Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Motivation: 10 Things In Your Living Room To Get Rid Of

Here we are on the last Monday Motivation of July.  I've enjoyed hearing from several of you who are following the Monday Motivations and organizing/cleaning your whole house.  I'm so proud of each of you for all of your hard work.  I love to hear how happy you are with the changes.

Don't worry about how much time it takes to work through your home.  Just doing one small task each day or week means that you are moving in the right direction.  So many people get overwhelmed by their home and so they do . . . nothing.  Doing nothing only compounds the problem and makes things worse. 

If you can only do one thing this week, pick 10 things in your home to get rid of.  Even small items make a difference.  When you change your mindset to look around your home for things that don't make your life better, then you are able to make choices about things to get rid of. 

Here's what I got rid of this past week to keep my living room cleaner and more organized:
     1.  5 CDs I didn't listen to anymore (donated to Goodwill)
     2.  A plant I couldn't keep alive with my brown thumb (compost pile)
     3.  Last month's magazines (donated to the waiting room of the lab where I get my bloodwork
          done - they had really old magazines)
     4.  2 vases from arrangements I received after surgery.  I haven't reused them in the past year so
          they could go. (donated)
     5.  6 books I read this past year and didn't want to keep for reference (donated)
     6.  An old lampshade that couldn't be repaired (trash)
     7.  Winter blankets we weren't using during the summer (moved upstairs to the quilt rack)
     8.  Extra throw pillows I wasn't using (1 went to Goodwill.  1 went to guest room)
     9.  Jigsaw puzzle with a lost piece (thrown away - no one wants to do a puzzle with lost pieces)
    10. Remote control from broken TV (thrown away - batteries were recycled)

Just the simple process of getting rid of clutter makes the room look so much better.  What can you get rid of this week?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Making Peach Jam

Our friends have a peach tree in their yard that has been producing lots of peaches.  They brought some to church and I happily loaded up.

I peeled and chopped the peaches, added some sugar and lemon juice, and then started boiling away.  I had 8 cups of chopped peaches and I added 4 cups of sugar.  Before filling each jar with the mixture, I added 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice to each jar.  I always refer to my Ball Blue Book of Canning when in doubt.

I prepared my canning set-up.  The large pot to the left has boiling water ready for the water bath.  The small pan in the back right has lids and rings sitting in warm water.  The pan in front is simmering the jam.  I put my jars into the boiling water bath, submerged, for 20 minutes.

An hour later I had 4 half pint jars of peach jam ready for the pantry.  I love the beautiful color.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wrensday: Nesting Wrens

The Wrens have been super busy here at Brown Wren Acres.  Every time I go to grab my gardening gloves outside of the back door, the mother Wren lets me know that I'm too close to her expanding family.  She's decided to take over the little gardening cubby where I keep my tools and gloves handy.

nesting wrens

Nestled down in the basket is her lovely little nest and several eggs. 

nesting wrens

I also found another nest in the tire swing hanging from the oak tree in the front yard.  I don't see any eggs in this nest.  I think mother might have had second thoughts after the last storm winds blew threw.  I'm sure it was a wild ride on this tire swing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two Tricks To Help You Handle Paper Piles

Over the past few months I've been repeatedly asked one question by friends, clients, and random people who find out I'm a Professional Organizer.

"How do I handle the piles of paperwork I have all over my house?"

organizing papers

What I'm finding is that people are overwhelmed with their paperwork but are afraid to do anything about it because (a) they don't know how to start and (b) they think they don't have time to tackle this project.  So the result is a growing pile of paperwork that threatens to overtake their home.

Let's take the first dilemma: " I don't know how to start."


Start with a trash can, a shredder, and some sort of file container.  Your file container can be file cabinets with hanging files or it can be as simple as a portable file box with manila folders.  If you only have a small amount of papers to keep, you can use a binder with dividers and sheet protectors.
     1.  Temporarily label (I like to use Post-it tabs) some file folders with categories that you know you'll need.  You'll be adding and adjusting categories during the process so don't label them permanently until you're done.
     2.  Start with the first paper on the top of the file and decide if it's a keeper, a tosser, or a shredder.  You might also need to decide if it needs your attention immediately (like a bill, a check, or an appointment).  If so, place it with your planner/calendar to take care of soon.
     3.  If it's a keeper place it in the appropriate folder.  If it's a tosser, throw it in the trash can.  If it's a shredder, shred it or place in the shredder pile so you can shred several papers at one time.
     4.  Continue with the next paper - and then the next  - and then the next. . .
     5.  As you file papers, you may find that you need additional folders.  Just pull one out, temporarily label it, and file your stuff.
     6.  When you come to the end of your pile, add permanent labels to your files.
     7.  Sit back and enjoy a job well done. 
     8.  As papers come in, spend a few minutes each day or 15 minutes a week filing your papers to avoid having the "house eating paper piles" in your home. 

organizing papers

Dilemma number 2: " I don't have time to tackle this project."

