Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Blog Recap

When reading Jo-Lynne's blog, Musings of a Housewife, I discovered a fun way to recap the blogging year. Below is a listing of the first line of the first post of every month in 2009. Please excuse my silliness. Remember, I'm new at this!
My name is Kelly Miller and I live in a quiet, rural area in South Eastern Virginia.
*This was my first post, introducing myself. Click on the date to see a picture of my ugly mug and my cute goats
Now that Christmas is over and the decorations are put away (right?), you're left with the paperwork that came with your Christmas gifts.
*Talking about Christmas in February?
Do you ever feel like you are falling behind in the maintenance of your home and car?
*Yes, I do.
Spring Cleaning is one of those chores that has fallen out of favor.
*This was my only post for the month of April. Apparently I was busy cleaning.
OK. It's almost Summer and we need to be done with our Spring cleaning because the beach is calling and we need to work on our tan.
*This was the first of only 2 posts for the month. Apparently I was at the beach.
As we come to the end of the school year, we're faced with a dilemma.
*I had to look up how to spell dilemma.
I love an organized pantry.
*This pretty much sums up my life.
Here is one of my favorite places to sit and think.
*My photography was starting to get better.
As autumn approaches I start thinking about cooking more.
*I really do cook during the other months.
I know I might be the only person on the planet who gets excited about cleaning supplies.
*This is really sad. Do I need to get a life?
Before I start the holiday cooking frenzy I like to replace my worn out kitchen towels, dish rags, and pot holders.
*I'm really easy to please.
Please forgive my tardiness!
*I hate being late!

Tidy Brown Wren learned a lot in 2009

This time last year, I didn't know what a blog was. I had heard of blogs but, not being computer savvy, I had never read one. Boy, has my world grown since I discovered all of you!

In doing marketing research for my business, Tidy Brown Wren: bringing order to your nest, I kept reading about starting a blog. I thought , why not? So, in January, I wrote my first post and cautiously hit the "publish" button. Only my MIL read the post.

As if the process wasn't hap-hazard enough, we only had dial-up service at our home. After enough tears on my part, my hubs finally relented and we got high-speed Internet. Whoo-hoo!

I limped along, posting infrequently, for several months. Then, I discovered that my cousin, Jo-Lynne at Musings of a Housewife wrote a blog. A really good blog. She also had a web design business called DCR Design. Wow! She was kind enough to take me under her wing and breath a little life into my sadly lacking blog. I love the design she put together and I'm still learning from her. Actually, I'm learning from all of YOU! I've learned about blogging, decorating, cooking, and living.

I appreciate all of your comments and feel like I've made many new friends. I wish a Happy New Year to all of you and I can't wait to see what we learn in 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wrapping it up and putting it away

What to do with all of the wrapping paper, bags and bows left over after Christmas? Pack 'um up and put 'um away. I keep mine in a 40 inch Rubbermaid Wrap and Craft. It holds everything I need, keeping it clean and dry until next Christmas.

First, I put my rolls of paper in and then I slide in bags, tissue paper, and flattened down boxes. I use pretty gift boxes to hold my ribbon. I roll each strand of ribbon around my hand and then slide it off, press it flat, and "file" it in the gift box. This wired ribbon can easily be unrolled and tied around the packages next year. Much of this ribbon has been recycled for 4 years now and it still looks great.

I use another gift box to hold package toppers. This protects the toppers from being crushed and broken.

I add the lightweight boxes into the bin and put on the lid. If I needed to replenish any wrapping supplies, I'd buy it now on clearance and add it to my bin.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Pack-up

This time of year is always bitter-sweet for me. I love all of the Christmas decorations, but I'm also eager to have my house back to normal.

That said, I want to show you how I pack up my decorations. First I grab my empty bins from the garage and clean out any debris from them.
Next, I pack away my decorations in labeled ziploc bags. Sometimes I also use small gift boxes that will fit down into the bin. The bags and boxes keep things from shifting around in the bins as we haul them up onto the shelves in the garage.

