Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Keeping It All Together During A Hectic Season In Life

I almost forgot how to blog.  It's true - it's been so long since I wrote a blog post that I had to putter around to find my way again.  

In reality, I've been blogging in my head.  I really have.  I've been talking to you and showing you things around The Wren.  Projects we've worked on. . . food I've cooked. . . crafts I've made. . . and of course, the grandchildren that won't stop growing.  But of course, if I don't put my fingers to the keyboard and download some photos, then you have no idea what's going on.  

During the past year, my jobs have taken up a lot of my time and attention.  Most of my attention, actually.  The problem?  I had too many jobs.  I was teaching preschool, running the preschool ministry at our church, staging homes for Realtors, and helping clients with organizing their homes.  

Something had to give.  I felt the Lord was telling me it was time to give up teaching.  I argued with him for awhile.  I knew I needed to obey, but I didn't want to.  My penchant for uber multitasking was causing me to disobey my Lord.  I offered to give up every other job.  I offered to cut back my hours.  That wasn't his plan.   

"Yes, Lord", I finally said.  "Not my will, but yours".  

It really was freeing.  I can't explain it except that when you know you're obeying God, nothing else seems to be a big deal.  I didn't even cry on the last day of school.  And let me tell you, I've ugly cried  last-day-of-school tears every year for many years.  This year - nothing.  

As I looked back on the past year, I was wondering how I made it though the hectic-ness of it all.  How did my house not fall apart?  How did we manage to keep our bodies healthy?  How did we work on anything or help anybody during this crunch time?

So here are some of my personal tips for handling a hectic season (God ordained or self imposed).

1.  It pays to have an organized home.  Sure I am a professional organizer, but I'm not a perfect housekeeper.  One thing going for us is that everything in our home has a place where it lives.  If it doesn't have a place, then it can't stay.  I have a covered basket in my foyer where I put items that need to be donated.  When it's full, I take the items to the thrift store.

2.  Make sure your priorities are in the right order.  If my time with God and reading his word is compromised, I have to give up something.  Without my quiet time, I've learned that I'm a train wreck waiting to happen.  Time with my Hubs comes next, followed by kids, grandlittles, friends, jobs and home maintenance.  Everything else is extra and has to wait it's turn.  

3.    It's important to take care of your nest.  Hubs has a spreadsheet to help stay on track with the home chores.  He doesn't have to remember to change the air filters, check the tire pressure and fluid levels in the cars, or replace the smoke alarm batteries - the list tells him to do it.  I keep a weekly list of the basics - dust, vacuum, wash, iron, etc.  The only extra thing I do is clean out one drawer or cabinet each week.  Because everything is pretty organized, it takes me less than 5 minutes to do it.  

4.  Don't forget about your people.  We have regular family dinner nights when all of our grown children and our grandlittles come for dinner.  It's a set date on the calendar.  I knew that if we didn't have a regular date, then we'd never find the time. Have a few minutes with your spouse after work each day.  Just a little bit of time to reconnect and share your day will help to set the tone for the rest of the evening even if you have to go to a meeting or an event after dinner.   I also try to have time with friends whenever I can.  It ends up being mostly quarterly, but it's better than never.  Facebook and texting also help.  Just letting others know that you care about them goes a long way. 

5.   Don't believe the "Go big or go home" mentality.  Little things do mean a lot.  Even if you can't clean your whole house at one time, clean some of it.  Even if you can't sit down to a home-cooked dinner, sit down and eat (anywhere) together.   Even if you can't exercise for a half hour - walk and stretch every chance you get.  

6.  A little planning goes a long way.  I try to plan my meals out for a few weeks at a time.  I don't plan what we will exactly have for each night, but I plan to have the ingredients in my pantry/fridge/freezer for 14 meals so I am prepared to cook.  I do try to plan out tomorrow's dinner, today.  That way, if I have to thaw or soak anything, I'll have it ready.  I also cook double batches of many meals and we eat them for lunches or other dinners.  

7.  Evaluate what you call fun.  We all need a time to rest and rejuvenate, but sometimes we do something just because it's a habit or because we feel obligated.  During this hectic time, I've had to say no to to home-sales parties that my friends are having.  I've had to say no to movies (Hubs and I decided it wasn't quality time with each other).  I've said no to women's retreats and extra Bible studies - all very good things, but not the best thing for my life during this season. 

8.  Say yes to new improvements and goals.  I made a big change in my life this past year in regards to my health.  I decided to cut Gluten out of my diet.  Sure, it took a lot of effort initially, but my improved health and mental clarity made up for it.  Also, Hubs and I still continued to make improvements to our home - just at a much, much, slower pace.  We've stuck to our goals and dreams, but taken the step #5 approach.  We have taken small steps toward bigger goals.  As we're able, we will take more and more steps until the projects are done.  

Laying out the windows we will use for our new greenhouse.  We've been planning it for years!

