I highly recommend a visit to Faraway Farm Alpacas in Westchester, NY. The wonderful owner Leda Blumberg was more than happy to show my 5 munchkins the ropes, on a very cold day this past weekend. www.farawayfarmalpacas.com
Friday, March 6, 2015
Waiting. Not very patiently I might add, for all this snow and ice to go on its merry way. Trying to sell a house in the frozen north is not ideal. We visited an alpaca farm at the weekend, Faraway Farm, in Westchester, NY. It was so wonderful to be around these graceful animals once again, and to make plans for my own small herd. It is so hard to keep my excitement contained, the thought of us actually moving to a farm, and having horses, alpacas and chickens, a real vegetable garden. I just can't. But until this house sells nothing I can do about those dreams other than box them off, with the rest of our stuff, which is packed and waiting. Meanwhile I knit.
At Faraway Farm I bought a ball of the rose grey alpacas Aladdin and Fiesta's yarn and started a pair of mittens for Amelia Rose. She of course ripped them out while I was sleeping the other night, being the crazy little monster she is! I managed to save them, and so off I go, dreaming while knitting, knitting while dreaming. Waiting..impatiently.
Friday, February 6, 2015
Exciting news. We are finally putting this house in the woods on the market! Over the past few months I've been searching online for an old farmhouse to make our own, and recently actually been viewing some in person! Two weeks ago I looked at one on Somerset County, NJ. It has such a romantic sound to it, Somerset County, it almost wouldn't have mattered what the house was like. But it does. Of course. And to me it was perfect. A big blue 1800s farmhouse on almost 5 acres, with pines for privacy and open fields filled with horses and alpacas around. It wasn't the greatest layout inside, and the kitchen, although open to an eating area, certainly wasn't my dream kitchen, but I could see it working perfectly all the same. It had a greenhouse, flat grass, a huge porch, and bright sun filled rooms with wide pumpkin pine floors, and that was enough for me. Unfortunately when my husband viewed it, he decided it was a bit too rural for him, and he pointed out all the flaws, I hadn't really noticed.. love blinds you that way! The road to the main road was long and winding. Beautiful for long walks on a Sunday, not so beautiful for commuting to the office I guess!
On to the next. Last week he found a short sale in the Chester, NJ area, which is a lovely town filled with antiques stores and surrounded by farmland, but much closer to highways etc. I went to see it at the weekend. Needs so much doing to it, including septic, oil tank removed and such a lot of cosmetic stuff. But it's a good looking 1800s colonial with a big porch, and 2 fenced paddocks. Nice big rooms, and a finished attic, that could make a perfect craft room for me.
It has a huge kitchen open to the dining area with skylights and big windows. Really my dream kitchen. Even had a cast iron gas cooker, one of those very expensive retro ones. Perfect! My husband is there today, so I'm yet to hear what he thinks. Regardless of what happens with that house, things are definitely moving in the right direction, so I'm feeling happy and excited. Packing up this house and fixing all the annoying things is not so exciting, but at least it being cleared out it's starting to resemble how I wish we could live - less clutter, easier to clean. Certainly something to aim for in the next house anyway!
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
So as I sit trying to do my work, right now I'm working on some Halloween hair pieces, I'm trying to zone out the loud bulldozer to the right of me and the constant hum of the ride on lawnmower to the left. My head is buzzing. I reconnected with a friend recently and told her this statement "I'm a city girl, I'm a country girl - but I'm definitely not a suburban girl". This really sums it up for me. When I'm in the city I love the constant noise, cars honking horns, police sirens wailing in the distance, people hustling about.
And in the country I love the quiet, the wide open space, the freedom to do whatever you want without prying eyes on you. Here in suburbia the neighbors are always watching, the power mowers/blowers are always humming, the landscapers/religious extremists/busy bodies are always knocking.. well ringing, we have a doorbell after all! Where these houses were built used to be all woodland, so any hope I had of creating any kind of a garden here is dashed by the ever present deer families, tree roots and shade and of course the falling leaves and cattails. I do briefly flirt with village life. But it's more in the romanticized variety, and very much the English village or Bavarian style with peaked roofs, chimneys gently billowing, pennant banners hanging house to house in the summertime, village fairs and gatherings on the green.
