Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Big storms around the country are on the news this morning and, even though, we are in perfect spring - like weather here in our part of Northern California, I hope that you all are safe and warm and will continue to be throughout the remaining winter season.

I wonder if Frances Hodgson Burnett ever thought in her wildest imagination, when she took pen to paper back in 1911, that her classic little story, The Secret Garden, would become such an endearing fixture in American literature?

I know, for a fact, that a little girl of eight years of age would disappear under a spreading acacia tree in her grandmother's back garden and, while there, would escape into the wonderful world of make - believe and secrets.  She never thought, then, this little story book that she avidly devoured each day, would have such an influence and lasting effect on her adult life, and I wonder if the lowly robin, which sprang from the fertile imagination of Ms. Burnett, would dare to dream of an ancestor that would show the way to that little girl and her own Secret Garden every spring.

"The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy onto the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off.  Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off - and they are nearly always doing it."

"The Secret Garden", Frances Hodgson Burnett

Whenever I see the first robin of spring, the story of Mary Lennox and all her friends come to mind.  I saw that today and heard the beautiful bird song that is such a harbinger to the coming of spring.  The sun was shining and it was just the kind of morning that Mary would have reveled in.

"Springtime's comin', cannot tha' smell it?  Th' good rich earth is in good humour.  Makin' ready to grow things.  It's glad when plantin' time comes.  It's dull in th' winter when it's got nowt to do.  In the flower gardens, out there things will be stirrin' down below in th' dark.  Th' sun's warmin' em'.  You'll see bits o' green spikes stickin' out o' th' black earth after a bit."

Ben Weatherstaff to Mary Lennox, "The Secret Garden"

It's very possible that it will be awhile before we can be sure that the sweet days of spring are on the way, as there is still snow on the ground, and there is always someone trying very hard to work against the forces of nature.
  This particular someone would be so happy if winter stayed forever.
  But on the inside of a warm and cozy cottage, where we have more control, we can always place a few spring - like vignettes that will remind us of the loveliness of things to come.

The entry table. 

Willow wreath put together with bits from Ben Franklin's.
Ivy, bird's nest with eggs, forsysthia sprigs, pussy willow sprigs and a burlap bow.

The sweetest little bird cage from Hobby Lobby during a 50% off sale.
Originally $39.00 for $20.00.
Doesn't it look like an old one?

Plate, green transferware, Royal Doulton, England.
Apples and appleblossom spray with bird nest and eggs, Country Living in Amador City.

Two of the cutest little ceramic chicks from Ben Franklin's.

I made this table runner out of faux grain sack toweling. I saw the idea at Debbie's blog, http://confessionsofaplateaddict.blogspot.com/p/tutorials.html 
She has a wonderful blog just filled with ideas and sources for a plethora of DIY projects. 
She has the directions and source for this table runner on the post. Just click on the above link.

The toweling fabric is just wonderful quality. It is so soft and sews up beautifully. So easy to follow Debbie's directions. The fabric comes in a variety of colors. It cost under $20 to make this 5'4" runner, including ruffles.


"He hopped and flirted his tail and twittered.  It was as if he were talking.  His red waistcoat was like satin, and he puffed his tiny breast out and was so fine and so grand and so pretty that it was really as if he were showing her how important and like a human person a robin could be."

"The Secret Garden", Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911

Last summer in the Secret Garden.  Look for some changes to appear sometime this spring.

"She put the key in and turned it...And then she took a long breath...She was standing inside the secret garden.  It was the sweetest, most mysterious - looking place anyone could imagine."

From "The Secret Garden", Frances Hodgson Burnett

The "magic" will return...


I'm sharing this week with:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Before we start, may we please take a moment of silence in honor of what appears to be the heart-breaking demise of Mr. Crowley.  WHY???!!
But then think back to the look on Bate's face and his "Yes, she is something", when he sees Anna dancing.  Didn't that just pull at your heart strings?
And why is the season so short?
I know it's only a story...
BUT! I'm just saying...

As I sit here writing this, while the Captain is walking his dogs, it has begun to snow.  Right now it's a mixture of rain and snow but hopefully it will be enough to stick for a little while.

Did I mention sometime before that I keep a towel through the refrigerator handle to open and close the door. This really helps keeping fingerprints off of the stainless.

Now, on to the meat of this issue which is, "The Workings of a Victorian Home", Part Two, The Kitchen.

I know you are probably groaning right about now, "Oh no, not that kitchen again". But I will try to show you more of the nooks and crannies this time so it all won't seem so monotonous and familiar.

"The Victorian kitchen had the dubious distinction of being a utilitarian service area that was oftentimes the domain of domestic servants.  Cooking; laundry work; putting up preserves; making soap, candles, and cleaning suppies - these were but a few of the overwhelming tasks assigned to those who labored in the kitchen."

