Monday, March 23, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Best Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Though my mother's side of the family is Irish, we never celebrated St. Patrick's Day in a big way. I remember soda bread being made a couple times when I was a child, but not liking it very much. I think I made a few in college that were like the ones I had as a kid - more raisin bread than a sweet bread. I'd choke them down, thinking the dry breads would grow on me, but they didn't.

One day, I was sitting in my college's tutorial center and I casually asked my supervisor, Sr. Carolyn Sullivan, if she had a good soda bread recipe. She immediately started to rattle off ingredients and I grabbed an appointment slip to scribble them down on the back. I distinctly remember her saying "half a box of raisins" and wondering how many cups that was, but I was so in awe that she could recite the recipe off the top of her head that I didn't ask.

I never used another recipe again and up until a couple years ago when I typed it up, I was still referring to the blue tutoring appointment slip when I made the bread. It's the best soda bread I've ever had. It's a little sweet and has a very slight cake-like texture.

When I posted this picture on Instagram and Facebook yesterday, several people asked for the recipe.

Some people get really feisty about their soda bread recipe, guarding it like a precious family heirloom. It doesn't seem fair to keep this one a secret, especially since Sr. Carolyn was so generous with it almost 20 years ago.

If you copy this, I only ask that you keep her name on it.

Sr. Carolyn Sullivan's Irish Soda Bread

3 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 box of raisins

2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter or oil
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees and grease a 9" round cake pan with butter.
2. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, powder, soda, salt, seeds, and raisins) in a bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, eggs, and butter/oil.
4. Combine the two mixtures just until mixed.
5. Bake in the 350 degree oven for one hour. Reduce the baking time slightly for a more cake-like consistency.

Sr. Carolyn is still working in the tutorial center at Providence. I tweeted at them about the recipe the other day and they replied that the recipe is "legendary."
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Shopping for Bathroom Vanities (and more about goods Made in America)

I haven't mentioned my hunt for a bathroom vanity because it hasn't gone so well. I've seen plenty of nice pieces, but nothing that jumped out at me as "the one" so far. Well, scratch that. I really love Restoration Hardware's Odeon vanity. I love the curved lines of it and how it's a furniture-style vanity without being too blocky.

Here it is in two bathrooms...

Via DecorPad

Via Houzz

The things that hold me back: the vanity is just a touch wide for the downstairs bathroom, it's the most expensive vanity I've considered (just over $2300 for one with a cararra countertop), and the RH website has no information about the country of origin.

So after looking at tons of websites, I wasn't sure about the quality of the items I was seeing, so I made an appointment at Ferguson, the bath and kitchen supply company. Right off the bat, I saw some pieces that I liked in the showroom.

These first two aren't for us, but aren't they gorgeous?

Kohler...don't ask me the price.

Kallista...about $6,000

These were the more affordable options. Both have tons of finish and countertop options:

The Framingham by Fairmont

Rustic Chic by Fairmont

Those gray vanities were both by Fairmont Designs. There were four vanities I liked: Framingham, Smithfield, Rustic Chic, and Charlottesville (no kidding!). The difference between the Framingham and Smithfield seem to be in the legs (counter and sinks are ordered separately).



Rustic Chic (what a name)


I loved these options and the prices weren't bad, either. However, towards the end of the conversation, the rep told me that all of these are imports. There's a sustainability statement on the Fairmont website, but no specific information about the country of origin.

The rep said that Kohler is making their vanities in Missouri, but other than that, almost everything is being imported.

I don't abhor imports, but it definitely puts these vanities in the same realm as all the ones I was seeing online from sources like Wayfair and or at the big box hardware stores. I'm so confused!

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Friday, March 13, 2015

From the Hoop: Home Edition

I can't believe I haven't shared any embroidery projects since December! Today, I thought I'd share some of the home projects I've done in recent months. I think linens and blankets have become my favorite things to monogram. I usually get to go big and bold with the designs.

