loads of functionality, this space is finally meeting our needs.

We've "moved in" to the new room, and I couldn't be happier with the results.  The backpacks are organized, the hats have their own hooks, the shoes have a place to call their own, and I can finally fold laundry somewhere other than on a kitchen counter or couch.

One trouble spot down, 3.67 million to go.  Good luck with your own troublesome spots.

If you'd like to talk about them, come find me at the playground.  I'll be the one doing leg lifts by the tire swing.

Wall Color is Ivoire by Sherwin Williams
Door and Cabinet Color is Red Garnet by Better Homes and Gardens
Base Cabinets are from Ikea
Top Shelves/Closet Rod by Hubby
Valance Fabric is Waverly Ballad Bouquet from Joann's Fabrics

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Huckleberry Finn: Tablescape

" It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn’t ever feel like talking loud, and it warn’t often that we laughed, only a kind of low chuckle. We had mighty good weather, as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us at all"
-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

To celebrate Huck Finn, I wanted to create a rustic tablescape in greens and browns to look like a river. I am not so sure that it looks anything like a river, but I had fun with it in any case. :)

I made fresh Blueberry Limeade
3 limes
1/2 C sugar (to taste- my limes were sweet)
1/2 C Blueberries
2-3 C water

Squeeze limes, add sugar to lime juice, press blueberries through a mesh sieve, add water and stir, stir stir! Serve over ice, garnished with lime slices and blueberries.

Made a little sleeve out of ripped packaging paper for the silverware

Added a lantern
 Made a centerpiece out of a galvanized container filled with the grass that seems determined to steal my garden from me...

And set a framed quote on the table. It's a lovely, calm quote.

And there you have it. Honestly, roughly 800 times during the writing of this short post, I have had some little person come to me with a massive crisis that I had to attend to, so it feels like I have been typing for hours. I better go before someone breaks another bottle, cries because their food fell on the floor, or steals a toy from a sibling. Happy Friday!

Linking up:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Huckleberry Finn: Cheesy Bacon Grits

"The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them--that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better."

Do you ever pull a "Widow" and pretend that what you have placed on the table isn't pure awesomeness? Not I, not I. I have to tell you that I am a pretty humble person, and VERY aware of my faults in most areas of my life, but when something I make turns out yummy, I shout it from the rooftops! So this is me shouting: MAKE THESE GRITS! They are SOOOoooOOOooo good! You know why?


Oh, sweet holiest of all breakfast meats, How do I love thee...

I believe Jim Gaffigan puts it best:

Now, I have to put credit where it is due: My mother in law made cheesy grits with bacon for a dinner probably about five years ago, and it was one of those life changing moments where you put it in your mouth, and can't figure out where this brand of pure happiness has been all your life. I can only hope that if you follow this recipe, you have the same experience.
Cheesy Bacon Grits
 6 Slices of Bacon
1 Onion, chopped
2 C. milk
2 C. Water
1 C. Corn Grits- not instant (Or hominy, up to you...)
1 tsp Salt
Tabasco Sauce
2 tbsp Butter
4-8 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Fry your bacon slices til crispy and set aside. Crumble when cool. Drain off about half of the bacon fat from your pan, and toss in your onion into the pan. Cook on med. til lightly browned. Add milk and water to pan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in grits, salt, and tabasco to taste (I used about 20 drops). Now this is important: Some grits are going to soak up more liquid than others, so if you see your grits getting thicker and drier than you would like, add more water or milk and whisk it up! I actually had to use 2 extra cups of liquid this time around, although these proportions are usually right on for me. Go figure. Now after about 20 minutes or so, you should have a nice mushy delicious mess here. Add in butter and about half of your bacon and cheese, and whisk to combine. Now pour into a 9X9 casserole dish and top with the remaining bacon and cheese. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes just to get the top nice and melty. Serve, and die of happiness!
 Onions cooked...

After you've added the grits to the water/milk

After they've thickened up...

After 15 minutes in the oven.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Huckleberry Finn: Reason to Celebrate

"Tom was in high spirits. He said it was the best fun he ever had in his life, and the most intellectural . . . He said that in that way it could be strung out to as much as eighty year, and would be the best time on record. And he said it would make us all celebrated that had a hand in it."

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn Chapter 36

Let me just make one thing clear:  Miriam and I never win anything---well, at least anything good.  Once Miriam won a Christmas ornament at a family reunion raffle.  It was a porcelain clown cuddling a teddy bear.  The clown was crying.  

Just the sort of thing you want on your Christmas tree.

I once won the chance for a free weekend stay at a Las Vegas hotel, complete with a

Visa gift card, 
 a pushy saleswoman,
and a high-pressure time-share presentation.  


