Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I've been outsmarted...by hens! Now what does this say about me? You see, my good friend next door and I do "trades". Kind of like a really down-scaled version of Trading Spaces. (No, just kidding!) But we DO trade jobs sometimes, because she isn't afraid of heights, which explains why she is on a ladder painting MY house peaks. I like to paint walls, so I helped her with her son's room. So...to make a long story short, I am trying to wrap up painting their hen house. And at the rate I am going, it may be next spring before it's completed!

Lately, I've been working on the door to the hen house, which means I have to get the hens from their larger roaming area into the closed off part where they actually have their laying nests. This is not as easy as it sounds. The first time, I think they were caught by surprise, because it went quite well. I just mimicked what my friend's daughter showed me, making sure to hold their wings down so that their wings didn't flap about. (Making it almost impossible to hold them.) I was so proud of myself! It turned out to be beginner's luck, though, because the next time proved more difficult! I had two down, one to go. But that one was sneaky.

She would hide behind this bush, and if I came one way, she'd go the other! Then she'd hide underneath the rabbits' cage, knowing full well I couldn't catch it there. Now, in truth, it does seem rather far-fetched that a grown woman could be outwitted by a little animal, but whether it was my being outwitted, my timidity, or a combination of both, I eventually just gave up and painted the door with one eye on that hen. I could not imagine attempting to catch it if it got loose!

I vowed that next time, I would not be caught off guard. No more painting while looking over my shoulder! Oh, well. It was a nice thought. But Sneaky Hen must have told Quick Learner how to evade me, because this time I was only able to catch one of them. Now it's a fact they all look alike, but I think this particular hen~ I call her Nice Chicken~ is the same one that actually comes when you call it like you would a cat. But somehow "Here chicken, chicken, chicken!" just doesn't sound the same! :)

Now at least I am finished with the door, so there will be no more hen catching for me!
I did learn a couple of things from this experience, though. First, hens are not, and I repeat not, photogenic! They have no interest whatsoever in posing for pictures (ha!), so these were the best I could do! :) The second thing I learned is that whoever coined the phrase "birdbrain" has not met these hens! But oh well, all's well that ends well, right? :)

Oh, I didn't want to forget to ask you what you think of my new blog design. It really is so much more "me", and makes me smile every time I see it! Amber from Shabbee Chick Designs is awesome! She does such a wonderful job! If you need/want a great blog makeover, don't hesitate to head over to her website! :) Her logo link is at the bottom of the left sidebar.

Well, worn out from all my popcorn ceiling-scraping, mommy-giving, hen-chasing activities of the day, I must close! I hope it is a peaceful night for everyone! :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"If I only had a brain!"

My children and I worked feverishly this afternoon to pull our little porch together. They love to help with any decorating I may be doing! :) And I am glad I had their help, because it was late in the afternoon before I started working on it! :) But I promised pictures of a completed porch on Friday or Saturday, and I could just see it being more like Monday or Tuesday if I didn't get going! :) And truly, decorating is such a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

After we'd finished and eaten dinner, it was still light enough to take pictures, and dark enough to show off the little Halloween lighting we'd put up. Just one little problem~ I didn't like the way the flash made it all look, and turned it off while I took my pictures. I am not so happy with the way they turned out, because the details aren't as clear as usual. It really was one of those moments where I truly did empathize with the dear old scarecrow in Wizard of Oz, though! (Hence, the title of this post!) I couldn't not show you at least a little of what we've done~ after all, I promised! However, please forgive me these pictures...you know, of course, that I am going to have to take them all over again tomorrow in the sunlight, and will show you more next time! For now, though, here's a peek...

I just knew this little scarecrow would feel much better about life when he had one of those dollar store crows with him!

But I didn't know just how much I like orange lights until today! From now on, these are going up every year!

My oldest daughter Rose helped me by giving every scarecrow a crow, just because!

The wreath is the same one I did in August, but I tucked in some more fall~ some orange feathers and another fall berries sprig.

My youngest daughter Gracie helped me plant some autumn flowers in the old Maytag.

And wanted to "plant" this Cosmos flower she'd picked, so she carefully poked this one into the washer, too! I just had to get a picture of it! :)

So hopefully you enjoyed these rather blurry pictures! :) I wasn't able to show it all to you yet, but I will! I don't know how you decorate, but here, it's a work in progress. I am never "done" with our porch because I love to keep adding and tweaking and fluffing! :)

I sure hope you all had a wonderful weekend! :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I found them!

Okay, I am almost unreasonably excited about this, but I finally found the elusive Dollar Tree black crows! It's true, in the picture, they look a little scruffy, but oh, I like them! I think they are even cuter than this crow from Michaels. (But maybe that's just psychological because it costs more.)

