A Cottage in the City … well, not quite!

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It’s been long overdue, folks. Since my last post, I moved again. I am no longer a resident of that beautiful and idyllic Virginian cottage in the woods. Presently, this country girl and her man have found a new abode in Ohio. I know what you’re thinking, “How can a country girl live in a city?” I’ve done it before, actually. And I embrace the country lady/country gentleman lifestyle which might explain how I can go back and forth from town and country.

Five years ago, I lived in a bigger city … Lyon, France. There were things I loved about city dwelling like convenience (besides the cheap fine wine and cheeses). I have convenience again and I am grateful for it. You can find just about anything … can’t complain. Elaborating further on that: there is a cornucopia of coffee shops. Did I mention I can’t complain? I can’t complain about that!

That being said, I miss the quiet, the fresh air, endless mountain views of the Blue Ridge that move one’s soul, oh, I could go on but I can always go back to visit! But a good opportunity brought me to this genteel city that I happen to love. I do. This country girl loves this city. During my explorations, I have stumbled upon good Sarah places to revisit and there is still so much to explore!

Speaking of explorations, the area of town in which I now live, has many cottages and remarkable verdant plots that evoke country living. You see where this is going. The first time I drove through the area, it spoke to me. When I actually walked around the village and its all too adorable square, it spoke to me again, “You must live here!”

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Adorable village square!

Thus, I was determined to find a new abode here and it worked out well!

Although I do not live in a cottage, I am surrounded by them. Can’t complain! The little village in the city has a sophisticated European feel. Can’t complain. Did I mention there are a bevy of nature walking trails? Can’t complain. I see a vegetable and flower garden in my future. Dear village of quaint country cottages, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

One last thing, since I no longer live in a cottage in the woods, this blog may end up with a new name. Something to mull over for a bit!

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Hello From a New Cottage!

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It’s been a long time and I’m sure some of you are wondering, did Sarah give up on her blog? Happily, I have not but have been super busy. I got married, moved to a new cottage in the woods, then moved again, but I hope to make new posts here in the future!

As you can see, when I have time, I suck away that said time (outside of writing and yoga) with Pinterest. Yeah, it’s that addictive. I even have a pinboard for antiques and frocks. That probably doesn’t surprise you if you’ve been following this blog, lol!

Country/Shabby Chic Things for the Home with a French TwistThis is one of my favorite boards, entitled, “Country/Shabby Chic Things for the Home with a French Twist. I realized, it’s not all French but very eclectic which incorporates shabby chic, rustic chic, French country chic, Italian country chic, Southwestern, and world. Wow, that’s a mouthful! Everyone seems to have their own unique style. Mine is one of a kind. What is yours?

Winter Hair Like an Afghan Hound

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The Saga of Damaged Hair

Chasing after that perfect shiny hair

Chasing after that perfect shiny hair

Arf!  Or is it Ruff?  Either way, I have always admired the coat of an Afghan Hound.  Long, silky, glossy….that’s the way human hair should look.  Like those shampoo commercials.

Ooh! To have body this voluptuous with a magnificent sheen!

Ooh! To have body this voluptuous with a magnificent sheen!

My hair, I am afraid, did not look that satiny and healthy, like those bowzers’, for years.  When I was a child (back in the early 90s), my mother allowed my hair to be permed.  Yikes!  I’ll admit, it was en vogue at the time and I begged for curly hair (I was 8 or 9), not realizing the damage it would inevitably do.  Long story short, my hair went from fine – straight wavy shiny to fine – frizzy damage.  My hair was permed once again (I remember being unhappy about it the second time around) a year later. My poor hair.  It started curling on its own over the years, especially on humid days.

By the time I was a teenager, I started dying my hair.  Also not good for my hair.  I dyed it for years – highlighting it lighter shades of blonde from my natural dirty blonde hair.  By the time I was in college, I dyed it totally blonde….really not good for my hair.  When would I ever learn?!  To make matters worse, my goal was to grow my hair all the way to my mid-back.  *Laughing yet?  Anyway, I dyed my hair so much, my poor fine strands suffered from dryness, frizz, and split ends.  I continued dying my hair while, at the same time, staying perplexed at finding a solution for growing long, healthy hair.  Silly stubborn me.  I sort of knew a way to make my (what the French call the soft thing that resides on your head) cheveux a little glossier with Kiehl’s Silk Groom (I paid the Pope $30 :-/ ) but it was too heavy for my fine locks.  I used it for years and still have half a bottle.  Did I mention I blow dried for years?  Yeah, that also damaged my hair along with going through a phase of using a straightening iron every day after said blow dryings…. “Make it stop,” cried my hair!

I gradually quit dying my hair when I lived in France.  I wasn’t used to the lighter shade of brown.  My then boyfriend, now husband, liked the natural color.  When I returned to the United States, I began to put two and two together: permed hair + dying hair = lifeless unhealthy hair!  Yuck!  Hey, Sarah’s getting it!!!

First solution: 

I quit blow drying my hair.  This one culminated from a series of unfortunate events but not so morbid like Lemony Snicket.  When I moved to France, I didn’t bring a blow dryer, thus I needed one.  I bought a cheap one at Loisirs U (across from the Marché U) and thought I was set.  Not even four months in, my dearly departed French blow dryer had met its untimely maker.  I sucked in my grief, getting used to letting my fine hair dry sans hair dryer.  For the rest of the year, I got used to softer healthier locks.  No blow dryer, check!

