Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where do I blog?

I saw this fun party over at Kate's blog called Centsational Girl.  I just drool over her home office.  Let me tell you, this girl's got class. 

Anyway, she's having a party where you can post pics of the places you blog.  I had never given it much thought, but I do tend to blog in several areas of my home.  They are my comfort spots and also where I can feel creative. 

So, here's where I blog:

My blogging location varies with the weather.  On nice afternoons/evenings you'll find me here on the front screened porch.  The chickens are usually running around just outside the porch area and they are quite the entertainment.  Babe, our youngest, insists on talking to me the whole time I'm out there.  I keep reminding her that she is a chicken - not a person!  Posted:  NO CHICKENS ON THE PORCH! 

On beautiful mornings you'll find me here.  I like to do my devotions out here and follow up with a bit of blogging and facebooking. 

 When the weather's bad, this is where you can find me.  Our window seat has everything I need.  Comfy pillows, snuggly blanket, and a window sill to hold my hot tea.  I love how the sun streams in the windows in the morning. 

If you're interested in where other bloggers blog, then check out the party at Centsational Girl.

** Don't forget, tomorrow I'll be having a give-away to celebrate my 300th post.  I'll see you then!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Seasonal shopping and planning

                                                                                                          Source:  Country Living

Where did the summer go?  Didn't it just seem like we were pulling out the summer decorations, bathing suits, and lawn chairs?

If you've noticed, the stores are already full of Halloween, Harvest, and Christmas decorations.  But, hidden in dark corners, on the back sides of shelves, and counters by the restrooms are treasures to be found. 

Start thinking of items you might need for next summer and look for those items on the drastically marked down clearance isles. 

*Do you have a pool (or are planning on getting one?).  Look for items to replace or supplement what you already own.

*Do you have patio furniture that needs replacing or needs new cushions.  Buying them now will save you at least half off what you'd pay in the spring for the same thing.

*Do you have any summer birthdays you need to buy for?  Cute candles, place mats, lanterns, beach bags, water toys, or lawn games make great gifts.  You'll be planning ahead and saving money!

*If you have young children, can you buy clothing ahead in a size or two larger?  Sometimes short sleeve shirts, tank tops, and such are great for layering all during the year.

*Are you planning on growing a garden next year or expanding your flower beds?  Look for tools, pots, and other gardening items that are marked down.  Also, some nurseries mark down their perennials and fall is the perfect time to plant perennials for next year.

*Would you like to invite birds into your yard?  Right now many bird houses, bird feeders, and hummingbird feeders are marked down.  In our area, hummingbirds are active until mid October.  Song birds are around all winter and will need a bit of extra food during the cold winter. 

*Do your kids need new bikes?  Many stores are getting rid of their old styles to make room for the latest styles to sell at Christmas.  You could buy one on sale and hide it until the holidays. 

Speaking of hiding, if you do buy things ahead of time and store them for later, be sure to write down where you've hidden things.  One year I bought toys in July for Christmas.  I hid them in my neighbor's attic.  Do you think I remembered them? Do you think she remembered them?   No, I bought more toys in December and didn't remember the toys in my neighbor's attic until she was moving and found them - two years later.  Needless to say, I donated them to Toys for Tots.  At least they were purchased on sale. 
Now, when I buy ahead, I store them in a designated closet and mark it in my day planner.

I'm not advocating buying items "just because it's on sale".  That mentality adds to the clutter of our homes and our lives.  But if you know you're going to purchase a particular item in the future and it's deeply discounted right now - well then, I say, buy it.  

On Wednesday I'll be celebrating my 300th post by having a give-away.  I post details tomorrow.  I can't wait!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Yes, even tissue boxes must be cute.

If you're expecting today's blog post to be inspiring, useful, or helpful - well, you'll be dispapointed.  Sorry.

Today's post is trivial and bordering on weird but I'm just keeping it real here at The Wren.

Today, I'm going to show you how I major on the minors, so to speak.  Here's what I do when my favorite box of facial tissue runs out.

I love this box.  It matches my bathroom perfectly.  I was sad when I used up the last of the tissues.

When I went to the store to buy more I was disappointed to find out they didn't have any of this same design.

So, I bought whatever was cheapest and brought it home.

I opened up both boxes on one end. 

I slid the stack of tissue from the ugly box into the cute box.

Then I used my handy double sided tape to tape up the end of the cute box. (don't worry, ugly box went into the recycling bin)

If it doesn't stay "stuck" I'll have to pull out my trusty glue gun. 

Ah, happiness in the form of a tissue box. 