Whenever possible, I keep the original boxes an item came in. Not only are they usually labeled with what the item is, they are a perfect fit for the item. I save all of the bubble wrap that came with the box too.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Motivation: 10 Holiday Items to Throw Away

I hope you enjoyed Christmas with your family and friends. We had a pretty slow day which was just fine with me. We did a good job of cutting back on the gifts and that made for fewer, but more thoughtful selections. I only cried once, during the day, thinking of my little grandsons so far away in Boston. I missed them terribly.
Now, back to business. Let's get to purging items and organizing what's left. During the next few weeks I'm sure you'll be packing away your holiday decorations and I want to give you some ideas of how to do that. This week, on this blog, we'll focus on that. Today I will give you ideas of 10 things you might want to purge.
This is my no-holds-barred list:
1. Broken ornaments *
2. Candles that look beat up or that are burned down to a nub.
3. Wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, and gift bags that are too crumpled to reuse. That goes for boxes as well.
4. Decorations that didn't make it out of the storage bins/boxes this year or last year. If you're not using them, get rid of them.
5. Burned out lights and any knotted up balls of lights.
6. Sad garland and/or wreaths. Buy a new one on clearance. *
7. Old Christmas tins that have rusted or are dented. No one wants to eat food out of them.
8. Table decorations that are chipped, cracked, or have worn paint (unless you are like me and want to renew it with spray paint)
9. Table linens that are stained, ripped, or too worn out to add beauty to your table.*
10. Disposable dishes. They were not meant to be used over and over.
*** I have a really hard time throwing things away. It is my nature to want to make something new out of old. I have been known to make new ornaments out of the salvageable parts of a broken ornament, rejuvenate garland and wreaths by adding floral picks and additional garland, and make pot holders, aprons, or ornaments out of old linens. I can't help myself. If you choose to do the same, just make sure you have a plan of attack or you will become over-run with stuff. Jus'sayin!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Creating Order out of Christmas Chaos

I've written a story for Divine Caroline about cleaning up the chaos that occurs on Christmas morning. Hopefully you've already dug out from the clutter, but if you need a place to start check out my story.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wrensday: Birdhouse ornaments

Our family loves birds, bird houses and feeding birds. For several years in a row we made little birdhouse ornaments for our friends and family.

The base of the birdhouse is a simple unfinished wooden birdhouse shape that we purchased at Michaels.

This gingerbread birdhouse was made by hammering a nail into the roof to make "graham cracker" like lines. We used puffy paint for frosting and mini pom-poms for a wreath. Heart sequins decorated the shutters and pre-made candy cane charms stand sentinel by the perch. This was our first attempt at making the ornaments and you can see that it is quite primitive. Just some red and white paint, a wreath made out of yarn and seed beads and a chipboard sign on the side with the family's name on it. Pretty simple.

This one is my favorite. A copper roof tops the stone cottage birdhouse. The stones are actually small pieces of leather glued on the wood and then we filled in around them with puffy paint as mortar.
Merry Christmas from our little birdhouse to yours.
I'm linking up with Kimba at A Soft Place To Land. Check out her blog for some great DIY projects.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Tour

Welcome to my home! Thanks for traveling so far to see us. We hope you enjoyed the scenic drive and remembered to wave at the horses and sheep as you traveled down our country roads. Don't let the screen door slam as you come onto our porch. Our little bird tree stands sentry at the front door. She's wrapped with burlap and grapevine and decorated with natural ornaments.

As you walk into our foyer remember to pause under the mistletoe and smooch your sweetheart. I made this mistletoe ball with my grandma 29 years ago.

Here's our tree. No two ornaments are alike. Most are memories of our life together. The base of the tree is surrounded by a 100 year old quilt made by my great grandmother.

Here is my snowglobe collection. My very first snowglobe is on the top shelf, second from the left. Only half of the liquid is still in it! (Stay tuned to see this shelf reinvented in January)

This is our nativity set. The figurines are from Hubby's grandmother. She purchased them in the 1940's. Written on the bottom of each piece is the price she paid for them - 15 cents each.

To prevent our stockings from catching ablaze from the fireplace, we hang them along the staircase railing. I'm still working on 2 little ones for my two grandsons.

I made these stockings with quilted fabric, cuffed with embroidered fabric. I sewed some vintage German seed beads onto the embriodered fabric and added an initial ornament to label each stocking. Vintage trim from Great Nana's sewing box created the hangers.

This little tree is one of my favorites. It has a little "something" from each of our Grandmothers. The birds are from Gram, who used them when she taught children's church when I was a child. The small blue balls are from Grandma's tree. They are so petite. The small lace is from Nana's sewing box. It is used here as a garland. The tree skirt is made from a wide piece of German lace from Oma. I also added photo charms of my children when they were little. My Grandma loved those little charms and always wore them on a necklace.

This sweet little ornament is too detailed for me to see it hanging on my tree. Instead, I place it on my kitchen windowsill to enjoy.

This is our fireplace. I can't place too many things around it because we have to remove most of the items to light the fire. The stocking above the fireplace is made out of metal and is fine to keep hanging during a fire.

I try not to go overboard in decorating my house, but I do like to add a few details here and there. I few pieces of greenery decorate the downstairs guest bath. I added a sparkly starfish to the basket.

