Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Old wood, new board

I had been wanting one of those beautiful stove cover/dough board things for a few months. It wasn't really in the budget at the time, and my husband pointed out to me that the metal burner covers we had were keeping crumbs from falling into the burner pans anyway. I reminded him that our current burner covers were actually 3 different patterns because they were the only ones left from the previous sets that people kept burning.

I am willing to admit that my memory isn't so perfect now, so I had been removing ALL the burner covers whenever I started to cook in an attempt to keep from cooking the covers. My DH, on the other hand, said his memory was good enough that he didn't need to and insisted on leaving the extras on the stove while cooking. He ran into a little problem the other day when he was making breakfast though. When I came into the kitchen I noticed lots of smoke in the air. My husband turned to me with a look of chagrin on his face, and while holding a singed metal burner cover in a pile of pot holders and towels, explained that perhaps it was time for him to make me one of those wooden stove covers.

Now that I finally had him on board, my only problem was how to fund this project. My answer was, of course, a garage sale. When we stopped at one a few days later, (the same one where I got my large wooden bowl), my husband and I, at about the same time, both noticed a large antique looking board setting in a pile of scrap lumber. My DH grabbed it and quickly asked the man in the garage if the board was for sale. The man answered that he thought so, but couldn't say for sure because his wife was the one in charge. When she came out, my husband asked her the price and it was actually in our nearly nothing budget. I turned to him and said, "Whatever you do, don't set that board down."

When we got home, I got busy doing the fun part, figuring out how to decorate my future stove board while staying on my nearly nothing budget, and my husband got busy on the hard part, actually constructing it. Over the next few days I did a makeover on a set of 3 wooden shaker boxes from a thrift store, painting over the blue on them with black and burgundy and stenciling stars. I also painted a wooden thrift store tray burgundy to match. Then I made my first pantry cake, which my DH almost ate because he thought it smelled so good!

My husband's part of the project was a bit more challenging. My DH has done lots of carpentry through the years, both at home and professionally, and he said he thought the piece of wood itself was probably more then 100 years old! That one piece of wood is actually as wide as the stove and as tall as from the floor to the stove top. The wonderful color is the real thing. We didn't use any stain. That was the actual patina on the wood when we bought it. The age and dryness of the wood presented a few challenges though. It was badly warped, so my DH had to work that into the design to make it sit flat. Eventually he had to add a front edge to get it to even come close to appearing flat on the stove. He also wanted to do as little cutting of the board as possible because we were already thinking that the wood may eventually become an end table, and he can make me another stove cover. Our stove presented its' own set of problems as well. It has double ovens and the back piece between the top and bottom ovens is slanted. That meant the stove board couldn't have a back.

When he got it done and brought it in, I admit it, I was pretty excited. After I put all my decorating doo-dads on it, my DH was even impressed. Our project turned out much better than he thought it was going to. Granted it isn't as nice as the ones in the catalog, but the price was right. Ready for the grand total...........................................................It was around $12.00. The board was our largest single expense at........ $5.00! I still can't believe we actually got a piece of wood that large and that "antique" for so little money. Some days you do actually get lucky.

I hope you are enjoying whatever project you are working on now. Blessings to you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer in a bowl

Here is summer in a bowl. I went to the Farmer's Market today. It was nice. It is always second best to having your own garden though. We desperately wanted to put in a garden, but it seemed ridiculous since we will be moving out this summer. We didn't get to have a garden last year either since we were moving during garden season then too. Well, I guess we kind of had a garden but we didn't get to enjoy it ourselves.

About three years ago (when we lived on the farm in the Ozarks), I started a compost bin. It was nothing fancy, just a pile of decomposing stuff. My DH built it for me using 4 fence posts and chicken wire. We threw in yard waste like grass clippings and leaves. I threw in kitchen waste like vegetable peelings and coffee grounds. I also put in lots of bunny poo because we have bunnies. I stirred it up occasionally, but it mostly just sat there and fell apart.

I noticed when we moved out last spring, which was two years after I started my bin, that the bottom of the pile was looking great. It had become black, beautiful, nutrient rich soil. I was really excited about how it turned out, but I had to leave it behind. I just couldn't convince my husband that we needed to move a pile of dirt, albeit fancy dirt, 500 miles to our next home. He reminded me that we were moving to some of the most productive farmland in the world, so I finally gave in.

