Tuesday, May 31, 2011

If You Give A Girl Some Spray Paint. . .

Remember the chicken planter my daughter and son-in-law gave me when I came home from the hospital?  I love it.  I really do. 

When they gave it to me, my daughter said, "Mom, you'll probably want to paint it". 

Well, she was right.  The more I looked at her (the chicken) the more I was picturing her as a solid color. 

Yup, that works.  She's coordinating with the lantern and table (it has black legs).

It's a good thing I always have spray paint on hand.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Motivation: Creating a Relaxing Bedroom Retreat

Now that you're bedroom is decluttered and organized, it's time to look around and make it a relaxing retreat that you can enjoy. 

Here are some ideas to help you create the room you've always wanted (or never knew you wanted):

1.  Choose a calming color palette.  Neutral tones are more relaxing than bright colors.  Choose colors that you are naturally drawn to.  Flip through magazines and catalogs and collect pictures of rooms that you like. 

2.  Choose gender neutral colors and patterns to appeal  to everyone who uses the room.

3.  Choose simple patterns for your bedding and window treatments.  Simple patterns are calming.  Busy patterns are energizing.

4.  Provide ample lighting.  Overhead lighting can be functional but it certainly isn't pretty - or calming.  Place lighting around the room where it is needed for tasks such as near beds, dressers, desks (if necessary). 

5.  Make sure every item in the room has it's own home to cut down on visual clutter.  Visual clutter is not calming.

6.  Choose comfortable bedding.  Do you avoid using certain pillowcases or blankets because they are rough or scratchy?  Get rid of uncomfortable linens and search for better quality items that you can enjoy.  My favorite place to find good quality linens at a discount is the clearance isle at TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls.  Look for a high thread count and Egyptian Pima cotton.  If you can, unzip the package and feel the fabric with your hand.  You'll be able to tell a difference right away.  Good quality sheets get softer with each washing.  Poor quality sheets simply pill up and feel scratchy.  Don't worry about matching all of your linens.  If you stick with a neutral palette, your linens can all "go together" without having to match.

7.  Enjoy the simple pleasures.  A  scented candle, special hand lotion, linen spray, a good book, or a magazine by the bedside can help your room feel like the retreat you want.  You probably already have them in your home - just add them to the bedside table to enjoy.

8.  Drown out the noise.  If you are bothered by the noise outside (or next door), keep a fan going or use a white-noise machine to mask the bothersome sounds.

9.  Keep technology out of the bedroom retreat.  Televisions and computers are retreat busters.  Studies have shown that these devices can keep us from sleeping or sleeping well.  A better choice to help you unwind is a book (but not a book that you can't put down). 

10.  Not able to sleep?  Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when that little bit of shut-eye eludes you.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Was Featured On Organizing Junkie

Organizing Junkie

I was featured on Organizing Junkie's blog last week.  Thanks for featuring me, Laura.  If you're looking for some great ideas for organizing or need to get motivated to tackle those tough spots, check out Organizing Junkie

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The King Is In The Garden!

Last week while weeding the sugar snap peas, I saw a little visitor.  It was a baby Eastern King snake. 

I'm not afraid of snakes, just frogs, but I did crawl away from it. 

Well, Saturday, Hubs had to rescue baby's mommy (or daddy) from the bird netting we're using to cover our cherry trees with.  She (he) was caught in the netting and had to be cut out (netting was cut - not the snake). 

We don't mind king snakes around our property because they are helpful.  They eat the rodents that eat my garden.  They also eat other snakes. 

Sigh. . . Hubs is only allowed to wear these clothes around Brown Wren Acres (our property).  He's really good about changing his clothes before he leaves the property.  Of course, now I've posted this for everyone to see he might think he's allowed to wear them to Home Depot.  He's not. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wrensday: Gardener's Candy

Sugar Snap Peas.

Fresh from the garden.

That's all I have to say.

