A Peek Inside This 'Vivid Living' Bungalow

Livingroom

As you might remember from our Dragon Flower Farmhouse tour, I'm a huge fan of color. Living in the rainy, grey Pacific Northwest for about 16 years, I took cues from the electric-green moss and Day-Glo orange fungus in the forests and painted my house accordingly. So when the real estate agent who sold us our St. Louis home Instagrammed these stunning pictures of a 'Vivid Living' house for sale, my heart grew like three sizes that day.

I mean, just look at this living room! From the ice blue mid-century modern ottoman (want) to the dried rose cage to the eagle-has-landed lamp–on a lime Slurpee-hued side table, no less–this place is a technicolor day dream. 

Let this be a lesson to ye who are afraid of color: You can totally make it work. How? Let's break it down. First, note the pattern harmony. There's the rug, the pillows, and the curtain. They work to pull the whole two-room spread of oldie-meets-modern collection together because they're the same type of pattern (bold abstracts), with the main colors overlapping and analogous (green and blue, mostly). Second, the other bold colors in the room come right out of that rug, too: salmon pink in the curtains (how cute are those tassels?), yellow in the standing lamp and corner shelf. The ice blue ottoman matches the blue seats on the also vintage dining chairs. Green and blue ground everything, and the other colors feel crisp and clean with them. The wood floors and window trim provide a warm counterpoint.

The cool blue hue carries through into the kitchen, where lo and behold, we have the most adorable theme imaginable: aqua and Elvis.

Kitchen

Are you DYING? I know. This is why you shouldn't automatically gut your kitchen, people. Those two (!) sets of corner shelves leap right out of this bungalow's 1929 birth and prove that new isn't always better. This kitchen comes across so well and balanced because the positively girly aqua is manned up with red accents and vintage Elvis. The thrift store-find collectibles make it especially Insta worthy.

As someone whose own kitchen is alive with turquoise and orange, I give this my stamp of approval. There might be some aqua cabinets in my future now, too.

The styling in this home has made me aware of a color combination I wouldn't have executed on my own: aqua and yellow. But look how awesome they are together. The primary, rain slicker-yellow vibrating against the pastel aqua keeps the two colors from going Easter on you real quick. Here's how it looks outside.

Outside

Incidentally, our outdoor table set is the exact same color, so admittedly, I'm biased. Ours is more of a 60s Space Age design, though:

Ouraquatableset

I've just never thought of pairing aqua with bright yellow, even though it looks great with the bearded irises in the background above. I love the effect.

Speaking of yellow, isn't it cool how your eye is drawn around the office below and then right into the center of the room to that desk chair? It's like the wall colors are there to highlight the velvet chair of the same shade. 

Office

I've never been a fan of yellow and brown, but the stained wood here works well against the yellow because everything else in the room is so fresh: the cute blue stool, the funky modern shelves in white laminate. And I love that the office vibe is softened by a pretty shoe collection. I mean, shoes are like little sculptures of their own; if you've got a great grouping of them, why hide them away in a closet? It's a cool idea for staging purposes, but I happen to know these stillettos have always been on display like this.

By now you're probably wondering who the genius is behind this lovingly curated collection and home design. Remember I told you the listing came to my attention when my former real estate agent posted pics on Instagram. Her name is Martina Devine, and not only does she live up to her namesake by being a truly divine individual, but she is also a sharp cookie when it comes to the business of homes. She persevered valiantly back in 2017 when we bought our house, navigating an unresponsive selling agent, misleading bank officers, the difficulties of having to list our previous home as a rental, and my husband and I being separated by a few thousand miles during the closing. Through all of this, Martina was upbeat and never more than a phone call away.

Well, imagine my delight when I found out via Facebook that she wasn't just the listing agent for this colorful home; the home is hers.

Now I knew that we shared a love of older features in a home; we'd bonded over that while touring houses for sale and settling on the World's Fair-era beauty. But now I see it's much more: Martina's got a great eye for vintage-made-current and a passion for holding onto pieces that tell a story.

There's so much intention here, with the classic Americana theme running through every room. Her velvet contessas in the office above aren't kitschy, though: They're honored.

