Awnings and Porch Valances

When we are working on the Jersey shore house, I love taking a short ride over to the Bayhead area where there are so many gorgeous homes on the beach and on the bay.   They often provide the inspiration for some of the ideas we are trying out on our project.

For instance, I am smitten with awnings and porch valances.  I love how they add quaintness and a happy feel to homes.


 Is there anything not to love about this one?






This house has both an awning and a porch valance.

For the house we are working on, we needed to bring the color of the new bright blue shutters  over to the left side.   Since there isn’t any room for shutters on the large front window,  we decided to try a porch valance to balance out the color.




This was a DIY project.  I purchased 2 yards of  Sunbrella Baycrest Pacific Awning Stripe fabric from and cut it to the length and width I needed plus hems for the front piece and two side pieces.  My finished valance is short so as not to cut off the top of the door.  So I cut my panels at 10 inches and then machine hemmed the top and ends.  For the scallop, we made a brown paper pattern and traced it on to the fabric.  I used a coordinating acrylic braid binding also from Sailbrite that won’t rot in the weather and carefully sewed it along the scalloped edge.   For the top edge I sewed on a 3/4″ strip of velcro the entire length.  Along the top edge of the porch, we used industrial grade sticky back velcro from Lowes.








I think with the addition of the porch valance this little house is beginning to say “hey, look at me!”  Next on the list – give that tired, old fence a facelift … stay tuned!  Debra










Favorite Pancakes


I probably make these pancakes at least twice a week. It’s a recipe that my mom passed down to me and I’ve adapted over the years to meet the needs of my family.  We’ll eat them for breakfast, lunch, supper or snacks.  You know it’s a favorite when your recipe book looks like this:



We even eat them cold with peanut butter and jelly on top.  I love them because they’re a comfort food that can be quite healthy.  Also, when the batter’s made the night before, they’re as easy as toast to prepare.  I have an electric griddle that sits on the counter most of the time.

Here’s the basic recipe.  I would encourage you to experiment with different oils and flours to meet the needs of your family.  I also like to sneak in pureed pumpkin, squash or sweet potatoes if I have them.  Ground oatmeal and flaxseed are also two favorites that I add often.

2 eggs

2 cups buttermilk or sour milk (2 tablespoons lemon or vinegar plus milk to equal 2 cups)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons oil (the original recipe calls for vegetable oil but I’ve been experimenting with other healthier oils such as melted coconut oil with pretty good success).  Melted butter works as well.

1  1/2 to 2 cups flour (I usually grind up old-fashioned oats and add whole wheat white flour)

Pour onto a hot griddle.  Flip when bubbles appear on the surface.  Top with your favorite toppings.  My favorite topping right now is natural peanut butter or almond butter with thinly sliced or grated apple.  So yummy!


Hope you give this recipe a try.  Great for that first day of school!  Just make up the batter the night before and be prepared with all kinds of fun toppings.  Have fun!!


Beach House Exterior Color Scheme

We are making progress on the exterior of this house located at the Jersey shore.  The house was stuck in the 1970’s with its beige and brown color scheme.


We specced a gray/blue/white color scheme for the facade to give it a more beachy vibe.  Something like this:


The paint colors we chose are from Sherwin Williams:

Sensible Hue 6198 for the body of the house

Link Gray 6200 for the concrete porch floor

Blueblood 6966 for the shuttersimage

imageSuper White for all of existing brown trim.

The house has now been painted out in Sensible  Hue.  We’ve added new vinyl board and batten style shutters from Lowes which come in a paintable finish.  They each received two coats of Sherwin Williams Blueblood.  Together with the new vinyl flower boxes from, they add a cheerful look to this little house.


We planted a mix of annuals in purples/pinks/white along with two small boxwood in each box for some ever green color throughout the year.  I can’t wait to see them filled out and overflowing with color!


We also replaced the front door which was cracked and warped and removed the storm door altogether.  The new craftsman-style door was purchased from Lowe’s.


The front porch was cleaned with a pressure washer and then painted with porch and patio paint in Link Gray, which is a couple shades darker than the body of the  house.


All of the trim has gone from brown to white.  The existing porch columns received a low maintenance makeover by slipping plastic fence posts over  them and securing with screws.   The top and bottom of each column was then trimmed out with decorative molding.


We’d like to balance out the blue shutters by adding a punch of color to the other side of the front of the house.  We are thinking of doing either a porch valance across the narrow front porch or maybe just some plump pillows on the chairs.

 This is the Sunbrella outdoor fabric we like:

A porch valance would look something like this:

Canvas Porch Valance source:


Stay tuned for decorative accents and landscaping!


Upcycled Sweater Flowers – Take Two!

We enjoyed our time earlier this week teaching a workshop on how to make flower pins out of old sweaters at “Leisure Week”.  Leisure Week is a family-oriented Christian retreat held annually at the Tuscarora Conference Center in Mount Bethel, PA.  It was nice to see some gals from last year as well as meet some new ones, too!  Here’s a few photos from the workshop:

Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter


Greta took the prize for the most industrious flower maker … like mother like daughter!

If you missed our earlier post on how to make these flowers, you can find it here: Upcycled Sweater Flowers Take One!

Have a great week! Debra





Wheat Grass Centerpieces

Debra and I always grow these wheat grass centerpieces around Easter time.


We think they’re adorable with the little bunny peeps nestled inside.

But, they’re also great for a simple, more modern looking centerpiece for your home or for weddings.  They couldn’t be more cost-effective or simple!


Here’s how:


Wheat berry seeds:   We like to purchase our seeds in bulk at a local health food store.  The seeds themselves are very healthy and can be boiled and eaten as a nutritious grain.  Or, many people like to grow and use the greens for juicing.

Container of your choice.  Drainage holes are not necessary.  Just make sure you don’t over water.  Our favorite vessels for this project are baskets fitted with plastic liners, milk glass and rustic square or rectangular wooden boxes (lined with plastic).

Potting soil

Directions:  Fill the container of your choice  3/4 full of potting soil.  Completely cover the top of the soil with seeds.  Place in a sunny location and water daily.  Keep soil moist but don’t over water.  I find that a spray bottle works well.  You should see sprouts in a few days with a lush growth in about 3 to 4 weeks, depending on your sun exposure.  If the grass gets too long, you can simply give your plant a haircut.

The trickiest part of this project is knowing how long it will take for the grass to grow and become full.  If you want to use wheat grass at a particular event I would recommend doing a trial run in advance so you will know how much time is needed for germination and desired growth.


For more information, Janet over at Today’s Fabulous Finds has a great tutorial on how to plant the seeds and how to build a rustic planter.  She also has another interesting tutorial on using wet paper towels to plant the seeds rather than soil.  You can check that out here.

Wheat Grass on Spring Mantel_4216

Hope you give this simple yet elegant project a try!


Ikea Kitchen Part III – The Budget


If you missed my other posts about my Ikea kitchen, you can read them here:

Ikea Kitchen Part I

Ikea Kitchen Part II

Subway Tile Backsplash

In those posts I shared how we had to trim the budget on building our new house because  the value of our old house had dropped significantly with the downturn of the economy, yet the cost to build remained static.

We achieved the biggest savings by purchasing Ikea cabinets during their 20% off semi-annual sale and by buying used  appliances.  The cabinet savings allowed us to splurge on the stone countertops.  And, by buying used appliances we were able to afford a commercial style stove and refrigerator.


Buying used appliances via Craig’s List isn’t for everyone… you need friends to help you lift and move them and you need a trailer or truck to transport them.  There is also some risk involved in buying from strangers.  Our experience has been that wealthy homeowners will simply give away their old appliances to their kitchen remodelers who in turn sell them on Craig’s List.  Often they are just a few years old.  Doing some research on what you are buying is a must.   It is pretty easy to find information on pricing and known problems with particular models on the web.  We also had the appliances checked out by a appliance repair service after we bought them.  We have purchased many things via Craig’s List and so far have not been disappointed.  And we’ve met some really nice people along the way!


So here is the budget breakdown for our kitchen:

Ikea Ramsjo and Lidingo cabinets, dishwasher, farmhouse sink, butcherblock countertop, drawer organizers (20% off sale)  $6,368

Used Viking 48″ range and vent hood from Craig’s List $3,500

Purchase/installation of  propane conversion kit for range $325

Used Subzero 550 refrigerator from Craig’s List plus service $925

Quartzite countertops from $3,567

Sharp microwave drawer from Lowes $885

Pottery Barn Larkin pendant lights (free with credit card points)

Concrete subway tile for backsplash Lowes $530

Undermount prep sink $100

Hardware  from and $220

Counter stools (previously owned)

Rug (previously owned, see Pottery Barn outdoor rugs for similar)

Faucets (builder supplied)

TOTAL $16,420

I would definitely recommend an Ikea kitchen.  The cabinets have a 25 year warranty.  And returning extra parts and pieces is easy.  Investing some  sweat equity into assembling the cabinets can provide enough savings to splurge on other things like countertops, appliances and lighting.






Grandma Hazel’s Banana Cake

Here’s one of my favorite recipes for using up over ripe bananas, courtesy of my Grandma Hazel.



2 cups sifted all-purpose flower

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1  and 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup sour milk (1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1/2 cup – let sit for a few minutes before adding to other ingredients)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup mashed ripe bananas

2 eggs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream sugar and shortening together.  Add sour milk, vanilla, mashed bananas and eggs to the sugar mixture.  Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before frosting.  Top with chopped walnuts if desired.


1.) Whip 1/3 cup butter until soft

2.) Slice one medium sized ripe bannan into the butter and beat together until smooth

3.) Mix in 3 cups powdered sugar one cup at a time.  Beat until creamy.  Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.



So yummy!