That kind of lifestyle doesn't exist outside of Europe. America is so brash to me still, even after almost eleven years here. I hate the strip malls, the big box stores, the chain restaurants, the general weirdness and craziness I encounter. I miss London, with it's history, architecture, and eclectic vibe. I miss my friends. I miss Scotland terribly, I miss my family, my brothers and Mother especially. When I was little I dreamed or day dreamed more like of having an American farmhouse, big red barn, paint horses. It was a big part of the shows I watched with my Grandma, the Waltons, all the old cowboy movies. I was reminded of this recently when an old school friend came back into my life, she told my Mum I always said I wanted a big house in the country in America. I know my husband will never move from the East coast, but I dream of big skies. Here I've had eight years of a busy street, garbage thrown in my garden, dirty streets, then almost 3 years in the trees.
Not the beautiful old oaks and maples, fat and round with low branches for playing, all we have here are 80 foot maples with high branches that sway unnervingly every time the wind catches them. I've seen too many trees on houses in this area to forget how much damage they can do. Having lived through Hurricane Sandy, and been terrified, I'll never look at these trees in a good light. I want wide open space, a few acres of fields, a couple of big old oak or maple trees that the kids can climb, and we can have a table under. But that's it. Living in the forest is ok for bears and those satisfied with paying their landscaper a few hundred a month, not for normal people. Especially not those who want a beautiful garden. We're off to Maine on a small vacation soon. It will be so good to have a break from this daily life. I can't wait to hear the ocean instead of bloody landscapers. Seagulls instead of Blue Jays. I often kick myself for moving to this house. All the things I love and need to be happy, that little checklist you have in your head, that went out the window when we bought this house. With school starting in a month, at least I have a distraction when we get back from Maine. I'm hoping for some good seasonal sales in my store too. And I know the time will come when we can move, this time for good. And his time my list will be checked in full.. and what isn't there we'll actually have the money to fix it, right there, no - we'll do it at some point, which you know is added to the never list. My day will come. This too shall pass. And just to add insult to injury the landscapers just arrived next door to start their weekly mow. Ahhh!
Friday, July 18, 2014
A Toy Story Birthday to be precise! My youngest son celebrated his 4th Birthday this week, and I threw him a surprise Toy Story party. Here's a little montage:
Every night this little boy asks me "Can you sleep with me?" and every night I crawl into his tiny toddler bed under his big brother's loft bed, and snuggle a while, and my heart aches every time. It seems like yesterday he was a little baby, then a toddling terror, and now he's in the preschool set - where did that time go! So there's a dragon, an extra large bear, a smaller bear, a pillow pet dragon, a pillow light puppy, a lovie puppy, a creeper, his old crib quilt, a twin comforter, his full size pillow and him all in his teeny toddler bed.. but I still can't say no when he asks me to lay in there with him, because I know soon he will stop asking me and that hurts my heart to think of! So my back may be breaking and my legs cramping, but there I am every night without fail - they grow up way too fast!
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
I've become slightly addicted to HGTVs new show "Fixer Upper" http://magnoliahomes.net/fixer-upper/ It's always been my dream to find a diamond in the rough and make it my own. The two houses we've bought previously have been at the top end of our budget, so we've never been able to make the changes we wanted a reality or let's face it, even fix things when they break! For years I've loved to watch the moving shows, but they all become much the same - people looking for the granite kitchen, the finished garden, the perfect house. I'd hate to move in somewhere that was finished to a high standard - but not my standard, not my tastes. I feel like I'd just live with cherry cabinets and beige granite because I'd feel bad about ripping that stuff out. Which is why I have NO intention of looking for any of that when it comes time for us to move. I love browsing the http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/ site for ideas. The forums are so valuable for real life experiences of what to do and of course what to run a mile from. Now there are hundreds of shows on home improvement there's always something to watch to get excited about. Here are some great examples of a fixer-upper turned dream home - and surprisingly all of these were done with a budget of under $50k!
