Friday, July 31, 2009

Heirloom party

I was inspired by Emma Calls Me Mama's Heirloom party and it got me to looking around my home for family heirlooms. I've gotten most of my family heirlooms by default. It's usually because the other family members consider it to be junk. It is these very pieces that I fall in love with, more for the story behind it than anything else. Below, is a little wooden picture that my Grandpa Gray made for my Grandma. He was a gruff, army major and I never imagined that he had the ability to dream this up and make it. I guess he had a special sweet spot for grandma (I guess we all did).

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I'm really a baby when it comes to dragging myself to the doctor. I act calm and cool on the outside, but on the inside I am frazzled and a little sick to my stomach.

To help me get through blood work and exams I bribe myself with something. I've been to the doctor enough now to know what works as a good bribery and what doesn't.

I've tried shoes, earrings, purses, and ice-cream. These are many of my favorite things but they don't have the same effect on me as something "USED".

After my last doctor's visit, I found this little treasure at my local thrift store for $1.98. The lady at the checkout looked at me funny when I plopped it on the counter. "Oh, what are you going to do with this?" "Actually, what is it?"

As I explained that it is a small terrarium and I would be cleaning it up to put in my house, I realized that she could not see the forest for the trees. In other words, she could not see the cute terrarium because of the ugly gold grapes inside it.

I think I like buying old things and making them pretty because I have some control over the process. Going to the doctor makes me feel out of control. I never know what the test results will be or what news the doctor will give me. Buying a broken down treasure allows my creativity to blossom. Kind of like our Savior taking our broken souls and making them into something beautiful.

So I cleaned up the terrarium and placed a little bird's nest and a feather in it. It makes me happy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are you a "Filer" or a "Piler"

We all have a tendency to put items in certain places. Without thinking, we will either stack things (Pile) or stuff them away (File). It doesn't matter which tendency you have as long as you can find what you want later.

I, myself, am a Filer. I can't stand to have things all over my desk, countertops, coffee table etc. This has been a problem in the past when I got a little too creative in my filing. For years, now, I have been trying to create ways to keep track of items I will need to save so they can be found later.

I am married to a Piler. He likes stacks of books on his bedside table, piles of papers on his desk, and layers of clothes on the bedroom chair. It makes me furious chuckle to see his piles.

Anywho, as a filer, here's what I do. I MUST HAVE A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING. In order for that to happen I must be proactive. My favorite way to file something is to make a binder. I have binders for medical records, use and care manuals, recipes, address/phone numbers, decorating ideas, and so on. In the future, I'll post about these different binders.

When my children were young, I had a small file box on my kitchen counter to house all of their school paperwork. At one time my three children were in three different schools, so it was mandatory for me to stay on top of all of the different school activities. Each child had their own file, plus extra files for church, invitations, appointments, etc.

To help my husband's piles from falling over or taking over, I try to remind him to go through his piles occasionally. For him, if I put his things away, it is "out of sight-out of mind". Seriously, he will not think about any items that are not front and center. Since I know how his brain works (and he IS brilliant), I just try to limit WHERE his piles are. If he stacks papers on the coffee table, I put them on his desk. As long as they are out in plain view, he will see them. I learned a long time ago to not try to change one's spouse.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Banana Bread Recipe

So. . . we start where we left off yesterday. Thawing bananas that have been frozen. This batch of 6 bananas will make 2 loaves of bread.

Cream together:(beat on medium speed for 2 minutes)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce

2 eggs and beat for 30 seconds

3 bananas (cut open the end of each banana and smoosh out the insides like you are squeezing toothpaste out of a tube) This part might gross you out!

Add: (mix together until blended well)
2 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda

Then add:( mix together until blended well)
remaining 3 bananas
2 tsp. real banana extract

Divide batter between 2 greased loaf pans. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes and remove from pans.

Allow to cool completely before slicing unless your little next door neighbor comes over and askes for a piece of "banama bwead" first.

This recipe is for 2 loaves of bread. I usually make 2 batches at a time because I have 4 loaf pans. I use one loaf right away and wrap the others in foil and freeze them. It's always nice to have a loaf on hand to give to someone. Whenever I am making a meal for someone at church, I always take them a loaf.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What to do with brown bananas

We eat a lot of bananas. But, during the summer, our bananas get brown and "speckled" pretty fast. Since I hate to waste anything, I've come up with a way to use them up. We only have 1-2 brown bananas at a time and that is not enough to make a loaf of banana bread. My solution is to freeze them until I have enough to make a batch of bread (my recipe calls for 3 bananas per loaf of bread). I freeze them in a large ziploc bag. When I've gathered enough bananas to make 4 loaves of bread, I thaw them on a drying rack over a bar pan(to catch drips). Tomorrow I'll show you how to make my healthy bread. It's great to have on hand, wrapped and stored in the freezer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

God is good!

Bless the Lord,
O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless His holy name!

He has done great things,
He has done great things,
He has done great things,
bless His holy name!

These words have been swirling around in my head. Written by Anreae Crouchin 1973 and performed by Watermark a few years ago. Love it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Make a drawer out of a basket.

I have a love/hate relationship with my kitchen. I like to spend time in my kitchen, cooking and baking. But. . . I hate the way my kitchen is layed out. I have a lack of drawer and cabinet space. A kitchen re-do is not in the budget for a few more years thanks to college tuition for 3 kids. In the meantime I have to improvise. Here's my "tupperware drawer". I simply use a rectangular basket with a handle to house all of my plastic ware. I pull it out like a drawer when I need to access something. It works pretty well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A little visitor

Hearing a ruckus outside my patio door, I went to take a look. I was able to observe a baby robin checking out the big wide world for the first time. My presence made him very nervous and made his mother freak out, so I left them alone and went back to my ironing pile.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wren'sday: Rooting plants

It's Wren'sday at Brown Wren Acres. Here is a picture of what's happening at the kitchen window. I'm rooting Coleus for the butterfly garden and basil for the vegetable garden. My Grandma rooted Coleus in this same container when I was a little girl.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fresh Summer Melon

It's my favorite time of the year. The time when backyard gardens burst with wonderful, fresh produce. I really could eat my way through a garden. I LOVE fruits and vegetables. I've discovered that some people won't purchase a whole melon because they are intimidated by slicing into a lumpy sphere with a knife. So. . .here's a little "look-see" on how to do it.

The most important thing is to wash the melon first with water and a vegetable brush. The rough rind tends to trap dirt and germs. Now, cut the melon in half. It works best if the stem end is to the side.

Then, slice each half in half again. Slice each half in half again until you have 4 fat slices.

Then take each slice and scrape or scoop the seeds and goop out. I put mine in a plastic bowl that I will empty later into my backyard compost bin. Then slice between the flesh(the part you eat) and the rind (the part you don't eat).

Next, cut that slice in half, lengthwise and cut crossways into chunks. Be sure to have a bowl ready to receive the chunks.

This is what you should have left. A bowl of yummy, ready to eat melon and a bowl of yucky, ready to compost goop.

Now, run right out to your nearest farmer's stand a pick up a whole melon for dinner tonight.

Disclaimer: I didn't grow this melon in my garden. My next-door neighbors have a fantastic garden and gave us two of these wonderful orbs.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My favorite chickens

My chickens are smart. Well, as smart as chickens can be. They have found the perfect spot in the yard to keep cool. Gertie and Gwenie are fun pets to have. They don't require much upkeep. We let them run around the yard and eat bugs and tender green things. Sometimes those tender green things are growing in my vegetable garden but they don't eat very much. They reward us with fresh, free-range brown eggs every day. In a future post, I'll show off my custom made portable chicken coop.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

You CAN travel for a week with only carry on luggage.

Well, I did it. I was able to travel for a week with only carry on luggage. It took some thinkin' and some organizin' but I made it happ'n. I'm still talkin' like I was out West, 'cuz I wuz.

Anyway, we flew out from the east coast on Saturday and flew into Phoenix, AZ. We then drove down to Flagstaff and spent the night. The next day we drove to Williams, AZ and took the Grand Canyon Railway up into the Grand Canyon. If you ever get the chance to go to the canyon, TAKE THE TRAIN! It was great and we didn't have to worry about parking. We met an adorable family from New York on the train and became instant friends. The next few days found us traveling east through the Painted Desert and The Petrified Forest. We ended up in Amarillo, TX to visit with family and celebrate my grandma's 90th birthday. It was a great trip.

Now, about the packing of the luggage. I packed items in 2 1/2 gallon ziploc bags. I packed like items with like. Then I smooshed the air out of the bag.

Here is a list of the items I packed:
Bag #1:tennis shoes, white sandals, black sandals
Bag #2:1 pair pajamas, 7 pair underwear, 2 bras, 3 pairs of socks, 1 bathing suit
Bag #3:4 sleeveless shirts, 4 short sleeve shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt
Bag #4:1 pair khaki shorts, 1 pair denim shorts, 1 pair jeans, 1 pair black crop pants, 1 knit skirt
Jewelry bag: 1 bracelet, 1 necklace, 1 pair earrings
curling iron, medications, feminine needs, make-up samples in a 1 quart ziploc bag.

I also carried a backpack on the plane. In the backpack I took:

reading material, SNACKS, light-weight jacket, wallet, day planner (for phone numbers and addresses), my hiking aqua pack (for drinking water during the hike in the Grand Canyon), phone, and first aid kit and maps for travel.

We were able to zip around the airports quickly and go in and out of hotels without much effort. One of the good things about packing like this is that it limits what you can purchase while you travel. We always buy a Christmas ornament whenever we travel, so we had to vote on a small ornament that would pack easily in the bags. I was able to buy a beautiful pair of silver earrings for myself and a charming bracelet for our daughter (who couldn't come on the trip). There is ALWAYS a way to fit jewelry in a bag.

When we returned home, I had everyone dump their ziploc bags (which were full of DIRTY clothes) in the laundry room and I started washing clothes.

Tonight, I'll sit down to look at the map. I wonder where we'll go next?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

True Confessions

I don't travel much. And there's a reason why. I have a weird routine I must follow before I can leave the house with suitcases in hand. First, I must clean my entire house (in case a robber breaks in - I don't want him to think we are slobs). Next, I must wash, dry, and iron every item of clothing in the laundry hamper (I will be packing some of the items and the others will be waiting for me when I return - all neat and tidy).

Then, there is the packing. I am an over-packer. A "just-in-case" packer. A "in case I get bored on the trip" packer. A "what if I need a snack" packer. For someone who likes to organize and simplify, I am an absolute travel wreck. Right now I'm trying to decide what to pack for a week long trip to Arizona (Grand Canyon) and Texas to visit family. I haven't been on an airplane in 22 years. My husband wants us to travel using only carry-on luggage. Is he serious? What if I get bored? What if I need a snack? What if. . . So I'm doing a dress rehearsal with the carry-on luggage. I'm packing my clothes in 2 1/2 gallon ziploc bags so I can squeeze the air out to make more room. So much for ironing my clothes. I've purchased all of the itty bitty bottles of beauty stuff so I can get through security. But, by far, the hardest part is paring down the shoes I want to bring. I do love my cute shoes.

In a week, I'll let you know how I did.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

butterfly garden

butterfly garden

Just wanted to share a picture of my garden right now. Notice Old Glory in the background. Yes, I'm very patriotic.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pleasing Pantry

I love an organized pantry. You can find what you need very quickly. And let's face it, when you're cooking, you don't want to spend all of your time looking for ingredients. To neaten a disorganized cabinet just follow these steps:

1. Bring in some boxes or laundry baskets. Choose one bin/basket for each category of food.

2. Empty everything out of the cabinet, sorting into the categories as you go.

3. Vacuum and clean the shelves. You can line them with contact paper or liner if you want to.

4. Place like items together. Some of the categories I use are: veggies, beans, baking, meats, soup, cereal, paper, extra supplies. It's important to put the most used items in the front and at eye level. Also, face the packages so you can read the label. (These are a few tips I learned from my friend,Chris, a grocery store manager)

5. Label the shelves with the category name to help others in your family locate (and replace) items.

6. You can add shelving dividers and racks to the cabinet. I've found a good variety at Walmart and Target.

I know you'll feel better when your cabinets are looking good.

Ready. . . Set. . . Go!