Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Vintage family picture table project!


One of my very favorite "family history" projects of all time is this vintage picture table! Pictures, especially vintage pictures that evoke tender feelings of family long gone are meant to be displayed! When my sister found a 1970's round table at a garage sale for just $35...I knew just what to do! Nellie's oldest daughter, my Aunt Helen, an avid supporter of the cottage renovation, had a treasure trove of old family pictures beginning back in the late 1930's when Nellie's & Albert bought the family property. I scanned in the original photos and printed these just as they were...no editing the colors! My son Aaron & wife Janene had the creative job of arranging the photos with Nellie & Albert being in the center. After mom (aka me) approved and tweaked a few, the photos were then adhered to the table with regular photo adhesive. 
I had a round glass top cut (fairly expensive at $85) to finish the project. To make the chairs more "cottage-y" these skirts were constructed and added to the chairs with a staple gun. 



This poor table has been moved back and forth through that doorway more times than I can count...and trust me, it is not an easy feat, especially with that glass top! 

Oh the treats that have graced this table top from showers, parties, and retreats! Round tables are the bomb...I highly recommend one:)






This table has never ceased to delight me with fond memories of those I love. Just tonight our 2 year old granddaughter Madeline asked over and over "whose that?" What a sweet moment to answer her questions. 


Of course Madeline doesn't yet understand who these people are, but someday I hope to help her understand the wonderful heritage she has beginning with Nellie & Albert...my grandparents who inspired a retreat venue created from their home...Nellie's Cottage!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

My Valentine door

I love front doors, the way you wonder what is inside, the message they unknowingly give about the people inside, and the pomp and circumstance of a holiday theme. I am having a dinner party for Valentines...
which calls for a "spruce up" of my front door surround. Honestly if I didn't have events occasionally I wonder if these "not necessary but fun decorative" projects would ever get done! In keeping with my mission of cleaning out and consolidating my craft & decorative hoard...I found a new use for a forgotten wreath from the 90's languishing in the attic:) A few styrofoam hearts wrapped with ribbon, and some glittery heart picks added just enough love to qualify for a Valentine's wreath. 






In addition to a wreath, adding silk ferns to my tall pedestal planters adds a touch of homeyness to my very long front porch. Silk plants help to keep mosquitos, and other un-welcome creatures away from the front door. They also survive without watering, and never leave dirt residue from plant watering by the door...total win for a front porch. Large thick plant foam was cut to "fit" and then I added pea gravel on top to hopefully hold the plant in windy weather. Bugs don't like rock:)





A few bright petunias went in the landscaping just around the front stairs for color. I am ready for my dinner party!



Come on in and let the dinner party begin!
https://nelliescottageretreat.blogspot.com/2016/02/valentine-dinner-party.html


You may like my blue door & shutters post:)
http://nelliescottageretreat.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-little-bit-of-new-orleans.html

How do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee?
What a thought provoking phrase from a famous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
In our often frantic daily life do we ever answer this question for those we love? I determined to do just that for Michael on Valentines Day in 2012. Simple and thoughtful gifts from the heart can manifest tender feelings just as well or even better than any expensive gift!

I created this framed scrapbook art as the beginning of my simple Valentine plan this year (this was more for my Valentine display than something hubby would like...haha)

Bazzill pink cardstock, red numbers overlay, layered frames- Storybook cartridge,
fancy corners- Cindy Loo cartridge,
off kilter words to mimic handwriting- printed and cut out by hand,
stamped & embossed hearts



Valentine plan for the hubby...
1. Place this framed art on his dressing table.
2. Write answers to this question on heart shaped post it notes.
3. Put the notes all over the mirror in the shape of a big heart.



4. Wear my favorite ruby red red lipstick.



5. Place chocolate covered strawberries and truffles by the frame. (I bought them from kids going to church camp!)
6. Meet for dinner at a local family owned Italian restaurant for our favorite tortellini al forno.
7. Buy a DVD of Nottinghill...a favorite romantic movie 
    (he actually wanted to watch this the other night!)
8. Wear a red dress.. because that is what I wore on our first date!
9. Really believe he loves me with all his heart.
10. Love him with all of my heart everyday....forever and ever

Happy Valentines to all.....
Let your special someone know HOW you love them!


A young lady has a lovely rendition of this poem on youtube...enjoy!
http://youtu.be/B8xByF8RTZE

Enjoy this Valentine post about "Just us" 
Valentine's Day is for anyone!
https://nelliescottageretreat.blogspot.com/2011/02/just-us.html

Friday, December 1, 2017

Crushed Peppermint cookies

One of the wonderful things about the Christmastime when I was young was the goodie table in our kitchen all season long! There is nothing better than coming home off the school bus to a sweet mother baking cookies! Peppermint cookies were and still are a family favorite!



