The tyranny of luxury laundry rooms

Luxury laundry rooms. I don’t get them.

This is a space where you wash dirty clothes. Dirty. Clothes. Also sheets and towels.

Luxury kitchens I get. If I had disposable income to burn I would totally go for one. Luxury bedrooms I get. You spend a lot of time in there and it should be a place of comfort, calm, and beauty. (Not that ours generally looks calm or beautiful what with the piles of unfolded laundry, but you get where I’m going here.) Even luxury bathrooms. If there’s a place to blow some cash it’s a high-end shower system that you’ll enjoy EVERY DAY.

But luxury laundry rooms I just don’t get.

“Surround yourself with beautiful fixtures to make mundane tasks more pleasurable!” “A beautiful laundry room makes doing a simple household chore more fun!” I call b-s. Nothing makes laundry fun. It is boring and annoying and necessary. It’s like washing the dishes. Maybe you don’t mind doing it, but your certainly don’t have fun doing it. What, do we kick back and watch the spin cycle go? Woo-hoo! Party on!

A certain blog which recently announced a month-long hiatus (whose name might or might not rhyme with “rung-mouse-dove”) recently spent over $4000 on their laundry room makeover. Granted they actually re-built the room from scratch, but seriously? $4000 is a lot of money, even for people who DIY-blog for a living. I mean, you can go to Europe for that kind of money.

Take this one for instance. This baby is from Interiors by Studio M. Check out those pricey light fixtures! And that beautiful white marble countertop! … wait… marble countertop in a laundry room?! My kitchen doesn’t even have marble countertops! And let’s not forget the crown moulding, wall-to-wall cabinetry, and subway tile backsplash.

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Or what about this one from Elle Decor? Check out that wall-paper! In a room where humidity is the name of the game! Did you see that beautiful faucet? Or the in-cabinet lighting? Points off for no crown moulding, though.8489d871e85c

And sure, I get wanting a sink in the laundry area: makes sense for hand washing. But I think we can all agree that this is just ridiculous:

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$869.00 for a SINK?! In which to wash bras and panties?! You have to be kidding me!

“But Sarah, you’re just bitter because you don’t have money to spend on one!”

Nope. Even were I lucky enough to have several hundred dollars to spend on a laundry room makeover, I still don’t think I’d invest it in a room that a) I spend so little time in and b) almost no-one else sees. Somehow it seems over-kill and even frivolous. And I love me some frivolity! Maybe I’ll feel differently some day when I’m doing load after load of dirty kids’ clothes. Or if I suddenly become a stickler about folding laundry just so. Probably not.

Or maybe I’m just feeling cheap.

Whatever. I do my laundry here:

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Despite the dubious yellow wall colour and exposed vent, somehow I manage to survive my 5 minutes in this space every week. And once the load is in, I can do this:

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Yup, those doors are definitely crooked. But at least fixing them won’t cost the same as a European vacation! So here is my rallying cry: embrace your un-prettified laundry room! It never asked to be gilded and then paraded around for all to see! Just say “no” to the tyranny of the luxury laundry rooms! It’s fine the way it is!

I mean, until you run out of DIY projects. And then by all means: fill your boots. ;-)

Banana bread for the bon vivant

We all have those recipes that instantly make us feel at home again: whether it’s mac ‘n cheese, meatloaf, chocolate chip cookies, or soup, they just say “comfort”. On Thursday night, after an emotionally-charged first day at a new school, I turned to my mother’s banana bread for a much-needed dose of comfort food. But a day of herding (proverbial) cats left me wanting something a little more adult, a little more elevated: I needed a Dessert.

[Don't get me wrong: there's nothing the matter with plain yummy banana bread. Simple is always good. But since the entire premise of F & K is to do-it-yourself with flourish, I thought that it would be fun to put a more gourmet spin on this simple (and delicious) recipe.]

I give you perfection on a plate: banana bread with salted-caramel sauce and toasted hazelnuts!

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My mom’s banana bread is one of those recipes to which only very special people are privy. I remember accepting it with awed reverence as she prepared me to go off to university. It is better than gold: use it well, fellow foodies.

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1/4 cup softened unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 lb soft bananas (about three large bananas)

1 1/2 cups sifted flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

cinnamon to taste (I use about 1 1/2 tsp)IMG_1037

nutmeg (I grate my own, so I use a healthy grating)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar.

3. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well.

4. Mash the bananas well and add them to the egg mixture.

5. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

6. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture, a bit at a time.

7. Lightly butter a loaf pan. I line mine with parchment paper, but you can also flour it.

8. Pour in the batter.IMG_1040

9. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 60 minutes.

