Category Archives: Homekeeping

Inspiring Ideas for Home

Need some new ideas to spice up your home? I always get the house blahs in January … and I’ve found a great place for new ideas. Better Homes & Gardens has a great Web site brimming with delightful inspiration. Right now they’re running a special offer. They have catalogued over 20,000 photos and they are available for your viewing pleasure … for a price.

Find ideas from Better Homes & Gardens.

Find ideas from Better Homes & Gardens.

A three month subscription to their library is $24.95. They are offering free subscriptions to Better Homes & Gardens and Country Home magazines if you subscribe. In reality, they are collecting magazine subscriptions with 20,000 photos as an incentive. But if you want inspiration from the comfort of home …

I recently discovered Hooked on Houses. It’s a fun place to get your house “fix” — photos inside and out of everything from cottages to multi-million dollar mansions. I do not have, nor will I ever have a marble bathroom with gold fixtures, heated floors and glass shower walls. It’s fun to look at it though!

Hooked on Houses has great photos for your viewing pleasure.

Hooked on Houses has great photos for your viewing pleasure.

And here’s a little bargain-hunting tip for mid-winter shopping. Sometimes you just need “something” … not necessarily an antique piece. Maybe it’s an urn for some dried flowers or an iron wall ornament … try Big Lots. You have to be careful. You have to sort through all of the bad to find the good, I admit. Every once in awhile, though, you can find a great basket or a luxurious throw or fabulous ribbon or some authentic looking faux pottery planters. And there’s nothing more exciting than turning super bargains into fabulous finds.

First things first, though. You should clean before you redecorate. There are all types of TV shows dedicated to it … Clean House … Mission Organization … etc. First I clear out the clutter, then I do a bit of organizing, then I dust and sweep. THEN, and only then, do I allow myself to indulge in the really fun stuff.

Discipline yourself. Work first, play second. Otherwise, you’ll have a well-decorated home that’s dirty and cluttered.

If you’re lost in a sea of despair when it comes to cleaning, try Spring Cleaning for Normal People.

Well, those are my house tips on this cold winter day … happy decorating!

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Filed under Blogroll, Decorating, Homekeeping

Snowflakes, wood smoke and cheater muffins

We awoke to the first significant snowfall of the season. Beautiful. Dramatic. Dangerous for driving. And as the kids found out, not ideal for sledding. They managed to squeeze in a few trial runs on their way back from early morning barn chores. Conditions were not quite right for a quick trip down the hill, although it didn’t stop them—or the kids over at the Amish school—from trying. Shrieks of glee and bouts of laughter could be heard echoing through the hills this morning, long before the school bell rang.

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

About four inches fell overnight. It’s coming down right now … a presumed white-out in our back yard, as snowflakes mingle with thick plumes of wood smoke. I love the sights, sounds, smell and resulting coziness of winter. A time to be thankful and reflective. Especially this year … for some reason, I seem to have accomplished the tasks on my list. I don’t know how, but the garden and flowerbeds are cleaned; bird feeders are filled; porches cleared; chicken coop prepped for winter winds … I think it was that extra week of 70-degree sunshine in early November. One last chance to do what needed done.

Some days you deserve a shortcut. I do believe that most things taste best when made from scratch … like brownies or chocolate chip cookies. Recently, however, I’ve stumbled upon a great recipe for muffins. It’s perfect for snowy days when you’re expecting eight children and their 16 snow boots in addition to your own three kids. While they all gather round the table to make Indian Property Sticks (it’s a Thanksgiving-Squanto-Pilgrim sort of craft), you can pull out a basket of freshly-baked muffins. And these four ingredients always seem to be on hand in our house.

Farmgirl’s Oatmeal-Chocolate-Chip-Cheater Muffins

  • 3 boxes Jiffy Oatmeal Muffin Mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

Prepare muffin mix according to package directions (milk & eggs). When all ingredients are combined, dump in a bag of chocolate chips. Stir. Coat two muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill 2/3 full with muffin mixture. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve with glasses of milk.

They’re yummy, satisfying and slightly healthy (oatmeal is a good thing). The kids will eat ’em all up and you’ll be hero for the day.

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Filed under Children, Family, Homekeeping, Recipes, Rural Life

Ode to Summer

Sweet summer! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways …

I love out-of-control flowerbeds ...

I love out-of-control flowerbeds ...

... the promise of tasty treats

... the promise of tasty treats

... spring chicks turned into happy hens ...

... spring chicks turned into happy hens ...

... and the first egg from the new flock.

... and the first egg from the new flock.

I love kids who appreciate dirt and mud.

I love kids who appreciate dirt and mud.

I love tall grass, rolling hills and the wild, blue yonder.

I love tall grass, rolling hills and the wild, blue yonder ...

... and wildflower bouquets from little girls.

... and wildflower bouquets from little girls.

I love fresh-picked sweet corn.

I love fresh-picked sweet corn.

Prospering gardens ...

Prospering gardens ...

... and shady borders along stone paths.

... and shady borders along stone paths.

I love birthday parties ...

I love birthday parties ...

... and birdhouses.

... and birdhouses.

And unexpected catastrophes aren't so bad ...

And unexpected catastrophes aren't so bad ...

... when paired with a hardworkin' hubby, corn on the cob, watermelon and a cold beer on a hot, sunny day.

