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“The Midnight Jammer”

My kids have started calling me “The Midnight Jammer.”

"Drunken Fig Jam"

“Drunken Fig Jam”

August around here means figs. I don’t know if these figs are just happy because they know I bought two fig trees… oh and a house to go along with them, but they are expressing their appreciation in abundance, and these trees are producing 4-5 pounds of fruit every day.

My Happy Fig Trees.

My Happy Fig Trees.

I have been up three nights, just this week, canning. The jam I have chosen to make is called “Drunken Fig Jam.” It is made with brandy and lemon and it is delicious. Here is the link to the recipe and I tweaked it a little:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Drunken-Fig-Jam-350120

I love canning things you can’t really get at the store. Canning is relatively easy if you invest in a few essential tools and it is like summer in a jar. If you have ever opened a quart of homemade applesauce in January, you know what I mean. Or tomato soup. Or apple butter. There is truly nothing like it.

Summer in a jar.

Summer in a jar.

One side effect of canning is learning a little science along the way. Don’t worry, it isn’t that much. But you may learn how to create a vacuum seal, how to sterilize with heat, and how to keep a good acidic balance to your ingredients in order to safely preserve them. This is science in a nutshell, and useful science at that.

Fig-Brandy Jam

Fig-Brandy Jam

It is addictive. Of course, if you’re anything like me, just about anything is addictive. However, there is some thrilling danger involved in canning and one is likely to get hooked.

Boiling Pot.

Boiling Pot.

I am already thinking about the next item on my canning agenda: Basil Jelly.

Basil Jelly.

Basil Jelly.

This recipe for Basil Jelly is from the blog Sweet Domesticity.

http://sweetdomesticity.blogspot.com/2013/07/basil-jelly.html

The fall apples will be here soon and… Yum!

Epilogue

Here is a list of ESSENTIAL canning tools:

  • Canning pot
  • Jar lifter
  • A basket do-hickey thing-a ma-jig that comes with the pot
  • Funnel
  • Food Mill
  • Pectin or Sure Jell (You can buy this in bulk from an Amish Market.)
  • Always use new lids and don’t forget to sterilize your jars and lids and rings in boiling water before you fill and process them.
  • The freshest, most amazing home-grown or farmer’s market fruit and veggies you can get your hands on, including zucchini. It makes great pickles, I promise.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.

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Back to the Drawing Board

Here is a picture of my chairs. Glorious finds from the trash, only to end up back on the curb. I ordered fabric to cover the seats, bought a nearly-reportable amount of spray paint, and sadly, they are right back where they came from.

The chairs that were not meant to be.

The chairs that were not meant to be.

I was sanding chair #2 when the front leg snapped off.  I have invested emotionally in these trash chairs and find that I want to go spend a ridiculous amount of money on new chairs to recover from this loss. Does BlueCross BlueShield cover retail therapy?

Outdoor fabric.

The new outdoor fabric.

The table, another trash find, is another sad story. I was in such a state of euphoria when I saw it by the dumpster, that I failed to notice the text that was carefully etched into the top.

Prima, my surprisingly observant daughter, was the first to notice the script. “Mom? I think there is a problem with your table. Um, it says FU** on it.”

The table.

Look closely at the table.

“SH**!” I said, “I mean, ‘NO WAY!’ Who would do such a thing?” and then I apologized for exposing my children to more profanity, intentionally or otherwise.

You know how you worry about what your kids will be exposed to at a friend’s house on the Internet? Well at my house, it’s the graffiti you have to worry about.

Trying to fix it with wood putty.

Trying to fix it with wood putty.

One afternoon, I received a glorious text message from Stuart: “I sanded the FU** out of your table.”

Sanded!

Sanded!

And we were once again fit for polite company.

But alas, it has been sanded too much, and I am going to put it back on the curb. It is a sad day indeed. Now, I have a porch that needs paint, a new light fixture, AND furniture. But the rug looks nice! However, I am back to the drawing board. Good thing there is an awesome barrel in the basement, just waiting to be the base of my new table.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio.

Portrait of a Sheepskin

The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is magical. For a mere three hours this past weekend, I attended the 40th annual Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. Once again, I was struck by the beauty of my surroundings. My senses were assaulted with the smells of lamb and funnel cake. The natural fibers and brightly colored dyes mix together in seeming harmony, and the craftsmanship is brilliant.

A menu board.

A menu board.

This year we were on a mission to buy a spinning wheel. We did buy it, and I fully expect to be fined by OSHA, for opening some sort of sweatshop here under my roof. Prima will beg Stuart to put together her new wheel and spin until there is nothing left to spin. Once again, I am amazed at this child, who seems to have been born into the wrong era.

A sheep.

