Apr 25, 2014

Texas April 2014 - Boudin & Bar-B-Q

We took off to Texas again at the beginning of April for a little post-winter vacation. We visited Houston and San Antonio last year, and have just fallen in love with the entire place. This time we extended our vacation to 10 days and took a jaunt over to Lafayette, LA, for the weekend, and down to Corpus Christi after stopping in San Antonio again.

I've never been to Louisiana. I know very little about it except what I've seen on TV or read in books. It's all alligators and vampires, right? Joking! But since Lafayette is just 3 or so hours from Houston, we thought, why not?

In looking for things to do there, we saw that the Marshall Tucker Band was playing on Friday night. Suddenly Tom was all in. Southern rock? Yes, sir! Unfortunately, we got stuck in traffic due to a nasty car accident in Lake Charles and missed the concert by just thismuch.

So we found ourselves a funky little diner for a late meal and vowed to get up early the next day. On Saturday we hit a couple of farmers' markets and walked around downtown. We visited the Cathedral of St. John and St. John Cemetery. On the church grounds is the St. John Oak Tree, a nearly 500-year old live oak with a diameter of over nine feet. The branches spread over 210 feet across. It's just gorgeous.

I was fascinated by the cemetery. We don't have anything like this at home. I hope it's not impolite to take pictures of the tombs - I just found them so beautiful. Even the ones that were falling apart.

We toured around the University of Louisiana (where a student called me "ma'am" when we stopped to ask for directions. Ma'am!). There is a walkway around the quad called The Walk of Honor, and it's made up of tiny bricks, each one with the name of a graduate, going back to the very beginning when the university opened in 1900. That's such a nice thing to do - to know that you're a part of the history of the school.

There's also a swamp (Cypress Lake) in the middle of campus - check out the cypress with moss hanging from the branches. So spooky. We didn't see any alligators but we did meet this "swamp squirrel", as Tom dubbed him, looking for handouts near the cafeteria. That guy wasn't shy at all.

We then visited LARC's Acadian village. Seven of the eleven buildings are authentic homes of the 19th century, donated by the families of the original inhabitants. Tom was especially interested as he grew up just south of the French Shore in Nova Scotia. We would have liked to have seen the village at Vermilionville too, but we ran out of time.

I, of course, found some turtles. It wouldn't be a vacation without turtles. These are red eared sliders and are quite common in Louisiana.

We stopped by the Boudin festival in Scott in the afternoon. Scott is the "Boudin Capital of the World". Have you ever had boudin? It's a sausage made of pork, rice, and spices. We didn't have any sausage, but we did have boudin balls - the same mixture, but with a spicy pepper jack coating on the outside that is then deep fried. Hands down, this was the best thing I ate the entire trip. I'm completely obsessed now. I think I'm going to have to try to make my own.

That night we ate dinner at Poor Boy's Riverside Inn. This restaurant was friendly and relaxed, like being invited to eat at someone's home. If that someone had room to seat 100. They specialize in seafood, but it's all done in a down-home country style. This is where we tried alligator for the first time. It's pretty good!

The next day, it was back to Texas and the long drive to San Antonio. We stopped in Luling for barbecue - because you have to. We had planned to eat at the City Market, but it's closed for dinner on Sundays. Instead we went across the street to Luling Bar-B-Q. Tom had sausage on a bun, I had the ribs. OMG, they were so good. They didn't even have any sauce on them, just salt and pepper. Maybe this was the best thing I ate on the trip.

While in San Antonio, we visited the missions again, this time getting to tour all of them as well as the Alamo. Last time we only had the chance to see Mission Espada and Mission San Jose.

While at Mission Concepcion, we saw this poor little dog limping around the picnic tables. He didn't have a collar and was pretty skinny, but he was also fairly clean, so I don't think he'd been on his own for very long. It looked like his toe was broken or dislocated. He wouldn't let anyone touch him, but he was willing to share my steak taco and drink some water. I think if we'd been driving home instead of flying he'd be with us now.

We stayed at the Omni La Mansion hotel right on the Riverwalk. This was the hotel I spotted on our last visit and wanted to stay at. It was a gorgeous place, but in retrospect, I don't think it was worth the extra money just to be so close. Maybe in the summer when there are more flowers and there is more going on. You can check out our last visit for the details of Riverwalk itself.

The second half of our trip was spent in Corpus Christi, and then bumming around in Houston/Galveston. I'll save that for another post as I'm sure you've reach your limit for today.

Apr 21, 2014

From Navy to Eggplant - Easy Living Room Update

Is it spring where you are? Going by the calendar it's supposed to be spring here, but the inch of snow we just received contradicts that notion. But regardless of what's going on outside my window, I decided to start on a living room spring makeover. Not a complete overhaul - that's already been done - but just some colour changes to liven it up some.

If you remember, our walls are painted Ranchwood by Benjamin Moore. I love this colour so much. What I'm starting to not love is that it looks green in the living room. No matter the time of day - it's always green. I don't dislike green per se, it's just that I was aiming for a more taupe-y room when I picked it. I accessorized the room with navy and white, but it never felt cohesive to me. I think it's because the artwork on the walls is full of dark reds and yellows (and greens). The paintings were purchased for our last house (where we first had burgundy, then green walls) and we haven't found anything suitable to replace them.