After we got all settled in on the prairie, I realized we had left our dehumidifier in the basement of the old house. When we returned to visit the Ozarks later in the summer, we stopped by the old farm to pick it up. As I came out the back door of the house, I noticed the compost bin. Growing on top of it was the largest, most beautiful squash plant I had ever seen. Apparently some of the seeds we had thrown into the bin after eating a squash in the spring, had put down roots and were growing in the compost bin! My organic trash pile was going to produce the best squash I had ever grown, and I wasn't even going to be there to see it.

This past year I got smarter. I put my compost into a large plastic garbage can. I would really like to take it with me to use on next year's garden. There is only one problem. A large garbage can of compost is really heavy, so I can't sneak it on the Uhaul by myself. My husband has already mentioned to me that we have too much stuff to move, and that he doesn't want to take
a can of poo. He just doesn't understand how badly I want to win a blue ribbon at the fair, and now I know how to grow giant squash from trash. Why do men have to be so practical?

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, I hope it is growing well. If you aren't, then just head to the Farmer's Market. Blessings to you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Searching for my craft gene

I come from a crafty family. (You can interpret that however you wish.) My mother was an excellent seamstress. It seemed like she and my aunt were constantly making quilts when I was young. Unfortunately, I never learned how. It wasn't "cool" to know how to sew back then, so I never made time to learn from them. I also took home economics in school. I attended a small, country school and it was required for all girls. I didn't learn much there either though. The teacher was very mean, and all I remember was that I never wanted to have to take one of her classes again.

After my father died, my mother turned her hobby into an occupation. She started sewing and selling quilts and other crafts at shows throughout the Midwest. My sister bought a kiln and started making and selling ceramics.

One time I hosted a craft show for them at my home. I lived in the suburbs of a populous Midwestern city and just happened to have an extra large living room, perfect for them to set up tables in. Lots of people from the neighborhood and our church came to the sale. After looking around at all the merchandise, one family friend commented on how beautiful everything was. Then she turned to me and wondered why when everyone else in the family was so talented, I didn't know how to do anything crafty! I sadly explained that, for some unknown reason, I just didn't inherit "the craft gene".

I love handcrafts though. I just don't know how to make any of them. I have spent many years attending craft shows in different states throughout the country. I always walk around oohing and ahhing at the beautiful things others have made, and wishing that I could make some myself.

A few years ago I even bought a simple little sewing machine. At the time I didn't really have any space to use it in though, so it became just an incredible hassle to even set it up. Earlier this year, I decided that I was going to try it again. I am determined to learn to sew. I figure that if I could learn how to drive a car and operate a computer, surely I can learn how to run a sewing machine too. Sometimes though, that sewing machine seems to have a mind of its' own.

A few weeks ago, I decided to make a table runner like one I saw in a magazine. Looking back now, I realize it might have been a good idea to begin with something that I had a pattern for, but I really wanted one of those table runners, so I just dove in head first. My first mistake was in not accounting for seam allowances which meant that when I first sewed my patchwork squares together, the runner was so small it was hidden under the centerpiece. Then I decided to add a border, but I wasn't exactly sure how to do this. Unfortunately, I did it wrong. When my make- it -up- as -you- go project was finally done, the runner was actually bigger than the table it was intended for. So I had to find another place to hide (I mean display) it. I also noticed there were some other issues which require the runner to be placed completely flat so you don't see the batting poking up. I have lots of stuff sitting on it now, so it may be adequately camouflaged in its' new location.

I am not defeated however. I still believe that I am going to learn to sew this summer. Who knows, maybe that long dormant craft gene will finally kick in, and I can be "crafty" too.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Glimpses of a Prairie Summer

Summer is glorious here.

We have lived a full year out on the prairie now, and what an interesting year it has been. There were definitely four distinct seasons here. Fall was short but stunning, bringing us golden fields of waving grain ready for harvest. Winter was long and treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful in it's pure white silence. Spring, which seemed to take forever to arrive, didn't stay long and brought us only rain and dreariness. Finally though, the earth has warmed and summer has come to the prairie.

The sun awakens me early each morning now as if beckoning me to enjoy the new day.
The windows are open now most of the time, bringing the prairie indoors. The songs of a variety of birds including the meadowlark, doves and bob whites echo through the house all through the day. Occasionally, I catch a hint of sweet clover blowing in on the breeze. Sometimes I can hear a train whistle echoing in the distance, and I stop and wonder where it is headed. In the evening the crickets serenade us. Everyone and everything just seems more relaxed. Life on the prairie is slower, simpler, and purer in the summer.

