Thursday, March 31, 2011

How To Make A Quick Baby Gift From An Upcycled Cabinet Door


I wanted to make a baby gift for a friend, but didn't have a lot of money to spend (I know, what's new).

I was inspired by Heather's cabinet door trays and decided to make a name plaque for the new baby.





First, I took a trip to my local Habitat For Humanity Re-store where I purchased a white cabinet door.  This door looked like it had been a business's sample door because it had never had any hardware attached to it. 

Then, I turned to my stash of Dollar Store wall vinyl stickers.   The baby's name is Hope, so I lucked out that one of the stickers had the word "hope" in it. 


I centered the sticker on the front of the cabinet door and added a few butterfly stickers that were also from the sticker sheet. 



To make it possible to hang on a wall, I turned it over and attached a small toothed hanger, centering it at the top of the plaque.  *Make sure to double check which end is the "top" before hammering in the nails.


I really wanted to use an extra wide piece of ribbon, but this striped grosgrain ribbon was all I had available. It was wired ribbon and easy to work with.  I folded the ends down twice and tied a bow in the middle.  I had to fuss with it a few minutes to make the bow centered.



I attached the ribbon with hot glue.  The plaque is meant to be hung by the toothed hanger and not by the ribbon.  The ribbon is just for "pretty". 


I also hot glued one of my Tidy Brown Wren tags to the back.  I ordered these from an online company and they can be sewed on items or glued on - they are sold as "camp tags", but I use them as product tags. 


And there you have it.  I quick baby gift for a sweet new baby.  If her name had been Matilda instead of Hope, then I would have used large letter stickers from the craft store.  A talented person could actually paint or calligraphy the baby's name (I'm creative - not talented). 


Since I'm totally into upcycling, I wrapped the gift in wall paper and tied it with a recycled ribbon.  I save all ribbon, sort it by color, and iron it when I need to use it.  I very rarely buy ribbon.


A hand stamped card adds a finishing touch.



Check out some other links at:

 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wrensday: Looking Forward To Planting Time

I transplanted my veggie plants from seed starting trays into real pots last week.  I also moved them into the garage and under the grow lights. 



They are making good progress and should be ready to plant out in the garden as soon as warm weather decides to stay.  It is going to stay, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is It Called Nesting Even When You're Not Expecting A Baby?

I've been nesting a lot recently.



Cleaning out closets, cabinets, and drawers.

Washing windows, scrubbing floors, polishing furniture.

Rearranging furniture, swapping out accessories, fluffing pillows.

Hugging people, saying "I love you", and rejoicing in God's blessing.

Why?

Because 2 weeks from today, I'll be getting a second chance at life.

You could call it a "New Birth". 

I'll be getting the gift of a new kidney from a dear friend. 

In two weeks, at this same hour, we will both be in side-by-side operating rooms.  My friend will be in the "giving" room and I'll be in the "receiving" room. 

Her generous gift will allow me to live a more normal life.  I will no
 longer sleep for hours at a time.  I will be able to run after my grandchildren.  I will be able to sing praise songs and clap my hands at the same time without being exhausted. 

When my surgeon asked the two of us if we had any concerns about the surgery, we replied in unison "Let's do it".  He simply smiled from ear to ear and said, "This will be good". 

And it will be.  That's why I'm nesting.

 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Motivation: How To Keep Your Bathroom Clean

You've worked hard all month to get your bathroom organized.

First, you took inventory of how your bathroom functions.
Then, you organized the medicine cabinet.
Then, you cleaned out the cabinets and drawers.

Now that everything is purged and organized, how do you clean it and keep it that way? 


tidybrownwren.blogspot.com
                                                                

I think the secret to a clean bathroom is to do it frequently.  Of course, no one wants to hear that, but the truth of the matter is that a little bit of mess is easier to clean than a whole lotta mess.  Follow me?

Here are some tips to help you make the task more manageable:

     1.  Keep cleaning supplies handy.  Nothing slows momentum quicker than having to retrieve cleaning supplies from another room.  I keep a roll of paper towels, a bottle of Sparkle cleaner, a canister of Borax, and a sponge under each bathroom sink in my home.  I also have a toilet brush in a covered container, tucked behind each toilet.

     2.  Every two days (or every day if a lot of people use the bathroom) follow these steps:
             A.  Spray sinks and mirror with Sparkle cleaner and wipe with a paper towel.
             B.  Sprinkle Borax into toilet bowl and swish with brush.
             C.  Spray toilet seat and toilet surround with Sparkle cleaner and wipe with another paper towel. 
             D.  Squeegee water off of the shower surround with a small squeegee after each shower.

