Friday, October 30, 2015

Good Reads // Alias Hook

So when was the last time you went to your public library? Hmmm? I know, right!

A few weeks ago, Mark and I stopped by the Frederick public library and picked up a pair of library cards. The last time I had a library card, I still had to ride in the back seat and had just gotten my braces. I remember feeling so grown up to have my very own library card. It had my name printed on the front and my little-girl signature scrawled on the back. While my teeth are now straighter and my height just barely qualifies me as a front-seat passenger, I'm still pretty excited to have a library card.  There's just something so simple and fun about roving through endless bookshelves, with hundreds of books at your disposal.

Alias Hook was the book I ended up choosing. If you're looking for a funny, entertaining read-- this is the book to choose. Providing a unique twist on the Peter Pan story, author Lisa Jensen relates the story of Captain Hook, the eternal boy's nemesis. The English gentleman turned pirate finds himself cursed to the Neverland after angering a vodoun priestess in the Caribbean. There, he is doomed to play the villain in Pan's fairytale for all eternity. But after awhile, even a villain gets tired of being a villain. Enter Stella Parrish, a grown-up woman who accidentally dreams herself to the Neverland, an act forbidden to adults. Together, they have to figure out how to break Hook's curse before he becomes a permanent figure in the story.

Jensen plays around with  J.M. Barrie's classic in so many fun, surprising ways. Even including J.M. Barrie himself in the story. Ever wondered why Hook was afraid of a ticking crocodile? Ever wondered who the first Wendy was? How about Tinkerbell-- whatever happened to her? Why were there randomly adult Indians on the island but no other grown-ups?
Well, I'm not telling... you'll have to find out for yourself. 

Dill House Diary // Our Fall Front Porch

Every year, I look forward to purchasing mums and pumpkins for autumn decor. Sure, I realize mums may be a bit cliche when it comes to fall decorations, but I love them. When I was a little girl, planting flowers with my mom was one of my favorite things to do. We planted petunias and pansies in the warm months, mums in the cooler months. Hedges consisted of hydrangeas and knockout roses. It's just the way things were. So now, as an adult with a place of my own, I carry on the flower tradition: roses in the hedge, mums on the porch.

This year, I added this lovely burgundy coleus plant. Of course, on crisp fall nights when the temperature dips too low, I have to bring in the coleus to keep it from freezing. (Two weeks ago, I forgot the poor plant and had to coax it back to life in the front of the radiator. It was very sad.) The addition of a few white pumpkins completed the ensemble. Now, we have a bright, inviting front stoop--ready for all of Frederick's little trick or treaters. If you're in the downtown Frederick area, keep your eye out for us. We're the grey rowhouse with all the flower pots!

If you're new to the blog, check out our Renovation Diary to read more about the history of our little house and our many renovation projects.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Our Little City Does Fall

The sole purpose of today's post is to inundate your blog feed with photos of fall, fall, all things fall. We're talking pumpkins, leaves, berries, boots, big blue skies, and one cute pup.

Is it just me, or does Frederick do fall especially well? My first ever visit to Frederick was in late September, just a few weeks before my and Mar's October wedding. We walked around Baker Park, enjoying the crisp breeze and colorful leaves. Maybe it was the happy glow that being a newly-wed lends to everything, but I totally fell for the trickling creek, softball fields, and rows of maple trees.

Three years later, autumn is still my favorite season in Frederick. Our main street, Market Street, becomes coated with golden maple leaves while pedestrians bundled in coats and scarves scurry in and out of storefronts. Every porch and stoop boasts its fair share of pumpkins and mums, maybe even a token scarecrow or hooked-nosed witch. The blue sky overhead is just inviting enough to merit a came of catch in nearby Baker Park, but the cool breeze reminds you that winter approaches. The crisp weather makes everyone frisky and excited with thoughts of pumpkin carving, trick or treating, apple butter, and upcoming holidays.  I truly just love this time of year, don't you? 

Here's a few photos, so you can have a little taste of fall in Frederick too. 

What's your favorite part of fall?
For me: boots, scarves, apple butter, hot cocoa, and pumpkins!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chalk Paint Makeover: The Stair Rail

So, let's take a vote: Stain or paint? I repeat, stain or paint? Hmmm...? Well, if the post title didn't give it away, you guessed it! It's paint! Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, to be exact. 

For about a year, our stair rail and our banister rail did not match. One still possessed its original golden oak stain while the other had a new dark walnut stain. I knew we needed to make the two match, but I absolutely dreaded stripping and re-staining the massive rail that led upstairs. The mismatched railing bugged me everyday, but the project loomed before me. 

Then, Mark suggested painting it. At first, I balked at the idea. I knew I didn't want to paint it solid white or black-- the craftsmanship of the piece was too good and the wood grain too pretty. But then the idea struck us... 

Maybe there was a way to chalkpaint the piece in such a way that it would mimic stain. 

Here's a glimpse of the original railing before we began our Chalk Paint makeover. Not bad-- it just didn't match. Also, please pardon our carpeted stairs. Ugh. I sincerely wish we could rip out the carpet and replace it with lovely stained risers. But since we haven't won the lottery... that's not happening anytime soon. 

Anyway, back to the rail.

As Annie Sloan Chalk Paint has continued to prove time and again... anything is possible! This project took about an hour to complete and was mind-bogglingly easy. Today, I want to share how we achieved this "stain look" without stripping, sanding, or staining.

What You'll Need:

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Graphite
Stirring sticks
Paint brushes
Annie Sloan Soft Dark Wax
paper towels
clean buffing rag

What You'll Do:

1. Make sure the rail is clean and free of dust

2. Mix the Graphite Chalk Paint with a few tablespoons of water. Some people recommend doing a 50/50 mix, but I felt that this was a bit too runny for the amount of coverage I wanted. Mine was probably more like 60/40 or 70/30. You do want it to be a bit drippy, however. 

3. Dip your brush into the water-paint mixture. With a spare paper towel, dab some of the paint off so that only a little remains on your brush. Then, paint onto the railing with quick, even strokes. Work a small section. I probably did about a foot or two of railing at a time. 

4. Go back with a clean paper towel and wipe away the excess paint. This will behind leave a "whitewash" affect. You can even work the paint into the wood grain somewhat.

5. Continue down the length of the rail, repeating steps 3 and 4. If your opened can of paint begins to thicken, just add a little more water. 

6. Allow the first coat to dry, then repeat with a second coat. 

7. Once the paint has dried, apply a coat of Annie Sloan Soft Dark Wax using a clean rag or paper towel. Remember that a little bit goes along way with the wax. Tip: you may want to wear gloves when using dark wax so your finger nails don't look gunky. 

8. Allow the wax to dry, then buff the rail to a high sheen using a clean rag. It make take the wax about a week to fully "cure." 

You would not believe how easy this was and how closely it matches the walnut stain on the rest of the railing. As you can see in the above picture, the rail's brackets were outdated brass, complete with paint chips. After these photos were taken, we ended up removing the brackets and spray painting them black to match the wrought iron balusters upstairs. Much cheaper than paying $6 a bracket to replace them all. 

What do you think? Feel brave enough to try out a Chalk Paint wash over staining? The best part: zero prep work. I just wiped off the dust and got to work. It cut down on time, money, and yucky stain smells. Finally no more mismatched railing! 

What's your favorite Chalk Paint project? 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chicken Vino Bianco Recipe

Last night, I cooked one of my absolute favorite recipes: Chicken Vino Bianco. Or at least, my own version of this crowd-favorite Olive Garden dish. It's one of my favorite meals to cook for a romantic evening at home. Add a loaf of crumbly, crunchy bread and a side salad-- yum! It's perhaps not the healthiest supper ever, but every now and then you just have to splurge. Butter in moderation never hurt anyone. 

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbsps butter
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbsps parsley
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly,
handful of baby bella mushrooms, rinsed
linguine pasta
1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

What You'll Do:
1. Dredge chicken in seasoned flour (flour with salt and pepper) and then cook in pan. I usually allow about 7-8 minutes (or until the chicken reaches 165 on your meat thermometer). Once cooked, remove from pan and set aside. 
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to its package instructions. Drain and set aside when finished. 
3.Add 2 tbsps butter to your pan. Saute veggies, parsley, and red pepper until tender. This will take about 3 minutes or so. 
4. Return chicken to pan. Add wine, lemon juice, and garlic. Saute for another minute or two. Then, add remaining butter to pan. 
5. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for a few minutes. The sauce will reduce and thicken somewhat. 
6. Add cooked pasta to pan and saute together for about a minute. 
7. Toss in a bowl and serve with a loaf of warm, crunchy bread. 

Give this recipe a try next time you want a yummy dinner for two at home. 
Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Around Town // Doner Bistro

It's been awhile since I shared an Around Town post. So today I thought I would share one of our favorite Frederick restaurants: Doner Bistro. With its eclectic environment and delicious food, Doner Bistro quickly became one of our favorite lunch spots almost as soon as it opened. 
Located along Carroll Creek Park, the restaurant welcomes you with roasty, spicy scents and quirky decor. Crystal chandeliers tinkle over picnic tables and alongside disco balls. Delicious spiced meat slowly rotates behind the counter while an array of hearty German beers lines the bar. 

So what is Doner? We wondered the same thing. A whole lot of deliciousness that's what. It's a yummy cultural fusion of German and Turkish food. Take a traditional Turkish dish (usually a kebab) and, rather than serving it with rice, serve it with flatbread and German beer. At Doner Bistro, you get a crazy mix of flavors: bratwurst with curry, meat and potatoes with tzatziki sauce, falafel with sauerkraut. Yet somehow it's all delicious. Pair that with beautiful views of Carroll Creek, and you've got yourself a delicious, unique lunch experience. 

If you're ever in the Frederick area, definitely take a moment to check this place out. We recommend the Doner Box or the Currywurst. 
Doner Bistro:
50 Carroll Creek Way, #110
Frederick, MD 21701

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Oldest House in Washington

Welcome to the Old Stone House. Rather perfunctorily named, don't you think? 

Dating from 1765, the Old Stone House has the claim to fame of being the "oldest building on its original foundation in our nation's capitol." Like most old homes, the Stone House changed hands and looks several times over the course of its 250 year history. Originally owned by the Layman familiy, the Stone House consisted of just one room and had absurdly thick walls. In 1775, a rather wealthier lady (Mrs. Cassandra Chew) purchased the building and added the second and third floors-- giving the house its present appearance. Apparently, Mrs. Chew lived in the home with fifteen slaves at one point. Why one earth one lady needed fifteen slaves, I don't know!

Our National Park Service purchased the house in the 1950s due to the number of local Georgetown residents clamoring to protect the site. When I read that the NPS protected the house, I was surprised. Whenever I think of our park service, I picture the National Mall, Glacier National Park, or Yellowstone-- some sweeping natural vista. Not a little stone house in the middle of a busy city. Yet people recognized that this little house represented something unique and special.

Its simple beauty juxtaposes the domineering national monuments elsewhere in D.C. The house is not a monument to some heroic deed, national figure, or historical war. Instead, the Old Stone House stands as a monument to everyday life in colonial Washington. A monument to cooking, sleeping, dining, and working. A monument to the reality of life for some of our nation's very first citizens. 

Overtime, the Old Stone House has gained some legends. According to the museum employees, most of the familial records about the property are limited. Things like property records, lists, deeds. The primary legend of the Old Stone House involves Washington's favorite hero: our first president, George Washington himself. 

In 1810, the Old Stone House housed a clock shop run by a man named John Suter, Jr. In fact, the grandfather clock pictured above? One of Suter's clocks, built in the house in the 1800s and returned when it became a national monument. Coincidentally, the Suter family also operated an inn where President George Washington and Pierre Charles L'Enfant stayed while the designed the federal district. Somehow, the legend became tangled, and local folklore named the Old Stone House as the location of Washington's headquarters. We may never know for sure if Washington visited the house, but due to its history, it stands to reason that he may have visited and certainly at least saw it, maybe even strolled past its front door. 

One of my favorite features of the Old Stone House is the lovely English-style garden located behind it. True to its design, the garden reminded me of William Wordsworth's beautiful garden at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, England. All windy paths, tangled hedges, and sun beams. I commented to Mark that I could just take a book and sit on one of its benches all afternoon. 
If you're in the Georgetown area and haven't visited the Old Stone House, I highly recommend it. I love how our nation preserves these beautiful places for us to visit, explore, and enjoy. May as well take advantage of the opportunity! If nothing else you can pretend to be Elizabeth Bennett traipsing about your dining room and kitchen. And what woman hasn't considered that fantasy?
More info about the Old Stone House:
Official Park Brochure

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How Thomas Jefferson Changed My Life

Maybe you read that title and thought "Wait, what?" What does Thomas Jefferson have to do with anything. Now you're racking your memory-- "I know her husband's from Virginia... she was a history major..." So what's the connection?

On October 9, 2011, Thomas Jefferson changed my life forever. Well, to be honest, he just presided over the event. Or rather, a very large statue of Thomas Jefferson presided over the event. The man who changed my life forever is pictured below. A handsome blue-eyed Virginian who strolled into my life with his "yes ma'ams" and meat-and-potatoes palate and avid obsession with all things outdoors. He strolled right in and made me fall right head-over-heels in love with him. 

On that mild October day four years ago, Mark proposed to me at the Jefferson Memorial. But he didn't just propose. He orchestrated an entire romantic event that concluded at Thomas Jefferson's stone-clad feet. 

I was halfway through my senior year at Piedmont College, a liberal arts college in Northeast Georgia, while Mark had just begun his first "real job" as a construction foreman for a framing company in Washington, D.C. He invited me to his new apartment for my fall break. Casually, he remarked that I should "pack a nice dress" since he wanted to celebrate. My mind immediately assumed he wanted to celebrate his new job and new life in D.C. Little did I know that he and my father had had a serious conversation just a few weeks prior. "A nice dress... like church nice or fancier?" I asked. "Fancier," was the reply. 


That evening, Mark lead me into Charlie Palmer Steak DC, one of the nicest restaurants I had ever visited. A reserved table for two waited by the window with a breathtaking view of the National Mall and the US Capitol building. Steak, prawns, sweet potato soup, risotto, creme brulee, and then finally the check. I started to thank my boyfriend for such an amazing meal when he grinned and remarked that the evening wasn't over yet. 

Taking my hand, he lead me a block away to the Hyatt. Perplexed, I laughingly asked why we were standing outside of a luxury hotel only to be interrupted by the jingle of bells. A white carriage drawn by a beautiful grey horse suddenly appeared. It pulled in front of us and its tophat wearing driver smiled and asked us to climb on. My heart beat instantly sped up; clearly this was more than a fancy date night. 

After a tour of the National Mall by carriage, the driver took us to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, where Mark proposed on the bank of the Potomac. I was so excited that I just kissed him and for a moment utterly forgot to say yes. People cheered and whistled when they saw him get on one knee. I have to say-- I love our proposal story. If there was a day I could relive-- that day would be the one I pick. 

For our anniversary weekend, we decided to take a moment and revisit the Jefferson Memorial. After all, last time we were there, I wasn't paying much attention to the fine architecture or to President Jefferson. We took a picture at our proposal spot and then enjoyed the memorial itself. Of course, countless tour busloads teemed around the site, but a somber air presided over the memorial itself. Yet I couldn't help but smile. Even though I know that the huge monument belongs to all American citizens and represents a huge piece of our national history, I can't help but feel like the place is somehow mine. 

So, yes. I guess you could say that Thomas Jefferson changed my life. 


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Day in Georgetown

To celebrate our third anniversary, Mark and I decided to spend a whole day in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.  I had only been there once before-- and very briefly. A quick drive- by in which our guide basically shouted "There's Washington Harbor and up there's Georgetown." So, we decided to take a daytrip to this beautiful neighborhood and experience it's great shopping, great food, and great scenery. 
We strolled its busy streets, popping in and out of the boutiques, antique markets, and shops, and then ate lunch at a restaurant called Old Glory BBQ. I have to admit-- it wasn't the best BBQ I've ever had. We both laughed that we had apparently found the one restaurant in Georgetown that wasn't that great. But a day full of sight seeing, talking, good coffee, and laughter made up for the subpar pulled pork. 
My favorite part? Strolling along the C&O Canal with my husband. Under a warm fall sun, we walked hand-in-hand along the towpath. The sun warmed our shoulders as we talked about life, marriage, and all we've learned since saying "I do" three years ago. I know there's still a lot ahead: a lot of adventures to take, challenges to overcome, and lessons to learn. But as long as holding his hand remains one of my favorite things in this world, I think we'll do all right. 

Do:  Walk the C&O Canal towpath
Sightsee: Visit Dumbarton Oaks and the Stone House
Eat: Tony & Jerry's Seafood Place
Drink: PAUL Bakery... delicious hot chocolate
Shop: countless boutiques... I loved Paper Source and Onward Reserve
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