Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wrensday: Porch Decorations for the Fall

I thought you might like to see a few fall touches I've added to my exterior living areas. We enjoy the porches almost everyday from April to November.

This is my front porch. I added some dried grasses to a painted metal pot. It was a silvery tin color until I spray painted it bronze. The bouquet of wheat is actually a plastic kind of material but it feels real. My sister-in-law gave it too me as a gift a few years ago. The "come sit on my porch" sign was a gift from my oldest daughter because she , well, likes to sit on my porch. You must have a fall wreath. This one is actually two wreaths stacked together and connected with a few pieces of floral wire. The bottom one is a berry wreath and the top one is a pre-made leaf wreath. I got them both from Michaels. The gourd came from Michaels too. The lantern was a gift from a student last year.
This is the arrangement on my back porch. (I am blessed with two screened porches) I simply placed a small grapevine wreath onto a large picture easel. My daughter gave me the easel for Mother's day. Notice the Brown Wren on the bottom left side? I love it. Of course, I had to add bird house to the arrangement. It was an unfinished wooden one I picked up from Michaels and painted with a myriad of paints and stains until I came up with the "weathered" look I wanted.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A taste of Autumn: Ginger cookies

When the weather starts to cool down a bit, I am eager to get into the kitchen and do some baking. This recipe is always my "go-to" cookie recipe for enjoying that fall flavor. Now, I must tell you that these are not healthy in any way. But, they are soooooo good. Just the right amount of chewy goodness.

Here's the recipe:

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger

Cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg. Beat well and add dry ingredients.

Roll into balls or use a small cookie scoop. Dip into extra sugar.

Bake in a 375 degree, pre-heated oven for 7-8 minutes. You can make really large cookies too, just bake them for 12-15 minutes.
Enjoy a taste of Autumn.

Packaged in a ziploc bag with a little tag, these make a great bake sale contribution. They always sell out whenever I make them for school or church fundraisers.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Motivation: Organizing your earrings

Last week we looked at cleaning your jewelry. This week we will look at organizing your earrings. You can purchase special earring storage boxes, but I have found a less expensive option. I purchased a storage container for storing scrapbook charms. I got mine at Jo-Anne Fabrics on sale for $1.00.

I am able to store quite a few sets of earrings in this box. I first had to go through the messy pile of earrings I had accumulated. Here's what I did:

1. Sort earrings to find matching pairs.

2. Gather like kinds of earring sets together (gold together, silver together, black together, etc.)

3. Decide which earrings you can get rid of. Remember, the more earrings you have, the harder it is to keep track of them. I have a separate box for earrings I no longer wear. Occasionally, I go through them and find a pair that I'm in love with again.

4. Sort earrings into individual spots in the container. If you have more earrings than you have space, you can double up similar types.

5. Originally I put small pieces of felt into the bottom of the container to keep the earrings from getting scratched. The truth is, the earrings would get caught on the felt and my earrings are all pretty inexpensive so I scrapped the felt idea

Friday, September 25, 2009

Plant Tag Book

I love to garden but it is difficult to keep track of all of the plant tags that come with my new plants. The tags contain valuable information that I like to refer to. I found a solution for the many plant tags I have accumulated. Because I am a Filer and not a Piler, I looked for a binder to keep them all in. I was able to find everything I needed to make this binder at Office Max. I used a small 3-ring binder with pockets, a set of divider tabs, and a pack of baseball card protector sheets. I labeled the divider tabs with the names of the main gardens I have around my house.

Then I simply tucked the tags into the card pockets. I can add new tags and remove tags from plants I no longer have (sad stuff).

Extra large tags from bulbs can be tucked into the front pocket of the cover.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wrensday: Fall Decorations

I have been resisting the urge to put up my fall decorations because the temperature outside has been in the 90s. Well, this past weekend, the mercury finally dropped to 80 so out came the pumpkins and the leaves. I really like the change of scenery. Here's a few of the changes I've made.
I found this metal vase at the thrift store for $2.98. I found the pumpkins at the dollar store last year.
This is an arrangement I made for the hearth. I found this cobalt pitcher at the thrift store for $5.00 and used two of the "bush" type of flowers/greenery from Michaels.

Here's my mantle which is very difficult to decorate. It is hung very high and I can't put anything that is too tall up there. I found the three matted and framed wildlife pictures at the Salvation Army Store for $.99 each. They are hand painted and custom framed. (talk about a real find) I added a double garland (from Michaels) and a few more dollar store pumpkins.

