Sunday, September 30, 2007

A month's end.....

Can you believe that it is the last day of September? Time really passes too quickly for me and I have never the time I need to do all the projects around the house I want to accomplish. How has this month been for you? Have you accomplished those things you set out to do? Have you been able to bring yourself into an autumn state of mind?

An autumn state of mind has been easy here as our weather is cool and often grey. It really puts me in the mood for snuggling up in my home with my stitching, quilting or a good book. It is that time of year to start using our woodstove and we need to replenish our wood supply very soon as it is quite low. I am looking forward to cool nights by the fire!

I thought I would show you my hutch (dresser) which is dressed for the season. I like that autumn's atmosphere can be achieved with little effort. I have added some acorn garland with a few items including my turkey plate which I bought years ago in a china shop that was going out of business. I still love each fall when I get this pretty plate out. For a simple autumn look, I added an extra garland of burnt orange leaves to my ivy on the top of the hutch.

"Happy we who can bask in this warm September sun, which illumines all creatures, as well when they rest as when they toil, not without a feeling of gratitude; whose life is as blameless, how blameworthy soever it may be, on the Lord’s Mona-day as on his Suna-day."

~~ Henry David Thoreau ~~

Friday, September 28, 2007

Beauty in all things...

Those of you who know me well, know this is my favorite season. I love autumn and it is reflected in my home and my needlework. Many of my quilts are in autumn colors and my living room also. I am inspired all over again each year as this season approaches. Things like finding these toadstools in the wood bed beside our cottage never fail to amaze me of the beauty in all things. We just have to take a moment to look for it.

I hope this weekend, you will take a moment to go out and really look around you. There are so many things in this world around us that we no longer take the time to see. What is it that inspires you? Do you see beauty in all things?

Let me leave you with the words of George Eliot who wrote so eloquently about this time of year:

"Delicious autumn!
My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Autumn has arrived to my front door

Welcome to my front door and welcome to autumn! We have spent time trying to turn our tiny garden into something like a secret garden to give us the feeling up privacy in a very populated neighborhood. This is the path leading to the built~in shed (yellow door) and front door (teal door). We love seeing the crimson appear in the leaves of our Virginia Creeper as autumn starts. It is also full of pretty blue berries.

As part of a challenge we have going on my Yahoo homekeeping list, I decided to make a wreath for my front door this year. I still need to buy more gourds for my rack which is looking rather empty at the moment.

The wreath is made with branches of leaves, red berries, acorns and a burlap bow. I enjoyed looking at what I had and making this wreath. I luckily found a sale this year on wreaths at our garden center. These kind of wreaths have not been popular in Holland lately and are now trendy here again. I will change it and reuse it for the different seasons. This will become a permanent fixture on our front door I think.

Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.

~~ Samuel Butler ~~

A little note to Julie, Mary and Nancy ~ Yes it does call for 3 cups of bouillon (chicken broth) for this soup Julie. I use two tablets for it but you can use whatever you normally do to make the broth.

Mary, it would be just as tasty with vegetable bouillon so that will be no problem at all to change.

Nancy, dear friend, what time should I expect you?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Preparing a Christmas tea party ~ month three

It is the 25th of the month and once again time for a new installment for preparing a Christmas tea. If you are new to my blog, you can look back in June and July for the other installments. Join me again each month up to the holidays for more recipes and table ideas.

Christmas tea tables should be a fun and festive affair without causing too much stress. Keep it simple so you can enjoy your company instead of having to slave away in the kitchen and dining room. A pretty damast tablecloth always gives a festive look and allows other objects to spring out on the table without competing with them.

Spend time looking for a pretty paper holiday napkin which itself can be part of the decorations. Here you see a nutcracker napkin layed on the plates. It is not necessary to fold this napkin as the design is part of the table setting.

I like to give a table gift for guests to take home with them. Here you see pretty blue floral tea light holders which were used to give the table extra candlelight during the tea and taken home as gifts afterwards. They also brought out the blue on the nutcracker napkins.

Don't fuss too much with fancy flower centerpieces. A simple wreath placed around hurricane lamps have been more cheerful by placing pinecones and cranberries throughout.

