Spring has straight up sprung.

Now that spring is FINALLY here at Silverwood, we have been getting right down to the business of the garden. Ordering and planting fruit trees, herbs, mulching & spreading compost. Oh, and turning the sunroom into our home office/living room/dining room for the next six months.

We're in such a good mood, we're celebrating with a coupon code that you'll only see if you scroll through ALL. OF. THE. PRETTY. PICTURES. buahahahahahahh!!!

Planting fruit trees

Planting fruit trees

Potting up some Thai and Mexican coriander

Potting up some Thai and Mexican coriander

First BBQ of the year!

First BBQ of the year!

One of the beautiful creepy crawly residents of the Silverwood acre.

One of the beautiful creepy crawly residents of the Silverwood acre.

On the way to the mailbox - this meadow will soon be full of milkweed.

On the way to the mailbox - this meadow will soon be full of milkweed.

One of our neighbour's chickens - some are prettier than others.

One of our neighbour's chickens - some are prettier than others.

We use some of our wood shop shavings to mulch the garden beds.

We use some of our wood shop shavings to mulch the garden beds.

The Bartlett pear in bloom! Don't get close - the flowers actually stink like poop.

The Bartlett pear in bloom! Don't get close - the flowers actually stink like poop.

Where we come to shove our faces with above mentioned BBQ.

Where we come to shove our faces with above mentioned BBQ.

Aw yeah. 

Aw yeah. 

Alright, you made it to the end! If you like our images and never want to miss another one, simply follow us on instagram or like us on facebook!

Ok, now for your coupon code! Use the code SPRINGSPRUNG to get 15% off anything in the shop right here at blisscraftandbrazen.com! Valid until midnight EST on Friday May 30th.

Lifting the veil...

Welcome, welcome! We are so very excited to unveil the brand new B&B website, store, blog & Love Letters!

The most important change is that our website is now BEAUTIFUL & FUNCTIONAL, just like our B&B goods. No more of Rachel's shoddy half-baked HTML hackery, hooray! 

But it doesn't stop there...

SHOP for your favourite B&B products right here on the site!

EDUCATE YOURSELF with our blog: there are fascinating articles about wood, features on awesome independent eco designers, and much more to come!

BEAUTIFY your day with snapshots of life here at Silverwood.  

INJECT GOODNESS in to your inbox by signing up for Our Love Letters.

BONUS! We're celebrating by putting our ready to ship Bamboo Bath caddy on sale for 48 hours - and giving one away! Learn more here

We'd also love to hear what you think of the site, and please let us know if you stumble upon any bugs or glitches!

 

Window Treatment

window-trim-detail After two straight months without a day off, we were close to losing our minds - and so we self-imposed a real weekend.

What magic!

We spent Saturday walking around the lake and reading books on the couch. And then Sunday was spent learning to trim a window for the first time in our lives.

DISCLAIMER before you read the rest of this post - this is one of those "really boring mundane why would i want to know that and read about it" blog posts that's mostly meant to keep friends and family from feeling like Aaron and I fell through a hole in the lake. Consider yourself warned!

Many of the windows in our house are in the unsightly "framed by a raw edge of drywall, insulation and foam" stage - that is to say, untrimmed. It's been driving us nuts but we haven't been able to find the time to fix it.

before-window

We started with the kitchen window since it's the most public eye-sore. It took us the whole day since we weren't working from pre-milled stuff - we milled our own trim from large pine 2 x 8s, since we have the tools and the wood.

in-progress-windown

We decided on a built in shelf with a little half round detailing, and a lintel top instead of the standard miter corners. Maybe a bit ambitious, and we did almost give up half way through- but the thought of adding it to our already long To Do list for the coming week saw us through.

shelf-in-process

When we stepped back and admired our handiwork, we couldn't believe how good it looked! And satisfying. There's nothing like doing NOTHING for once, and then doing SOMETHING that isn't just for sale or someone else's enjoyment.

