Don’t Be Jealous

My friend and Cottage tenant, Sug, finds yard work therapeutic.

Sug likes to mow and we have a big yard.

She likes to mow the yard.

The garden is just a heap of weeds in August.

She pulls weeds in the garden.

Front of the greenhouse is ready for grading.

After she cleaned out the space in front of the greenhouse Charlie realized he would need to dig out the some soil and level the ground.

I’m sure Charlie can find an appropriate step in our pile of bluestone.

I suggested he take one of our large bluestone slabs and make a step in front of the greenhouse.

We’re inspired by this stone patio with fire pit.

Then he said if I would draw a plan up for a small patio and fire pit he would consider implementing it.

A rough idea.

I already have a plan in mind.

What would you want in a fire pit patio?


Fiesta Food

Here’s how the Fiesta Bridal Shower went down.

The house was ready for a fiesta.

Everyone who attended knew one another and was in party mode upon arrival.

Names of famous couples were ready to be stuck on the back of each guest.

Nevertheless I stuck a post-it note on the back of each guest.  With only “yes” and “no” questions the object of the ice-breaker was to figure out whose name was on your back and find your famous partner.

Appetizers in the dining room.

In the food department, we used the dining room table for hors d’oeuvres and snacks.

Jamon y melon in the foreground.

Most of these dishes were contributions by the guest hostesses.

Taco bar and a slow cooker filled with Spanish rice (plugged under the counter).

My contribution to the food (in addition to a tres leches cake) was a build-your-own taco bar on the island in the kitchen.

The self-serve taco bar was a hit with everyone.

I have found that even picky eaters (and we had some self-proclaimed ones attending) will be able to find something to eat if at least one of the dishes is deconstructed.

We used the stainless steel counter for drinks.

Drinks were served from the stainless steel counter that forms the border between the kitchen and dining room.

A money tree, even a haphazard one like this, is a tremendous gift.

We ended the party by presenting the guest of honor with a money tree.

Each pastel dress held a ring pop.

As a signal that the good time was coming to an end one of the hostesses put the party favors — ring pop in a bride box — on a tray and passed them out.

Do you use a theme for your parties?

101 in 1001 #4 — The Start

Here is my new list beginning May 10, 2017 (first list ended 11/13/2011, second list 8/11/2014, third list 5/9/2017) until February 5, 2020. Completed items are in blue, black is the color for original post.

  1. Get a dog.

    My favorite breed: long-haired daschund.
  2. Have ancestry confirmed through DNA.
  3. Write a personal mission statement.
  4. Stain the interior wood doors.

    All bare wood doors need to be stained.
  5. Hang a door at the entrance to the laundry.

    This solid wood door with 4 lights might fit the opening in the laundry room perfectly.
  6. Take a trip to the UK.
  7. Get rid of 50 books.

    No matter how many books I get rid of I still seem to have more.
  8. Evaluate and upgrade home electronics.
  9. Make the guest room ready for guests.

    The treetops room needs to have all clutter removed before it is ready for guests including my shoes piled in the corner.
  10. Revisit my will, trust, and POA.
  11. Visit National Wildlife Visitor Center
  12. Visit Cryptographic Museum
  13. Make a stone patio with firepit.
  14. Host a swap meet.

    We’ve had book swaps and soup swaps. Maybe we’ll try something new.
  15. Get rid of 101 items.
  16. Hang photos in upstairs hall
  17. Take dance lessons
  18. Host a Casablanca party/movie night.

    Someday I’m going to have a Casablanca themed party.
  19. Host a dinner party for 8
  20. Organize trip to a Caribbean island
  21. Work on family recipe book
  22. Visit a waterfall Cunningham Falls, Thurmont MD Planned for July, 2017
  23. See the Southern Cross in person
  24. Go to the beach for a long weekend

    The last time we were at the beach (in California).
  25. Host a scavenger hunt.
  26. Make a month’s worth of meals one weekend. Plan for September, 2017
  27. Make a home maintenance calendar.
  28. Set blogging goals.
  29. Work on wardrobe: buy what I need, get rid of what I don’t, make a          list of everything
  30. Sort out things in attic by attaching children’s names, give away,    sell, etc.