Mom still has the original cookbook where our favorite peppermint cookie comes from...circa 1966 in our home. She is sentimental like that:)


I have a hand written version from the cookbook mom 
made for me when I went to college. 
As you can see this recipe has been well loved:)


Crushed Peppermint Cookies
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup crushed peppermint (30 mini candy canes)
3 cups flour

Cream butter & sugar, add egg & milk. Stir in baking powder, flour, & crushed peppermint. Bake @ 375 for 6-7 minutes


And we begin...
Take the peppermints out of the wrappers and place them in a ziplock bag. Josh and Grandad did this assembly line style, an impressive 4 at a time:)


TIP:
Mini candy canes are MUCH easier to crush than regular round peppermint candies.




Place the unwrapped peppermints in a ziplock, then inside a second ziplock (less mess!)  
GENTLY crush peppermints with a hammer. 
Do NOT do this on a countertop or tile floor. 
Garage or porch floor is best.



Caution: 
Make sure the hubby doesn't use your cookie pan to hammer the peppermints!


Softened butter and sugar are creamed together, then the egg & milk are added. If the butter is not completely softened, cut it up in chunks for faster creaming.  

Seth didn't enjoy mixing the egg in...
hahaha... he said it looked slimy...I agree! 
We added the flour, baking soda, 
and peppermints in a hurry!


I was impressed with the boys memory of "baking procedures" I taught them last time we had Grammie cookie camp. Spooning the flour into a measuring cup is better 
than "compacting" (Seth's word) the flour and 
making the cookies too dense.


But the MOST important baking rule is...
Do you remember Josh?
Do NOT turn on the mixer until the beaters are touching the bottom of the bowl and only turn the speed to 1. 
Whew...no major messes today!


The crushed peppermint tints the dough a bit, 
but I often add a few drops of red food coloring 
for a lovely pink dough 
(except when baking with boys!)

Roll the dough into walnut size balls while trying not 
to eat too much dough:) 
Seth exclaimed "I can't stop eating it!"

For a more festive cookie, 
dip each ball in colored sugar or crushed peppermint.


If your family are chocolate fans (yes we are!) another variation is to press your thumb into the cookie dough 
ball to create a "bowl" and add chocolate or 
white chocolate chips on top.






TIP: Spray the cookie pan with non-stick spray 
(Yes, I know it's not something normally done for cookies, however, you will be glad when it's time to wash the dishes)

Bake cookies for 6-7 minutes. They will look a bit underdone when you take them out. 
In our case, we take them out 
early so they ARE underdone!

TIP:
Quickly take the cookies off the tray before 
the peppermint sticks.


TIP:
While waiting for cookies to bake snuggle baby sister Lizzie (or anyone!) to spread some Christmas cheer:)





These cookies make a fun and colorful treat for friends and family. Christmas just seems a bit more merry with peppermint cookies! 


FYI...you can actually buy peppermint cookie dough now but then you wouldn't have the fun of smashing peppermints with a hammer now would you:)



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Survivor guilt...aint' nobody got time for that!

My friend Peggy called to say she was bringing dinner to me & Michael. A few days later she came bearing roast with potatoes & carrots, rice & gravy, salad, homemade rolls & apple dumpling...it was a feast! As we talked she almost whispered "I hate to be in line somewhere and be asked if we flooded. I feel bad saying no." Her face revealed the depth of her "survivor guilt." The rest of the story about my friend is that her husband's dental office flooded causing great upheaval with employees and patients. She is providing housing for some family that flooded. She is helping with her church flooding recovery. And she is cooking and delivering meals to many! Survivor guilt...she ain't got time for that! 

I have survivor guilt too. My house only took on 10 inches of water. My daughter's home had over 4 feet, many of their belongings were destroyed. Their little family had a place to go...my retreat venue I closed, Nellie's Cottage, their new home. Soooo....my sweet daughter has survivor guilt for having somewhere to go, while mom lives upstairs in her half gutted home! 

Where does it end? Are we allowed to be grateful for the tender mercies that have come our way? Are we deemed callous to be glad our circumstances are not a worse case scenario? 

Yes, I believe we are allowed to be glad, grateful, & relieved. It is even NECESSARY that we do not allow survivor guilt over come us. Those in worse circumstances need us...desperately! 

Survivor guilt..."aint' no body got time for that." 

Survivor guilt 101...
If you did not flood (I hope I speak for everyone who did) we DO NOT begrudge your good fortune! We are glad and grateful you didn't...we have needed you to help muck out our homes, bring us supplies, provide us with meals because we are sick of fast food, AND bring a much needed stability and comfort to our lives! 

Again..we are GRATEFUL you did not flood!


I would suppose that there are some that could use a dose of survivor guilt. But those kind of people rarely feel the need to contribute to the world. During the storm and immediately afterwards we had a young man stay with us who was helping his sister with her 3 young children. He was a valuable asset to all of us in those first tumultuous days. I praised his efforts on behalf of his sister and asked what he would be doing if he was not with us. He replied "I'd be in Beaumont with my roommates, probably watching movies in our apartment. Keep in mind these movies being watched by his roommates were while people were being rescued by boats in life threatening conditions. So my theory proves correct in this instance..those who need to feel survivor guilt usually do not. 