Sometimes I wish it could be summer here year round, but then I remember that it is the hardness of winter which makes the summer so sweet.

Whatever season of life you are in right now, I hope you are experiencing peace and rest. Blessings to you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Home Wreckers

On the way home from grocery shopping the other day, I asked my husband to stop at a garage sale. He wasn't too keen on the idea since we are moving soon and need to have less stuff, not more. He reluctantly stopped and we looked around.

I hit the jackpot. This garage sale was in a very exclusive neighborhood of newer homes, and nothing had a price on it. Amidst the piles of stuff for sale, I found a wonderful old wooden bowl. This thing is large and heavy. I picked it up and carried it around until I could finally ask the owner how much she wanted for it. I expected her to say a high price. When she said $5.oo, I immediately said I wanted it.

I already had a spot in mind for my new bowl. I was going to put it on my coffee table in the living room. Now I had to figure out how to fill it, and cheaply too. The next week I found a bag of dried apples at a garage sale for 25 cents. (I was smart enough to go without my husband this time.) At the thrift store I found a new bag of little wax balls scented and shaped like blueberries and a large pillar candle. My bowl wasn't finished yet though. It still needed something else.

I soon found my answer. Colleen at http://andbabymakesfive-colleen.blogspot.com/ posted a simple recipe for salt dough bowl fillers that sounded perfect. I figured I know how to bake, surely I could make these. I did, and it was lots of fun. The first day I baked them. The second day I painted them, and the third day I dipped them in wax. By the time I was done, I had lots of work invested in them. I didn't mind though, I enjoyed it, and they were cute. They are not as cute as Colleen's, but it was my first time. I proudly put my hearts and stars in my big wooden bowl and was pleased with how it all looked together.

That night is when the trouble began. I caught my collie with her long, skinny nose buried in that bowl. I warned her to get away from there.

The next morning when I got up, I found a stray wax blueberry laying on the floor with a giant tooth mark in it. I immediately knew who the culprit was. I picked it up off the floor, scolded the dog, and walked to the kitchen to throw it away. When I returned, I found the collie laying on the floor holding a salt dough figure between her paws eating it like it was a dog biscuit. I took the figure away from her, scolded her severely, and made her come to the kitchen with me to throw it away. When I turned around, she was licking her lips. "Yuck," I thought, "that dog actually likes the taste of salt and wax."

It was definitely time for everyone to go outside for the day. Now my other dog, the fat old lab started to misbehave. It looked like rain, so I needed the dogs to go to the barn. He hates the barn. He prefers the kennel where he can see everyone and everything that is happening on the farm during the day. But he can't be in the kennel on rainy days, because he is stupid. The collie knows to get inside one of the two perfectly good dog houses in there, but the Lab won't. He stands out in the rain, getting soaked to the bone. Then he rolls around in the mud until he is as dirty as possible. I am tired of cleaning him, so off to the barn he needed to go.

He wouldn't though. He balked. He ran to the kennel and stood in the doorway, as if to tell me his preference. When I told him no, he hung his head down and wouldn't look at me. Then he stiffened his legs, and I had to drag him to the barn.

By now, I was frustrated and wondering why I had to have the world's strangest dogs. One of them doesn't have sense to come in out of the rain, and the other one eats my home decor. I returned to the house and tried to figure out what to do with them. Then I remembered something I had seen on the internet. Char over at http://charsethman.blogspot.com/ had posted a recipe for dog biscuits.

I printed off the recipe, and baked some doggie biscuits that afternoon. This is a very good recipe. The biscuits are all natural. There is no artificial colors or preservatives so they are healthier for the dogs than the biscuits from the store.

First thing the next morning I led everyone to the barn. I gave both dogs a biscuit as soon as they went inside. First they sniffed them. Then they devoured them.

The next morning, the collie came into the living room and started smelling my pockets. She was looking for more biscuits. When I opened the door to go outside, the lab ran to the barn. He was so happy when I gave him his morning biscuit.

Two problems were now solved. My decorating dilemma had been fixed with Colleen's bowl fillers, and my doggie issue had been fixed with Char's dog biscuit recipe. Occasionally though, I still think I detect a hint of blueberry and wax on the collie's breath. Oh well, if life were perfect, it wouldn't be any fun.

Blessings to you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Secret door

Any ideas where this funny little door might lead?

