Friday, April 29, 2011

Can't Resist A Smiling Chicken

When I arrived home from the hospital last week, I was greeted by a smiling chicken next to the front door.

My sweet daughter and son-in-law had picked up this cutie and brought him to The Wren.

I put him on the back porch so I could enjoy looking at him more.

After all, who can resist a smiling chicken?

I hope you have a great weekend - and keep smiling!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eating To Heal The Body

After my recent 6 day stay in the hospital, I was more than ready to return home and eat nutritious foods.  It seemed very weird to me that I was in a state of the art teaching hospital, having a miracle kidney transplant, but being fed inferior food to nourish my body.

The first foods I was given were of course "clear liquids".  This consisted of chicken broth, Popsicles, and apple juice.  I have to admit that after not eating for 48 hours, the first few tastes of the artificially flavored, orange Popsicle were divine.  The chicken broth literally tasted like they had dipped a whole chicken in some water and added a spoon full of salt to it.  I couldn't choke it down. 

Every day, a very pleasant young man would walk through my hospital room door and announce "Nutrition" as he slid a plastic tray of food onto the table next to my bed.  I would peer under the domed lid and wince at what I saw.  White bread french toast with maple flavored corn syrup, diet yogurt, bacon product, and ultra-homogenized skim milk.  Nutrition?  I think not!

I wondered why the surgeons had worked so hard to save my life but the cook was now set on destroying it.  I couldn't get home fast enough.  If I hadn't been in a hospital that was two hours away from my home, I would have had my husband bring me meals from our own kitchen. 

Upon returning home, I was happy I had prepared meals in advance and frozen them.  Hubs made a quick trip to the market to pick up fresh dairy and produce and we were set.  

Since most of us will deal with a surgery or severe illness at least once in our lifetime, I thought I'd share what foods and activities I'm using to help me recover as quickly as possible from my kidney transplant. 

Foods To Recover With:
1.  Local Honey:  Local honey is good for digestive health and wound healing.  It also has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.  I emphasize local honey because it is good for helping your body deal with local allergens.  I use honey as my main sweetener - in my oatmeal, tea, and on my toast.

2.  Organic blueberries:  Blueberries are high in antioxidants and support urinary health.  They also have anti-inflammatory properties.  I emphasize organic because blueberries are on the "dirty dozen" list of foods that are highly sprayed on non organic farms.  I eat them in salads and make smoothies with them.

3.  Wild Alaskan Salmon:  High in omega-3 fatty acids and protein that promotes tissue healing.  It has anti-inflammatory properties and is good for the cardiovascular system.  I emphasize Wild Alaskan Salmon because it is "cleaner" than farmed raised.  I broil or saute the salmon with organic butter and a little bit of sea salt and pepper. 

4.  Green Tea:  Green tea is good for reducing inflammation and decreasing the incidences of stroke and heart disease.

5.  Fresh Veggies:  Fresh vegetables, especially dark green ones, contain loads of vitamins and minerals.  Be sure to eat several servings a day and serve them with a "good" fat like olive oil, coconut oil, or organic butter to help your body take advantage of the vitamins. 

6.  Yogurt:  Organic whole milk yogurt contains protein for healing as well as vitamins, minerals, and probiotics.  Probiotics are very important to take in if you are on any kind of antibiotic.  The probiotics help to add good bacteria to your system as the antibiotics kill the bad bacteria. Try to eat one serving of yogurt every day.  If you don't like the flavor of yogurt, disguise it in a smoothie.

7.  Pomegranate juice:  Pomegranate juice is great for healing blood vessels.  I've been drinking a blueberry/pomegranate juice combo every morning.

8.  Coconut oil:  Containing medium chain fatty acids, coconut oil helps your body absorb the important vitamins and minerals you're getting from the other foods.  That's why I add it to my oatmeal, smoothies, and granola.   It also contains anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal,anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties.  As an immuno-suppressed patient, I treat coconut oil like my hero!