Second solution:

I quit dying my hair by first making a color transition.  I dyed my hair a medium to dark shade of brown.  I let my hair do its natural magic.  I haven’t touched dye for four years!  Four years hair dye sober and proud of it!  My hair now is dirty blonde, with natural balayage/ombre highlights courtesy of the sun.  Hairdressers and people on the street always ask me who did my hair and give me incredulous stares when I answer them: “The sun.”  Happy true story!  Who knew my natural hair could be so cool?!

My hair was getting healthier but the frizz and split ends were still a problem.

Third solution:

Monthly trims.  It is true, at least for me and maybe other people with fine hair, to trim your locks regularly.  My hair is at the top of my back now (when it’s straightened on a quick low heat, ceramic straightener).  I think that helps a lot!  I quit going to the stylist because every time they take off 1 inch or more when I ask only for half an inch.  My man now trims my hair and does a fabulous job (he does what I ask).

Fourth solution:

Biotin: The Miracle Hair Pill.  No, really!  I did reliable research.  My hair was healthier but it remained crazy frizzy and did not grow fast enough for me….in fact, it stayed the same length.  Since I was a teenager, I took Vitamin E and was told by everyone from an old hair stylist to friends how great this little pill was for hair.  I quit taking it last summer when I ran out.  I switched to Biotin after doing much internet research.  I think that has helped contribute to better hair, for sure!  Since I have been taking Biotin in conjunction with my monthly trims, my hair has grown at a faster rate.  I may start taking Vitamin E along with Biotin…it couldn’t hurt but I do feel Biotin contributes to better hair growth, sans blague (no joke)!  You can get 120 5000mcg for $6 at Walmart of all places….can’t beat that!

Fifth solution: 

Miracle maker; this one I discovered while at the salon.  Hairdressers often squawk at their customers, “Buy this product, buy that, yadda, yadda, yadda.”  Normally, I ignore them because when I gave up the hairdryer, I gave up all styling products, convinced that they were bad for my hair, weighing it down and damaging it.  A nice hairstylist spritzed “It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Product” on my hair.  I used that for a year, then I switched to It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Product Plus Keratin.  This made my hair grow longer and made it shinier but the bummer – it tangled my hair.  I had too much Keratin in my fine hair.  Solution, next trip to the hair stylist, she spritzed my locks with It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Product Lite!  Finally…something catered to fine hair.

I love this product.  It’s low-maintenance, easy to use, gets out the frizz, is healthy for my hair, and contributes to the shine!  Yay!  Afghan hair, almost there!

it's a 10 Miracle Leave-in Lite = amazingness

it’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Lite = amazingness

Sixth solution: 

This one has finally gotten me the results of glossy, silky Afghan Hound.  What is it?!  *Drumroll!  Moroccan Argan Oil in the form of a shampoo.  I was at the grocery store, ready to replace an old bottle of a major brand of watered-down shampoo.  Serendipitously, I stumbled on Organix shampoos – buy 1 get 1 free!  Whooopeee!  I bought Organix Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Organix Brazilian Keratin Therapy (before I discovered I was getting too much keratin).  I alternated, using the Moroccan Argan Oil the most often and the keratin shampoo (love the coconut scent) once a week.  The texture of my hair changed immediately.  Soft and shiny with little frizz, it did wonders to my hair those major shampoo brands only dream of doing.  I was speechless.  The Moroccan Argan oil really makes my hair that shiny and the keratin shampoo makes it shiny and straight.  What’s not to love?!

Seventh solution:

Cold rinses.  When you do wash your hair, take the silly tip from your hairdresser by rinsing out the shampoo with cold water.  It’s good for fine hair and locks in the strands’ cuticles.  It really works for my hair.  I always noticed my strands were softer after a cooler shower and that’s why!

Eighth solution: 

For that final result, I learned a tip after I bought my shampoos: my fine hair likes to be dirty.  One to two days without washing it, especially in the dry winter, exposed to the harsh elements of being outdoors from chopping wood to walking the dog, I needed to not wash it everyday.  Why had I not realized that before?  I’m big into cleanliness but I learned my hair needs a break from everyday washes.  My hair thrives on its natural oils.  Duh!  Well, I’m proud to report, my hair texture resembles an Afghan Hound!  A whoooooooooo!  Woof!

Healthy Afghan Hound-like Hair with natural balayage/ombre highlights

Healthy Afghan Hound-like Hair with natural balayage/ombre highlights

The saga of growing my hair is not over yet….I will triumph and my hair really is growing.  It may take years but at the wise age of 30, I think I have cracked the elusive secrets of my finicky fine hair.  I accepted the day my blow dryer died that my hair is naturally wavy/curly.  Maybe that was a harbinger?  I still use a straightener but on low heat and short contact with the strands.  If my hair gets to the length I desire, I will keep you posted!  Winter is coming to a close but I’ll be ready for what the humidity brings in the spring and summer (and fall….it’s the south, after all!)  I’m staying positive!  I’m finally on my way!

A Country Christmas Outdoors

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Most people in the Northern Hemisphere who celebrate Christmas display all sorts of decorations.  Inside, the Christmas tree serves as a symbol of Yuletide wonder, with healthy helpings of stockings, garland galore made of all different types of materials (dried cranberry and homemade origami Moravian Stars tying for my favorites), Christmas figurines (from the Nativity to Santa), Christmas card displays….the list of holiday paraphernalia can go on!  Outside, Christmas decorations reach their zenith, grandeur, and wonderment in twinkling lights.  Tastes aside, everyone has their own take on Christmas decorating.  Mine tends to be simple elegance (never over-done), have a country twist, and be mostly homemade (which adds to the extra special feeling).