That's it for decorating indoors. Next week I'll show you what I did outside. Now, isn't it time you decorated for fall?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Felt Plate Dividers

I came across this idea purely by accident. I had a plethora of pre-cut felt circles left over from a Vacation Bible School craft. I didn't want to waste them so I was looking for a way to use them. I had traced the pattern from a dinner plate and that's where I got the idea. I decided to use the felt as plate dividers to keep these antique plates from getting damaged.

I simply alternated the felt with the plates and stored them in a drawer in my sideboard.

To make a nice gift for a friend, I cut circles out of a chocolate brown felt and used a blanket stitch in cream thread to edge them. She loved them and still uses them. The circles will also work for bowls. Larger circles can line non-stick pans to keep them from getting scratched.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Motivation: Cleaning Jewelry

This is a little chore that many people don't think about doing. It never occurred to me to do this until I went to one of those in-home jewelry parties. The consultant explained the importance of cleaning your jewelry regularly to keep it well maintained. Hmmm. . . makes sense. I won a party favor that night that helps me keep my jewelry clean. It is a cloth very much like this one. I keep it in my jewelry box and use it to wipe my jewelry off before I store it.

If you don't want to purchase a treated cloth, you can use several homemade cleaners. Here are a few:

1. For pearls, simply wipe after each wearing with a soft cloth. Don't ever soak your stands of pearls as it will damage them.

2. For silver, dip a cloth in baking soda and rub the silver. Buff with a clean cloth.

3. For gold, soak the item in a water and ammonia mixture (1:1 ratio) for 1/2 hour. Rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth. You can also soak items in a bowl of water with a few drops of dish detergent in it.

To keep your jewelry from getting too gunked up be sure to apply lotions, powder, perfume, or hair spray before putting on your items. Also, don't ever wear your jewelry in chlorinated water like a pool because it can damage the finish.

Friday, September 18, 2009

10 more things to get rid of right now!

Back in January I posted about 10 things you could get rid of to help cut down on the clutter in your house. Well, you've had 8 months to get rid of that clutter, so it's time to get rid of some more.

Ready? Here we go:

1. Shoes you don't wear any more (If in "like new" condition, donate them. If they look like trash, well then, they are trash)

2. Pens that don't work anymore. Sit down while you're watching T.V. and test every pen you have. Throw away any that are worn out or that you will never use.

3. Old candles that have gotten too ugly to be used in your decorating. Throw away.

4. Underwear that us stained, stretched out or has holes (need I say more?). Throw away. Remember, you always need to wear nice underwear in case you are in an accident. I know I sound like a grandma- well, I AM A GRANDMA!

5. Receipts for items you no longer have or that are no longer under warranty. Throw away.

6. Magazines older than 2 months old. Tear out any articles you want to keep and file them. Recycle the rest.

7. Make-up in your drawer that is older than 1 year old. If you haven't used it in a year it's time for it to go. Throw away

8. Phone books issued prior to 2009. Recycle old phone books.

9. Plastic grocery bags. Recycle the huge stash you have. You should be using the reusable bags, anyway. (this is a repeat from the January list because your supply has probably multiplied 10-fold since then.)

10. This is a hard one. Throw out old greeting cards you have received. Only keep a few that have very special, hand-written, personal notes to you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wrensday: Spider Lilies

I want to share one of my favorite plants with you. It is called a "Spider Lily" or a "Surprise Lily". The botanical name is Lycoris radiata. It is called a Surprise Lily because it pops up around this time of the year, seemingly overnight. It does not have any foliage. I don't remember ever planting it. It does grow from a bulb and you can purchase them online.

If you want to plant these beauties you'll have to plant them in the spring.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sweet Dreams: Freshly ironed pillowcases

One of the special childhood memories I have of living with my Grandma is of sleeping on freshly ironed pillow cases. The smooth cotton fabric felt cool against my cheek and the smell was of clean, line dried fabric. It is no wonder I have a special bond with old pillow cases. I especially love the cases with delicate trim or embroidered hems. The one drawback of these old linens is that they come out of the wash looking like a wadded up tissue. They MUST be ironed to appreciate their beauty. Over the years I have found a few tips to help me iron these babies quickly. I can iron a whole stack in half a hour.

Here's my pile of un-ironed pillowcases.

Here's my little helper, Magic Sizing. I found out about this "magic" spray when I eavesdropped on a conversation two old ladies had with each other while on the laundry isle at the grocery store. They were extolling the virtues of Magic Sizing and how it made all the difference in their ironing. Well, as soon as they moved on, I moved in on the magic stuff. I snatched up a can and used it as soon as I got home. That was 23 years ago and I haven't done any ironing since then without it.
I use my iron on the cotton setting and use a medium amount of steam. Here is one of my pillowcases with the "before" on the left and the "after" Magic Sizing on the right.