There!  You just completed a quick, 2-3 minute clean-up that will keep most of the germ police away and makes your bathroom presentable most of the time.

     3.  For your weekly cleaning:
             A.  Sprinkle Borax onto your wet sponge and scrub your sinks, counters, and tub and shower.  Rinse with water and polish with Sparkle cleaner.
             B.  Vacuum the floor, shake rugs, and mop floor with sparkle cleaner and a mop.  If your bathroom floor is small enough, you can simple wipe it down with cleaner and a paper towel.
             C.  After putting Borax into the toilet, let it sit for several hours before brushing and flushing.
             D.  Set out fresh towels.
             E.  Refill soap dispenser if necessary.


     4.  Every month:
             A.  Vacuum the exhaust fan
             B.  Wipe baseboards
             C.  Clean fingerprints from walls, door, and trim
             D.  Take a few minutes to straighten out the cabinets and drawers, tossing anything that is expired
             E.  Take inventory of any items you will run out of soon and add them to your shopping list
             F.  Wash bath mats if necessary.

Here are a few tips I've found to make cleaning surfaces easier:
     1.  Polish your shower stall with car wax or Gel Gloss every 6 months or so.  It will cause the water to bead up and dry quicker, leaving less water spots.  It also keeps soap residue from clinging to the surface, making it easier to clean.  *Caution*- Do not polish the bottom of the tub/shower.  It will make it slippery when wet. *Another Caution* - This is a chemical product.  Be careful.
     2.  Polish your sink top with Gel Gloss to keep toothpaste  from adhering to the surface.
     3.  There are products that say they will keep your mirror from fogging up, but I've never found them to be rather short lived and eventually left streaks when I tried to clean the mirror.  If you have a solution, please share your thoughts.
     4.  Shower curtains should be made out of a quick-drying fabric.  Avoid liners made with PVC as it releases harmful chemicals.

Just a note. . . I prefer to use homemade cleaners that don't have strong chemicals to clean my home.  Please feel free to replace the items I suggested with whatever cleaning solutions you desire. 
.

Two Week Menu: March 27- April 9, 2011

Oops.  I should have posted this yesterday, but sleep took over my weary body again.  Please forgive me the delay.

Sunday, March 27:  No kids!  Date with Hubs.
Monday, March 28:  Pasta E Fagioli (leftover from last week),  homemade Italian bread
Tuesday, March 29:  Veggie Quiche, fruit salad, pumpkin muffins
Wednesday, March 30:  Tuna burgers, spinach salad, baked potato
Thursday,  March 31:  Enchiladas Suizas (make triple batch - one to eat, one for another family, and one to  freeze for a future meal), green salad
Friday, April 1:  Chicken and barley bake, collard greens
Saturday, April 2:  Homemade veggie pizza, brussel sprouts

Sunday, April 3:  Family Birthday Celebration:  Kielbasa with sauerkraut and apples, cornbread, roasted green beans, birthday cheesecake
Monday, April 4:  Corn and potato chowder, popovers, orange wedges
Tuesday, April 5:  Salmon, quinoa, sugar snap peas
Wednesday, April 6:  Venison meatballs with red sauce, whole wheat pasta, spinach salad
Thursday, April 7:  Oregano chicken, green beans with corn, sweet potatoes
Friday, April 8:  Tortellini Salad, homemade bread
Saturday, April 9:  Mexican Beef Casserole, fruit salad

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wrensday: New Residents At The Wren


My how the times have changed.

A few years ago when we first got chickens we called them "members of the family" and  I set about to name them.

How did we pick their names?  Well I decided to name them after our grandmothers:  Gwennie, Gertie, Bertie, and Elsie (after Gwen, Gertrude, Bertha, and Elsie Marie)

Let me just tell you - don't name your chickens after your grandmothers.  If you do, you will be doubly horrified when a fox sneaks in and eats them.  I'm just sayin'!

We only half learned our lesson the next time and named the chickens, but not after family members.

We still have two of that batch (Suzie and Reba)

(Our goats, Gus and Bubba are a little afraid of the chickens.  See how they climb up on their platform when the chickens roam near their pen?) 

This time, we ordered 5 peeps and they will not have names.  We will only refer to them as egg layers.