Solution:  Take 10 minutes a day to tackle your File Pile.  When the 10 minutes are up, you're done for the day. 

You don't have 10 minutes a day?  I'll help you find it.
     1.  File while you're watching TV or instead of watching TV.
     2.  File during each TV commercial
     3.  File while waiting for dinner to cook.
     4.  File while your kids are in the tub (sit on the floor with your file box)
     5.  File 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night.
     6.  Shorten your workout by 10 minutes and use that time to alleviate a stress producer in your  life.
     7.  File first thing in the morning.  I know you'll make up the 10 minutes later in the day.  It always works out.
     8.  Make an appointment with yourself on your calendar and then make sure you keep the appointment.  Ask a friend to call you at the appointed time to keep you accountable.
     9.  Cut out your morning Starbucks trip and grab coffee at home.  Not only will it save you time but it will also save you money. 
   10.  Trade one household chore for another.  It might serve you better to do 10 minutes of filing than to vacuum your living room this one time. 

Ready to give it a try?  If you make the commitment to tackle this project, you will be unloading a large weight from your shoulders and helping to make your home a more calm place.  If you get stuck, just give me a shout out by email and I'll get you unstuck.   

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Motivation: Cleaning 10 Forgotten Places In Your Living Room

July is almost over and I've done a pretty good job of working through my living room/family room.  I'm making a lot of changes to the room so it's been a good opportunity to really clean some forgotten areas. 

sitting area at The Wren

Our main floor is really just one large room with a fireplace placed smack in the middle of it all.  Furniture arranging is a bit difficult, but we manage to make to work.  I treat the whole downstairs as one area when I'm cleaning and organizing. 

sofa with cover

This sofa is actually on it's way out of my house.  I've ordered a new sofa and chair and they are due to arrive in a week or two.  This old one (lovely plaid under this neutral cover) will go to our son and he can use it in his apartment. 

OK.   Where was I?  Oh, yes, cleaning the forgotten places!  I almost forgot! 

Forgotten places to clean:

1.  Baseboards - Vacuum with the brush attachment and wipe with a damp cloth.  Touch up any dings with paint.

2.  Ceiling fan - After turning it off, wipe blades clean with a damp cloth.  Clean any light fixture globes with window cleaner.

3.  Window sills - Open windows and vacuum out cobwebs and bugs.  Wipe with damp rag.  Close the windows and wipe inside window sill.  Touch up any dings with paint.

4.  Lamps - Turn lamp off.  Vacuum lamp shade with brush attachment.  Wipe lampshade with barely damp (clean) rag.  Clean light bulbs after they have cooled down with a damp rag.

5.  Tops of door frames and window frames - Use the brush attachment to vacuum tops of door frames and window frames.  While you're at it, check for any cobwebs in the corners. 

6.  Light switches and outlet covers - Wipe these with a damp rag, using a bit of a mild cleaner if necessary.  Replace any that are cracked or discolored. 

7.  Artwork - Remove artwork from the walls and vacuum the backs.  Wipe frames with a damp rag.  Clean glass with window cleaner sprayed onto a damp rag.  Never spray cleaner directly onto the glass. 

8.  Tables - Turn coffee and end tables upside down and vacuum their undersides.  Tighten any loose screws to make the tables more stable.  Touch up any scratches with touch up sticks. (or a matching crayon!)

9.  Pillows and blankets - Remove covers from pillows and launder or dry clean them.  Fluff the inserts in the dryer.  Wash any blankets or throws after making any repairs to rips or frayed edges. 

10.  Odds and Ends - Wipe decorative items with a damp cloth or remove dust with the brush attachment on a vacuum.  Weed out any items that no longer have any meaning or that are tired looking or broken.  Only keep those things that you absolutely love. 

So, there you have it.  The forgotten things have been found and taken care of.  Do you have any other forgotten areas that you would like to add to the list?  Leave a comment and let us know.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Making Green Smoothies

Our grandsons stayed with us for a few days last month while Mommy and Daddy moved from a condo into a house (yay for a backyard to play in!). 