We've serve them with our favorite homemade Ranch dressing:

Ranch Dressing:

1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
4 tsp. dried minced onion
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. parsley
1 cup mayonnaise (homemade is our favorite)
1 cup buttermilk (make your own with 1 Tbl. lemon juice + 1 cup milk)

Blend together and refrigerate for 1 hour before using.

I'm linking to:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Motivation: How To Have An Awesome Yard Sale

If you've been following Monday Motivation this year, you've already cleaned out several areas of your home and may have a pile of donations or yard sale items waiting for you.  As yard sale season is starting up, I thought it might be a good idea to look at ideas and tips to make your next yard sale a spectacular one. 

What to do a month before the yard sale:
     1.  Pick a date.  Make sure there are no large community events happening to sidetrack potential customers.  Also try to pick a date near payday.  Here in a large military area, it's the 1st and the 15th.

     2.  Look through every nook and cranny in your home for things to sell.  Don't forget the attic, basement, garage, shed, cars, and yard. 

     3.  Take the time to make sure all items are clean.  A clean item is more likely to sell and to sell for more money when it looks nice.  If you have the original box and or paperwork for the item, be sure to sell them together.  As you check over your items, sort them by category to make pricing and setting up go smoother.  Clothing together, toys, purses etc. 

     4.  Check to see if your city/town requires a permit and get one.  At the same time, check to see what the rules are for signs and parking.  Your neighborhood might have guidelines to follow, as well.

     5.  Make signs.  Decide where you will place your signs and make them ahead of time.  A simple sign that says  "Yard Sale" with an arrow and the time of the sale is usually enough.  If your street is really long, make several signs for customers to follow so they don't give up half way down your street and turn around. 

     6.  Pricing is important.  There are several ways you can price items.  I generally price individual items except for items I have a lot of.  For instance, I price house goods individually but price books as $1.00 for hardcover and  $.50 for paperback.  I price furniture individually but clothing at $1.00 and coats $3.00.   I simply make signs for the large groups of items.  Most people who are buying books and clothes will buy a lot and haggle anyway.  Some people never price their items and just wait for customers to ask or offer a price.  As a yard sale shopper, I prefer to see a price but that's just me being a visual person.

     7.  Advertise your sale.  Post your sale on Craigslist,  put it in the local paper, post it on bulletin boards, and tell everyone you know. 

     8.  Get change.  Don't put this step off until the day of the sale.  Your sale will start with a bang and you'll be looking like a deer in headlights if you don't have bills and coins to make change.  I usually start off with $30.00-$40.00 in ones, fives, and quarters (I don't price anything lower than $.25)  If you're selling larger items like furniture and appliances, you might want to have even more change.  Decide how you'll keep track of your money and how you'll keep it safe (more about that later).

The day of the sale:

     1.  Have your supplies together.  I like to have a tape measure, calculator, extension cords and batteries to help customers.  Also have bags and newspaper to wrap up fragile items.  I also like to have scissors, markers, and extra price tags available. 

     2.  Place items where your customers can see them.  Place large eye catching items near the street to get people out of their cars.  If you have a lot of furniture, set it up like a room in your house, including flowers on the table. 

     3.  Keep your money safe.  I use a waiter's apron with large pockets to hold my money.  Every hour or so I take out the large bills and put them in my house for safe keeping.  If you have a dedicated area where customers pay for their purchases, you can keep a cash box there as long as it is ALWAYS with someone.  Never leave it unattended.

     4.  Use any horizontal surface you can find to display your items.  Turn boxes upside down, lay boards over saw horses, drag the patio table around to the front yard, or use your coffee table from the family room.  If you are using an item you don't want to sell, cover it with drop clothes or sheets to hide it from view.  I could have sold my kitchen table many times over the years had I not covered it up.  One customer even lifted up the sheet I was using because she saw the carved leg peeking out - smart woman - I would have asked too.

