Organizing books

Monday, March 31, 2014

Books are some of my most dearly loved possessions.They are friends and mentors, providing escape, inspiration, beauty, and imaginative travel to wonderful places. I often re-read my favorites, and they seem to speak to me, whatever age or circumstance I am in. They are hard to part with.

 Some time ago, a friend was celebrating her birthday with a party and asked each of us to bring a book from our bookshelves as a present. Do you know I went around to all our bookcases, looking and looking, and could not find a single one I was willing to give up? Fortunately, I found that I had two copies of something, and was able to give her one of them. I have to admit I felt quite selfish. This has since come up again, with my book club, and I find I have to give something away that I haven't yet read and grown attached to. I am sure you bibliophiles can relate.

I have gotten rid of boxes and boxes of books from our homeschooling days, mostly of the textbook variety, not of the "read-aloud" variety, which carry with them so many warm and special memories. I have also gotten rid of books that aren't truly "friends." That still leaves too many books for our current shelving space. We either have to: a) stop buying books, b) buy more bookshelves, c) read only on our Kindles, or d) think of something creative.

I really don't think a, b, or c are options, although b may have to be. Option d is already somewhat in place. Books don't always have to go on bookshelves. I use books as decorative elements, stacked on coffee tables, on antique caned chairs that can support books but not people, and on my mantel. What other creative ways can I find to store or display them? I saw someone make a very clever Christmas tree out of books, placing them around in a large circle and stacking in consecutively smaller circles until they had a "tree." But like that game Jenga, you'd have to be careful when pulling one out so that the rest wouldn't fall!

I have a small number of carefully curated children's books that I can't bear to give away. The kind you read to toddlers. {I have lots more children's books, that I still re-read myself, including the Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women, and the Narnia books.} They contain so many fond memories of reading aloud to my children. They were stacked under a table, but several times when I've wanted to move the table, it's been a problem. The last time I moved the table I put all the children's books on my living room coffee table. Hmmm. No place for guests to put their tea!

So this is what I did. I took an old picnic basket, and put all the children's books in it, organizing it with the taller ones in back and the smaller ones in front.

 I pulled out a few for decorating for Easter.

There's still a lot of books on the coffee table, and they're not arranged very artfully. Will have to work on that. 

I put the basket under the dollhouse my grandparents made. {That's another post!} I folded a baby blanket over the back of the basket and added this teddy bear on a child-sized wicker chair. He looks like he needs a cuddle and a story!

A simple solution, but one that makes me smile whenever I see it. What creative ways have you found to store your extra, much-loved books?

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Scrumptious scone recipe

Friday, March 28, 2014

 Tea and scones always sounds like a good idea, but how many of you have had the experience of a dry and disappointing scone? I'm not sure why it is, but many scones that I've made, and many that I have ordered as well, are very dry, requiring lots of butter, cream, or lemon curd.

Several years ago, my sister sent me a recipe for what she calls "Scrumptious Scones," and they truly are! I never make any other kind now. Don't these look delicious?

I looked at my great-grandmother's recipe for scones, and noticed her recipe only calls for 1/4 of the sugar as my sister's recipe. The folks at King Arthur Flour say that the easiest way to add moisture in baking is to add sugar. Who knew? That's probably why sister's scones are tastier than great-grandmother's.  Some recipes do call for cream rather than milk, and I imagine that would make a moister scone as well.

I made my scones with pecans and dried cherries, but you can use whatever you like in them. Orange zest and cranberries would be good; lemon zest and blueberries; apples and walnuts; whatever you like. If you use fresh or frozen fruit, however, add a little more flour to the recipe.

I always begin by gathering all my ingredients. That way, I don't get halfway through a recipe only to discover I'm missing an ingredient. As I use things, I put them away. Nothing worse than finishing baking something and having a messy kitchen to clean up. I just clean as I go.

I was pleased recently to discover that Argo now makes an aluminum-free baking powder. It used to be that the only brand I could find without aluminum was Rumford, and I sometimes had to go to the health food store to find it. There is some evidence that aluminum might cause Alzheimer's, but it's still controversial. I just know it has a metallic taste to it, and spoils the whole recipe. Not everyone can pick up on this bitter, "tinny" taste; some people, like me, are just more sensitive to it. 

I love this vintage yellow Pyrex mixing bowl.