9.  Oatmeal:  Oatmeal contains valuable fiber which is needed to help get the sluggish digestive track back on track after an illness or surgery.  It's the vehicle in which my honey, coconut oil, and blueberries travel every morning.

10.  Bananas:  Even though I try to eat most of my fruits and veggies from local sources, bananas are an exception I make.  They help control your blood pressure and contain valuable magnesium and potassium.  Our whole family loves them and they make a great mid-morning snack.

11.  Eggs:  Good quality organic eggs are an excellent source of protein and helps reduce inflammation. 

In addition to eating good-for-you foods, I'm also making sure I incorporate some good life-style habits as well. 

1.  Exercise:  After being bedridden due to an illness or surgery, it's important to get your blood pumping again.  There is an increased danger of blood clots and strokes from being inactive.  Make it a point to get up every hour and walk around for a few minutes.  If you can't get up very often, wiggle your legs and feet and tighten your muscles to get some blood flowing.  Moving around helps fight off depression and helps your digestive track start working too.

2.  Fresh Air:  Our great grandmothers knew the benefits of getting some fresh air and sunshine.  It helps boost your spirits and makes you feel better.  A little bit of sunshine will give you a bit of vitamin D. 

3.  Water:  Getting enough liquids is very important in helping your body heal.  A dehydrated body cannot function very well.  Your digestive and urinary systems need water to function.  Your brain and circulatory system need water to function.  Your skin and tissues need water to heal.  Yes, you need water - at least 2 quarts a day.  I opt for 3 quarts a day but include soups, broths, juices, and tea in my total. 

My doctors are impressed with my recovery thus far and are happy with how my body is healing.  Now, if I could just find the cook from the hospital kitchen and give him/her a piece of my mind - or maybe just the address to this blog post!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday Motivation: Favorite Organizing Solutions For The Bedroom

Yes, this Monday Motivation is being posted on a Tuesday.  Better late than never, I say.

We're just about finished with organizing the bedroom.  All of the big areas have been covered in previous weeks and now all that is left is figuring out what to do with those little accessories we have in our bedrooms.  I've discovered that if I don't have a place for my accessories to "live" they just pile up on any horizontal surface in the bedroom. 

Here are some creative ideas that I've saved in my idea file.  I don't personally use all of them, but they are good solutions to check out if you have a particular need for storage.

First, is jewelry storage solutions.  Here is a wall-hung necklace holder.  It looks like a wall hung mirror but you can open it and store your necklaces, tangle free.  Two of them, side by side, could replace a large mirror over your dresser.

Next, is an almost free solution.  Little bowls or dishes set inside a dresser drawer hold all manner of jewelry.  You could also use this idea for make-up, finger nail polish, and perfumes.

Scarves are all the rage right now, and this unique hanger is a great tangle free solution for storing them.  Hung in the closet, it doesn't take up much room at all.

Need extra space for shoes, sweaters, or work out clothes?  This hanging shelf is inexpensive and holds a lot of things.  I have one in my craft closet to hold folded fabric.  The fabric is sorted by color and makes it  very easy to grab any fabric quickly.

Lastly, a really inexpensive  option to store earrings in is a divided storage box that is sold in craft stores and even in the fishing  section of department stores.  You can line the bottom with felt if you're worried about your jewelry getting scratched.

I'd love to hear what solutions you use for your accessories.  Please tell us about them in the comments section.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Little Bit of Easter Color

Easter will be a bit subdued this year as we won't be having a large celebration in our home. 

But, thanks to a few decorations and lots of flowers from friends and family, we can still celebrate the holiday with a little bit of festiveness.

Begonias and pollen

African violets in three different colors.

I love this color.

My bunny Easter basket greets visitors on the front porch bench.