This year, I have been so busy that before I knew it, the holidays snuck right up on me.  My husband and I had plans to spend a quiet yet festive Christmas in our home.  Our plans changed quickly as both of our mothers desired our presence.  I was a little bummed but it was great spending time with family, new and old!  Before we packed up to leave for North Carolina (Mountains on my side and Eastern Piedmont on husband’s side) on a super blustery day, the week before, my man and I decided that we still wanted a Christmas tree.  We both are fond of real trees that you can smell and water, so we looked for the perfect sapin (Christmas tree in French).  In the woods, my Italian man found that very tree.  So, one dark, chilly evening, while my manly husband

My avid outdoorsman with his favorite axe!

My avid outdoorsman with his favorite axe!

used his hand saw to take down what we thought was a small pine tree (around 7 ft tall), I held our husky on the leash and shined a light for him.  We proudly trekked back with our new-found Christmas tree.  First, my husband temporarily rigged the tree into the tree stand with some cardboard from a pizza box.  After it was painstakingly secured, he carefully carried the tree into our small cottage.  We set the tree up in his study (a very small room).  My husband sat down at this desk and quickly shot down with a, “Nope!”  The tree limbs were everywhere…..kinda like the Griswold’s tree!  We were surprised how much space it took up.  Also, the Christmas tree was too tall for the room – the top of the pine ended up being squashed by the ceiling….Yikes!  As you can see, our Christmas tree became a comedy of errors.  My man wondered if the tree should rest on the back porch but I quickly shot down with a, “Nope!”  In the end, the tree found a new home on the front porch.

The tree didn’t remain in its stand very long due to high, blustery winds.  Inevitably, these winds knocked the tree onto its side.  My husband finally sawed off four bits of wood, drilled holes in the wood, then hammered nails into the tree on…..you guessed it….four sides!  I am pleased to report that after Christmas and another wind storm, our little sapin is still standing!  Yay!!!

R-Our Christmas Tree with a Little Light Dusting of Snow on it!  L-Boughs of Holly in the Number Sign!

R-Our Christmas tree with a little light dusting of snow on it! L-Boughs of holly in the address sign!

Since we have an outdoor Christmas tree (somehow unintentionally fitting since Christmas started outdoors with Christ being born in a manger….lol!) that was au naturel due to unpredictable weather conditions, I decided against making a wreath out of holly like I did last year (post “Wreathing” in the New Year https://acottageinthewoods.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/wreathing-in-the-new-year/).  Instead, I used boughs of holly by stuffing them into the address sign on our house.  It’s cute, quaint, and rustic….the way I envision everything including the holiday seasons!

Boughs of Holly!

Boughs of holly!

My Christmas decorations will remain up well into the New Year, until I get tired of them, but for now they impart rustic charm and merriment.  I’m of the philosophy that if something makes you happy, keep that something going (or up in terms of Christmas decorations) because le bonheur (happiness) is the most immeasurable feeling that human beings have!

Fall Colors

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My backyard at dusk, as viewed right off my porch. Notice the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background, showing off nature’s annual color show!

I apologize for neglecting A Cottage in the Woods.  Life has been pretty busy, lately.  I just got married at the end of September, grad school has kept me busy, and my husband (I can finally say that 🙂 ) has been under the weather.  But today, I want to go back to what I love doing, which is writing about country things that inspire me!

Fall is probably my favorite season out of the year.  The brilliant hues of the Southern Appalachian leaves,

Look at nature’s ombré tie-dye job!

the crisp temperatures, the fall scents of apple cider, pumpkin everything — from lattés and soup to pies –, gingersnaps, and autumnal spices, the pulling out of warm clothing of wools/corduroys/knits, a warm cozy fire in the wood stove…. all of it makes fall a pleasant season.

Fall does mean keeping firewood cut and stacked, ready to burn in the wood stove (if that is the only means you use to warm your house, like me).  It also means dressing in layers when I go to walk my dog on the Virginian country roads.  Or checking the mouse traps (oops!) when it gets colder because the little creatures like to make themselves at home in my cottage.  Or constantly raking the big pile of leaves off the porch.

What I like most about fall is how colors from nature can be mimicked in a DIY manicure at home.  I like dark, bold colors that herald the presence of autumn.  I almost never go to the nail salon, so I paint my nails chez moi.  This last time, I painted my nails two colors, embracing the multicolored nail trend.  For my feet, I painted my big toes Chanel Vamp 18 (a bridal gift from my bestie and matron of honor) – that blood-like, shimmery crimson burgundy that is just gorg!  I painted the rest of my little toesies Sephora for O.P.I Break a Leg-Warmer, which is matte shark bluish-grey.  This hot fall nail color combo contrasted nicely with the leaves, don’t you think?!

Chanel Vamp 18 and Sephora for O.P.I Break a Leg-Warmer in front of logs and fall leaves

For my fingernails, I painted all of them that dark crimson burgundy of Chanel Vamp.

Chanel Vamp 18; Inside

Chanel Vamp 18; Outside

Of course, I put on my bottom and top coats (O.P.I).  The manicure lasted for two weeks but I’ve decided that I’m in the market for new bottom and top coats.  Make-up Alley.com has some good recommendations from Orly to Revlon.  If I buy these, can they outlast the harsh elements of the country?

