Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Decor at Brown Wren Acres - 2013

 I'm so glad that red is my favorite color - and that shades of green can be found all around my house.  Why?  Because for the first few weeks of December, that was all that decorated my house.  Touches of red and green with one half-lit Christmas tree standing halfway between the family room and the dining room.  

It's been such a crazy busy summer, fall, and now winter that I barely had time to clean my house let alone decorate for Christmas.  And decorating for Christmas is something I love to do.  I managed to find about 20 minutes a day for a whole week and finally got some decorations set out around the house.  

Like I said before, the red and green colors I already had in our home really came in handy - all I had to do was add to it.  

Ready for a tour before I have to take everything down this weekend?

Here is the front porch.  My son found the old firetruck and refurbished it.  It is perfect to hold some greenery and a package.  

The foyer china hutch is the perfect place to hold my collection of snow globes.  You can see a glimpse of the card holder in the hallway.

 An antique mirror helps to reflect light in the dark hallway.

 The card holder is really fun.  The wire spirals don't hold the cards very well, so I use miniature clothespins to secure the cards to the wire.

 I always hang our stockings on the railing because we use our fireplace a lot and it's too much of a pain to have to remove the stockings every time we light a fire.  

 A just added a little touch of sparkle with glittered starfish ornaments in the powder room.

Our fireplace is difficult to decorate because the mantle is really high and the ceiling is low.  I just used some garland and metal stars.  I added some battery operated lights that I got at Costco but they don't work very well - bummer.

I had to doctor up our "pre-lit" tree since half of it decided to give up the ghost.   I love the size and texture of this tree, so I guess I'm stuck with putting lights on it like we used to.   It's not that big of a tree, so I don't think it will be too much of a problem.  

I use each of my children's baby shoes as ornaments on the tree.  I wrote their names and birthdates on the sole of the shoes.  Sweet memories!

I love the shelves that Hubs made for me last Christmas from old barn wood.  I also set out our grandchildren's nativity set on a tray on the coffee table.  Sometimes there are also green army men, matchbox cars, or a pink binky nestled in with Baby Jesus.

Some simple greenery picks and berry picks soften the rustic shelves and I wrote "Joy to the World" on my grandpa's old slate from grade school.  

Hubs found this old vintage tractor in a barn at an estate sale.  I found a small tree at Michael's to stand next to it.  Hubs is slightly obsessed with Farmall tractors right now and so this is a nod to his interest in them.

The dining room table is our only table to eat at, so the decor must be easy to remove.  A few lanterns and a small bird keep it interesting.

I added an old metal truck and some bottle brush trees (from our train set) to a small greenhouse and then sprinkled Epsom salt in for snow.

A little snowy scene.  This might be all of the snow we see this winter!

I had a fun time decorating my new kitchen (just finished this past May).  I mainly added some wreaths to the window, my Coca-Cola crate, and a Christmas plate.  The green stool and red dish cloths were already in the kitchen.  

A small pitcher and plate with pine cones was added to the glass cabinet .  

A star bowl holds candy and Hub's Nana's corn pudding mold holds mixed nuts with a nutcracker.

I guess you could say that I have a collection of angels since I have 3 now.  Two came from students and the one with a gardening shovel came from my dear mother-in-law.

My kidney donor surprised me with a "sisters" figurine this year.  We call each other "kidney sisters" because a part of her is now a part of me and we are also sisters in Christ.   I am so, so blessed.

I put this little vignette in the kitchen window every Christmas.  Hubs gave me the wheelbarrow ornament and I made the greenhouse out of another ornament, a milk glass urn, and a glass coaster.  I made the nest in the ornament from twine and buttons.

When the sun starts to go down, and the chickens are heading into the hen house, there's nothing like coming back into the house with all of the lights are on and enjoying the warmth of home and family.

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and a happy and healthy 2014.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tidy Brown Wren Updates

Good heavens, I haven't blogged in months!  But that doesn't mean I haven't been working on projects and blogging about them in my head! 

This is going to be a major blog brain dump post - everything you didn't want to know about our family life and activities at Brown Wren Acres.

Let's see. . .


It was Charlotte's first birthday and I made her a Charlotte doll with hazel/brown eyes and pig tails just like the real Charlotte.

Pure sweetness, I tell ya.

Our veggie garden was pretty good this year.  I planted 4 different kinds of tomatoes (40 plants in all) and they all did very well.  Also planted were cucumbers, 3 kinds of peppers, 2 kinds of green beans, cantaloupe, and squash.  I grew everything from seed too!  

I can't forget about the herbs that rounded out the menu.  Basil, parsley, mint, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, pineapple sage, and sage.  

I was able to can tomatoes, tomato sauce, green tomato relish, pickles, and salsa.  

