Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wrensday: What's on my kitchen window sill

I love this little harvest basket.  My SIL gave it to me as a gift 2 years ago.  The top lifts off to hold my rings when I do dishes.  I love the detail.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spicy Gift

I love gifts, especially spicy gifts!

My friend, Robin, surprised me with a cute bottle of her custom blended herb mix.

She picked the herbs from her garden, dried them, mixed them, and then packaged them in these adorable bottles.  She used rosemary, oregano, and basil.  I added 2 tsp. to my pot of corn chowder and it was divine.

 I decided it was too cute to put in the spice cupboard.  I've added it to my trivet that holds EVOO, kosher salt (in the Italian butter dish), and S&P shakers.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Motivation: It's time for a 10 minutes pick-up

Just a quick Monday Motivation this week.  Nothing too big as this is a very busy week for me.  In fact, I'm revisiting  a post from last year that is worth repeating.

This post was originally published on September 14, 2009

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

1. Start at your front door.

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 24, 2010

Making my autumn porch welcoming

Since we'll be welcoming a lot of visitors soon I needed to add some autumn charm to the front porch. 

The green cushion is one of four I found at Target for 50% off.  I wasn't sure about the color, but after getting it home, I discovered I already had these pillows (thrift store find from Pier 1) and a lantern that would coordinate nicely.  I really like the punch of green in an otherwise neutral colored porch.  You can't tell from the photo, but the pillows have the same bright green in the appliqued leaves.

In the corner of the porch I plopped some grasses and leaves into a spray painted bucket and added my "Come Sit On My Porch" sign.  The blue of the sign is a nice contrast with the orange of the arrangement. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Making my home cozy with Autumn Decor

Out with summer - In with autumn

I gathered all of my summer decor.  Seashells, aqua and white items, flowers, and plates.  I packed them in the "summer" bin and pulled out the "autumn" bin.

Wheat and wrens on the front desk.

Leaves and berries on the mantel with my favorite water color art.

Pinecones, acorns, and pumpkins are ready for the harvest celebrations.

Even wedding RSVPs take a part of the dining room sideboard decor. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wrensday: My potting bench

I've got a special spot in my yard that needed some cleaning up.  It functions well, but my potting bench wasn't looking "wedding ready".  Since my daughter's wedding is only 1 1/2 weeks away I thought the bench could use a new outfit - and a bath. 

My Hubs built the potting bench from an old sink that we found (you guessed it) in someone's trash.  It's an old cast iron sink with built in drain boards.  Hubs used pressure treated wood and leftover Trex decking to make the base of it. 

I cleaned up the area and made a skirt from a canvas drop cloth, stapling it around the top of the wood just under the sink lip.

Scattered around our home are little folk art creatures, made by the previous owner.  At first I thought they were too weird to keep but, over time, I've come to like them.  Here's one little fella that I use to hold my old gardening trowel.

Who wouldn't love a face like this?

This little gal never has a bad hair day.  She doesn't serve any purpose except to make me chuckle.

The potting bench will eventually move into the greenhouse that we'll be building.  Until then, I'll enjoy seeing it dressed in it's wedding finery.

I'm linking to:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's for dinner? Deviled Egg & Spinach Salad

Deviled Egg & Spinach Salad

6 hard boiled eggs, diced
2 medium potatoes, cooked and diced
1/4 cup homemade mayo
2 Tbl. snipped chives
1/4 tsp. grated lemon peel
4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbl. coarse-grain mustard
salt & pepper to taste
fresh picked baby spinach, washed and trimmed to bite size pieces
cherry tomatoes, fresh from the garden, cut into halves
homemade croutons (see recipe below)

Combine mayo, chives, lemon juice, lemon peel, mustard, salt, and pepper in a salad bowl.  Add eggs and potatoes and toss to coat.  Arrange spinach leaves on plates and top with egg/pototo mixture.  Top with cherry tomato halves and homemade croutons.

To make homemade croutons:
Place 1 Tbl. butter and 1 Tbl. Olive oil into a saute pan.  Place on medium heat.  While the butter is melting, cut bread (use any leftover bread you have - even hotdog buns will do) into large cubes. I usually cut up about 1 or 1 1/2 cups of cubes.   Toss the bread cubes into the pan with the butter and EVOO, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. garlic powder.  Stir cubes around until they are covered with butter and EVOO and start to brown.  The longer you cook them, the more toasted they will get - just don't let them burn.  This only takes about 2 minutes.  These croutons are toasted on the outside and tender on the inside - just the way I like them. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Motivation: Clean out your purse

What are the three words guaranteed to humiliate men everywhere?

'Hold my purse.'
My purse is a mess.  I really feel out of control when my purse is disorganized. 

This really isn't my purse.  My purse isn't this bad but it's bad enough to cause me stressed out.
If your purse is stressing you out, here are the steps to clean it up.

1.  Take everything out of your purse.  Check all pockets and zippered areas.

2.  Have a trash can nearby. 

3.  Sort items by type (receipts together, makeup in a pile, scraps of paper with info scribbled on them collected, pens/pencils together etc.)

4.  Go through your wallet and other accessories and clean them out using step 3.  Make a copy of your credit cards and keep it in a file in case your purse is lost or stolen. 

5.  Turn the purse upside down and shake all residue out.  Wipe out the inside of the purse with a damp cloth and allow to dry.

6.  Now is a great time to change out your purse for a new one.  I just got a bright green bag for a new autumn look. 

7. Organize your wallet, removing any outdated cards or information.  How old are the pictures of your children? 

8.  Start replacing items into the purse, placing often used items in easily accessible locations.

9.  Rethink what you carry around in your purse.  Do you really need 5 writing utensils?  How often do you use hand lotion?  Remember that every item you carry around needs to be worth the extra weight it creates in your purse. 

10.  Use card holders, zippered pouches, and planners to organize your items.  It's easier to find items when they are "containerized".  I keep my store punch cards and discount cards in a photo holder.  I also use a small zippered pouch to hold make up, glasses cleaning cloth, hand cream, and tape measure.  I could keep these in the zippered portion of my purse, but a separate pouch makes changing purses so much faster.

11.  Copy all of the info from the scraps of paper into your planner.  Throw the scraps away.

This whole job should only take 15 minutes of your time (not including shopping for a new purse!).  Be sure to share how you organize your purse.  If you dare, share the strangest thing you found in your purse. 

I was excited to find my latest slipcovers featured on Pink and Polkadot!

Friday, September 17, 2010

More healthy eating

*(deviled egg and spinach salad with homemade croutons)

Several weeks ago I told you some of the things I'm doing to be a healthier eater.  Well, I've continued to improve my diet and I want to share more changes I've made to help me on this journey.

1.  I've replaced precut and trimmed chicken parts with whole chickens, organically raised.  I usually roast two chickens at a time and that gives us chicken for several meals.

2.  I've discovered grass fed, organic bacon that is not processed with chemicals.  You won't believe what "real" bacon tastes like.  

3.  After struggling with changing my recipes from white flour to whole wheat flour, I've discovered that whole wheat pastry flour works much better.

4.  I'm learning to make pie crusts, gravy, biscuits, mayo, and pasta from scratch instead of buying foods ready made.

5.  I've stopped taking regular vitamins because I realized they contained a lot of chemicals.  I'm looking for a more natural product.  My doctor is aware of my changes and my blood work shows no adverse results of not taking the vitamins.  I'm eating so much better and I feel like I'm actually getting my vitamins from my food instead of from a pill. 

*Stay tuned:  I'll be posting this recipe next week.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's in the Fall Garden?

My job this weekend was to plant our Fall garden. 

The first step was to rip out the old, tired garden.  Then I added compost.

Finally, I planted some plant starts and seeds.

This bed holds peas (not yet sprouted) that will grow up the trellis, surrounded by red cabbage.  In the middle is green ice lettuce (just starting to sprout).  I covered them with recycled cell pack trays to keep the chickens from eating the seed.  This is just an experiment but I hope it works. 

This next spot holds my favorite Swiss Chard.  Yummy!

