It’s official – I’ve moved the blog to http://www.humbleandhounds.com
It’s time to go to a self-hosted blog and all the opportunities that will offer. Same great content with more flexibility.
I hope you will check it out!
It’s November! I realize the calendar doesn’t declare Winter until around December 21st but in my mind, when the clock strikes 12 midnight on Halloween, Autumn is over and Winter has arrived. Are you with me? Time to break out the woolies, quilts, and turn on the fireplace.
While I won’t begin Christmas decorating until after Remembrance Day on November 11th, I do like to start changing over my decor from light & bright to warm & cozy. The first place I always start is with the bedding in our Master Bedroom. My husband loves flannel sheets and would gladly use them year round but I would probably spontaneously combust (women of a certain age, you know what I mean LOL). Our compromise? We keep the house cooler at night (thanks to a programmable thermostat coming on at 5am – no one is frozen when they get up in the morning) and we use the flannel sheets and a down duvet. Everyone is happy and I can “un-layer” should the need arise.
I love the convenience of a duvet, such a simple way to change decor. What I don’t love is finding it at the bottom of the cover at the foot of the bed or bunched up in one corner. A simple addition to your duvet and duvet cover reduces/eliminates this problem and I have a method of inserting it into the cover that can be handled by one person and doesn’t involve you crawling inside!
Let’s start with the duvet itself. Take a look at the one you already own. Some duvets have a small buttonhole in the corners and spaced out along the perimeter of the duvet. Ever wonder what those were for? Prepare to be amazed. That is where you insert ties from the duvet cover and tie them off to secure the duvet inside the cover. What?!! “But my duvet doesn’t have those buttonholes” you say. Here’s an easy fix.
Now turn your duvet cover inside out and attach ties to the “seam allowance” of the duvet cover as well. You now have a way to secure the duvet to all four corners of the duvet cover. But wait…there’s more…
Lay your duvet flat over the bed. Take your inside out duvet cover and lay it over top of the duvet. The bottom, or closure area, should line up with the head of the bed like this.
Tie the ties together in the corners to secure the duvet to the duvet cover. Starting at the foot of the bed, begin to roll the two pieces together. Continue to roll until you’ve got something resembling a cinnamon bun (sorry for the food reference).
This is where the magic happens (I cannot believe I just wrote that!).
Turn that roll inside out so the duvet cover is now on the outside of the roll and the duvet is on the inside of the roll.
Once it’s all nicely tucked inside, zip it closed and begin unrolling the duvet/duvet cover sandwich (again, another food reference, dinner is almost ready). It’s really that simple. Makes you want to change your duvet cover all the time, doesn’t it?
Give it a bit of a fluffing to distribute the duvet inside the cover and you are done. Sleep well, my friend!
I love everything lemon – lemon loaf, lemon chicken, lemonade but one of my favourites is lemon curd. Never heard of it? It’s the food of the gods but I’m not sure who thought the name “curd” would attract many fans? Curd for dairy products is coagulated milk, like cottage cheese, but fruit curd is something completely different. Generally made from citrus fruit, fruit curd is a delicious spread or dessert addition and you may not have realized you were eating lemon curd with your last slice of lemon meringue pie. My favourite topping for scones is clotted cream and lemon curd which is a very traditional way to serve them, but lemon curd has so many more uses!
- Fruit pie, none of that commercial, fake, fluorescent-coloured stuff for me
- Tarts – keep a few shells in the freezer and you can bake them as needed
- Fool – a “fool” (other than the obvious LOL) is a creamy dessert. Take some stiff whipped cream and mix it with the curd. Use a few blueberries or whatever you have on hand for garnish and you’re done
- Toppings – pound cake, waffles, toast, or right from the spoon!
In all my work, I try to say – You may be given a load of sour lemons, why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?
~ Maya Angelou
Have I inspired you to give it a try? Many people are afraid to attempt to make it because they have heard it is difficult to avoid curdling the mixture. I have a foolproof method I use and I’m going to share it with you, it will be our little secret… combining the butter with the sugar prevents separation and makes a silky curd.
Kelly’s Lemon Curd
6 oz. Butter
2 C Sugar
3 Lemons juiced to make 1-1/3 C Lemon Juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
Lemons, Butter, Eggs and Sugar. That’s it! Four ingredients and you can pronounce them all.
