Monthly Archives: November 2012

Cheer-Inspired Tablescape

Beer-Casual Elegance

This casual holiday tablescape was directly inspired by a seasonal staple here at the Farmhouse: Shiner Cheer.  Yes, this festive table was inspired by beer.  Are you really that surprised?

Sixer of Shiner

Come on! This is gorgeous packaging.

Ever since the Texan introduced me to this seasonal nectar of the Gods, I’ve been hooked.  It is profoundly delicious (dang those Texans know how to make some good beer) and the pretty packaging doesn’t hurt, either.  I am a sucker for pretty packaging.  We literally wait on pins and needles for it to come out every year, and it is darned hard to find in Los Angeles.  But we manage.  This year we drove 60 miles for it.  Priorities.

Cheers!

For me? You shouldn’t have.

I am in love with this color scheme: cream, minty-teal-green, and orangey-red (dare I say….Farmhouse Red?!).  These are my colors, and they repeat themselves ad nauseam throughout our house.  So it was a no-brainer that my holiday table would resort to this color scheme.

Holiday Tablescape

In the background, you might notice that our tree is, as of yet, still undecorated. Sigh.

Shiner for all

We like it casual here.  I use basic white dinnerware for everything, because it goes with everything.  This table cloth is a fitted sheet (which hugs the oval table in a very pretty way!), with a strip of raw-edged canvas drop cloth set over it as a runner.  The centerpiece is an informal gathering of scavenged, broken branch pieces, craft-store red berries, and strands of mini-lights placed around a set of three chippy-painted candlesticks.

Place Setting

The napkins are wrapped in a simple bind of red grosgrain ribbon, with a Shiner Cheer bottle cap accent.

Shiner Cheer TableHoliday TablescapeHappy Holidays

Shiner Cheerfulness

Let there be cheer!

Manzanita Centerpiece

Cheers Sign

It only seemed fitting that I show the reclaimed wood sign I’ve got on the mantel, currently….I love the gold-glittered letters against the aged wood.

Sneaky Chicken

I walk away from the photo session for one second and leave the door open, and in waltzes a very wet Millie seeking refuge from the rainstorm outside.

Wet Chickens

Gertie is close on her heels. Wet chickens!

Stink Eye

Oh, boy did I get the look of death when I shooed them back out into the rain!

Shiner Cheer

Wishing everyone a case or two of Holiday Cheer!

Twinkly

Twinkly Farmhouse

‘Tis finally the season, and we have finished putting up the exterior lights at the Farmhouse.  Our light scheme, as of a happy little accident from last year, is twinkling silver and gold.

TwinklinessWe have always put up a Clark Griswold amount of Christmas lights, and every year we lamented the resulting electric bill because we were using incandescents.  Last year, we made the leap to LEDs, and because I was getting to design a whole new light scheme from scratch, I pondered it for a really long time.  After far too much debate, I decided I wanted to do all twinkling white lights, because, while I love multi-colored light displays, there is just something magical about all white.

Imagine my surprise and consternation when I arrived at the store and discovered that LEDs come in two different-colored whites: warm white and cool white.  Warm white is the white that I know and love; it best mimics the white of an incandescent bulb.  Cool white, on the other hand, is this harsh, blueish LED color, that, in mass quantity can make you go blind (just kidding).  I knew I would, without question, do all warm-white.

Front Gate Wreath

Guess who helped.

Guess who had to be helping.

But the LED gods had other things in mind for me.  Too many other people were doing all warm white, it seemed, and The Target had only half as many as I would require.  But they had plenty of darned cool white.  It was then, as I stared angrily at the store light display, that I had my epiphany.  The warm white lights, lit up next to the cool white lights took on a whole different vibe.  They looked gold and silver.  The LED gods had shown me the way.  I had been enlightened (see what I did there?).

An extremely important component of this light display does not, unfortunately, show up in the photographs–and that is the twinkling.  Twinkling is essential, in my opinion.  Not blinking, not phasing, not pulsing.  Twinkling.  So not only did I have to find enough gold lights, and enough silver lights, I needed to find enough twinkling of each that the effect was evenly dispersed throughout the display.  This sounds easier than it actually is.  Twinkling lights are sort of hard to come by, in the right quantity, in the right hue, in the weeks leading up to the holidays.  Somehow, after hitting every The Target and every The Home Depot within a 50 mile radius, we managed to acquire everything I felt we needed.  And somehow, the Texan had not abandoned me at one of The stores.  Despite threatening it at every single one.

Twig stars hang on each window lit with battery-operated mini lights.