This is the newest addition to my Easter tree this year (I didn't decorate with it this year).  It's a hand painted egg just for me with a little Wren on it.  It was a gift from a dear church where I was a guest speaker.  It was painted by one of their members who is 92 years old - a very special gift.  I'm displaying it on a napkin ring set on it's side. 

I wish you all a very happy Easter. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tweaking The Spring Mantle

A few weeks ago I decided to "lighten up" the accessories on my mantle.  I added several fun things in lighter tones of aqua and off white. 

But, something wasn't right.  The stars weren't right.  Too dark.   I like the string of barbed wire across the fireplace because it fills in the large expanse of bland colored brick but with the lighter scheme, I knew it had to go.

Or did it?

I found some little carved wooden birds at Michaels and brought them home.  I wired them onto the barbed wire and stood back.  Hmmm. . . . too light.  Not enough contrast.

After staining them with some diluted craft paint and covering them with modge podge to seal them, I wired them back on and was happy with the look.

They make me smile every time I pass by them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Motivation: Bedroom Storage Solutions

You only had a holiday from Monday Motivation last week because I was having a kidney transplant! 

Now, let's get back to work!

When we last got together, we were evaluating the bedroom to see what worked and didn't.  Hopefully you've decluttered, moved out unnecessary furniture, and made any necessary repairs to the room.

Now, we need to make sure you're using the storage you have efficiently.  I find that a lot of my clients purchase extra storage containers, including furniture, when they don't really need it.  The problem is that they really have TOO MUCH STUFF.  I know, it's hard to hear.  But, I need to hear it, too.

If you have not gone through your closets and drawers already, now is the time to do it.  I've already posted about how to do this, so just check out. . .

 A lot of master bedrooms hold a typical furniture set that was purchased all at the same time at a large furniture showroom.  I know that's what we did years ago.

If you have one of these sets, and find that it's not functioning for you, you have my permission to break up the set.  Really, you do.  I have a master bedroom dresser, minus the mirror, as a sideboard in my dining area.  The drawer space is more practical than a china cabinet for holding large amounts dishes, linens, and accessories.

Below is a picture of my "dresser" used as a dessert buffet at Thanksgiving. 

You can also use a dresser in the family room as a console table, storing games, music, and such out of sight.  If you have a very large foyer, you can use one as a storage unit for gloves, hats, backpacks - anything, really.

But I can hear you saying, "what do I put my clothes in now that I've moved my dresser to the dining room?"

I knew you'd be wondering.  If you have limited square footage in your bedroom, it's always best to go vertical.  Tall wardrobes can hold a lot of clothing and not take up much floor space.  I also like to look at drawer size as well.  Some beautiful dressers are not functional at all because they have a lot of tiny drawers that only hold 4 pairs of socks or 2 undershirts.  Large drawers that slide out easily make putting away laundry and getting dressed 10 times easier. 

If you want to use a wardrobe that doesn't have drawers in the top section, you can use storage bins or baskets as "drawers" for your clothing and accessories.

If you are very limited on floor space, there are containers you can purchase to slide under your bed for added storage.  If your bed sits a little too low to store something under it, you can lift it up with very inexpensive risers.  I find them all the time at the thrift store and use them when I stage homes to give the bed more "presence" in the room.  You simply put a riser under each leg of the bed and let the bed skirt cover the riser.  Sometimes I have to use a longer bed skirt (or a double one) to cover it completely.

Another place to add extra storage in a bedroom is to make sure your bedside tables have storage capacity.  Drawers, shelves, and drawers are all nice features and keep bedside clutter to a minimum.  I use a little caddy next to my side of the bed because I don't have room for a piece of furniture next to my bed.  I made mine out of fabric, but here is a nice one I found.

I'd love to hear about what other storage solutions you might have come up with to organize your bedroom.  Please share about them in the comment section so we can all learn from each other.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Tidy Brown Wren Is Back - And She's Bionic

I feel like a new woman, and in a very real sense, I am.

Last Monday, April 11th, I had a living donor kidney transplant.

My donor and I arrived at The Medical College of Virginia, in Richmond, VA at 5:30 AM for an appointment that would change both of our lives forever.

This hospital is a 2 hour drive from our home.  We left Hampton Roads after dinner and stayed overnight at a Hotel to be closer to the hospital.  My donor, Cathy, delayed the trip as she was walking in the National Kidney Foundation "Kidney Walk" on Sunday to raise money for that foundation.   (She's amazing).

Here is a picture of Cathy visiting me in my hospital room 48 hours after the transplant (they wouldn't let us room together - bummer).  She had to trek down the hallway, dragging her IV pole with her.  Her Hubs calls this photo "the kidney reunion".  LOL

Alert:  This is the ONLY time you will ever see me without makeup on.  You must burn this blog post after viewing it.  Promise?

Words cannot express how emotional I feel about this whole adventure.   I can already feel the energy surging back into my weakened body and I look forward to brighter days ahead. 

I'm so very thankful for God's amazing grace, a friend's unselfish gift, the prayers of friends, family, and people I didn't even know, and the talents of some very amazing medical staff. 

Right now my days are spent working on recovering.  My body must heal.  My schedule must adapt to a new routine of drugs and checking vital signs regularly.  My mind must wrap around the hugeness of it all. 

I hope you'll continue to follow my humble little blog and check out what a bionic Tidy Brown Wren can do!

My daughter, Ashley, wrote a very sweet blog post last week that I'd love for you all to check out.  She remembered to bring her camera  to the hospital and got some good pictures of us. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

How To Beef Up Small Artwork

Whenever I polish my floors, I always rearrange furniture and accessories.

One of the areas that needed a bit of tweaking was this corner. 

I moved the wall unit over to the right and the corner was looking a little bit "off".

The artwork seemed too high, off center, and too small.

I snooped around my accessory closet and found this old framed art made by Hub's grandmother.  It's dated 1977.

I didn't want to remove the artwork from the frame so I just layered the small art piece over the larger artwork to beef it up.  Then I hung it a little lower and and centered it.

To hang it, I hammered a small nail through the burlap and into the wooden backing of the larger artwork.  Then I hung the smaller artwork on the nail.  I can easily separate the two pieces and use them separately whenever I want to. 

I moved an upholstered chair away from the fireplace and into the corner.  When the weather turns cold again, I'll move the chair back to it's rightful place near the fireplace.

For those of you who are very observant - yes, I simplified the accessories on the book shelves too, but that's for another post.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Sweet Arrival At The Wren

We got a phone call from the United States Postal Service.  A package had arrived at the post office and needed to be picked up immediately.

Twelve thousand buzzing bees came through the postal service in nothing but a screened in wooden box.  Yikes!  The postal workers were very happy to see my husband and get rid of the special delivery.

To be continued. . .

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wrensday: Daily Bread

This is the pantry in my kitchen.

I painted the door interiors with chalkboard paint so I could write my menu or grocery list in chalk.

But, I've found something better to showcase than menus and groceries. . .

Our family has witnessed the truth of these verses over and over again during the past year and I thought it fitting to keep the words printed where we see them several times a day. 

 Every time we grab something to feed our physical bodies from the pantry, we see the words that nourish our souls.

I'm linking to:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Darling Dahlia Custom Aprons

I just finished a custom apron order for a mother and her two little daughters.

The mom has a small floral business and a friend of hers wanted her to have a cheery apron to wear when she sells her arrangements at the farmer's market.

We picked out an adorable pink and white dahlia fabric from an upcycled sheet.

I made the two daughters' aprons from the coordinating pillow cases.

I really like how the hems on the pillowcase and sheet work well as hems on the aprons.  This new pattern I've developed is great because it is adjustable.  That way, when the mom needs to wear a sweater or jacket at the farmer's market, the apron will still fit over the added clothing. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Motivation: Organizing The Bedroom

So far this year we've organized the entrance, kitchen, and bathrooms.  Now we're ready to work on the bedroom. 