Another piece of greenery and a sparkly shell add a bit of Christmas charm next to the sink.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of my simple, little house. I was a little too late to link up with Nesting place at to share my home tour but pop on over to her blog to see some great ideas for holiday decorating.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Motivation: Keeping it simple

We're all guilty of going a little crazy this time of year. You know, the flurry of activity that surrounds Christmas. Shopping, baking, crafting, partying etc. . . I was especially aware of the flurry while driving home the other day and I heard all manner of car horns going off. Apparently everyone had had it with the traffic and each other.

My Aunt gave me a little book she found. It is no longer available to buy, but I wanted to share a few thoughts from the book. The name of the book is The Legend of the Christmas Prayer by Brian Morgan.

The story goes that an older gentleman wanted to give special gifts to those he loved. Not having a lot of money he thought of what types of gifts he could give that would have more meaning than a purchased item.

He gave a prayer for each of the twelve days of Christmas.

A prayer for:
Day 1: Joy in abundance and laughter. Laughter cures our ills and joy makes our spirits soar.
Day 2: A simple sigh as needed, for a sigh clears the heart as a cough clears the throat.
Day 3: Tears when you need them, for they clear the eyes to see and cleanse the soul to heal.
Day 4: Serenity because fights and wars start in individual hearts and that is where they must end.
Day 5: Wisdom in making choices.
Day 6: Patience to know that most troubles pass and success comes with persistence.
Day 7: Courage to face pitfalls and problems.
Day 8: Compassion to help others.
Day 9: Willingness to work, for work turns dreams into reality.
Day 10: Unwavering faith, for faith shapes our morals and our destiny and draws us closer to God.
Day 11: A mind full of hope for hope determines our attitudes.
Day 12: A heart so full of love that every day you must give some away to those whose paths you cross.

This book is a wonderful addition to your Christmas book collection if you can ever find a used one. It has beautiful illustrations and is well written. It is my prayer for you that you search for each of these gifts in your own life. We already have them, they just need to be dusted off and used. Christmas blessings to all of my wonderful bloggy readers. You brighten my day by commenting on my posts and sharing your ideas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Peppermint Play dough

We've been having a great time playing with Peppermint Play dough in my preschool classroom. It was really easy to make in the microwave. I made a double batch for my class of 10 students, giving each one a generous amount to play with. My daughter is making some for her Little Gym students as a gift. Each student will get their own bag of play dough with a cookie cutter attached. I know they'll love it!

Homemade Play dough

2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
4 tsp. cream of tartar (found in the spice isle)
1 cup water
2 Tbl. oil (any kind of cooking oil)
red food coloring (the more you add the darker it will be)
1 tsp. mint extract

Mix all ingredients together in a large glass bowl. Cook for 2 minutes on high. Stir. Cook 1 minute. Stir. Cook 1 minute . Repeat until your finger pressed down into the dough comes out dry (about 5 minutes total). No play dough should stick to your skin. Beware, though, because it is hot! If you double the recipe you'll cook it for about 10 minutes total, stirring between every minute of cooking. After it is cool, knead it until smooth. Store in a plastic container or a Ziploc bag. It does not need to stay in the fridge.

You're final product should look like the picture below. The bowl looks really messy but it cleans up quickly.

To make Pumpkin Pie Play dough for the fall, substitute orange food coloring for the red and ground cinnamon for the extract.
You can cook this on the stove top if you don't have a microwave. Add all the ingredients together and cook in a pan on the stove until the dough "comes together" and forms a ball.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quick Quiche

Last week I gave you some ideas for cooking ahead during this busy season. Several of you requested the quiche recipe, so I'm posting it today.
This recipe makes 2 quiche. I make them both, baking one for our meal, and freezing one for later.
Quick Quiche
2 pastry shells (I use refrigerated Pillsbury crusts)
2 cups diced, fully cooked ham
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tsp. minced onion (sometimes I use green onion too)
4 eggs
2 cups half-and -half cream (sometimes I use evaporated milk)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1. Line unpricked pastry shells with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.
2. Remove foil (save for later) and bake 5 minutes longer.
3. Divide ham, cheese, and onion between the shells.
4. In a bowl, whisk eggs, cream, salt, and pepper. Divide evenly between both shells.
5. To Bake: cover edges of crust with the aluminum foil and bake 35-40 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting.
To Freeze: Cover unbaked quiche with aluminum foil and place in a 1 gallon ziploc bag. Place flat in freezer. For convenience, prepare in an aluminum foil pan. Can be frozen for 3 months. To prepare: thaw in fridge and bake as directed above.
To print out this recipe click HERE.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wrensday: Front porch Christmas tree

Because I have a covered front porch, I love to put a Christmas tree up next to our front door. This poor little tree has seen better days (think Charlie Brown tree) so this may be our last year with said tree. All of the ornaments were either found at a thrift store or I made them myself. The banner above was found on a thrift store wreath. I pitched the wreath but kept the sweet felt banner that states "Keep Christmas in your heart".

