Friday, July 30, 2010

How to make new metal look old quickly.

We finally finished a much needed chore in the butterfly garden.
This particular side of our house faces our driveway and parking pad and looked weird because it had no windows or architectural details - just lots of plain siding.

To remedy that, we bought a wonderful rusty arbor/gate and placed it in the center of the wall.
We planted Carolina jessamine on it and within 2 years it was covered with the vine and we've enjoyed beautiful yellow flowers for months.

But, something was still missing. So we added a pyracantha bush on each side and started training it to be an espaliered form. Hubs made a temporary form for it to grow up on.

Well, you know how sometimes temporary starts to become permanent? Yeah. The pyracanthas grew and became too big for the temporary form. It was becoming an eyesore. After much prodding, Hubs bought six 10 foot poles and pounded them into the ground, 3 for each bush. Then, because the bushes had grown into the forms we had to cut each individual fence wire with wire snips to get it off. Whew!

*In Hub's defense, his hubby-do list is very, very long

Finally, the new poles were up but looking a bit too new and shiny for Brown Wren Acres. We only do rusty, old looking metal around here. So. . . nothing a bit of spray paint wouldn't fix. I bought a metal primer made for exterior rusty metal because it was a nice rusty color. I also found a can of dark brown exterior paint in the garage that I was able to use. Below is a pic of one of the poles half done. Rusty on top, shiny on the bottom.

I didn't want to actually spray paint the poles because they were so close to the house. I simply sprayed paint onto a rag and dabbed the paint onto the poles. I had to be careful because I was on a ladder for much of the time. The paint dried quickly and then I dabbed the brown paint over the rust colored paint to make it look like old rust (to match the old rusty arbor).

We'll be adding some horizontal wire to support the pyracantha branches. I'm also looking for interesting finials to put on top of each pole. Of course, I'll have to rustify them too.

Boy, I think that Carolina jessamine needs a haircut. I better put it on the hubby-do list.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Canning tomatoes: easier than I thought

My garden is finally starting to produce tomatoes.

I grew heirloom tomatoes from seed for the first time and it has been a learning experience.
The hardest part was keeping moles/voles away from them one they were transplanted into the garden.

I planted 6 Beefsteak plants and only have 2 left.
I planted 12 Amish paste plants and only have 4 left.

The plants that are left are doing well and I was able to can my first few pints of diced tomatoes.

I use a lot of canned tomatoes throughout the year for soups, sauces, and other recipes. 
My goal, this summer, is to can or freeze 60 pints of diced tomatoes and 100 pints of tomato sauce. 
This week I canned 3 pints of diced tomatoes.  I think I've got my work cut out for me.

I used a tutorial from a wonderful blog called Thy Hand Hath Provided.  This blog is full of very helpful foodie type posts.  What I liked about her way of canning tomatoes is that you can can in any amount.  By that I mean if you have 4-5 tomatoes that are ripe, you just can that much.  If you have a bushel of tomatoes you can that much.  No recipe to follow, really.

Well, I'm off to the garden to see if any of my tomatoes are ripe.  I'm thinking I'll have to buy some from my farmer's market if I want to meet my target amount this year.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wrensday: Garden helper

I found a little helper out in the garden.

This is a zipper spider or black and yellow garden spider.

These spiders won't hurt humans and they do eat other bugs.

This web reminds me of the webs Charlotte would weave in the book Charlotte's Web.

I shall name our spider Charlotte (I've read they can hatch 1300 babies) Yikes!

I'm linking this special spider up to:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's rocking my world right now?

Can you sit for a spell and visit with me?  I'll fix us some sweet tea and we can chat.

This past week has been an emotional roller coaster for me.  Usually I don't share my personal problems with my blog readers but I've learned something important that I simply feel I must share.  It's rocked my world and it's too important to keep to myself.