Here is the result of my 1/2 hour of ironing. I beautiful stack of freshly ironed pillowcases ready to use. I think I'll sleep really well tonight.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Motivation: 10 minute pick-up

This little motivation will make a big difference in how orderly your home looks. As a professional organizer, I'm often asked how to keep a home looking neat. The answer is the 10 minute pick-up. Here's how the 10 minute pick-up works:

1. Start at your front door.

2. Pick up anything that doesn't belong in that area. It helps if you use a small laundry basket to keep the items in.

3. Go to the next room (let's say the living room). Pick up anything that doesn't belong in that room. Put anything from the laundry basket away that belongs in the living room.

4. Continue through each main room of the house until everything is put away.

Remember, you're not CLEANING the house, only picking up clutter. If you have little ones at home you might have to do this several times a day. I personally do this 10 minute pick-up every morning before I leave for work and every evening before I go to bed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Southwest Marinade for Chicken

This marinade is so good. I haven't tried it on other meats yet but I'm drooling thinking about some marinated shrimp on the grill.

Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (fresh really does make a difference)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbl. honey
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

Mix all above ingredients together to make the marinade. Place chicken parts in a ziploc bag and add all of the marinade. Marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Remove chicken from fridge 20 minutes before grilling. Grill chicken until completely cooked through. Enjoy!!

For more mouth watering recipes, check out Jo-Lynne's blog Musings of a Housewife.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Before and After: You can paint your garage floor

I'm so excited about this project. We worked on it over the Memorial Day Weekend because we knew we would have dry weather and we all had a few days off. We started by taking everything out of our garage. We have a huge garage (920 square feet) and the floor was really gross. I never liked to go into the garage because it was dirty, depressing and it always felt damp because of the untreated concrete. Here is a before picture.

Here is the after picture:

I used the Behr line of concrete paint and their little bags of paint sprinkles. You simply clean your floor, paint a small area at a time, and sprinkle it with the paint flecks.(that was my favorite part-like sprinkling streusel onto coffee cake).

We painted 3/4 of the floor on Saturday morning. We decided to only paint part of the floor because it takes a while to dry and we needed to keep some things under cover in case of rain. After the 3/4 part of the floor was dry, we moved everything onto that part of the floor and painted the rest.

We also took this opportunity to go through the garage and get rid of junk. A quick visit to Sam's club for some new shelves and I'm as happy as can be.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wrensday: The Scarecrow

We have a rather large organic, raised bed garden. The previous owner had done most of the work to the garden. One thing it was missing was a scarecrow. We did, however, have a very interesting "statue" that was mounted on our deck (I told you our house was random). After scaring our teenage daughter one too many times, we decided he would make a better scarecrow out in the garden.

Every 6 months or so he gets a new bandanna. This one is compliments of World Changers where my son volunteers during summers.

I wish he would earn his keep. This past summer he did not scare away any animals or birds. The raccoons ate our corn. The birds ate our cherries. The squirrels ate our apples, and the chickens ate our blueberries.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Washed and ready to go: Lettuce, that is

In an effort to feed my family more healthy foods, I was often frustrated by my lettuce going bad before we would eat it. I realized there were two reasons we weren't eating the lettuce.
1. It seemed like too much trouble to prep the lettuce before each meal.
2. The bagged lettuce I bought would go bad almost overnight (especially the red leaf variety).

I saw a solution to my problem last year on the Food Network. I've been using this idea for over a year now, and it is great. We have salad more often because it is easy to grab the prepared lettuce out of the fridge and also my family is more likely to put lettuce on their sandwiches because it is "user friendly".

Here's what you do. First, cut the end off of the head of lettuce. Wash the lettuce in a strainer, sorting through the leaves while the water runs over them.

My salad spinner comes with a strainer in it. I just pop the strainer into the spinner and give it a few spins.

Next, lay the lettuce on a cotton dishtowel. The towels I have are pretty large and I can fit a good amount of lettuce on them. The lettuce should not be perfectly dry.

Now, roll the towel up like a jelly roll.

Place the rolled up lettuce into a plastic bag. Don't worry about closing the bag up. The bag just helps to keep some of the moisture in the towel which keeps the greens crisp.