The house I fell in love with months ago is still on the market, so there's always a chance it will become my dream forever home! (I have the agent letting me know if any offers come in). It's priced very low, and with the profit from the sale of this house we would be able to make it beautiful with cash to spare. There's so much potential. It's on 15 acres, we could sell 10 of those for over $100k in that area and still have a huge piece of land. There's a walkable attic ready to be finished. A double garage could be added with a master suite above. There's a big red barn with 6 horse stalls, fenced paddock, pasture, a stream.. need I go on! Here's a picture of it..
...imagine it freshly painted, with shutters, rambling roses, a horse in the background, a few chickens dotted around and children playing and you there you have it. So until I have it, in the bag, I keep that image in my head on days like today when I'm faced with the end of school rush, piles of laundry, noisy landscapers and a messy corner office that I can get no work done in! Happy Wednesday people - the weekend is just down the hill.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
So yesterday I spent the morning planting up two of my four raised beds in my garden by the pond. I'd love to think by summer they'll look like this - but that's pretty adventurous! I've started with green beans, broccoli, carrots, kale and lettuce. When the threat of frost has gone I'll move to the third bed for the tomatoes, peppers, melons and cucumbers. The fourth bed is my biggest and I'm keeping that for flowers. I've been at a loss as to what to surround the beds with, as right now it's a brown dirt mess, mulch for that large of a spot is expensive, wood chips attract termites, and gravel - again too pricey. I think I'll plant grass there instead, it's the most economical option and will definitely make that area look more complete. Right now it's pretty barren, bar a few hyacinths. It's very frustrating gardening here in Rockland, for the obvious reason - rocks. We also have a lot of what they call "Squaw Root" which is very hard to work around, and with the endless tree roots from the semi woodland setting - it's not exactly prosperous. But I have Bramble Farm in my heart and know it will happen sooner than later - so I will plod on with what I have right now and make the best of it as much as I can. One thing I need to do everywhere I plant - is to deer fence. They eat everything around here, even the plants labeled "deer resistant". So long as I can get the front and back garden areas tidy and pretty - it'll do, especially when it comes time to sell. I have so much organizing of clutter and collected garbage to do on the inside of the house it feels sometimes like selling is many MANY years away. I have to keep believing that what I really want, and how I want to raise my children is within reach, even on grey days like today, when nothing seems possible except crawling under a blanket and sleeping! Onwards and upwards.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Two farms in one week to be precise! I can't believe Spring Break is almost over. We lost so many school days with the severe winter snow we had here in New York, sadly cutting off 3 days of this vacation time. So this past week we did a couple of day trips to get some country air, and inspiration for Bramble Farm of course! Firstly we went to the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture near Sleepy Hollow. It's such a breathtakingly beautiful place. Even without the green of Summer and the flowers to match, the buildings alone were awe inspiring.
Next we went to Muscoot Farm in Katonah. I completely fell in love with this property. Everything from the old white farmhouse to all the gorgeous red barns and outbuildings. Their selection of animals was just right, and the children had a wonderful time.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Last night I made The Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls.. here's the recipe from her site:
- 1 quart Whole Milk
- 1 cup Vegetable Oil
- 1 cup Sugar
- 2 packages Active Dry Yeast, 0.25 Ounce Packets
- 8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Reserved) All-purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
- 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
- Plenty Of Melted Butter
- 2 cups Sugar
- Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon
- MAPLE FROSTING:
- 1 bag Powdered Sugar
- 2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
- 1/2 cup Milk
- 1/4 cup Melted Butter
- 1/4 cup Brewed Coffee
- 1/8 teaspoon Salt
Preparation InstructionsFor the dough, heat the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil. Set aside and cool to warm. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for 1 minute.
Add 8 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1 cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Use the dough right away, or place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Note: dough is easier to work with if it’s been chilled for at least an hour or so beforehand.)
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
To assemble the rolls, remove half the dough from the pan/bowl. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches. The dough should be rolled very thin.
To make the filling, pour 3/4 cup to 1 cup of the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly. Generously sprinkle half of the ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter. Don’t be afraid to drizzle on more butter or more sugar! Gooey is the goal.