Super hard to get good pictures of a window frame when you have insane amounts of snow glaring off the camera lens so here you go. Oh, and the lovely tulips were left here  after a photoshoot for a magazine feature on B&B, details to come!

full-window

Gratuitous tulip shot.

tulip

Taking a moment

The last few months have been a whirlwind, with our four holiday shows, the etsy feature, and negotiating a large contract that involves learning about international shipping, CIF quotes and warranties. We are grateful, giddy, tired and a bit daunted!

We've been back home for 36 hours and leave again in less than 24. We woke up to this gorgeous serene scene and watched birds flitting to and from the feeder (they took off just before I got this snapshot) and it was a lovely quiet moment before the day's tasks came crashing down on us.

Just a little reminder to take a moment here and there, to gaze out the window and watch the birds.

Jars full of onions

Ok, not onions, exactly. Onion flowers! Well, chive flowers. These things have been making my WEEK. I have jars of them around my house and they are stunning. I can stare at them for hours. They're so pretty at all stages, from the sepal-enclosed bulb, the half opened blooms, the round head of open soft purple-pink flowers with their teeny-tiny anthers perched on their filaments.

I've had a rough couple weeks, with what seems a year's worth of shipping problems happening all at once - delays, missing packages, swapped envelopes and miscommunications. On top of the shipping drama, I've had some problems with my jewellery castings and I'm under some serious pressure from wedding-rings-and-bridesmaids/groomsman-presents deadlines. The deadlines being, y'know... the wedding. Can't really miss a deadline like that.

The stress has been taking its toll and the constantly pouring gray skies this week just enabled my mood.

But! These jars full of chive flowers got me through. Spend five minutes lost in the miniature universe of purple petals, bright green stems and delicate stamens and the bigger picture reveals itself. How can one be upset in a world where these incredible things exist?

The best part is that chives grow like dandelions! We have about four patches of them on our property and we never look after them - they just appear every spring, lush and healthy and abundant. They also keep in the vase for ages - my oldest chive bouquet is now two weeks old and still going strong.

Look at that! It's like a bouquet within a flower!

I placed some of them in our B&B mini bud vases along our windowsills and they look so pretty as a single flower in a vase.

And then I found a recipe for a dressing made from chive flowers, on The Barrows Farm blog via The Soulsby Farm blog. You place the flower heads in a mason jar in the sun with vinegar... and I bet that looks gorgeous too!

Duck duck... chicken!

Is it just me or are "urban chickens" all people talk about these days? The latest issue of Pure Green Magazine had a feature on starting your own coop in their latest issue and every single person in my life has asked me recently "So... when are you getting chickens?" [This question has almost always been preceded by "So... are you pregnant yet?", as though buying a 6 bedroom house in the country means I want to fill them with babies. I have A LOT OF SHOES, folks! And where would I put you, dear visitors, if I  filled the rooms with tiny crying people who are going to grow up to resent me?!]

As soon as I scoff at both of these questions, the person in question will invariably say "but chickens are so easy!" Never mind that only one of the 7,129 people who have said this to me has ever even tended chickens. Or that the one person who had was a child at the time and went on to say that their family did it for a year before giving up, since keeping them from being eaten and heating the chicken coop in our frigid winters was a giant pain in the butt.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's an AWESOME thing to keep chickens, and yes, we have the space and the appropriate rate of organic egg consumption in our household to make it worthwhile.

But don't tell me it's easy.

I have never owned a pet. I like to leave my house for weeks at a time. I do not like to clean up poop. Our hydro bill is high enough as it is without another building to require heating. And though I have so far managed to not be eaten by a coyote, I am loath to take on the responsibility for protecting others from that fate.

So when our lovely neighbour built a coop and handed us breakfast-in-a-bowl in the form of 2 duck eggs, 2 chicken eggs, and a couple sprigs of asparagus.... well, I got super excited. MAYBE I CAN HAVE THE FRESH EGGS WITHOUT THE WORK. I'd even be willing to chicken-sit once in awhile. Let's see if I can charm my way in.

Oh HELLO duck egg omelette with asparagus and basil on a bed of arugula...

