Sunday, February 28, 2010

Monday Motivation: Dryer rescue and a give-away

I was staging a house the other day and as I walked into the utility room I smelled a slight burnt smell. It wasn't too strong, but it made me wonder where the smell was coming from.
Because it's my job to make homes look and smell their best, I started to investigate. My first stop was the washing machine. No problem (or smell) there.
My second stop was the dryer. Bingo! The lint trap was completely filled and overflowing with lint. The smell was old dryer lint that was continually heated and reheated. Eww.
Not only does this obviously create a smell it is also a fire hazard. This dryer lint could have caught on fire at any time.
Here are the steps you need to take to keep your dryer vent in good condition:
1. Unplug your dryer and pull out the dryer lint trap.
2. Discard the lint. I grab a bunch of lint and then use that wad to gather the rest of the lint. Lint seems to stick to lint.
3. Grab your vacuum cleaner or shop vac. Stick the hose attachment down into the dryer where the lint trap was. Stick it down as far as it will go and turn the vacuum on. Wiggle it around to suck up as much lint as you can.
4. You can also purchase an attachment to make this easier.
5. While you have the vacuum out, pull the dryer away from the wall and vacuum behind it. You might even find a few treasures back there (at least a few missing socks).
6. Push the dryer back into place, making sure to not kink the vent duct.
7. Replace the lint filter and plug the dryer back in.
You can hire someone to come to your home and do this but they will charge you at least $60.00. I clean my own for free.
I stopped using dryer sheets a few years ago for several reasons. They contain a lot of chemicals, they leave a coating on your dryer and your clothes, and over time they prevent your towels from being absorbent. I use these dryer balls instead. I usually line-dry my clothes and linens and then tumble them for 5-10 minutes in the dryer with the dryer balls. It's a little noisy, so I keep the door to the utility room closed.
The best thing you can do to keep your dryer in good shape is to clean the lint filter after each use. Let me know what treasures you find when you pull your dryer out. I'll send a set of dryer balls to the person with the wildest find.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Updated shelves

You've seen this picture before. This is how my reading corner looked a few weeks ago. Then, I decided to change out my darker colors and lighten things up a bit. Notice that the back of my bookshelves are deep red? I painted them that color so the back of the shelves would recede (at least that was my theory).

I bought some sage gray paint and painted the background. After the paint dried I thought it looked a bit too bright so I antiqued it with a clear glaze mixed with burnt umber acrylic craft paint. I simply rubbed it on with a rag.

Sorry for the dark picture. The sun hasn't been shining here for a few days. This is the same corner as the first picture.

This is the opposite side of the entertainment cabinet. My collection of birds is displayed here.

My husband says I really shouldn't be left alone at home with a paint brush. Next week I'll show you some other items I painted.

Late Winter Centerpiece

After a few days of above freezing weather I was feeling a bit of the Spring Fever. To help alleviate the symptoms, I've begun to add a few lighter touches to my home. First stop, dining room table. Remember my winter arrangement? As this table is our family's main eating place, I have to make the arrangement simple enough to remove quickly when it is time to set the table.

I started with a metal pedestal I found at a thrift store for $1.00. I added a chunky whitewashed frame that I purchased previously at the thrift store. I placed an off-white candle in the middle and surrounded it with blue/aqua/clear sea glass. Nestled around it is a scarf that I got as a Christmas present. The scarf is very easily snagged so I don't wear it as an accessory - my house wears it!

Here's a side view.

I think my candle is leaning. I need to make an adjustment. Just pretend it is straight.

Check out The Shabby Nest's Frugal Friday Party for some great decorating ideas.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wrensday: Little Visitors to The Wren

We've had a couple of little visitors to Brown Wren Acres this week. Our daughter and two grandsons have come for the week while our SIL is at a conference.
"J" is Papa's little helper. Everywhere Papa goes, J will follow. Or in this case, Papa follows J.

Please leave your boots at the door.

J loves to help Honey (that's me) with the gardening. This week he learned how to dig compost and how frogs like to hibernate in Honey's garden. Side note: Honey HATES frogs!!

J's little brother, "N", loves Papa's shoulder. All babies love Papa's shoulder.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sewing room tour

Several of you have emailed me to ask about how my sewing room is set up. I guess I never thought about showing it off because it's not very cute or attractive. It's a rather plain area with a hodge-podge of organizing tools. I've just used what I found here and there. Many of the things I have are hand-me-downs from my grandmothers or my hubs grandmothers. Actually, I don't think I'd have it any other way. I come from a long line of creative women and having their "treasures" makes me feel like I'm carrying on their legacy. I have very big shoes to fill.

I found this small drawer unit at the thrift store and I spray painted it black. I made small tags to label thread colors.

odds and ends of thread, sorted by color

I've purchased baskets whenever they were on clearance to hold fabric. These two baskets hold upholstery fabric for current projects and Christmas fabric that I'll be using to make items for my etsy shop.

Years ago I purchased a hardware sorter (in the middle) from Big Lots. I sorted my buttons into it and got a lot of ribbing from my family for being just a little too organized. I love that I can find any button I want in just a few seconds. I even have one small drawer for those little spare buttons that come with garments I purchase.