Gold and silver twinklies in our hedge.

Front Door Wreath

Along with silver and gold lights, the front door wreath sports sprigs of white pompoms and sparkly pinecones.

Home sweet home.

When all is said and done, the gold and silver are really a beautiful effect.  Definitely worth ransacking every local store for.

The Barmoire

This is not just a tale of re-purposed furniture.  This is the story of how a husky, dysfunctional, 90’s vintage TV cabinet almost ruined, then subsequently saved a marriage.  I’m not saying it’s mine, I’m just saying a marriage….My husband and I have lived through two house renovations, six moves, and countless DIYDS (do-it-your-damned-self) projects.  Yet it was this single, ugly, unfathomably heavy piece of furniture that turned us on each other.

This beast of an armoire sat in my childhood bedroom and housed my very first TV (and sadly, I never got any ‘before’ photos of it), and despite it’s then honey-oak stain and cheesy-country vibe, it was state-of-the-art with a pivoting, telescoping lazy-susan, two (TWO!!) VHS tape-storage drawers, and niches for a VCR and a cable box.  It was no joke.  It moved out of that room with me and into my two college apartments, then back home, and into every.single.subsequent. living arrangement that followed.  Why?  Because I was broke and it was a useful piece of furniture that stored a lot of crap.  When my husband and I moved into our first place together, even he admired the capacity it had for crap-storage.  One could only marvel.  It was at this time when we also acquired our first flat-screen TV, effectively rendering the armoire’s most basic utility completely useless.  So it was that when we moved from there, the debate began: why in the world were we lugging that awful, heavy, awkward thing along with us?  Why, indeed.  I had no answer.  I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it was meant for something bigger than being left on the curb to wallow.

Does anyone else hear angels singing?  Anyone?

So, yes, it continued to move everywhere with us, and with each hoist of it’s massive girth, the Texan grew more vocal in his threats that “This is the last time I’m moving this *$^@#&^ thing!”

Behold the riches….

It finally arrived in the farmhouse and was dumped into one of the downstairs bedrooms for safe-keeping.  Out of sight, out of mind.  The less the Texan saw it, the less likely he was to wax un-poetic about it.  It went through several failed reincarnations: first as craft-storage, then a wardrobe, then finally a linen closet.  But it always handled these occupations awkwardly, and every time I changed it’s job title, it inevitably needed a clothes bar hung in it, or a clothes bar removed from it, or a new coat of paint, or some tweak or another that required it to be moved outside to be worked on, then back inside yet again.  There was a lot of arguing over that thing.  Thankfully, there were always cocktails over that thing, too.  Cocktails have a way of making a stalemate feel like a win for both sides.  But finally, inevitably, we reached armoire-redo super-saturation.  My normally patient husband was fit to be tied, and there was a moment when he crossed his arms and gave me a look and I knew–I knew–my sweet old TV cabinet only had one more move left….and that was going to be to the curb.  And the Texan was going to be very jolly doing it.

Even I had to admit it was time.  But I didn’t have to like it.  There was some brooding that evening.  I brooded into my cocktail over the imminent loss of my armoire, and the Texan brooded into his cocktail over the fact that it was difficult to make said brooding cocktails due to the fact that we had no bar storage.  We had renovated the daylights out of our kitchen and great room and neglected the single most important element: the bar.  We had no bar storage.  That fateful evening, we locked eyes over the rims of our brooding cocktails and a mutual light bulb (albeit a very dim one) went off.  The solution to all of our marital problems had been staring us in the face with every disorganized cocktail we had made in the entire history of our relationship.  And there had been a lot of them.

My ungainly TV cabinet, with a few updates, would be, for ever more, The Barmoire.  Most importantly, we added three storage shelves to the vast interior of the TV section.  The lazy-susan remained, but actually became useful with the addition of a cutting board that can be pulled in and out for cocktail prep.  The interior sides of the doors were converted to pin-boards covered with cute, inexpensive dishtowels.  I gave the exterior it’s 98th, 99th, and 100th coats of paint, in the form of a weathered, chippy layered mint green.  The updates were short and sweet, and soon, the only thing left was to stock the thing to its gills.  Which we did, because we feel that it’s best to be prepared.  You just never know when you are going to need a brooding cocktail.

The Texan and I have been through a lot together.  Not the least of which was the complete renovation of this 100-year-old house.  But when guests show up at our door, and they want to see what we’ve done with the place, the tour inevitably begins and ends at the Barmoire with my starry-eyed husband singing its praises.  I have to laugh, but not too loud or I don’t get a cocktail made for me.

