Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wrensday: Digging Holes

There's always something that needs fixing here at Brown Wren Acres.  Right now the most urgent project is a new fence enclosure for the chickens and goats before the weather gets too cold. 
We had to move the chickens to the front of the property because the varmints who live in the woods out back were enjoying our flock as a drive through chicken dinner diner. 
So, we (and when I say we,  I mean Hubs and Son) tore down the old layers of fencing and started from scratch.

Son's shirt was an appropriate one to wear - it says "My Achen Back" which is from the summer World Changers trip he went on a few years ago to Achen, South Carolina.

One hole after another.

The "girls" are enjoying their new hen house and getting fresh air and sunshine within the safety and confines of the netted hoop houses.
The girls were happy to see the work being done - they are eager to be able to run free again.
As the weather quickly turns colder, the fence building continues and will hopefully be done soon. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Motivation: Fixing Christmas Ornaments

I'm reposting a post from last year about refurbishing your collection of ornaments.  I've added a few notes which you'll find in italics.

This was the first year, in many years, that Hubs and I decorated our tree by ourselves. Our daughters are married and have homes and families of their own. Our son is away at Marine training (but will hopefully be home for a few days near Christmas).  Said son is now a Marine Reservist while finishing college and working two other jobs so he still wasn't home to help with the tree decorating.

Without the kids around to fight over ornaments or step on each other's toes, the house was strangely quiet, except for the Christmas music playing in the background.

What I noticed when opening our box of ornaments was that several of them needed a bit of TLC. Over the years, I haven't really done much with the ornaments except unwrap, hang, unhang, re- wrap, and re-pack.

I decided that this year would be the time to repair and refurbish some of those little cuties. I put together a little kit to help with the process.

I used my Sparkle Cleaner, a jewelry polishing cloth, super glue, small sharp scissors, and a small paint brush. I also ended up using some clear finger-nail polish which I didn't show in the picture.

The sparkle cleaner and a soft cloth worked well for cleaning glass ornaments. The jewelry polishing cloth polished metal ornaments until they shone. Super glue reattached loose ribbon and trims, re- secured wobbly eye-hooks and wire hangers, and reunited broken pieces of ornaments. The scissors worked well for trimming loose threads and frayed ribbon.

I used the small paint brush to touch up some ornaments, using acrylic craft paints. The clear fingernail polish worked well as a top coat after the paint dried (leaves a shiny finish).
I found a few ornaments this year that needed new eye hooks so I rummaged through the garage and found some new ones.  The shiny new hooks look much better than the rusty, dull ones.

I'm happy to have that little chore finished - it wasn't planned but I feel better that our family ornaments are looking good.
I also tossed out all of the old hooks which are probably over 30 years old and replaced them with new ones I purchased at post Christmas sales.  Much better!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wrensday: Welcome Autumn

On a recent Saturday morning, Hubs and I enjoyed a bike ride at The Great Dismal Swamp Canal Trail.
great dismal swamp canal trail

Lots of spider webs.
dismal swamp canal trail

As the sun came up, everything glistened.
dismal swamp canal trail

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sometimes Older Is Better

Whoot!  I got a special package in the mail this week!
Ever since we moved into our house, I've been bothered by the hooks in our foyer.  Builder's grade hooks in a handmade house - not good.

Thin, pokey (as in - if you back into them while standing in the foyer, you will get poked)

One of the hooks was broken several years back.  We never replaced it.

So, I did what I had to do. . . I ordered something older, better, and sturdier.  I found 8 antique acorn hooks on ebay.  I won the bid and couldn't wait for them to arrive.  Unfortunately, the bidding ended the day before Hurricane Sandy hit and my source was in New York.  I only had to wait for a few extra days but they were worth it.  I hope that means that my source and his family are safe and sound (and warm).

They are antique "acorn" hooks from an old school house.  They have a patina on them and even a few specks of paint here and there.  Their character fits our unique house perfectly.