Be sure to give your guests a choice of a drink and water along with the pots of tea.

Cranberry Fizz

For a festive and easy drink, fill a champagne glass 1/3 full with cranberry juice. Now pour a chilled, inexpensive white sparkling wine over the juice to fill the glass. This can be substituted with Sprite or 7Up for children so they can also enjoy a festive drink.

Dutch farmer's cheese and mustard soup

2 leeks
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons mustard
3 cups chicken bouillon
3/4 cup whipping cream or half & half
3 oz. grated cheese (lightly riped Dutch farmer's cheese)
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 spring onions (optional for garnish)

Cut the leeks into thin rings and fry these in a Dutch oven with the butter. Do not let them turn brown. Add the mustard and warm this through. Stir in the chicken bouillon and let simmer for 20 minutes. Puree the soup at this point with a hand held mixer or blender.

Add the cream and bring the soup again to a light boil. Add the grated cheese, stirring well until melted. Salt and pepper to taste and mix in the whole grain mustard.

If desired, add chopped spring onions for garnish.

This is a delicious soup that would be perfect for a Christmas tea served in tiny soup cups or even mocca cups.

Monday, September 24, 2007

My 'missing you' shelf

My mother asked me in the comments on my last few photos in the bedroom about the bear my sister had made for me. I have it sitting together with a Precious Moments she gave me when my father passed away ("This too shall pass") and a stitched piece I made after I received the bear as a gift. I saw this chart in a magazine and thought it was perfect with the bear. I don't even remember when I stitched this but it is from when we lived out in the east of Holland so over 15 years ago. I added a doily my grandmother made after talking with my mother about it since I called it my 'missing you' shelf.

The verse on the stitched piece is:

"We never really grow old it seems
We keep in our hearts our fancies and dreams
And in a corner all tucked away
To the child we all were yesterday."

I've been tagged for My Favorite Things

My friend Rhonda over at tagged me for My Favorite Things. This is fun since people can learn more about you from these things.....

Sound – The sound of quiet so I can hear the important things in life like birds singing.

Late Night Snack – We like to have a glass of juice and a few crackers or a handfull of nuts.

Smell – The woods in autumn or something baking with cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves.

Color Combination – Red and pinks mixed with browns and beiges.

Nut – Cashews.

Time of Year – Autumn!

Books – I love to read cozy mysteries, quilt fiction, Amish fiction and biographies.

Female Actress – Not sure I really have one ~ maybe Katharine Hepburn.

Flower – Wisteria.

Vacation Spot – Our cottage up in the north of the country (if that counts) and otherwise, The Alsace, France or Brugge, Belgium.

Pizza – Lately, I have discovered that a plain pizza with tomato sauce and cheese is really delicious!

Subject in School – I loved history in general but I loved American Government in my senior year as I had a really fun teacher ~ Mr. Clark!

TV Channel – Not a fan of Dutch TV so I prefer to watch the BBC.

Radio Station – Dutch new radio.

Holiday - Christmas, of course!

Perfume – Whatever I find at a discount store we go to as I don't always wear it.

Shoes - I wear orthopedic ankle boots which I am really thankful for to keep me walking. I have some major problems with my feet.

Candy – Pure chocolate ~ the higher content of cocoa, the better!

City to Shop – Brugge, Belgium.

Beauty Products – I don't wear make~up and the only real product I use is a really good moisturizing cream by Sanex.

Item to Shop For – Either accessories for my home or stash for my hobbies.

This one was fun to do Rhonda. Thanks! I am now supposed to tag two people so I will tag my niece Kristy and Margaret over at

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Birthday wishes!

Today is my niece's birthday. Her blog is

A very happy birthday to you Kristy! I hope your day is special and happy in every way!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Halloween delight!

This time of year is special to me as it brings my sister to my mind and heart. Halloween was her favorite holiday. She loved to go all out to decorate and pull pranks on Halloween. Each year, as this time approaches, I decorate a little for Halloween in rememberance of her. I think she must have been smiling when I came up with the idea to run out and buy these lit branches to use this year for my tree. Normally, I take my autumn tree apart and use it for my Halloween tree. This year I decided not to as I love seeing the autumn tree through Thanksgiving. Don't forget you can click on all the photos to enlarge them. My Halloween tree is in my laundry room which is also where my coat rack is so the first place that guest go into in my home.