**Yes, I know that paper tissue is not "eco-friendly".  But, neither is my runny nose during allergy season with no kidney safe medicine available to relieve the symptoms.  I'll be dabbing my nose for the next 3 months. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Upcycled camera strap

I've been wanting to make one of those cute camera straps for my camera that I've been seeing all around the blog world.  Lots of cute fabrics and ruffled patterns. 

Problem is, my Hubs uses my camera sometimes and he's not too keen on cute and ruffly (except on me!).

So, I looked around my upcycle fabric stash and found this suede skirt that I thought would be perfect.

First step:  I cut off about 4 inches from the bottom of the skirt.  It was not hemmed, so I didn't have to take that into consideration.  I trimmed the strip down to 24 inches, folded the ends over and hemmed them on the machine.  Easy.

Then I cut a piece of extra fabric from the skirt that measured 4 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches.  I folded over two of the ends and hemmed them.  Then I sewed one end to the strap, pleating as I went.  This will become a pocket for the lens cap.  (in the picture you can see that I had already sewn the cover part way and had to take out the stitches after discovering that I had forgotten to make a pocket.  Oh, well.) 

Next, I put the right sides together, making sure to line up the edges of the pocket too.  I used binder clips from my desk instead of pins to hold the fabric together.  I didn't want to leave pin  marks in the suede.

I sewed it together using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

After sewing, I turned it right side out and slipped it onto my camera strap.  I had to take the pic while the strap was off the camera.  One of these days I'll take the time to learn about proper lighting and the settings on my camera. 

Since making my new strap, I haven't lost my lens cap even once!

In other news, I'll be having a give-away next week to celebrate my 300th post.  Stay tuned for details!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wrensday: Hibiscus beauty

When we moved to our property almost 5 years ago I was determined to bring some of the plants I had nurtured at our old home to our new home. 

Our friends were gracious enough to "plant sit" for us for the 3 months we lived in an apartment, while looking for a home.  They had a "nursery" area in a shaded section of their property in which I stored pots and pots of plants I had dug from our old home. 

One of my favorites that I had to keep was a perennial hibiscus.  I got the seeds from an old family friend who had been growing it for decades in his back yard.  It took 5 years from the time I planted it until it finally bloomed.  But, boy, were the blooms worth the wait.

The flowers are the size of luncheon plates.  They tower over the other plants in the garden - even the tall grasses.

I have since weeded this garden and it looks much better!

Right now, since the day lillies are done, the hibiscus is the only color in this border.  It's been blooming for 4 weeks already and there are many more buds waiting to open.

I've linked to:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You've got to try: fresh nutmeg

Several years ago I received a gift from a friend who vacationed in St. Thomas.  She brought me back a jar of whole nutmeg.  It came with a tiny grater tied to it. 

I tried out freshly grated nutmeg the very next time I made homemade applesauce.  The fresh nutmeg put the old powdered nutmeg I had been using to shame. 

Since that time, I've never looked back.

As I'm preparing to make the final batch of applebutter wedding favors, I decided to show off the whole nutmeg I'm using.  The glass jar (on the left) is the original jar my friend gave me years ago.  I just keep refilling it when I run out.  To the right is a jar I just bought at TJMaxx.  Who knew they had great spices?

Also in the picture you'll see the grater I upgraded to.  This is not a true micro planer but just a cheap mini grater I picked up at who-knows-where-maybe-a-thriftstore.  I use it to grate Parmesan cheese, chocolate, and lemon/lime peels.  It works great and cleans up nicely.

This shows you the inside of the nutmeg. 

To grate, you simply rub the nutmeg on the grater.  Just grate whatever amount you need.  The remaining part of the nut can be placed back into the jar for the next use. 

Sometimes I place the grater over a small bowl to catch the ground nutmeg (especially if I need to measure accurately).  Mostly, though, I just grate over the pot or bowl I'm cooking in.  Hold on tight to the little guy or else he'll pop right into the pot and you'll have to fish him out.  If that happens be sure to let him dry thoroughly before returning him to his jar.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Motivation: Gaze upon what is orderly

I came across a fun website that made me smile.  It's called Things Neatly Organized

I've always liked places and things that are neatly organized.  Libraries, grocery stores, hardware stores, museums, magazines, encyclopedias.  If things were lined up, stacked up, color coordinated, or in alphabetical order then I was in my happy place.

When I looked at Things Neatly Organized, I was reminded of all of the places in my home that bring me joy because they are orderly.  Not perfect, not immaculate - just orderly.  So today, don't look for something in your home that needs your attention to clean or organize.  Just note those orderly areas that bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart.  Here are a few of mine:

A set of Bible commentaries.

Tomatoes ripening on the kitchen window sill.

Knives in their holder.

Freshly canned tomatoes.

Stamps stored in a printer's case.  This hangs on a wall in my sewing room.

Skirts, sheets, shirts, and fabric waiting to be upcycled into items for my Etsy shop.

Antique wooden spools of thread.

Starfish lined up on the bathroom counter.

What orderly things in your home bring a smile to your face?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Three things I know

I interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post to inform you of three things I know.  Well, I know a lot of other things but these three things are super important for me right now. 

But first, a little history:

If you'll remember several months ago I let you know that I have an inherited kidney disease called Polycystic Kidney Disease.  It is causing my kidneys to decrease in function.  My last blood work said my kidney function was at 17% and my doctor told me that if August's blood work didn't show an improvement in function (to 20%) then I would be referred to the transplant team at the local hospital.

For the past month I've been praying, my church has been praying, and many of you have been praying (thank you).  About 2 weeks ago, while doing my devotions, the Lord impressed on me the question, "Do you think Jesus is powerful enough to heal you?".  Well, being the good Christian girl that I am I answered, "Well, of course He can.  He is the creator and sustainer of life".  Then the convicting words came back "Well, then act like it".  Gulp!   I was convicted.  You see, I had never really asked Christ to heal me.  I had asked for grace and peace to handle the disease.  I had asked for a cheerful heart as I dealt with the side effects.  I had even prayed for the doctors and nurses to see Christ in me as they cared for me, but I'd  never asked for healing.  So right then and there, I prayed for healing in Jesus' name.  And then I started to act like it.  I acted as if I was healed.. I thanked Christ for healing me. I announced to my Sunday School class that I believed I would be healed.  They agreed with me in prayer.  This past Wednesday, I had my blood work done.

Well, I got the results back today and my function is still at 17%.  So I'm being referred to the transplant team and they'll tell me what to do next.  I stood in my kitchen and said to God, "So, what do I do with this information?  I acted in faith.  Is this how it ends?  What happens now?".

 I called my Hubs and told him the news and then I went about my daily work.  Laundry, baking, sewing.  Mundane tasks.  At my sewing machine, God began to work in my heart.  He quietly reminded me that he was at work.  He reminded me of the three things I know:

1.  Even though my kidney function is very low (I really should be on dialysis right now) I feel better than I have in months.  In fact, Wednesday, I scrubbed all of my floors and baseboards in the whole house and put a finish on most of the floors. 

2.  Even after hearing the news I've been dreading to hear (dreading for 4 years now) I had a unique peace in my heart.  Sure, I'm confused and unsure of the future, but I've handled much smaller things with much less peace.

3.  He's not finished yet.  God is still at work and His timing is perfect.  Also, I know He is working all things out for good.  I trust Him in this.  It's His plan, His timing, His will. 

I don't know what my future holds - but I know who holds the future.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New kind of wall art

Here's the latest in wall decor for your kitchen.

What?  You don't have a jar lifter hanging from your kitchen cabinet knob?

I've been hanging it there for convenience, while I can these:

I've still got a few weeks more of canning to do so I think I'll just keep it up there until it's time to decorate for Autumn. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Moon flowers show off

So many of the plants in my garden are colorful, hardworking plants.

And then others, like the Moon flower, are just plain show offs.

Each Moon flower bloom opens as the sun sets and stays in bloom until the sun climbs high the next day. 
Show off!

It reseeds itself and pops up anywhere it wants to grow in my garden.  It's flowers are huge and have a sweet scent.  Show off!

Even the seed heads are larger than life.  Show off!

**If any of you would like to have some Show off Moon flower seeds just let me know.  As soon as the seed heads dry I'll be happy to send you some.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Keeping track of bill paying

For those of you, like us, who are slow to get on the "paying bills online" bandwagon; here's a way to keep track of them so you won't miss a payment. 

When the bill comes in open it immediately.  Take out any advertisements and fluff, check to make sure the bill is correct, place the bill inside the envelope, and label the date to be mailed on the envelope.  Simple.

This little bill holder has a history that is only appreciated and loved by me.  My grandpa made this napkin holder in shop class in 1917.  Grandma and Grandpa married shortly after high school graduation and used it to hold their napkins.  Many years later, while visiting Grandma, we decorated it with crushed up Easter egg shells and covered it with a glue/water mixture to seal it.  Grandma never broke down to buy Modge Podge because she had been making her own version for years. 

My kids think it's weird looking, but every time I look at it I remember happy times with Grandma.  She really taught me the joy of making things with my hands. 

