Friday, June 29, 2012

Piddlin' And A New Use For An Unusual Product

I love to putter.  Some in the south call it "piddlin".  Whatever you call it - I love it.

I finally had a free afternoon to participate in my favorite hobby and my mantel was the recipient of the effort.

I like to putter using what I have on hand.  This collection is no different (except for one thing which I'll show you in a minute).  I scoured my garage, attic closet, and bin of summer decor.

First, I found part of an old table that Hubs disasssembled.  We found it curbside and scavenged the good wood that was left on it.  It was a drop-side table and we used the extension mechanism on my studio work surface.  The two drop sides were saved and I used one side on this mantel.  It's worn, but adds some character to the arrangement.

I also added a cloche with collected seashells, Hub's grandfather's barometer, a large conch shell, a wooden boat my son made for me, a few bottles, and piece of glass slag.

My favorite addition is the hanging lanterns (leftover from daughter's wedding) that add a lot of dimension to the mantel.  You won't believe what I hung them up with.

I found these purse hangers at the dollar store and my brain went into overdrive, thinking of how I could use them.

Ugly, no?

No worries, though, with my faithful can of spray paint (Krylon Oil Rubbed Bronze).

I'm happy with the results and looking forward to using these little hooks to hang wreaths, artwork, and whatever else I can dream up in the future.  One warning, though. . . remove the hook and the lantern at the same time.  The hooks work using the weight of the item you are hanging.  If you just remove the lantern, the hook with fall right off. 

So, are you inspired to buy some Purse Mates?  What will you use them for?

I'm linking to:

The Shabby Nest

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Motivation: How To Teach Your Child To Organize and Clean

Yes, we do have to go there.
We're parents and it's our job to teach our children how to clean and organize what they own.

Now, lest you think I have all the answers and my children's rooms were visions of organized bliss - I have news for you - I'm a failure.

My kid's rooms were decorated. They were creative spaces. They had plenty of storage. And they were almost always a mess. Not a mess that couldn't be cleaned up in 20 minutes but a mess that indicated that a child lived there.

Let me confess - I had to get used to that.  I had an idea that my children's rooms should look like the cute photos in magazines.  I soon found out that just wasn't practical.  It was more important that our children live in a comfortable space where they could learn and be creative. 

I had to get used to stepping over toys and craft supplies. Dolls and legos. Books and books. And did I mention books. We love books. I still have our library of children's books and my children are 21, 27, and 30. My excuse is that I'm a grandma and a preschool teacher and I need them. 
So why, if I never got a handle on my kid's room am I telling you how to organize one? Because it's not about how perfect the room looks. It's about the regular process of purging "the stuff".

Children outgrow and wear out an amazing amount of "stuff". That "stuff" has a tendency to multiply in no time flat and then children get lost in that pile of stuff. Other things get lost in that pile of stuff too. Things like library books, birthday money, retainers, or the last pair of shoes that fit.

To keep the family semi-sane I'm recommending a purge-fest at least twice a year. We always liked to do it during the summer and right before or after Christmas (before Christmas is best but can be a crazy busy time for most families).

Since summer is approaching, why not say "hey kids, wanna have some fun and clean out your rooms?". They'll think you're the coolest parent on the block - not.

Since this is a skill that all children really need to learn, it's time to pull up our sleeves and get to work. If at all possible, DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT YOUR CHILD. It's their "stuff"!

Here are the steps:
1. Gather your supplies - black trash bags (so you can't see what's in them) for trash, boxes labeled "donate", "belongs elsewhere", "save for sibling", "keepsake", and "to be fixed". I also like to have a piggy bank handy for found money.

2. Start at one side of the room and work your way around. Pick up all clothing you find. Remember, your child is helping you. Don't go through the clothes yet. Just gather into a pile that it out of the way. You'll probably find a few other pieces as you clean and I guarantee you'll find some socks and underwear.