Most of the ornaments in my tree were made by my mother. This cute little scarecrow was also a gift from her. The witch tree top is something she bought me when she visited Salem, MA.
The 'trick or treat' magnet was a gift from my sister and I have an old Halloween card and a stuffed black cat wearing a Jack 'O Lantern sweater she sent me years ago also sitting by the tree.

Here is the pretty effect of the lighted branches! I put two of my three Halloween quilts out in this room too. There is a basket hanging beside the coat rack and I simply filled it with some orange maple leaves.

You wouldn't believe
On All Hallow Eve
What lots of fun we can make,
With apples to bob,
And nuts on the hob,
And a ring-and-thimble cake.

~~ Carolyn Wells ~~

Have a wonderful weekend all!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Borrowing again.....

I have been borrowing again from other rooms in my home. More about that in a moment but first, I had finished a reproduction sampler I was stitching and framed it. Last night, Jos helped me to hang it and move the other samplers over to this corner. This is the before photo.....

.....and now after. I placed the newest sampler on the wall which is by itself although I hope it will not be alone for long. I have added the sampler that had been on its own and the three from the other corner of our bedroom to make a larger sampler wall. I love how this reading corner is coming along. I can't wait to make more samplers. It is also high time I found a fun new standing lamp for here. I have to start looking around for one.

This was the other corner which I had not really done anything to as of yet. I suddenly thought about the rack I had bought at a Christmas Fair last year which was to eventually hang in my quilt studio. I tried it out and decided it was perfect for here instead so here is the before photo.....

.....and after. This is a 'Puss in the Corner' wall quilt I sewed to hang above the bed. It is only a patchwork top as of now as I have not started hand quilting it yet. I grabbed it from my projects rack and was too impatient to iron it so it is a bit wrinkled as there are a good number of tops on that rack waiting to be quilted. I love it here! It fills this corner just right and also adds more fabric elements into the bedroom. It will be so fun to decorate this rack at the holidays with a Christmas quilt and some pine branches and berries. I feel like Arrietty in The Borrowers with taking things to use within my own home and it is fun.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Autumn cheerfulness

Autumn is a time when I seem to become more cheerful with the day. Can you tell? I feel positively giddy from the cool and grey sky today. There is a wind blowing and everything is looking a bit golden in anticipation of the colorful parade which will begin very soon. I keep working on autumn decorations throughout my house. I put together my toadstool arrangement last week. I have been doing this for about 14 years and still never tire of how pretty this is on a table. I bought this plate many years ago which is a piece of Portuguese Majolica to which I added some very real looking toadstool, small Indian corn, some dried seed pods and flower heads and accented with silk grape vine leaves. It is a timeless decoration which is why I love seeing it each season.

I would like to leave you today with this quote which would be my wish for all my blogger friends:

"Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn."

~~ Elizabeth Lawrence ~~

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fickle weather on an autumn day

Today was forecasted as being really bad. It did start out with heavy and hard rainfall enhanced by the odd thunder clap. I was ready to have a craft day inside. I love rainy days for being busy in the house or crafting. I am busy with my lace and sewing a new Christmas gift but now the sun has emerged and it has turned out to be a beautiful day after all. I decided to pop out the front door and share some photos I had promised of the three~tiered rack by our front door which is filled with gourds. As you can see, it is a funny time of year with my roses still blooming although meeker than in the depths of summer alongside the brilliant colors of the gourds.

This is the other side of the front door as you come up to it. We bought this old pitch fork for only 2 euro in a thrift shop with the intention of it going up to the cottage. Jos 'planted' it here for the time being as we had a few days before we were to go up north again. A couple of months later and the fork is still here holding a sweet wooden sign I found for it. I loved it so much that I will have to hunt for another one to use up at the cottage. I would like to create an outdoor collage there of old tools but this old tool looks perfectly at home here.