Imagine my surprise, after receiving hub's grandma's bin of sewing supplies, that she had organized her buttons almost exactly as I had. Her buttons have my buttons beat by a mile when it comes to beauty and variety. Some of her buttons are antique and many of them came from Germany. I love to use them on Christmas ornaments and now on items I sell in my etsy shop.

simple labels, hand written

I love my Longaberger button basket even though I don't use it for buttons. I have my grandma's tomato pin cushion in a hand painted sugar dish. Hubs accidentally broke the lid and so I just use the base now in my sewing room. The basket also holds my tape measure which is held together with a clothespin, a magnifying glass, small scissors, and a seam ripper (which I use a lot).

This is my sewing machine. It was my grandmothers. It is a Kenmore that was made in the 1970's. It is mostly made of metal and it works really well.

This is the view from the window of my sewing room. Even in the winter, the trees are beautiful. My sewing room/office gets morning light and on nice days I can open the windows and get a cross breeze.

At the end of the day, I like to cover my machine up with a cover I made. Nothing fancy - just practical and cheerful.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Motivation: Welcome in the Spring

We've had a few days of above freezing temps now and I've begun to get a bit of Spring Fever. It helps to get through the dreary days of late winter if I have some springy decorations around the house to cheer me up. Here are some ideas for bringing that fresh look into your home:

1. Cut some twigs of spring blooming branches and bring them into the house. Some ideas are apple trees, cherry trees, forsythia, pussy willows, quince, and lilac. Simply cut small branches/twigs that are about 24 inches long and place them in a vase of water. In a few weeks you'll have a vase full of blooming branches. I've found that forsythia blooms the quickest. Last year my forsythia also rooted in the water and I had several new "bushes" to plant out in the yard.

2. Put away darker colored items and replace them with lighter colors. Pillow covers, vases, throws, picture frames, flower pots, and other accessories are all game. In the next few days I'll be posting several projects I've done to lighten up my home.

3. Look for accessories you have around your home that remind you of nature and "new life". Birds, bird's nests, eggs, feathers, seeds, flowers, leaves, moss, pastel colors, and lighter shades of your home's colors.

4. Rearrange your furniture to open up the floor plan. In winter we tend to "cocoon" and push furniture into cozier arrangements.

5. On sunny days, be sure to open your curtains and shades and let the sun shine in. If you have mini blinds or vertical blinds, open them up all the way to allow maximum sun to shine in. As nights are still cold, be sure to close them as the sun sets to keep cool air out.

6. If your climate allows, bring home pansies and other cold tolerant plants. Place them in a pot next to your front door and also where you can see them from inside your home (like on your deck). Seeing that cheerfulness outside will warm you up inside.

7. Place a bright and cheerful wreath on your front door. Michaels has a nice supply of spring picks available. Just buy 5-7 of them and stick them in a grapevine wreath you already have. I love the look of forsythia blooms poked into the rustic brown of a grapevine wreath. Very welcoming!

I hope you'll enjoy bringing a little bit of spring into your home.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Recovering an ottoman

Yesterday, I showed you the new reading area I put together in my family room. Today I want to show you how I covered the ottoman. It's really pretty easy, but I do recommend that you use a sewing machine.

First, lay your fabric upside down over your ottoman. I used 1 1/2 yards of heavy upholstry fabric for this ottoman. Pinch the corners together and pin. After pinning all four sides, sew a straight seam from the first pin to the last pin on each side.

Trim extra fabric away from each side.

Remove the cover and turn it right side out. Fit it over the ottoman. You will need to wiggle it a little at a time on each side to get it to fit snuggly.

Turn ottoman upside down and fold over raw edges of fabric. Then fold the fabric over on itself and staple down. I use an electric staple gun which makes it very easy (but loud).
When I tire of this fabric (I know myself well) I can rip out the staples and make a new cover or enjoy the original cover which is still in place.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reading corner remake

I'm getting tired of all of the red in my house. Yes, red is my favorite color and yes, red warms up the house in winter, but I'm done. I've slowly been redoing my upholstry. This week it was a pair of chairs I got from Pier One and an ottoman.

I needed something more neutral.

Here's the solution. Sturdy fabric that I used to cover the cushion, footstool, and throw pillow. I was able to buy remnants so the cost was minimal.

I used very inexpensive burlap and antique buttons to make a pillow cover. The edges are frayed for a rustic look.

This is what I'm reading while I wait for Spring to arrive.

My new table was a fun find. I've been drooling over a table like this at Pier One for $50.00 but I found this one at TJMaxx for $35.00 and I had a gift card which covered most of it. It's not a brown wren, but it's close enough. For those of you who hate the look of cords, I promise to take care of the problem. I was in too much of a hurry to get my post done to worry about cords.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wrensday: Blooms in the snow

In my butterfly garden, I have a Carolina Jessamine growing up a rusty garden arbor. Imagine my delight when I found the Jessamine blooming underneath the snow.

Hurry Spring, hurry!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tip of the week: lemon oil

You all know how much I love cleaning products. I've written about sparkle cleaner and microfiber mopping before. Well, here's one of my favorite multi-taskers. Formby's lemon oil treatment takes care of a lot of problems for me. It works really well on furniture but it also takes care of other things.