3. Now, start at one side of the room again and pick up large toys. Sort the large toys into either a keep pile or one of the other boxes (see step 1).

4. Start again at one side of the room and gather all of your books. Stack them on the book shelf for now and you'll sort them later. You're just getting them out of the way right now.

5. By now you should be able to see the floor. Gather up toy bins (if you use them) or whatever container your child stores their toys in. Line them up against a wall and begin to pick up the toys on the floor, sorting them into the containers. Sorting is a very valuable skill and most children can do it by the time they are 2 years old. Be sure to check for broken pieces as you sort.

7. If your child is at a reasoning age, have them decide which toys they should keep. Are the toys too young for them? Are they played with regularly? Could someone else use them more?

8. After all of the items are picked up, go back to the books and sort through them, asking the same questions. Be sure to put any books that need repair into the
"to be fixed" container. (see step 1)

9. Check behind and under furniture for any stray items. Try not to be grossed out.

10. Put toy containers away and straighten books. Put larger toys back in their place.

11. Go through clothing, making sure to sort out all clothing that is not being worn or that needs to be repaired or laundered. Put clothing and shoes away. Throw away the trash, add the donate box to your car to drop off at the thrift store, and put the "need to fix" container where you'll be reminded to make repairs.

12. Help your child make their bed.

13. Take a look around the room and compliment your child on a purge well done.

Disclaimer: Your influence on your child will only last so long. Once they are independent enough to go away to college, they will have their own method of purging which usually involves dumping all of their laundry in your laundry room during holidays and leaving most of their belongings in the back seat of their car. Yup. Enjoy their childhood while it lasts.

As we come to the end of the school year, we're faced with a dilemma. What do we do with all of the schoolwork our children have brought home from school. If you're like me, my sentimental side wants to keep everything my child has touched. However, the practical side of me screams "what do I do with all of this stuff?" I'll give you some ideas to keep both sides of your brain happy.

1. At the beginning of the school year, label a small file box for each child.

Storex Economy Portable File Box, Black (61502U01C)

2. Label several hanging files for different areas of paperwork you might want to save for your child. Each child will be different according to their age and activities. Some examples are art, handwriting, poems/stories, awards/pictures, research etc.

Pendaflex Recycled Standard Green 1/5-Cut Tab Hanging File Folders, 25 per Pack (81602)

3. Every time your child brings home a paper, decide first if it is a keeper. You don't have to keep everything. In fact, if you try to keep everything, you will be overcome with paperwork very quickly.

4. If you love it or your child loves it then you might consider keeping it.

5. Once a month, go through what you've kept and decide if anything needs to be thrown out. Maybe your child has a final copy of a poem he wrote. You can safely throw out the rough drafts.

6. At the end of the school year, go through your files and keep only what is special and represents the school year. You should have enough to fill a large manila envelope or a 2 pocket folder. Label the file/folder with the child's name and school year. Place it in a storage bin and store in a dry place. At the end of 12 years, your child will have a bin of memories to enjoy.

Sterilite? 16 Quart Basic Clear Storage Boxes with White Lid

7. If your child has a large piece of artwork or a bulky project, the best thing to do is take a picture of the item. Maybe you can take a picture of your child holding the item. Some artwork is nice to frame. I've seen some very simple artwork matted and framed and it looks beautiful.

8. Now that my children are leaving the nest, I've given them their keepsake bins to keep. Some of the items were kept, but some were thrown away. I feel like I've done my duty and protected their childhood memories. Even so, some of my favorite memories were not my children's memories.

9. If my child made me a mother's day card or a special picture that was just for "Mommy" then I have kept it in my own keepsake box.

 The best way to train our children to take care of their "stuff" is to take care of our own "stuff".   Our own work ethic greatly influences our children. 

Truth is, though, children need to learn to take care of their own belongings and be a part of the family work team.