“Can we keep her mom?”

I did indulge in one … little … extravagance… in addition to the new spinning wheel. I am in love. A sheepskin so white and soft, so thick and creamy, I could not let it stay behind. It needed a home and my sofa was it.

A Sheepskin.

Portrait of a sheepskin.

My tired, ten-year-old sofas got a little face-lift. This fleece is so soft, I can’t help but pet it. My dog is going to be jealous, or maybe even my husband.

A Sheepskin.

A Sheepskin.

I love to connect the things I own to an experience, a person, a place, or a moment in time. This sheepskin will be tied to the memory of a beautiful day, spent with my children, at the 40th annual Sheep & Wool Festival. Consider putting this Festival on your bucket list. You will not regret it.

Sheep Art.

Sheep Art.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio.

My Cabana Boy

The world of blogging decorators is full of husbands. The behind-the-scenes kind that don’t grumble about having to hang a blind or put together furniture. At Young House Love, they work together as a team and live and breathe their blog and they are successful. I cannot begin to speculate about their marriage.

I was reading The Inspired Room and Melissa, the blogger-in-chief, was asking her readers (like all 400,000 of them) to “please remind my husband to hang my kitchen blind,” so she could take the final after pictures of the space. I get that. I have a handy hubby who does A LOT of work around here. Much of it because I pester him into it.

Sunroom.... Before. Scary!

Sunroom…. Before. Scary!

However, there are times when back-up is needed. Maybe not all of us have a husband, or a husband who is handy. Or maybe your husband is handy, but is too tired after 12 hours in the field of hard labor to bother with your “pesky”  jobs list. Or maybe, the blogger/reader should consider that she (or even he) can hang the blind herself. And then, there is the option of… The Cabana Boy.

A crack on the ceiling.

Even “Chicken Little” was afraid to help.

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I got one this week. He is working in my sunroom. He is tackling cracks in the ceiling that are large enough to contain mythical monsters. He is sanding old windows and priming them with Kilz. He is wrestling with the good, the bad, and the ugly. I don’t know how long he will stick around for this project, but every day he shows up for more work is a good day. Find yourself a strapping young college boy and put him to work. I know mine would even sit and have a drink with me, cause he is that cool.

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Don't get excited, it's only Photoshop.

Don’t get excited, it’s only Photoshop.

Inspiration from Pinterest.

Inspiration from Pinterest.

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My Cabana Boy is handy with Photoshop and math. He helped me figure out the dimensions for the pattern we plan to paint onto the floor, and put the pattern in with Photoshop, so I could have a preview. The progress is unbelievable. He is not finished, but he has given me the push I need to keep it going. Even after he has wandered off to his next gig or I have run out of money, whichever comes first.

Paint sample.

Paint sample, Benjamin Moore’s Skydive.

The best part is, Stuart can take a breather and I am inspired.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio.

The Kitchen Dilemma

My style has evolved over the years. I appreciate that things need to be comfortable, and you cannot impose a style on a structure that was not built with that style in mind (unless you want to spend BIG BUCKS). I have always allowed the house to tell me how it wants to look. I literally try to listen to it and give it a fair shake at what is going to happen. I don’t believe I’m hearing any voices, but there’s time yet for that. Just call it a form of mutual respect between ME and HOUSE.

My biggest challenge in this house is the kitchen. I am already tip-toeing towards country with the Paris corner in there. I have my little landscapes all crowded around the eat-in table, with “The New Yorker” print thrown in for good measure. This house is screaming “cottage” at me, and I have to listen.

Breakfast nook.

Breakfast nook.

Herb-drying rack.

Herb-drying rack over the sink.

If I could, I would rip this kitchen out completely and start again, but I can’t. That said, I have to work with what is here. I LOVE the Farmhouse sink. That will stay through whatever renovations happen over time. And the farmhouse sink is…. country.

Original Farmhouse sink.

Original Farmhouse sink, with a huge pot hiding inside.

Sometimes, if a room is so bad, I feel like I can’t face it at all. It is completely overwhelming. Where do you start? This is how I feel about this kitchen. The other day, I was busily trying to ignore the faux-painted backsplash again and decided I had had enough. I went into the basement and grabbed a leftover can of paint, Benjamin Moore’s Rich Cream, put the baby down for a nap, and started to paint.

Getting rid of the faux-paint backsplash.

Getting rid of the faux-paint backsplash.

Repairing the wall.

Repairing the wall

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Kitchen backsplash before.

Kitchen backsplash before

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The cream color is soothing and giving me the feel of a clean slate. I am getting ideas and thinking I can make a lot of change here for not a lot of money. The hardware is outta here! I will replace it with these black distressed pulls and get rid of the shiny chrome.

New hardware.

