Saturday, January 28, 2012

French Enamel Salt Box

I love when I come across French antiques... It doesn't happen terribly often shopping mostly in Nebraska and Ohio, and my heart always pitter-pats when I see something like this - a white enamel wall-mount salt box with word "Sel" on the front. I found it at a little antique store in Ohio, and I loved the beautiful blue French writing and the worn spots where the dark metal was showing through underneath. And the best part about finding a treasure like this in a small, local, down-to-earth antique shop is that the price is usually down-to-earth as well. :) You may have to search a little harder, but it just makes the reward that much sweeter!

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Striped Ribbon

I am officially obsessed with this ribbon... I was running out of the ribbon I used to use on my handmade soap gift boxes, and I wanted something better. And, boy, is this better... Luxurious, elegant 1.5" wide grosgrain ribbon with a beautiful hand, soft drape, and gorgeous rustic ivory and caramel brown stripes. It's the kind of ribbon people write poems about. Or at least they should...

I am in the process of tweaking my gift sets and switching them all over to this beautiful new ribbon, but I just photographed the first one this afternoon and I couldn't wait to show it off. This is my No. 2 Gift Box - the Hardworking Hands Kit. It has two bars of coarsly-textured handmade soap (the Gardener's Scrub has cornmeal plus oatmeal, and the Cinnamon Coffee has finely ground coffee beans in it) paired with a wooden nail brush for down and dirty scrubbing. But I'll just let all that gorgeous ribbon speak for itself...

And don't worry... I ordered enough of this ribbon to share. It comes in glorious 30 yards spools (30 yards!) which will retail for $26.00 each. I've seen it sold by the yard in a handful of online shops, but I'm going to offer it in my etsy shop by the roll instead. I don't have it photographed and listed just yet, but it's coming soon. The Hardworking Hands Kit is already available in both shops, here and here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Morning Oatmeal

My husband and I both love a good bowl of oatmeal. I grew up eating packets of instant oatmeal from the microwave, but as an adult I've discovered that nothing beats slow-cooked, made-from-scratch oatmeal. This paticular recipe has become our Saturday morning favorite. Old-fashioned oats are cooked in a mixture of milk, egg, and brown sugar for a rich and creamy oatmeal that is sweet and delicious straight from the pan, or doctored up with your favorite toppings.  The recipe is slightly adapted from a recipe called "butterscotch oatmeal" that I found on

SATURDAY MORNING OATMEAL (serves 2 hungry people)

1 3/4 cup milk (I use skim, as it's what we keep on hand, but use something richer if you like!)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats
Cinnamon (to taste)
1 Tbsp butter to finish (optional)

Add the egg and milk to a shallow saucepan (mine is 2 1/2 quarts) and beat well so that the egg is thoroughly incorporated. Wisk in the brown sugar and pinch of salt. Stir in the oats, and top with a few heavy shakes of cinnamon.

Once all of the ingredients are combined, turn the heat on low and allow the oatmeal to s-l-o-w-l-y heat, stirring often. Be patient. I've done this different ways, and I've found it's best to add everything to the cold pan, and then heat it together slowly. When I've rushed the heat, I ended up with a grainy texture and small pieces of cooked egg instead of the thick, smooth, custard-like consistency you want. Good Saturday Morning Oatmeal takes time!

Heat and stir over low heat until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble - I'd say it usually takes at least 10 minutes or so before it begins to bubble. Continue to cook the bubbling mixture a few more minutes until it is thick and creamy.

The thick, almost-finished oatmeal makes some great deep gurgling, burbling sounds as it cooks.

When the oatmeal looks like this, turn off the heat and stir in up to a tablespoon of butter to finish. Honestly, sometimes I forget to add the butter (like this morning) and the oatmeal is still wonderful, so just leave it out if you're worried about the extra fat. But it does add a nice richness.

Dish into two bowls and eat up! This oatmeal is delicious just as it is, but feel free to make it extra special with your favorite toppings. We've done sliced bananas and chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, or even chopped apples and a little extra cinnamon. Yum!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Grain Sack and Ironstone

I broke down and ordered a couple of antique grain sacks from Ebay. Out here in the middle of the prairie, I've discovered that you don't come across many antique European textiles... and I really wanted some! I've been mildy obsessed with checking Ebay and trying to decide which sacks I wanted to order (just ask my husband!), and I finally settled on two, both with blue stripes.

The first one has a nice cobalt blue triple stripe, and ended up as a pillow on my couch.

The second one, with three fabulous thick dark indigo blue stripes, is perfect as a table runner on our small dining room table. I considered opening up the side seams to make one extra long piece, and laying it all the way down the length of the table, but I just couldn't quite bring myself to do it. I know people chop up grain sacks all the time to make pillows, upholster chairs, and make long table runners... but I can't. At least not with this beautiful sack. So instead I laid it across the short side of the table, creating a nice intimate table setting, just right for two. And since I only keep two dining chairs at our table anyways, I think it works out just perfectly.

The new table runner also inspired a new centerpiece, using some of my favorite ironstone, stoneware crocks, and wooden kitchen utensils. I love the simplicity of white ironstone paired with old wood, and combined with the grain sack, the whole table has a rustic french farmhouse feel.

A small, primitive, stoneware salt crock with a wooden lid keeps coarse sea salt handy at the table.

An antique stoneware marmalade jar from England holds a handful of well-worn wooden spoons and a butter paddle. I love the way that the grayish stoneware and aged white ironstone look together.

I also did a little furniture rearranging and moved the antique shelves full of ironstone from the opposite side of the living room into the dining area so that it creates a nice backdrop to the table.

Let it be known, however, that while "a little furniture rearranging" sounds easy, it is in fact back-breaking work when it involves moving a pair of bookcases full of hundreds of books, and a super heavy antique cupboard filled with ironstone. Decorating is a hard job, but the payoff is so worth it...

I paired the "Meat Market" sign that I painted this fall with the cute old black and white wooden pig sign, and hung them both above the ironstone cupboard. A trio of antique baskets on top ties the whole display together, and finishes off my dining room make over.

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