Ironically, those who are running faster than they have strength to help those in need often do feel bad that they are in better conditions than others. Life cannot be a "I have it worse than you" fest...there is ALWAYS someone somewhere in the world that has a MUCH more tragic story to tell. So...how do we cope with "survivor guilt" when we are on the better side of those around us? It's simple, we help in any way we can. 

I had a cousin text me from a non-flooded area of Houston asking if she could share pictures of my flooded house with a Facebook group page. Those in the group were making snarky comments about not wanting to come to our area and help muck out houses. She wanted to set them straight and boy did I have a reply! 

"If people don't understand the devastation it means they are not doing enough for the ones who were devastated. You can quote me on that. They need to get their rear ends out there and be mucking out houses, washing clothes, buying groceries, feeding people, or babysitting kids. I don't have much time for laziness right now!"  (unapologetically me)

Survivor guilt is real, I am certainly not discrediting those who have it. Survivors of every tragedy face a long road of managing emotions they never anticipated, nor were equipped to manage. However, the roller coaster of "I am so relieved it wasn't me but feel terrible it wasn't me" can be channeled for the good. Many charities, scholarships, and "doing good" organizations came about in the face of a personal tragedy by one who decided that making lemonade from lemons seems a better way to live than sucking on sour lemons for lifetime of bitterness.

Survivor guilt...channel it, do good where you are able. Assume all good people are helping. Ignore the rest. 
In the words of one of the great survivor anthems of the 1970's by Gloria Gaynor

"I will survive...long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive".....

Isn't this the answer to our survivor guilt? 
As long as we LOVE (and serve)...we will all survive! 
It always comes back to love... 

And so with all of my survivor guilt, I dedicate this song to horrible hurricane Harvey...
WE WILL SURVIVE!
https://youtu.be/Faf1ch7Q9XE

Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Unnna go home"...Madeline's plea

A home flooded, a family displaced, one of thousands along the Texas coast.
Three little blond girls and a baby brother, my daughter & son-in-law left without a home. 


Home is more than four walls and stuff in the closets. If there is love and kindness within those walls, it is our most longed for destination. Trips away are enjoyable, exciting and often planned months in advance and yet people usually declare "I am ready to go home!" 

Home is a comfy couch with our favorite cuddle buddies and a good movie. It is family gathered around the table for Grandma's best casserole. Home is where our best and worst selves reside in a great laboratory of human relationships. It is where we love and fight, forgive and hold a grudge, exhibit extraordinary patience and unbelievable selfishness. Home is full of great joy and overwhelming sadness. Home is usually a feeling of safety & familiar comfort, a place to hide when the world is cruel. 

Home is our people, our culture, our identity. 

In this experience of being flooded by Harvey, rescued by boat, housed by sweet family friends, working hours of monumental clean up & a great migration of belongings...THE most difficult thing for me to bear was two year old Madeline asking to go home. Her blue eyes would look deeply into mine and plead over and over again "Unnna go home." 

How my heart would break into a million tiny pieces every single time. Home to Madeline was just down the driveway behind my house where she would often be found naked & playing with her sisters, having escaped while mommy fed baby brother...haha! 

Home was a pink cozy coupe on the long driveway, Grammie's snack jar, daddy's shoulder rides, & mommy's stories. Home was riding the tractor with Grandad & swimming in our pool. 

Home was both her house and my house, as best described by a phone call I received early one morning from Travis just 3 days before the hurricane.

"Grammie, are you aiding and abetting a known fugitive?"  
I looked at Madeline perched in my rocker with chocolate Teddy Grahams, watching Peppa Pig and said "Yes, I guess I am!" 

These little blond girls had lived for four blissful years roaming between two houses on a three acre plot of land we all called home. It was an ideallic time...almost heaven. 

But it's over now, Harvey saw to that. 
And what of home? 

The three blond sisters, baby brother and parents have a new home...Nellie's Cottage. 

I have been working with Madeline "Do you have a new home" Home is the cottage!" to which she would give a resounding & grumpy two year old NO! Every day for weeks the it has been the same answer. Yesterday I tried again for the 67th time..."Madeline, you have a new home, the cottage is home!" Those bright blue eyes stared into mine, I braced myself for the NO! She sat silently, staring into my soul as if she had decided to accept the cottage as home. No reply came, but as she ran away to play I was relieved to see a re-kindling of her feisty little spirit. 

Even though the cottage isn't yet as familiar as her first home... the pink cozy coupe can be found on the sidewalk, 
the playhouse survived the flood...

AND daddy bought an epic new swing! 

The cottage is now where daddy gives shoulder rides, mommy reads stories, & Grandad gives tractor rides as he works on the property. And Grammie? Well, I pop by the cottage pretty much every day for hugs and kisses from little ones that mean home to me.

Home isn't a place, it's a feeling. 
And today, Madeline is finally finding what she has wanted all along....home.