Wash the lemons, remove the zest, chop it finely, and set it aside. Juice the lemons and make sure there are no seeds in the juice. You will need to have 1-1/3 cups of lemon juice. I will top it up with lemon juice concentrate if I don’t get enough from the lemons. Separate four of the eggs and set the whites aside. In a separate bowl, combine the four egg yolks with the four whole eggs.
Combine the butter and sugar in your mixer until well incorporated (like you would with cookies). Add the lemon juice and mix gently. Now add the eggs, a bit at a time, until well incorporated. The yolks will automatically fall into the mixing bowl, one at a time, if you pour slowly.
Place the contents in a double boiler. What? You don’t own a double boiler? Neither do I. I take a large pot and fill it half full with water and place the metal bowl from my kitchen aid mixer on top. Voila! Double boiler! You can use any type of metal bowl over boiling water just make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.
Bring that mixture up to a temperature of 170 degrees, stirring often to prevent sticking. This is an important step because it cooks the egg, which thickens your mixture. You must reach this temperature or your curd will not thicken and will separate over time.
Once you reach the temperature required, remove from the heat.
Add in the lemon zest and stir to incorporate. Cover the surface with plastic wrap by placing the wrap directly on the surface of the curd. This will prevent a skin from forming on the curd. Cool in the fridge until ready to use.
Once the curd is cool, I spoon it into 1-cup containers and freeze. It freezes well and defrosts quickly. The recipe will make four 1-cup containers but one automatically gets set aside for my Mom. Always good to ensure your status as the favourite child!
The Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, British Columbia has offered a lottery prize home since 1934, long before the latest trend of hospital lotteries began offering their multi-million dollar homes as prizes. Even as a kid, I loved going through the prize home to see the “home of the future” gadgets and gizmos. We are nowhere near what the creators of the Jetsons envisioned our homes might be but you can learn a great deal by visiting show homes. And unlike crashing real estate “open houses” with no intention to buy, it’s perfectly acceptable to take pictures or video of decorating ideas that catch your eye and a great way to see upcoming trends. I’m glad I no longer have to wait for the annual fair to view over-the-top decorating and mansion-like homes because the BC Children’s Hospital Lottery prize homes are open for viewing now.
I’ve been twice. Once with my daughter when they first opened and most recently with my Mom. We wouldn’t miss touring them and it’s amazing how different they can be from year to year. There were a few trends that I noticed were still strong and a return of some past decorating trends that (ugh, oak everywhere! Floors, trim, walls…) might be returning.
The biggest difference I noticed was the addition of colour through backsplash tile and counter tops. All the homes we visited had patterned counter tops throughout the home but it was very noticeable in the kitchen where previously you had only seen neutrals. The counter in the picture was very heavily patterned in a marble design. Thick counters covered all surfaces with a waterfall profile rather than the straight or bullnose profiles that have been popular recently. I like the softness of the profile but I think I would grow tired of such a busy pattern. The backsplash tile had a very soft green hue and appeared to have a crackled glass finish. Very pretty but unusual to see green in a kitchen. Lighting was dramatic with several light sources and options for brightness. The chandelier over the island added a modern touch to an otherwise traditional cabinet design. The perimeter of the cabinetry was white and the island was a soft grey which is a trend that we’ve seen for a few years now.
If you want to take a room up a notch, use the 5th wall to achieve it! All of the lottery homes showed a great deal of attention to the ceilings in each room. The formal dining room in the Southpoint Langley home had a beautiful cover detail with a more traditional looking chandelier in the centre. Cove ceilings are also a great way to divide up a very large space into zones like a kitchen and great room, for example. Cove ceilings make me swoon! Mom even remarked how the crystal teardrops were making a comeback. Sure adds a bit of glitz and sparkle to a room.
There has been a movement in recent times to simple straight moldings, no crown, profile baseboards, or wall treatments. That seems to be changing, at least in the lottery homes, where I saw lots of cove ceilings, crown moldings, door trim, and panelling. I love the grid pattern treatment that has been done to the fireplace in the great room. Fireplaces can be intimidating when they span two stories of a home but this molding treatment breaks up that broad expanse of space. Love it! I already had plans to add this to the eating area in our kitchen but now I’m even more excited about how it is going to transform the space. I’ve also been considering adding additional moldings to our door frames and I like the stacked look that adding different profiles can create. A winter project, maybe?