     5.  If you can, hang clothing up.  It's so much easier to see and customers feel like they're shopping in a store and not on your lawn.  In the past I've used two ladders, set feet apart,  with a pole strapped to the top of  them.  Worked like a charm. 

     6.  Put up your signs right before your sale unless you want "early birds" to show up 2 hours before your sale and mess up your piles.  These are people who shop at yard sales to resell items they've purchased.  I don't tolerate "early birds" but it's your call.

     7.  Place balloons or something eye catching on your mailbox so your sale can be seen by people as they drive down the street.

     8.  If your children will be "helping" you the day of their yard sale, let them have their own sale.  Allow them to sell their own toys and keep the money.  Or, if not, let them sell drinks, lemonade, and/or bagged snacks.  They can practice their math and entrepreneurial skills.

After the sale:

     1.  Pack up all items and take to your local thrift store.  Our family rule is that once it's out in the driveway, it doesn't go back in the house.  The only exceptions are those items that someone has asked you to hold for them to pick up later.

     2.  Be a good neighbor and pick up your signs. 

     3.  Count your money and smile because you just cleaned out and cleaned up!

Other tips:

     1.  I like to make sure I have 1 or 2 adult or teen helpers to help me during the sale.  Shoppers need help loading cars and carrying things.  Also, you'll have to take a bathroom break at some point!

     2.  Plan ahead for your meals for the day.  Have sandwiches made ahead of time and throw something in the crock pot or plan to eat dinner out after your long day. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Unusual Desk Accessories

 I was looking for something to dress up the desk my husband made me for Christmas.  I didn't like any of the usual containers found in the office supply stores.  I kept noticing cute white milk-glass containers in the thrift stores and decided to pick up a collection and put them to work. 

The tallest one holds writing utensils (pens, pencils, markers, chalk markers and a random bone folder.).  The medium one holds scissors and hole punches.  The short one holds the fabric tags I sew onto my Etsy creations. 

 I little bit of pretty makes makes it so much nicer to get down to work.

I'm linking to:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How To Recycle A Stained Shirt Into A Jacket

We all know what happens when I get bored and stuck in the house. . . yup, I cut up my clothes and make things out of them

As I was doing laundry, I discovered a favorite shirt had an oil stain right on the front that would not come out even with special treatment and several washings.  I was about to toss it out but decided to try something different.

The shirt is really chocolate brown, but shows up as this purplish blue on the computer.

First, I cut the shirt down the middle, trimmed the sleeves, and trimmed the bottom off. 

Then, I hemmed the two sides of the new front openings on the sewing machine. 

Next, I double hemmed the bottom so it wouldn't curl up.  I'm not terribly happy with how it turned out, but it ruffled it a bit which is kind of cute.

Next up, the ruffle.  I cut off the hem of the bottom of the shirt and then cut the remaining fabric into two pieces, cutting lengthwise.  Then I ran each strip through the sewing machine set on the basting stitch.  I pulled on one of the threads while gently "scrunching" the fabric to form the ruffle.

I pinned the ruffle to one side of the shirt (on the front) and sewed it down.  It took a few minutes to get the ruffles even, but was easy to do.

I had some fabric left from the shortened sleeves so I decided to make some flowers.  I cut a circle of fabric and found an old button in the button box. 

I pinched the button in the center of the fabric and ran a needle and thread around the button to "hide" it in the fabric.  The button forms the center of the flower.

I attached the button to the jacket by hand sewing it with just a few stitches.

Here's the finished product! 

I'm linking to:
Visit thecsiproject.com

Make it Yours @ My Backyard Eden

 freckled laundry

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wrensday: After The Rain

I love to walk around the garden after a Spring rain and take photos of the flowers.  There's just something special about how fresh the colors appear.  And the scent. . . oh the scent!



Old Shrub Rose

Of course, there were other precious things blooming in the garden that had nothing to do with flowers.