Country School #7: Don't be a Stranger

I grew up in downtown Toronto and learned to be wary of strangers from a young age. I have been mocked by many a friend for my "Don't mess with me" mode. (Think scowl, fists, pointy elbows and lots of bling.) I go into this mode every time I leave my front door and unlearning this has been a decade long process. Like a tourist in a foreign land, I look to Aaron and mimic his behaviour when we come across strangers on our walks and outings. I awkwardly wave and smile a few seconds too late, and try not to panic when dogs come bounding up to me ("They can smell fear, Rachel!").

Knowing my neighbours has never been high priority for me. My parents are still locked in the thre-decade-long feud with our next door neighbours of my childhood. The few interactions I had with neighbours in my old apartments usually involved them complaining that my music was too loud.

One question visitors always have for us is "So, have you met your neighbours?", to which I answer "yeah, some of them"....to which Aaron rolls his eyes. Okay, confession, Aaron has met some of our neighbours. I have always somehow managed to be in the kitchen with the loud coffee grinder running.

Last week, Hydro Quebec was in our area, cutting down trees that were in danger of falling on the power lines. A MASSIVE tree was cut down across the road (on the property of the infamous Rogue Shetland!) and the logs were gorgeous with no rotting. Our normal M.O. for "roadside shopping" is to leave it for a few days before grabbing it. We figure if its still there on the curb, it's probably free for the taking, right? It didn't quite feel right to just take these logs, though, and we figured it was a good opportunity to introduce ourselves to the neighbours. The logs would have made great firewood but were so massive that it would have been a pain to chop up into smaller pieces, and we figured we could offer to exchange an equal amount of already cut up firewood.

Still wary, I let Aaron go over by himself. The first time, no one was home. When Aaron tried again last night, he returned about 10 minutes later a bit distraught. The interaction had been awkward - he seemed to have interrupted her in the middle of something, as well as riling up her three dogs. She was a bit curt and said she had plans for the wood. Aaron came back disappointed and concerned that he had made a bad first impression.

As we were discussing it, the doorbell rang. It was our neighbour! With one of her dogs. And an apologetic smile. She said that as soon as Aaron left she regretted her reaction. Apparently the guy across the street (our next door neighbour) is quite sketchy. She lives alone and rarely has unexpected visits. She went out to examine the logs in question and realized they were far too big for her purposes and then followed Aaron's tracks in the snow to our front door to offer them to us!

We exchanged names and phone numbers and Aaron and our new neighbour made plans to meet in the morning to move the logs over. She insisted on helping and together they rolled seven monstrous logs down the street. I still managed to busy myself indoors and had managed to summon up the courage to go out and invite her in for coffee when Aaron returned to the house alone, with a gift bag. Inside was a card that said (in French) "Having young neighbours who appreciate nature is as precious to me as good and true friends", and the amazing hand knit slippers in the picture above.

I was completely unprepared for the wave of relief and love I felt opening that gift. All of a sudden I felt a sense of security and connection to someone here, not just the land. I am so grateful to our neighbour for her warmth and generosity. She could easily have just shrugged her shoulders when Aaron left and that could have been the awkward beginnings of a very long and lukewarm relationship. But she went out into the snow and extended a welcome as warm as those slippers.

And the best part? She says we can come over anytime to hang out with the pony!

 

Starting Seeds & Paper Pots, Part #2

It has been about a week and a half since I began sprouting seeds for the upcoming gardening season. So far so good. Over 80% of the seeds have sprouted and the paper pots are holding up well. sprouting trays

Sprouting really is an exercise in patience. Some of my seeds only began showing signs of life in the past 24 hrs.  Sure, the ones that haven't peeked through the surface yet concern me somewhat, but it's important for me to remember that they operate on their own schedule. Considering that I've planted a couple of exotics and mainly seeds I or my friends have gathered it makes perfect sense that some of them have yet to show signs of life. Some of them may not be viable at all & it's likely some will fail completely. Failure in gardening is something to be expected and not lamented. I find it's far more useful to celebrate the successes.

So far my nightshades (tomatoes and bell peppers) have offered me the most assurance. They sprouted first and show increasing signs of vigor.