The home office is still popular as more people choose to either extend their work day at home or telecommute. This one’s location in the lottery home was adjacent to the Master Suite so not really ideal to entertain clients but I could have spent hours in here. It was a really elegant space with lots of natural light and it was tucked away on the main floor so if you were a “messy” worker, no one would notice. So many home offices are located when you first enter the home so either they need to be presentable at all times or they need a door.
If you go anywhere, even paradise, you will miss your home.
~ Malala Yousafzai
I love going through open houses to gather ideas and to see if what I’m planning in our home is working someplace else. It’s also fun to imagine life in the location, should your name be drawn. But, I’m pretty sure that if I were that lucky, I would take the cash and continue to work on the home we love.
I’ve been absent from the blog for a good part of the summer but have kept busy with all sorts of projects around the house. Mixed in with travel and other summer activities, there has been much going on around here. I have started many projects but there are not many completed! So, I’m spending the last few days of summer to try to get some things finished up.
One thing that has annoyed me for a while is how saggy and misshapen the sofa in our Great Room has become. It is the most popular spot in the room with the best view of the TV. The pets think so too and it’s an ongoing battle with the dogs to keep them off the furniture. We have never allowed it, but as Rosie gets older, she has become more devious about getting up on the furniture. I have resorted to barricading the soft upholstery when we’re not in the room for any length of time but now if you just step into the kitchen, she makes her way to the sofa. Bad dog!
Needless to say, a long hot, dusty summer has wreaked havoc on the upholstery. The leather pieces are easy enough to wipe down but the sofa has really paid the price. I decided to remove all the cushion covers and wash them. I checked the contents of the fabric and washed one by hand to make sure it would be okay. It was, so all six pieces went into the washer.
They turned out great! But the biggest challenge is not the washing – it’s stuffing them all back inside the covers when it’s time to re-assemble. I hate that part. By the time you get them put back in, they’re all out of shape and the batting is twisting around the foam – frustrating to say the least!
I had read about an easier way to accomplish this task using a plastic bag so I’ve made a video to show you how easy it really is.
And here’s the “after” shot (forgot to take the “before”!)
I’m pretty happy how a cleaning and a bit of polyfil have breathed new life into our sofa. It definitely gets heavy use in our home and this should extend its life a little longer. Have you tried adding fill to furniture to plump it up? Would you try this hack to make it easier to put the cushion inside the cover? Did you notice how Dexter even photobombed my video…
Our summer has been spectacular in British Columbia. Hope yours has been as great! Can’t wait to share my next project with you,
I love the look of stainless steel in my kitchen. When it’s clean. Which is a challenge. There are people who live in this house and they insisting on touching these appliances LOL. And, there are two bassets who have been known to slobber… What’s a girl to do?
You may choose your words like a connoisseur, and polish it up with art. But the word that sways, and stirs, and stays, is the word that comes from the heart. ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I came across this tip while out shopping for appliances for my office. We found a fridge in the appliance store and the salesperson wanted to give it a quick polish before it was packed for shipping. You’ll never guess what he came back with to clean it! When I asked why he was using this product, he told me that stainless steel will “dry out” and that is what allows the fingerprints to show up and what makes it difficult to remove them. By using a little penetrating oil, you “nourish” the stainless steel and bring back the shine. Best of all – IT WORKS. So every couple of weeks, when the dish cloth is no longer doing the job to remove evidence of use, I bring out the WD-40, give it a spritz, and polish with a clean, dry cloth. It’s an easy, inexpensive fix and it always works. Happy polishing!
It’s spring and I always get the urge to clean. Not the surfacey kind of clean but the bring it back to new kind of clean. And there lies my shame… (LOL). I know no one expects me to climb up on the cupboards once a week to dust but at least once a year it needs to be cleaned. Unfortunately, being the kitchen, that dust is mixed with cooking oils and cleaning is a monumental task.
So after a good cleaning, I looked around to see what I could do to reduce the job next year. Wax paper seemed like a good candidate. This stuff happened to be in the clearance bin and I don’t think it matters that it has snow men all over it.