So while I was grocery shopping one day, I wandered into the housewares section and saw these pillows and knew that was the direction to go.

There were also solid-coloured pillows in, what would you say, plum? Eggplant? But what really caught my eye were the fleece throw blankets in the same shade, for $5 each. They were large enough to make two pillow covers each with a little left over.

The couch and loveseat (p.s. we bought new ones and I didn't mention it) each came with two pillows, so I just needed to sew new covers the same size as the current ones. Adding in the four zippers I'd need to buy, that still works out to less than $5 per pillow. I made my own piping using the leftover material and twine - super easy.

Just like that, I had four new pillows. Four cozy, snuggly pillows. I've dragged the dropcloth-covered pillows up from the basement to lighten up the look a bit since then. The pillows now bring out the purplish shades in the paintings above. The one on the right is still a little too red, but I'm working on what to do with that.

I even had enough fabric left over to recover that little footstool I have. This is the one that has already been recovered with dropcloth (see how to do the image transfer here), and then with a dark yellow fabric. I added a piping-like detail across the top - like I did with the storage bench - to keep it from being too plain.

A purple vase and a white ceramic turtle - isn't he cute? - complete the colour switch. I think the room still needs something else - maybe teal, or gold? Or maybe just a lot more white. The windows face north so the room isn't ever really awash in light.

It is awash in dog hair, however, as Chloe is in love with the new pillows. Do you get that too?

Apr 8, 2014

Recovering a Stool in Ten Minutes or Less

I'm still chipping away at the basement TV room.  After getting the walls and ceiling painted, I'm focusing on layering in the details. We're going for a cottage feel -  an easy, relaxed, put-your-feet-up kind of vibe. Big, slouchy couch, cushy pillows, and soft neutral colours.

In a burst of energy late one night, I decided to recover the coffee table/foot stool to make it a bit brighter and more fun. I bought the stool a few years ago from HomeSense (the Canadian version of HomeGoods), and it came with a boring brown fabric (for some reason I was into brown at the time).

I had planned to accessorize this room in grey, and first recovered the stool in the same grey flannel as the bedroom bench and the storage bench.  And that was fine for a while, but the colour was kind of a drag on a room that was otherwise bright and cheerful.  I purchased some fabric in an aqua print to make pillows for the couch and still had a lot left over. The type of recovering I'm going to show you doesn't require any sewing whatsoever - all you need is a staplegun.

The legs and frame attach to the top with four long bolts underneath. They just needed to be removed and the two pieces came apart. I cut a piece of the new fabric in a square that was large enough to cover the top, sides, and then had about two extra inches all around so that I could fold the edge over and staple it. Having a clean edge looks nicer, and keeps the fabric from fraying later.

Lay out your fabric face down on the floor, place the piece you're recovering upside down on top of it, and bring your first side up and over the bottom of the base. You'll put one staple in the center of each side first to keep your fabric centered and in place. Fold the edge of the fabric over about half an inch or so and staple it securely to the base. Do the same on the opposite side, making sure that you pull the fabric taut and keep it smooth. Then do the other two sides.

Once your four sides are done, you can start working towards the corners. Repeat what you did before, folding over the edge and keeping the fabric taut and smooth. Stop once you're a few inches from the corner.

(I only have a picture of the grey fabric edges.)

There are dozens of different ways you can finish the corners. The easiest is a simple angled fold like you'd do wrapping a present, but I like to do a kind of double fold that meets in the corner. I don't know if I'll be able to describe this accurately, but here goes.

Take a corner of the material and pull it straight up, stapling it down. Then take each of the "flaps" created and tuck the excess material under with a clean fold so that you have a straight line running parallel to the corner. Try and get each edge to be the same length and the same distance from the corner, pull them taut and staple them down.

Repeat on each of the other three corners. And that's it. Flip your padded base back over and admire. The frame is then bolted back on to the base and the stool is ready to go.

Having a padded coffee table is great. It's large enough and sturdy enough to put plates on, but it's also nice to have something cushioned to put your feet up on when watching tv.

I love recovering padded furniture. It only takes a few minutes (if you're doing the no-sew version) and it's like you have a whole new piece of furniture when you're finished.

The room is starting to come together now. We have the throw pillows in coral and blue (with a couple recovered in off-white dropcloth fabric as well), our "Turtle Beach" sign made of pallet boards, and this awesome sea turtle chalk drawing that my aunt gave me for my birthday. The background is navy blue (my favourite colour). Apparently she had to practically wrestle it away from another lady in the store.

On the sofa table - with the awesome built-in electrical outlets - we have two woven lamps that give off a soft glow at night. Over on the bar we have a canoe shelf that my sister gave me for my birthday, and I gave the laundry basket a stripe of blue to match the walls. The laundry chute lets out above the bar, so we keep a basket there to catch the clothes.

The bar still needs shelves hung on the wall. Right now all of the glassware is underneath in boxes. The other side of the room is still a work in progress as well, with dog beds and television cables everywhere. But I like the direction we're headed.

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