I don't have a pastry blender, so I just cut the butter into the flour mixture using two table knives.

Whisk the milk and eggs together in a separate bowl . . . 

I cut up the cherries, because I don't like the pieces to be so big . . . 

The mixture will be quite stiff. Sometimes I've used my hands to mix everything, but this time I used a large mixing spoon, and it worked fine.

(No, I didn't forget an egg; that is for the egg wash!)


Scrumptious Scones

4 c flour
1 c white sugar
4 tsp baking powder

2 sticks butter
2 eggs
1 c milk
Nuts and fruit of your choice  
1 egg, 1 Tbsp milk for egg wash, white sugar to sprinkle on top

Whisk together flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut butter into cubes and use a pastry blender (or two knives) to mix in with flour mixture.

Whisk eggs and milk together in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, and work in with hands if needed. Add fruit and nuts. Mixture will be stiff.

Drop by 1/2 c amounts onto ungreased baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 20 minutes at 350 F. Cool on rack.

Thanks, Sarah, for the recipe! I love you, too.

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Tea tasting

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our local tea shop, TranquiliTea, was having a tea tasting this past weekend, featuring Harney & Sons teas. My daughter and I stopped by to check it out.

Six or seven teas were available for testing.  I tried Harney's Tower of London, a black tea with dried stone fruit, oil of bergamot, and honey. Their Soho tea is flavored with chocolate and coconut. My favorite was the 30th Anniversary Blend tea, a blend of Assam and Ceylon, with Chinese Silver Needle and Yunnan Golden Tips.

All of the teapots were atop tea warmers with little tea lights in them. Several years ago, I bought one similar to the one shown under the teapot below.

This shop is where I recently got my pink teapot, featured here, when they were having a Downton Abbey tea tasting party. So many different kinds of tea to choose from in this shop -- herbals, rooibos, green, white, decaf. Lots of different flavors. Try as I have, I never seem to stray far from my favorite blacks -- Assam, Darjeeling, English Breakfast, Ceylon . . .

This wasn't available to test, but I didn't think I could go wrong with Scottish Morn, being half Scottish and all. I purchased some.

Look at this cute book they had for sale, entitled Princess Tea. And princess teas, too, including a Snow White tea (with apple of course), Sleeping Beauty tea (with chamomile), and Cinderella tea (with pumpkin), all caffeine free.  How cute is that? Wish I could borrow some little girls and have a party!


 I had to try the Scottish Morn tea when I got home, even though it was no longer morn. I made some cherry pecan scones and a little pot of tea, not wishing to have too much caffeine later in the day. I definitely like this tea! Although rose petals and lavender and vanilla and such all sound wonderful in tea, just give me some good black and I'm happy. The Harney & Sons website says that this is perhaps the strongest tea they offer, and that it is meant to be drunk with milk, as the Scots do. Sometimes I do go all out and add milk and sugar to my tea. When I drink tea this way, it almost feels like a meal in itself.

Of course, I had to drink it from the Royal Doulton teacup with the thistle, the official emblem of Scotland. The back of the cup says that this is the Glamis thistle, a thistle found near Glamis Castle in Scotland. A quick internet search tells me that this is the most "haunted" castle in Scotland, so I think I need to do a post on this teacup and research the history surrounding the castle!

These are the best scones ever. Really. I will post the recipe later this week.

I'll be linking with . . . 

Organizing china and linens

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I was perusing some blogs Saturday morning, and  got inspired to do something with my china hutch after reading this post by Jacqueline at  . . . Cabin & Cottage

I was already in the middle of re-organizing some china. Over the past couple of years I have gotten rid of six sets of china or stoneware, but I still have a lot (that I want to keep) that is taking up valuable shelf space in my pantry. A set of dishes that grandmother gave to my daughter that we are storing, our Christmas dishes, our Thanksgiving dishes (which we also use in the winter), and various and sundry tea sets and red, green, and brown transferware. I am packing up the Christmas and Thanksgiving dishes and will store them on the floor under a pantry shelf.

I have tea cups in cupboards, on the hutch, on a buffet table, and on this antique gate-leg table . . .  They are all over the house. Can I somehow consolidate them so they are only in two or three places?

I am also trying to find a better way to store my vintage napkins and tablecloths. Jacqueline's post inspired me to consider putting my napkins on my hutch shelves in addition to the china. Here are some napkins on a flow blue platter in my living room.