Take a look at this sunroom.

Sunroom

Of course the orange accent wall balances the orange chair, with the blue rug tying it together and bookending the graphic rug from the first room. But the star of the show is that Hank Williams caricature. 

This house says: I know where I am, where I've been, and I'm proud of it all. It's a celebration of working class, old weird America, and I love it.

By the way, I invited Martina to tell you about her house herself, but she was in the middle of moving to her new home, with all of the stresses that naturally involves. BUT she agreed to write about the upcoming renos she's already scheming for that lovely abode. She explains:

We are buying a mid-century home that has all of the original metal cabinets and a sweet 70's knotty pine basement. I am flooded with projects for the new place that I am so, so excited to tackle. Still keeping ALL of the original features, but making it a bit more.... colorful 😎.

That could be a fun project to write about. At this point, as you can imagine, I am living in a house that feels less and less like my home as each day passes. It's bittersweet, but I live my life assuming that there's always a home project to be done. And once you realize they've all been completed, on to the next house!

By press time, Martina's vivid living bungalow already had a pending offer. But contact her for other beauties waiting to be snapped up in the River City. And let me end with a final image to prove that you can go vintage even in the bathroom because they just don't make 'em like they used to. Says Martina of the pretty pink powder room below:

We built that from salvaged finds, which took way more time and energy than we had anticipated, but it was worth every single second! I am super sad to leave my pink sink. Few things have been able to elicit as strong of a reaction from my husband and me as stumbling across that glorious Mamie-approved fixture!

Bathroom

Here's another fun coincidence: Martina's not the only one who's taken an old bathroom sink and put it back into a home. I once did the exact same thing with a powder blue number, complete with lucite-and-chrome legs. It totally made the bathroom, just like the one above.

What's your take on these lovingly appreciated vintage room stylings? Are you a fan? Not your cup of tea? Tell us in the comments below.

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Chewing the Fat... About Fat

Demofat

Trigger warning: If you're a vegetarian, or the type of person who likes sausage but doesn’t want to see how it's made, you might want to skip this particular post. Today I'm handing the blog over to ol' dusty buns (AKA Anthony Valterra, the other half here at the Dragon Flower Farm). He's going to talk about how to render fat. 

Here's Anthony:

First of all, why render fat? Well, fat is a substance that the human body is accustomed to absorbing. In fact, if you take in too little fat, it can have numerous deleterious effects on your health. It can lower your hormonal levels, make your skin dry, encourage you to overeat, mess with your body's natural temperature regulator, and cause mental fatigue. Now, that does not mean you have to eat animal fat. But if you are a meat eater anyway, it is certainly one of the easiest ways to make sure you are getting enough fat in your diet.

Rendered fat is fat that has been heated so that it melts the fat and makes it easy to separate the usable liquid fat from the proteins and other “waste” materials (although those materials don’t need to go to waste–more on that later). If you are rendering pork, the rendered fat is called “lard,” and if you are rendering beef, the result is called “tallow.” The process is the same, but just for clarity’s sake, we are going to be talking about making tallow. 

Tallow makes a fantastic frying pan lubricant for cooking just about anything. It also is great for providing a bit of flavor and helping the cooking process in a slow cooker, or "Crock-Pot" (which is a brand name, and we actually use one of those). You can bake with the rendered fat, season your iron skillets with it, and even make candles. It is high in vitamins A, D, K, and E and can be stored in a cool, dry shelf (refrigeration is not necessary although in the summer months when every place in the house is hot, we will toss our tallow into the back of the fridge). 

The first thing you need is a large chunk of cow fat. We buy organic, grass-fed beef in 1/4-cow quantities from a local rancher. When we make that purchase, the rancher throws in the fat for free. But we go through the fat faster than we go through the beef, so we end up buying single bags of fat separately between beef orders.

Pictured below is the last one-fifth of a $28 purchase, the last round of rendering we did from this chunk of fat.

Fat

As you can see, the fat comes in a large mass. It can’t be rendered in this state as the liquid fat needs to be able to pass easily through the fiber and protein holding it together. In a perfect world, if I had a meat grinder, I'd first grind the fat and then render it. But I am still looking for a good cast iron hand-cranked grinder, so until then, I just dice the fat into small cubes.

Cutfat

Our Crock-Pot holds five gallons, and I typically render about 3 or 4 cups of fat in a batch. I suppose you could render more, but the process of getting the fat out of the Crock-Pot is tricky enough with this amount. More would be a bit too much of a process for me.

Here is the Crock-Pot full and ready to go. I don’t put anything into the Crock-Pot with the fat. I’ve seen some sources that recommend a bit of water, but I have not found that to be necessary.

Crockfat

I start the Crock-Pot on high and set the timer for about two hours, but in reality, I check the pot about every 30 minutes and give the fat a quick stir with a silicone spoon that can handle high heat. This will be the first of a number of warnings that fat can get really hot and is very slippery! Those are two of its wonderful qualities. You can cook with very high heat with tallow or lard and it will smoke very little, and it creates a great non-stick surface. However, those qualities can make it exceptionally dangerous to work with. So be very careful that you have heat barriers and that you handle everything like you would a slick water eel.

Rendering

Once the fat has given up some of its liquid, and you can see it in the bottom of the Crock-Pot, you can turn the heat to low. Now you can check on it about every hour. You are waiting for it to separate into two distinct parts. First the clear liquid–that is the tallow; second, the brown, crinkly remains–that is what we are going to call “the crackling.” Once the crackling is uniformly shrunken and brown, you have probably pulled as much tallow out of it as you can. Turn off the Crock-Pot and unplug it. Now comes the tricky part.

Funnel

You’ll need a jar that you can seal, and I highly recommend a heat-safe funnel. To be very safe, I recommend that you put the jar with the funnel into the sink and have the Crock-Pot next to the edge of the sink. Everything is very hot and very slippery. The Crock-Pot, tallow, the crackling, and the jar itself will be hot and coated in fat. Using a heat-safe ladle, ladle the crackling out of the Crock-Pot and into a heat-safe container, leaving the liquid tallow behind. I use a second spoon to squeeze the crackling to get as much tallow out of the crackling as I can. 

IMG_0152

Once you have emptied as much of the crackling out of the slow cooker as you can safely manage, you can start ladling the remaining liquid into the jar. I can get the vast majority of crackling out of the Crock-Pot, so it is fairly easy for me to get just liquid into the jar with no tiny floater of crackling. But in the end, you will likely need to use a cheesecloth over the funnel so that you can get the last of the liquid separated and into the jar.

Cheesecloth

Be super careful. Have I mentioned how hot and slippery fat can get? If you knock over the jar, don’t try to grab it. Just let it be, and take the loss. No use getting burnt over spilt tallow. Don’t splash cold water on the jar–it will likely break from the temperature change. Carefully put the lid on the jar (not real tight as the fat is cooling and will cause a suction) and use oven mitts or other protection. Everything will be very slippery–the jars, the slow cooker, your utensils, the funnel, likely the counter that everything is sitting on. Be careful.

Once it cools, it looks like the tallow you can buy in jars at the store. Here's ours, in repurposed sauerkraut jars.

Done

This is what we got from about $6 worth of fat: one 25-ounce jar full and another half full. Call it 37 ounces. On the open market (or Amazon in this case), beef tallow for consumption goes for about 58 cents per ounce, so for $6, we made about $21.46 worth of tallow. Not bad. And what about those cracklings?

Cracklin

Weirdly enough, they make a decent snack food. They look much more appetizing when they are dried out–sort of like pork rinds. For me they are not like potato chips where if you eat one you have to eat the whole bag. A handful of cracklings with some salt, and I’m pretty good for a long time. But they are, essentially, fat, which is very filling, so that is not really surprising.

Rendering your own fat is a good thing that can save you a great deal of money and provide a very useful cooking ingredient. But remember: everything is slippery, everything is hot…

OK, now I can hear the problem with that phrase!

By the way, here's the Crock-Pot that we use.

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The Baby Birds Have Hatched!

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the bird that had made a nest in my friend Kathy's bathroom window.

At least three of the five eggs hatched on June 24, and here you can see the hatchlings and mother, with the father just outside the bathroom window. 

We'd thought the female was a house sparrow, which is technically an invasive species of bird imported from Europe, a common sight in urban areas. HOWEVER, now that the male has shown up, that theory's out the window, so to speak, because he is most definitely not a sparrow.

Just look at that scarlet hue!

Can you identify the type of bird? Since Kathy's in the Pacific Northwest–Seattle's Northgate neighborhood, to be exact–the likely candidates include:

  • Rosy Finch
  • House Finch
  • Scarlet Tanager

What do you think?

My money's on house finch, as the female scarlet tanager is yellow. The house finch, by the way, is "often the only songbird in most urban areas," according to my field guide.

 


Kick Up Your Heels on the Fourth of July - Literally!

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Installing my new FeetUp. Easier than IKEA furniture, and more sturdy!

Exciting news: That FeetUp Trainer I mentioned in this post about why you might struggle with headstands is now a whopping 33 percent off! Yeah, that knocks fifty bucks off this cute little yoga inversion prop.

As you can see in the photo above, I took advantage of the sale and snared one for myself. It's a great deal, so I wanted to share it with you, too. PLEASE NOTE: WE DON'T RECEIVE ANYTHING IN EXCHANGE FOR THIS POST OR FOR THE SALE OF THESE PROPS IF YOU GO AND BUY ONE.

Not that I didn't try. Before this great sale popped up, I had contacted FeetUp hoping to get some sponsorship for a post about their prop. They were cool and receptive, complimenting me on the inversion post and offering a $10 off coupon code for blog readers.

They wouldn't do more, however, like provide a free FeetUp in order to review it or any other compensation in exchange for coverage on the blog, because we haven't met the threshold they established for sponsorships, which is 10,000 followers on Instagram. Our Insta follower count is just shy of 500.

Oh, well. I get it. I mean, we're small potatoes in the world of sponsored content–we haven't made anything on this lifestyle blog and continue to put time, money, and resources into it really as a labor of love. I was totally cool with the $10 off coupon code for blog readers and a likewise small discount on the FeetUp for me, so I could order one to test out. I was just about to fill out the sponsorship form that FeetUp sent me...

Box
It came in a really big box, which the cat loves, but is surprisingly lightweight.

But then I saw this super sale pop up, and I realized FeetUp's own sale was a way better deal (like five times better) than the one FeetUp was willing to give me in exchange for coverage on the blog. So. I. Politely. Declined.

I asked them how long the sale would last so that I could schedule this post around it, and I didn't get an answer. The sale used to be valid on Amazon, which is where I purchased mine, but today as I write this, that's no longer the case. It is, however, still for sale on FeetUp's own website, and they're offering free shipping, so act fast! As this will post tomorrow (Sunday), I'm just hoping it doesn't end tonight. The site doesn't say anything but that it will end "soon."

While I'm both impressed that FeetUp was so responsive at first and feeling somewhat less in love after they weren't so helpful with the follow-through, I'm still super excited about my new FeetUp trainer.

It was unbelievably easy to put together (like IKEA flat-pack furniture, but with way better assembly instructions), is made from good quality materials (wood, metal, a lovely vegan faux leather), and feels very sturdy. I'm both naturally curvy and, especially after 25 years of yoga, pretty muscular, and I felt completely supported by it on my first couple of inversion tests.

FeetUp

I want to practice with it for awhile before giving a full review. I'll post that later on, with some pics of my awkward glorious inversions (!). But I wanted to let y'all know about the super sale in the meantime. Only the white/light wood version qualifies for the sale, but you get a nifty pose sequence poster along with it. It's a great deal.

Sure, a hundo is a lot to spend on a yoga prop, and maybe you could get something like it for cheaper. But it's important if I'm going to turn myself completely upside-down on something that that thing be made of quality materials and feel like it can support me without issues. I practice yoga daily, so for me, it's a good investment in a prop that will get a lot of use. Just yesterday, I inverted for a few minutes after a long bout of desk jocky-ing, and I felt renewed by it.

If you take advantage of the sale and get your own FeetUp, tell me about your impressions in an email, and I'll include them in my review, either with or without your name attached, just let me know. You're welcome (but not required) to send pics, too!

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Dragon Flower Farm: What We're Keeping

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Not all ornamentals are thugs.

I've spent a good deal of time talking about what we had to extricate from the Dragon Flower Farm, i.e., invasive plants like honeysuckle vine, winter creeper, and autumn clematis. Yes, in certain moments, it's felt like nothing more than the tragic tale of what the botanists call "disturbed" areas in nature. But not everything onsite when we bought the house in November 2017 was "undesirable." You might be wondering what we're planning to keep. Here's a list by category.

Flowering Shrubs

Let me start with the lilac. 

Oh, my God. Do we love our lilac. Lilacs naturally stir a romantic, traditional feeling in the heart, I think, without feeling overly fussy or too precious the way some classic ornamentals can. And, as pictured in the photo above, our venerable old lilac has no trouble attracting pollinators during its dramatic show of springtime blooms. 

Lilac_blossoms

It's the focal point of the garden in spring, providing a lovely backdrop for our seating area (and some semblance of privacy), with a heady scent of lilac wafting into the house when the windows are open. 

Lilac_backdrop

I once had a white lilac, when I lived in Tacoma, but this lilac-colored lilac really takes the cake. Speaking of cake, you can decorate cakes with the lilac flowers, as some people do. The blossoms are edible for both humans and animals. Here you can see Chaco chomping down the sugary goodness.

Chaco_lilac_sp2019

Our lilac has been allowed to sucker out into a rangy bush shape, but this spring after the blooms faded, I cut it back with as much tough love as I could muster. It's a bit more tree-shaped now, but it will likely always be more bush than tree. Either way, it provides gorgeous cut flowers for inside, and this year, it bloomed precisely on time to play a role in Easter decorating, which was nice since we hosted the fams this year.

Lilac has other uses as well, which besides its beauty make it a candidate for keeping around. You can of course fashion sachets for your linen drawers out of the blooms, but they're also used to make syrups, teas, and candies. Got another use for lilac that I haven't listed? Tell us in the comments below.

The other ornamental bush we've kept so far is the rose, which we're told is likely the 'Knockout' rose variety. It's a bit of a statue, in that few insects are drawn to it, but it's a big, healthy bush, and rose petals do have a wide variety of uses, from rose water to tea.

Rose_sp2019

Alas, this one doesn't produce many rose hips, but at least it has all those other uses, besides being gorgeous and fragrant.

Self-Sowing Natives and 'Weeds'

We noticed early on that a large number of ferns were thriving in two shady areas, and we had them ID'd by the Audubon Society as native sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis). Unfortunately, the bulk of them were interwoven with honeysuckle vine and winter creeper, two thugs we needed to eradicate, so we had to cover over the ferns with our mix of cardboard and mulch meant to make anything underneath die off. This biodegradable mulch method worked great, and to our great joy, the sensitive fern, and NOT the two invasives, came bursting right up through the mulch. So we saved the native fern and destroyed the nasties.

Sensitive fern_sp2019
Sensitive fern, native to Missouri.

The second native that seemed undeterred by our cardboard/mulch barrier is vine milkweed. This one grows in profusion in the St. Louis area, and I remember it from when I lived here before. I didn't pull it out then, and I'm not going to now, either. Some people seem bothered by it, calling it a garden weed, but the monarchs love it and thrive on it. Given a choice between offending garden visitors by the sight of a so-called weed and giving monarchs and other pollinators what they need to survive, I side with the pollinators. 

Milkweedvine_sp2019

A lot of what we need to do to survive on this planet - and we need those pollinators in order to ensure our future food supply - rests on changing our mindsets about relatively subjective things, like what a garden should look like. If you want your garden hermetically sealed and angled off with a lot of chemicals and gas-powered tools, then have yourself a yard full of plant statues and grass that does nothing for the life cycle other than sit there looking green. But don't you think the vine above is lovely, twining around our solar lantern?

Speaking of subjective viewpoints, we had another so-called weed growing to beat the band this year: cleavers. The Missouri Botanical Garden lists it among their "Winter Annual Weeds," and outlines methods for its eradication. But I'd come across cleavers before, back when I worked at New Dawn Natural Foods, which used to be on Grand Avenue here in St. Louis' Grand South Grand neighborhood, before the regentrification wave changed this funky ghetto into a strip of trendy shops and restaurants. A longtime sufferer of a condition called interstitial cystitis, I took cleavers tea for its known anti-inflammatory properties, specifically related to the bladder. So when we ID'd it coming up in the garden, Anthony gathered a bunch and used it to make a cold infusion. Besides the bladder tonic effect, I noticed the swelling in my feet and hands go down after drinking it.

Cleavers
Cleavers, scaffolding their way over neighboring plants.

The name "cleavers" comes from the seed-distribution method for this plant, which is via hooked burs that stick to animal pelts, or in this case, human socks. Keep at least a few cleavers around in your garden, if only for the botanical fascination.

We are also blessed with a number of sedums, aka stonecrop, of the variety Hylotelephium 'Herbstfreude' AUTUMN JOY. The genus is native to North America, but what's growing in our yard is a cultivated variety, hence the special name here in all caps. Still, they're known for their great value to butterflies, specifically, and are recommended for fall color and pollinator-friendliness by many.

If you have any doubt about the butterfly population's preference for this flower, come on by the Dragon Flower Farmhouse. In late summer and early fall, it's a butterfly festival.

The violets growing in abundance across Dragon Flower Farm make us nearly as happy as the lilac does - maybe even moreso because Viola sororia is another freebie native. Like the sensitive fern, the violets were only too happy about the mulch situation, and no longer having to compete with turf grass for space, they seeded themselves all over the top of it.

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Violet makes a lovely, soft ground cover, and the fritillaries in particular flock to it.

Flowering Bulbs

Lastly, we're default-keeping many of our flowering bulbs. I say 'default' because we're not actively trying to dig them up or anything, but we're not going out of our way to save them if they are interplanted with something we really must remove, like winter creeper. (We do put them in pots and give them to friends and family, though. We're not monsters!)

One of the problems with the property is that the blooming was set to all happen in the spring. It's a common problem I've seen in yards planted only with ornamentals. While I will say that we've got a staggered series of blooms throughout the spring, sadly, the only thing blooming any other time of the year is that late summer sedum. This is something we've already started to rectify with our choice of new trees and shrubs, but for now it's heavily weighted toward spring. And what a spring it is!

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It all starts with the first crocus.
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Then the daffodils emerge, trumpeting the arrival of spring.

Oh, did I mention daffodils? If you're paying any attention at all, you know we're daffy about them.

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This is a double daffodil called Narcissus 'Tahiti.'

After that, it's iris avenue, with three incredible hues on display in succession. 

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First these royal purple beauties...
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Then a big mess of yellow bearded irises. 

There are probably about 100 yellow bearded irises on the property. I love to bring them in the house for cut flower displays, but Chaco ate them and threw up, so they had to be taken outside, as they're toxic to cats. Some were growing up through winter creeper and honeysuckle, so I dug them out, put them in pots, and gave them to my sister to distribute amongst her neighbors.

Wine_colored_iris_sp2019
The last iris to bloom is a rarer, wine-colored variety. Definitely a keeper.

Deciding the fate of plants is a heady sort of power, and we don't take it lightly. We've armed ourselves with resources and support from the St. Louis Audubon Society, Wild Ones, Missouri Botanical Garden, the Missouri Native Plant Society, and others. We reserve the right to change our minds and admit to feeling conflicted about some plants. For example, we have ornamental azaleas in the front, and while we wish they were useful Ozark native azaleas, they're not. They'll bloom themselves silly, and not a single flying insect will even take notice. They probably need to go, but who wants to rip out an old, sturdy bush like that?

Thanks for your interest in our Dragon Flower Farm project. By the way, now that I've written this, I'm wondering if we should have called the place 'Viola Sororia' instead. What do you think?

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