Text from The Victorian Home

"As a factory like (and later; laboratory like) center of household operations, the Victorian kitchen rarely reflected the attention to detail lavished on the other rooms of the house.  Rather, the nineteenth-century kitchen developed a subtle charm all its own as the Gilded Age progresses - a look we find especially appealing in bringing Victoriana into the present day."

Text from The Victorian Home

"If parents wish their daughters to grow up with good domestic habits, they should have...a neat and cheerful kitchen.  A kitchen should always, if possible, be entirely above-ground, so that all the premises may be swept sweet and clean.  If flowers and shrubs be cultivated around the doors and windows, and the yard near them be kept well turfed, it will add very much to their agreeable appearance.  The walls should often be cleaned and white-washed, to promote a neat look and pure air.  The floor of a kitchen should be painted or covered with an oilcloth."

Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe
The American Woman's Home

"In housekeeping as in everything else, system is of the utmost importance...Not only should there be a place for everything, and everything put in its place, the importance of which is often insisted on, though none too often, but there should also be a time for everything.  Have certain days of the week for doing certain things, and also arrange the work of the day, as far as possible, allotting a time for every duty."

Smiley's Cook Book 
New and Complete Guide for Housekeepers

"Kitchens are more appropriately papered in varnished staircase paper; as the soils can be easily washed off.  In many houses kitchens are wood-paneled, or the walls covered with tiles, after the good old fashion common in Germany and Holland"

Alexander V. Hamilton
The Household Cyclopaedia 
Practical Receipts and Daily Wants

"The kitchen, as the workshop of the house, is the room in which many housekeepers spend most of their waking hours.  Hence it should be perhaps the lightest, airiest and most cheerful room in the house...Try to make the kitchen a room in harmonizing tints by painting or tinting the walls in light greens and the floor in dark green.  Or a clear, light yellow is a good color for the kitchen walls, with the floor in brown.  Or, if the room has a southern or western exposure, gray walls with the floor in drab or slate color, will give a cooler effect...A smooth floor of unpainted wood, hard enough not to splinter and to admit of being scrubbed, is perhaps the best floor for a kitchen..Or the floor may be covered with linoleum, which is perhaps all things considered, the most satisfactory floor covering."

Sidney Morse
Household Discoveries

We have two new additions to the Cottage kitchen decor...

Here we have an old tin advertising sign for Black Kow soft drink.  It has a copyright date of 1928 by Welsh's Fruit Products Company.  Starting in the early 1900's root beer was referred to as Black Kow.  Hence, the drink we are most familiar with: the Black Kow or commonly known as an ice cream soda or a root beer float...

3/4 to 1 cup of cold root beer
3 small scoops of vanilla ice cream
Cold club soda, optional

This sign has been in our possession since 1990.  It is not in pristine condition, it is rusted and bent, which only endears it to us all the more.  It hung in our laundry room for as long as we've lived in the Cottage, but to get more cabinets for storage in there we've moved it to a place of honor here in the kitchen.  Now it gets the visability that it deserves.  You would think that it was the jumping off point for the colors used in the kitchen, but we didn't figure that one out until after the fact!

We paid $170 for it back then and I've tried to research it but have only found small signs or reproductions.  I have no idea of the monetary worth of it today, I just know that we are very happy to have found it.

The other addition you may have noticed is Mr. Roo...

You might remember him looking like this.  He was beautiful and regal and so pretty when I bought him home from HomeGoods, but when the kitchen evolved into the "old miner's cottage working kitchen" and not into the beautiful French country look I envisioned at first, he seemed a little too slick.  So what was the solution? Paint, of course.


I sprayed him all white, taping off his pretty shiny red comb and wattle, and his feet and fauna around them.  I then sponge painted him with black and more white to get the look I wanted.  I then applied a few coats of clear wax.  It was a leap of faith and worrisome at times, but I think he fits in better now.

You probably will be getting another update of the kitchen in time as I have my eye on a black and white braided rug for under the table and I'm waiting for some natural linen toweling with a red stripe, that I ordered, to make a runner for the table.

I hope you enjoyed this installment and sit tight for "The Workings of a Victorian Home, Part Three, in the future.


After walking the dogs, we came home to this!

I love a small snow fall but one of the reasons I was so wanting this one was so I could share with you what Jake gave me for Christmas.  He and his girlfriend, Jacinda, picked it out and they were so excited to present it to me on Christmas Eve.  It is probably one of the first gifts that he ever picked out all by himself and I could tell that he was very proud of the fact.  He said he just knew that it was something that I would like and he was right!  The reason I wanted snow was that, to me, it reminds me of Dr. Zhivago for some reason, and I thought the snow would show it off to it's best advantage.

I know I thanked you already, Jake, but I have to tell you again how much I love it.  Doesn't it look so pretty in the snow?  It hangs on a tall shepard's hook and I can't wait to put it in the Secret Garden come spring.


I'm sharing today with: