Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Please Pass the Popcorn

After living in a fairly small home for so long, I really learned what it took to maximize a room's functions. For instance, our former study also served as a sitting room and music room, in addition to hosting a separate dining space when we entertained many people.

Few of us are fortunate enough, however, to have space designated solely as a home theater. Still, I thought it'd be fun to post a few inspiration pics.

That first photo is from the Elk Springs Lodge and Resort in Gatlinburg, TN. Isn't it fun?

All of the rooms above are much more elaborate than our media room will be. That's partly due to our limited budget and also to the multitude of uses our room must perform. I mean, seriously. As pretty as a coffered ceiling would be, I can't see it working for us with that exposed laundry area.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Before, During, And...

I've blogged about our media room, but it's been awhile. First a bit of history. We moved into our house, built in the mid-80's, exactly a year ago. The house has about 2600 square feet and sits on a lot slightly larger than half an acre. We really do feel like we have a little slice of the Texas hill country.

We were drawn to the house for several reasons. We loved the spacious living room and kitchen and the flow between the two rooms. Also, the house had been completely redone by the former owner, so it was nice to move in and not feel like we had to start redoing anything right away. We didn't love everything about the house, though.

One of the things that almost deterred us from buying the home was the garage conversion. On the outside, the conversion is seamless. Pulling up to the side of the house, no one would ever know where a garage door once existed.

Inside, the former garage housed the washer and dryer, and when the garage was converted into a room, the washer and dryer hook-ups stayed. The little concrete lip that all garages have was also left as it was. Those two features made the room very awkward and not completely functional as a media room, which is what we had decided to do with the space. This photo shows the east wall with the washer/dryer area. The hot water heater is in the little closet on the adjacent wall on the far right of the photo, and the door just to the left of that leads to our kitchen.

The previous owner installed new carpeting in the room, and while the carpet was new and pretty, it was not practical in a room with so much water. In fact, we had washer problems and flooding shortly after moving into the home.

Over the past year, we've been making a few changes to the room. In order to camouflage the concrete "lip," my handy husband installed 15' of unfinished, stock cabinets.

We are in the process of painting the walls, installing the countertop, and building shelving to sit on top of the cabinets. We removed the carpeting and simply painted the concrete floor. We are considering installing self-stick vinyl tile, but there are some concrete repairs to be done first. I'll show you more pics as we make a little more progress. We're hoping to have most of the work done by the end of next weekend. Once the room is finished, we'd like to get a roomy, yet space-saving sectional sofa. What do you think? Are we on the right track?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I mentioned in my last post that good friend, Amber, has started a new feature on her blog, Blue Mango, called Friday Cocktails, where she posts videos of various singers. I love that idea, so this week I'm posting a Friday cocktail at Canyon Wren Cottage.

Also in my last post, I introduced you to one of my favorite singers, Jane Monheit. I first found her when I was doing some research on singers at Amazon.com. You know how you can look something up, and there's that blurb that suggests you might be interested in similar singers? I think that's how I first found Jane Monheit.

She was just getting started back when I stumbled upon her music. My daughter, Cameron, loves her as much as I do. We had the pleasure of meeting Jane Monheit when she came to Amarillo to perform at a benefit gala for the local theater. She signed one of our CD's for Cameron and was very sweet to discuss the "biz" with our daughter, who aspires to sing professionally.

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" has been sung for decades by so many singers, but hardly ever will you hear a version that is so heartfelt as Jane performs it. She really just melts into the music. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas to You and Yours

My friend, Amber, over at Blue Mango has a fairly new feature called Friday Cocktails, where she features videos of one or more singers. It's not Friday, but I thought you might enjoy one of my favorite singers, Jane Monheit, singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

Thank you to all the readers of Canyon Wren Cottage. May you have yourself a Merry Little Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Memories

This time of year is always a great time to reflect on favorite holiday memories, and I thought it might be fun to share one or two of mine.

I spent the first two years of college at North Texas State University (now know as University of North Texas). I was six hours from home, and when I wasn't in class, I was working at the TG&Y near campus.

It was the end of 1981, and Neil Diamond was coming to Reunion Arena in Dallas. I had a date to the concert, so I figured I'd spend the money I'd have used for tickets on a tree. Before I had a chance to get the tree, my date informed me he had to work the night of the concert and had sold his tickets to recoup his costs. (We were college kids; what do you expect?)

My roommate, Nickita, liked Neil Diamond as much as I did, so we managed to purchase a couple of tickets, but I had to spend my "tree" money to get them. It was worth the trade-off, but as Christmas approached, the desire for a tree grew stronger.

I was due to drive back home on Christmas Eve, but on December 23rd, TG&Y put all their Christmas decorations on clearance. An artificial 6' tree was just $13.88. Even a poor college student could afford that. Unfortunately, there weren't many ornaments available, so I went next door to Rite-Aid to purchase a few boxes of simple Christmas balls. A few strands of silver tinsel and stringy, silver icicles helped fill out the tree.

I've upgraded to bigger and better trees and ornaments, but I have such fond memories of that simple tree, which was erected every Christmas for at least 15 years. And I may still have a box of ornaments with a Rite-Aid sticker on it.

Another favorite Christmas memory was shortly after my husband and I moved to Tulsa. It was 1985, and Christmas fell in the middle of the week. I had the whole week off, but Chris only had a couple of days off -- not enough time to get back to Texas to visit family. The weekend before Christmas, I flew to San Antonio, where my parents had moved while I was in college, and my flight back to Tulsa was late Christmas afternoon.

One of the gifts my parents gave us was a blue Playmate cooler in the box. Now, our family eats Christmas dinner around 1:00 in the afternoon, so after we ate, my mother packaged up leftovers and put them in the cooler, along with one of those frozen thingies to keep the food cold. Then we re-boxed the cooler, taped it up, and I checked it as baggage on the flight home.

That evening, Chris and I had a lovely Christmas dinner, just the two of us, courtesy of my sweet mother and that Playmate cooler.

What are some of your favorite holiday memories?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas treats

If you're going to blow your diet over Christmas, you might as well make it worth your while. I thought I'd share with you some of the treat recipes my family likes, as well as one that I would like to try soon. (Note: I am posting recipes from memory in front of me, so if you're curious about actual weights and sizes of items from the store, feel free to Google for more specific details and recipes).

One of our favorites is a Rice Krispie recipe with peanut butter and chocolate. I think some people may call them "O'Henry Bars," but we've never really had a name for them.

1 C granulated sugar
1 C white Karo syrup
1 C peanut butter
6 C Rice Krispies
2 bags milk chocolate chips (or 12 Hershey's chocolate bars)

Heat sugar and Karo just till bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter. Once peanut butter mixture is blended, add Rice Krispies and mix well. Spread into greased 9x13 pan. Melt chocolate and spread on top of Rice Krispie layer. Once the treats set up, cut into bars.

Do you like Butterfingers? I sure do. I don't remember where I got this recipe, but if you like Butterfingers, you must try these. (If you have a child or grandchild, have him/her help you out with these).

Cheese Nip Butterfingers
1 box small Cheese Nips
Peanut butter
1 package milk chocolate almond bark

Make little sandwiches with two Cheese Nips and peanut butter. Keep making these till you're out of crackers. Melt almond bark over stove. Add crackers and coat thoroughly. Let set on wax paper.

When my son was little, he was really into cowboys. I'd make what are traditionally known as "Haystacks," but we called them "Tumbleweeds."

1 bag butterscotch chips
1 can chow mein noodles

Melt chips over low heat. Once melted, add noodles and stir well. Once noodles are coated thoroughly, spoon out balls onto wax paper and let set.

There are variations to this recipe that call for adding peanut butter, marshmallows, nuts, etc.

Just as I like the juxtaposition of rustic and refined in my decorating, I like the contrast between sweet and salty, such as white chocolate-covered pretzels.

1 package white almond bark
1 bag small pretzels

Melt almond bark over low heat. Once melted, add pretzels and stir well. Once pretzels are coated thoroughly, set out onto wax paper. (This recipe can be varied with milk chocolate and straight pretzels. I've also used the big, straight pretzels and added sprinkles before the chocolate sets).

Finally, my husband tried these the other day at his office. I've never made them, but since he sent me the recipe, I think that's his hint for me to whip some up.

Ritz Toffee Bitz
1 package Skor or Heath toffee bits
1 box Ritz crackers
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 C chopped pecans (optional)

Crush Ritz into fine crumbs and put in mixing bowl. Add 3/4 of the toffee bits package, 3/4 of the pecans and all the condensed milk. Stir well and put into greased 9x9 dish. Sprinkle remaining toffee bits and pecans on top and cook in 350 oven for 8 mins. Cool completely before cutting into squares. A variation has a 1/4cup of milk chocolate chips on the bottom of the pan before adding the mixture and then another 1/4 cup of milk chocolate chips to the top before baking.

I hope you're enjoying this holiday season and having as much fun in the kitchen as I am.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas in Amarillo

Blogger friend, Julia, is hosting a holiday open house at Hooked on Houses. Longtime internet/decorating friend, Rhoda, is also hosting a holiday open house at her blog, Southern Hospitality. Thrifty Decor Chick is also hosting a party. Feel free to join in with your favorite holiday decorating!

Welcome to my Amarillo house. Enjoy some hot chocolate chip cookies, and be sure and take advantage of the coffee bar.

The colors in my Amarillo house were predominantly red, gold, mossy green and a little blue. That color scheme made decorating for Christmas easy and fun.

I've mentioned before that the house had a fairly small footprint, so we had a skinny tree. I always placed most focus on the tree, and if I had time and energy to decorate beyond that, I would.

The next focus would be on the mantel. Interspersed amongst the garland were simple, silver ornaments. At each end were small hurricanes with cranberries and candles.

I used to have a Christmas magazine article that showed Santa plates hung on the kitchen cabinets. I found these Fitz & Floyd plates at Stein Mart. The concept wasn't ultra-practical, but I liked the whimsy they brought into my red kitchen.

I think it was that same article that showed pepperberry wreaths hung on doors throughout the home. This door leads to my former butler's pantry/utility room. Of all the rooms in my Amarillo house, I miss this one and its storage the most.

Finally, atop this old piano, which I painted (what a before and after that project was), were handmade, Simpitch carolers inherited from my husband's mother. Aren't they wonderful?

While you're here, I'll tell you about the coffee bar. I've mentioned before that while our Amarillo house was a bit space-challenged, it didn't keep us from entertaining. When we did entertain, we stuck with appetizers and drinks or desserts and coffee. I'd set up a couple of carafes of coffee on our breakfast bar, which was adjacent to the living room. Along with the coffee were coffee syrups, cinnamon, sugar, cream, etc., all diplayed in vintage pieces. I'd also put out a pretty bowl of whipped topping. The whole set-up made for a lovely display that was always a favorite of our guests. (Try the whipped topping with your coffee, and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. Yum!)

I hope you've enjoyed the visit. I'll try to post some pics of this year's decor, if I can figure out how to make the silver and white show up against the white, limestone backdrop. It's gorgeous in person, but so far, photos don't seem to capture that. Now, go check out the other holiday open houses and have a great day!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday Open House Party!

Blogger friend, Julia at Hooked on Houses , is always hosting fun house tours. This Monday, she is hosting a holiday house tour, and Canyon Wren Cottage will be part of the fun. To join the tour, click on the Holiday House Tour button on my side bar. What a fun way to get some great Christmas decorating ideas! Come join us, won't you?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let's Talk Mantels, Part Deux


Okay, technically, #4 isn't a mantel, but the concept would work for one. So many great ideas, I think. Is your mantel decorated for the holidays yet?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Let's Talk Mantels

I'm still refining my mantel, and if I can get some time, I'll take pics of my Christmas decorating this weekend. I'm trying a few new things this year, so it'll be fun to see what y'all think. Until then, see what you think about these Christmas mantels.

Do you have a favorite? I love most of them, but if I go with white and silver this year, I've gotta love #2 and the last two mantels.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Parent's Worst Nightmare

Our little town had a Christmas festival this weekend. I dropped off my 13-year-old daughter earlier this afternoon, so she could hang out with her friends. My 17-year-old son, Cale, would be going to the festival a little later with two of his buddies.

I went to pick up my daughter and was on the way home when I saw a familiar car embedded in an embankment on the side of the road. I realized it was my son's car when I saw three boys surveying the damage and noticed my son's jacket. I was the second person on the scene; the first was a sheriff's deputy.

Now, to set up the scenario a little, we live in a rural subdivision a few miles outside of town, and all the roads in the area are two-lane and a bit hilly and curvy. Cale and his friends were on their way to the festival when he decided to close the sun roof. As he took his eyes off the road, the car veered into some gravel on the right. Cale over-corrected, crossed lanes and ended up facing 180 degrees around in an embankment on the other side of the road. Thankfully, there were no other cars involved, and Cale and his friends are all fine.

The car was towed to a body shop, and we should have an estimate of the damage in the next couple of days. It is an older car, and though the damage doesn't look extensive, it wouldn't take much for it to be totalled. Either way, it'll be at our expense, as we only carried liability on it.

I've heard those horror stories of parents coming upon an accident to find their own kids seriously injured or worse. I'm so thankful this wasn't one of those scenarios.

I'll get back to Christmas decorating tomorrow, and we'll take a look at some mantels. Until then, we're relishing some family time, watching "Home Alone."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

White Christmas

As with the white pumpkins, I have a hankerin' for all things white when it comes to Christmas decorating. I can't do it this year, because that'd mean all new ornaments, but perhaps one day...

Okay, so I threw in a little blue for good measure. That's pretty, too, isn't it? If you haven't seen Pat's tree (Back Porch Musings), you need to. She's incorporated blue into her Christmas decorating in such beautiful ways.