The story of our little home, orchard, and us.
Welcome to Downhen Abbey, the home of our little backyard flock. Our tiny little chicken coop has been a dream of mine for over 5 years, and I’m so excited to finally see my vision becoming a reality. This blog is just a quick tour of the interior, and I say quick because it’s so tiny there really isn’t much to see inside, but I’m looking forward to sharing a few details with you.
Grief is a funny thing. One minute all you want to do is laugh and be distracted, and the very next minute you feel like you might punch the next person you overhear having an extremely shallow conversation. It’s messy, challenging, and unpredictable.
Over the last 9 years of our marriage, my husband and I have endured 7 deaths of family members. I don’t mean our “Great Aunt Millie twice removed who lives across the country" deaths, but the passing of seven people who sat at our holiday tables, were in annual extended family pictures, and part of our family events. Some were a peaceful expected blessing, some were a brutal tragedy, and some were in between. One question we receive over and over is how do we press on? How can we face such heartache over and over, and still be okay? Not everyone’s answers will be the same, because no one experiences grief the same, but I’d like to share three things that have reoccurred in each of experiences.
FORKS. Such a common word, but has a deeper meaning for our family, and forever a symbol of our oldest duckling.
Our oldest duckling is taking cooking this semester, and what a treat that has been for our brood. Here is a recipe for homemade cinnamon rolls, followed by biscuits from scratch!
2 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1/4 c. butter
In a large bowl, combine flower, baking powder, salt, sugar, and butter. Cut butter into dry ingredients using pastry blender or knife. Mixture should be crumbly. Using a large spoon, stir in 3/4 c. milk. Form the dough into a ball. Knead slightly. Roll dough out into a large rectangle.
2 T. butter
2 T. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1 T. brown sugar
Combine above ingredients in a bowl, and spread evenly on top of dough. Roll dough into a jelly roll and cut into 1 inch slices. Place on baking sheet, spiral side up. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees.
When you are an admitted "Junker", sometimes the junk finds you. I am often asked by friends and family if I'd like this piece of "fill in the blank", they don't want or need anymore. I usually say yes. If I can't use it, I can just get rid of it for them. A few months ago my cousin had a rocking chair that kept falling apart, and they got tired of repairing it, and didn't really have room anymore. I said of course I'd take it, but was unsure what I would do with it. I kept it on our shop porch for a couple months
I am a designer by passion, not by education. I've never taken any classes, or have a degree. I just have such a passion for home décor and interior design, it kind of found me. Along the road of designing for myself and clients I've obtained my own style, likes, dislikes and tips. Using the photo above as our example, here are three additional tips on styling a place setting. (The first one is on our Instagram account).
1. Layers - when styling anything, one should create layers. Whether it is a simple setting with just a few layers or more complex with 5+ layers, there should always be layers. In the photo example you can see there roughly 5-6 layers with the breadboard, plates, leaves, bowl, and apples. Layers create depth and make it more appealing. You can use anything to create layers, like a placemat, napkins under the plates, wreaths, etc. There are limitless possibilities.
2. Neutrals - another tip is to use neutrals as your staples, and add color with the extras. Again in this example I'm referring to the dishes. Using a neutral base allows you to add color any season without having to have a whole bunch of dish ware for every occasion. You don't have to use white as neutral either, you can use gray, ivory, or even a mix of neutrals. If you have a neutral base then during the spring you can change the look of your place setting by using roses and greenery. Winter with blues and bare twigs. You get the idea. Using neutral dishes also allows you to have mismatching dishes coming from different patterns also. If they are all white, or whatever color palette you use, the patterns won't matter. This also allows shopping at yard sales and thrift stores to create a collection instead of having to purchase an expensive set.
3. Textures - in addition to layers and neutrals, try to add different textures. In the photo example there is the leaves with the scalloped edges and veins, the round smoothness of the apples, to softness of the napkin, etc. Incorporating different textures creates interest. Using the same dish palette with different patterns can even add to the textures you create.
Hope these tips were helpful, and will guide you into creating a beautiful table scape for your upcoming holidays!
Two years ago I experienced my greatest fear, greatest joy, and greatest blessing all in less than 24 hours. I was eight months pregnant with our fourth little duckling and my husband was away during the week for work. At 10:30 pm on a Monday evening, three and half weeks before I was due, I went into labor. I called the hotel where my husband was, to wake him up and tell him he needed to make his way home because the baby was coming. I prayed he would make it in time, but since our other ducklings all took 14-16 hours to arrive, I felt pretty confident he'd be home in plenty of time since he was only a couple hours away. He did. Around 3am, my mom made it over to watch the other three ducklings so Andy and I could make our way to the hospital. I was at a 4 and not in real active labor, but since I had excessive amniotic fluid, they kept me due to the risk of my water breaking. All checked in and cozy in our room by 5am. All was going well as I labored all morning and afternoon as usual.
Of course, with a family of six in a 2 bedroom home, there are some small space challenges. One of the most challenging is fitting four children in one bedroom. After people recover from the shock of that statement, they usually ask how we do that. Since I grew up in a small home, I'm familiar with some small space design like what works, what's needed, and what doesn't work. Here are my top four tips to assist with small space challenges that I applied in our children's room.
Before we moved into the Carriage House, one room that we knew needed some functional design was the only bathroom. It was small, with only a stand up shower and one sink in a large vanity. Having only one bathroom in the Garland Cottage, we knew what worked and what did not. One sink wasn't going to be easy, but changing the plumbing for a dual vanity was going to take a bigger bite out of our budget than either of us wanted. I started doing some research, and learned that you can install two sinks on one water source, and one drain source! What!? Yep. Actually, when I got to thinking about it, I realized I knew the drain portion, because that is what every double sink in America is...two sinks, one drain outlet. Duh! But it never occurred to me you could also install two sinks on the one water source. So, here is how it works, along with some before and after pictures.
Well, our grand opening is just a week away! To say I'm excited is an understatement, but even more than excited, I'm nervous! To put time and effort into a hobby is typical, but when you expose that hobby to the world and invite them in, it suddenly makes you very vulnerable. I know I can't please everyone, and not everything will run smoothly. This is a new adventure, and something new always has bugs to work out and requires a lot of practice. However, knowing there will be critics and trying to grow from the critics is a very daunting task. I know that criticism is required for growth and improvement (and I welcome it so I CAN grow and improve), but the anxiety of waiting to receive it is always difficult for me. I have a lot to work on, both personally and professionally, so hopefully there will be a lot of feedback to help me along the way. Thankfully my faith allows me to gain strength through Him, for all things are possible with Him. I've prayed for months that this adventure will be pleasing to Him, and that during this process I will not lose sight of what is most important. It's so easy to be consumed with things to do and my emotions, that I have to remind myself a business means nothing when compared to my faith, our four little ducklings, our health and well being, our service to others...and so many more that are of greater importance. What if it fails? What if there is a long line that requires more helpers than I have? Or worse yet, what if no one shows! None of that matters if my family is by my side, happy, healthy, and faithful. Success or failure, good or bad, it's all about the journey together. Here's to a new family adventure!