Grandson J looking for worms.  He loves this little pitchfork and is happy to stir the compost pile with it.  For several hours he filled his little wheelbarrow with compost and added it to the veggie garden.  Every once in awhile he would eat a sugar snap pea for a snack.  You have to keep your energy up, you know!

I'm linking to:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Uses For Coconut Oil

One of the ways I'm eating healthier is choosing healthy fats.  Remember, good fats are not the enemy of our bodies - bad fats are.  We actually need to have healthy fats to orchestrate the absorption of vitamins and minerals.  Good fats are the vehicles that the vitamins and minerals ride around in (yes, I'm a visual person). 

Besides Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and Organic Butter, I also use Organic Coconut Oil.  The more I use it the more I discover it's benefits. 

In recent weeks, I've been depending on my Virgin organic coconut oil a lot.  Due to the immuno-suppressants I must  take after my kidney transplant, my body is experiencing some unpleasant side effects.  The coconut oil has been a life saver, helping to counteract  those side-effects and helping my body recover. 

My skin and hair were getting dry and brittle.  I've been rubbing the coconut oil on my skin twice a day and on my hair once a day.  A little goes a long way and I make sure to rub it in thoroughly so I don't look like a greased pig. My skin is staying hydrated longer than when I just used an expensive cream.   My large surgical  incision is healing very nicely with the coconut oil keeping the skin supple as it grows back together. 

Some of the medications I am taking to prevent organ rejection cause my skin to become red and inflamed on my face and neck.  In fact, every morning I resemble someone with hives.  After washing my face with warm water and a soft washcloth, I gently rub the coconut oil onto my face and wait for it to work.  Within 1/2 hour, my face has calmed down and I can use my mineral make-up with no problems. 

My doctors are giving me IV infusions every 2 weeks to prevent me from getting a common virus called Cytomeglovirus that affects transplant patients in a bad way.  Well, guess what Coconut oil fights against?  Yup, CMV (cytomeglovirus).  Cool, huh?

My blood work shows that I'm a bit low on magnesium.  Instead of taking a magnesium supplement, which can cause diarrhea, I've opted to eat foods higher in magnesium until the levels rise.  The Coconut Oil, I believe, is helping get the magnesium from the food to where it needs to go in my body (remember the visual above?).

I found out from one of the nurses at the transplant clinic that I'm one of the only patients they have who doesn't take a blood pressure medication.  I believe the lauric acid in the oil is helping me maintain a normal blood pressure as I had normal blood pressure before the transplant but the immuno-suppressants tend to cause the BP to rise.

I'm not the only one benefiting from this tropical oil's goodness.  Hubs got a tick bite that was starting to swell and get red.  I pulled out the coconut oil and after 2 applications, the swelling and redness was gone and the tick bite is healing nicely.  We, of course, are watching it carefully for signs of Lyme disease, but all looks good.  Yesterday, Hubs developed some eczema redness after working outside in the heat and humidity and after a shower and coconut oil, his skin was back to normal.  I'm tellin' ya - it's good stuff.

In my quest to live a more healthy lifestyle, I've also discovered that I can also live a more simple and frugal life as well.  Simple, because I can use this one item for several different uses.  Frugal, because this single item generally costs less than the total of  multiple items purchased for different uses.

If you've started using Coconut Oil, please leave a comment and let us know how you've been benefiting.  If you've had a bad experience, let us know about that too.

If you're interested in learning more about Coconut Oil, here's a place to start.

Note:  I have no training in the medical field.  I have made a personal decision to use Coconut oil in my diet and I'm excited to share my experience with you.  Please research this topic for yourself and seek medical counsel before trying it yourself.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Motivation: How Do I Decide What To Keep And What To Throw Away

If you've been hanging around this ol' blog for awhile, you know that I love to clean out closets.  And as a Professional Organizer I love to help other people clean out their closets. 

