Moving Day!

movingIt’s finally here. There is still so much to do, but we need to be out of this condo by the end of the month, so I stayed up packing until 1 a.m. I decided to get up sometime after 6 this morning to finish on the packing, because the movers will be knocking on the door by 8. Eeek! Unfortunately, ended up running out of boxes this morning, so I pretty much have been throwing everything in black trash bags. There is one big mound of bags in the corner of the room and I fear an avalanche is coming.

One bad part of this move is most of our stuff is scattered in several locations; either here at the condo, a warehouse unit in town or across town at another building. This move will probably take the majority of the day just gathering up our furnishings and belonging. So, let me go let the movers in and get started. I’ll keep you updated.

The Inside Scoop

Hi, it’s been a while since my last post, but I wanted to let you know that I am getting excited since the house is very close to completion. We’ve finally got to move on to the fun part of our project. At least, it’s fun for me. We have started working on the interiors of the house and we are very close to finishing the whole project. This project is what we refer to as our “farm house”. From the get go, it was planned to be a “weekend” house. Somewhere fun for the family to go during school breaks and on weekends while we grow a few crops and raise a few animals. I know nothing about either, but am willing to learn. Even with that plan in mind, I have realized that the house is not quite as roomy as I would like. The bedrooms are good sized, but the whole house lacks storage space, a must for a pack-rat like me.

By using clever storage solutions, I’m hoping to turn those small spaces into large usable spaces. One idea I’m trying that I found in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, is having the electrician install an outlet in the linen closet of the mud room. That makes a great place for a charging station. This will give us one central place in the house where everyone can recharge their electronic devices. I can’t stand seeing all of those charger plugs and cords scattered throughout the house. Problem solved!

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I’m also going to use the door of the linen closet and transform it into an area that will act as a command center. A central place for mail, important papers, grocery list,  and a place where I’ll be able to display awesome artwork from my young inspiring artist, (instead of all over my refrigerator). Hopefully this “command center” will help keep me organized as well. See my tab at the top of web page titled “Front Porch” for all the details on how to create your own center.

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Example of DIY Command Center

The main goal for this house is to keep it as simple as possible and create a farm-like feel without getting too catchy; using items that are vintage or patina will really help me pull this look off. Kitchen cabinets go in first of next week. I’m a little nervous. I went for a completely different look then I’m used to – all black cabinets with white Carrera marble counter tops. Using two extra large lantern fixtures over the kitchen island, instead of the traditional 3 smaller fixtures, will help set off the large scale size.

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Example of black kitchen cabinets

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HERE IS A PIC OF THE OVERSIZED PENDANTS THAT I HAD INSTALLED OVER THE ISLAND

In order to achieve extra storage, I’m going to use furniture that can do double duty and provide extra storage. I plan on using an ottoman in the T.V. room and a bench at the dining room table, both of which have tops that lift up for storage. When time allowed, I’ve been going to antique shops.  Here are a few items that I’ve already picked up.

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Antique bench for the dining table

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Headboard made from two antique doors. I love the look.

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I picked up one of these old authentic wine barrels. Thought it would make a fun end table for the outdoor porch.

Back on track!

 

farmaaGlad to say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! We seem to have gotten back on track with the building of our farm house and are making progress. Once we lost our contractor so unexpectedly, we had no choice but to pick up where the work stopped and put the pieces back together. My husband and I have had to find our own subcontractors and make many necessary decisions to get this house done. Yes, we have even done some of the work ourselves. We are really hoping to complete it by the end of February.roompaint

My biggest stress maker so far has been the selection of paint colors. That by itself is a very daunting task but everyone (husband, the painter and others) were trying to rush me through the process.  I tried to get them to understand that many elements come into play when making color choices. As an interior designer, I knew color schemes for exteriors must be based on the choices of colors that already exist. It’s important to consider the roof color and any brick color.  Just as important, you must consider colors in the surrounding landscape. That’s a lot to consider and I didn’t want to make the paint choice too quickly.

When trying to select the exterior colors, I quickly decided on earth toned colors, rustic and natural, more on the muted side of the spectrum than the brighter one. I needed to pick three colors: main body of the house, trim color and accent color. With all the columns and railings that come with our wrap around porch, I decided a soft white color was best for those plus the trim on the soffits and rest of the house. That left the decision for the main body of the house. Look at the following color scheme that I fell in love with. It is part of the Sherwin Williams’ color group called, Chrysalis.  Let me know what you think and if anyone out there right now is also painting the exterior of their home, give me your thoughts.