Littlest one was not in a mood to eat and being the overly protective grandma that I am, I decided to take matters into my own hands and whip up some nutritious smoothies to get a lot of fruits and veggies into the boys.

The smoothies were a hit and both boys downed them and asked for more.

I usually call these smoothies "Green smoothies" because, well, they're green.  On this day, however, they were brown because of the combination of greens and blueberries (green + blue + brown).  Littlest One kept saying, "Honey, more brown smoomie please".  Apparently the brown part didn't bother him at all. 

Want to make a Green Smoothie?  Here's what you do:

     1.  Add one large handful of greens (lettuce, spinach, swiss chard etc.) to one cup of liquid (milk, water, juice, kefir etc.)  Blend until smooth.

     2.  Add in about a cup of the fruits of your choice (banana, berries, melon, mango, pineapple etc.)  Blend.

     3.  Add a cup or so of yogurt.  Blend.

     4.  Add in extras if you want them (chia seeds, whey protein powder, flax meal, etc.)  Blend. 

I like to keep fruit in the freezer (even bananas) so that it thickens the smoothie as it blends.  This recipe makes enough for 2 adult smoothies or 4 children sized "Smoomies".  It's a great way to use up small bits and pieces of fruits and veggies.

*Note to Littlest One's Mama - yes, that is dirt on his face.  I was more concerned with nutrition than cleanliness.  He got a good scrubbing in the tub later on.  I'm sure he ate some dirt that day so we brushed his little teeth extra good. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wrensday: Sharing Is A Good Thing

I'm having to convince myself that sharing is a good thing.  It's something my youngest grandson taught me.  Sometimes we don't have a choice in sharing - people (or doggies) infringe on our rights and take what rightly belongs to us.

sharing my snack with a doggie

How we respond to that infringement is what separates the "sharers" from the "non-sharers".  When someone cuts me off in traffic, do I respond with my usual mumbling under my breath or do I let it roll of my back. 

When someone takes the credit for my idea do I insist on getting the attention or do I let it go?

When someone bulldozes over my feelings do I spend the next week fretting over it or do I get over it and move on?

I've decided that I'll share the road, share the credit, share the positive attitude and spare the drama.

sharing my snack with a doggie

Life is too short to eat a whole bag of goldfish crackers all by yourself - even if Mama packed them just for you.  Sharing is a good thing.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Motivation: Organizing Your Bookshelves

How are you doing with getting your family room/living room organized this month?  I've been busy with helping several clients get their homes and closets organized, but I did manage to go through my bookshelves. 

I removed everything from the shelves, dusting and vacuuming as I went.  As I removed each item, I evaluated whether I wanted to keep it or not.

Those items making the cut were sorted by topic (gardening, cooking,  general resources, family and marriage, fiction, Christian living, and Bible resources).

Those items not making the cut were boxed up and put into my car to be dropped off at Goodwill.

I placed each category of books onto their own section of shelf, separating each section with some of my favorite items.  I like to use photos, boxes, baskets, vases, and small items like my grandma's old Brownie camera and a horseshoe found in my garden.  For the warmer months, I'm using some lighter colored vases.  Come winter, I'll probably change them out to golds and browns - we'll see.

A little staging trick is to place all the book spines up to the edge of the shelves.  I use some books laying on their sides to finish off the end of a run of books. 

This arrangement makes it very easy to find any book I need in just a few seconds.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Starting The Kitchen Remodel

A kitchen remodel is not a project to be taken lightly - or quickly.

Hubs and I have been talking about a kitchen remodel since before we moved into our house almost 7 years ago.  We didn't want to move too quickly on making any changes and we agreed to live in the house for a year to see how we "fit" in it before making any improvements.

Well, one year after we moved in I was diagnosed with ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) and was told I would need a kidney transplant.  We decided to put all house plans on hold.  We had no idea what our future held and we didn't want  to get into anything over our heads or spend any extra money in case I wouldn't be able to work.

Since the kidney transplant last year, my health and strength have greatly improved and I'm back to working regularly.  We added a free-standing island to help with storage and work surface and we've had to replace the stove and fridge. 

Our kitchen has limped along pretty well.  Some of the cabinets are crooked and several drawers won't open without splitting apart.  The plumbing is starting to act up and the sliding back door doesn't want to cooperate.  The dishwasher is dying a slow death and the electrical outlets are possessed.   It seems to be time to start the planning process. 

I've been pinning ideas for the new kitchen and am starting to get excited about the improvements that can be made. Hubs is drawing up plans and we'll be talking to a contractor soon.  I'm starting to get excited. 