Whenever I help clients work in their homes, I have to put myself in their shoes and remember that they most likely Do Not Like To Clean Out Closets.  That's why they need me.  And actually, I don't clean out their closet for them.  I coach them through it.  It is impossible to clean out a closet for someone and have the closet stay organized and customized for that particular individual. 

When I'm coaching clients through the purging part of cleaning out a closet, we invariably come across several items that are really tough to make a decision about.  That where gentle prodding, perspective checking, and sometimes, tough love comes in. If you're working through your closets as part of the Monday Motivation schedule, then I hope you'll find this list of questions helpful in making those decisions. 

As you pull items out of the closet, ask yourself these question:

1.   Have I worn this item in the past few years?  Set a time for yourself.  Some people say 6 months, some say 5 years.  I usually say 2 years and that works for me.  The reasoning is that if you haven't worn it in awhile then it's not one of your favorite things and you'll probably never wear it.  Give it away so someone can use it before it dry rots.

2.  Do I have multiples of this item?  How many white shirts do you have?  Stacy and Clinton of What Not To Wear fame also tell their clients to get rid of items that are of the same style but different colors because they are too similar and predictable. 

3.  Does this clothing item look good on me?  If you don't have a helper to give their opinion on the matter, then take a picture of yourself - the camera doesn't lie. Your closet should only contain what you love and what looks good on you. 

4.  Is the clothing item in style?  Several years ago I helped a client who had lost close to 60 pounds.  She was in fabulous shape.  When we went through her closet, she had a hard time getting rid of her "fat" clothes because she had paid so much money for them.  They were also 8 years old and terribly out of style.  With tough love I told her that her body was too fabulous to hide behind those awful, saggy clothes. Those clothes were her old life - not her new, healthy life.  She dumped them right in a bag and I whisked them off to the thrift store. 

5.  Do my shoes fit me?  Are they in good shape?  Really, life is too short to wear painful shoes.  They will eventually cause some harm to your feet. Only wear what makes you feel good.

6.  Do I have other clothing items to wear with this item?  Do you have clothes you've never worn because you don't have anything to wear it with?  It's time to let it go.

7.  Where will I wear this?  If you only imagine yourself wearing this clothing item for a fictictional occasion (like a hoped-for cruise or a in-your-dreams-hip-hop dance class) then it's time to let go of the dream and live in the present. 

8.  Is this item appropriate for me to wear?  Just because you can squeeze your body into something does not mean you should.  Just because you're 40 and you still have great looking legs doesn't mean you should wear the latest teen fashion.  Just because you can doesn't mean you should.  I know, I'm meddling now!

I hope you didn't mind this little bit of tough love!  It's all for a good cause. 

Next week's Monday Motivation will give tips on having a great yard sale!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two Week Menu: May 15th - May 28th

I haven't had the opportunity to share a two week menu in awhile because I haven't been cooking.  After I returned home from my transplant, our family ate meals I had prepared ahead and frozen for the first week and then my church family (I love River Oak Church)  filled in ever since then.   Now, that I'm a lot stronger and able to move around I'm eager to get back into the kitchen and take care of my family. 

Sunday, May 15th:  Leftover Beef Stew, garlic bread, oranges
Monday, May 16th:  Tortellini Salad, Melon
Tuesday, May 17th:  Venison Gumbo (my son wants to cook - hmmm)
Wednesday, May18th:  Orange Balsamic Chicken, brown rice, swiss chard
Thursday, May 19th:  Veggie Quiche, sausage, oranges
Friday, May 20th:  Chicken Fajitas with all the toppings
Saturday, May 21st:  Corn chowder made with leftover ham, homemade rolls, salad

Sunday, May 22nd:  Deviled Egg and Spinach Salad, popovers
Monday, May 23rd:  Chicken Cacciatore with whole wheat pasta, salad
Tuesday, May 24th:  Maple pork chops with apples, greenbeans
Wednesday, May 25th:  Salmon, quinoa, swiss chard (probably the last in the garden)
Thursday, May 26th:  Beef noodle bowl with broccoli and carrots
Friday, May 27th:  Homemade pizza, salad
Saturday, May 28th:  Split Pea Soup, homemade bread, fresh fruit