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Here is another Sherwin Williams’ color scheme with very similar hues. I like  them all and think they could work well for exterior colors as well as possible interior paint options in the house; which is my next hurdle to take on.

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After a lot of stressing and over-thinking (something I’m known for), I’ve decided the main body of the house will be Sherwin Williams’ color “Willow Tree”. Decorator’s White will be used for the columns and railings. Unfortunately, I am still stumped on an accent color. I’ll have to mull that one over for a while! However, I am excited that I decided to be a little edgy and paint my husband’s office (which is separate from the main house) a different but complimentary color.  I chose Sherwin Williams’ “Homburg Gray”.  To be honest, I was a wee bit disappointed that this color didn’t come out a tinge greener; however, it’s done (not to mention, my husband said we weren’t paying to have it repainted). So, I have decided to love it!

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Do you like the custom front door?

 

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Husband’s office, painted a different color

 

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When Life gives you lemons….

Well, I just made a nice cold pitcher of lemonade. Why don’t you pour yourself a glass and sit a spell while I fill you in on the progress of the construction on our farmhouse.

In one of my earliest posts, I mentioned that the whole move out to the country and building of a farmhouse was going to be an interesting ride, and I wasn’t too wrong with that assumption. It’s not good news that I have to share, but in the beginning, I did say that I wanted to take you along for this journey, so I need to keep you in the loop.

You hear all the time of wrong-doings happening to other people but you never think those things will happen to you. Well, it did. The progress of the house was moving along just fine. It is about 75% complete but over the Thanksgiving holidays we were notified by the bank handling our construction loan that our contractor/builder had filed for bankruptcy. What? That is not something you want to hear.  He has disappeared and is not returning our phone calls.

To make matters worse, he was collecting his construction draws (money) from our bank, but not paying his vendors or subcontractors. Apparently, he didn’t pay anyone. Now his vendors and subcontractors are coming after us and filing “liens” on our house. What a mess. Never a dull moment for us!

Of course, the construction on the house has come to a complete stop. We had to retain a lawyer and hope to resolve this problem soon. This is not the progress I was hoping to share. The holidays are here and it is nearly Christmas. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. However, I don’t want to dwell on our grief.  We will just keep our chins up, try to laugh at this bad situation and hope to be able to move on from it soon. That’s really all we can do.

We do consider ourselves fortunate for even having the opportunity to build a farmhouse for our family to enjoy and realize that there are plenty of people who have it worse than us. So let’s all just smile, sit back and enjoy our lemonade.  After all…that’s all we can do!

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Why are country dirt roads…well umh, so dirty?

post3This is a picture of the back road to our property. For years, we have been driving back and forth to take care of the horses at the farm or tend to the property.  Driving the back roads to get there has taken more of a toll on my car more than I’ve realized.  The front tires are all out of alignment and I constantly have mud dried to the bottom of my car. The car is really not that old, only by a few years, but you wouldn’t believe the small fortune I’ve spent on car washes and detailing and there is still always a few layers of dust covering the front dash-board.

Even so, I have to admit there is something about an old winding dirt road that is so inviting. Have you ever driven down an old highway and seen a very long wooded drive way so obscure that you can’t see all the way down it? The mystery of what is at the end of that long driveway just drives your curiosity crazy. At least it does mine and I find them to be intriguing. Having it clearly marked “Private Property. No Trespassing” makes it even more alluring, don’t you think?  “C’mon people, what are you hiding?  What don’t you want us to see?”   Those are the things I shout in the car with all the windows rolled up.  Never said I was that brave, wouldn’t want to risk them actually hearing me and thinking that I was some type of nosey neighbor.  That would be the furthest from the truth, but I sure wouldn’t mind it a bit if they wanted to invite me down that long winding driveway to come sit a spell on their porch and sip iced tea.