They are really cute and fluffy and make the sweetest noises - but  I. Will. Not. Name. Them.  I mean it!

They will be visiting a preschool today and I'll bet the students give them names. . . hee hee.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Trick To Clean Really Dirty Cookie Sheets

I tried to think of a fun way to title this post, but I kept coming back to the idea of just stating the facts. 

A Trick To Clean Really Dirty Cookie Sheets.

I guess I have to humble myself and show you what I mess I had on my hands.


I'm so embarrassed.

   It all started around the holidays.  Several heavy baking days without scouring them caused a build up
 of. . . I'm not sure what.

My little green scrubby just couldn't handle the job. 

I've been using parchment paper in the mean time so that I'm not cooking on the surface.  I decided that it was time to pull out the big guns. . . yes, my bottle of ammonia and a kitchen garbage bag.  I was waiting for a warm, sunny day to make this trick most effective.


The process is pretty simple.  You put your cookie sheets into the bag, pour 1/2 cup or more into the bag and seal it shut.



Let it sit all day in the sun. 

In late afternoon, carefully open the bag (don't breath in the fumes) and take out the pans.  The ammonia will have softened the grease.  Scrub with a steel wool pad and all of the gunk will come off - even in the corners.  You can use plain steel wool or a Brillo pad.

(yes, they are the same pans - and the backs look great too!)


Hubs had to help me finish the last one as my arms were getting tired, but it only took 10 minutes to scrub all three pans. 

You can also do this trick with glass pans.  I inherited an old glass loaf pan from Hub's Nana.  It was discolored from years of use.  After cleaning off the grime, I discovered it was a beautifully etched glass pan. 

Rules:
1.  Don't breath in ammonia - it's pretty stinky and strong (and dangerous)
2.  Please keep out of the reach of children and pets.
3.  I've only used this on glass and stainless steel.  I've heard it will discolor other metals.  You should probably test a small area first to make sure it won't ruin your item.
4.   To be extra safe, please wear gloves and protective eye wear.

Now that the weather is warming up enough to do "The Trick", what will you be cleaning?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Motivation: Organizing Bathroom Cabinets and Drawers

In most bathrooms that I've helped organize and stage, storage has been a problem.  It seems that many bathrooms are built without thought to where one should store one's "jams and jellies" (as Candice Olsen calls them). 

In addition to lack of storage, most of us hoard keep too many supplies in our bathrooms.  What are we to do?  Get creative!

I've had to get very creative in our current home when it comes to storing our necessities.  In our main bathroom, we don't have drawers, shelves, or medicine cabinets. 

To keep our counters easy to clean, I like to keep most items tucked away.  Here's where I keep our toothbrushes, toothpaste, dixie cups, and jewelry cleaner.  For directions on how to make a canning jar soap dispenser, check this blog post.


The jar of jewelry cleaner fits perfectly in the left drawer, a small stack up cups in the right drawer, and toobrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss in the bottom drawer.  My meds are currently in a ceramic pot so that I will remember to take them when I brush my teeth.  If I had small children around the house, I'd keep them someplace safter. 


As far as linens go, I'm using several different pieces to hold everything.  First, I use my old childhood dresser to hold sheets and towels.  The top drawer holds toilet paper, a heating pad, and extra soap.  As there are no towel bars, I use a quilt rack to hold towels.  This one was made in 1984 by someone in shop class who's initials are J.S.


The dresser does double duty, too.  The section of wall behind the dresser is missing drywall and the dresser holds a piece of cardboard in place.  One day we'll get around to remodeling this bath and install board and batten with real trim and baseboards.


I keep a basket underneath the chair to hold extra hand towels.



For all of my "jams and jellies"  I use the only full size cabinet in the bathroom.  I've used a selection of baskets, wire shelves, plastic boxes, and zippered make-up bags.  The plaid bag holds the supplies I use everyday.  The nice thing about it is that I just add a few things to it and it's ready to travel.

Underneath the basket it sits in is extra lotions, conditioners, and hair goop that I use whenever humidity gets the upper hand on my hair and skin.  My manicure supplies are in a handy zippered bag.  The basket on the right holds my blow dryer, curling iron, and flat iron. (my hair is hight maintenance)  Below that basket is a small basket of extra make-up and my jar of coconut oil that I use as a face and body lotion.  Behind everything is extra supplies that I stock up on when they go on sale like feminine products, hair dye, and cotton balls/Q tips. 


So now that I showed you my bathroom storage, it's time for you to work on your own.  If you've read my blog for awhile, you'll be familiar with the process. 

1.  Remove everything from the cabinet or drawer.  Wipe out the cabinet/drawer and line with contact paper if desired.

2.  Toss everything that is expired or unusable.

3.  Sort items according to type.  Example:  hair products, face products, first aid products.
 
4.  You may find that you have several duplicates.  A lot of people tend to not finish up products before they open a new one.  Consolidate the duplicates and promise yourself to finish up a product before breaking out the new replacement.

5.  Now that you know what you have and will use, put items into containers to keep them organized and easy to find.  Shop your house first to see if you have containers you're not using in other areas.  There's no need to spend money if you don't need to.  Square and rectangle containers are the best as they use space more efficiently.  If you need storage for small items, use a drawer unit to sit inside the cabinet.
 
6.  Store items you don't use often or only seasonally in the back of the cabinet or in an out of the way closet.  Keep your most often used items near the front of the cabinet.  Before storing paper products under your sink, make sure you don't have any leaks.  Paper plus water equals mess!!
 

My friend, Amanda, has a great idea for organizing bathroom drawers.  She's a professional organizer and does amazing work.  I know you'll find her web site very helpful.  Please stop by her blog and tell her I said hello!

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's Seed Planting Time

I've been taking care of some babies.

They are just about ready to head off into the real world.


I took these pics just last week and now all of the seeds have sprouted and the plants have doubled in size. 

I'll be moving them out to the garage to live under the grow lights.


I reuse the seed starter trays every year, filling them with a non-soil seed starter.  I keep them up on the third floor window seat because it is toasty warm up there in the sunshine.

This year I planted all heirloom seeds that I purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com)

Their catalog is so beautiful that I almost drool while reading it.  I picked veggies that will grow well in our hot, humid Summer.

This year I'm growing:
Onion:  Red Creole
Cucumber:  Dib Daub
Tomato:  Big Month
Tomato:  Beefsteak
Tomato:   Marglobe Supreme
Pepper:  Emerald Giant

I'm also growing greenbeans, sugar snap peas, potatoes, leeks, and green onions that I got from a local garden center.  In addition, I'll grown parsley, basil, lettuce, and garlic.

If we're lucky, we'll also have pumpkins and cherry tomatoes that reseed themselves every year along with our perennial herbs that stay in the garden all year long like rosemary, bay, sage, lavender, thyme, oregano, and chives. 


Are you putting in a garden this year?  If so, what are you planting?  Where do you get your seeds from ?T

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Lazy Person's Way To Build A Vegetable Garden


We were blessed to have several raised garden beds on our property when we purchased it.  Sure, they were full of weeds, but the foundations were there and that is the hardest job to do. 

We've been talking about adding onto the garden for a few years and planned to do it this past fall (the best time) but between our daughter's wedding (in our yard), the death of my sweet MIL, and an early onset of freezing weather, we never started the project.

A few weeks ago, we decided that we would put in a modified version of the raised bed - a concept called "Lasagna Gardening".  We've done this process several times around our yard when planting flower gardens.  It works very well and involves NO DIGGING!

Lasagna gardening basically layers compost ingredients and then covers them to enrich the soil, enabling you to plant through the cover and into the soil.  Usually, the process involves removing sod before doing the layering.  Because we're lazy creative, we use the sod to our advantage and simply layer over it.  The downside to this "advantage" is that it takes time, sometimes several months.

Here is the area where the new garden will be added.  You can see the old garden sections to the left.


You'll notice a strange figure lurking in the garden.  The previous owner was a welder and made many "odd" art projects.  We've kept several of them around  because they are unique and really add to the character of the property.  This fella is called "Chive Head" because he has chives growing out of the bucket that is his head.  He gets a haircut whenever I need chives for dinner.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, gardening. . .

You'll only need a few items to make this garden happen.  First, you'll need several rolls of  Landscape Fabric.  I bought this 3x50 foot roll for $5.00 at a small store in our area called "Roses".  The same size roll at Lowe's was $14.99.  I bought 4 rolls and still have almost a whole roll left over.  Some people use black plastic, but we've found that the landscape fabric lasts longer and allows rainwater to get down to the soil, making the layers compost quicker.



You'll also need garden staples.  We've tried to make our own with old metal hangers, but trust me, the hassle wasn't worth it.  Just buy the staples ($4.47/40) at a garden center.