Several months ago I shared with you all that I have an inherited kidney disease.  My Dad and sister had the disease as well.  Up to this point I've been plodding along, visiting my doctor every three months and having whatever medical tests were required.  My kidney function has gradually decreased over the past 2 years but slightly increased 3 months ago.  One night last week, after my scheduled blood work, my doctor called me at home to let me know that my kidney function had dropped from 21% to 17%.  He told me that if it doesn't return to 20% in three weeks I will be placed on the transplant list.

I've always had a healthy lifestyle.  I tried to eat low cal/low fat foods and exercise regularly.  I didn't smoke, drink alcohol, or do drugs.  More recently, I've started eating whole, organic foods.  After the dietary changes, I noticed the increase in my kidney function. I felt like I was on the right track.  I was encouraged to keep doing all I could to help my poor kidneys out.

When my doctor called, I felt as if all of my hard work had evaporated.  He sensed my frustration with my bad test results and reminded me that their is no cure for my disease except a transplant.  He also reminded me that my lifestyle has been beneficial because it has given me quality of life.  I have felt generally well even though I'm sick.  But in the back of my mind I kept thinking. . .

When you follow the rules, you should be rewarded!

This is not fair.  This is not how I've planned my life to be.  I've been working really hard and what do I have to show for it?  Not fair, not fair, not fair. 

Yes, I had a pity party.  My family didn't know it.  My friends didn't know it.  My pastor didn't know it.  But God did. 

And my pity party did not impress Him. 

I inwardly sulked.  I ate junk food.  I didn't exercise.  I didn't pray.  I cried a little.

After a few days, God spoke. 

I was driving to work and couldn't get reception to my favorite radio station.  I couldn't stand the silence so I channel surfed.  I heard a voice on the radio of a young wife and mother telling her testimony.  After a few minutes of listening, I realized she was talking about the fact that she was dying.  She was dying of cancer.  She had maybe 6-12 weeks to live.  She would be leaving a loving husband and 2 small children behind.  She wasn't having a pity party.  She wasn't sulking.  She was too weak to eat much or exercise.  She prayed a lot.  She only cried a little. 

God spoke through her words.

I thought about her all day while I worked.  After dinner I looked up her name and found her website.  I was able to watch a video of the testimony I had heard.  I listened to the whole thing.  I was so amazed with her story.  I was convicted by my attitude.  After all, I'm not dying.  My life will certainly change in a great way.  I will have to take medications for the rest of my life.  I will most likely gain enough weight  so I will not look like myself.  But I'm not dying. 

Her name is Rachel Barkey.  She died last year.  She is one of my heroes.
If you get a chance, please look at her website and check out her testimony.  I think it might change your life. . . or at least your attitude. 

These are Rachel's words. . .  
 There is a natural tendency within us to try and make God who we think He is or who we think He ought to be. If all is well in our world, our view of God is unchallenged. He is good. He is loving. He is fair. But when things start to go awry, that is when our true view of God is revealed.

We think God is not good or that He is unjust or that He is not in control because hurricanes destroy whole cities. Children are mistreated and abused. Wars break out and innocent people are killed, or women get cancer and die, leaving their children without a mother and their husbands heartbroken. We try to fit God into who we want Him to be rather than seeking Him for who He really is.

My frustration and anger are normal. They are even right—some would say. But at their root, they are unbelief. They are my sinful heart saying, “I don’t believe that this is the right thing for me, God. You must not know what You are doing, or if You do, You are not good, or You are not in control, or You are just being unfair because I don’t want this, and You are not giving me what I want.”

That is what my heart naturally says, and what yours does, too, when faced with circumstances we don’t like—when someone at work is making things difficult, when someone in our family doesn’t do what we would like them to do, when accidents, natural disasters, or disease happen. But God is good. He is in control. And He is fair. When I try to make Him into a God who serves me, I sin. Our natural bent is to sin, and it is our greatest problem.