Granted, they do seem to be a little more cheaply made, but well, they are cheaper, so I'm not complaining. They are a bit smaller and definitely cuter~ my whole family agrees. Although, my husband made me laugh with his response when I brought home my 3.99 Michael's crow~ "Now why did you want THAT again?" I think he was thinking along the lines of Alfred Hitchcocks's "The Birds" (a freaky movie) but I was thinking that you can't have a scarecrow without a crow! :) In fact, I think that is just what my cute scarecrow has been missing all these years!

See? He looks almost...lonely. He definitely needs a crow! So I moved the bigger one out there and perched it on his arm. ( Much better. )I have been working on our porch (yep, along with my other 52, 000 projects!) and finally was able to haul out the fall decor yesterday! I should be able to wrap that up and show you some pictures tomorrow or Saturday!

I have been joking that I need to write a book called "How to Decorate In a Construction Zone", aka our house! If you're like me, even when your house is in the midst of a revamping, you still want a little beauty somewhere...anywhere! :) So I have learned to tuck things in here and there, a little bit of pretty in every room. Then I don't feel like I've missed out on fall!

A little jar of candy in the kitchen.

A little autumn in the living room, however hastily arranged. This saves my sanity! :) If you have a fixer-upper, you probably already know all of this, but I guess I'm just a little slow here! :)
Oh, one last thing! Tonight was our children's Open House at their school, and I found the neatest little poem in the front of our son's binder. I brought it home so I could include it here. (I'll send it back to school with him.)The teacher must have given all the kids a copy. It reflects some of my own thoughts as a parent, things we are trying to teach our kids! I think I'll print a copy for myself and put it on my refrigerator. Remembering these things would be a good thing for me, too!

Be careful of your thoughts,
For these become your words~

Be careful of your words,
For these become your actions~

Be careful of your actions,
For these become your habits~

Be careful of your habits,
For your habits become
your character~

Be careful of your character,
For your character becomes
Your destiny.

Have a wonderful night! :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Not exactly kettle corn!

There is something I just feel compelled to say~ I CAN'T STAND POPCORN!

No, not this kind of popcorn... (Although it isn't my favorite either!)

THIS kind of popcorn~icky, lumpy ceiling popcorn.

(Our front entry way.)

So I decided to do something about it. Once again. (The lighting is terrible because, well, there is no light in here right now!)

(Our other "lovely" hallway...and an equally lovely light fixture!)

Yes, it's true, I have done this before. My dad came over and helped me spray and scrape this terrible stuff off of our kitchen and dining room ceilings last year. (Bless him.) It was such a mess! The worst part was wearing the respirators and goggles and gloves, though. (This was just in case our popcorn contains asbestos, because we have not had it tested.) So why am I doing this again, when I said I never would again?

I guess I just am an impatient person, when it all comes down to it. My husband and I thought we could eventually cover the popcorn with new drywall, but well, I have just had enough! (Of the ceilings, not my husband. He's quite nice, and I'm keeping him!) :) So, on Monday, I put the kids on the bus and got to work. Again I donned the respirator. Again I sprayed and scraped, until the front hallway ceiling was void of popcorn and the (plastic covered) floor was a sopping mess covered with chunks of the stuff. It looked even worse on the floor than it did on the ceiling, which is saying a lot! :)

Unfortunately, we have two hallways, which meant I got to do it all over again today, too...and here is where I stopped. This marks the entrance into the living room, where I will be next week, scraping off more popcorn! (Our living room has never seemed so huge as it does when I contemplate this.) But, I know that when I am done with the whole process, the ceiling will look like this...

This is part of the kitchen, looking into the dining room. You can't really see how just how much better is really does look now in this picture as in real life. (Pardon any imperfections, because we are still working on things in here, and things are very strangely decorated. ) Which brings me to my next topic...

Maybe you're wondering why I post so few pictures of around our house. Part of starting this blog was to show how we are fixing up this old house, how it goes from bad to better! :) SO...since we are in this phase of house ownership, it can be really hard to take pictures in this house, to show you something good without all the ugly along with it! I'll take pictures of something decorative, but drat, then you can see the lack of baseboard moulding, or the ugly light fixtures, and so forth. So it can be tricky taking pictures of any seasonal decorating I do...especially since we are essentially living in a construction zone.

We are getting really really close to completing some of the rooms, and I can't wait to show you what we have done and be excited about versus embarrassed of everything! But until then, I thought I would just explain this, so that if you happen to see something unsightly, you'll know why! :)

But after you were so gracious to look at my "ugly" pictures, I thought I'd leave things on a "good" note. Do you remember this?