Just when we thought "Lady Luck" had a grudge against us, Miriam and I found out that our Apple Orchard shoot is a finalist in the talent scouting party for Cottages and Bungalows Magazine!

Not only are we thrilled to be considered for such an honor, but we are just as ecstatic to be considered alongside such incredible talent.  Believe me on this one:  If we could get autographs from these ladies, we would.

Here are some highlights from the party . . .

A pumpkin wrapped in book pages from the adorable sister bloggers of At the Picket Fence . . .

A stunning tablescape by Maple and Magnolia . . .

An charming mantle from Ella Claire . . . 

A Halloween entry that will forever make my children jealous by It All Started with Paint . . .

A lovely "autumn armoire" from Common Ground . . .

And a super-thrifty and totally tasty tablesetting from me and Miriam . . . 
(Leave it to us to create edible place cards.)

Stop by Whisperwood Cottage to see more Autumn eye candy.

As for Miriam and I, we may just take that pushy salesperson up on the Vegas offer.  Something tells us our luck might be starting to change . . .

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Huckleberry Finn: A Family Home Tour

   "Yes. My great-grandfather, eldest son of the Duke of Bridgewater, fled to this country about the end of the last century, to breathe the pure air of freedom; married here, and died, leaving a son, his own father dying about the same time. The second son of the late duke seized the titles and estates -- the infant real duke was ignored. I am the lineal descendant of that infant -- I am the rightful Duke of Bridgewater; and here am I, forlorn, torn from my high estate, hunted of men, despised by the cold world, ragged, worn, heart-broken, and degraded to the companionship of felons on a raft!" 

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn Chapter 19

My great-great-great-grandfather came from Norway to America in the 1850s.  He had a strong Norwegian accent and was hesitant to speak much in public.  By all accounts, he was a shy man.  

On the other hand, he married a plucky and robust woman from Sweden who had neither trouble speaking her mind nor getting to know others.  (She was a midwife, and probably knew more about her neighbors than they would like to admit.)  I like to think I take after my grandmother---aside from the midwifing part.

My great-great-great-grandparents purchased a little brick home and its adjoining farm in the late 19th century.  It later passed from their hands to a son's hands and on down the line.  Unfortunately, it wasn't the genealogical line I happen to be standing in.  Great-Great-Uncle Soren got the house.  

 And so marked the end of my connection to the family ancestral home.

That is, until today.

I was dumbfounded this week when I discovered while flipping through a magazine that it was listed as "House #7" in the Salt Lake Parade of Homes!  Apparently, a builder took enough interest in the historical landmark to renovate the home into a showpiece.

I realize no one is a fan of looking at someone else's family photos, but I hope you'll indulge me as I take you on a tour of the little house in all of its renovated glory.

Welcome to The Brinton-Dahl House

The builder salvaged everything he could that was original to the home, including the front door and some of the home's pocket doors.

The fireplace in the living room is original.   A picture of our Grandpa and Grandma hangs over the mantel.

I am smitten with the blue hues of the house, especially in the "game room."  And oh, that molding . . .

The sitting room off of the game room is a light and airy compliment to the masculine feel of the game room.  Where do I sign up for that coffee table and those armchairs?

The kitchen walls are made of exposed brick from the original home.  What is it about brick in a kitchen?  Yum.

I adore these framed recipe pages.  What a cool way to preserve family memories!  Wish I had thought of that . . .

The dining room is a scrumptious little nook off of the kitchen with its funky wallpaper, vintage light fixture, and antique portrait.
The master bedroom is full of interesting textures and eclectic decor.

I have to admit that the master bath is probably my favorite nook of the house.  There is something about that fantastic wall paper and the claw-footed tub surrounded by photographs that makes me swoon.

The kids' rooms are all situated in various eaves of the house.  The sloping ceilings make for unique spaces in each of the bedrooms.

Even the upstairs hallway makes a nod to the past with its quilt hung over the railing.

This old house even makes space for a practical craft/homework/activity area and a modern laundry room.

I was as enamored with the outside of the house as I was with the inside.  I loved its crisp color scheme, its charming lanterns hung from old trees, and its original milk house.

I realize I can't take credit for this unique and adorable home.  I just had the good luck to have roots in its foundation.  I would like nothing more than to move in and triumph in finally staking claim to the ancestral home, but at a hefty $1 million price tag, I guess I'll have to be satisfied with some photos instead.

So here is my most triumphant of pictures.  This is me, our sister Hillary, and my brother and his wife standing proudly on the front steps of the house.  Doesn't it look like we belong there?  

I just wish the builder thought so, too.

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