I live in a rambling old farm house out on the prairie. It looks a great deal like the Ertl house (if your kids ever played with farm toys, you know what I am referring to). The house is over 100 years old. Thankfully, it does have some modern conveniences, like running water and indoor toilets, 2 actually. We do not have a/c, but we are far enough north that we rarely need it.

The house has two stories with tiny, steep steps leading upstairs and a very low ceiling overhang on the stairs. I have hit my head repeatedly. Obviously this home was built when people were shorter and their feet smaller.

The laundry room is located in a classic, scary, old house basement which comes complete with spooky cobwebs and an occasional toad. There is one unusual thing down there though, a coal room. That is what the mystery door leads to. The funny little door in the photo is located on the outside of the house. When you open it up, you discover a shoot inside which leads to the coal room in the basement. There is actually still a pile of coal in the room.

Thankfully, the house isn't heated with coal anymore. Last winter we purchased a multi-fuel pellet stove. It is much more environmentally friendly than heating with coal.

But I still think the old coal shoot door is darling. If I wasn't moving, I would probably plant a wildflower garden next to it, with some cute primitives and vintage junktiques. In my mind I can just see how cute it could be. Can't you!

Blessings to you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bigger than a broken bread box... makeover

I had two problems, but I solved them with one solution, a makeover. My first problem was my messy spice area. I am constantly cooking and most of my cooking is from scratch, so I use lots of spices. There are certain spices that I use the most, so I buy those in large containers which I like to keep near the stove. That area had become an eyesore though, and it just seemed to jump out at me whenever I entered the room. I needed to tidy up that spot.

My other problem was a broken bread box. I had purchased a wooden bread box at the thrift store. I gave it a couple of coats of paint when I brought it home to make it match the kitchen better. I soon discovered though, that it didn't open properly. The bread box door stuck most of the time. You had to yank it really hard to get the door open. Finally, I just yanked it too hard, and it broke. The box split down the side. The door and front and back trim were now loose. The box was unusable.

I asked my husband, who is a professional fixer, to repair it for me. He went through a lengthy explanation about how difficult that would be, how much money it would cost to purchase the right size clamps, and how chances were that the fix wouldn't last. My husband and I have been married a long time, so I knew what he really meant. In girl language it would have translated to something like, "I hate that bread box and I am never going to fix it."

I knew it was best to just move on and figure out what I could do with it myself. I came up with a plan to repurpose the broken bread box. First I removed the door permanantly. Next I rolled the box over, turning what was previously the back of the box into the bottom. Then I took some good old Elmers and glued the side and trim back on. I let that set overnight.

The next morning. I painted the inside and the outside of the box with black craft paint, two coats. I let that dry for a few hours. Finally I added a fabric remnant I had hemmed to the old bread box and now it was ready to be transformed into a spice box. My large spices, the ones I use the most, fit perfectly inside. My mess was transformed.

This was a no cost makeover. My only expense came when I found the two primitive ginger jars at the thrift store. They were a whopping $2.00 each, but I decided to splurge and get them anyway as a reward for finding a way to repurpose my broken bread box. There is nothing more fun than turning trash into a treasure.

Blessings to you.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Clothes on the line

I was disappointed when we moved to the prairie and our farmhouse didn't come with a clothesline. The farmhouse we had moved from in the Ozarks did have one. You should have seen the smile on my face when I discovered it. That clothesline brought back so many happy memories.

One of my favorite things about summer has always been the clothesline. I remember being a little girl and playing in the laundry hanging on the line. We actually had two clotheslines running side by side. On days when the wind was calm I would run down the center of the two trying not to touch anything. It was sort of a modified obstacle course. On days when the wind was blowing, I would dream that the sheets and things were flags of imaginary countries I would visit someday. I also remember scanning the horizon for clouds, then racing to get the laundry down before the rain began to pour down on us. Everything was a game to me then.

Still today I love the way sheets dried on the line smell. They carry that sweet scent of summer breezes and bright sunshine. When I hold them to my face, I swear I can hear the birds singing. I believe I may even sleep better when they are on the bed. It is the simple things in life which often bring the most joy. I don't care how many bedrooms our bathrooms our next home has, but I sure do hope it has an old fashioned clothesline.

Blessings to you.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Miss Priss rules the roost

We live on a farm. Through the years, we have a raised a variety of different animals. Right now we only have a few animals, but they provide me with my own only little "Wild Kingdom" in the barnyard.