I'll be putting my newly acquired seed spoons to good use when I plant the second wave of plants this weekend. I most certainly over-seeded my foxglove and million bells. I have some serious thinning to do!

I tried bending the rules with my wild arugula. The packet suggested sowing direct... seemingly for good reason. Soon after sprouting most of the sprouts wilted and died. Proof that it's worth taking the advice of the generations of gardeners that have come before us.

All of the exotics I planted have yet to stir. Bitter Melon seeds I collected while preparing dinner one evening and Calamondin harvested from the healthy specimen that resides in our living room. My hopeful suspicion is that they all require a long time to germinate and/or more intense heat. I'm not ready to believe that the seeds weren't viable. I've been focusing on the latter as I stave off the desire to plant anew in their pots.

The cast of my second round of sprouting includes lettuces, kale and sunflowers. The third round will be sown mid-April followed by the final direct sowing in the garden. The reason behind this staggered approach is that here in chilly zone 4 the growing season is short. The indoor head-start gives certain plants the full growth period they require. By the way, I determined my schedule and psyched myself up with this helpful advice from a fellow northern gardener.

Good luck to everyone else preparing a garden!!! Another update soon.

And the winner is...

Well, wait a sec, a couple explanations first. Aaron and I are a bit late on the announcement due to impromptu house guests, a flu and lack of consensus. We have finally picked a winner, but there's actually kinda two winners. Aaron and I were immediately smitten with Lynn "Pinowser"'s suggestion of "Silverwood Estate" but we didn't totally love the word "Estate". Cristina Flores suggested "Silverwood Homestead", which we like more. Ultimately, though, we decided "Silverwood 'Stead" had the best ring to it. Since Lynn was the first to suggest "Silverwood", the prize pack (pictured above) will be going to her! Never fear, Cristina won't leave empty handed! She will be receiving a split log tea light candle complete with Montreal-made beeswax tealights. Yay!

There were some great runner-up suggestions that we want to point out:

Cass's suggestion of B&B Awesome Factory (which was a heavy contender).

Ligia's "DhaReau Chateau" is simultaneously weird, hilarious & awesome sounding.

Sofia's awesome mashup, "Brazencraft", will find a use somewhere someday.

Tim White's awesomely redundant and punny "Home Sweet Homestead" makes us chuckle. A lot.

Cameron's suggestion of "Silverwood Ranch" was Rachel's favourite but even all her cowgirl 'tude could not convince Aaron to call our place a ranch. Sorry Cam!

And Christine Bachinsky's over-the-phone submission of 'The Rogue Pony & Sheep Inn" will always keep us doubled over in tear-inducing laughter.

Thank you EVERYONE! Now it's time to make a sign!

Contest deadline: Friday March 23rd at noon!

So we know our Name That Homestead contest has dragged on long enough, but we finally have a deadline and a prize pack! Head over here to submit as many suggestions as you'd like, and you might win this awesome assortment of B&B goodies! And while you're at it, why not head over to our facebook page and give us a "like"? You have until noon on Friday March 23rd, and we'll announce a winner on Monday March 26th!

The lucky winner will be walking away with:

* a pair of cherry salad servers

* a mahogany bookmark with copper rivets

* a split log candle holder with 5 beeswax tealights

* a upside down bottle holder in solid walnut

* a cherry cheese platter / breadboard / serving tray

Retail value of $150!

 

Country Schooled #5: Baffled

Here's an update on the squirrel baffle sitch. To catch you up, the squirrels got around Aaron's upside-down-double-plant-pot baffle. We noticed they were grabbing hold of the rims of each plant pot, and using that to get up. At one point, they managed to separate the two pots, effectively creating two landing spots on their way to gorge themselves on bird seed.

A visit out to the birdfeeder with some scissors and screws and SUCCESS. Squirrels baffled. We rejoiced.

But then a haggle of squirrels began to gather, to discuss this new challenge.

And then the squirrels did something that demonstrated a desperation that made us give up on trying to baffle these birdseed-bogarting bastards. They started to chew the baffle into pieces.