Finally, again to show you how summer is still hanging around, our pots are blooming well. I have been wanting to start clearing them up or cutting them back to be ready to overwinter but with these pretty blooms, who has the heart. I will enjoy the flowers while they last. The large pot contains a few herbs which we use in the kitchen ~ rosemary, thyme and basil. It had contained some parsley but that is all used up now.

I thought this little verse well fit the 'feeling' of today:

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.
~~ Helen Hunt Jackson ~~
(September, 1830-1885)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Homes for gnomes and birds.....

For those of you who remember last autumn, I love toadstools. We arrived at the cottage to find the magic of the season has begun! These were stacked up against our patio like a busy city of homes for gnomes. I was so glad I decided to run out to take a photo that evening as the next morning, this delightful 'city' of toadstools had all but disappeared.

I wanted to show you something I found while out shopping last week with a friend. I just had to have this birdcage when I spotted it under a table at a florists shop. I had purchased it with the intention of placing it in the corner of our bedroom where a rather small pot containing ivy is hanging. The birdcage will only fit there if we change the position of the hook and our rounded ceiling is solid concrete so I decided to not do that afterall. We would have to drill a hole near the end of the rounding and I am afraid of the damage it may cause. Our ceiling in the bedroom raises up to 4 meters height in the middle and we have a sky scene painted on it with clouds and swallows.

Instead, I placed the cage on top of my armoire with a plant and one of my straw hats to see how it would look there. I placed the wooden cases I had used there in the corner where the plant is hanging to give it more of a full look. I had also intended on creating a flower arrangment in this cage but it would not be visible up on the armoire so I will leave it like this for now. I just love this birdcage.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A transitition of seasons

I am decorating inside and out for autumn now. I bought some gourds up north and brought them home to fill a rack by our front door (will show you that later on) and create a 'still life' at the patio area on our table. I grabbed that Hydrangea bouquet I cut at the cottage since it would be the finishing touch to this tray. Oh how I love the autumn!


Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.

~~ William Wordsworth ~~

And yet, look what September still has in store. Surprise! Our wisteria is giving us a few sparse last blooms. This is the one thing I miss most when the gardening season is over. I just love my wisteria!

Our pots are still blooming. I took this in a very grey and rainy moment and yet it is still colorful. Just to name a few, an oleander is in bloom and the petunias are so long and tired but won't stop showing off. I bought chocolate cosmos this year and it is full of buds again so it will have one last round of flowers. I love this plant and ,yes, it really does smell like chocolate when the sun shines on it. Right now the pot is so overgrown with leaf but it still wants to give one last show in another week or so.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Another busy weekend and the name game

We had a very busy weekend at the cottage. Before I show you our progress, I will show you how the garden looks now. This is at the back end of our garden. There is a row of conifers which are planted more than a meter from the boundry.

This row is followed by two very large holly bushes and a pine tree. They had never been pruned and are overgrown. I cannot do much to save the pine tree unfortunately but I am hoping to be able to severely prune the holly to encounrage it to grow more densely. Right now, all the growth is at the ends of very long drooping and thin branches. You cannot see that from the photos but it looks bad in real life. I am afraid it will die off if we don't do something about it.

As you can see, there is a a long garden extension cord going through the conifers. This is where one has died off and we cut it away. We are using this as an opening while we work.

Here is the work in progress. The fencing is going to be 18 meters long. It will start by the dirt road with a 5 meter piece of living fence which is a metal grid used normally to strengthen concrete. This grid is attached to the wooden posts and then climbing plants are grown over it to eventually totally cover the grid. This is followed by three sections of wooden fencing. Two are up as you can see here. The last 5 meters will be the living fence again. The wooden sections will give us privacy from the start as the next cottage and its driveway are right behind the fence. You can see from this photo how much of our garden was wasted space behind the conifers.

I hope to create a new seating area at the wooden fence. I would like to build a small roofed area there but we have to see how it looks after we start to remove the conifers. There is a fire ditch dug here also so the ground level has to be changed. We will be bringing in about 5 cubic meters of new topsoil to raise this back up to the right height.

I found a tiny yew tree and a couple of holly bushes starting in the fire ditch and want to save them to use in the new beds once I can start planting.