I made these little votive holders from old jars and some wire. Some are canning jars that are chipped and some are pickle or olive jars. I wrapped wire around them to make a handle and added yarn and small beaded holly berries. I put battery operated candles in them and they are wonderful.

This is my favorite jar. I think lemon curd came in it. I love the little built in handles. Fun!
I'm linking up with The Shabby Nest's Frugal Friday party. Click on what others have made to get some great ideas for your home.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's on my floor?

For those of you who think I am a perfectly organized and orderly person, I give you exhibit A!
I don't know why, but I have a hard time keeping my crafting supplies from spreading all over my house. For one thing, I don't like to work at a table. At 5 feet tall, I feel like a little kid at the grown-up table. My feet dangle, and I end up sitting on my feet to lift myself up. I tend to work on the floor, or maybe I should say, in the middle of the floor.
Above is a picture of my office/craft room floor in mid-production of snowmen ornaments. Please don't be alarmed by the headless snowman or the pile of "arms" next to him. I actually picked up a little bit before I took this picture - mainly because I couldn't get to the camera without out picking up the piles of fabric.
So, jussayin', I'm not as neat as you think I am.
**For those of you interested: I'm making these snowmen out of a vintage cotton blanket and buttons from Oma Miller's button box. The "arms" are from my backyard.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Motivation: Buy your 2010 calendars

There are only a few more weeks left in the 2009 year. As I was making a doctor's appointment the other day, I realized that I had nothing to write the day and time on. How could I have forgotten to get a new calendar? Could it be the days are just flying by too fast? Anyway, I went to Office Max and picked up a 2010 calendar refill for my day planner.

Years ago, when I first decided to get organized, I purchased the largest planner binder I could afford. After all, I was trying to keep up with three whole children. I wasn't doing a very good job at it, forgetting one at school and taking another to the wrong doctor. Believe me - I was bad. Over the years, I've slowly downsized the planner to roughly the size of a wallet. It serves me well for this time in my life. Thankfully, I became a better mother too.

In addition to a planner in my purse, I also buy a magnetic calendar to put on my fridge. I hesitated putting one on the fridge for years because I think it looks junky, but "junky" is better than "forgotten". Our whole family can look at the calendar and see what the other family members are doing each day. My husband can also check to see which days I'm meeting in client's homes so that he doesn't schedule the repair man for that day.

Once a month or so, my hubby and I sit down together and synchronize our calendars. We look ahead to events coming up and plan arrangements together. This has helped us to work together as a team, especially in the areas of parenting and finances. Sometimes we do this as part of a date. While we're waiting for our food to be served, we pull out our calendars and talk about what's going on.

When I get my new calendar I go, page by page, through my old one. Birthdays, anniversaries, milestones, etc. are all transferred into the new calendar. My husband does the same thing but he also lists monthly chores in his. ( Car inspections, changing batteries in smoke alarms, winterizing the faucets, etc.)

We've taught our children to keep a calendar for school and we were pleased when the school system provided planners for all of the students to help them learn time management. It's a skill everyone needs to learn.

So your motivation this week is to pick up your 2010 calendars. Pick out ones you love so you'll be prompted to use it more often.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stenciled Christmas Cards

I've been busy finishing my Christmas cards.

I found this "JOY" stencil in my craft stash a few weeks ago and decided to design my card using it. I haven't stenciled anything in several years so I thought I would revive the craft this year. I forgot how much I like to stencil.

I put on Christmas music, hubby built a fire in the fireplace, and I stenciled at the dining table where I had plenty of room to spread out. As you can see, I stenciled silver paint on a piece of dark blue art paper (bought at Michael's for @ $2.00).

After stenciling 2 whole sheets, I cut around the stenciled design to fit on the front of my card stock. I also cut down 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of card stock in half to make my card base.

I buy my card stock in reams to cut down on the cost. One ream lasts me several years. In addition, I cut down a roll of bulletin board paper (from the teacher store) to fit just inside the front of my cards (5 x 3 1/2 inches).

I also used glue sticks, dark blue ink pad, and two rubber stamps.

First, I glued the silver bulletin board paper to the front of the folded card stock.