New hardware.

The scalloped pieces of wood hiding the fluorescent lights are as good as gone! And the floor! I am going to put down some multi-colored slate tile and the linoleum will soon be history.

Much improved with cream paint.

Much improved with cream paint.

The island that I found on Craig’s List for $75 about 4 years ago fits perfectly into a country kitchen.

Kitchen island.

Kitchen island.

I still have to finish painting the rest of the kitchen Rich Cream. Paris still has the old paint. This space will be transformed a little at a time, just wait and see. And for now, I am saving the switch plates, faux-painted with love, as mementos. Something to keep me going, so that when I am down, I can remember how far we have come already.

Mementos.

Mementos.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio.

The Peacock Wedding

We were all nervous about my cousin’s outdoor August wedding. First of all, it could rain, or better yet, be hurricaned-out. It could be 110 degrees and someone might keel over from heat stroke. Or, perhaps by the end of it, there might be a murder. I am not saying who, but the pool was open. All I could think was that if I was going to be Mrs. Peacock, I might have to start the day out with, ”it was Mrs. Peacock, in the garden, with …. The Candlestick!”

And indeed none of those things happened at my cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful day, even if it was in gale-force winds, and the wedding was charming and lovely. Fortunately, when you are marrying Mr. Peacock, it makes a wonderful theme for a wedding.

Glass birds and peacocks scattered along the aisle.

Wedding on the water.

This was my favorite type of wedding. Truly an effort of love where everyone contributes and the outcome is unique and beautiful and a reflection of the people exchanging vows. There was nothing formulaic about this wedding.

The Beautiful Bride and the bouquet.

Boutonnieres.

I was charged with music, decorating & flowers. The result was a collaboration with the bride, who is extremely visual, and wanted things to look a certain way. The challenge was getting her to focus her ideas, preserve her creativity, stay within the budget, and still have a beautiful result. I am sure that we achieved this, together.

An underwater centerpiece.

My mother-in-law braved countless chiggers, poison ivy, and wildlife to make the vine balls that hung in the center of the reception space. They were works of art and we were able to string them with white lights, replace a track light with a plug ($2.50 conversion kit from Home Depot) and hang them without any cords showing. After the ceremony, we moved the little glass birds inside to perch in the vine balls.

Vine ball, a labor of love.

Vine balls hung from the ceiling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bride works in a bakery and the cake was made by “The Fabulous Baker Boys” themselves. This bakery, Flavor Cupcakery, has proven time and again to be amazing and I cannot recommend them enough. As winners of the TV show “Cupcake Wars” whispers of “are those the guys from TV?” were all over the room. Me, being clueless as usual, when asked if he could eat anything because he was vegan, pointed to the cake I had made specifically for the vegans, and did not realize who I was talking to. Fortunately, my cake received good reviews.

The Cake.

The preparation for this wedding was intense and involved so many friends and family. The outcome was truly special and I know we are all wishing Mr. and Mrs. Peacock the very best in their life and journey together.

© copyright Mariam d’Eustachio 2012.

A Nighttime Stroll through Beltsville

Last night, I needed a walk with my dog to calm my nerves. What a summer it has been! Nevermind the upcoming move, the baby, trying to hold down the fort at work, and packing up the old house while renovating the new house. All I wanted was a chance to stretch out my legs and let some of the stress go. My sister had previously intervened, quietly reminding me that blogging is supposed to be the fun part, my creative outlet, and not meant to add to the mounting pressures.

When I feel this kind of stress, it acts as a dam for ideas. I find it hard to concentrate and I can’t focus. As I walked through my little town of Beltsville with my dog in the moonlight, I could feel the stress melting away. The ideas started coming again and my mind began to clear. I thought, “I can’t wait to write about all the projects for the new house!” And I began to notice some beautiful sights, just on the streets of Beltsville, in the damp air that follows a storm.

Lighted Glass Art Birdbath.

I thought birds were usually asleep at night, but just in case, here is a glamorous little spot for them to hang out.

Inviting Front Entrance.

Trying not to disturb any motion detectors as I photographed this front door.

Neighborhood Clock.

An outdoor clock, for the chronically late.

In the next few months, I plan to write about how to tile, making a table out of an old whiskey barrel, fresh wallpaper ideas, showing you befores and hopefully a few afters of the inside of my new house, turning a bird-cage into a light fixture, and some excellent new trash finds. I will probably still occasionally rant about my kids as I return to the baby-up-all-night phase of my life, but I am so excited. Excited to be a new mom again (believe me, Secondo is 9 already, so it will all be new again), excited to move (I blame too many years in the military for this one!), and excited to be blogging about it along the way. I am stressed, but I am truly blessed and things could not be better.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio.