Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Motivation: Why should I make my bed?

I've found that there are two types of people. Those who make their bed and those who don't. Here are some thoughts and ideas I have on bed-making.

1. Most of us underestimate the amount of time it takes to make our beds. I've timed myself (I really do have a life) and I can make my queen size bed in less than 1 1/2 minutes. Most of us (maybe all of us) have 1 1/2 minutes to spare in the morning.

2. Clothing, books, glasses, etc. tend to get lost in unmade beds. I actually broke my glasses once because I sat on my bed and my glasses were hiding under my quilt.

3. All of those decorator pillows were are encouraged to adorn our beds with are a big deterrent to making our beds. They take more effort, in the long run, but I do love pillows.

4. If you don't like your bed linens you are more likely to not want to make your bed. Who wants to bother with something you don't like?

5. Once your bed is made, your room automatically looks neater and cleaner. You're also more likely to pick up the clothes on the floor because you won't want to ruin the beautiful view.

6. It's important to set a good example for our children. Making our bed is an exercise in self discipline.

7. At the end of the day, it just feels better to climb into a bed that has been made. The sheets and blankets feel smoother and cleaner. Ahhh!

See how many days in a row you can make your bed. Time yourself to see how long it really takes to do this little chore. You might be surprised.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Watermelon Granita

Summer is winding down but the heat index is still in the triple digits here in southeastern Virginia. I'm in the mood for something cool. Here's a recipe for Watermelon Granita that I found in Southern Living several years ago.

4 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed
2 TBL. lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar (sometimes I use 1/4 cup honey)

Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor

Pour the mixture into a 8x8 inch pan. Cover and freeze 2 hours or until almost firm. Stir occasionally.

Remove from freezer 5 minutes before serving; stir, if necessary. Serve immediately.

** If you accidentally leave it in the freezer too long, let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes. Then cut up the mixture into big chunks and pulse in the blender or food processor. Pour into dessert dishes.

Enjoy your cool treat!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The many uses of clothes pins

A while ago I wandered onto this adorable blog and found an idea to make decorated clothes pins. I love to make cute crafts that can be made quickly (instant gratification) but I also like to make crafts that are useful. So I put on my thinking cap and brainstormed about some ways to use these sweet little clothespins. Here are only a few of the ideas I thought of. I'll post about a few more next month.

First, I clipped one of my recipes onto my kitchen cabinet at eye level. It kept my card from getting goop sloppped onto it since I am a messy cook.

Next, I gave everyone a different clothespin and had them mark their drinking glass so we don't go through all of our glasses before dinner. You could also label the clothespins with your family members names.

This one might not be necessary for everyone, but it is MANDATORY at my house. If I don't want ALL of my food to be eaten by my 18 y.o. son, I have to label that it is to be saved for dinner.

This next idea is a typical use for clothespins. Many people use them as "chip clips" or to close bread bags if they loose the little twist tie.

I've been using this next idea for years, but now it looks cuter with newly decorated clothespins. I simply clip all of my little garden flags to a wire clothes hanger.

I can hang this in my coat closet and it doesn't take up much room.

What ideas can you think of for using these little cutie pies?

Nibbled starfish


These are the sweet little starfish I have on the window sill of my downstairs powder room. If you look closely, you'll notice the broken or "nibbled" tip of one of the smaller ones. Nibbled? Yes, nibbled. My 2 year old grandson thought they were cookies and took a bite out of one. Needless to say, he didn't like the "cookies".

I'll always keep this little nibbled starfish to remind me of my little hungry grandson. It always makes me smile.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Motivation: Silverware drawer

You know what happens. Life happens. It happens in your kitchen. It involves crumbs. Every person in your family uses the silverware drawer and they aren't neat about it.

Today is Monday and your motivation is to clean out your silverware drawer. Here's what to do:

1. Take all of the silverware out of the drawer.
2. Sort through it and remove any items that don't belong in that drawer.
3. Remove any dividers you have in the drawer.
4. The easiest way to remove the gunk that remains is to use the vacuum with the nozzle attachment. Suck up all of the crumbs, dust, and who knows what else.
5. Use your "sparkle cleaner" to wipe out the drawer.
6. Replace the dividers. If your divider is cracked or really beat up you might want to splurge and purchase a new one.
7. Replace the silverware, putting like items together. If you have a choice of where to put items, put them in the order you would use them when setting the table. (salad fork, dinner fork, knife, soup spoon, teaspoon) This will help your children to learn which utensil belongs where. My divider has the long, knife storage on the far left side, so I can't use this system. Look at the bottom of this post to see how I taught my children to set the table properly.
8. Don't forget to put the extra, removed utensils away where they belong.

silverware drawer

(Sorry about the hugh-mongo photo. I'll see if I can make it a less scary size)

I taught my children to set a proper (casual) table by counting the letters in the word.

1. FORK has 4 letters so it goes on the LEFT which has 4 letters.
2. KNIFE and SPOON have 5 letters each and they go on the RIGHT which has 5 letters.
3. The knife goes next to the plate with the "sharp" edge facing the
plate to that nobody gets hurt.

I know this sounds like a silly method, but my children all learned how to set the table at a young age. Now, I would be really happy if my 18 y.o. son would actually use the utensils when he eats. He says they "slow him down".

Friday, August 21, 2009

Free Plant Labels

After I made the Roman shade for my powder room using a mini-blind, I had a TON of leftover slats that I didn't want to throw away. What to do?. . . what to do?. . .

I know, I'll make plant labels with them.

I simply cut the slats into sections 4-5 inches long. I cut one end at an angle and wrote the name of my plant with a Sharpie marker at the top.

I love free stuff!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Powder Room Shade Project

I finally finished making a window shade for my downstairs powder room. Are they called powder rooms anymore? Anyhoo, the project wasn't difficult. The hardest part for me was just GETTING STARTED! The whole project took me about 1 1/2 hours. The tricky part was perching on a kitchen chair that stood in my bathtub. The tub was too difficult to work around with a ladder or step stool, so I had to resort to the-chair-in-the-tub solution.

I got the directions from Jenny at Little Green Notebook. Her directions were really easy to follow. She's very creative, so give her blog a peek.

Since I can never leave well enough alone, I added some seashells to the cord pulls. I think they add that little something special.

Tomorrow, I'll show you what I did with the leftover slates from the mini-blind I used to make this shade.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Homemade pillow cases

My little grandson is going to be a big brother soon. I've been excited about helping my daughter get things ready for the new baby even though I have to do it long distance (she's in New England and I'm in Virginia). My first contribution is two pillow cases for the boys (they will be sharing a room). Daughter and I picked out fabric when she visited in July and I've been looking for inspiration on the web. Well, I found a great tutorial at this site and I'll let you check it out for yourself as my directions could not be more clear than her's are.

Here's my final product. The boy's room will be done in brown, tan, and bright green with a few little cute monkeys thrown in (monkey theme - not monkey boys).

Here's a close-up. The fabric is really brighter than this, but I couldn't get the right lighting. The funny thing about this fabric is that my grandma had some sheets with this same circle pattern in neon colors in the 1970s. Like they say, everything comes around again.

Next, I'll be making a striped valance for the boy's room. Daughter sent me the measurements for the window. After that I'll be making Baby his own quilt from "Honey" or as Grandson #1 calls me, "Honey-honey".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Motivation: Magazine Mess

It's Monday. Time for some motivation to tackle one problem you may find in your home. I was motivated to clean out my magazine basket for two reasons. One, my basket was full and running over with publications (I love to read and I love magazines). Two, I found a really cute magazine rack on clearance at Hancock Fabrics.

Here is the before picture:

Here is the after picture:

OK, here's what you need to do.

1. Pull the magazines out of the container one at a time.
2. Put all of THIS CURRENT MONTH'S issues in one pile. Put all of the older issues in a second pile.
3. Place ONLY the current issues back into your container (pick a new, improved one if you can!).
4. Take the old issues and choose how you want to handle them. Here are a few options:
a. put them in the recycling bin
b. share them with someone who would like them.
c. (this is what I do) Go through them and tear out any articles, recipes,
pictures, or ideas you want to keep. File them in your filing cabinet,
wish book, or recipe binder. Put what's left in the recycling bin.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hummer makeover

Hummingbird feeder makeover, that is. My poor hummingbirds are having a hard time right now. It has been raining HARD for over a week now. All of my necter flowers have been beat down by the rain. To make matters worse, the moisture caused crud to grow on the hummingbird feeder. I have to help my little friends out. Here's what I did today.

First, I made fresh hummingbird necter for the feeder. I measured out 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of water.

I put the water and sugar into a small pan and brought it to a boil. As soon as it came to a boil, I took it off the burner and let it cool while I cleaned the feeder.

See how gross the feeder is. I don't want my hummers getting sick from the mold.

Using an old toothbrush, I scrubbed the parts of the feeder. On my feeder, the "flower" cups come off and I can clean it pretty well.

The inside of the glass resevoir was a little trickier. First, I put some rice into the container with some water. Then I shook the living daylights out of it. The mold didn't budge. Plan B: make my own "tool". I wrapped a fat rubberband around a chopstick and rubbed it around the inside of the bottle. It worked like a charm.

Nice and clean and ready to fill with my homemade hummingbird food.

I don't add any red coloring to the food. The hummers find the food just fine because of the red on the feeder.

Here it is. Ready for my little friends.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Powder Room Problem

I am the proud owner of a cobalt blue, cast-iron bathtub. I love it. The problem I am having with this room is the window above it. I'm not a big fan of glass block windows, but it came with the house. Apparently, it's not very private either. The window faces our front screened porch. We eat our dinner on the porch every night when the weather is nice. It wasn't until we had a party that I realized, much to my chagrin, that you can see shadows and silhouettes of whoever is in the bathroom.

I don't want to block the light that shines in. I thought about putting up wood blinds but they are too pricey for my checkbook. I looked at roman shades, but I couldn't find the right color. Then I came upon the perfect solution Here. I bought a white mini blind at Target for $3.99 and a nice medium weight fabric on sale at Hancock Fabrics. I'll be working on it over the next few days and I'll show you the results when I'm done. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mom's Command Central

As the beginning of the school year approaches, mothers all over the country break into a cold sweat. Not because they have to buy school supplies. Not because they have to pack 220 bag lunches (multiplied by 3 kids) during the school year. It's because they will be overrun by an avalanche of paperwork.

Papers to keep, papers to return, and papers to keep forever. Menus, permission slips, invitations, spelling tests, homework, and notes from the teacher.

Here are two ways I have used to keep track of my children's paperwork. I used the first method when my 3 children were older and were responsible for keeping up with their "study papers". You know, those graded papers and homework papers that needed to be used to prepare for tests.

I used the second method during the 3 terrible years they were in 3 different schools. Honestly, those were the most confusing years of my life.

This first idea uses a desk-top basket. In the back compartment, I have a file for each child. This is where announcements, schedules, and report cards are kept.

The middle compartment is where items go that need to leave the house. Permission slips, envelope with lunch money, and notes to the teacher. This spot needs to be checked every morning before school.

The front two compartments hold, pens, pencils, tape, note pad, post-it notes, and calendar. You could also have a magnetic calendar on the fridge that would serve the same purpose.

The second idea is a binder (to which I am partial). Remember, I'm a Piler!! Here I've used a small binder, but you would need a large binder. You could use a 2-3 inch one. It's better to have a bigger one and not use all of the space, than to have one that is bursting at the seams. You'll also need a zippered pencil holder that has 3 holes punched in it, several pocket dividers with tabs, and possibly some clear binder sleeves.

First, put in your zippered pencil holder. Fill it with items you use all the time like pens, pencisl, tape, scissors, and post-it notes.

Then, label each tabbed pocket divider with one child's name. Now, each child will have their own pocket divider. Add a few clear binder sleeves to hold menus or schedules that you'll want to glance at quickly. On the front of the pocket, you can write the phone numbers of your child's friends, the teacher's email address, or other info you might need to find. It will save you from searching through papers to find them.

If your child wants to, they can decorate the pocket divider. Let them have fun with it.

I hope this gets your mind thinking about how to control that paperwork that will eventually show up at your house. One more thought: go through the folder with your child once a month and decide what can be thrown away and what needs to be kept. Any of their keepsakes and love notes can be saved using this method.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Using cloth napkins: my itty-bitty part to save the earth

There is a lot of talk about being "green". One small change people are encouraged to try is to use cloth napkins. I tried it for a while, but with 5 at our table(three of them being children)it was a big hassle. I already had a ton of laundry. Why would I want to add to THAT? Being one to not give up easily, I came up with a solution that eased the burden of extra laundry. Here are two different ways to extend the use cloth napkins.

The first idea is to use different napkin holders. Every person has their own. Here is a cute little hen that holds my napkin.

Another idea is to use a different colored or patterned napkin for each person.

I've used different colored napkins, but the napkin holders are all the same.

I always thought you had to wash your napkins after each use, but if you think about it, they really don't get that dirty. I don't think my kids EVER used them, but I insisted they ACT like they had manners.

I've gotten most of my cloth napkins in the clearance section of T.J. Maxx. I've even made a few. Here is an idea of how to make your own out of old shirts! I think I'll give it a try.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Motivation-tackling your medicine cabinet

This is an important chore that needs to be done regularly to keep your family safe. Today, I want you to tackle your medicine cabinet. I want to assure you that this should not take longer than 1/2 hour.

Here's how to do it:

1. Open the cabinet door.
2. Remove everything from one shelf.
3. Check the expiration dates. Throw away any item that is expired, discolored, unlabeled, unnecessary, or belongs to someone who no longer lives in the home.
4. Set what you have decided to keep into a box.
5. Follow the procedure in steps 3 and 4 for each shelf or section of your cabinet.
6. Replace the items you are keeping (from the box) according to the type of item it is. Cold meds, first aide supplies, pain reliever, etc.. I like to place like items together in a container. The dollar store is a good place to pick up small, lightweight containers.
7. Place any items you are throwing away into a plastic bag, tie it up, and throw it into the trashcan where it cannot be torn into. DO NOT flush meds down the toilet. It has been proven that this leads to pollution of our waterways. Some pharmacies will accept old medication for disposal.

This simple chore can prevent harm coming to your family by ingesting a medication that has expired or is no longer safe.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Everlov'n Basil

I love the flavor of basil and I always plant it in my veggie garden. The problem I have is that by the end of July, my basil is looking pretty bad. It wants to go to seed and that makes the leaves get a different taste. Once a week I gather a large handful of stems to keep on my windowsill in my kitchen. After a week the stems will sometimes grown roots.

When I have a few "new" plants, I plant them in pots and set them outside near the back door. Now I have fresh basil that won't go to seed for another 6-8 weeks.
When they get too big for the pot, I'll transplant them back into the veggie garden. My favorite part of this idea is that I get basil for FREE!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Gel stain makes everything better

Last week, on one of my "thrifting" adventures, I found this candlestick for $1.98.
I liked the shape, but not the finish.

After rubbing it with some sandpaper, I spray painted it with black paint and a few sprays of bronze. I liked the color, but not the sheen. I wanted it to match a candle holder I had gotten on clearance at Pottery Barn. Solution - I brushed on some of my favorite Minwax Gel Stain in Brazilian Rosewood. It was just the right touch! I love my gel stain. It is my solution for just about every problem I have with an item's finish. I wish they made it for hair, 'cuz the humidity is making mine crazy!!!

The round boxes were origionally used by DH's grandma to store Baking Soda and Corn meal in her pantry. I love them. I store matchbooks in one and antique buttons in the other.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Landing Zone

I have a wonderful problem. I have a pretty large foyer. It is actually an air-lock. Our front door enters into this foyer and then another heavy door leads into the house. We only use it as an air-lock in the winter. It helps to keep the cold air out of the house.

The problem I was having was with the cute little secretary desk I have in the foyer. I like to keep the desk open because it is so handy, but it was becoming a catch-all for everything that comes into the house.

My solution was to buy some containers to act like little drawers in the desk openings. I needed to store things that we want to have handy as we come and go. I ordered these bamboo boxes from The Container Store. I measured carefully. I bought a few extra because I can stack 2 of them and they will still fit in the openings. Right now I don't need the extras, but I may need them in the future. This is also the official place for our Bibles. Please note that my husband's Bible is bigger than mine. He's so much smarter than I am!

I also put a little dish on the top to hold the phone charger. Right now 3 of us have the same (out-of-date) phones which all use the same charger.

Right now, this works well for us. In the red drawer I have chapstick, hand lotion, gum, mints, small scissors, and nair clippers. The small bamboo boxes hold the name tags and badges we use for work and church, pens and pencils, small GPS device, small flashlight, extra phone charger, and extra batteries and battery charger.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wrensday: It's time for figs

Here's the first fig picking of the season. I could have picked more if the chickens had not eaten the ones along the bottom of the tree. I'm looking for some fig recipes, so if you have a favorite let me know. Happy Wrensday.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pineapple Party

Summer entertaining is a lot of fun. Whenever we go to a potluck get-together, I always bring a fruit platter. Two reasons. One, I love fruit. Two, I'm lazy. A fruit platter is really easy to put together, it looks fancy, and the hardest part is cutting up the pineapple. When I say "hard", I'm joking. It's really easy. Watch.

First, get your supplies ready. You will need a pineapple (duh), a cutting board, an electric carving knife (easy) or serrated knife (more difficult), and a pretty platter or basket.

Next, cut off the top with the knife. You can leave it on, but it takes up a lot of space on the platter and sometimes looks messy.

Then, starting at the top, cut down the center until you reach the bottom. Be sure to cut all the way through. Now, you will have 2 pineapple halves. The red bowl to the right, is my compost bowl. I keep it handy to hold veggie and fruit scraps that are destined for the compost pile in the back yard.

Now, cut the pineapple half in half again.

Very carefully, skim the knife across the top ridge to cut off the tough core of the pineapple. Some people leave this part on, but it makes it more difficult for your guests to eat.

Next, skim the knife along the bottom, between the fruit and the skin (peel?, rind?, outside coating? I'm not sure what it's called).

Now, cut across the pineapple to make little chunks. What I forgot to show you is that I also cut length wise before I cut crosswise (look at the photo). You don't have to do that step if you want larger pieces.

Here's the final product. Looks yummy. I added grapes and a toothpick holder. You can add any fruit you want to.

Here, I show you a picture with the leaves trimmed off and few clementines added. The leaves do take up a lot of space, so you can eleminate them if so desired.

Pineapple Party, anyone?