86. Guest Room Starlight Ceiling

view from guest roomEver since we started to build This Green House, five years ago, I had planned to make the guest room special. It already has a gorgeous view and its own private patio, but its future personality as a boho space is one step closer, with my latest project completed.patio with grapevine screenguest room patio

First, I made sure the electrician installed a switch-operated ceiling plug.

Second, when Rob the carpenter was here doing our “Sprint to the Finish“, we installed the 4′ framework for a dropped ceiling.ceiling 4x4 framework

Third, I snaked a 150-foot roll of cool white LED rope light through that framework. (Purchased on E-Bay.)LED light string in ceiling

staples for LED light stringFourth, D and I cut 4×8 sheets of 1/4″ plywood door skin to fit the 4′ framework.

Fifth, I gave it two coats of a custom-mixed midnight blue eggshell.painting ceiling panels midnight blue

Sixth, using a constellation map for our area (on Dec. 4, to be specific), I projected the map onto my panels, so that our whole sky would fill the whole ceiling.projecting constellations onto plywood

constellation projectionsSeventh, I marked all the stars and planets, then drew in the constellation lines with a wax-crayon. To give a sense of their relative brightness in our night sky, I drew some stars bigger and some smaller.drilling holes for constellations

Eighth, I drilled holes through the plywood, using different sizes of drill bits.drilling holes

Ninth, I gave the panels another coat of paint, which just barely let the constellation lines show. The planet holes each received a cellophane colour taped onto the back of the panels.

Tenth, I drilled screw holes every 6-12″ along the edges and centres where the ceiling framework would be. Set in the screws to start.setting screws in ceiling panels

Eleventh, we relocated the central ceiling junction box to a corner of the room. D didn’t like the boho light fixture I had found at the thrift shop for $15, but we compromised by moving it from the centre to a corner of the room, where it didn’t command so much space/attention.boho light in bedroom

Twelfth, with lots of strong young help, we installed those suckers, butting the plywood edges as closely as possible. We discovered that the room isn’t quite “square” (i.e. 90 degrees at the corners), but I guess that wouldn’t surprise anyone who has built a house. Adjustment of the panels ensued.installing ceiling panels stars

Thirteenth, we flipped the switch. It was magical! Stars appeared in our very own night sky!

Until…… our eyes adjusted to the low light level, and we saw that light was sneaking out of places that weren’t stars, and couldn’t pass for comets, either.light leaks in ceiling panels

Fourteenth, I put black electrician’s tape around the perimeter of the ceiling, caulking on the edges of the panels, and painted quarter-round around the perimeter.star ceiling light-leak repair

Fifteenth, I touched up the caulking and the screw heads with paint.

And, called ‘er done!finished guest room ceiling

The problem with photographing this dark night sky, is that it’s hard to differentiate it from the real night sky. Or maybe that’s a good thing! stars on ceiling

It is really quite peaceful to lie on the bed in the dark of our rural setting, with nothing but the starlight above to travel through the constellations of the northern hemisphere, and gradually send you into dreamland.

Sharing with these fine party hosts:

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85. Easy Christmas Colour

When asked if I’ve started decorating the house for Christmas, I said I hadn’t given it much thought. I’m a little less enthusiastic about doing it when I don’t have company.christmas decor 2

But then I realized that our year-round decor colours are red and green, anyway, so I’ve got an unintentional start. (The vintage chesterfield and chairs belonged to my parents. When we received them about 20 years ago, they had been left outside to become a village for mice, so we had them stripped and recovered in green velour.)christmas decor 1

I threw together a poinsettia wreath with five 2″ poinsettias and some bright green lichen that I collected a few years ago.poinsettia wreath

Dug out 29 years’ worth of annual Santa photos. christmas furniture

The “kids” played a trick on me on Santa photography day last year. They staged a reproduction of the photo from 1989, dressing in similar clothes and mimicking the poses, body language and facial expressions from their younger selves. They and their (must-remain-anonymous) friends were rushing around and giggling for a while “backstage,” until I began to suspect the subterfuge and busted them. Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 2.27.13 PMSanta photo then and nowAnd so I guess I have started decorating. And, it was fun, even though I have no company right now.

living room with Santa photosSharing with these fun party hosts:

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84. Harvest – Whew!

fall wreath with labelFall is the best season!

So inspiring to a fibre artist.cottonwood stand, labelled

But, wo/man! What a big job!

Everything I harvest needs to be processed somehow if we can’t consume it now.

I have canned Harvard beets, cucumber relish, raspberry jam.

Frozen pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, salsa.