Now, beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight. Don’t worry if the filling oozes as you work; that just means the rolls are going to be divine. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the roll so that the seam is face down. When you’re finished, you’ll wind up with one long buttery, cinnamony, sugary, gooey log.
Slip a cutting board underneath the roll and with a sharp knife, make 1/2-inch slices. One “log “will produce 20 to 25 rolls. Pour a couple of teaspoons of melted butter into disposable foil cake pans and swirl to coat. Place the sliced rolls in the pans, being careful not to overcrowd. (Each pan will hold 7 to 9 rolls.)
Repeat the rolling/sugar/butter process with the other half of the dough and more pans. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover all the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towel and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t allow the rolls to become overly brown.
While the rolls are baking, make the maple icing: In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee, and salt. Splash in the maple flavoring. Whisk until very smooth. Taste and add in more maple, sugar, butter, or other ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency. The icing should be somewhat thick but still very pourable.
Remove pans from the oven. Immediately drizzle icing over the top.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I'm in the midst of thinking of a design for my just turning 6 year old's Birthday on Friday. For my eldest daughter I chose a Frozen theme - they love that movie so much - who doesn't!? It worked perfectly because I had the Frozen Disney Infinity Elsa and Anna figures to put on top. This time I have Rapunzel - so I've been googling Tangled cakes and so far here's what I have - all amazing!
I was going for a garden cake with the tower and then the figure standing next to it but now I'm thinking the lake cake looks perfect as I can print the other bits to put on top - and have lanterns hanging from the ceiling.. will update with pictures later this week!
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
So oh I don't know lets say about 5 babies ago I felt something like the above. Sexy, beautiful, confident. Somewhere after the 3rd baby I started to feel more like that Hilda pin-up making the rounds just now. Nothing fit like it used to. The image I saw in the mirror didn't add up to the image of me I had in my head. The one I saw made me feel terrible. That was another 2 babies and about 20 lbs ago. You can imagine how I feel now. I started mid January with this weight loss game and here we are now going into March and I'm only 8 lbs down. Still have about 25 lbs to go before I'll feel like that girl again, and I can't wait! I mean literally. What on earth happened. It used to be that I just had to look at the scale every day and say a little wish and the weight would fall off me. Now I barely eat, don't stop moving all day, and I'm lucky if a couple of pounds a week come off. Somewhere along this road of baby rearing I lost sight of who I was and what was important to me to make me feel like me. Now I know a lot of people jump on the "you've been pregnant or nursing most years for the past god knows how many how could you expect to me "the old you" ". But the issue is that without looking in the mirror and seeing the old me, I don't feel like me. I feel like an imposter in this body. I have no confidence. I always have that niggling doubt in myself that tends to ruin a part of every day, every special event, everything that should be fun. I feel like a failure. I failed my own body. It's not that I want to be the "hottest bitch in this place" (is it just me or even though Blurred Lines is long gone is it still in your head too argh).. I just want to look in the mirror and see me again, really see me, and not feel failure, or sadness. I feel so sorry for my husband, not because he has extra to love right now, because I do believe he still loves every inch of me, I feel sorry for him because he hasn't got the best of me these past 6 years that I've had to bare this load, both physically and mentally. I have been a miserable bitch, even in times when I should have been so happy. So I'll plod on with this slow weight loss ride, and try to focus on the day in the not so distant future when I look in the mirror and I look back at myself. Me again.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Just a quick post as I'm busy moving things out of the spare room, to move the boys in - their room is to become a playroom.. long story no time! I'm having a fair bit of success selling fabric in my etsy store. Feeling excited at this actually becoming an earner rather than just an excuse to have more fabric in my stash! https://www.etsy.com/shop/brambleboutique
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I feel like I'm staring at a map of the London underground. And so begins my journey into sewing! I made skirts for the girls last year and that was easy enough. Thought I'd try some simple pants for baby because I got some really cute polka dot farm animal fabric the other day.
Yeah. So far, haven't got past staring at the pattern for 5 mins! I also got a dress pattern thankfully haven't opened it yet so that cat can remain in the bag for now - think it would send me over the edge!