I measured out lengths for each section of the cupboard and gave the top a light spray of water before placing the wax paper in position. The water will help keep the wax paper in place and prevent curling.
Next year is going to be so much easier! Roll it up and throw it away and then lay a new layer of wax paper.
I was surprised to find this ottoman, marked down, at a big-box grocery store. Although the upholstery was vinyl, it stood up well for many years before a small tear on the side grew into a large tear that could no longer be ignored.
It is a large square piece that allows room to place a tray in the centre, to corral remotes and books, and yet still allows room for feet. It also has a flip top lid with fairly roomy storage inside. My family loves it and prefers it to the wooden coffee table that used to sit here previously. Here’s how I tackled the re-upholstery:
The first step was to remove the hardware. Remember the tip about saving all those little bits in a cup or container, it was really important for this project as there were many pieces to keep track of. I removed the base from the upholstered piece and set it aside.
And another shot with my dog spokesmodel, Dexter (and people say little kids are underfoot when they are trying to work on a project)!
This would be a good time to paint the wood, if you so desired, but I intended to leave it in the dark finish. I find it helpful to take pictures of any hardware before I remove it so it is easier to figure out when it comes time to put it all back together.
This project has two parts to re-upholster, the top and the box frame. The top had a lining that I intended to re-use so I carefully pulled it back and removed the staples with a pair of pliers as I worked my way around the edge. If you can re-use something, why add the expense of replacing it? The foam was in good shape, and foam can be expensive to replace, so I decided to re-use that as well. Once it was removed, I could take a good look at how they had tufted the vinyl. The top had holes drilled through and straps attached to the vinyl had been pulled through and stapled to the underside of the top. This had worked for many years previously so I decided to duplicate the method on my new upholstery. I removed the staples and pulled the entire vinyl piece off the top. You can see where the vinyl was attached to the foam.
I measured the along the outer edges of the old vinyl to create a new pattern.
Instead of sewing a piece to serve as the sides of the top, I decided to keep it as one large piece and mitre the corners to make a snug fit.
Fabric tends to wear at the seams so removing the seams along the outer edge should help the fabric to wear longer.
I also measured the depth of the side so I could add it to the overall size of the upholstery piece needed to cover the top.
There are a few items that I found helpful during this project. Fray Check is a product that you can put on raw fabric edges that will discourage fraying. I used it on the corner seams to lessen the chance that the seams would split. Tacky Glue is another handy tool to keep things in place while you work. The spray can of 505 is a temporary adhesive and I found this really helpful to spray the new cotton batting that I placed over the foam. It held it in place nicely as I tied off the tufting and covered the top with the new upholstery.
I measured out the distances from the old vinyl upholstery and applied the new straps to the new fabric.
I stitched each strap on by creating a square. This allows even stress on the fabric and prevents it from tearing or stretching out.
At this point in the process, I was still deciding if I would attach buttons to the tufting.
I marked where I planned to sew the seam to create the corners of the upholstery.
This seam would be under stress from pulling it tight as I attached the new upholstery so I top stitched for extra strength.
Although the foam was in good shape, the cotton batting that covered it was worn and patchy. I added new batting before applying the new upholstery and held it in place on top of the foam with a light spray of the 505 Temporary Adhesive.
I used a chopstick to poke a hole in the new batting and to push the attached strips through to the under side of the wooden top. Once they were all through, I pulled them tight and stapled the straps in place. This created the tufting on the new upholstery.
Alternating sides as I stapled, I attached the upholstery to the underside of the top. First stapling in the centre of each side after pulling it taut and then stapling the opposite side in the same way.
Work your way back and forth until you have enough staples to keep it taut and leave about 6″ from the corners. Staple the corners at the point and then fold the remaining fabric in and staple to create a nice smooth corner.
I measured the side and cut four pieces of fabric, sewing them together to create a tube. I attached twill tape to those seams, as I had on the top, to reinforce them. I placed the tube over the box and lined up the seams with the outer corners of the box. Now it was simply a matter of stapling the same way that I attached the upholstery to the top. The lining for the box was re-used and then it was time to re-assemble.
