Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Peaceful Cottage Christmas 2017

Welcome to our Christmas cottage 2017.

The heavens have opened up and dropped a white blanket around our red cottage. It covers the garden and walks, the pines and the dried flowers, making everything prettier. Last year by this time we had three feet of accumulated snow. This amount is much more manageable.

December has been quiet and peaceful here. As usual, I keep Christmas decorating simple. A wreath on the front door is our only porch decoration.

This year I dusted off my sewing machine and made a Christmas tree for the mantel.

I really like this plaid fabric, and since I had a lot leftover I decided to use it along with other scraps from my stash to make pillow covers.

I'm enjoying these pillows so much I plan to keep them out all winter. 

The newly restyled hutch (which I showed in my last post) gave me a place to do a little more decorating this year.

Most of these Christmas decorations were given to me.

I'm really liking the red touches with the light blue of the hutch.

We designed the cottage with plenty of windows, and in the winter it's especially nice to have the sunlight streaming in.

I happened upon the cute placements at the thrift store. They still had the Danica tags on them, and at 50 cents for all four I couldn't resist.

The bears, given to us by one of our children, come out every year. This year they greet us from the garden window.

At night the glow of our beloved nativity warms our home and hearts and reminds us to slow down and remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

"And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just then, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.'"
Luke 2:8-12

We wish you a very Merry Christmas, filled with God's blessings and love. May He protect you and your family, and keep you well.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cottage Life - My Hutch Makeover, Fall Decor and More

Hello Cottage Friends,

I have some things to share with you today, but first I want to thank all of you who commented on my last post. You are kind, thoughtful souls and I appreciate all of you very much. 

This past week I received an email from a new reader named Ruth. She told me she had discovered my blog via a Pinterest pin, and that this spring her husband and she will be moving into a smaller home. She writes:

     My husband and I raised eight children in two different  four-bedroom homes. Now that my husband has retired, living in our current home is not financially feasible. This spring we will be moving into the house where I grew up. There are sad memories connected with this house, so I first had to work through those. Having done that, I have been thinking of the house as a cottage. I do love cottages. Before finding your blog I searched websites and Pinterest boards for inspiration. Now that I have found your blog, I am re-inspired! 

Ruth attached a photo of their new home, which they painted blue "as a first step toward re-imagining it as a cottage." 

Isn't her cottage adorable? It just thrills me to think that my little blog could bring encouragement to another person such as Ruth (a total stranger), and that she would take the time to write me and share her life. Wow! Thank you so much Ruth for the email, and for letting me share a bit of your story here, along with the photo. You are an inspiration.

Okay, so in my last post I mentioned that I would be making over this hutch.

I found this on Craigslist a while ago, and it's been sitting in our kitchen waiting for a redo ever since. When we designed our cottage I wanted room for a free-standing piece of furniture in the kitchen, rather than another new built-in cabinet. I felt it would add charm to the cottage. I had in mind to use a hutch, but it took some searching to find one that would fit the space, give adequate storage, and still allow for some shelves to display some of my pretty dishes.This piece is solid wood, probably from the 60's, with a maple veneer and has all the elements I was looking for. But, I'm not a fan of 60's Early American maple furniture, and since the hutch had been abused over the years, I felt no guilt in painting it.

Here you can see the damage that had been done by the previous owners; however, since both Dennis and I see open areas at the bottom of furniture as places to collect dust and spiders, we planned to enclose it anyway, and that helped solve the problem of what to do about the missing veneer.

Here's the after photo.

Isn't it cute? Dennis created and installed a simple molding for the bottom, which eliminated a home for dust bunnies under the hutch, covered the damaged area, and I think makes the piece look like it came from an old cottage.

I painted the hutch with three coats of Rustoleum Chalked Paint in Serenity Blue. Usually I make my own chalk paint to save money, but while shopping at Ace Hardware I saw this product and decided at $19.88 I'd give it a try. I'm very happy with the results, though it did take three coats to cover the wood. Still, I used less than one 30 oz. can so I feel it was money well spent. I've found that homemade chalk paint consistency can vary depending on the brand of latex paint used, and I didn't feel like messing around with a piece this large. Plus, I love this color. It's exactly the shade of blue I wanted.

It just so happened that I had some unused hardware in my stash that I thought would work well with this piece.

Now I have a place to display my mother's harp cake plate and pink depression glass, along with some pretty things I've collected along the way. 