... when paired with a hardworkin' hubby, corn on the cob, watermelon and a cold beer on a hot, sunny day.

Photos from a midsummer evening … brief moments in a vast span of summer days. Take a walk … open your eyes … capture a moment. What does your summer look like?

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Filed under Blogroll, Children, Family, Farm, Flowers, Garden, Homekeeping, Nature, Rural Life

The pleasures of pasta

Fresh basil. Can you smell it? It was freshly plucked from my humble little herb garden and showcased at supper this evening. It was one of those days when the supper menu was the very last thing on my mind. I stood staring at the contents of my pantry for 10 minutes before inspiration struck. No recipe, not even a name for this dish, but it was delish!

Dressed to impress in our vintage aprons, my daughters and I boiled a box of fettucini pasta. We opened a jar of our favorite tomato sauce, added some grilled chicken, a can of blackeyed peas, a chiffonade of basil, and some salt and pepper. When the pasta was ready, we tossed it in the sauce, garnished with a sprig of fresh basil and topped it with freshly grated parmesan. It turned out well for a thrown together, last-minute supper!

And I have to thank Susan over at NotQuiteJuneCleaver for sharing a glimpse of her new dishes with her faithful followers. I was so inspired I purchased my own set of Everyday Dinnerware from Williams-Sonoma (and yes, they’re still on sale, hurry!). They are lovely. Heavy-duty restaurant-style dishes that are microwave, dishwasher and broiler safe.

When my dear husband arrived home from work to a kitchen littered with packing peanuts, cardboard boxes and stacks of dishes, I simply greeted him with a kiss and, “Thank you sooo much for the anniversary present! I absolutely adore the new dishes.”

It’s a good thing he loves me so much! The fact that he is the most patient man on earth is also prudent.

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Filed under Homekeeping, Recipes

My continuing education

Life is always teaching us something and it’s important to pay attention. Why just today, I’ve learned a number of useful tidbits.

  • It is possible for a two-year-old to empty an entire bottle of Elmer’s glue on the table in the 4.5 seconds it takes a mother to walk to the sink and back.
  • When chasing FIVE wayward cows from front lawn to pasture, be assured they will ALL get out minutes later. After fixing the broken board, be sure to look for stretched wires as well.
  • Even though washing the tie-dye shirts your kids made SHOULD have removed any excess dye, do not, I repeat: DO NOT put them in with lighter colors for the first 25 washings at least.
  • Kittens DO indeed climb curtains … the cartoons are not exaggerating.
  • If you pay for new wheel bearings one week, rest assured the brakes will go the next.
  • Two-year-olds enjoy watching pennies float to the bottom of the fish tank. Five- and seven-year-olds also find it amusing.
  • If little girls use glitter for any craft project, it will grace every plausible surface for weeks (including behind their ears).

Those are the highlights of today’s educational journey. Oh … one other thing. Netflix is awesome! One day we read a Magic School Bus book on water purification, evaporation and condensation, and the next we were watching the cartoon on our Netflix DVD. We’ll send it back tomorrow and by Friday hubby and I will have a movie for Friday night date night. No, we don’t “go out” much these days. Why? No one wants to babysit for one thing. And then there is the rising cost of goods and services. Here’s some other wisdom I’ll share:

$  8.00 = 2 gallons of gas for trip to a town with a movie theater
$16.00 = two movie tickets
$  8.00 = large popcorn and two drinks
$25.00 = babysitter for three kids
Total: $57.00 (without dinner)

OR

$  8.00 = Candlelit steak dinner after kids go to bed (steaks from freezer and garden veggies)
$  0.89 = DVD movie from Netflix ($8.99 a month for unlimited DVDs—we average 10/month)
$  0.00 = Relaxing, romantic, gourmet experience in the comfort of home
Total: Priceless … for less than ten bucks.

I’m not as frugal as I’d like to be …

I’d love to kick my Diet Coke addiction, for instance. It would save me $5 a week at least. It’s just that I adore my icy-cold caffeine. On the bright side, it’s cheaper than $5 cups of coffee that some folks can’t live without.

Then there’s my vehicle. It’s true: I drive a gas-guzzling SUV. I have three kids, I haul other people’s kids. I haul various pieces of large furniture for my business. Occasionally I haul animals, feed and of course those caseloads of Diet Coke. I need the extra room. I need all that towing capacity for our little 15-foot camper, NellieBelle. Shake your head … wag your finger. I don’t mind. I love my ‘burb. I’d rather sacrifice the caffeine than give up my battleship. And to be honest, the gas mileage isn’t any worse than a pick-up truck. Well, unless I’m in a hurry. I don’t go very far very often anyway.

I have made allowances to make up for my gasoline. Just this month I’ve saved $16 on my electric bill because I no longer use the dryer. You see, I wash at least one load of clothes a day and it adds up. I’ve come to love my clotheslines. My porch now resembles a large spider’s web, but my clothes smell sunshine-fresh. I tried to buy more clothespins the other day, but the store was out. Apparently I’m not the only one conserving this summer.

Anyway … those are my little nuggets of knowledge for the day. Enjoy!

FOOTNOTE: Never leave a two-year-old unattended while blogging. They will inevitably find the fingernail polish left out by the five-year-old. They will then redecorate your bathroom counter.

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Filed under Children, Homekeeping, Rural Life