So there you have my take on how to survive through a hectic season in your life.  What are your tips?  What helps you get through the tough times? 


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Decor at Brown Wren Acres - 2013

 I'm so glad that red is my favorite color - and that shades of green can be found all around my house.  Why?  Because for the first few weeks of December, that was all that decorated my house.  Touches of red and green with one half-lit Christmas tree standing halfway between the family room and the dining room.  

It's been such a crazy busy summer, fall, and now winter that I barely had time to clean my house let alone decorate for Christmas.  And decorating for Christmas is something I love to do.  I managed to find about 20 minutes a day for a whole week and finally got some decorations set out around the house.  

Like I said before, the red and green colors I already had in our home really came in handy - all I had to do was add to it.  

Ready for a tour before I have to take everything down this weekend?

Here is the front porch.  My son found the old firetruck and refurbished it.  It is perfect to hold some greenery and a package.  

The foyer china hutch is the perfect place to hold my collection of snow globes.  You can see a glimpse of the card holder in the hallway.

 An antique mirror helps to reflect light in the dark hallway.

 The card holder is really fun.  The wire spirals don't hold the cards very well, so I use miniature clothespins to secure the cards to the wire.

 I always hang our stockings on the railing because we use our fireplace a lot and it's too much of a pain to have to remove the stockings every time we light a fire.  

 A just added a little touch of sparkle with glittered starfish ornaments in the powder room.

Our fireplace is difficult to decorate because the mantle is really high and the ceiling is low.  I just used some garland and metal stars.  I added some battery operated lights that I got at Costco but they don't work very well - bummer.

I had to doctor up our "pre-lit" tree since half of it decided to give up the ghost.   I love the size and texture of this tree, so I guess I'm stuck with putting lights on it like we used to.   It's not that big of a tree, so I don't think it will be too much of a problem.  

I use each of my children's baby shoes as ornaments on the tree.  I wrote their names and birthdates on the sole of the shoes.  Sweet memories!

I love the shelves that Hubs made for me last Christmas from old barn wood.  I also set out our grandchildren's nativity set on a tray on the coffee table.  Sometimes there are also green army men, matchbox cars, or a pink binky nestled in with Baby Jesus.

Some simple greenery picks and berry picks soften the rustic shelves and I wrote "Joy to the World" on my grandpa's old slate from grade school.  

Hubs found this old vintage tractor in a barn at an estate sale.  I found a small tree at Michael's to stand next to it.  Hubs is slightly obsessed with Farmall tractors right now and so this is a nod to his interest in them.

The dining room table is our only table to eat at, so the decor must be easy to remove.  A few lanterns and a small bird keep it interesting.

I added an old metal truck and some bottle brush trees (from our train set) to a small greenhouse and then sprinkled Epsom salt in for snow.

A little snowy scene.  This might be all of the snow we see this winter!

I had a fun time decorating my new kitchen (just finished this past May).  I mainly added some wreaths to the window, my Coca-Cola crate, and a Christmas plate.  The green stool and red dish cloths were already in the kitchen.  

A small pitcher and plate with pine cones was added to the glass cabinet .  

A star bowl holds candy and Hub's Nana's corn pudding mold holds mixed nuts with a nutcracker.

I guess you could say that I have a collection of angels since I have 3 now.  Two came from students and the one with a gardening shovel came from my dear mother-in-law.

My kidney donor surprised me with a "sisters" figurine this year.  We call each other "kidney sisters" because a part of her is now a part of me and we are also sisters in Christ.   I am so, so blessed.

I put this little vignette in the kitchen window every Christmas.  Hubs gave me the wheelbarrow ornament and I made the greenhouse out of another ornament, a milk glass urn, and a glass coaster.  I made the nest in the ornament from twine and buttons.

When the sun starts to go down, and the chickens are heading into the hen house, there's nothing like coming back into the house with all of the lights are on and enjoying the warmth of home and family.

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and a happy and healthy 2014.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tidy Brown Wren Updates

Good heavens, I haven't blogged in months!  But that doesn't mean I haven't been working on projects and blogging about them in my head! 

This is going to be a major blog brain dump post - everything you didn't want to know about our family life and activities at Brown Wren Acres.

Let's see. . .


It was Charlotte's first birthday and I made her a Charlotte doll with hazel/brown eyes and pig tails just like the real Charlotte.

Pure sweetness, I tell ya.

Our veggie garden was pretty good this year.  I planted 4 different kinds of tomatoes (40 plants in all) and they all did very well.  Also planted were cucumbers, 3 kinds of peppers, 2 kinds of green beans, cantaloupe, and squash.  I grew everything from seed too!  

I can't forget about the herbs that rounded out the menu.  Basil, parsley, mint, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, pineapple sage, and sage.  

I was able to can tomatoes, tomato sauce, green tomato relish, pickles, and salsa.  