As parents, we are our children's first teachers. It is our responsibility to teach them the skills they need to be productive in the real world. And really, it's never to young to start.

As soon as children are aware of their surroundings, they are learning about life. If they watch their parents working around the house and their siblings helping out, then they learn that working is important. As they learn to toddle around, they can be shown how to pick up items and put them in a basket.

3-5 year olds can straighten the covers on their beds, pick up some of their toys, set a table, fold dish towels, or feed a pet, learn their phone number and address.

5-7 year olds can wash dishes, sweep a floor, empty waste baskets, put groceries away, make a better bed, set a better table, dust, clean out a sink, or scrub a tub, make phone calls, and order for themselves in a restaurant.

8-10 year olds can empty the dishwasher, fold laundry, clean a bathroom, wash a car, weed a garden, write a thank you note, vacuum and dust, write their activities on a calendar.

11-14 year olds can wash and dry laundry, iron, cut grass, wash cars, cook meals, start a savings account, and babysit.

15-18 year olds can make a budget, grocery shop, detail a car, clean the house - top to bottom, wash windows, make appointments, hold a part time job, and plan for their future.

Lest you think I'm all about child labor, it's really more than that. In our effort to keep "the peace" in our homes, sometimes we find it's easier to just do the work ourselves than go through the effort of teaching and supervising our children as they learn.

I've discovered a few ways to help the process along:

1. Work alongside your child - children learn their work ethic from you. Model and Coach well.

2. Never tell you child to "Go clean your room". That's too big of a job. Give them one job to do at a time.

3. Inspect what they do. If you never inspect their work and give them feedback, they'll never improve. Don't expect perfection at first, just expect the best they can do for their age. Whatever you do, don't let them see you redoing their work. If they have to redo their own work, then so be it.

4. Let your children know they are part of a team - your family team. Learning to work together as a family is good preparation for working outside of the home.

5. Praise your child for a job well done. Teach them to find their reward in working hard and getting things done.

6. Help your children pace themselves and set fun things to do after their hard work. Life is about balance.

Any ideas from parents out there? How do you teach your children life skills?

* Special thanks to my grandson, Jonathan, who is in the photos in this post.  He's a very hard worker and has a wonderful work ethic. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Inn at Westwood Farm: A Wonderful Bed and Breakfast

Inn at Westwood Farm

When Hubs and I planned our trip to hike Old Rag Mountain, we decided to stay in a Bed and Breakfast instead of our usual family adventure of camping at a camp ground.

We were able to stay at a beautiful B&B called The Inn at Westwood Farm and it was a great way to celebrate our 31st anniversary as well as the 1st anniversary of my transplant.

Innkeepers, Elizabeth and Jay were wonderful hosts and we really enjoyed our stay there.  They worked very hard to make our stay comfortable and were most accomodating.  I must also mention that the whole Inn is top notch and CLEAN.  I love clean. 

I'll let the website show off the beautiful Inn and describe the ammenities.  I thought I would show some of our favorite outside areas.  One evening we walked around the property and took in all of the sites.

I took these photos while Hubs and I were sitting in Adirondack chairs in the yard.

The barn was beautiful and they have plans to turn it into part of their wedding venue for the next season.

One of our favorite places to visit on the property was the chicken house.

The Henslay Palace was filled with lots of hens and 1 rooster.

The rooster is the top guy with the wild hairdo.

Their veggie garden was going in and Jay had a humorous way of collecting the rocks he dug up from the garden.  This facinated Hubs and me because we have NO rocks at all in our area.  Rocks in the garden?  Really?

A great time was had by all and we will definately go back for future adventures.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hiking Old Rag Mountain: A Milestone of Recovery

Almost 14 months ago, I had a kidney transplant that changed my life.  The new kidney, donated by my friend Cathy, started working before the doctors had a chance to close me back up. 

During the surgery, however, some nerve damage occurred and I was not able to feel or move my right leg from my ankle to my hip.  I had to walk with a cane and fell several times a day - not a good combination while recovering from abdominal surgery.