You'll need a pair of scissors to cut the landscape fabric to the length you want.

You'll also need a large stack of newspaper or lots of cardboard boxes. Only use the black and white sections of the newspaper - not the glossy ads.   Our garden bed measured 3x50 plus a walkway between the existing bed and the new bed that measured 3x50.  You'll be putting down layers of paper or cardboard.  Some people use old carpet as the bottom of their walkways.  I think it would work well, but we've never tried it.


Lastly, you'll need yard clippings like chopped leaves and grass, and also some compost from your compost pile (you can purchase compost too, but that adds to the cost of your garden).

I marked out the measurements of the garden with bamboo plant stakes.  You could use a garden hose to lay out the design.  If you are making a curved garden bed, you'll want to use something flexible like a garden hose or length of rope.


Have the garden hose ready.  You'll be laying down layers of newspaper and then spraying them to keep them from blowing away.  Needless to say, this project should not be undertaken on a windy day!

I lay down a layer of 3 or 4 sheets horizontally, and then another layer of  3 or 4 sheets vertically to really cover the area.  If you're using cardboard, usually one or two layers is fine.  You don't want any gaps because the grass/weeds will grow up through them.

After the newspaper is down, add your first layer of yard clippings.  We added composting leaves.  If we had done this in the Fall, we would have also had grass clippings which is ideal.



I chose to work in sections, adding first the newspaper, and then the leaves. 



Here is the bed at the end of layering newspaper and leaves.  Notice I haven't worked on the walkway that will be between the old bed and the new bed.  I wasn't sure how my energy level would hold out and I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew.


After the leaf layer, Hubs brought several wheelbarrow's full of compost from the compost bin and topped the leaves with it.


Now it's time to cover the whole mess.  We layed one layer of landscape fabric over the bed.  Because the bed is several inches thick now, one layer will not be enough to cover the width.  I fastened the right side down with the staples (they are shaped like a large rounded staple that you simply push through the fabric and into the ground to secure).



After the right side was rolled out, I came back with another roll to finish the left side, overlapping in the middle.  I realized I still had plenty of daylight and energy, so I started newspapering (is that a word?) the walkway as well.  Using the staples to anchor the fabric, I continued in sections, overlapping the fabric.

Notice that I'm not adding any leaves or compost to the walkway.  The purpose of the leaves and compost is to enrich the soil.  Obviously, the walkway doesn't need to be enriched.  I'm just trying to kill the grass and make a path to walk through the garden.


I wet the papers down as I went to keep them from blowing around.


As you can see, the shadows are long which means my day was ending.  I got the whole bed and walkway done with a lot of help from Hubs.  All told, it took me 5 hours to complete the whole thing. (I had to take frequent rests)  We'll add straw to the walkway this weekend.

 Since we got a late start this year, we plan on laying bags of potting mix on top of the garden, slicing through the bags and planting our veggies directly into the bags.  Sounds weird, I know, but it works in a pinch.  If we waited until we had enough money, time, and energy to build proper beds, we would be missing out on a whole season (or two) of fresh veggies. 



After a long day, I was ready to put my feet up and rest.  My SIL gave me these cute garden clogs from LL Bean and I just love them.  They kept my feet nice and dry when using the garden hose.  I won't show you what the rest of me looked like - let's just say I really get into dirt when I garden.  I'm still cleaning dirt out of my fingernails because I refuse to wear garden gloves!


Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wrensday: Yellow Springtime

I love to plant yellow flowers because they make such an impact when viewed either up close or far away.

These Johnny Jump-ups will soon tumble over the edges of the window box.


Daffodils seem to shout "Spring is here"!


The Carolina Jessamine blooms over half of the year in my sheltered courtyard. 



The flowers seem delicate, but sometimes bloom while covered with snow.


Upon further inspection, a little bird's nest was discovered.  I'll have to keep my eyes open to see what type of bird built it.


The Johnny Jump-ups by the front porch show off next to the red Camillias. 


The Forsythia is a beautiful backdrop to the pink Camilias and our wonderful American flag.


More yellow Johnny Jump-ups fill a pot in an old wheel barrow in the middle of the gravel driveway.


Reba, one of our free ranging chickens, checks for bugs near the front light pole.  Now that she's finished molting, her new feathers are really beautiful.  (just for the record - molting chickens with no feathers on their necks are really freakish looking)



Thanks for walking around my yard with me and enjoying the yellow the blooms.