A Chanel Vamp 18 manicure is timeless, from the catwalk to the street. Now, I’m making it my own by blending a classy manicure with the rough and tumble elements of country life!

Tomato Pie…..a dish that should be a staple at “The Whistle Stop Cafe”….

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Definitely if it’s green tomato pie.  Even it it’s not, tomato pie should be a more common dish served in Southern-themed restaurants or any other restaurants for that matter.  I’ve been a tomatophile (is that a word….if not, it is now!)  since I was a little girl.  From red marinara pasta sauce to tomato sandwiches (simply sliced vine ripe tomatoes, mayonnaise, salt and pepper on sandwich bread), I can not get enough of tomatoes.  I’m sure in other places, and at least in the South, tomatoes grow in copious amounts, like kudzu (well, maybe not that much), so, they are begging to be deliciously served up in various ways like fried green tomatoes, garden fresh tomato soups, basil caprese salads (or other salads), on pizza, mozzarella-stuffed tomatoes (a specialty from childhood)…..oh, the list could go on!  I’m completely obsessed with tomatoes….I even love snacking on cherry and grape tomatoes.

I thought I knew it all about tomatoes for 27 years of my life.  That was, until that fateful day when a kind woman (we’ll call her Pam because, sadly, I don’t remember her last name) walked into the animal shelter where I used to work.  Pam brought in a stray cat and kindly smiled at me.  I knew she was going to be a cool customer.  Pam overheard me tell a co-worker how much I loved tomatoes and how I was looking forward to my tomato sandwich on my next off-day.  Pam asked me if I ever had tomato pie.  A big smile etched my lips and I replied, “No, I have not but tell me more.”  I was intrigued.  Pam filled in the yummy details.  I found out tomato pie was pretty simple: make a pie crust, tomatoes (your pick), mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Put it in the oven and voilá….it’s a heavenly alternative to pizza.

The first time I made tomato pie, it was not a disaster but it wasn’t great.  I didn’t put the dough in the refrigerator for an hour like I should have (silly me).  I also forgot to throw out the tomato juice and seeds (I usually throw them out by drinking them because the juice is darn amazing!) which left my crust soggy.  Kinda gross.  Not going to lie.

The last week in August, I regrouped and wanted to make a luscious tomato pie since tomatoes are at their peak and tomato season is about to wane.  I headed over to Whole Foods and put the following ingredients into my buggy (a southern word for cart…..an idiosyncrasy my fiancé loves to point out when we grocery shop) : fresh mozzarella, big heirloom tomatoes – Cherokee Purple and Yellow, a vine ripe, red tomato, and fresh basil.  I had additional ingredients in my cabinets: red pepper flakes, sea salt, black pepper, and olive oil.  As I drove home, I knew I was on my way to a pie….tomato pie part deux!

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato, Yellow Heirloom Tomato, and Red Vine Ripe Tomatoes (I used only one for the pie) – awaited patiently their turn for the slicing….

I used Gina Neely’s southern-inspired tomato pie recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/patrick-and-gina-neely/ginas-summer-tomato-pie-recipe/index.html) in combination with a savory apple cider vinegar pie crust recipe similar to this one (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Tender-Pie-Crust-232398).  The savory apple cider vinegar crust nicely compliments the juicy tomatoes.

I want to note here things that are essential to a successful pie recipe:

1-Always keep ice water around.  It always does wonders for your pie crust.

2-Seriously, give yourself an hour for refrigerating your pie dough…..I finally did that this time but cut it close to my reference class had that evening.  I ended up eating my tomato pie during class but refrigerating that pie dough was truly worth it!

3-Drain out those excess tomato seeds.  It ended up making my pie dough soggy but not as soggy as last time.  Lesson learned.  I will add the juicy tomato seeds to a Bloody Mary…..a wonderful tomato beverage!

4-Don’t be too liberal with the olive oil when brushing your crust….it added to the sogginess to my crust.

The Good News: The crust wasn’t as soggy as the first time!  The fiancé loved it!  Yay!  Best part: it was so good, I indulged in three slices (That’s a lot to eat for a 98 pound woman like myself but it was worth it!)

Here are some photos of my tomato pie making adventure.

The mixing step.

More mixing…

Mixing the wet egg mix.

Pouring wet mix into dry mix….

Mixing the dry and the wet….

Dough rolled up into plastic, awaiting refrigeration.

Remember to cut out the woody parts of the tomatoes in addition to the juicy seeds!

The aftermath of the slicing as they timidly await their turn to go into the pie crust….

Rolling out the pie dough with my marble roller (which really makes your dough thinner). The dough ended up being more pliable, so I ended up not utilizing my rolling pin like I imagined I would.

So, I fitted the thin pie crust into my buttered pie dish and it sat, ready to be filled by those luscious tomatoes….

The tomatoes are overlapping so nicely. I placed the Cherokee Red tomatoes on the bottom, then I stacked the Yellow Heirloom tomatoes on top, with the finishing bright red touch of the vine ripe tomato on top.

Finally, I overlapped mozzarella and basil leaves. I sprinkled red pepper flakes, salt, and fresh ground pepper all around the pie. I basted the sides with olive oil. All ingredients (per Madame Neely’s orders) were set. The pie awaited the oven.

The finale. Ta da! Yeah, it was that good!