    The attic is overdue for a major tidying.
  31. Learn to copyright (watermark) photos
  32. Complete legacy file
  33. Make a photo album of Mommie
  34. Paint some canvasses
  35. Chapel in the yard at The Glade

    There must be an appropriate spot for a small chapel in our yard.
  36. Ride on a Vespa
  37. Locate and catalog local thrift stores
  38. Develop a cleaning schedule
  39. Write a novel based on work
  40. Increase net worth by 25%
  41. Visit Statue of Liberty

    Now we need reservations.
  42. Paint landscapes/seascapes on canvas/wood
  43. Take a cruise.
  44. Memorize a poem.
  45. Make a household inventory with photos
  46. Finish laundry room
  47. Give heirlooms to children – hope chest, china, desk/chair, Christmas china, sleds – 1 for each

    3 sleds
  48. Finish painting trim in pink bedroom
  49. Make a master menu for 14 days of meals
  50. Wash all the windows in the house

    We have a lot of windows.
  51. Paint dining room table – finish sanding, prime and paint
  52. Use my God box.
  53. Build bench for mudroom.
  54. Build shelves in master bedroom.

    We must finish the bedroom shelves.
  55. Landscape the front yard
  56. Read 2 biographies
  57. Read 2 classics
  58. Design Etsy boutique packaging
  59. Fund my Revocable Trust
  60. Achieve my personal weight goal
  61. Get rid of 5 big items from the house:
    Refinished cedar chest ready for the next generation.

    Cedar chest, Skittle game, Rocking horse, Chandelier, Easel,  Dollhouse, Saddle/horse gear

  62. Design and print business cards
  63. Celebrate our 10th anniversary.
  64. Organize papers, bills, and contracts from renovation
  65. Trip to Venice/Serbia/Greece.
  66. Attend 5 concerts
  67. Visit Smith Island (or other Maryland island)
  68. Start a new blog: “Let’s Fake the Music”
  69. Lead a Bible study at home
  70. Plan my funeral
  71. Hang exterior shutters
  72. Build a structure for trash cans and recycle bins
  73. Upgrade deck off master bedroom with new surface and railings

    The master deck.
  74. Make curtains for master bedroom
  75. Install all trim
  76. Paint all trim
  77. Finish painting exterior details (oil tank, vents, etc.)

    The oil tank wants a 2 coats of shingle paint.
  78. Clean out car
  79. Clean up all paint cans
  80. Clear out the basement
  81. Remove 10 boxes from the attic
  82. Set up a better home office

    Perhaps we can set up the office area in the pink bedroom better.
  83. Refinish sleigh bed
  84. Build frame for full length mirror

    This mirror needs a frame.
  85. Renovate pink bathroom
  86. Renovate powder room

    Let’s update the bibliotheque.
  87. Paint all interior doors grey
  88. Have 5 parties.
  89. Coffee table for conservatory
  90. Paint secretary

    I think painting will improve this secretary.
  91. Finish living room curtains
  92. Dye hall rug

    This rug is a little bland.
  93. Fix hall water wall
  94. Paint green vanity

    The dressing table in the master bathroom might not want to be green anymore.
  95. Refinish tall dresser
  96. Finish cushions in dining room
  97. Clear out mud room closet

    The closet has become a storage spot for lots of stuff that doesn’t belong.
  98. Whiten my teeth
  99. Plant sunflowers

    Looking forward to a fence of sunflowers.
  100. Fast for 24 hours
  101. Private

Tres Leches Cake

One of my favorite sweets is Tres Leches — three milks — cake. I wanted to serve it at the Fiesta Bridal Shower because all the food had a South-of-the-Border theme.

3 milks and vanilla

I decided to use the recipe from “Cook’s Country”. My notes are in green.


Milk Mixture:

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Milk mixture: Pour the condensed milk into a microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on medium-low, stirring often and replacing the plastic wrap several times, until slightly darkened and thickened, 9 to 15 minutes. I heated the condensed milk in 2-minute intervals at 20-30% for a total of 12 minutes.  It was thick and caramelly.

I used a 4-cup measuring cup to heat the sweetened condensed milk in the microwave.

Gradually whisk in the evaporated milk, cream and vanilla.

The milk mixture is about one quart.

Set aside to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Milk and butter

Heat the milk, butter and vanilla in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter is melted. In a large bowl whip the eggs with an electric mixer on medium-high speed and gradually add the sugar; beat 1 minute. Increase speed and whip until the mixture is very thick and voluminous, 4 to 8 minutes longer.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add the melted butter mixture, beating until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the flour mixture in two additions, beating until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Increase the mixer speed to medium and whip the batter until fully combined and smooth, about 30 seconds.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and gently tap the pan on the work surface to settle it.

At this point in the cooking the toothpick came out covered with batter and I wasn’t sure it would cook all the way through.

The batter is thin. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

The toothpick test works well.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

I used an 8″ by 13″ pan which was a little small.

Using a skewer, poke about 50 holes in the warm cake (you do not need to poke all the way through).

I didn’t know how 4-cups of milk mixture would fit into the cake-filled pan but it did.