Now, to really make this a Dessert (with a capital ‘D’), you can add a salted caramel sauce, chopped toasted hazelnuts and vanilla ice cream.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Adapted from Style at Home – November 2013

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup of unsalted butter, cut into cubesIMG_1039

1/2 cup of 35% whipping cream

1 tsp fleur de sel

1. Heat the granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until all the sugar is dissolved. (It will clump and harden before it dissolves – don’t panic!)

2. Once it dissolves, the sugar will begin to caramelize (darken). Don’t stir it once this starts! This should take about 45 seconds to 1 minute.

3. Quickly stir in the butter, cream, and fleur de sel. You may need to take the pan off the heat for this step.

4. Let the sauce simmer for about 1 minute.

5. Transfer the sauce to a heat-proof bowl and let it cool completely.

*This sauce can be made well in advance and refrigerated. When re-heating it, be sure to microwave on low for only about 5 seconds at a time. Stir frequently to prevent it burning.*

To finish off your dessert:

1. Toast your hazelnuts until golden

2. Rub them with a clean tea towel on a wooden cutting board to remove as much of the skins as possible.

3. Chop the hazelnuts.

4. Assemble the dessert: a piece of banana bread, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, and a sprinkling of hazelnuts!

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I dare you not to fall in love at first bite!
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Tell me: what non-traditional spins have YOU put on your favourite childhood foods?

You say “daylia”, I say “dahlia”

But we all say “wow!” when the full, rich blooms open at this time of year!

It was my first year growing dahlias (my first year growing a garden, to be exact). I was spurred into this fledgling hobby by my Aunt Sheila and Uncle George, who are expert dahlia-growers. In fact, our family is so dahlia-dazzled that we have an event called the “Dahlia Dip”… More about that later, I promise! ;-)

My two “Blended Beauty” dahlias did really well, and I have faith that my other two plants! They’re just late-bloomers, is all.

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In other garden news…

purple flowers

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Those little pink blooms came back a bunch of times this summer. Not sure exactly what they are (help?) but they surprised me again and again! Go little pink flowers, Go!

Thinking ahead to next year’s garden, I’d like to get my hands on some of these:

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“Pam Howden” dahlia

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“Mary’s Jomanda” dahlia

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“Gloriosa” dahlia

I know what you’re thinking, though: “when is she going to tell me about the Dahlia Dip??!!’ Hang on to your pruning shears because the Dahlia Dip is a non-stop, action-packed, splash-inducing relay race! But why the “dahlia” part, you ask? The crux  of the race is that the swimmer must carry a dahlia in their mouth from one end of the pool to the other. That swimmer must then pass the dahlia to the next teammate without using their hands. Yes, you heard right.

My family makes its own fun!

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Photos by Madeleine Palmer

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And as you can see, we take the Dahlia Dip VERY seriously.

Antiquing we will go…

… Antiquing we will go! Hide all the credit cards, antiquing we will go!

Summer’s just about over (for teachers, at least), and I’ve had one of the best ever. One of my favourite parts of this summer has been the time spent poking around in little antique stores and artisan co-ops with Erick and my family.

I didn’t really buy much in any of them. For me, it’s more about the thrill of the hunt than making the kill, so to speak.  I definitely believe in the catch-and-release programme when it come to antiques. As Erick points out to me (daily, almost), you can love an object without actually putting it in your home. :-) This philosophy has saved me from many a misguided purchase.

One of my favourite of our summer jaunts was a little day-trip we took to Ormstown, Quebec. The antiquing was a bit thin on the ground, but we did come across this amazing co-op called Serenplicity. They call themselves a handcrafted soap and candle shop, but they also carry a bevy of other artisan-made products.

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Doesn’t that gorgeous Victorian just beckon you in??! We were greeted by the owner (and chief candle-and-soap-maker), Mary.

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Mary was so pleasant to speak to – she took us through the process of making her beautiful soaps and showed us all of the many products she hand-makes. You can really tell that this co-op is a labour of love!

There were so many sweet products to check out, like hand-painted candles, reclaimed wood picture frames, custom cheeseboards, and bath stuff.

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In the interest of full disclosure, Mary threw in a couple of free glycerin soaps along with the other soaps we purchased. But this is in no way a sponsored or paid post! :-)

A couple of days later, we hit up Finnegan’s Market, in Hudson. I’d heard a lot about this antique and flea market, and I was eager to check it out for myself. Well, let me tell you: it was fantastic!

So. Many. Antiques!

I think this little guy and his tractor would make a fantastic book end in a kid’s room.

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Then there were these super-sweet butterfly candlesticks. Perfect for summer entertaining on the porch! Or perhaps for a Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed wedding?

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You know that I have a thing for crates. These would make awesome container gardens!