I also invested in a pressure cooker so I can process cans of chicken stock, beef stock, and soups.  

In Grandlittle news there was chicken wrangling, 

Chicken chasing. . . 

Trips to the aquarium. . . 

and muddy visits to the park!
(Between our house and the park, a sudden rainstorm left several inches of rainwater awaiting our arrival.  Instead of going home, we just stayed and played.)

September. . . 

We got to cheer at football games. . . 

Enjoy some beautiful, cooler mornings at The Wren. . . 

and pick a ton of green beans. . . 

And in October. . . 

we (I mean Hubs and Son) worked on fixing up Cubbie (the tractor). . . 

snuggling with books. . . 

and taking a road trip (rode bikes on  part of the Virginia Creeper Trail despite the government shutdown canceling our reservations to camp). . . 

Yes, there was also organizing jobs and staging jobs and teaching preschool and serving at church.  There was sewing and cleaning and organizing.  There was making meals for needy families.   I'm so thankful to have a full and active life (thanks, Cathy).  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Newest Member of our Homestead

 Hubs and I have been talking a lot about a cute little red head that we saw on the side of the road.  Cute as a button, I tell ya.  We couldn't stop talking about her.  We pondered whether we should bring her home and make her part of our family. 

 We finally made the decision to adopt her.  It wasn't really in the budget, but we knew we had to move quickly.   I mean, how many times does something this adorable become available?   And, she came with a mower attachment too. 

 We love everything about her - even her rust and dirt.  If the battery doesn't decide to start her up, we just pull out the hand crank and give it a go! 

 She got even dirtier driving her back to her new home - the barn.

We haven't decided what to name her yet.  We'll let her make friends with the extra wood and hay we have stored in the barn.  She's going to need some work and probably a visit from the tractor doctor.  After all, she's almost  60 years old!

Nothing says homestead living like a little red tractor!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Playhouse Is Ready For Visitors

Our little playhouse is finally finished. 

 It's been a real labor of love and a challenge to keep the budget low and use what we already had on hand.

Click on A Playhouse Story if you want to read about our little house.  

This was how it started out (minus all of the junk we hauled out of it).

And now I'm proud to show off our little playhouse all gussied up and ready for some visitors.  

After all of the demo and painting, we only had a few more projects to finish up.  One of the projects was adding a new (old) window to brighten the interior a bit more.  

Then the fabulous duo known as Son & Hubs put in a remnant of carpet that our oldest daughter was getting rid of.  She donated it to the cause.

A coat of paint on the outside made the two non-matching windows look like they were meant to be together.  By the way, all of the old windows we use in our projects have either been found on the curb or were donated by friends who like to watch us upcycle things - thanks Chris and Sheri!

Flooring and 2x4s left over from our kitchen remodel were used to make storage shelves in one corner.  Notice the little chair on the top shelf?  It belonged to Hubs when he was a little boy.  We'll pull it down to use when we need it.  

The bins hold Duplos/Legos, a wooden train track and trains, and a ton of matchbox cars.  A bag with the car track sits on top of the bins.

My favorite part of the whole playhouse is the little kitchen spot.  I had a great time putting it together.    I bought the wooden kitchen 29 years ago in a thrift store.  It was a big splurge then - $10.00 was a big chunk of my budget but my baby girl needed a kitchen set.

Hubs nailed some 2x4 pieces between the studs and I added some leftover trim and wood wedges for supports, and cup hooks for hanging things.

The sink part of the kitchen was missing so I bought a small stainless bowl at the thrift store and Son cut some scrap plywood for the bowl to sit in.  I painted the wood with leftover paint.

Because the playhouse has no electricity, I added a wind-up emergency lantern.  The kids can wind up the lantern with the crank and get 15 minutes of light from it.  It's all plastic and not too heavy.  I hung it from a leftover plant hanger.  I hung a curtain (an old place mat) with Velcro across the bottom shelf.   A piece of alphabet art from my staging stash completes the look.

The finishing touch was the kitchen table and chairs.  I bought the table and two ice cream parlor chairs at a thrift store 25 years ago for $3.00 and that set has seen many tea parties.  The vintage folding chairs were purchased at a thrift store last summer.

After a few coats of spray paint (called Fern) the table and chairs look great.  The ice cream parlor chairs are still being worked on (they had to be reupholstered).   I'll set them around the table and keep the folded chairs to the side until needed.  The matching place mat from the curtain works as a table runner.  I added a coat of poly to the top of the table to make it more durable just in case play dough or crayons make an  appearance.

I look forward to hearing lots of giggles and conversations while children play here.  I might just put in a reading chair and make myself at home!  One of the best things about this makeover was that it cost us around $7.00 to do it.  All we bought was 2 cans of spray paint and a stainless bowl.  Everything else was upcycled, recycled, or reused.

Let the playing begin.