The beech trees are full of nuts this year and we are finding them all over the grass. I had to cut some of my hydrangea since they are so heavily in blossom that we are unable to walk on the path through the side borders. Don't they look pretty sitting on the garden table?

Dena over at SwaddleCottage tagged me for the name game. If you haven't heard, in this game the players must list one fact somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name (if you don't have a middle name you get to pick the name you wish you had) and then at the end of the post you also have to pick one person per letter to tag next (remember to tell them that they're tagged).

L ~~~ Laughter! I love to laugh. I love to sit with friends or family and we can laugh so hard that your stomach hurts. Life looks so much nicer through laughing eyes, don't you think?

Y ~~~ Young at heart! I always tell my mother I have the heart of a 5 year old, the head of 16 year old and the body of ..... well we won't go there! LOL! I think it would be a terrible waste to ever really grow up.....

N ~~~ Never take others for granted! I think a day should not go by that you don't tell those around you how important they are to you. I tell my family 'I love you' each time we talk. Things should never go unspoken as it can really impact other's lives.

N ~~~ Notice the details! It is the little things in life that give it spice. A simple flower in the garden or our cat being silly or the special little items sitting around in a room really do make life worth living. I like noticing those details and find it is the small things that really make me smile. It makes a small thing become something rather large.....

I now have to tag four people so I will tag:

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hennie's garden

It was not hard to picture how beautiful Hennie's garden is at the peak of the gardening season. She had a magazine article laying out written about her B&B with photos which you can see above. Even at the end of the season, the garden is very pretty.

She has created many areas to sit and the garden is full of surprising and hidden corners which are full of 'brocante'.

This area actually looks like yet another room in the house as it has a simple, little roof that was built over it.

Enamelware becomes art when grouped together on an old and weathered cupboard!

We enjoyed sitting out in the garden enjoying the sun of summer's end. Even as the flowers are fading, there can still be beauty in a garden if it is balanced with interesting bits and pieces. The wonderful thing about seeing other people's home and garden is that you can take pieces away with you to create your own ideas for your dream home and garden. I hope these photos might inspire you.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Life is good!

We have been away for a few days. Jos' birthday was on Tuesday and we thought it would be nice to go away for a stay at a B&B. We drove to an area in the southwest of Holland called Zeeland. We had wanted to go to the city of Goes. While we liked the idea of seeing the city, we did not want to stay there so looked for something very close. We found this amazing village ~ Kloetinge!

It is only a 3 minute drive from here to the city center and yet you are in a pretty small village with an old feeling to it. You arrive in the village to be greeted by the many beautiful old houses and farms and a windmill. As you approach the B&B, you first see this picturesque square with the old pond area still in tact. In olden days, this was used for a variety of purposes ranging from a drinking area for horses and cows to water for firehoses.

At house number 15, we were greeted by Hennie with a good cup of coffee in her house. I loved this old house. It is a small home that has a special charm. Much of that charm is enhanced by Hennie's vision for how to decorate the home as well as keeping up her pretty gardens in the back of the house. You are unaware when you see the house on the front what awaits you inside.

Thankfully, many of the old features of this home are preserved like these floor tiles. The windows to the front are still the original glass. It has not been replaced with double panes as in so many of the old home here in Holland. It is so special to look out through the wavy old thick glass from years gone by!

Here is a hint of the gardens which I will share with you later this week.....

The B&B is in an extension at the back of the house. You can see where the old back door is now the entrance to the room. The old back step has been incorperated into what has become a little kitchen with a bathroom off to the side.

Breakfast was eaten at a table in the room with views out into the garden. We sat and enjoyed the amtosphere to the strains of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'. Hennie serves a very generous breakfast which included fresh strawberries which are still in season in Zeeland. We said a couple of times as we soaked in the moments that life is good!

There are many areas to sit in this large room which used to be the studio of her late husband, the artist Gerard Menken.

Several paintings by Gerard Menken are hanging in the room. I really felt his spirit here.

We so enjoyed our stay and hope to go back again one day. If you want to know more about this wonderful B&B, Hennie has a website at: