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Hello Again

I see it’s been nearly a year since I posted anything here. I’ve missed writing about cottage life, and a variety of other topics which interest me. I always hoped to get back to it. Writing used to be fun; then it wasn’t, so much. Perhaps it can be again?

I’ve taken a year off of work, for a variety of personal reasons. It has allowed me to take better care of myself, which is wonderful. I’ve been eating better, and exercising more, reading a lot, travelling a bit, walking my dog, hanging out at the cottage, teaching myself to play the ukulele (yes, really) and just generally enjoying each day. But always, always, I have intended to start writing again. I just haven’t been able to make a start. So here is a start.

So, whats new at Keats View Cottage? In a material vein, the bed is new; the barbecue is new; these fishing float lights on the mantle are new: I really like these!

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More importantly, I have a new pleasure in spending time on the Sunshine Coast. Instead of squeezing in a weekend here and there, I have been spending a week at a time at the cottage. This has allowed me to do the usual home projects and gardening but also to spend long hours walking the beach, sipping coffee on the porch, getting to know people in the community better and considering what I want for the future. This gift I have given myself is, truthfully, the best gift ever.

My work involves a lot of writing, and over time, it seems the writing I was obliged to do drained most, if not all, of the pleasure from the act of writing. I’d like to get this back, if I can.

But I don’t want to look too far down the road, or raise my expectations too much. Reactivating this blog is a good starting point, because it’s true purpose was always to keep a record of the years as they whizzed by. While the cottage was a convenient focal point, what is most interesting when I look back is to see what we were doing at any given time, and what activities and ideas interested the Cottager and me (and the Urchins, of course.)

So now I have lost a whole year of recording those things, and although quite a bit of it hasn’t been “the best of times”, I’m still sorry not to have that record. And I feel motivated to write here, if nowhere else, once again. For those fifty or so folks who have continued to follow my blog throughout this long silence, your interest is appreciated. Thanks for hanging in there. More soon, I hope.

Went to look for this recipe on my blog today…and it’s not there. Let’s fix that!

Super easy, feeds a crowd and perfect for a fabulous weekend like this one.

Five ingredients, one pot, 10 minutes until its in the freezer. Caramel. Do you need more persuading?

INGREDIENTS

Two squares margarine or butter (1 cup)

1 cup brown sugar

7 cups rice krispies

1 – 2 litre carton vanilla ice cream

Caramel ice cream topping

Optional: sliced strawberries or bananas

METHOD

In a large pot on the stove top, combine margarine or butter with brown sugar and melt while stirring constantly but do not bring to boil. Remove from heat and stir in rice krispies, a cup or two at a time.
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Spoon half this mixture into a 13 x 9 inch pan and press down gently with back of spatula to smooth and compress into a smooth layer.  Unwrap brick of ice cream – no need to soften – then use a heavy chef’s knife to slice it into approximately one inch thick slices and cut to fit neatly in pan as required.
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Smooth briefly with a spatula, then pack remaining rice krispies mix on top and press down gently. Drizzle cake with some prepared caramel sauce to garnish, but not too much. This dessert is quite sweet already. Cover with foil and freeze at least six, and, ideally, 24 hours.

Best served with some lovely fresh fruit to give the impression it is good for you.

Our buffed-up master bath is grey and white. Very soothing, but requiring a few pops of colour. These two different wine crates came from the garages of friends in the neighbourhood. One became a wall shelf for a few items too tall for the vanity drawers. The other is now a stool – style table for accessories beside the tall tub.

From the canvas over the tub I choose red ochre as an accent colour for this small project.

I used craft store acrylic paint, and only put on two coats as I wanted these items to look a bit rough. Once dry,  I sprayed them with some varnish to protect the paint.  The cloth in the back of the wall shelf is a place mat from a sale table at Pier 1 and can be changed out easily when I find something I like better. Cottager cut some molding for the rough front edge, and I filled the joints and gave the frame a coat of BM Cloud White. These small practical additions make me feel that I have put something of myself into the project.

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Change something. Anything at all.  This week I changed my hair.  Been thinking about it for ever. Finally did it. Chop, chop. Free!

Also changed this bookcase. Cheap and ugly old thing needed a facelift. Three coats of Regatta Blue later, it has new ‘pop’ and a new purpose at the cottage.

Regatta Blue is a Sherwin Williams colour. I am getting a bit choked with Benjamin Moore. Their prices keep going up, and I have had some strange advice on one or two occasions as well. This quart of paint cost $20 at Sherwin Williams. They were having a sale. Forty percent off EVERY can of paint. Period. Can’t say I’ve seen that at BM.  The paint was lovely to work with. Think I’ll be hooking up with Sherwin again in future.

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Rental season starts next week. Have spent the last two days turning the cottage inside out: Washing bedding,  cleaning corners with an old toothbrush and setting up everything for the vacationers to come.  And now it is done, and I feel pretty tired and a little less blue.

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Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, so why not pass on getting sucked into the commercial hype of it all and show your love with a unique breakfast treat.

This looks great just out of the oven and tastes even better. I adapted this slightly from a recipe given to me by Mary Wallgren, from the Idaho branch of my mom’s family.

You will need a blender and also a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have the skillet, perhaps you should? Next thing you know you will be making frittatas and oven-fried chicken.

If you are really frugal, pick up a grotty cast skillet at Value Village and recondition it. There are instruction for this process on-line. It is a bit of a dirty job.

INGREDIENTS

Filling:

2 apples, peeled,cored, sliced
2 T brown sugar
2 T butter or margerine
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, or to taste

Batter:

3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp orange peel zest (optional)
3/4 cup milk

3 T butter or margerine
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

METHOD

In a bowl, stir together apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and lemon juice until apples are coated.

Melt 2 T butter or margerine in a regular skillet on the stove top, add apples and saute until apples are tender – at least 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set this skillet aside for now.

Place your 11 inch cast iron skillet into cold oven, and set to 400 degrees.

Now, into blender put your three eggs, and blend really well.
Reduce blender to low speed. Add flour, salt, granulated sugar and orange zest.
Then slowly add milk.
Stop blender and scrape down sides to ensure all flour is being combined.
Blend again for one minute.

Carefully remove cast skillet from oven using two oven mitts.
Place on cold stove top and add 3 T butter or margerine, moving it around with a spatula until melted but not browned. Carefully add batter from blender, then distribute cinnamon sugar apples on top and return to oven using two oven mitts. Bake 25 minutes, until edges are puffed and brown. Test centre with finger to ensure fully cooked.

Dust with icing sugar, cut into wedges and serve with maple syrup.
Caution: Don’t forget and touch the pan. Hot!

Making Progress

Second bathroom is taking shape. Never a moment to blog it, but here is a sneak peak at our new master bath.

BEFORE

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AND AFTER…

bathroom redo

Everything you see in this picture was a smashing deal. Tub was a floor model marked down 75% and included taps and all the plumbing parts necessary for install – the latter often priced separately and the former always!

Tile was discounted and Jenn Brown’s recommended tile installer did a fantastic job at a terrific price – though we had to wait weeks to get on his work schedule.

That fabulous barn board floor? Vinyl, my friend. Warm, soft on the feet, water proof and easy-care. I found it at NuFloors at $4.69/sq. foot. Jenn Brown found it elsewhere for $3.29/sq. foot.

The art work was 20% off and then a further 50% off that. The vase also 75% off. Full disclosure: These were my picks so if you don’t like them, its my taste you despise.

Moral of the story: It simply takes a little longer to pull it together when trying to get what you want and a deal.

Everything has been operational since a few days before Christmas, but we continue to work away at mouldings, paint touch ups and other final details. I keep waiting and hoping I will find a spectacular deal on a tall, 300 watt towel warmer, but will soon give up on this dream and just order one. You can’t rush it, but sometimes you need to be finished.

Once I find the right frame for a particular photo, I will post Before and Afters of the third bathroom.

Its tough to find time to blog when you are trying to move a project along and tend to the business of work and family at the same time. I’d hoped to post pictures as we progressed, but here, in short, is the first bathroom we demo’d, in its new glory.

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Only missing is the back splash tile, which will be installed in few weeks, when we will have a few jobs for the tile layer to complete at once.

I had some professional help with this, by way of a friend who is a professional designer: Jenn Brown Interiors

Most importantly, she gave me the kick-start I needed. I just didn’t know where to start, and so she arrived with a ton of samples and helped me clarify needs vs. desires, priorities and a vision of the style we wanted.

Our family home is simply that. It is full of the stuff of our lives and will never look like a magazine house, nor would we want it to. We live here, and have done for two decades, so things get worn, and even when we can keep up with repairs and touch ups, things get messy and sometimes just plain dirty. We love our pets, but they take a toll on things as well. So we were looking for an update to our old pink bathrooms that incorporated practical solutions for better organization; reduced visual clutter, and easy clean and hard wearing surfaces. And a reasonable price point, of course. Because we are frugal.

And so far I would say we are hitting it out of the park in terms of getting what we want and need.
One of the nice things about Jenn is that she listens well. If you want her to just design and create a new space for you, she will do it. But we wanted to make our own choices and do a lot of the work ourselves. It gives us a great sense of satisfaction when it works out, and we learn stuff when it doesn’t. She was able to go with the flow, and our rather slow pace.

She knows a lot about various products, and was especially helpful at things like picking out tile, which is, frankly, overwhelming. She is also a very frugal person, and knows lots of ways to get a great look for less. Her fees were easily offset, in my view, in savings that directly resulted from her advice and product sourcing. So a great value and highly recommended.

Now that we are well on our way, we are mostly using her as an occasional resource, and for referrals to trades people she has used and trusts. Once our bathroom projects are completed, I’m going to enlist her advice to refresh our bedroom and the front hallway, and maybe re-stage our living room too. Project creep!

More and better photos, information about the products we chose (and why) and a rough cost break down for this first bathroom to follow shortly.

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