For a long time now, when trying to give anyone directions to our farm, post2we always start off by saying, “take a right and drive the paved road until it turns to a dirt road, stay on the dirt road and drive about another mile and our property is to your left”. Dirt roads are very common for country living, I guess. It wasn’t until the first of this month that the county finally decided to at least gravel our road. I didn’t know that I could get so excited about a little gravel but it made a huge difference. My car still stays dusty and muddy but since the road was improved you can actually make out the paint color in some spots and I don’t mind.

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgivings and there is always lots to do to prepare for such a sizable meal.  I, too, like so many of you are probably getting up early to kick off the preparations needed to cook this feast.  There will be chopping, sauteing, boiling and baking….oh! my!  It is all a race against time from the minute you wake up until the time the entire family finally sits down to eat.  At that point, what ever didn’t get cooked just gets left off the menu and I say, Let’s all enjoy and Eat Up!

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This meal was Not cooked by me. I only wish mine looked this good.

Because this isn’t just a normal meal to be scarfed down, oh, no.  This meal is more of an event where everyone should enjoy the company, the conversation and all the good cooked dishes.   Ignore the fact that you probably didn’t get to sit where you wanted, or that while sitting at this crowded table you are having to straddle the table leg and are forced to sit in mix matched chairs that are so uncomfortable that people only pull them out once a year.  Overlook the fact that uncle Earl will not stop talking long enough for you to ask him to, “please pass the gravy,”  before it’s all gone, or that great-aunt Rose was late again, so you have to rehash all the table talk she missed so you can catch her up.  And, again (just like last year) they run out of forks and you are forced to eat your entire meal with only a spoon.  Simply smile and know that this “event” only happens once a year and try to enjoy yourself.  It all makes for some really great memories!

With the holidays approaching, that only means one thing to my family.  We are now starting to count the weeks, not months, until the completion of our farmhouse.  There is so much more for me to do as far as selecting finishes, paints, fabrics, you name it.  We really need to be in the house by the end of the year.  My anxiety is growing, but I will keep you updated on the progress.  Wishing everyone a great Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays.

Have you ever tasted Mississippi Mud?

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MIssissippi Mud Cake.  As a little girl growing up in the South, big family dinners every Sunday would include your cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. You never really knew exactly what dish a person might bring, but you knew one thing; there was going to be lots of home-baked goods. No matter what else was served, I always looked forward to dessert.  We would have yummy frosted cakes, fruit pies, cookies and brownies. I loved them all and still do!.

I remember one Sunday dinner (not sure how old I was) when my out-of-town aunt came to visit.  She brought a large luscious looking chocolate cake. Being a lover of anything chocolate, my eyes grew wide when I walked in to Grandma’s house and saw it sitting up on the sideboard usually reserved for desserts.  At the time, I didn’t know the official name of this spectacular dish, but I knew that I had to have a piece. The dessert was called; Mississippi Mud Cake. It’s not a grandiose type of cake because it is usually served directly out of the pan it was baked in.  No need for a fancy cake platter.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of tasting this cake, you need to know that it is very rich and sweet with a gooey chocolate texture made with marshmallows and pecans. It’s not a neat treat; the fudgy chocolate pours out onto your plate as you are served. It is sinfully delicious and I must be diligent and limit my serving to one then take a break and think long and hard before having a second serving in order to avoid a sugar rush.

All good Southern cooks have some version or another of a Mississippi Mud Cake, sometimes referred to as Mississippi Mud Pie.   It is a fairly simple recipe that mixes basic ingredients including all-purpose flour, cocoa, sugar, eggs, butter, and lots of butter, pecans and marshmallows. This cake is not intended to be fluffy, rather it is a densely chocolate sheet cake, lightened with melted chocolate, marshmallows and pecans.  Once baked, it often resembles a deluxe frosted brownie.

My curiosity was peaked as to the name Mississippi Mud cake and I searched the internet to find who was the first to create this cake and why the name Mississippi Mud. First, I learned that no one actually “creates” recipes, good recipes evolve over time. Passed down from generation to generation, each person puts their own twist on the recipe. From what I gathered, this dessert took off in popularity in the 1970’s and is believed to have come to life in domestic kitchens with cooks eager to use the new packaged ingredients that were starting to get mass-produced, such as miniature marshmallows. Some people felt the dark chocolate appearance of the fudge-like batter and chunky texture resembled the banks of the muddy Mississippi River, thus the name Mississippi Mud.