I know, you’ve wondered during this entire post, “What on earth is “The Whistle Stop Cafe.”  It’s a made-up café in a rural Alabama town that’s next to a train station in the classic movie about the South – Fried Green Tomatoes.  It happens to be one of my favorite movies.  I would like to think that if “The Whistle Stop Cafe” were real and had continued to stay in business since its establishment in the 1930s, it would serve a tomato pie for its customers along with the renowned fried green tomatoes.  Moving on to real restaurants, I wonder if there are restaurants out there that specialize in nothing else but tomato dishes on their menus — they could have gazpacho, salsas, my fiancé’s old Sicilian family marinara sauce….I’m going full circle to the above-mentioned wonderful tomato dishes.  Imagine my tomato sandwich on a menu next to tomato pie.  That would be awesomeness.  Idgie Threadgoode would think so!  I wonder what Paula Deen and Gina Neely’s thoughts are on my ludicrous idea of a tomato-themed restaurant?  I have plans to grow lots of tomatoes in my garden one of these days.  My dad’s tomato garden inspires me.  I know….I have a penchant for tomatoes but they are wonderful.  Don’t you think?

French Country Shabby Chic that Cottage!

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People who know me know that I’m obsessed with French Country Chic and Shabby Chic when it comes to decoration.  Perhaps my obsession stems from my French studies during my college days.  Or maybe a year spent in France?  The following elements combine to make the perfect French Country Shabby Chic Look for your home:

1) Fleur-de-lys: Once a symbol of the French Monarchy, now, this decorative lily can be found on everything from china teacups at Anthropologie.com to decorative pillows, lamps, furniture, etc.  I love, love, love this French Country Chic design!

http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/home-tabletop-dinnerware/870122.jsp

2) That Chalked Ochre Paint Look: I’m pretty wild about this!  It’s a shabby chic look with a French Country Chic twist.  Annie Sloan’s website states, “This is partly because France is so big it encompasses the warm Mediterranean villas in the south as well as the cosy [sic] cottages of the north.” (http://www.anniesloan.com/acatalog/Creating_the_French_Look2.html)  I haven’t had a piece of furniture that has yet fallen prey to a paint brush.  I’m thinking an armoire, table, and/or desk will be the likely candidates.

Annie Sloan Chalk PaintImage above from Fauxology.com has good tips on painting with chalk paint! http://www.fauxology.com/2011/04/the-deets-chalk-paint-2/

3) That Distressed Look: Goes hand-in-hand with Chalked Ochre Paint.  I’m a fan!  My kitchen table, bought at a thrift shop right after I returned from France, is what you would call distressed.  Though not painted with a chalked ochre, it is already well-used, as evidenced by the worn-in stress lines and the lacquer chipping off.

4) Toile du Jouy: I blogged about this in March (https://acottageinthewoods.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/a-long-love-affair-with-toile/).  As you know, I’m a Toile du Jouy aficionado and it is an essential pattern of French Country Chic Décor!  My newest toile obsession is in the image below.  It’s a toile telephone table seat.  It was originally made of mahogany and has been refinished with Annie Sloan Old Ochre Chalk Paint.  Needless to say, I’m all over this bad boy!  I found it on Etsy today (http://www.etsy.com/listing/102784975/sold-upcycled-telephone-table-seat-annie) and have fallen in love!  What a great idea for a reading nook!  I think I foresee a new project in my fiancé’s future 🙂

SOLD Upcycled Telephone Table Seat - Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and Vintage Fabric

Is this not lush?

5) Gingham and Country Plaids: Another fabulous print that I blogged on earlier (https://acottageinthewoods.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/country-gingham-its-not-just-a-country-thing-anymore/)!  I adore gingham and country plaid printed table cloths and napkin sets!  Gingham is an ultimate country chic print that will forever be timeless.  You can even bring your French Country Shabby Chic décor to the great outdoors when you picnic.  Like this awesome red and white country plaid picnic basket (http://www.picnicworld.net/picnic-bags-273674.html) from Picnic World!

Picnic Time Piccadilly Picnic Basket for 2

6) Chintz, Calico, and Country Floral Prints: Chintz was a very commonplace print since its origins in India in the seventeenth century, and it still has a following today (me).  I love Chintz on decorative pillows, quilts, fine bone china, stationary.  The same goes for Country floral prints.  They’re super girly, refined, elegant, reminiscent of a countryside garden, and fun!  Target’s Simply Shabby line (http://www.target.com/s?searchTerm=Shabby+Chic&category=0|All|matchallpartial|all+categories) has me, and I’m sure others, salivating over that perfect floral print look that completes your French Country Shabby Chic home.  This lilac floral duvet is one of my favorites!  Purple isn’t one of my favorite colors but this is just charming!

Simply Shabby Chic® Floral Duvet Cover Set - Pink/White (Twin).Opens in a new windowhttp://www.target.com/p/simply-shabby-chic-floral-duvet-cover-set-pink-white-twin/-/A-13794881#?lnk=sc_qi_detaillink

I’m throwing in for good measure this teapot that has one of my favorite chintz prints: Summer Rose Chintz!  So pretty!  This blogger has the ultimate English Tea Service Store: Sweet Necessi-Teas: http://www.sweetnecessi-teas.com/

http://sweetnecessi-teas.blogspot.com/2007_04_01_archive.html

7) Rustic Wood: This is a good example of the organic furniture craze.  From cake stands (that are not-too-hard DIYs, readily found on the internet) to benches and coffee tables, nothing says country shabby chic like an object that looks like it belongs in the woods!  The twig bench below, (Arbor Bench by Currey and Company) found at Burke Decor.com is my favorite rustic wood look.  The bench gives a nice art nouveau quality that’s a refreshing change from post-modern and industrial furniture.  It totally belongs to a cottage in the woods!  A Sarah so wants to read a book on this bench!

http://www.burkedecor.com/Arbor-Bench-Currey-Company-p/currey2700.htm

I foresee a bench like this on a front porch or in a garden.  This bench retails for $2,550.00.  That’s right :-/  This could be much more affordable as a Lowe’s Home Improvement project the fiancé may be doing one of these days….err, years… to come!