This garden holds a green cabbage called 45 day cabbage.  It matures in 45 days and has a smaller head.  This is a new variety to me but I thought I'd give it a try.  I've nicknamed it "short cabbage".

This garden has peas growing up the trellis, surrounded by more "short cabbage".   I planted Corn Salad seeds under the trays.  Corn Salad is also called Mache or Lamb's lettuce. 

The sweet potatoes I planted in early Summer are doing well.  I love this old gate that Hubs found and plopped in the middle of the garden.  The sweet potatoes seem to like it too.  I'll harvest the potatoes after our first frost which will be after Thanksgiving (usually).

The white flowers around the garden are called Society Garlic.  As soon as they are finished blooming I'll have to remove the seed heads so they won't reseed too much.  I am constantly pulling up this garlic from around the garden or it will take over.  The bees and butterflies love it and it adds nice interest to the Fall garden.  I cut the leaves to add to recipes.  They taste more like green onions than garlic. 

I'm linking to:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wrensday: Surprises at The Wren

Well, our fears are relieved.  Reba is a Reba and not a Rambo as we feared. 

See those tail feathers?  Well, an observant reader wrote to say that what we thought was a she might be a he, so to keep an eye on her/him. 

So we waited. . .

And then one day we found this. . .

Then we did the happy dance.  Thankfully, she now lays her beautiful eggs in the nesting box in the chicken coop.  Yay!!

We're also finding lots of beautiful things in the back woods.  Look at this fungus.

And this moss.

And isn't this color beautiful?

What surprises have you been finding around your home?

I'm linking to:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More kitchen ideas

Yesterday's post stirred up a lot of questions from many readers.  I guess this is the first time I've shown my whole kitchen at the same time. 

The backsplash tiles came with the house.  They are white with the occasional farm animal tile done in red on white.  The problem is, they animals are scary.  Really, I mean it.  Scary, scary, scary.  I had to cover them up.  For the first few years I used square tile stickers (from Dollar Tree) to cover them.  They were floral stickers but if you looked closely, you could still see the scary, scary farm animals staring back at you.  NOT GOOD!  So, in despiration, I grabbed my dark blue acrylic craft paint and painted over each scary tile.  I painted 3 coats on each tile and then went over the paint with a satin poly coat.  I've been cleaning the tiles with my Sparkle Cleaner and the paint still looks good.  And the best part?  No scary farm animals in sight!

Next, we bought the island right after we moved in 5 years ago at Lowe's.  They no longer sell the same style as we have, but I did notice that the same island is in the kitchen of Jon & Kate plus 8 (when they were together).  I am planning on covering the inside of the door panels with beadboard wallpaper and then painting the whole thing.  I haven't decided on a color yet.  I'm thinking black but I may choose a deep cherry red.  The island came with casters but my hubs replaced them with wooden legs from Lowes.  I'll also be refinishing the top to make it darker.  I love the storage this island has.  I store my kitchen aide mixer in the bottom cabinet. 

I have a brick floor.  It is finished with a poly gloss.  I polish it with a product from Holloway House called Quick Shine about every 6 months.   I have to vacuum the floor instead of sweeping with a broom as the crevices between the bricks trap dirt.  I like the look of the floor but it is very hard on your back and legs if you stand on it for a long time - like on Thanksgiving day or when having a canning or baking marathon. 

This is fun!  Got any more questions about my kitchen?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Motivation: Taking care of your range hood

Our range hoods get a lot of grease and dirt sucked up into them.  As gross as that looks, if not cleaned regularly, it will start to smell gross too.  If cleaned on a regular basis, the hood is easier to clean and works more efficiently. 

To clean the outside of the hood, use dish washing detergent in warm water to cut the grease.  I generally just wipe mine down when washing dishes after dinner. 

To clean the filters, follow the manufacturer's directions for your particular model.  Some filters can be washed in the dishwasher.  Older models can be soaked in dishwater to soak off grease.  Rinse well and dry completely before reinstalling.  These should be cleaned at least once a month. 

(our kitchen on the day we moved in)

When we purchased our home 5 years ago, we became the proud owners of all mismatched appliances.  The stove was black and white, the dishwasher was black, the fridge was white, and the range hood was almond.  Since a remodel was not in the budget any time soon, we had to make do with what we had.  Of course, my spray paint played a big part in helping me unite the look of my hodge podge appliances.  I spray painted my fridge, using 3 cans of black spray paint.  So far it's held up pretty well.  Because we didn't want to remove the range hood to spray paint it, I used a brush and oil based paint to paint it black.  It's held up well for 3 years now and, like I said, I wipe it down every week to keep it dust and grease free. 

(our kitchen today - still a work in progress)

It was very hard for me to move from my previous kitchen into this one.  We had remodeled our previous kitchen and it was my custom creation.  I could almost cook in that kitchen with my eyes closed because everything had a custom drawer or cabinet.  Yes, I was spoiled.  Enter this house - beautiful property -  funky house.  To make the kitchen workable, we bought an island from Lowes and a large pine armoire from Salvation Army to use as a pantry.  We had to replace the range last year as the old one died.   This kitchen  functions as well as can be expected for now.  But. . . I have big plans to change it. . . one day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tips for thrifting

I get a lot of compliments on the outfits I wear.  Frequently, people ask me where I shop.  I hesitate to tell them because I'm not sure how they'll react.  Will they be impressed or repulsed that I mostly shop for my clothes in thrift stores?

When I was a young bride, the best gift anyone gave me was a crash course in how to shop in a thrift store.  The mother of one of my friends took me shopping and gave me a lot of tips on what to look for and watch out for with second hand items.

I have several friends who are struggling with money right now due to job layoffs and the rising prices at the stores.  I've been able to share what I've learned with them and I thought I would share these tips with you too. 

Tips for shopping in a thrift store:

1.  Find out what the store policies are.  Generally there is no haggling, no returns, and no warranty.  Buyer beware.

2.  Find out when the store's discount days occur.  In our area, one day a week is always military discount day when you show your military ID.  Also, there's usually a senior discount day.

3.  As soon as I arrive in a store, I quickly check (or ask) about any specials going on that day.  Sometimes they are trying to get rid of a lot of furniture or artwork if they have too much in the store.

4.  I always have measurements written down for items I'm searching for.  If I need a large mirror or piece of artwork, I write down the largest and smallest measurements that will look good on that wall.  (Here's a freebie tip:  put painter's tape on the wall  in the desired size you would like for your artwork.  Then measure it, adding and subtracting a few inches here and there to get your varying sizes.)
                                 (this is a computer cabinet I bought and turned into a pantry for my kitchen)

5.  Carry a tape measure in your purse so you can measure items.  I keep a rubber band wrapped around mine.  My husband even asks to use it sometimes when we're shopping at Lowes or Home Depot.

(skirts I purchased a thrift stores to upcycle into aprons and pillows)

6. With clothing, it pays to know your designers and brands.  I know how certain brands fit me and which sizes in those brands fit me the best.

7.  Don't buy something just because it's cheap.  Every once in a while I'll stumble across something that is really a good buy, but if it's not my size or my color, I have to let it go.  It's really hard to do.

8.  Don't let a missing button or broken zipper scare you away.  It's worth taking it to a tailor to have it repaired if it's a quality designer item.  Many people get rid of clothing because it's missing a button or a belt.

9.  Know what isn't fixable.  Tears, picks, worn areas, fading, and stretching are not things that can be fixed.  (I did buy a beautiful European sweater once that was torn.  It was $1.00 and had 12 beautiful silver buttons that I cut off and sewed onto a plain sweater I already had, turning it from bland to beautiful.)

10.  If you find something in your size at a particular store, do a more thorough search for other items in your size.  Most people go through their closets and donate large amounts of clothing at one time.  So, if there's one thing in your size from a particular donor, then there's most likely several more things in your size.

11.  Be sure to wash items or have them dry cleaned as soon as you get them home.

12.  With furniture, know what a quality piece looks like.  Does it have dove-tailed drawers?  Does it have a wooden backing or particle board?  Check all joints to make sure they are tight.  Check under, behind, and inside the whole piece of furniture.