This solution will keep your greens fresh for a week and possibly longer. Just remember, the greens are more nutritious the sooner you eat them. Also, this does work for iceberg lettuce, but iceberg lettuce has practically no nutritional value so I never bother with it.

Umm. . . I think I'll eat a salad for lunch!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Motivation: Clean out your purse

Something happens to me around this time of the year. I guess it's the start of the new school year or maybe it's the cooler weather. Whatever the reason, I can't help myself. I have to clear out the clutter around my house. I think it's called nesting :)

We all tend to accumulate junk. It creeps in, unawares, and before we know it we are drowning CLUTTER.

Monday Motivation is a good time to tackle those little pile-ups of clutter. Today we'll tackle our purses/bags.

First, collect every purse/totebag you have. Bring a wastebasket nearby and a small box or container.

Let's start:

1. Take your current purse and take EVERYTHING out of it.

2. Throw the trash into the wastebasket. Shake the bag over the wastebasket to get out all of that yucky residue that collects in the bottom.

3. Place all items that won't be returning to your purse into the box/container.

4. Repeat this with all of your purses and bags.

5. Decide now, with all of your bags in front of you, which bags you can get rid of or donate.

6. Wipe down any leather bags with a leather cleaner.

7. Wash any bags that are machine or hand washable and hang to dry.

8. Return the usable items to your current bag.

9. While you have everything out, you might want to make a copy of your credit cards for protection.

10. Put your other bags away where they will be easy to get to.

11. Take the items in your box/container and put them where they belong.

Need a reason to shop? How about some of these cute organizing ideas?

Look at these pocket organizers.

Seriously, I'm thinking of trying to make something like this. I love this pattern.

This one would be great for larger bags. I like how it gives structure to floppy material

Friday, September 4, 2009

Just what I always wanted: a church pew

I'm not sure why, but I've ALWAYS wanted a church pew. Not a pew from the church I grew up in (because it was built in the 60's with bright red upholstered pews) but an antique pew from some little country church. Well, it finally happened. My hubby found one in our neighbor's front yard, near the road.

He went up to her house and knocked on the door. He asked her if she was getting rid of the pew and she said "yes" because her son had gotten her a real front porch bench as a gift. She actually made DH sit on her new bench with her to show how strong and sturdy it was.(I have to giggle when I think about that) When it arrived at our house it did not look like this. . .

It looked like this. . .

church pew before picture

It had been sitting on her front porch for years, only partially sheltered from the weather. The kind, older neighbor explained that the pew had come from Lake Drummond Baptist Church many years ago when they replaced their pews. And, yes, it was almost 100 years old. Hallelujah! It fits perfectly on our front, screened porch after a major rejunivation.

First, I rubbed it carefully with fine grade steel wool. DH had to make a wide foot to go under one of the legs to keep it steady. (one of the sides had been attached to a wall) Then, I applied a coat of stain and then 2 coats or exterior poly to protect it from the weather.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wrensday: Why getting my mail is so much fun.

I love to walk down to the end of my driveway every day to retrieve my mail. Why? Because I get to visit my little friends who accept my mail.

I can take no credit for these creative companions. They came with the house when we purchased it. I have to admit that when I first saw them I said "they will be the first thing to go IF we buy this house". After moving in and getting to know our quirky, random, little house out in the country, I grew to love the little tin people. One added benefit is that whenever people are trying to find our house, I tell them to just look for the tin man and his wife standing at the end of the driveway.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Homemade applesauce


As autumn approaches I start thinking about cooking more. It's not that I don't cook in the summer, I just try to cook "cooler" recipes that don't require heating up the kitchen so much.

With the larger variety of apples available now, I'm thinking about cooking applesauce. I learned to make this when I was first married and it's very easy.

You can cook this applesauce in the crockpot or on the stove.

For each person you are cooking for, use:

2 apples, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 Tablespoon water, dot of butter.

1. Cut the apples into quarters, cut out the core, and peel them.

2. Cut the apples into chunks. They don't have to be perfect because they will cook down into mush.

3. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and water

4. Cook on the stove-top for 20-30 minutes on medium low or in the crock pot on low for 6 hours.

5. Before serving, throw in the butter to add a little richness.

6. If the apple chunks have not cooked down to mush, simply mash them with a potato masher. We like to eat them with the apples kind of chunky.

I serve this applesauce with ham, pork roast, or when we eat "breakfast for dinner".

I always serve this on Christmas morning with our breakfast. I put everything in the crockpot on low and cook overnight.

One added benefit of cooking this applesauce is that your house will smell WONDERFUL!