These are the hardworking hands of my most favorite person in the whole world - my husband's. 

Stay tuned in to see how we improve this area of our most unusual house.  Let the dust begin!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wrensday: Enjoying The Sunflowers

Our sunflowers were amazing this year.  They reseeded from last year's sunflowers - I didn't even plant them!  They grew well over 12 feet tall. 

butterfly and sunflower

After the severe storms a week or so ago, many of the stalks were blown over - some even snapping in two.  We staked up the bent over stalks and trimmed back the rest.  We were able to enjoy some of the trimmings inside.


To enjoy sunflowers inside, trim the stems underwater before inserting them into lukewarm water.  Treat the water with flower preservative or add 2 teaspoons each of sugar, bleach, and lemon juice for your own preservative.  Change the water every other day to prolong the blooms and keep the water from getting funky.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Items In The Etsy Shop

Just thought I'd show off some new things I've added to my Etsy shop.

First up is a cute little ballet bag upcycled from a tutu.

It's all gussied up with a little button flower.

I'm loving this work apron, upcycled from a women's skirt.  The colors are great.

I love the bright green lining and the vintage ric rac.

Here's another fun work apron.  This one is upcycled from a curtain that was upcycled from a tablecloth.  It has a loop on the side that can hold a dishtowel, yard tool, or anything you need you need it to. 

I love these bright colors.

I'm sure Dorothy would have loved carrying this purse on the yellow brick road. 

Cute blue gingham and vintage buttons. 


Lace and brocade always go well together.  This cream purse could also be used as a dance bag.

I love the added vintage trim.

I'll be adding more items in a few weeks.  I'm working on a baby quilt for our first granddaughter who is due to arrive in a few weeks. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Motivation: Cleaning Your Car's Headlights

Hubs drives our old family van back and forth to work.  He also uses it to haul hay, animal feed, and various home improvement products from the hardware store.  It's an old, beat up vehicle but still runs so we're not ready to replace it yet. We try not to wash it very often because we're pretty sure dirt and grime are holding it together.   We also don't want to put much money or time into it as it's days are limited. 

We noticed that the headlights were getting dimmer and we were looking into products at the auto parts store that promised to clean up the "fogginess" because it's kind of important to have bright headlights at night on country roads.  We balked at the $30.00 price tag.

While hanging out on Pinterest, I saw an DIY project that showed how to do the same thing with a simple household product.

In the photo below, you'll see that the left side is foggier than the right side.

I used this simple product to clear up the lens.  A bonus is that I got this tube for free with my double coupons.

I rubbed the toothpaste on with an old cloth and simply buffed it off to reveal the clearer lens.

I'm  pretty pleased with the results and the best part is that it was FREE!

I'd love for you to follow me on Pinterest

Friday, July 6, 2012

Refinishing An Oak Recipe Box

I've been struggling with how to keep all of my recipes organized for awhile now.  I've tried binders with protective sleeves, photo albums that hold recipe cards, and keeping them on an online site. 

I realized that I'm just more of a recipe box kind of girl so I went back to that.  I have a nice oak box that Hubs gave me one year for Christmas.  I love it, but it's not big enough to hold all of my recipes.

I've been using a small Longaberger basket to hold all of my baking cards. I like the look of it, but it tends to get dusty.

I found a vintage oak recipe box at a yard sale and thought it might work.  The only problem was that it was painted a high gloss turquoise with shiny yellow hinges.  I didn't get a photo of it all together, but here it is after I removed the hinges. 

I used a water based stripper because it is not stinky and will not burn your skin off if you get a drop on you.  Of course, I still used protective gloves, eye protection, and a mask - just in case.

I used a sponge brush to apply the gel to all of the box and the two hinges.  Aren't they a lovely shade of yellow?

The paint on the hinges came off in one application, but the box took several steps.

After applying each application, I waited about 10 minutes and then scraped off the residue.

After all of the paint came off I used fine steel wool, dipped into the gel, to scrub off any stubborn areas around the dove tailed joints where paint tends to gather.

I then wiped everything clean with some mineral spirits and let it dry.  Finally, I put a coat of Minwax wood finish on the wood to even out the color.  I also added a layer of a wipe-on poly to protect the box further, letting everything dry between coats.

Now my "new" recipe box sits with my other recipe box in my kitchen. 

It's easy to get to, easy to grab a recipe from , and dust wipes right off!

I'm glad I took the time to fix it up.