I used to own a tea room. It allowed me to indulge in my love of baking without having to consume all the results. When my partner and I decided to close it a few years ago, stepping into my own kitchen to bake actually made me a little sad instead of the joy I had experienced in the past. They say time heals all wounds and I am, once again, enjoying the process of creating in the kitchen. From time to time, I’d like to share some of my favourite recipes with you and I hope they will bring your family and friends as much pleasure as they did our beloved guests in the tea room.
In the Lord’s Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbour on an empty stomach. ~President Woodrow Wilson
Without a doubt, our most popular item on the menu were the Buttermilk Scones that we baked on a daily basis. Light and fluffy with a delicate crumb, these were hugely popular with our regulars and many asked to take them home for their freezers, to be enjoyed later.
A couple of must-haves tools in my tea room kitchen, as well as my home kitchen, help to create consistent recipes and great results.
Kitchen Scale – this is the most accurate way to measure your ingredients. Flour volume can vary greatly when you use a measuring cup. If you don’t have a scale, be sure to spoon flour into your measuring cup and don’t tap to level.
Swedish Dough Whisk – Although it is rather odd looking, it is my absolute favourite tool to make bread, muffins, and anything else that requires stirring. I do have a bread machine but this whisk makes quick work of any job. I purchased it here.
Silpat or Parchment Paper – Nothing ever sticks to these and clean up is a breeze. Using a cooking spray can eventually lead to an oil build up on your pans which is difficult to remove. Parchment paper can be re-used several times so it is also very cost effective.
When I want to bake, I want to be able to just grab a few ingredients and start. It’s a process made easier by creating mixes for items I like to bake frequently. Scones are definitely on that list! The following mix I make up and store in a plastic container. I’m more inspired to bake when I know I can just measure out the dry ingredients and add the liquids.
Buttermilk Scone Mix (makes 4 recipes)
- 1420g Flour
- 60g Baking Powder
- 2 tsp Baking Soda
- 2 tsp Salt
Measure all ingredients into a large bowl and use a whisk to mix the dry ingredients together. Place mixture in a Ziploc bag or plastic container and store until inspiration strikes. When you are ready to make up a batch, follow the recipe below.
- 750g Buttermilk Scone Mix
- 220g Butter, chilled and cut into cubes
- 1-1/2 C Buttermilk
- 2 Eggs
Tip: When I purchase a pound of butter, I cut it into 1-1/2″ cubes, place it in a Ziploc bag and place it in the freezer. It’s simple to grab these cubes to weigh and add to the dry ingredients and takes very little time for the butter to soften enough to blend into the scone mix.
Break the eggs into a 2 Cup Measuring Cup and fill the measuring cup up with Buttermilk until it measures 2 Cups. Eggs vary in size, measuring this way ensures you have the same amount of liquid every time you make your scones. Set aside.
If you leave large chunks of butter, they will melt and you will have spots in your baked scones that appear soggy. Cutting the butter in really well coats the flour grains with fat and creates a light and flaky texture.
Add the egg/buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with the Dough Whisk or a wooden spoon. The dough will be stiff. Now it’s time to get your hands dirty and knead the flour remaining in the bowl into the dough. Don’t overwork the dough at this point. As soon as the dry is mixed in, it’s time to stop.
Tip: To shape the scones, I have a method I use to make the edges layered and flaky.
Take a 9×13 pan and line it with plastic wrap. Place the ball of dough in the pan and press the dough flat and out to the edges. By doing this, I get a consistent thickness for my scones. Now turn the dough out onto a floured surface and cut your scones into squares or triangles. Cutting the dough, rather than shaping it with your hands, releases the edges and allows them to separate into flaky layers. I guarantee success if you follow this method!
Place cut scones on a lined baking sheet and brush with a mixture of one egg and 1/4 Cup of milk. I place this in a sealable container and shake to mix and break up the yolk. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin coat to the top of the scones.
Savoury: cheddar, parmesan, rosemary, onion
Sweet: dried fruits such as cherries, frozen fruits such as blueberries or raspberries, chocolate
Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Pre-heating is crucial. Your oven needs to be hot to support the dough as it rises in the oven. As the butter in the flour mixture melts, it creates little pockets of steam and that also helps the scones to rise.
Your delicious scones are ready when they are a light golden brown and the edges look flaky. Do not over bake as this will make them dry and tough.
I hope these become a family favourite as they have in our home!