It's the perfect spot to hang coats, unbrellas, or even keys.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Motivation: Homemade Cleaning Solutions

This past week I had a whole day to stay home and take care of household things.  Time to "putter" is a luxury these days and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

A good portion of my day was spent in the kitchen and laundry areas and I was able to make up several batches of homemade cleaning solutions.  Since November is the month I've chosen for laundry room organizing, I thought this might be the  perfect time to share my recipes with you.

If you want to try these recipes, please test them out on a small area first to make sure your home and the cleaning recipes will play nicely together. 

Laundry Detergent:

1 cup grated bar soap (I use Fels Naptha)
1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda)
1/2 cup borax

I make a triple batch and store it in a canister in my cupboard.  I use 2 Tbl. per load.

Dishwasher Detergent:

1 cup baking soda (yup, the baking kind)
1 cup borax
1/3 cup Lemi shine crystals (I buy it at Walmart)

Mix together and store in an airtight canister.  I use 2 Tbl.  in my machine.
*I use straight vinegar in my rinse agent dispenser.

Tub and Shower Cleaner:

3 cups water
1/2 cup vinegar
1 Tbl. Dawn detergent
Mix in spray bottle.  Shake before using. 

I spray my sinks and shower and let them sit for 5-10 minutes.  Then, I scrub with a microfiber cloth and rinse well.

Wood Cleaner:

Equal parts olive oil and vinegar.  I store it in a glass jar and shake before using.  I dip a small cotton cloth in the cleaner, rub into the furniture, and then buff with a different cotton rag.  Hub's old undershirts make great polishing clothes.  The vinegar cleans the wood and the oil nourishes it.  Your house will smell like a salad for a little while, but it works great.

Window Cleaner:

1/2 cup vinegar
2 cups water
2 Tbl. rubbing alcohol

Mix together in a spray bottle.

Sparkle Cleaner:

I use a variation of the window cleaner to clean most other surfaces in my home (floors, walls, appliances, counter tops etc.) I call it sparkle cleaner because everything sparkles after I clean with this stuff. 

1/2 cup vinegar
2 cups water

Carpet Cleaner:

Mix 1 part ammonia and 1 part hot water.  Put into a spray bottle and use right away.  It looses strength as it sits.  I've used this on my upholstery too with good results.

If you click on the bold titles, it will take you to my original posts for each cleaner. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Motivation: Organizing The Laundry Room

November is here and that means time to organize the laundry area.  I've collected all of the laundry organizing posts from last year and combined them here to get you motivated. 


Putting Your Thoughts Together About Laundry Room Organizing

I've chosen November as the month to cover the topic of organizing the laundry room.


So, this week is all about deciding what you'll use your laundry room for. Here are some questions you'll want to ask yourself:

1. How many people use this room?
2. What types of laundry are handled in this room? (whites, lights, darks, linens, delicates, dry cleaning, diapers)
3. Do you hand wash any laundry?
4. Do you hang laundry up to dry?
5. How many loads do you do in a week?
6. What types of laundry products do you need to store?
7. Do you need space to hold dirty laundry until it is washed?
8. Where is clean laundry folded?
9. Where is ironing done?
10. Where is mending done?
11. Does this room need to function for your pets?
12. Do you use this room as a mud room?
13. What other items need to be stored in this room? (sports equipment, school supplies, pet supplies, craft supplies, home cleaning equipment, food storage, outerwear and shoes/boots)

While you are taking a good look at the room, you should also look at what kind of shape your room is in. Does it need to be painted? Does it need new flooring or extra storage? Do you have items that are piled up or sitting in boxes? That is a sign that you need more storage (or proper storage).

Ready to get started? Don't forget to take some "before" pictures so you can look back and see what an improvement you've made when you're finished

Purging and Organizing The Laundry Room

Last April, I posted about my laundry room mini redo here and here. The redo held up well and the laundry room has been easy to work in. I've rearranged my cabinets a few times - once in canning season to accommodate all of my canning paraphernalia and once during the holidays to accommodate my extra holiday supplies. Supplies that aren't needed are moved to the "party pantry" temporarily.

Here's what my laundry room looked like before:

And then after:


And after:

There are two views because there are two doors in the tiny room (I know, what was the builder thinking!) One door is from the hallway and one is from the kitchen. The best part is that it is very convenient to the kitchen.

If you are planning to clear out your laundry room and organize it, here are some ideas to get you headed in the right direction:

1. Remove any clean laundry sitting around. If it is ready to be put away, then do that. If it is clean laundry that needs another step (like mending or ironing), then place it out of the way so it doesn't get dirty during the purge.

2. Set up a staging area near laundry room. Because laundry rooms (or closets) are usually very small, it's best to remove items from the area while you're working on it. You can use a table or even the floor. Set up:
a. 1 solid colored bag to contain trash
b. 1 box or bag for items to be donated to a charity or sold at a yard sale
c. 1 box or bag for items that need to be given to someone
d. 1 box or bag for items that need to be moved to another room of the house (for instance - the hammer that needs to go to the garage)
e. make an area for each category of items you'll need in the room (cleaning supplies, pet supplies, tools, food, picnic supplies etc.)

3. Starting at the door, go around the room picking up one or two items at a time. Place each item in the proper category and/or bag. Remember that items you have not used in a year should seriously be considered donate-giveaway-throw away. Every extra item that stays in that room is a potential speed bump in your laundry race.

Let me say that again - Every extra item that stays in your laundry room is a potential speed bump in your laundry race.

4. Now is the time to fix or update any areas that need work. Paint? New lighting? Shelves or cabinets? If everything is staying the same, then give everything a good cleaning. Move out the appliances and clean behind them and under them too.

5. Go back to your staging area. Working with one category at a time, put the items away as close to where you'll use them as possible. (Example: laundry detergent near the washer, dog leash near the door) Place frequently used items on shelves within your reach and infrequently used items up high or down low. Heavy items should be stored on lower shelves for safety.

6. If possible, try not to store anything on the floor to make it easier to clean.

7. After every item is in place, turn to your bags and boxes of items that are not returning to the room. Place the garbage in the outdoor can or dumpster. Trust me - you don't need your family going through it!

8. Place the donation bag in the back of your vehicle to drop off this week. If having a yard sale, place bag of items with other yard sale items (since we've been going through the whole house this year, I bet you have a hum -dinger of a yard sale pile by now).

9. Go though the "belongs somewhere else" box/bag and return items to their proper place. Do not leave in the box/bag to put away later. I know from experience that the "temporary" spot will become permanent. I'm just sayin' - do it now!

So, are you game? Email me if you run into any problems and I'll talk you through it. Now, I've got to get to my ironing pile. It's nearly as tall as I am.


Laundry Room Storage Solutions

I had a great time collecting ideas about laundry room storage to share with you. There are a lot of creative people out there and their projects are amazing.

This first photo is one I have a paper copy of, stored in my file cabinet. I have always loved the creative way this homeowner disguised their washer and dryer in their kitchen. I think this came from Southern Living many years ago. When the cabinets are closed, the counter can be used as a buffet. When doing laundry, the homeowner can use the surface to fold laundry. Brilliant!

This next photo is evidently one of my favorites because I pinned it several times on Pinterest before I realized I had duplicates. It looks like this laundry area is in a bathroom - maybe in a basement. I love the baskets and the pull-out counter top. Notice that the whole laundry area can be concealed with a Roman shade.
Martha Stewart

Jennifer gives the details about how she made over her laundry room. Check out the link below the photos to visit her blog and get the juicy details.

Jennifer's laundry room makeover at

This laundry room has plenty of storage and the great sink is a nice bonus (although I would choose a deep sink). I like the shelf over the hanging rod as well as the enclosed cabinets. Very clean and fresh looking.

Laundry room modern laundry room

I love the colors that Nicole chose when redoing her laundry room. Her room is the perfect blend of cheerful and functional. Check out Nicole at You have to go to her blog to see her pics.