(Krups waffle maker I purchased for $7.00.  It had never been used)

13.  If looking at housewares, check all of the shelves for matching sets of dishes.  Like clothing, when people replace their dishes, they usually get rid of the whole set.  If you only see a few pieces in one place - keep searching.  You just might find the serving pieces or lids in a different place.

14.  For lamps, baskets, candle holders, etc.  you can always spray paint something in a color that matches your home.

(all of these items were purchased at the thrift store.  I spray painted the pedestal and birdhouse white)

Thrift store shopping isn't for everyone.  It appeals to me because I get more for my money.  I can buy 6-8 used items in place of 1 new item.  I would rather put my money towards paying off my mortgage than buy new things.  Also, I find much more interesting things in the thrift store than at the mall.   I look at trends and styles that are popular and try to put together outfits and colors that look current.  When I do buy something new, I try to make it a classic item in a classic color that will not go out of style for a while.

Do you shop in thrift stores or consignment shops?  I'm sure I'm not the only one who thrift.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Winner of the Baby Button Nest Give Away

Thanks to all of you who entered to win the Baby Button Nests for my give away. 

We had 11 individuals enter, some with one entry and some with 3 entries, depending on how you entered. 

I tossed all of the names into Nana's dough bowl.

And the winner is. . .

Well, Sheri O., I'll get your Baby Button Nests to you this week.  Congratulations!!

I've been busy making more nests and I'll have them for sale in my Etsy shop this week.  Thanks again for all who entered the contest.  I'll do another give away before Christmas.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Monday Motivation: 10 things to get rid of now (the crafter's addition)

I believe it might be time for another "10 things to get rid of now" post.  I've written a few other posts about this before here, here, here, and then here, but autumn makes me want to nest.  Those of us who craft tend to collect things that could one day be turned into a treasure.  Well, before the holiday season gets underway, let's get rid of the stuff we don't use and make more room for what we do use. 

Grab a box for donations and a dark trash bag for garbage. 

Ready?  I must warn you. . . I'm going to be ruthless.  Are you sure you're ready?  Here we go:

1.  Fabric:  Go through your fabric stash.  Are you saving scraps that are really too small to do anything with?  Trash.  Do you have fabric you bought on a whim and you've never used?  Donate.  Do you have fabric for small children and your kids are 15 and 19?  Donate.  Don't save it for your grandchildren - you'll have fun shopping for new stuff when they come along.  Choose a few container or shelves to hold your remaining fabric.  Only save what will fit in that area.

2.  Trim/ribbon:  Check out your trim and ribbon hoard.  Follow the same rules for the fabric.  Sort the remaining ribbon into color or type (rickrack, metallic, wide, elastic etc.).  Store in clear jars or ziploc bags by category.  The time spent sorting now will save you a lot of time later when you need a particular trim for a project.

3.  Paint:  I'm not an artist but I do have craft paint in my stash.  Every once in a while I have to go through and check to make sure my paints haven't dried out.  Also, certain colors are not popular anymore, like dusty blue and hunter green.  Donate those to a school or toss them. 

4.  Rubber stamps/stamp pads:  Did you go to a friend's party and now you're stuck with a stamp set you have never used?  Well, it's not doing anyone any good just sitting in your craft room.  Donate it to someone or sell it.  Same with stamp pads.  After a while they will dry out and not be good for anything.  Use it or lose it.

5.  Paper:  Scrapbook paper, handmade paper, wrapping paper, or cardstock.  This happens to be one of my weak areas.  The problem is, paper wrinkles, stains, and fades if not stored properly.  Sort your papers by types and colors and keep them in a designated container that will protect them.  Only keep what will safely fit into those containers.  Take the remaining stuff to a school or recycle it. 

6.  Stickers:  Several years ago, stickers were addictive.  It was hard for me to step inside a scrapbook store and not come out with a whole bag of the little buggers.   If you have lots of stickers and you hate to part with them because you paid so much money for them, then donate them to a local school.  Teachers spend tons of their hard earned money on stickers for their students.  They would love the donation. 