This proves I'm not a total minimalist. However, I only keep things that I really love.

You'll notice I left the buffet's wood top natural. All I did was treat it with Howard's Restor-A-Finish and Wood Polish and Conditioner. I think the little pits and mars in the wood give it character and the feeling that it really is an old piece. The orange pumpkin is a print from an original watercolor Dennis painted 5 years ago and sold to the owner of a pumpkin farm. I bring the print out every autumn. 

I also changed out a few of the wall paintings to fall scenes. I've mentioned in past posts that I change the artwork with the seasons. (Having a an artist husband  has its advantages.)

The only other fall decor in the cottage is a handmade pumpkin I recently found at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and a wooden bowl with rag balls in fall colors. The pumpkin cost me a whopping $1.69 and the rag balls were made from my fabric stash. I think I paid $1 for the bowl last year at a yard sale. The pansies were brought in from the porch this week. I'm amazed they've survived this long, as there have been some nights that dipped down to the teens, but they have made it and I'm now enjoying their cheerful faces indoors.

This simple, understated approach to seasonal decorating works for me. Besides, the real beauty of fall can be seen right outside the window in the garden. One can't improve on God's creation.

"This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes."
Psalm 118:23

There's more I could share, but this post is really too long as it is. I'll be back.

Make it a great week everyone!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Cottage Life - The Things You Discover When You Don't Blog

I know fall has arrived when I see the golden hue of the large crab apple tree in our neighbor's yard. Saturday morning the sky was dark with rain clouds to the west, and as the sun broke through on the east the light was so spectacular that I grabbed my phone and scooted outdoors to photograph the tree and the red barn at the end of our alley. 

Every time I see that old barn with its fabulous patina I smile, but especially in the fall. Just imagine the barn with a plethora of pumpkins and a scarecrow nestled against it and, in my opinion, you have the ideal autumn scene.

If you're a regular reader of A Joyful Cottage you know this is my first post after a month-long blogging break. While I enjoy the interaction with A Joyful Cottage readers, I must confess that I loved every minute away from my computer. Suddenly I had hours to pursue the things I love, such as regular country walks with a friend, and lunch with another.

I had time to complete a custom rug order.

And begin a new rug.

Time to make a shabby chic gift for a dear friend in the hospital using a new technique for making fabric collages.

Time to attend an art show in Joseph, Oregon with my husband. His "Red Barn" won second place in the En Plein Air Competition.

Time to travel with Dennis to Palouse Falls in Washington state where he painted while I explored the area.

Time for reflection.

Time to breathe and listen.

My blogging break gave me more time to restore my soul with scripture. More time to soak up God's word daily.

I even had time to attack a long neglected project: the makeover of this old hutch into one more fitting for our cottage style. I'm working on it, and will reveal it when it's finished.

Blogging takes up so much of my time. Way too much. It's not just the taking of photos, writing text and posting. It's the visits to other blogs -- the blogs of people who take the time to visit and comment here. I know there are bloggers who don't reply to every comment or make return visits, but I've never been able to do that. It just seems dismissive to me. Sorry if you feel differently, and it's okay if you do. I'm not judging you. But that's just not my style. Another part of this is that blogging has changed so much in the 7 years I've been at it. Blogs I used to enjoy and read regularly have gone to monetization with ads that take for-EV-er to load and pop-ups that ruin the moment for me, and I've simply run out of patience. The other day I found a post through Pinterest that I really wanted to read, but after the endless Google Adwords searching, loading and reloading ads on the page which delayed the content, I just clicked off. I understand that people want to earn money with their blogs. Shoot, it takes a lot of time to post good content -- it's a full-time job for many -- and those hours sitting behind a computer deserve monetary reward. I very briefly tried ads on my blog and considered going the commercial route, but I'd much rather find another way to make a few dollars. 

The Living Large In Small Spaces series is a black hole for time. It takes hours and hours to hunt down cottages and small homes to feature every week, days to contact people who own them and make sure I have their permission to share them (and sometimes I never get a reply).  Again, I realize there are bloggers who don't go this extra step, but I feel it's necessary that I respect the intellectual property of others and give credit where credit is due. It's how I want to be treated.