Many of the items I'm working on are from Sferra, one of my favorite companies for luxury bed linens and blankets. Locally, you can get everything Sferra makes at Folly Home Furnishings. If a size or color isn't in the store, they can usually get it in within a couple days, which I found out when I was working on a photoshoot for a new wedding venue and needed good quality, peach napkins. Sferra's hemstitched napkins come in a rainbow of colors and Folly was able to have them for me in two or three days.

The photoshoot also included my first attempt at embroidering on velvet. I made runners and chair flags out of the most beautiful, green velvet (from UFab!) and added a peach monogram for The Market at Grelen, the wedding venue.

Some other Sferra items I've done include several blankets and loads of napkins. The blankets started when the ladies at Folly asked me to monogram one of their display blankets with a big, beautiful "F." I loved how it turned out and I guess others did, too! People have sent me several blankets and they all seem to way that same, beautiful script monogram on them.

I did this last one for my sister-in-law, whose living room window treatments I love because she used the fabric we used in many of the details at our wedding (Vintage Plumes by Robert Allen)!

I did a few baby blankets, too!

Sferra's napkins always stitch beautifully. I have a stack of hemstitched cocktail napkins that I've been meaning to monogram for friends (I think this is going to be a hot thing this summer!), but I haven't gotten around to it.

These were done for a holiday party (I burned the midnight oil to turn these around in less than 24 hours!):

And these dinner napkins were done for several people who gave them to others as presents over the holidays:

As always, you can follow my embroidery work on my Beloved Thread Facebook page!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Found in an Old, Saved Magazine

I used to have a pretty random way of handling all of my shelter magazines. I'd flip one as soon as it arrived, then put it in a stack under my coffee table and forget about it until one day the stacks fell over. Then I'd quickly sift through the stacks and recycle almost everything except House Beautiful. I don't care who is editing House Beautiful, I enjoy the magazine. The format is nice, the features are varied, and it always has a nice mix of approachable and aspirational design.

In the house, I have more shelf and storage space, so I have organized my years of House Beautiful issues into magazine files and have started holding onto Traditional Home, Martha Stewart Weddings, and the magazines in which shoots I've been involved are published.

Marc definitely doesn't understand the love of magazines, but he knows that I actually do go back and read old issues sometimes, so the shelf of magazines files is okay with him.

The other day, I was flipping through the Traditional Home from October of 2012 and came upon this feature of a kitchen/great room designed by architect Victor Saroki and desginers Mick De Giulio and Craig Steinhaus. The images are by photographer Werner Straube. A very small detail jumped out at me.

The detail? A Gurgle Pot is stashed on a shelf in the island. Have you ever seen one?

 I think first saw Gurgle Pots at a store called Verity Blue that used to be in the Main Street Market here in Charlottesville. It's possible that my memory is wrong, but where ever it was, I never bought one because I couldn't decide on a color. Gurgle Pots come is such pretty colors!

It seemed like kismet that there was an entire booth dedicated to Gurgle Pots at a charity sale here called Martha's Market. I quickly scooped a white one up for myself and an aqua one for my mother-in-law.

Of course, I had to do a demonstration of my Gurgle Pot. I should have known that youtube would be full of them (there's even an app that mimics the sound). The pitchers are so charming! The story behind them is very cute, too.

All that from a kitchen feature in an old issue of Traditional Home.
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Unbreakable Kimmy Eye Candy

Did you spend the weekend binge-watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? If not, you're missing a hilarious show from Tina Fey (there was even a UVA reference in the first episode) and you're missing some serious eye candy for design lovers.

Every scene that takes place in the home of Jane Krakowski's character, Jacqueline Vorheese, is full of pretty things.

There's a particular scene that mentions carrara marble that had me laughing out loud. 

 And I don't care if they are played out, I still like seeing the hicks pendants in the kitchen.