The boots are my dad’s from when he was a kid. They have nothing to do with the Barmoire; I just like them. So there they are.

Bacon Bark

Bacon Bark from Farmhouse38

I have lured you here with the sweet siren song of bacon….further elaboration on this recipe is probably not required.  So let’s cut to the chase, shall we?  Okay then.

To make one batch, you will need:

-2 packages store-bought bacon, cooked the way you like it (I prefer crisp, and I think it works best in this recipe that way)

-2 sticks unsalted butter

-1 cup brown sugar

-Two 12 oz packages semi-sweet chocolate chips

-approx. 2 tablespoons Bacon Salt (see recipe below), or sea salt

For the Bacon Salt:

–1.5 tablespoons grey sea salt or whatever sea salt you prefer

-1 package bacon

Bacon Salt from Farmhouse38

Bacon Salt. When salt salt just isn’t cutting it.

Cooking the bacon:

To cook large quantities of bacon, I prefer to throw it in the oven rather than fry-pan-it.  Line your baking sheets (two packages of bacon will probably require four baking sheets), with tinfoil and put them in a cold oven.  Turn it to 375 and then cook anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how well-done you want it.  Keep an eye on it.

Once your bacon is cooked how you like it, remove it from the baking sheets and let it cool off sandwiched between layers of paper towel to soak up the excess oil.  Help it a bit by mopping it off with the paper towel, too.  You really want as much oil off as possible.

Once it has thoroughly cooled, separate out one package-worth to make the bacon salt. Throw it in a food processor and pulverize it into very fine pieces.  Add your 1.5 tablespoons of sea salt, process for a moment, and then store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Take your remaining two packages-worth of cooked bacon and put in a food processor and process till you have smallish bacon bits (or as small or large as you want it).  I find that smaller pieces of bacon work better for this.

To make the bark:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a standard cookie sheet with tinfoil (if you want thinner bark) or a smaller baking dish (if you want thicker bark).  I use heavy-duty tinfoil, as normal tinfoil can be a bit tricky to peel off afterwards.

Spread your bacon bits in an even layer across the bottom of the pan.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt your butter.  As soon as it is completely melted, add the brown sugar, stir well and dissolve.  Let this come to a boil and stir it steadily.  It will thicken and darken, and you want to keep stirring the whole time–don’t let it burn.  When it is a nice caramelly brown color and kind of fluffy and thick (after about 5 minutes), pour it evenly across the bacon bits in the cookie sheet.

Pop the sheet into the oven for 5 minutes, then take it out and pour your two bags of chocolate chips evenly across the top of the caramel-bacon mixture.  Pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Take it back out of the oven and then use a spatula to gently smooth the schmelty chocolate chips out.

Now sprinkle about a tablespoon of bacon salt (or however much to taste) over the top of that.

Put the whole sheet in the freezer for a few hours to set.  Remove from the freezer, peel the tinfoil off, and break the bark into pieces to serve (I like to dust another layer of bacon or sea salt over the top here, too).

Store in refrigerator.

Bacon Bark from Farmhouse38

Bacony Barky Goodness.

Bacon Bark from Farmhouse38

It’s just really darn good.

Chicken Defense

More often than not, necessity is the mother of cute craft projects.  Case in point: these adorable chicken wire cloches (or plant jails, as I call them) are an easy craft project that have been cropping up all over the interwebs lately.  I wanted to make a version of my own and was forced into it yesterday in order to protect the baby romaine plants my neighbor had bestowed upon me.

Late season tomatoes and romaine seedlings from my neighbor’s garden.

Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of chicken wire laying around this place, and I was able to find some miscellaneous scrap pieces that would do the job quite nicely.  For the larger of these two cloches which is approximately 8 inches in diameter and 12 inches tall, I cut a piece approximately 24 inches in length and about 14 inches tall (cut it two or so inches taller than you want the end result to be).  I cut it so that there is a finished chicken wire edge along the bottom length, with all three other edges left rough.  Then I curled it into a cylinder, as shown below.  Overlap the two rough edges and then begin to fold in the sharp edges so that they wrap around each other and effectively staple the seam together.

Bend your raw edges in and around each other to ‘staple’ the seam closed.

You will then have a wire cylinder with a finished bottom edge, and a raw top edge.

At this point, and again many times in the process, you will need to gently mold the wire into an aesthetically pleasing shape.  It ain’t gonna be perfect, so don’t try.  Just make some semblance of a cylinder.  Next, you will bend the top, raw edge into the center to create a dome.