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I want this charming poster in my studio! I love that she’s wearing a beautiful white hat and holding frothy pink flowers whilst riding her bicycle. If I had a bike, that’s what I’d do. (Plus a helmet, of course!)

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For a girl’s bedroom. My (non-existent) boudoir. Hollywood starlet’s dressing room. Wherever: just wrap it up! In fact, I’ll take two!

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Everyone who knows me, knows that I’m a sucker for anything Christmas. And if it’s vintage AND Christmas, then all the better. Let it be known that I bought nothing. I do believe that earns me one no-questions-asked, zero-veto-power home decor purchase, don’t you? (Erick, are you listening??)

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Next up on my jaunt-y recap (see what I did there? I crack myself up!) is my weekend trip to Sherbrooke, Quebec. I was there performing at the Festival des traditions du monde with the Sarah Burnell Band and the Siamsa Singers. Both groups gave fantastic performances, and it was a really cool festival, all-round. In between gigs, I managed to fit in some antiquing! There’s always time for antiquing.

Ok, so I may have a slight obsession with crates and boxes. Just slight.

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Also old metal pots and buckets, apparently.

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And butterflies. This is becoming a theme. I smell a project coming on. :-)

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Hollywood called. They want their phone and silk-upholstered bed frame back.

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THE PORTAL TO EVERY COSTUME DRAMA EVER AIRED ON THE BBC!!! QUICK, CARSON!! BRING ‘ROUND THE AUTOMOBILE!!!

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Who doesn’t need a larger-than-life wooden ballerina for their home? I hear House & Home has a feature on these next month. They’re calling it “crazy chic”.

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This is an actual horse from Coney Island, available for purchase for the low, low price of $18 000.

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This last pic is actually not an antique at all. It’s from the boutique located inside the Brûlerie de café de Sherbrooke. We stopped in a for a quick pick-me-up coffee (and pulled-pork sandwich), and it was a total découverte! The coffee was delicious and the sandwich completely hit the spot. I spotted these awesome painted mugs and thought they’d be great inspiration for a DIY project.

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If you’re in Quebec, these little towns are definitely worth checking out. Everyone we met was really friendly, and they are filled with fabulous little shops and restaurants. The perfect weekend getaway!

As of Tuesday I’m back to work. *sniff* Not sure yet what that will mean for the frequency of my posts, but I will do my best to stay on top of it! I’m full time again this year, which is a real blessing, but one of my two contracts is at a new school. It sounds like a fantastic place to teach, though, and I’m SO looking forward to meeting the staff this week and the students next.

Happy rentrée, everyone! I wish all those going back to work or school smooth sailing! See you in a few days.

Farmers’ market florals

Erick and I spent the weekend with my parents in Ottawa. On Sunday morning we took a tour through the Carp Farmers’ Market. Our visit co-incided with the Garlic Festival, so it made for a – how shall we say it – fragrant tour? :-)

The sweet garden flowers at the Foxglove Farm booth caught my eye, and my husband being the generous, thoughtful man he is, had me pick out some of my favourite bunches to make into an arrangement. Erick knows that the best way to buy me flowers is unarranged!

I chose four small bunches of flowers: bachelor’s button, zinnias, sweet peas, and astilbe.

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Floral shears at the ready? Read on!

In the prime(r) of life

It’s been radio silence at F&K for a couple of days now. Sorry about that. I’ve been busy doing this:

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And this:

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Sorry for the poor-quality photos but the light source is covered by a plastic sheet. As you can see, there is still LOTS to do. Like the song says, “we’ve only just begun…”

I’ve also been sewing this:

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Intrigued? I hope so!

See ya!

Pharrell Williams: “Where Would I Be Without My Band Teachers?”

flourishandknot:

A pop musician who acknowledges the importance of his school music teachers! YESSSSS! Maybe my students will sit up, take notice, and start practicing their instruments. ;-)

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Thanks to Jere Hochman, superintendent of the Bedford Central School District, for bringing this wonderful story to my attention.

Phenomenally successful musician-singer-producer Pharrell Williams tells his story to CBS News. He grew up in Virginia Beach, where his father was a handyman and his mother was a teacher. When he was 15, his grandmother encouraged him to get involved in music and learn to play the drums.

“He went to summer band camp and joined the school band: “And that’s where I met my first music teacher, Mrs. Warren. And my other band teacher, Mr. Warren. And then there was Mr. Edwards and then there was Mr. Sharps.”

“You remember ‘em all?”

“Yes, I do. And Ralph Copley had taught me how to play the drum set. My story is the average story, you know. It was filled with special people.”

“You’re giving everybody else credit.”

“Well, what am I…

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