Thursday, October 16, 2014

Carolyn Westbrook: Autumn Party!

    The mornings are cool here now, but I am happy that there is still warmth in the afternoons. I do love fall, but not yet ready to let go of the fresh tomatoes from the garden. Anyone that knows me, knows that I love any excuse to decorate and that includes a party. My sweet daughter Victoria...her birthday is coming up. Since she was a child we have always thrown a huge Halloween party and weenie roast. This year, we add my darling son-in-law Jose Luis to the mix, which is Alex's husband. They are headed back from Wichita Falls, to come to the Autumn Birthday Barn Party. His birthday is first and Victoria's falls later, but we will have a dual celebration!

     I am so excited about the prospect of decorating and having a party in our huge barn. It was built in 1850 and is made from logs. The trees were cut from the property and numbered as they went up. Really amazing to see. Usually, are parties are held out in the field with a huge bonfire, but this time we are doing things a bit differently and having the party inside the barn. I made a trip to the market yesterday to buy pumpkins. We had pumpkins growing out in the compost pile, but the drought was too severe, so I had to resort to buying them. The party is not for over a week, but cannot start too soon.

I have already done the porches and this black and orange peeling paint French bistro chair, holds one of the Halloween pumpkin. Lots more to do and I will keep you posted.

                                                                         XO Carolyn



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Carolyn Westbrook: Happy Fall Y'all

Fall came barreling into Texas this Sunday with a mighty wind and rain. I do absolutely love the change in the seasons and always have. I remember back to my childhood, while playing outdoors on a warm day, when the first cool breeze came blowing in and I had to run home and grab my pancho. Panchos were the thing then...makes me smile to think about it. These are actually some vintage Halloween paper goods that we used to decorate with, that I simply could never part with. I adore vintage, as you all know. I had this idea to really set them off on the back porch wall, to frame them in antique frames to make them more special. Orange, Black, and Green Plaid cushions is what fall is all about.
I do not need much to have an excuse to redecorate, and the sudden change in the air was enough to set me off. Now it is all about plaids, velvets, pumpkins and sunflowers.
Happy Fall Y'all!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Carolyn Westbrook: Live from The Plantation

We are working on many new projects and we had a photo shoot to put together this week. This is our wonderful lab "puppy" Rascal. Nick found him on the side of the road one night, as his brother had been killed by a car, and he sat over him. We already had four dogs, as Victoria picks up every stray that comes along, but as he said, what was he supposed to do?  We all have big hearts when it comes to dogs and at the time he was only about six weeks old. He is all puppy and that means that he gets into mischief. You never know what you will find in the morning. One morning it looked like it had snowed across the front yard, as he had taken the pillows off of the outdoor furniture and torn the feather filling out across the yard.

This was outdoors and it was of course, blazing hot. I always say, it doesn't really cool  down in Texas until Halloween. We had worked hard to get everything styled to perfection for the shots, and then we have to go inside, in the shade, to view them. The tabletop had a cake stand filled with croissants and homemade biscuits. While we were inside looking at photography, Rascal could not resist. We came out to find a transfer ware plate on the ground and a couple of croissants and biscuits missing. There Rascal was, laying on the porch looking fully satisfied. He turns and yawns and rolls up slowly, like "what?" You gotta love it!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Carolyn Westbrook: Farm Life at the Plantation

We are making hay while the sun is shining. Incredible this year...fourth hay cut of the year. I think this is a record. Of course now-a-days it is much more advanced and less work than the old days. We love to watch the baler come along and roll the huge bales of hay and tie them off.
Trust me, I remember spending weekends and summers on my grandparents farm and ranch, and hauling hay was far from easy. We as kids would be riding around in the back of the pick-up truck, your hair flying in front of your face, while my brothers and the other men had hay hooks. As we drove by the square bales, they would have to hook the bales and load them in the truck. Keep in mind it would be close to 100 degrees, while doing this. Not an easy job. Then they would have to be unloaded and thrown and stacked into the barn. I would say that things have become much easier and that technology is a good thing. Nowadays, no one has to leave the air conditioned cab. Even though it is technically fall, it feels like summer has not quite left yet. It is cool in the mornings, but heating up in the afternoons, to still enjoy a few barefoot days, but looking forward to fall!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Carolyn Westbrook: Farm Life

A white linen duvet hanging outdoors on the there anything better? I absolutely love the smell of the sunshine. I even dedicated a section of my first book to the clothesline. My childhood memories are filled with me playing beneath the clothesline, as my mom hung out the clothes. The anticipation of that smell, that permeates the air, as you unclasp each clothes pin...heaven. Falling asleep, as if you are sleeping on a cloud, with the smell of the sunshine filling your room, and I have to say, the linen bedding is pretty wonderful too. I might know where you can get some of that xoxo Carolyn

Friday, September 19, 2014

Carolyn Westbrook: Homemade Strawberry Preserves

When we moved out to the country, many years ago, I had dreamed of flowers, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees. It was hard to see past the dilapidated structure, with a roof that could possibly cave in on us, but I could see the potential. This place out in the middle of nowhere turned out to be perfect for raising our family. This year, we have been busy canning, as the garden as been producing all summer, and still is. I remember my grandmother canning anything and everything, from Chow-Chow to beets, which we hated, and now I kind of like again. We have made jar after jar of homemade salsa, preserves, and batch after batch of pickles, trying all different methods.

I wish that I could say that we had so many strawberry plants that I made these from our garden. The truth is, I was at the local supermarket and there was a massive abundance of fresh strawberries and they were in season and on sale. Since I was a girl, I have been a huge fan of the strawberry. I had strawberry lip gloss and a  strawberry necklace, you get the picture. So, I grabbed up a plethora of strawberries and thought that I would do strawberry preserves. You know what's funny, in a time when you think people would no longer do canning, the canning isle has been wiped out, every time that I go. So cheers to those who are in on the canning trend. I needed pectin, and I got the last few boxes.

For those who think canning is hard, its not. What you do need is a great bit pot, to boil your jars and lids, before and after you pack your jars. I boil mine and then set them out on a cookie sheet with a towel to drain. All you have to do is mash the strawberries, cover with lemon juice, then add sugar. The recipe is in the pectin package. Just follow that. You throw in the pectin, boil and put in jars. Once you have sealed the jars, with fresh boiling water, submerge the jars to get a good seal.
Take out, let cool, and the preserves will thicken up. I make preserves, because I like chunks of strawberries. It's that simple.
Here is the good news. At a time when big food companies are packing our food with high fructose corn syrup and GMO's its nice to know where your food comes from and what is in it. Strawberries, sugar, pectin, and lemon juice...that is it. Not to mention that they are absolutely delicious. We were slathering strawberry preserves on anything and everything, including some homemade biscuits.
Here's to canning!
xo Carolyn

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Live from The Oaks Plantation

Here it is just the first part of September and we actually had a cool front. Since it was just 101 degrees a couple of days ago, it feels like an Artic blast. I had to put on a sweater to go and feed the animals this morning. The chickens were all puffed up and didn't know what to think about it. For summers in Texas, this one has been a good one. We still have a garden for goodness sakes, and usually that is burnt up and dried up in August, no matter how much you water. I will be so sad to see the garden go. Everyday a heaping mess of black-eyed-peas, okra, and tomatoes are picked. Throw in a little cornbread and we have a supper that any southerner would be thrilled with. To me, it is all about the home grown tomatoes. Just slice them with a sprinkling of salt and I am good to go. I will miss my garden, but for now, it is still providing the harvest, so I will enjoy it until it quits.

Speaking of fall and cooler weather, that always means that the Roundtop Antiques Week is just around the corner. We are collaborating with Marburger Farms Antique Show and hosting a book signing there on opening day, Sept. 30,2014 from 9am-12pm. I hope that y'all can make it there! You are in for some inspiration and wonderful views. xo Carolyn