Although my sister makes a really good Mississippi Mud Cake, I wanted to see what other recipes were out there that I could make with a little variety.  Browsing through my Southern Living magazines, I found an article titled, “Mississippi Mud Madness”. Apparently there are all kinds of ways you can use the same ingredients and put a twist on this cake. The article suggested several options, such as Mississippi Mud cupcakes, Mississippi Mud Brownies, Mississippi Mud Cookies and even a Mississippi Mudslide. They all looked delicious, but I opted to try the cookies.MScookie2

The Mississippi Mud Cookies turned out to be fairly simple to make and were a big hit with my family.  Definitely would recommend trying them.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with an old classic recipe and put your own personal touch on it. You never know what new recipe your could create with very little effort.

The following is the recipe that I used.  Give it a try to let me know if you liked them as much as we did.  ingred

Mississippi Mud Cookies

 Ingredients

  • Chocolate Cookie
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
  • Chocolate Frosting
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Chocolate Cookie

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer or large bowl using a hand mixer, blend the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla and eggs. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and blend until combined.

Drop the dough by tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets, 12 cookies per sheet, and bake 9- 10 minutes. Once you have baked it about 9-10 minutes, pull out pan and add 6-8 miniature marshmallows to each cookie, you can gently press in if they fall out, but really you shouldn’t need to do that much. The cookies are so hot the marshmallows stick right to them. Then stick back in the oven for 1 more minute. Remove and immediately sprinkle 1 tablespoon or more (depends on your taste) of pecans onto the marshmallows, you will need to gently press these in, gently! Then set aside and allow to cool on a baking rack.

Once cool remove and make frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

In a medium mixing bowl, add powder sugar and vanilla, set aside. Then in a small sauce pan combine first 3 ingredients and heat over medium. Stir constantly, about 3-4 minutes or until butter melts. Remove from heat, and pour into powdered sugar and vanilla, stir (using a whisk is best) until smooth.

Using a spoon, drizzle large amounts of frosting on each cookie, about 1- 1 ½ tablespoons. Dress all the cookies and if there is extra frosting, add more too each one. Let frosting cool and harden before serving.   (recipe from http://www.dashofsanity.com)

Update on the Farmhouse

Did your grandma ever tell you that staring at a pot of water wouldn’t make it boil any faster?  I never really got the meaning behind that until now.  It’s that way for us.  My whole family is starting to get antsy for our farmhouse to be finished. The house isn’t getting built any faster no matter how hard we stare at it.

One of the reasons is that we are renting a condo while we await the completion of our house.  Happy to have a nice place to live, none the less – it is a condo.  Our family of two active girls, a playful dog and two busy parents all desire more space and a tree shaded grassy backyard. With the concrete walls of the condo, waits for a very slow elevator, a parking garage and close quarter neighbors, our patience is stretched thin.  However, we have no choice but to wait.

Meanwhile I have a lot of work left to do; selecting finishes, paint colors, appliances, and light fixtures. The list goes on and on and I still have the usual routine of getting a child to school, along with trying to potty train a two-year old and manage household chores.  Luckily I enjoy all aspects of interior design, and are fortunate to have this opportunity to build our own home.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a list maker and you can just image the number of notepads lying on my dining room table right now. I’ve also started on a furniture layout plan.  Making sure all the rooms have the right furniture and accessories will help set the tone for the whole house.  My goal is to keep the house casual and warm but full of character.  It will be my own version of  “farm living”.   I want to put a lot of emphasis on the outdoor living area.  A porch wrapping around the entire house creates a lot of space and I have numerous ideas on how to utilize all of it.

In reality, I would love to skip all of the above steps and just go straight to the “shopping”.  That’s the fun part.  Shopping for linens, pillows, rugs, artwork, candlesticks and more is my idea of sheer pleasure.  Most of you who don’t know me, wouldn’t know I used to own my own shop selling interior accent pieces and accessories; a past life that I often miss.  Building our farmhouse has opened up opportunities for me to once again take part in one of my favorite activities.  I’ll be on the hunt for those rare accent pieces that add character to a home.  While doing my personal shopping for the house,  I plan to also purchase special pieces that I think other folks would like.  I will be offering those items on my retail website which will be linked to my blog.  Be on the lookout for this feature.

Here is an update of the progress on the house:

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