More residing in a kitchen drawer . . . 

This is the best option I've found for my tablecloths, a wooden clothes dryer rack. But where to put this thing?

Here is what my hutch looked like before . . . 

And here is what it looks like now . . . 

Maybe I overdid it. Talk about packed.

My husband dislikes hearing china rattle every time he walks by the hutch, so I made sure to pad things with doilies and napkins. Then I stomped past it several times to make sure nothing was loose!

This cow is thinking, "whoa, mama, that's a lot of china. Maybe you need to moooo-ve some of it off of here."

In any case, this much work calls for a cup of tea. I will decide over the next few days whether or not I like it. What do you think? Too much? How do you store china and linens that you use often?

Linking with . . . 

I believe in pink . . .

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick. I believe in pink. I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and . . . I believe in miracles.
-- Audrey Hepburn

Pink is associated with compassion, love, tenderness, and caring. Studies show that people exposed to pink exhibit less stress, violence, and aggression. Some sports teams have even painted the visiting team's locker rooms pink because of this! And the pinks we see in beautiful sunrises and sunsets give us a wonderful feeling of serenity.

For a while, pink in fashion has been relegated to little girls' bedrooms and princess dolls. So, I was quite happy to learn that it is experiencing a revival. Glamour magazine even declared pink to be the new black (in winter coats). How could it have ever been "out?"

All the big names are into pink right now.
Prada Calf Saffiano Leather Handbag BN2274 - Pink

Prada bag in pink. Buy it here . Reduced from $2250 to $550. Somebody should buy this, and loan it to me.

Christian Louboutin, here  . . . 


Cate Blanchett in a beautiful pink dress, SAG Awards, January 2014
Some random facts about pink . . . 

The term "in the pink" was first coined by Shakespeare in 1597 in his play Romeo and Juliet. Although today the expression means in perfect condition, especially regarding health, back then it meant the very pinnacle of something, not necessarily limited to health. In the play, Mercurio says, "Why, I am the very pinke of curtesie."

An old verb form of pink meant "to cut or pierce;" hence, the pinking shears, scissors which leave a pinked edge. In fact, the dianthus flowers, also known as "pinks," may have gotten the name not from their pink color, but because their edges appear to be "pinked." In any case, pink flowers are some of the most beautiful . . .

Did you know that flamingos are born gray, but become pink from eating so many shrimp? Shrimp contains carotine, the same substance in carrots. I have first-hand knowledge of how food can affect your color. As a new mom, I thought the jarred peas and green beans and meats looked awful, so my first baby got a steady diet of squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes. I had to back off after she actually started to turn orange!

What would tea be without pink?

How could we do our makeup without pink? 

Or our nails?

Pink jewelry, scarves, and clutches all have a place in our wardrobe  . . . 

Pink is perfect when channeling your inner diva . . . 

Reading a pink book is always enjoyable . . . 

by the light of a pink lamp . . . 

Pink candles smell delicious . . . 

Vintage needlework in pink is lovely . . . 

How about a pink Turbie Twist hair towel?

 Wouldn't life be sad without pink presents?

When I was growing up, no boy would be caught dead in pink! But look how culturally conditioned we can become just because of clever marketing . . . 

Pink only recently (1950s) became associated with femininity. Pink was actually traditionally a man's color. Really. Red was considered strong and active, and pink is simply red plus white. Blue was seen as soft and calming. In the Christian tradition, Jesus is often pictured in red (strength), while Mary is pictured in blue (serenity). 

We've all seen Thomas Gainsborough's Blue Boy, but did you know there's The Pink Boy? Current color stereotypes had not yet emerged.

Thomas Gainsborough, Master Nicholls (The Pink Boy), 1782

Infants, both boys and girls, were dressed in long white dresses until the 1900s. No one seemed concerned about what color to paint the baby's room. Apparently, in the 1920s, Macy's tried to distinguish a boys' color and a girls' color to discourage hand-me-downs, and thus, encourage more buying! Soldiers' uniforms in WWI were blue, so blue began to be associated with men. And the introduction of Barbie in the 50s really solidified pink as a feminine color. Marketers pushed this idea so hard that pink became a prissy, little girl color.

I think we should just choose colors that we like and forget about the marketers.
Do you, like Audrey, believe in pink?

Linking with . . .

Pink Saturday (of course!)
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