Dried mushrooms and hot peppers.roasting hot peppers

Made roasted jalapeno and cayenne paste.roasted peppers in oil

Made a fabric dye bath out of indigo leaves and lobster mushrooms (I love how the top lobster mushroom actually looks like a lobster tail.)lobster mushrooms

Picked and dried a whole bunch of dye plants for later use in the winter.flowers for dyeing

Dried a raft of herbs (was a great year for herbs with all the heat.)dried herbs

Picked and ate fresh all the grapes.grapes on vine

Made apple pie filling out of our 35 apples from these two little trees:apple trees

Somehow, in all the excitement (!) of building our house these last five years, I completely overlooked the need for a root cellar. To the internet I go – search ‘makeshift root cellar’. Decide to use this old hardware box from F-I-L’s basement, combined with leftover burlap from son’s wedding, to create storage for carrots, beets and potatoes.root cellar box Collage

Our little roof-top vegetable garden was so productive this year. Some of the carrots were so long that when they reached the landscape cloth at the bottom of the boxes, they just started to grow up or wind up like a snail, or push themselves up out of the ground a few inches.

I cleaned the root vegetables and layered them between damp burlap, stored in the garage, the coolest place that doesn’t have vermin.

Made all the eggplants into Baba Ghanoush dip, and froze it.eggplant harvest

Have been picking (and loving!) all the garden flowers, and there are still some brave dahlias, jack-o-lanterns, hydrangeas and even a couple of renegade sweet peas.fall's flowersveggie harvest collage

I’m exhausted from just writing about harvest season. Gotta go to bed!virginia creeper on rocks

Sharing with:

One More Time, Dwellings – The Heart of your Home, Lavender Cottage – Mosaic Monday, Boogieboard Cottage, Coastal Charm, A Delightsome Life, Cozy Little House, Cedar Hill FarmhouseDIY by DesignLamberts Lately, The Chicken Chick, The HomeAcre Hop

83. Downton Abbey Fundraiser Tea

Mrs Hughes CollageI mentioned in my last post that I was “Mrs. Hughes” for the fundraising tea at “Downton Abbey”. It was held in the local art gallery, which proved to be a cultured venue. The art on the walls, by Suzy Arbor and Meghan Hildebrand, made the atmosphere extra-classy.maids getting tea sandwichesDownton table setting

downton serversThe Driftwood Players provided the “footmen” (no one volunteered to be Barrow, I noticed!) and staged an historical fashion show and skits for the guests.Downton footmen

And the guests, oh! the guests! Didn’t they just embrace the era? (Betty and Mary, below, were on the organizing committee, but also came as guests.)

Downton tea bossesIt was all highly entertaining, and raised funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers’ efforts to support grandmothers in many African countries stricken by AIDS.serving maids ready for duty

As Mrs. Hughes, my job was to design the menu for the 60 guests, formulate the recipes, help find volunteers to prepare the food and serve as maids at the tea, shop for the food I was responsible for, instruct and oversee the female staff and kitchen during the tea, and help clean up all the dishes and linens that were lent for the day.

Volunteer bakers prepared the food at their homes, with instructions for how to “Food Safe” their kitchens.
Cathy cooks Claudia bakes tarts

Sandwich assembly and scone-baking happened the morning of the tea, to make sure these critical tea components were fresh:sandwich assembly for Downton TeaMy “staff”:downton maids all in a row

tea dainties ready for plating

You might be interested to see the menu:

Bottom Tier: Sandwiches

Rolled Asparagus & Prosciutto

Egg Salad and Watercress Fingers

Cucumber & Cream Open-faced Cheese Squares

Lox & Avocado Triangles (Gluten & Dairy-free)

Carmelized Onion Pastries

Baby Rarebits with Beet and Orange Relish


Middle Tier: Sweets

Lemon Tarts with Fresh Berries

Cream Puffs with Chocolate Mousse

Macaroons with Marscapone Filling (GF)

Raw Hazelnut Chocolate Babycakes (GF/DF)

Whole Strawberries


Top Tier: Scones

Welsh Cakes

Scones with Clotted Cream

Lavender Jelly

Strawberry Jam


Kenyan Black Tea and Decaffeinated Black Tea

Water with Lemon Slicesplating tea food

As much work as it was for all the volunteers, it was also a chance to play-act a fantasy, and was as fun a way to volunteer as I can remember!Gayle with tiered tea service

 Sharing with these fine parties:

Life on Lakeshore Drive, Amaze Me Monday, Boogieboard Cottage, Coastal Charm, Cozy Little House, Inspire Me Monday, A Delightsome Life, Elizabeth & Co, Savvy Southern Style, DIY by Design, French Country Cottage, The Charm of Home

82. The Death of Nostalgia (or, Who will speak for the recipe box?)

heather bedI’ve had a fabulous trip this week – down memory lane!

It started like this:

I was asked to be the “Food and Servants” director (a.k.a. Mrs Hughes) for the Downton Abbey Tea fundraiser that the Grandmothers and Grandothers are putting on for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Since I am not a Downton Abbey fanatic, I had to watch Season 4 to understand what went on in the kitchen and what Mrs Hughes did and how she looked (the guests and the “staff” are in costume.)mrs hughes

I researched a menu for an afternoon tea, then drafted the recipes in the quantities needed for the tea (60 guests). Then, with the committee, sought volunteer bakers and serving staff.