8) Pastels: From Chalky White to Robin’s Egg Ochre.  Refer back to 2) in regards to Chalk Ochre Paint!

9) Anything Antique/Vintage/Vintagesque: Flea markets, thrift/consignment store, and online stores like One Kings Lane are replete with excellent French Country Shabby Chic items!  My favorite place to find vintage items is my parents’ basement.  My parents have a cornucopia of vintage items from their parents old things that now reside in that damp basement….such a travesty!  Anyway, whenever I’m home, I go downstairs to sort through items that I hope to ultimately claim as mine!  My parents have a shabby chic, circa early 1900’s, dusty black-painted postal service desk that came from the old North Wilkesboro Post Office.  Until I get a larger house, my antique desk will have to wait.  My favorite basement find I adore and currently have is my grandmother’s antique, ceramic, glazed pottery bowl that has a lovely shell design that goes around the outside.  The bowl is stamped with a crown encircling the initials “F.B.P.C.E.”  I don’t know the origins of this company but would love to know more!  As you can see, the bowl (sitting on top of my distressed kitchen table) currently houses bananas but has been known to accommodate mashed potatoes.

Grandma's Antique Ceramic Glazed Pottery Bowl

Grandma’s Antique Ceramic Glazed Pottery Bowl

10) Damask: The little sister to Toile du Jouy or is it big sister since the print is big, loud, and ostentatious?!  Anyway, in pastel colors, this print is truly French Country Chic!  This basket is also found on Sweet Necessi-Teas!

Pink Damask Tote

http://www.sweetnecessi-teas.com/item_637/Large-Market-Tote-Print.htm

11) Mismatched: There’s a caveat with this shabby chic decorative element: it has to be done well and effortlessly or will honestly look affreux — horrible!  I think that when things are mismatched for decoration there needs to be an underlying thread that ties the mismatched items in with the rest of the décor.  Usually, mismatching silverware is a No-No!  I did, however, find mismatched shabby-chic flatware at Modcloth.com that has me buzzing.  Love it or hate it, I think this flatware has been well-executed.

Adorable mismatched on purpose!  Cutensils Cutlery Set by Present Time

http://www.modcloth.com/shop/tabletop/cutensils-cutlery-set

12) White Wicker!  Nothing says Southern Country living like white wicker.  I should later dedicate a blog entry to the classic, beloved, outdoor furniture.  White Wicker furniture looks the best (in my humble opinion) with a blue and white floral print cushion.  Today, one can choose a resin-based wicker set or a natural wicker set.  But, that opens up a whole other can of worms.  This swing from Shoppers Choice.com, in the picture below, epitomized southern country shabby chic living.

A Swing + White Wicker = Heaven

North Cape Manchester Resin Wicker Porch Swing - Whitehttp://www.shopperschoice.com/item_item_2202552.html#

I’m sure there are other elements of French Country Shabby Chic that I have missed, but feel free to comment to add to the mix!

The wonderful thing about the French Country Shabby Chic look is that it has become more readily available to buy, or inspires fun DIY projects!  I use my Pinterest board: Country/Shabby Chic things for the Home, (http://pinterest.com/saraherey/country-shabby-chic-things-for-the-home/) to pin my favorite French Country Shabby Chic Images.  That way, if I ever want an idea for home improvements, my board is there with plenty of suggestions!

Eye Lining Accessory…..a New Use for an old North Carolina Hunter Education Training Course Card

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I’ll admit it….I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to my wallet.  I never throw out most things except for receipts.  I have random things, from my French carte de séjour (Longstay Visa Card) to an old Wilkes County library card.  I know I don’t need these cards but I can’t convince myself to throw them away.
The same goes for my old North Carolina Hunter Education Training Course Card.  What is this?  Good question.  So, this story goes all the way back to 1997, my freshman year of high school.  Most people took Physical Education freshman year.  I was, of course, one of those inchoate high schoolers that would soon find out that in order to pass Physical Education, you had to pass Hunter Education training.

NC Hunter Education Training Course Card

NC Hunter Education Training Course Card (the aforementioned card)

I don’t hunt.  I’ve never hunted.  Nor do I plan on ever hunting.  Those were my thoughts back then and those are still my thoughts.  I think I would cry if I killed something….like an adorable squirrel.  I don’t even know how to shoot a gun (but I’m descent at archery thanks to Girl Scouts).  I would rather read a book, shop, take a hike, go camping, or hike the Appalachian Trail than know how to hunt.

I came into the course thinking it was dumb and rednecky.  My parents’ über-country neighbors are avid hunters.  There’s nothing wrong with being an avid hunter.  Except, they hunted poached on our land any time they wanted.  If I wanted to walk in the woods, I would run the risk of being shot.  That’s why it was a good idea to wear bright orange and talk as loudly and obnoxiously as my New York bestie whenever I wanted to walk in the woods!

From my gung-ho hunter neighbors to animals being cute, I didn’t have a good impression of hunting.  I came into the course thinking it was dumb and a waste of time.  And I left the course, realizing that there were actually responsible hunters out there (like my instructor), what to do when you get hypothermia, review of CPR, First Aid, and other essential life skills I learned in Girl Scouts, how to shoot a bow and arrow (wait….I already knew that from Girl Scouts), how to shoot a gun (I hate these firearms so I pretended I already shot it), and how not to accidentally shoot your friends (some examples will remain nameless).  I regurgitated the actual hunting skills….thus, you’re out of luck if you want to know any from me.  I managed to pass this course and had….OMG, I always wanted one: the North Carolina Hunter Education Training Course Card.

My fiancé was astounded when I showed him the card.  In fact, his first reaction was WTH….why was this required?  I guess for obvious reasons, high school students in Chapel Hill were never required to take this course.  Maybe it’s because the ratio of those who golf is higher than those who hunt.  I’ve given this much thought over the years, coming to the realization that because I attended a rural high school, the school (maybe the school system) must have assumed everyone hunts and why wouldn’t you need to take this course.  Well, I didn’t hunt and I still won’t.  If I had to do it for survival, like Les Stroud, then I would gladly change my opinion.  As long as there is a Whole Foods, there is a Sarah who doesn’t hunt.

So, today, I emasculated my old North Carolina Hunter Education Training Course Card.  Here’s how!

I was on the beach, reading the August issue of InStyle magazine (a lovely gift from my future mother-in-law, merci!) while evening out my tan.  I came across one of the makeup sections that mentioned the “credit card” trick for lining your eyes.  I was nonplussed at first because I had never heard of this method of lining one’s eyes.  I scoured the internet and found what it was.  Here’s a nice tutorial: http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-get-a-great-look-with-liquid-eyeliner

I’m not a makeup junkie but usually go au naturel – for when I walk my husky or when I go to town.  I do love wearing makeup but I have to be in the mood for it.  Right now, I’m loving the 1960’s vintage cat eye/wing eye lined look.  It’s feminine, elegant, vintage, and nicely allows one’s eyes to stand out.  I’m not artistic, so I have a hard time lining eyes perfectly.  That is, until I came across the credit card lining trick – the end result wasn’t perfect but better than my shaky hand could ever do.  Who says I can’t put my North Carolina Hunter Education to good use?!  I just did!

Check out the photos:

1) I put Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion on my eyelids.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion

2) I lined my lids (directly above my eyelashes) with Loreal Black Sable Kohl eyelining pencil.

Lined Eyes (I squeezed my eyes a little too tight here :-/ )

3) The fun part:

NC Hunter Education Training Course Card Eye Lining Trick

NC Hunter Education Training Course Card Eye Lining Trick

I angled it from my nose to the outer part of my eyes, hoping to get the line as straight as can be….

4) I lined the bottom lid and connected the lines out to meet my wing for the cat eye!

Cat Eye Look

You get the picture!

5) Cat Lined Eyes So Far, S’OK….

The wings on the side aren’t perfect but not bad for a novice!

6) I curled my eyelashes with my pink eye lash curler.

7) Mascara: I used two: Clinique Lash Doubling Mascara (a gift from the future mother-in-law!) and Maybelline Illegal Length Fiber Extensions Waterproof Mascara.

Clinique Lash Doubling Mascara

Maybelline Illegal Length Fiber Extentions Mascara

8) I drew in my eyebrows with my Avon Blonde Eyebrow pencil et voilà!  A subtle, pretty cat eye look that I adore!

Finishing Touches Cat Eye Look

Finishing Touches Cat Eye Look

It was rainy today and I got my hair done.  The makeup held up over the over-abundance of water going near my face!  Yay!  And a big shout-out to my old North Carolina Hunter Education Training Course card….I finally have a use for you after 15 years (I just dated myself :-/ ) of sitting in my wallet.

I baked a pie where Italy ended up happily marrying the Southern United States

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Happy note to self: that will actually happen in September when I, the Southern Belle marries the love of my life, my Sicilian American sweetheart.  Well, I’m not really a Southern Belle but just a contemporary, sophisticated southern woman who loves attending a good party in fashionable duds but I’m not one to stay in my fiancé’s shadows, fan myself, and act like a helpless woman while strapping young men get me a plate of barbeque.  My fiancé is not just Sicilian but is a handful of other things European.  How does all of this relate to pie?  As my country bumpkin father would say, “I’m gettin’ there!  Hold your horses!”  I want to attach “Yee Haw” to this in honor of a good friend from Rochester, New York but frankly, I don’t know any southerners who say “Yee Haw,” though it’s a darn cute sayin’ anyway!

Enough tangents, back to pie!  This time I baked a blackberry pie, but first the back story.  Recently, I was in North Carolina for a bridal shower and running other wedding errands when a massive storm (what meteorologists termed a “derecho”) knocked down several trees and power lines around our little cottage in the woods (not to mention the tree that fell on the roof of our house a couple days ago).  My fiancé and I were planning on going home the next day but the derecho had other plans for us.  Instead, my fiancé easily persuaded my dad to let us stay with him and my family until the power was restored.  I thought sardonically in my mind, “Oh, goody!”  I love my family but after day two of visiting, I became anxious about going back to my house….we spent a week in Wilkes County, NC!  And my mother, she is the type of person to have the television on 24/7, dear God, with the volume all the way up.  The television, of course, interfered with my train of thought, so I did what I always did since I was a kid: leave the house and walk around the property.