I also invested in a pressure cooker so I can process cans of chicken stock, beef stock, and soups.  

In Grandlittle news there was chicken wrangling, 

Chicken chasing. . . 

Trips to the aquarium. . . 

and muddy visits to the park!
(Between our house and the park, a sudden rainstorm left several inches of rainwater awaiting our arrival.  Instead of going home, we just stayed and played.)

September. . . 

We got to cheer at football games. . . 

Enjoy some beautiful, cooler mornings at The Wren. . . 

and pick a ton of green beans. . . 

And in October. . . 

we (I mean Hubs and Son) worked on fixing up Cubbie (the tractor). . . 

snuggling with books. . . 

and taking a road trip (rode bikes on  part of the Virginia Creeper Trail despite the government shutdown canceling our reservations to camp). . . 

Yes, there was also organizing jobs and staging jobs and teaching preschool and serving at church.  There was sewing and cleaning and organizing.  There was making meals for needy families.   I'm so thankful to have a full and active life (thanks, Cathy).  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Newest Member of our Homestead

 Hubs and I have been talking a lot about a cute little red head that we saw on the side of the road.  Cute as a button, I tell ya.  We couldn't stop talking about her.  We pondered whether we should bring her home and make her part of our family. 

 We finally made the decision to adopt her.  It wasn't really in the budget, but we knew we had to move quickly.   I mean, how many times does something this adorable become available?   And, she came with a mower attachment too. 

 We love everything about her - even her rust and dirt.  If the battery doesn't decide to start her up, we just pull out the hand crank and give it a go! 

 She got even dirtier driving her back to her new home - the barn.

We haven't decided what to name her yet.  We'll let her make friends with the extra wood and hay we have stored in the barn.  She's going to need some work and probably a visit from the tractor doctor.  After all, she's almost  60 years old!

Nothing says homestead living like a little red tractor!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Playhouse Is Ready For Visitors

Our little playhouse is finally finished. 

 It's been a real labor of love and a challenge to keep the budget low and use what we already had on hand.

Click on A Playhouse Story if you want to read about our little house.  

This was how it started out (minus all of the junk we hauled out of it).

And now I'm proud to show off our little playhouse all gussied up and ready for some visitors.  

After all of the demo and painting, we only had a few more projects to finish up.  One of the projects was adding a new (old) window to brighten the interior a bit more.  

Then the fabulous duo known as Son & Hubs put in a remnant of carpet that our oldest daughter was getting rid of.  She donated it to the cause.

A coat of paint on the outside made the two non-matching windows look like they were meant to be together.  By the way, all of the old windows we use in our projects have either been found on the curb or were donated by friends who like to watch us upcycle things - thanks Chris and Sheri!

Flooring and 2x4s left over from our kitchen remodel were used to make storage shelves in one corner.  Notice the little chair on the top shelf?  It belonged to Hubs when he was a little boy.  We'll pull it down to use when we need it.  

The bins hold Duplos/Legos, a wooden train track and trains, and a ton of matchbox cars.  A bag with the car track sits on top of the bins.

My favorite part of the whole playhouse is the little kitchen spot.  I had a great time putting it together.    I bought the wooden kitchen 29 years ago in a thrift store.  It was a big splurge then - $10.00 was a big chunk of my budget but my baby girl needed a kitchen set.

Hubs nailed some 2x4 pieces between the studs and I added some leftover trim and wood wedges for supports, and cup hooks for hanging things.

The sink part of the kitchen was missing so I bought a small stainless bowl at the thrift store and Son cut some scrap plywood for the bowl to sit in.  I painted the wood with leftover paint.

Because the playhouse has no electricity, I added a wind-up emergency lantern.  The kids can wind up the lantern with the crank and get 15 minutes of light from it.  It's all plastic and not too heavy.  I hung it from a leftover plant hanger.  I hung a curtain (an old place mat) with Velcro across the bottom shelf.   A piece of alphabet art from my staging stash completes the look.

The finishing touch was the kitchen table and chairs.  I bought the table and two ice cream parlor chairs at a thrift store 25 years ago for $3.00 and that set has seen many tea parties.  The vintage folding chairs were purchased at a thrift store last summer.

After a few coats of spray paint (called Fern) the table and chairs look great.  The ice cream parlor chairs are still being worked on (they had to be reupholstered).   I'll set them around the table and keep the folded chairs to the side until needed.  The matching place mat from the curtain works as a table runner.  I added a coat of poly to the top of the table to make it more durable just in case play dough or crayons make an  appearance.

I look forward to hearing lots of giggles and conversations while children play here.  I might just put in a reading chair and make myself at home!  One of the best things about this makeover was that it cost us around $7.00 to do it.  All we bought was 2 cans of spray paint and a stainless bowl.  Everything else was upcycled, recycled, or reused.

Let the playing begin.