And just to make sure I got the message clearly, God directed our pastor to speak these same thoughts on Sunday.  That pretty much took care of my pity party.  I'm out of my funk.  Today I'll eat my wholesome food, exercise, and read my Bible.  I'll pray and thank God for being in charge of my life.  He is good.  He is in control.  He is fair. 

May God bless Rachel's family.  I'm sure they miss her terribly.  I'm so glad she lived out her purpose and shared this message with all of us. God certainly used her to rock my world.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Finding Fabulous showcases Etsy shops

Jane at Finding Fabulous has started a new "party" for shop owners and crafters to showcase their handmade items.  I've listed a few of the items I'm selling in my shop.  If you like quilts, I noticed there are a few beautiful selections already listed. 

Monday Motivation: Making a few changes and cleaning out magazines

A little over a year ago I started doing  a weekly post entitled Monday Motivation.  Many of you have expressed appreciation for the reminder to take care of little household jobs that pop up around the house.  Truthfully, I don't get a lot of comments on the posts and my analytics graph shows the posts don't get a lot of traffic.  Since it is not my goal to bore my blogworld friends (or my real world friends for that matter), I've decided to change things up a bit.

Instead of only listing a household chore on Mondays, I'll be adding some other tips as well as inspiring quotes and anecdotes.  Please let me know if you like the changes or not.  Also, feel free to let me know if you would like to see some different types of things here at TBW. 

Today's Monday Motivation:  Cleaning out your magazines
  *This post was originally published in August of last year. 

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 Fabric
Here is the before picture:

messy magazine basket

Here is the after picture:

neat magazines

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.

Quote of the Week:
Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. 
                                                                                from The Book of Common Prayer 1662

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stories with Papa

We're big readers at our house.

There are books in every nook and cranny.

When our grandsons visit we pull out books we think they would enjoy.

This photo was taken early one morning during their last visit.  The sun was just coming up and J wanted some Papa time. 

So, still in their pjs, they snuggled on the couch and read a book.

Because they live in Massachusetts and we live in Virginia, we don't get that snuggle time very often.

To help with the long distance story reading, the kids set us up with a camera and Skype as a Mother's Day/Father's Day gift.

So now, on Friday or Saturday nights, you'll find Papa and J reading a story together. 

Now if only we could figure out how to snuggle long distance.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Serendipitous Solution

A few weeks ago we had Vacation Bible School at our church.

I taught the 3 and 4 year olds for the week. 

One of my student's moms brought in a basket of handmade quilted items as gifts for the teachers.

I chose an adorable key chain that had chickens on it (of course).

The mom handed me another little bundle and told me I "had" to have "one of these".

I wasn't sure what "one of these" was.

I opened it up to find this:

And then I flipped it open to see this:

Oh, cute!  My first thought was to put photos in it.  But I really didn't need a spot for photos.  I needed a place to put all of the member cards and punch cards for places I shop.  They've been slowly filling up my wallet and becoming hard to keep track of.

So, I simply placed the cards in my new little holder:

There's even enough room to keep these little encouragement cards I like to have on hand.

This is one of the best gifts I didn't know I wanted!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wrensday: New Family Members

We must be losing our minds.

Hubs woke up Saturday morning and said "Honey, let's go get another chicken today".

Then after our morning coffee he said "Honey, maybe we'll get two".

I agreed, because we do need more chickens.  Our two current "girls" can't keep up with the amount of eggs we need.  Also, our chickens are the best bug eaters around.  We haven't had a problem with spider mites or squash beetles since we got them.

So off we went to the chicken man's house.  He's an older gentleman who wears large black muck boots and talks to chickens.  (He also has a huge veggie/fruit garden that I'm envious of)

An hour and a half  later we were back home with our two new girls.

Meet Red.

(front view)

(back view-just in case you care)

She's still a pullet and won't lay eggs until September or October.

And then there's Babe.

(front view)
I love how little chicken's feet always look too big for their bodies.