It was late June to early July, which meant that blackberries were in season.  At first, I took my walk to clear my head of the TV’s noise pollution, relaxing to the wonderful sounds of crickets, chirping birds, and… rednecks riding their loud four-wheelers (my neighbors).  I walked on the edge of the woods where I beheld cluster after cluster of blackberries: a wonderful, luscious harbinger of summer!  Yes!

Typically, I nibbled a couple.  Then it dawned on me that I could make a pie with them.  My father mentioned his mother making blackberry pies every summer.  My late grandmother is an enigma to me: I am dying to find out every little tidbit on her since she died when I was very young, thus I barely remember her.  Making a blackberry pie, I thought, would be a great way to commemorate her.  My fiancé came out looking for me and found me by the bushes.  I informed him of my plan and he was all for it!  (He loves pie, after all, he grew up eating many a pie that his mom baked, and now he’s marrying a woman who is enthusiastic about making pie.).

So, you want to know about Italy marrying the United States via a pie, eh?

My fiancé tracked down a Mario Batali blackberry pie recipe.  I was hesitant about it at first because I had wanted to make a Paula Deen pie crust from her Southern Cooking Bible and improvise with the pie filling by just putting sugar and butter over the blackberries.  I even considered combining Mario and Paula’s recipes (a true pie marriage of Italy and the Southern United States) but that proved to be too much of a headache.  Finally, I caved into my fiancé’s suggestion, going with Mario’s recipe.

Italy-1  Southern United States-0

Here’s the link to the recipe: <http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/marilyn-batalis-blackberry-pie>

It took me three days to pick these in-season, luscious blackberries.  I sampled as I picked and why not?!   I even picked blackberries during a storm because I was intent on making this pie.

The day of pie baking arrived.  I have made pies before, so I was knowledgeable about certain steps, like using ice water to make your pie dough more pliable.  My fiancé loves to cook (and can’t stay out of the kitchen), so he lent me a helpful hand and learned about ice water.  He also picked up good tips from watching him mom make pies, insisting that I refrigerate the dough for an hour and put the flour in the blackberry, sugar, and butter mix, that would hold the beauty together.  Lastly, my fiancé encouraged me to do what I never had done before when making a pie….cover the top entirely with the dough I kneaded.  I cut three slits on the top after I crimped the dough down, popped the beauty in the oven, and prayed that it would be tasty.

Here are some photos of my new pie baking adventure:

Don’t these look divine?!

This isn’t the best photo of me but here I am pie crust making, in my parents’ retro 80s kitchen.

Pastry cutting on the top layer of the pie

Fresh out of the oven….the splattering looked gross, so I prayed that, aesthetics aside, the pie would be extra tasty!

After the pie cooled, my fiancé, my dad, and I dug into it.  It was fantastic!  It wasn’t too sweet.  The pie had the right balance of sweet and tart that makes a tasty pie.  We had a side of vanilla ice cream that complimented the blackberries nicely.  I decided, after I put down my fork from being full, that this pie still was a marriage of Italy and the Southern United States.  Maybe it’s a stretch but the berries are indigenous to the Southern United States (growing naturally wild in my dad’s Northwestern North Carolina backyard) and the pie crust comes from an Italian-American, Mario Batali.  Whatever it was, it was one thing: delicious!

Italy-1  Southern United States-1

Blackberry pie with a side of vanilla ice cream.  It was so good!

*On a happy note, we are back home in the cottage and the tree has been removed off the roof, hallelujah!

DIY Flower Vases

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I’m not a big craftsy kind of woman, but this is something I like to do that I don’t mind sharing.  Since I was in college, I’ve been using old milk or liquor bottles as flower vases.  I use the small to medium size ones.  This size works the best for me because it holds the right amount of whatever I’ve picked in nature.

I’ll be up-front with you…..I’m not the first person I know to come up with this idea.  I originally became interested in this idea from my best friend when we were freshmen at Salem College.  Her parents like the booze, so she had lots of old liquor bottles readily at hand.  She had a tiny brown glass Grand Marnier bottle that she would use for one-stemmed roses.  My bestie and I are both big fans of drying flowers.  She would dry her roses, then put them on display in the glass bottle, perched on the radiator (not during the winter season when the radiators are needed, ha ha!….).

What i did at the beginning of this month was use an old glass Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon bottle as my vase.  I went outside on one of my many walks and came across some beautiful azalea-like flowers, some Queen Anne’s Lace (which is a prevalent flower in Virginia), and another unidentified, tiny, magenta flower that grew off to the side of the road near my cottage.  I gathered enough, then carried them back in one hand, while walking a Siberian Husky with the other hand….a very interesting balancing act that didn’t end disastrously.

Once I got home, I filled the vase with water and a teaspoon of sugar (an ingredient I’m convinced makes flowers last longer, although I’ve heard aspirin works just as well).  I put my wildflowers in the vase and arranged them until I was smiling (very important).  Lastly, I set the liquor-bottle flower vase on the windowsill to bask in the lovely rays of sunshine.  I think it’s really awesome to use at-hand things that you would normally throw away as something functional, like converting a liquor bottle into a beautiful vase!  It’s shabby-chic and Green!  What’s not to love?!