It's the first thing we look at in the morning and the last thing we see when before we close our eyes to sleep.  What we should be looking at is something like this. . .

But, in reality, this is what it usually looks like. . .


Most of the time, when I'm called in to help stage a home, I encounter an overstuffed master bedroom.  What I mean by overstuffed is too much furniture, too many clothes, and too many items that don't belong in a bedroom.

A lot of people, including myself, tend to put stuff in the bedroom that doesn't belong because we don't know what else to do with it. It becomes a staging area for projects, laundry, exercise equipment, and "stuff". 

So how do we get from ransacked to restful?  I thought you'd never ask!  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1.  What do I want this room to feel like?  Restful retreat, romantic getaway (TMI), or an inspired haven?

2.  What pieces of furniture could be gotten rid of?  Bookshelves, dressers, chairs, exercise equipment?

3.  What items end up in your bedroom that don't belong there?  Toys, paperwork, laundry?

4.  Are there any repairs that need to be made?  Loose handles, broken curtain rods, stuck door?

5.  What activities will take place in the bedroom?  Reading, bill paying, television watching?

Color has a lot of responsibility in setting the tone of the bedroom.  Do you want calm and relaxing?  Pick solid colors in soothing blues, greens, and creams.

Desiring a romantic feel?  Choose a monochromatic style in either light or dark tones.  Light colors are more spa-like and darker tones are more lounge-like.

When deciding to weed through furniture:  less is better.  The above photo shows a furniture showroom.  It is a look that you don't want to copy for your home.  

I'm dealing with this situation right now in my own bedroom.  Hubs and I bought our furniture when we lived in a larger house.  We love our furniture and spent over 2 years picking out the pieces.  My solution, when I have more energy, is to recess a dresser into an unused space next to our chimney.  With a bit of trim work, the piece will fit nicely.

The master bedroom tends to collect "stuff".  We're never quite sure how the "stuff" ends up there, but after awhile, we don't even see it anymore.  I've seen a lot of bedrooms that looked more like storage units than bedrooms. 

Got stuff?  Here's a quick method to declutter:
      1.  Get 3 boxes and a black garbage bag.
      2.  Starting near the door, pick up items and make an immediate decision about the item.  Items that stay in the room go into box #1.  Items that belong somewhere else in the house go in box #2.  Items to be donated go into box #3.  Garbage goes into the garbage bag.
     3.  Continue around the room (even under the bed).
     4.  Only what is in box #1 can stay in the room.

A lot of my clients regret not making repairs to their rooms sooner.  I think most of us overestimate how long repairs will take and we just don't want to take the time.  I always carry my bag of quick fixes and a small tool box when I work and that way we can take care of small repairs when we find them.

Have you decided what activities will take place in your bedroom?  Paying bills?  Then you'll probably want a small desk or file cabinet in the room.  In my previous home, I used a 2 drawer file cabinet as a bedside table.  I topped it with a round piece of wood, covered with a table cloth, and no one was the wiser.

If you want to read in bed, you'll need proper lighting and a place to keep your reading material.  A bedside table that has drawers or shelves would be needed. 

So, take a gander around your bedroom with fresh eyes.  Have you been overlooking some things?  Next week we'll be looking at storage solutions and ideas. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

How I Polish My Brick Floors So They Look Like New

One of the jobs I've completed in my flurry of nesting is polishing my brick and wood floors.  My floors are finished with  polyurethane and send to look dull after awhile.

I polish them every 6 months or so. 

First, I remove all the furniture from the area, vacuum the floor, and mop it with Sparkle Cleaner.

Then, I polish it with Holloway House polish.

Here, you can see my brick floor with the left side polished and the right side is only cleaned.

After the floor is dry (about 30 minutes), I replace the rug and furniture and move onto the next section.  I  feel like I have a new floor. 

*Holloway House has not compensated me for my opinion.