They haven't chewed it off yet. But I say give 'em a week and they'll have reduced the baffle to a pile of plastic pieces on the ground. My teeth hurt just thinking about it.

If they want seed that badly, we say let 'em have it.

UPDATE, March 13th, 2012. They got through it five minutes after I published this post. When Aaron went out to pick up the plastic, he was deeply disturbed to discover there wasn't much on the ground... blech!

We walked on water

In our search for a good walking trail, Aaron and I decided to try out a big lake near us that has a ski mobile highway crossing it. It's weird and disorienting to see a "cul de sac" sign in the middle of a lake.

We weren't sure if the un-carved snow would be too deep for us to wade through but it turned out to be just right; deep enough for a nice thigh workout but not so deep we'd get stuck. It was remarkably quiet and sunny and before we knew it we were 2/3rds of the way to one of the many islands dotting the lake. As we approached the shore we saw tons of animal footprints that looked like maybe coyote or wolf or something along those lines (the island didn't have any houses on it so its straight up wild - pretty cool).

We also found a goldmine of peeling birch, which made a great addition to our quickly dwindling kindling and tinder stash.

I found it so disorienting to think I was walking on a lake. I had to see the ice for myself to believe I wasn't in danger of taking a step that gave way under me. The thousands of plow tracks should have been reassuring enough, since I don't weigh anywhere close to a snow plough, even with a heavy brunch in me. I kept thinking "hey, maybe this is how Jesus did it!"

On our way back some snowmobilers stopped to ask us the name of the lake, which was hilarious since we didn't actually know. We could only answer that it was "Highway 43". Renegade ponies, lakes that turn into highways and bear poop beside the lilac bush... what is this place?!

Love is in the air

Flower Love:

We found an unbloomed hyacinth for $1.99 at the hardware store and it has filled our home with its glorious scent. Best $1.99 ever spent.

Blog Love:

Feeling blog love from General 54, who interviewed Rachel about Brazen Design and specifically asked about the new collaboration between us!

House Guest Love:

Despite the -20 temperatures and distance-driven-through-snow-factor, we thought no one would want to come visit up during the winter. To our joy, we have already had many guests and the rest of the winter is booking up with weekend visitors. And only a handful are actually just here for the skiing ;)

House Love:

The thick blanket of snow surrounding our house is magical - Staring at the acre of pure white, sun hitting it, tree shadows marching across it... inspiring. We're coming up to the 1 year anniversary of the day we saw our house for the first time - Valentine's day! How appropriate.

Now our house just needs a name! If you haven't heard we're having a Name That Homestead contest - the winner will receive a B&B Prize Pack!

Country Style

As a self-diagnosed fashion addict, Rachel has been having a bit of a hard time dressing for some of our more extreme country climate moments. Like yesterday, when a large snowfall was followed by a bout of freezing rain. If we had left the bank of snow created by the street plow to sit at the end of the driveway, we would have had a nice ice mountain today; not conducive to our low-riding Honda Civic. Our Canada Goose jackets, despite being the best things to happen to our survival of winter, are not great for wet weather. They aren't that moisture repellant, and when that down gets wet - peeewwwweeeee. So this is the best cold-wet-weather outfit Rachel could put together:

This lovely ensemble features a neon-green MEC rainjacket (half off sale due to hideous colour) worn over top a Large Men's wool sweater (borrowed from Aaron), paired with a Large Men's snowpant (also courtesy of Aaron), and topped off with Value Village sourced rainboots. Accessorized with yellow pashmina and red leather gloves, stylist's own, and look of self-disgust.

So that happened.

This weekend, Aaron and I were out sweeping our driveway during an epic sunset. So things are already a bit weird cause we're sweeping. The snow has been super powdery and we happen to have an industrial broom that does the trick.

So, like I said, we're sweeping the driveway. And the sun is setting. And it is EPIC. Peachy pink coral clouds blowing fast across the azure blue sky, and then the golden hour hits: you know, that five minute moment of perfect twilight where everything takes on a golden hue?

At that precise moment where I'm deciding whether to grab my camera or just finish sweeping, Aaron yells my name from the edge of the driveway.