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Outdoor Dining Made Simple

This past weekend found our family celebrating two special occasions.  Our daughter Ashley's 26th birthday and Mother's Day.  Due to scheduling conflicts, we decided to celebrate on Saturday night.  The weather was beautiful and I knew that meant we needed to eat outside.  That doesn't happen very often in Virginia because the mosquito is our state bird and it arrives early in the season and stays until Thanksgiving. 

Our back porch was just begging for an opportunity to shine so we went for it.  First, I asked Hubs to bring out one of the umbrellas we used at Ashley's wedding.  He weighted the base down with bags of water softener salt so it wouldn't blow over in a breeze.

Then I had him move a few small tables from the screened porches over to the benches to accommodate the 9 people we would be seating.  Cushions for the benches and dining room chairs completed the seating.

I added blue chambray top sheets as casual table cloths.  Each table was simply decorated with a candle lantern.

My grandmother's amber glasses and my thrift store collected Currie & Ives dishes were the table setting.  I used a collection of dark blue napkins and mismatched white napkin rings.

I used cobalt blue serving pieces and my regular silverware.

It was a perfectly relaxing meal with friends and family.  The menu was simple and relaxed as well.  Hubs grilled some marinated chicken tenderloins on the grill.  I made scalloped potatoes ahead of time and popped them into the oven to bake.  I also made refrigerated herb rolls and my daughter made a fresh salad.  Dessert was a purchased cheesecake from Sam's club.  Not much fuss, but delicious and a lot of fun.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Motivation: Closets Galore

Last year, when we talked about organizing closets, I got a lot of positive feedback about critiquing some closet pics I found online.  It's tempting to want to copy professional ideas, but as we've all discovered, some of those ideas just aren't practical. 

While exploring the web, I came across some pics that I thought would be fun to give my two cents of an opinion about.  Feel free to add your ideas as well. 

First up is a fun children's closet.  This is a hanging system available in a specialty children's department.  It could be easily duplicated with hanging bars and shelves found in the closet department of of Home Depot or even Walmart.  I like the way the lower rod and shelves make the clothes accessible to the little ones.  Maybe they'll want to put away their own clothes?

My opinion about this closet is biased because I have installed a few of these Closet Maid systems in client's closets.  They are easy to plan out on the company's website and can be purchased at Home Depot and  installed in a few hours.  It can be customized and switched around easily as your needs change.  See, I told you I was biased.  (by the by, Closet Maid doesn't know I exist and they aren't paying me to say this)

 I couldn't find a source for the products in this pic, but I know you can find similar items to create this closet from The Container Store.  The shoe cubbies, hanging shelves, and "skinny" hangers are all great items for organized storage.   Notice, too, how some items are rolled and stored.  Not sure I would do it, but if my son would roll his T-shirts and put them on a shelf, I wouldn't complain!

So what's your two cents worth about these closets?  Have you been working on your own closets?  Do tell!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wrensday: Out In The Garden

Our new honey bees seem very happy in their new home and are already filling the hive.

My hard-working man's "honey do" list is never done. 

We can't wait for the sugar snap peas to be harvested.  Sometimes we just stand out in the garden and eat them directly off of the vine.  Yummy!

Our newest "girls" are out of the heat controlled nursery and enjoying their new home in the portable chicken coop.  They're too little to free range just yet. 

I found a little lizard sunning himself on the Virginia-rail fence by the iris border.

The potato plants are happy to be weeded. 

Mr. Chive-head is sporting a fancy hair do.  The chive blossoms add just the right touch.

We don't seem to have too many apples on the apple tree this year.  Oh, well.

I  hope you enjoyed this walk around my garden.