(side/back view - she's really quick)

Babe is still too small to free range.  She still peeps like a chick instead of clucking like a chicken.  We don't let her out of her cage unless we're working in the garden and can keep an eye on her.  We're afraid she'll get snatched up by a hawk.  She follows hubs around like a little puppy (I think it's because he wears large black muck boots and talks to her). 

If you enjoy seeing what others are doing in their gardens, check out the other links on this web site:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tidy Brown Wren news: Facebook Fan Page

I've been playing around on the computer during the day when I should be cleaning my house.

I decided to start a Tidy Brown Wren Facebook fan page to show off some of the organizing, staging, and upcycling projects I've worked on. 

Check it out and let me know what you think.

I'm also so stinking proud of myself for figuring out how to take a screenshot of my Facebook page.  I know some of you young folks are probably rolling your eyes, but this grandma is happy to successfully learn something new.  (I didn't even cry or mutter while figuring it out!)

Here's the tutorial I used.  This screen shot shows that I downloaded Fireshot, but I found an easier way and left Fireshot in the dust.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Motivation: Pack a picnic basket

Years ago we used to visit my aunt and uncle in the western part of our state for long weekends.  Usually those visits included a hike in the mountains and a picnic dinner. 

One of the tips I learned from my aunt was to keep a list of picnic items and store it with all of the non-perishable items in the picnic basket.  That way, you'd always have your list and most of the items ready to go at a moments notice. 

Here's my list:

Items to keep in the basket:

picnic blanket
table cloths
plates, cups, napkins, silverware
salt and pepper
serving utensils (spoons, knives, tongs etc.)
hot pads to handle hot food
garbage bags
aluminum foil
ziploc bags for leftovers
wet wipes
roll of paper towels
first aide kit
sunscreen/bug spray

Items to grab before we go:

charcoal (and lighter fluid if needed)
folding chairs

What would you add to the list? 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Zucchini recipe even squash haters like

I've always loved zucchini and summer squash. 

My favorite way to cook them is to chop them up and saute them with butter, salt, and pepper. 

Yum, yum!

However, my husband has texture issues.  He doesn't like the seeds or the cooked texture of them.

"Mushy" he says.  "Seedy" he whines.

Well, I finally found a way to cook them that he declared "Delicious".

First, wash the squash and using a veggie peeler, slice from one end to the other, creating a ribbon.

Here's what you'll have when you're done.  This was one large zucchini and two medium summer squash.  When you're slicing each side of the squash, stop slicing when you get to the seedy part.  I save these for lunch the next day and cut them into pieces to eat with hummus.

Saute with homemade Italian dressing (recipe to follow) for just a few minutes.  You don't want to overcook these babies or you'll have mushy.  Use as much dressing as you want to.  I probably use 1/4 cup (I'm guessing).

Quick and tasty.

Here's the Italian dressing recipe:

1 cup EVOO
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 minced garlic cloves
1 Tbl. honey
1 green onion, minced
Mix together in a jar and shake well.  Store in the fridge.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Introducing Petal Pins in my Etsy Shop

Well, I've decided to put the new linen table runner into my Etsy shop. 

And while I'm on a linen kick, I decided to make these and put them into the shop as well.

I call them "Playful Petal Pins". 

You can wear them on your clothes or your handbags.

One or more would also look cute on a plain pillow.

This next one is my fav.  I want to keep her . . . but I won't.

This one matches the mother/daughter apron set I have in the 'NIBBLING section of my shop.

The shop sections are the same as the sections here on my blog.

NESTING:  things for making your home a bit nicer
NIBBLING:  things you'd find in your kitchen like aprons, dishtowels, etc.
NJOYING:  things that make you happy just to look at them or wear them

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wrensday: Catalpa cycle of life

We have two unusual trees on our property that keep life interesting around here. 

The tree is called a Catalpa tree.

In the spring, the tree leafs out quickly and presents us with beautiful flowers.  You can smell the flowers all around the yard.

But then, just when summer is in full swing . . .

they arrive and devour every leaf in sight.