The most important food item is the scone. My goodness, I have to get that right. They should not be fluffy like the American biscuit – oh, no! They should be at least as high as they are wide, and have a natural break somewhere near the middle so the guest can gently pull it apart to spread with clotted cream and jam.scones

After baking a couple of test batches, I finally got it right. But the journey to get there – I went to the internet first, then my favourite cookbooks, then the recipe box. I know, who uses a recipe box anymore?

But, it’s a treasure trove of old connections and emotions. The cards are stained and marked from use. Here’s the soy chicken recipe that my sponsor teacher introduced when I was learning how to be a Home Economics teacher. And my sister-in-law’s English Muffin recipe – no one could make them like her. My mother’s typed Raisin Jumbo Cookies – remember when typed mistakes had to be struck out or erased with a special eraser? My mother-in-law was a baker in name and vocation – we use her Welsh Cake recipe to this day. Many of the friends and relatives have passed away or we’ve lost contact with them. All the recipes I pulled out of the box had memories associated with them.recipe box baking

But…. where will the memories be housed for future generations? I went looking for my mother-in-law’s elastic-bound cookbook, with its cryptic notes and recipes that read, “Add enough flour until it feels right”. While searching, I found a journal I kept when I was a new teacher, a new bride, a new house-builder, and a soon-to-be new mother. I would say it was an eye-opener, but it really wasn’t. My thoughts, activities, priorities, lifestyle and friend and family relationships were so very familiar. I have a theory that our personalities are basically developed at birth, and unless life throws us curve balls (or we throw our own curve balls at life) we are who we are. The read did remind my always-poor memory about the activities we were engaged in 35 years ago, and how optimistic and active we were then.geraniums

I mourn the death of physical memory-holders. So much so that I wrote a short essay, The Death of Nostalgia, which I may or may not have submitted to The Globe & Mail. (I told you my memory is poor!)

Here it is (and if you’re still with me, thank you for your patience):

“After a recent move to our last home, I am filtering through the boxes of our family’s lives.

When I was in the middle of those plumb-full child-raising years, I was scarcely able to scan the records at the end of the school year, before I tossed them into a box. Photos, with their accompanying negatives, ended up unsorted, for the most part, stuffed into file cabinets. Into the pile went memorabilia from sports teams, trips, concerts.

I always intended to organize photo albums and scrapbooks for each of the four children, during a seaside holiday or when I was unemployed for a spell. But, these life records just got moved in their “raw” state from one home to the next. Now, as I sort, I ask, “Is this photo/project/essay/birthday card/report card/badge/artwork worth keeping? Will my son or daughter care to have it?

Somewhere in this home, as yet uncovered, is a letter I treasure: a brief note that my aunt wrote to my mother shortly after I was born. Nothing profound, just a ramble about their daily lives with new babies. I don’t have a photographic memory, nor even a very good long-term one. I need these physical reminders of what a great life I have had. It became poignant to learn about my childhood when I started having my own babies. Always sentimental, I got obsessive about capturing every detail about each new and remarkable life in my arms.

Our children, now wonderful and warm-hearted young adults, state in many ways that they are close to us and each other. But I wonder if these mementos will have any meaning to them, even when they have children of their own. In a time when digital photos are a dime-a-dozen; most (unsorted) photos are stored on laptops, memory sticks or in “the cloud”; videos are produced daily on cell phones or digital cameras; and parent blogs chronicle every poop or giggle the new baby makes. There’s no physical “stuff.” We’re encouraged on the Home and Garden channel to hire a home organizer to banish clutter in our increasingly small living spaces anyway.

With each piece I place in the “keep” pile, I rationalize that I would like to have such an item from my childhood. The “about me” assignment: “I have blue eyes, 2 brothers and 1 sister. I am 10 feet tall. I want to be a boat guy when I grow up.” (He’s an engineer.) I wrote down and put into the “keep” pile every cute utterance the children made.

I am interested in my husband’s early life, too, as a way to get to know him and maybe understand our children’s health, personalities, or abilities. The young couples I am close to seldom want to know anything about their partners’ pre-adult lives. Everything they may want to know, they can find on Facebook. And maybe they’re right. They’re taking their loved ones at face value. They’re forming their own history.

Is technology erasing the need for physical mementos? Are too many images and too few (Tweeted) words reducing the depth of our relationships to our parents, our partners and our children? Notes and letters are sent by email, and quickly banished to the virtual trash can. We are encouraged to save-a-tree by not printing them.

I fear memories have lost their depth of meaning to the contemporary human.”eggplants getting air

Thank you for listening!

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