Gently mold the raw wire edge into the form of a dome.

Your cloche, for all intents and purposes is done, unless you want to add a handle.  For these, I used a small length of jute rope, wrapped the ends in thin wire, and wired the rope to the top of the dome.

Oh, hey there, frog.

I am so in love with these, that I will be making some more elaborate versions that will be available in our soon-to-be-opening Etsy mercantile.  Will they be an adequate defense against the gobbling talents of my chickens?  They are pinned into the ground with landscape staples, but it will not shock me if my girls linebacker-tackle those things just for one beak-full of romaine.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, they look cute, right?

Autumn Scarf Wreath

Autumn Scarf Wreath from Farmhouse38After Halloween, and before Christmas, our front door always has a bit of an identity crisis.  This year, I solved it with this cozy wreath: fall colors and a little chalkboard love all tied off with a scarf.

I formed the wreath, itself, from grape and wisteria vine (but a craft-store-bought grapevine wreath would do the trick nicely), looped together with a little raffia-covered wire to keep the shape.  I scavenged a few small branches of sweetgum leaves from my neighbor’s yard, and since the leaves are still green here in SoCal, I hit these with a couple light sprays of paprika-colored spray paint to give them a hint of color, and to help preserve them.  I hot-glued the leaves in place, along with several sprigs of craft-store berries.

Autumn Scarf Wreath from Farmhouse38

Hi.

The little frame started out white, but I gave it a basecoat of the same paprika spray paint I used on the leaves, then dry-brushed a mint-color craft paint over the top.  I removed the glass from the front of the frame, then spray-painted the inside of the back of the frame with chalkboard spray paint.  With a white paint pen, I wrote my ‘Hi’, then I ‘seasoned’ the chalkboard by dry-rubbing it with the tiniest bit of watered-down white paint (to mimic the look of a well-used chalkboard, but hold up to the elements).

The pièce de résistance, of course, is the casually-tied scarf.  Cozy.

Festive Winter Votives

Bring on the holiday crafts!  It has been far too long since glitter has infiltrated every surface of this house and given the Texan something to really grumble about.  For some reason, he does not like showing up to work with glitter on his face, and shoes, and computer bag, etc.  I don’t understand.  I just don’t understand.

My latest crafty obsession (for the holidays) is Epsom salt.  I have been using this stuff as fertilizer in the garden for a long while (plants love them some magnesium sulfate), and it is pretty hard not to miss the fact that it sparkles like snow in the sunlight.  So lovely!  Also it is pretty hard to miss all the holiday craft projects pinned on Pinterest that use it as such.

A little side note: something you should know about me is that I am a jar hoarder.  Not just the pretty, popular mason and canning jars, but every darned jar I can get my hands on.  I scavenge every jelly, jam, chutney, pickle, dip, salsa, and mustard jar.  Mustard jars….why do we have so many mustard jars?!  I digress.  My jars were just begging to be dipped in Epsom salt ‘ice’ for the holidays.

For this project, you will need:

-Jars or glass containers of your choosing

-Epsom salt

-White craft glitter

-Painter’s tape

-Clear gloss spray (as glue and finish coat)

-Sprigs of rosemary, tied into wreathes with bakers twine (or any other festive adornment of your choosing)

-tea light candles

A tiny fraction of my jar surplus.

The Texan really gave me a look when he saw this sitting on the counter. In very large letters, the Epsom salt bag reads: “For relief of occasional constipation.”  Happy Holidays.

Because I wanted the jars to have a dipped look, I started by taping the tops down about an inch or so from the rim with painter’s tape.

Pour a healthy amount of Epsom salt into a low, wide container (I used a paint tray).

Next, I sprayed the whole jar with a good coat of clear gloss spray (painting on Modge-Podge will also work).

While the gloss or glue is still wet, quickly pat all sides of the jar into the Epsom salt.  Sprinkling the salt over the jar also works well.  When you’ve got an even coat of salt, then take your glitter and sprinkle it over the entire jar, letting it fill in between the salt granules for a little extra sparkle.  Give the jar a tap to knock off any loose stuff, and then hit the whole thing with a coat of clear gloss to help it all hold.  Let it dry, then peel off the tape.

I love the way the jar looks with a bit of naked glass showing at the top (instead of covering the whole thing in glitter salt). Pretty!

That naked edge just calls for some other seasonal adornment. A rosemary wreath looks about right!

Pour a bit of loose Epsom salt into the bottom of the jar to give your tea light a comfy spot to sit.

Sparkly!

Sparkly!

So sparkly.

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