I'm closer to 70 now and I feel like life just has to become simpler. It's why we moved here, why we built a small cottage. But somehow living has become more complicated and I feel time slipping away. So I've come to a couple of decisions. First, I won't be blogging much. I'm not saying I'll give it up completely, just that I refuse to be tied down to the computer any longer. I'll blog occasionally, when I have something I want to share. As for the series "Living Large In Small Spaces", I've written 116 posts over three years and I feel it's time to let it go, at least as a weekly contribution. If I find a cottage that really speaks to me, I'll most likely share it, but I don't want to feel the pressure of coming up with a regular feature.

There are other decisions I've reached to further simplify my life: I've closed the online shop. After four months I came to realize that online sales are not for me. I don't like the photographing, shipping calculations, marketing, and being bombarded with emails from the shop host, Ebay, Amazon and other places that want me to expand my business. I'm so busy trying to manage all of it that I have no time to create product. And without product there's no reason to have a store. Last year at the Christmas bazaar I earned in two days what I cleared in four months in my online shop after expenses. Clearly, there's a message here: 

Keep. It. Simple.

Dennis and I are also talking about how to simplify the garden. Yes, it's beautiful. But it demands a lot of work and we're not sure that that's how we want to spend our summers. We're still pondering this, considering how we can keep it pretty but more manageable.

For the past eighteen months I've struggled with what to do with my blog. It's just not the fun it once was, and I always said when the fun ends I'll quit. I'm not ready to throw in the towel, but I am ready to narrow my focus. I've really come to appreciate creative bloggers that are kindred spirits, whose blogs reflect real life with all its struggles, victories, and who write with joy. We're living in troubled times, but I have faith in God and hope for the future. I want my life and my blog to reflect that. It's what's in my heart. 

Thanks for wading through this long post. I promise not be this wordy in the future; there's just a lot to say after a 31 day absence.

God bless you.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Living Large In Small Spaces - Little House in Arkansas

This week's featured small space is a 600 sq ft home in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Welcome to the 116th post in the series
"Living Large in Small Spaces".

This house has made the rounds on the internet for sometime now, so it may not be new to you. Nevertheless, it's a great little home and deserves to be included in this series. I was all set to show it to you with just a few photos I was able to find. But then I discovered a Youtube video by Tiny House Project that gives a complete tour of the home by Lyndsey, the owner. It's so much better viewed this way with the inside scoop from the source herself, so please sit back and enjoy this 5 minute video. You won't be disappointed. Before you click on the video I want to tell you that I'm taking some time off from blogging to attend to some things that need my attention, spend time with my husband and enjoy the month of September. Thanks for understanding.

I'll be back in October. See you then!

See more home tours in the 
Living Large In Small Spaces Series here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cottage Life - My Mother's Pink Depression Glass Vase and Flower Talk

I don't have many things that belonged to my mother. I've moved long distances so many times that I've passed along most of what I once possessed to family members. However, I have kept my mom's pink depression glass. Back in the 1930's the movie theater she frequented gave away depression glass as a gift for buying a ticket to the Saturday matinee. My mother, single at the time, lived with her brother Fred and his wife Louise.  Fred sold furniture and Louise worked at the licorice factory while mom took care of their baby and did the household chores for room, board and a few dollars.  I seem to recall that Louise and she each had 25 cents from their weekly paycheck to spend on a movie and a treat. The movie ticket cost 15 cents. After the show they'd walk across the street to the confectionary where they spent the remaining 10 cents on two scoops of ice cream. The free gift of pretty glassware was the cherry on top. 

My favorite piece of mom's very small pink depression glass collection is a waffle rib ruffled top vase. Here you see it with flowers from my garden.

It's a lovely reminder of my mom, who passed along to me the joy of flower gardening, although she focused mainly on roses, while my tastes run the gamut of flower types.

Back in July I watched a Youtube video on planting containers hosted by an expert gardener in England. She gave a tutorial on how to create interesting pots. She talked about a workshop she attended where an American gardener explained that every container needs "a thriller, a filler, and a spiller". Perhaps you've heard this before, but I had not. I used that principle when I created this arrangement that sits outside Dennis' gallery.

The dwarf sunflower is "the thriller", the zinnia, geranium and verbena are "the fillers", and "the spiller" is, I think, vinca vine (it was on sale at the nursery and didn't have a label). I had all these flowers and the vine on hand when I planted the pot shortly after seeing the presentation. I think this works best in a really large container like the one I used. I tend to keep things simple with my smaller pots, especially if the container is particularly attractive. By the way, when using a large container like the one above there's no need to fill the entire pot with soil. The bottom half of the pot is filled with packing peanuts, styrofoam, whatever I could find that was light. Wine bottle corks work, too.