If you have the room, a large counter top island for folding laundry would be great. If I had the room, I'd do this and extend the counter top so bar stools could float around and the area could be used for crafts and projects.

Add a Storage and Organizing Island

Southern Living

Who doesn't need a space to store cleaning supplies? Here's a great closet that holds everything. Wow!

So, what are your favorite storage solutions in your laundry room? Any tricks you need to share?

Organizing Your Laundry Chores

I'm so glad I don't have to use this old washing machine for what it was originally made for. I much prefer to plant flowers in it and set it on my back porch.

It's one of those chores that you either love or hate - doing the laundry. Dirty laundry can quickly take over your home and cause you great consternation every morning when you try to get your family dressed for the day.

Every family will have different laundry needs and it's important to develop a schedule and routine that works for you instead of following what someone else does. For some families it works better to finish all of the laundry in 1 or 2 days. For others, it works better to run a load every day or every other day. As your family grows, shrinks, and changes, you'll find that you will need to reevaluate your routine and adapt as necessary.

Right now, as empty nesters, we (and when I say we - I mean me) wash 3 loads a week. I don't use chlorine bleach, so I like to soak my lights/whites with detergent and an oxygen bleach overnight and then run the load in the morning. I also do a load of darks and one of linens later in the week.

When my kids were little, I ran a load of clothes every day. I found that if I did too many loads in one day, I became overwhelmed with the folding and putting away later in the day.

You've heard of the adage "Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)"? Well, that's particularly true of laundry. Whatever you can do to keep the process simple will keep you from getting frustrated. Here are some ideas that might help:
1. Keep laundry baskets near where clothes are removed. Also, rethink whether you want to have a cover on the basket - that's one more barrier between you and putting the clothing where it belongs.
2. Treat stains as soon as you know about them. This will save you from accidentally washing and drying the untreated stains and thus setting them, ruining the clothing.
3. Keep extra laundry supplies on hand so you never run out. Stock up on detergent and other items when they are on sale, or make your own in large batches.
4. Have a place handy for mending and dry cleaning to be kept until you can process it. Otherwise, it will get forgotten about or accidentally tossed into the wash with the other laundry.
5. Keep a small basket for unmatched socks, found money, and other items you come across on laundry days. Once a month, clean out the basket. Use the extra socks for dusting rags and toss the money into your change purse. Any other items can be put away or thrown out.
6. Reconsider how often you wear your clothing. Years ago, people wore the same clothes all week - that's why every woman had an apron to wear over her dress to keep it as clean as possible. Nowadays, we change clothes several times a day - hmmm. . . makes me wonder!
7. Think about how many clothes you actually own. Many of us own so many clothes that we don't have storage space for them. That's why they are piled on top of dressers and stacked in the bottom of closets. If you dread putting clothes away, or you don't even bother to put them away anymore - could it be that you simply have too many clothes? If so, go through your closets and dressers and purge them of unnecessary items.
8. Make sure your laundry area has everything you need to do the laundry quickly and without unnecessary effort:

a. proper lighting
b. storage for supplies
c. a place for folding laundry
d. a wastebasket
e. a line or rack to dry laundry
f. basket for unmatched socks and found money
g. a place to hang your ironing board, iron, and hangers
h. a rug or padded mat to stand on for comfort

If you're finding that you dread going into your laundry area because it's just too dreadfully drab, then now is the time to brighten it up. Here are some ideas from Pinterest to get you started:

A patterened ironing board cover makes the board look like a piece of art.

Practical storage and an adorable rug make this laundry room bright and cheery as well as functional.
Why not hang a chandy in the laundry room - after all, you are the queen of the house.

Well, I hope you've been inspired to change up your laundry routine to make it work better for you and your family. Be sure to share your ideas in the comment section or shoot me an email. I'd love to see some pics as well, if you're willing to share.

If you're wondering if line drying your clothes is beneficial, then check out this website that touts the positives of drying your clothes that way. For a little chuckle, scroll down the page to see the picture about "global warming". Cute!