"Rachel, look!"

I turn towards the road to see a short & stocky pony (later identified as a shetland), accompanied by a black sheep, barreling towards Aaron. Just givin' er. Renegades running for their lives.

Let me repeat: Renegade Pony with rogue sheep sidekick.

When they see Aaron, arms widespread, they make a 180 and start sprinting back down the road. Towards an out-of-breath-man wielding a carrot.

Upon seeing the the carrot man, the pair u-turn it back towards Aaron.

A barking dog enters the scene. Repeat.

I stand there, industrial broom in hand.

Aaron and Carrot Man eventually narrow the gap between them, trapping the pony and the sheep between them, with some help from barking dog and my broom. Carrot Man finally gets a hold of Pony and Sheep remains loyally by Pony's side. Carrot Man seems frazzled and embarrassed and thanks us, amid "tabernouches", for being there.

Glad of The Thick Coat

[shetland pony image by DartMoor Giant on flickr]

I am BUSTING A GUT at this point, but trying to hold it in until Carrot Man is out of earshot.

Hey Aaron, remember that time you stopped the Pony and Sheep from literally riding off into the sunset together?!

 

A Home Built on Gratitude

I don't care what people say about New Year's Resolutions: I love them. For some reason, I'm really good at sticking to them. Some standouts from the last few years: swearing off all shopping minus basic toiletries and groceries (yup, I did it, with the exception of a couple of cheats); the infamous "join a gym" (yup, did it, stuck with it, went down three dress sizes and got fit and felt great); promising myself I'd only buy Canadian-made clothing and accessories (yup, minus a couple minor misses), and last year's ambitious "buy a house" which we accomplished a mere 6 weeks into 2010 (we hadn't even met with a realtor before Jan 1st).

The "buy a house" resolution was by far the most ambitious and naive of all my resolutions, though I'm glad we did it, as it'd just been talk with no action for years. We were buying a house in the country, because we wanted to be in nature, have lots of space and get a house we could afford. The resolution ended up taking over our lives for the entire year, from looking to finding; negotiation to settling; getting approved for a mortgage (no small feat for a self-employed cabinetmaker and jeweller); taking a month of from our businesses to rip out carpets & install our own heated floors.

a deer on our property

We were blown away and very touched by all the friends and family who helped us renovate and came up to celebrate Aaron's 30th by lugging scrap metal off the land and starting a massive garden plot from scratch.

And then there was the Thing.

We discovered the Thing in early August, one month after we finally moved our furniture in, set up our studios and returned to "real life". It started by noticing a small patch of black mold in the laundry room. It ended a week ago after 2 inspectors, 5 contractors, intense negotiations with the previous owners and $20 000 worth of reconstruction wherein the back of our house was completely demolished and rebuilt.

construction cover at the back of the house

It's over now, despite the debt on our credit cards, the still-lingering layer of plaster dust, the unpainted walls and plywood floor, the trimless windows, doorless rooms and the broken thermostat to the precious heated floor in the jewellery studio.

construction

So our New Year's Resolution was a bit of an anti-resolution: we resolved NOT to let 2012 be the year of the house. Instead it would be WILL BE about thriving in our lives, & BUSINESSES (thanks to the house).

We are grateful that we can turn our attention away from the house. Grateful that the majorwork is done. Deeply eternally grateful that family and friends eagerly and earnestly offered us legal, financial and emotional support. We are grateful that the previous owners met us halfway. We are grateful that the mold is gone. We are grateful that Blisscraft & Brazen enjoyed such a warm and wonderful reception during our first ever holiday season which helped make a big dent in  our electrician bills (note to self: if business fails, become a certified electrician). We are grateful our relationship survived the stress.

A house is never done and we could go on endlessly upgrading windows, putting moulding on our new floors, stripping wallpaper and painting drywall. There's plenty of time for that later. But 2012 is the time to let our souls LIVE in this house. This big new home with space for both of our workshops, for each of our offices, for friends and family to visit and a proper dining table to have them sit at. And that is A LOT to be grateful for.

us on the dock

xo

Rachel (and Aaron)