Maybe one day we'll pay our bills online, but for now we'll do it the old fashioned way with an old fashioned holder. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Motivation: Clean your drains

“It is better for civilization to be going down the drain than to be coming up it”
source unknown

Fun Stuff!  Cleaning Drains!  Whoo hoo!
Are you psyched yet?

Well, if you look carefully at your bath and kitchen drains or stick your nose down in your sink you might be so inclined to do a little drain cleaning. 

If you think about it, a lot of yucky stuff goes down those drains.  Eventually, some of that yucky stuff starts to accumulate and may eventually block up the workings.

To keep the drains flowing freely and smelling good I treat them monthly with a little concoction I call:
Drain Metamucil

Here's what you do:

1.  Pour 1 cup of salt into the drain (use the cheap stuff - not the kosher stuff you cook with)

2.  Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the drain (I buy it in a large bag at Sam's club)

3.  Pour 1 cup vinegar into the drain and let it fizz for 15 minutes (again, use the cheap vinegar that comes in a gallon jug)

4.  Lastly, pour a full kettle of boiling water down the drain.  It will wash away all of the yucks that the salt, baking soda, and vinegar have broken down.

** For your garbage disposal, put some citrus peels and 1/2 cup salt into the opening and run it for 3 seconds.  Let it sit, without running the water, for 1/2 hour or so.  Then, run the disposal with the water running and you'll have a sweet smelling and cleaner disposal. 

This concoction will not hurt septic tanks and will not harm the environment.   


Myth:  Water drains backwards in the Southern Hemisphere due to the Earth’s rotation

Truth:  Not only is the Earth’s rotation too weak to affect the direction of water flowing in a drain, tests you can easily perform in a few washrooms will show that water whirlpools both ways depending on the sink’s structure, not the hemisphere. 

This is better than Mythbusters!

Friday, August 13, 2010

What to do with all the tomatoes

Several months ago I was really worried.  I had tried starting heirloom tomatoes from seed and was underwhelmed by their progress.  Well, to tell the truth, I always have grander schemes in my mind that reality can never really live up to.  I'm weird like that.  Anywho. . . back to the tomatoes. . . they were puny.

Well, not any more.  This is what I picked this morning.

There's still a lot of not-quite-ripe ones waiting for another day or two until they join me in the kitchen.

I've got Amish Paste and  Beefsteak that I planted and then Roma and Cherry tomatoes that reseeded themselves from last year. 

With all of the Amish Paste and Beefsteak I made tomato sauce and canned it.  I didn't use any of the recipes I found because all of them included either onions, peppers, or garlic and spices.  I simply wanted pure tomato sauce so I diced the tomatoes and cooked them down for several hours, pureeing them several times with my immersion blender.  When the sauce was thick enough, I added one Tablespoon of lemon juice to each pint canning jar and added my sauce.  Then I processed the jars in a water bath for 35 minutes. 

As for the Roma and Cherry, I roasted them like before.

It took me all afternoon to do this, but the satisfaction I'm feeling is pretty good. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Simple slipcovers from upcycled fabric

When we moved into our home 5 years ago we we bought red wool area rugs for our family room and sitting room areas.  Our first floor is open concept with a fireplace and wood stove in the middle of everything.  This sitting area is between our kitchen and dining area.  In the summer I put these chairs  in front of the fireplace to make more room for going in and out of the screened porch.  In the winter I replace them with larger upholstered chairs that we sit in to read in front of the fireplace on cold winter nights. 

Problem is the dark red carpet seemed too hot for the summer months and also collected every. single. piece. of. grass. we seem to track in from the yard.

My solution?  Well, I replaced the carpet for the summer with an indoor/outdoor carpet I found on sale for $20.00.  It vacuums nicely and, if needed, can be hosed off outside and dried in the sun.  It feels really nice on the feet and has a nice basket weave pattern.  I also made an ottoman cover and chair cushion covers with upcycled fabric. 

The main lighter fabric was actually a slipcover for a loveseat.  I bought it at a thrift store for $1.99.  The tag on the slipcover showed that it was a "shabby" style cover from Target.  I don't care for that loose style but I knew it was a valuable source of sturdy fabric.  The darker fabric is from a women's linen dress.  I've also made a table runner and Playful Posie Pins from it for my Etsy shop

I'm enjoying the lighter colors and I can remove these and machine wash them.

I'm pleased with the two-tone color combination. 

A few accessories on the thrifted table make a pleasing arrangement.  We like to keep the binoculars and field books by the back door for easy bird and butterfly identification.

I'll probably put the red rug back when the cooler weather arrives, but here in Virginia that won't be until late October.  Stay tuned!