There are 13 episodes on Netflix. Don't start them too late at night.
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Friday, March 6, 2015

Pivot vs. Sliding Shower Doors

I'm aware that I'm hopping around the bathroom a bit, but I keep looking at my spreadsheet of items to select! It's a little overwhelming. I spend a lot of my limited free time googling and reading about fixtures. The easy thing to do would be to walk into Lowes or Ferguson and just make all the decisions at once, but I have always been the person that has to research, research, and research some more before making a big decision.

During our snow day yesterday, I was in the lower level bathroom and realized that the toilet was probably too close to the shower/tub area for the frameless shower door I had envisioned using in the room. I had envisioned a pivot door, one that swings out into the room from the shower.

One option would be to swap the toilet and the sink to allow more clearance for the swinging door, like in this bathroom:

But with all the plumbing on the wall to the right of the door, that would mean the toilet is next to the door. I'm not sure that's ideal? Plus, we know we'll have major work to do with the two upstairs bathrooms and I'm hoping to do a nice job with this one, but not go over-the-top.

We could have a fixed panel installed in half or 2/3 of the shower space so that there is a permanant, open door for the shower.

The best option is to use a sliding shower door. Thankfully, the options are really attractive these days! There are some great frameless and nearly-frameless sliding shower doors on the market!

Via Janie Molster (from Richmond!)

I think the fixed panel and sliding options are the best for us. After looking at dozen of pictures, I actually like those two options better than the pivot door for our space!
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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Kohler's Kallista Line Changes My Inspiration Board!

Have you seen Kohler's Kallista brand of bathroom fixtures? I have to admit that I forgot about them, but stumbled upon the again last night and am sort of regretting it. I never thought I'd get this excited about toilets, but these Kallista ones are...beautiful. There, I said it.

The resolution on their images isn't great, so click through if you want to see more.

Kennebec toilet by Kallista

This one is my favorite of all! I don't even care that the top might not be able to hold anything. It's just so good looking!

Counterpoint by Barbara Barry for Kallista

The faucets and shower fixtures are beautiful, too. I would be torn between putting them in a master bath, so they would be seen, used, and appreciated every day, or in a powder room so every guest would see them. They're like jewelry for the sink!

For Loft collection by Michael S. Smith for Kallista

Look at all the materials available for this faucet from the Per Se line:

Realistically, I don't think I'll be able to put these in our bathrooms. If we just had one bathroom to renovate, perhaps I'd splurge, but with three to redo, I think I'll have to work with some more affordable fixtures. Still, it's so fun to look at the inspiration galleries on the Kallista website and dream...
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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bathroom Renovation: Picking a Toilet

Last week, I kept asking myself if I was really going to write a blog post about toilets. Since it took  us a while to settle on a toilet, I'm going to do it.

The easy choice was to go to Lowes and get the Kohler Memoirs Stately toilet that we put into the condo and really liked. The lines were clean, the top wasn't curved so we could store things on the lid, and it was a good looking, if that can be said of toilets.

The bathroom on our lower level is probably going to be used more like a powder room (though the shower area will be used for Baxter's baths). Since it might have lighter use, we thought that having a dual-flush toilet might be nice. The last time around, Kohler didn't have many dual-flush options, but I was hopeful that things would have changed.

Not much has changed. The two Kohler dual-flush toilets we saw weren't too attractive to us. They looked a little "builder grade" on the Kohler website.

We wanted something that was transitional - not modern, but not old-fashioned looking. A bonus would be if it had a relatively simple base for easy cleaning. I really wanted the flushing handle to be on the side of the toilet. Some companies put dual-flush buttons on top of the tank. 

For a while, I was really fixated on a Kohler toilet and I thought we could just install a dual-flush kit on another toilet, but then I found a Toto toilet that had all the characteristics we had discussed. It's the Toto Connelly toilet.

I've learned to ignore the prices on the company websites when I browse. I found the toilet for about $370 on a plumbing supply website.

When I found some other images of the toilet, I got a little worried. The supply line might be kind of obvious?

At this point, I'm not totally sold. I think we need to see it in person before we make a final decision...but I'm leaning towards this model.

Of course, uploading that image made me second guess a decision I thought we had made.
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