7.  Thread:  If you sew, cross stitch, embroider, or do other needlework, you know that thread is hard to keep track of.  You always feel like you have to start with "fresh" stuff so you won't run out in the middle of a project.  Then, the leftovers just sit in a pile in a basket.  Take those threads and pitch them.  I know, I know, I sound ruthless.  Trust me, you're better off tossing the short leftover lengths. 

8.  Yarn:  Here again, starting with "fresh" yarn for each project means you have a pile of leftover yarn at the end that you don't know what to do with.  If you make small items like dish cloths, baby hats, or booties you might be able to use up the scraps.  If you only make blankets you may choose to make a "crazy quilt" kind of blanket with scraps of yarn.  If not, please donate your scraps to a preschool or toss them in the garbage bag. 

9.  Sewing gadgets:  Every once in a while you come across the latest fun toy to make your sewing easier, quicker, better, more convenient, etc..  Sometimes those toys are keepers.  Sometimes they aren't.  If they aren't, then don't feel bad when you give it away.  Let someone else try it out and decide for themselves if it's a keeper or not. 

10.  Finally, look at your beads, baubles, and buttons.  Uh oh, now I'm meddlin' in my own business.  That's why I saved this one for last.  I've never met a bead/bauble/button that I didn't like.  In fact, I found a button today and I saved it in my jean's pocket to take home and drop into my button box.  Yes.  I.  Did.    If you do find these kinds of things are taking over your crafting space then you know it's time to weed through them.  Toss out items that are broken, that don't make you smile, and that have lost their appeal.  Take the remaining items and sort them by type and store them so you can use them when needed.  A great idea for sorting is the small hardware drawers you'll find at Lowe's or Home Depot.  Also, you could use tackle boxes which have movable dividers. 

So now, are you exhausted?  I am.  Of course, you wouldn't want to take on all of these in one day.  One a week would be perfect. 

Let me know how it works out.  I'd love to see how you've organized your crafts (Heck, we'd all like to see so please share!)

If you live locally, I'm planning on having a crafter's swap in November.  So, save the crafting items you no longer use and plan on swapping with other crafters.  I have collected 2  boxes of items including stamp sets, fabric, and patterns.  I'll give details after the wedding.

**Only a few more hours left to enter the Baby Button Nest Give away.  The contest ends tomorrow at 12:15 pm

Friday, September 3, 2010

We're in the home stretch

If you've been reading this blog for a few months you'll remember that we're preparing for our daughter's wedding in early October in our backyard. 

Needless to say, with only one month left until the big day, we're busy with "making pretty" and "doing the details".

So far, I've recovered a bunch of cushions for the deck and seating areas. . .

Hubs, wonderful man that he is, made a backdrop for the ceremony.  It's not completely finished, but it's going to be amazing. 

The "greenhouse garden" is growing like crazy and I'm just trying to keep everything weeded, fertilized, and dead-headed.  We'll add potted chrysanthemums in a few weeks to perk up the color.  (don't see a greenhouse?  Well, it's in the planning stages.  I figure that if I call it the "greenhouse garden" then it will motivate Hubs to build one sooner)

The vegetable garden is winding down and I'm about ready to put in the fall veggies.  I'm waiting for Hurricane Earl to leave the area before I plant anything.

This butterfly garden is doing well.  I need to tidy it up, but a few hours of work will take care of that.

The last of the applebutter is canned for party favors.  We'll be decorating those today.

The hardest part, emotionally and physically, is the moving out part.  She's still living at home, but we're slowly moving our daughter into the home she will share with her husband.  Friends and family have generously donated furniture to the couple.  Thanks to our hay-hauling trailer, we didn't have to rent a truck.  She's slowly moving smaller things over to their townhouse so everything will be there when they return from their honeymoon.  Sigh. . . One more birdie leaving the nest. 

Most of the hard work is done for the wedding.  Now it's just the details.  RSVPs are arriving daily and we're counting down the days.  My good news on the medical front is that I won't start the transplant process until after the wedding.  My strength is good and I have none of the typical symptoms associated with stage 4 kidney disease - praise God!  Thanks for keeping me in your prayers.