My kitchen is in a sorry state. Everything is 30 years old and nothing started out as a quality product. I don't think the man who built this house was married at the time. My kitchen sink and faucet are both sad little numbers. Scratched, faded, and water stained.

Once a week, I rub some lemon oil on the chrome with a paper towel and it really brings back the shine. Yes it's temporary, but I'll take what I can get.

I've also used the lemon oil on glass shower doors to remove water spots. I always take a bottle with me to staging jobs because it can renew the look of cabinets, wood furniture, chrome details, and stainless steel.

The fine folks at Formbys did not design their product to polish the items I'm using it on. I'm not sure they would agree with me or not. Please be sure to always do a test on a small section of your surface with any product you've never used before. Just because it works for me doesn't mean it will always work well for you in your home. I'm jus' sayin'.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Motivation: Clean off your bookshelves

I love books. Books are my friends. I have a very difficult time weeding out books and heaven forbid - getting rid of some. But, if I didn't purge some books every few months, I'd be overrun by them.

I was blessed to have several built-in bookshelves in our home when we purchased it. Along with our entertainment/wall unit, I'm good for storage. Many homes I go into have no bookshelves - at all. Books are piled up everywhere. The homeowner feels overwhelmed and their beloved books are a big part of the problem.

I'm going to walk you through, step-by-step, how to organize your book shelves.

1. Collect all of your books from all of your rooms. You'll have no idea how many books you have until you collect them all in one place.

2. Sort books by category. Here are a few suggestions:
- spiritual (bibles, commentaries, workbooks, devotional etc.)
- fiction (this includes paperbacks and hard cover)
- home and garden (how-to books, cookbooks, gardening, bird watching, decorating etc.)
- biography and non-fiction inspiration
- reference (some reference may be with other categories)
- children's books

3. Go through each category of books. Decide which books you will keep and which you will donate to charity. You might even have to make a pile of books that need to be returned to their rightful owner(s).

4. Of those books you are keeping, decide where you would like to store them. Do you want your cookbooks in the kitchen? Do you want your spiritual books in your office where you study? Do you want children's books in your family room or in the children's rooms? There is no right or wrong place for books as long as they are stored so you can access them as needed.

5. If you are storing most books on one large shelving unit, you might want to separate them by category. I use books stacked on their sides to divide sections of books. I also add small framed art pieces and family treasures.

This is the built in bookshelf under my stairwell. I have most of our books stored here. It's not the most attractive arrangement, but it's very functional. I can find any book I need in a matter of seconds. I even have a basket of veggie seeds next to the gardening section because that's where I store my garden notebook.

6. If you have emptied bookshelves to get them organized, be sure to clean them before you restock them. Some of your books may need to be cleaned too. I just usually vacuum the books and the shelves with a vacuum brush attachment and then wipe down the shelves with a damp cloth. You might even find some money! One house I was staging had money stored in one of those book vault contraptions. The family didn't even remember it was there. They were very excited.
Monday Motivation One Year Ago:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Engagement Photos

We have something special to look forward to this year. Our second child (baby daughter) will be getting married in October. She has asked to have the wedding in our backyard. We are more than happy to oblige. A few months ago she and her fiance had their engagement pics taken at our home. A good time was had by all.

Don't they make a cute couple?

Our wood shed never looked better.

Never ones to be left out of the party, Gus and Bubba had a great time too.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Learning by Doing

I've always been bothered by this lamp in my bedroom. It was a very cheap purchase that filled an immediate need when we moved in to our home. Well, during our snow blast 2010 I had just too much time on my hands and this lamp was really buggin' me. Too small, shade too white, base too ugly, bad proportion, etc. . .

Searching through my thrift store stash in the garage, I found this sad little number and it's sad little friend, Mr. Shade. The size was working for me so I decided to get to work. I'd never recovered a shade before but I always learn best by just jumping in trying.

I pulled some handmade paper from my paper stash. I had purchased the paper from 10,000 Villages years ago for around $2.00. I spent about 45 minutes doing the math to figure out how to cut the paper to fit the shade. I'm not a very sharp pencil when it comes to math so this almost did me in.

I cut 7 pieces of triangularly (is that a word?) shaped paper, glued them to the shade, and then trimmed it out with miniature bias tape. I found the bias tape in Great Nana's lace and trim box. Before I finished the trim, I decided that I needed to lengthen the shade. I added rectangular shaped paper with the raw edges exposed to the bottom. I folded the paper to look like a box pleat. It did the trick.

I painted the base of the lamp with some acrylic craft paint. I didn't use a brush. I used a baby wipe dipped in paint to avoid brush strokes. I used a caramel color and then a gray color over it to tie in with the artwork above the lamp.

The lamp cost around $3.00 at the thrift store, the shade was $0.50, and the paper for the shade was $2.00. So for $5.50 I have a new, larger lamp. It's not a perfect solution, but I enjoyed the process of learning by doing. I'm really proud of my math achievement!

I've linked this post to Twice Remembered's Make Your Monday. Check it out!