Time has taken its' toll on our little flock, and this is our last chicken. Her full name is "Little Red Hen", but I often just call her sister. The other day it was particularly beautiful outside. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing gently, and the temperature was mild. It looked like a good day for some yard work. I decided to let "sister" come out of the barn and wander around in the yard with me and the rest of my wild kingdom.

Sister stayed busy. She dug for worms beside the barn. She strolled through the flowers. She strutted around the yard clucking at the other animals, telling them what to do. She was your typical bossy little hen. Sister spent the afternoon following me all around the farm, watching what I was doing. She rarely left my side.

When I went inside, I asked my husband, who was working in the garage, to watch out for sister. He agreed and looked mildly amused to be "chicken sitting." When he and I both went inside for a moment, I left Luta, our fat old chocolate Lab in charge of the chicken. I gave him strict instructions to keep her safe. (He is a good babysitter. In his younger days, he used to babysit kittens for me, but that is a story for another day.) Sister had other ideas though. When I came back outside, I found her waiting patiently for me near the door.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the day. The dogs, the cats, and the chicken all played in the yard. We only had a couple of tense moments. When sister first came into the yard, she was busy looking for worms. Fluffy, a lazy black and white cat, decided to lay down beside her to watch what she was doing. I warned him to stop flicking his tail, but he didn't listen. Pretty soon, sister saw it. She reached out and grabbed it, hoping it was a big, juicy worm. That cat let out a squall at the top of his lungs, and sister let go of him realizing her mistake. Fluffy quickly moved a safer distance away.

Then later, Luta ruffled sister's feathers. He was feeling young and frisky again, so he started rolling around in the grass, scratching his back and making his happy noise. He sounds a lot like he is laughing when he does this. He kept rolling and rolling and getting louder and louder until he was in between sister and I. She wasn't going to have any of that. She fluffed up her feathers and started running towards him like she was ready to flog him. She didn't seem to care how big he was or how many teeth he had. I had to yell at her, "Sister, no. He is just playing."

She quickly stopped when she heard my voice and realized we were safe. It was clear then though, who was really in charge of the farm. She might be little, but sister rules the roost.

We are having another beautiful afternoon. I believe I'll go get sister and we can do some more yard work. I hope the weather is beautiful where you are.

Blessings to you.

Monday, June 1, 2009


The wind knocked these nests out of the trees in our yard. They had long ago been abandoned by their previous occupants. I was delighted to find them, and promptly brought them into the house to decorate with. I love nesting.

My nesting instinct began to emerge when I was in the 6th grade. I was spending the night at a relative's house when I opened the closet door and saw a stack of Better Homes and Gardens magazines. I opened up the first one and was soon amazed to see the lovely homes featured. I grew up in a farming community, so ladies were just happy if their home was functional and clean. I was astonished to see how beautiful some people's homes were. Being the visual person that I am, I was delighted to discover this whole new world. Before the night was over, I had read every decorating magazine in the stack, and was dreaming of how I wanted my future home to look.

Through the years though, reality got in the way of my having a dream home. Our frequent relocations and limited budget forced me to eventually give up on trying to have a magazine worthy home. Eventually I quit trying to make things even match, and just started purchasing whatever furniture fit the need of the current house we were living in which meant that we had a mish mash of styles and colors in the house. Being married, raising two kids, and working two jobs didn't leave much time for decorating either. I was usually just glad if the house was tidy enough that you could walk through it without a shovel being necessary to clear a path.

After this past New Year, I looked around me and realized how much I disliked the way things looked now. Our unmatched and unstylish home wasn't very relaxing or inviting. My nesting instinct kicked back in and I decided to do something about the disorder surrounding us. I started by looking through all those decorating magazines I keep lugging back and forth across the country.

My style has always been country, probably because of my childhood. After perusing lots of magazines, I realized what I really like now is primitive country. The homes featured in Country Sampler magazine were definitely my favorites. I love chipping paint, worn wood, and rusty metal. I like my posessions to look as if they could tell me a story of the life they have lived. I enjoy having things that remind me of my connection to the past. Primitives do that for me. They remind me of the simple, country world I grew up in and long for still.

So as I pack for our upcoming move, I am keeping in mind the new home I have pictured in my head. I am trying to take only those items we actually use frequently or that have meaning for us because they are from loved ones or are valuable. I am already dreaming of unpacking and decorating the new house. I can't help it. I love nesting.
Blessings to you!