While working through physical therapy and learning to live with the medication that is a permanent part of my life (immuno-suppressants to help my body not reject my new kidney) I set a goal of climbing my favorite mountain - Old Rag Mountain.  This challenging route is part hike, part rock scramble, and part brain challenge. 

  After finishing physical therapy, I continued to exercise to strengthen my muscles.  Over the past 6 months, I have continued to gain some feeling in my leg.  Now there is only a 6 inch area in the front of my thigh were I have no feeling.  I decided that if I had to choose between feeling and function; I'd choose function.  I've also been working on upper arm strength as well as limited  abdominal  exercises (I don't have much feeling in my right abdomen (where my new kidney sits).

The first part of the hike is a challenging series of switchbacks.  It took us about 1 1/2 hours to do that part.  The view from the first outlook was beautiful - lots of farmland and amazing clouds.

The second part of the hike is the rock scramble and this blaze (blue paint used to mark the trail) made me laugh.

Yes, this trail led us down into a crevasse.  Being only 5 feet tall, I was at a disadvantage.  I could not simply stretch down have my feet touch solid rock.  I had to maneuver, using legs and arms between the rocks to scoot down.

I loved how some of the trees along the way were worn and smooth from years of hiker's hands grabbing onto them.
(I plan to do a future post about my medic alert bracelet - I don't leave home without it)

Some of the rock out-crops were just amazing.

There are no rules about the climbing technique needing to be pretty.  You just have to get up the mountain anyway you can.  This particular area required me to pull myself up with mostly arm strength and then swing my body around quickly so I didn't slide back down.

I couldn't have completed the hike without this dear man (who is camera shy).  Hubs had to pull me up and over several areas and give me lots of encouraging words to keep me going.

After another 1 1/2 hours of rock scrambling, we reached the top.  The top was enclosed within a cloud, so the view wasn't that great - but the hike wasn't really about the view, was it!  We didn't stay long because it was very cold and windy.

As we got ready to leave the top and head back down, we were able to get a good shot of the valley below when the clouds cleared out for a minute.  Just beautiful.

***For those of you who know me in real life but haven't seen me in awhile:  Yes, my hair is curly!  I lost about 1/3 of my hair after my surgery and when it grew back in, it was curly.  My hairdresser is doing a great job of helping me to grow it out so everything is even.  I'm hoping that letting my hair grow will help to make my face look thinner.  The Prednisone I take has an unpleasant side-effect called "moon face" which adds extra weight onto my face.  It's not a terrible side-effect, but I'm always shocked when I look in the mirror.  I'm always wondering who that woman in the mirror is!

Friday, June 1, 2012

How To Make Refreshing Lemon Balm Tea

I first discovered Lemon Balm when we bought our house several years ago.  It had been planted near the front door and looked like a weed to me. 

After doing some research, I found that Lemon Balm is in the mint family (so it's not so far from the "weed" category).  It spreads easily and grows quickly.

For several years, I've used it to garnish fruit platters and pitchers of ice water in the summer.   Because I have so much of it, I figured I would research what else I could do with the herb.  Come to find out - you can make a tea with it!

I read a few recipes and came up with my version of Lemon Balm Tea that my family really loves. 

First, pick a bouquet of lemon balm and wash it well.  Trim the leaves and put into a glass bowl.

Add boiling water to cover the leaves and let it steep for 20 minutes or so.

Don't worry if the leaves turn a bit brown - that 's normal.

Strain off the liquid, leaving the leaves behind.

You can add a bit of sweetener and fill the pitcher with water for a Lemon Balm Drink, or you can also add a few tea bags to make it a Lemon Balm Tea.  I added 1/4 cup sucanant for sweetener and 2 large decaf tea bags.  I also used the cold brew method for making iced tea.

I'll have to start making a double batch because it's not lasting long around here.