Yes, I'm talking about the Catalpa Sphinx Moth worms.

They love the leaves on this tree and can defoliate one tree in a matter of 48 hours.

All that's left are the little seed pods that hang down, lonely swaying in the breeze.

But, just when we think all hope is lost, our hero comes to the rescue. 

The Yellow Billed Cuckoo eats these worms like they are candy. 

He grabs a worm in his beak and thrashes it back and forth before consuming it whole.

We know he has arrived when his familiar kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk call is heard.

We always hear him but rarely see him.

After the last of the worms is eaten our poor Catalpa trees grow new leaves but won't flower again until next Spring when the cycle starts all over again.

I'm linking to :

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A wee bit of Summer reading

I'm a reader. 

I'm a non-fiction only reader.

I'm a non-fiction, learn as much as I can, reader.

This is what I'm reading right now.

I like to tag pages to reference later with mini post it notes. 

There is so much to learn about in this book.  Sometimes I can only read a few paragraphs and my brain is full.  Well, it's a good thing I have all Summer to work on it. 

What are you reading right now?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Motivation: Clean your vacuum cleaner

Yes, I know.  You probably think I've lost my marbles.  I am now cleaning my cleaning tools.  Specifically my vacuum cleaner. 

But hear me out:  To function at it's best, a vacuum should be cleaned regularly and it's filters changed frequently.

Let's get started:

1.  Read the care booklet that came with your machine.  It has important information from the manufacturer in it.  Not all machines are created the same.

2.  Learn how to change your filter.  Always keep several filters on hand.  It's usually cheaper to buy them in bulk.

3.  Learn where the secondary filters are in the machine.  The secondary filters are often ones that you simply rinse out and allow to dry rather than ones you have to replace.

4.  With the vacuum cleaner unplugged, turn the machine upside down and check the beater brush.  Frequently you'll find thread, hair, twist ties, etc. wrapped around the brush.  This extra fluff and stuff keeps the beater brush from doing its job.  I use a small pair of nail scissors and carefully cut away the junk I find wound around the beater.  Sometimes I even use a pair of needle-nose pliers to grab the stuff and pull it out.  Be extra careful to not pull on the brush part or some of the bristles might come out. 

5.  After all filters are washed or changed and the beater brush is de-junked, it's time for a little spit shine.  Simply use your Sparkle cleaner on a rag and wipe down the machine.  Vacuums tend to gather dust. 

6.  Check the attachments for your machine.  You know, the extra brushes and crevice tools.  Wash them in the sink with simple dish detergent, rinse, and then allow to dry.  My attachments are contained underneath a little trap door.  I clean the trays they sit in because dirt and sand tend to collect in the depressions.  

7.  Check for any wear and tear on the electrical cord.  If you see any fraying or damage you should take it in to be fixed.  You don't want to play around with electricity.

Now, what should I vacuum first? 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Upcycled Linen Table Runner

It's too hot to work outside so I've been inside sewing up a storm.  My latest project?

A linen table runner upcycled from a ladies dress.

I used the buttons from the dress to adorn each end of the runner. 12 buttons in all.

The linen material is so summery!

Do you like my new/old table?  Hubs brought it home one day.  While visiting his mom and dad, he saw in it their neighbor's trash.  They were moving out and threw their solid oak kitchen table out for the garbage.  Gotta recycle!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Uh Oh, the power's gone out!

Summer storms or overstressed power grids can cause the power to go out.

I try to be prepared and take things in stride.

Hubs bought me these oil lamps 20 years ago at a yard sale.  I just love the hexagon pattern on the base.  It reminds me of chicken wire or bee hives. 

I keep these lamps cleaned and filled with unscented lamp oil so that we can use them when needed.  We keep the matches handy too.  Hubs and I grabbed our books and sat at the table for a few hours, just reading and chatting.  The house was quiet and still, except for our voices.  It was a nice change of pace.