Slowly pour the cooled milk mixture over the cake. Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes, then refrigerate until the milk is completely absorbed and the cake has cooled completely, about 3 hours.  I refrigerated the cake overnight.

Frosting: Let the cake sit at room temperature 30 minutes. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream, corn syrup and vanilla in a medium bowl to soft peaks, 1 to 2 minutes. I used commercial vanilla syrup instead of corn syrup and vanilla. Spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cake and serve.

Cover the cake with sweetened whipped cream.

Instead of spreading the cake with the soft cream I whipped it a little stiffer and piped it on the cake with a pastry bag. I used more than one cup of heavy cream to finish covering the entire cake. Makes 18 servings.

We served the Tres Leches Cake with diced mangoes and strawberries.

Four people asked for the recipe and everybody else said it was delicious.

Do you have a favorite recipe?

Sunflowers, Iris, and a Money Tree

We decorated the house with lots of bright colors for the Fiesta Bridal Shower.

I love sunflowers with yellow centers.

I purchased $12 worth of sunflowers from Trader Joe’s.

Real flowers and metal flowers in the living room.

Then I surveyed the yard for possible flowers and foliage to augment the sunflowers.

Sunflowers and lilac foliage.

I found lilac branches (the flowers had all faded).

Pale yellow azaleas probably won’t last long in the house.

Pale yellow azaleas.

Sunflowers, purple iris, lilac leaves surrounded by faux grapes.

Purple iris were just started to open so I picked a bunch hoping to force some to open.

The floral arrangement on the island was a low metal planter with cut lemon balm, lemon thyme, iris buds which are very modern looking.

Purple iris, yet unblossomed, smelled great teamed with lemon balm and lemon thyme.

Looking from the living room into the dining room and kitchen.

The house is so pretty with fresh flowers.

I quickly spray painted a small weed tree.

One last plant I also found in the yard is a money tree.

We clipped money onto the tree with spring binder clips.

I spray painted it and set it up in a tall vase in the conservatory.

A money tree is a wonderful gift and easy to pull off.

It was a big hit.

Do you have a favorite spring flower?

List, 2017: May Plans

April plans were begun and not much was actually completed. Nevertheless, here’s the new list for May:


While it is warm but not yet too hot we MUST clean, paint, and hang exterior shutters.

The shutters will needed to be scraped and painted with pneumatic paint sprayer.

They’ve been off the house since 2015 when we painted the exterior of the house.  I have the paint in hand. This is an enormous job.

We have a lot of finishing to do in the closet.

On rainy weekends we’ll continue to install trim and to work on the master closet.


We’re still working on the Fiesta Bridal shower which will be this coming Saturday.

We’ve covered the table and festooned the large open doorway to liven up the dining room.

The house is becoming a South-of-the-Border cantina.


Charlie is a piano player who also plays the organ.

We’ve attended organ concerts all over the world — Saint Sulpice in Paris.

And he loves organ music so we’re planning to attend an organ concert on May 21.

Exterior Outsourcing

The Cottage is getting new windows and doors but this project will be contracted out.

I mocked-up a roof over the door.

There will also be a new gable roof over the Cottage doorway.


The most important improvement is that I’m heading back to the gym beginning this morning.

The sky above the gym is often inviting in the early morning.

The key will be consistency.

Do you have an exercise regimen?

Getting It Done

This weekend we’ve got a variety of goals to accomplish.

The master closet window needs a sill and casing then I can hang a curtain.

First our friend the Viking is back to install window trim.  We have 3 windows still needing casement: the master closet window

The window in the conservatory bathroom is still untrimmed.

and the circular windows in the new showers.

Stickers are still on the window pane.

When the window trim is finished it would be a good time to take the protective film off all windows that still have it on.  Unfortunately Charlie told me the peel-off film is now stuck tight.  I told him I would take care of it. I hope I can.

This solid wood door with 4 lights should fit in the laundry room doorway.

If time allows I’d also like the laundry room door hung.

I’m using swaths of remnant fabric to fiesta-cize the décor.

In the mean time I want to create a money tree, clean and decorate the downstairs bathrooms, make a grocery shopping list for the wedding shower, make a party prep timeline for the shower, clean and straighten the first floor, decorate the mantle and dining room in fiesta fashion.

This plate has a South of the Border vibe.

I plan to use items from around the house like this vase I painted ochre a few years ago and my fish plate.

Now that the violets and buttercups have dissipated it’s time to mow.

I’m sure the lawn will also get it first cutting this weekend.

Party favors — gown boxes hiding a ring pop within.

Busy, busy, busy.

What are you up to?