Remember the flower chair I created back in July? (You can read about it here.) When I showed it to you then it looked like this.

This is the photo I took of it this afternoon.

Isn't it pretty? I had a strong feeling the Thunbergia (Black-eyed Susan Vine) would love climbing up the chicken wire. It really is going crazy. I love when that happens.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Living Large In Small Spaces - The Old Blacksmith's Cottage

An 1888 renovated cottage in Tamborine Mountain, Queensland, Australia is this week's featured small space.

Welcome to the 115th post in the series
"Living Large in Small Spaces".

The two bedroom, two bath cottage we're exploring today is the home of a single mother and her young daughter. Purchased after it was passed up at auction, the cottage -- known to locals as "the Blacksmith's cottage" -- was severely run-down and required a major overhaul to transform it into the charming home it is today.

Originally, the home was a one-bedroom worker’s cottage surrounded by avocado groves. At the time of its purchase the cottage was hidden from the street by overgrown vegetation, but with the help of a late friend the landscape was cleaned up and transformed into a beautiful extension of the cottage.

Although the cottage was sitting on top of a water tank and sloped badly, the new owner wasn't deterred. She'd had experience renovating five previous homes and saw the potential of the property. The good news was that the foundation had been partially redone and it had a new roof. She hired a good carpenter, and the first thing they did was raise the house off the water tank using steel supports, then leveled out all of the windows and doors to make them functional again.

The entry door opens directly from the small, quaint front porch into the main living area.

The space is light and airy. When renovating the cottage, the owner maintained much of its original character, such as the windows, flooring and the window seat. 

She purchased fabric for less than $5/yard and had the window seat cushions made for $150. 

While the decor leans toward a minimal style, the rooms are anything but stark. "Country cottage chic" is how the owner describes her style. I can't see one thing I'd change about this room. It's altogether lovely.

Although the sandstone pieces behind the fireplace were a bargain at $20 total, installation was not so cheap, as it took 10 days for the tile contractor to piece them in the final pattern.

A third bedroom was turned into a media room. Previous owners said this room was originally the main living area of the old worker’s cottage. 

To the left of the fireplace is the door to the kitchen. 

All the stained glass in the cottage is original to the home.

Thirty cabinets were used in the professional remodel of the kitchen. To keep to her budget the owner chose plain white laminate for the countertops. She's happy with her decision, stating that the laminate is "clean, functional and easy care."

The owner enjoys cooking and spends most of her time in the kitchen. She added the TV and considers this her main living space.

The vintage canisters were purchased years ago from an auction house.

Pressed tin was used for the stunning backsplash. Originally the owner was going to paint the tin white, but once she saw it installed she decided to leave it silver.

This before picture shows the extent of the remodeling done to create the gorgeous kitchen. It's not hard to believe it consumed the lion's share of the renovation budget, which included removal of a wall. 

The space now features a built-in buffet and breakfast bar for kitchen dining. The pretty door leads to the daughter's bedroom and bathroom.

The child's bedroom was originally a sleeping porch that led to the main bedroom at the front of the home. Rather than install a closet which would infringe on the small space, tall free-standing pieces were used for wardrobes and storage. 

The Master Bedroom is at the front of the cottage, just off the living room.

The elegant wall mirror was a gift from the owner's mother and the vintage trunk was found at an antique store. 

A 25 year-old bedspread completes the understated elegance of the bedroom.

Behind the original frosted glass panel doors is the master bath. I wish there were more photos of it.

The stunning stained glass windows are original to the cottage.

A back deck runs the width of the home and is accessible from the kitchen and the media room. 

I'm sure this delightful space gets a lot of use.

Jessica the family dog exits 
a shed located next to the small courtyard at the front of the property.

The owner had just sold her previous home when she bought the cottage and moved in with her daughter, and they lived in the cottage during the entire renovation. Originally she had planned to renovate the cottage, sell it and move on to another project. However, her plans changed when the construction was complete and she discovered that what she had created was the perfect mountain home for herself and her daughter.

An excellent decision I'd say.

You can read more about the cottage, the owner and her daughter in the article by Tamara Armstrong, who also took all the photos, on Houzz here.

Join me next Saturday for another post in the special series

 Living Large in Small Spaces

See more home tours in the 
Living Large In Small Spaces Series here.