Then, I topped it with my stenciled "JOY".

Inside the card, I stamped a Bible verse and a graphic.

Then, I flipped the card over and stamped my "Handmade by" stamp and signed my name. Sometimes I add the date too. (ignore the aged hand in the picture!)

Well, that's how I make my simple Christmas cards. I usually make @70 cards every year. I like making something handmade for the people I love.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wrensday: Baby Shoe Ornaments

These are some of the most sentimental ornaments on our Christmas tree. I had saved my children's baby shoes for many years. As my children got older I realized that the shoes would never be worn again-too many new, cuter shoes for the grandchildren to wear. What's a mom to do? Hang them on the Christmas tree!

I love the scuff marks on the toes.

I labeled the bottom of the shoes for each child. With a Sharpie marker, I wrote their name on one shoe and their date of birth on the other. I simply tied the shoelaces together to hang them up.

Every year, when I hang them on the tree, I'm reminded of the little, fat feet that use to fill them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Refrigerator Roll Dough

Yesterday, I gave you some ideas to help keep you organized with meals during the busy month of December. A few of you have asked for the recipe for the refrigerator roll dough, so here it is. As you can see by my Betty Crocker cookbook, below, this has been a much used recipe for the past 28 years. I love this recipe because it makes approx. 4 dozen rolls and can stay in your fridge for 5 days.

My cookbook was published in 1979 and I could not find this recipe on their current website.

Refrigerator Roll Dough:

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 cup mashed potatoes (I make it with instant potatoes)
2/3 cup sugar (I use 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6-7 cups flour (I use 1/2 whole wheat flour sometimes)

Dissolve yeast in the warm water in a large bowl. (I use my kitchen aide mixer) Stir in potatoes, sugar, shortening, eggs, salt, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth.

Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. (I usually add 6 1/2 cups gradually and use the dough hook on the kitchen aide at this time) If not using the stand mixer, turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover bowl tightly; refrigerate at least 8 hours but no longer than 5 days.
Punch down the dough. Using floured hands, pull off small chunks of dough and roll into small balls. Place in a greased pan. Allow to rise in a warm place 45-60 minutes. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

I like to brush butter over the top when rolls come out of the oven. **While taking this photo, I was fighting off my family who was hovering in the kitchen waiting for a hot roll fresh out of the oven. A few seconds after this pic was taken, half the pan was consumed.

If you're confused about anything in the recipe just e-mail me and I'll help you out. (

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Motivation: Planning ahead with freezer meals

Hopefully you've got a handle on your decorations, cards, and gifts. Now to handle the busy schedule that inevitably fills up quickly around this time of year.

When the schedule is hectic, especially around dinner time, our tendency is to stop by the drive-thru for a quick bite to eat. The dollars add up as quickly as the calories do when we fall back on the fast food.

An alternative is to prepare food ahead of time and stock your freezer to be prepared. I got a head start on the process at Thanksgiving when I froze a few extra side dishes to have on hand.

Now I'm thinking ahead to make a few extra entrees and side dishes to freeze. I try to make a double batch of dinner a few times a week and freeze half for later use.

Here are a few of the meals I plan to cook extra of:

1. Chili
2. Soup
3. Enchiladas
4. Spaghetti sauce and meatballs
5. Quiche
6. BBQ chicken

Side dishes:
1. Sweet potato casserole (from Thanksgiving) to serve with kielbasa
2. Stuffing (from Thanksgiving) to serve with roast chicken
3. Applesauce -to serve with pork chops
4. Refrigerator bread dough (lasts 5 days in the fridge)
5. Baked banana bread and pumpkin muffins

I fill in the rest of our menu with fresh veggies, rice, potatoes, and crock pot main dishes. A great blog for crock pot recipes is found here. Check it out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Perky Pinecones

This is a really silly post today. I'm not even sure if anyone cares about this tip but it saved the day for me this week. I had decided to make pine cone bird feeders with my preschool students. Of course, I hadn't prepared the supplies ahead of time so I was scrambling to get them ready in the morning. When I went out into my yard to pick up pine cones, I discovered they were all closed up due to constant rain in our area. What's a girl to do? Microwave them!! I put 5 at a time into the microwave. I put them in between 2 sheets of paper towels.

After 2 minutes on high this is what they look like.

After 2 additional minutes this is what they looked like.

I stuffed the pine cones into a bag and went on my way.
**To make pine cone bird feeders, spread peanut butter, shortening, or lard on the pine cones. Sprinkle birdseed heavily onto it. Wrap yarn or twine around the fat end and hang on a tree. Enjoy watching the birds (and maybe a squirrel or two) eat their treat.