This is another more recent picture of the canopy I made for our master bedroom. I added another sheer panel to it, which makes it so much more full! I like it a lot more now.

Remember how I promised in the beginning of the summer that our bedroom would be done soon, and I'd show you around? Well, I'd forgotten just how much I DON'T get done in the summer! :) But, I have been spending time painting, sanding, decorating, and after this weekend, I might be done! Nothing like saying it on this blog to motivate me into finishing! :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The best chocolate cake recipe ever!

Today is my husband's birthday and we're all set to celebrate! We've got cards and presents and cake, of course! This is one of the first times in a long time that I have made something other than chocolate cake for a birthday around here. But for this birthday, my husband thought a lemon cake with chocolate frosting sounded good! I found a lemon cake recipe on Food Network~ it's rated 5 stars, so I hope it turns out all right...I'll pass it on if we like it!
I thought though, that in light of our little fall cooking fest, I would give you another recipe. This one is for the best chocolate cake I have ever had! It uses the recipe off the back of the Hershey's cocoa powder can, and it is easy to follow and tastes out of this world! It's pretty much impossible to mess this one up...

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1 -1/2 tsp. baking powder
1- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-in. round baking pans.
2. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed, 2 min. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour into pans.
3. Bake 30-35 min. or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 min.; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting. 10-12 servings.
CUPCAKES: Line 2-1/2-in. muffin cups with paper bake cups. Fill cups 2/3 cup full with batter. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 22 minutes. Cool; frost. About 30 cupcakes.

"Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups.

I used this recipe for frosting on the cake I made today, because we all just like it so much! :)

If you want to join in on the Fall Cooking Fest I'm hosting here, just scroll down to the end of the next post, and sign up! This runs through next Tuesday, so there is still plenty of time!

Tomorrow I am really, REALLY hoping to take some time to finish a craft I started before school ended for summer break! I didn't get very far, and then it was such a crazy-busy summer! When I finish it, I'll show you the end result. :) It's Friday tomorrow, and then the weekend! (Yea!) Have a great night! :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall Cooking Fest- September 16- 23

Hi all! I hope your week is off to a great start! With fall quickly approaching, I have started to think more about baking and cooking. Suddenly, spending time in the kitchen sounds more appealing. The only hindrance to this for me was...what to cook? If you're like me, you have recipes that you have had forever, that you have used over and over...and over! Sometimes all you need are some fresh new recipes to feel inspired! I thought it would be fun to throw a little blog party, with cooking and baking as a theme. What a better way to welcome fall than with a little nesting in the kitchen! All you have to do to be a part of this is make something~ a entree or a dessert, bread, muffins, whatever you like. After you make a post on your blog with your recipe(s), sign up by adding the link to your recipe post at the bottom of this post. Hopefully that won't confuse more than help you! :) If you have any questions, feel free to either email me or leave a comment!

I made a simple recipe of enchilada casserole. Whether it's fall-like, I don't know, but it is a meal my whole family likes~ that is priceless!


1 pound ground beef or cubed chicken
1 1/2 cans tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can olives, sliced
1/3 cup diced onion
*1 clove garlic (or 1 tsp. dried garlic)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 dash paprika
12 corn tortillas, approximately
2-3 cups shredded cheese
1 cup shredded cheese (for topping)

Cook ground beef or chicken, then drain excess fat. Add 1 can tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and paprika. Simmer on low heat. While meat sauce is simmering, heat oil in frying pan. Dip each corn tortilla in oil, quickly on each side. (I like to remove the excess grease from the tortillas by using paper towels before moving on to the next step.) Spread 1/2 can of tomato sauce in bottom of 9x13 casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese over entire tortilla, then put about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the meat sauce on top. (The key is to put enough in, just not so much that the tortilla won't roll up nicely.) Once you have all the tortillas rolled in casserole dish, top with remaining meat sauce. Spread the last 1/2 can of tomato sauce over the entire casserole, then top with 1 cup shredded cheese. (This amount is just an approximate amount; I actually add about this before cooking, then some more before the last ten minutes or so.)

Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven set to 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes. If desired, serve with shredded lettuce, salsa, and sour cream.

* For garlic, I use the refrigerated minced garlic. You can buy this at Costco in a 48 oz. container, or a smaller jar at most grocery stores.

~Simple Salsa~

2 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup cut cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, or 1 teaspoon minced garlic or dried garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix these together to make a simple but delicious salsa for your enchiladas.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cookies, anyone?

I love baking, no matter what the season. I will admit, though, that there is something about the fall that makes me go crazy baking and even enjoy cooking! :) I don't know about yours, but my all-time favorite thing to bake are cookies! I have a couple of such fantastic recipes, that I thought I should share them with you. :) I didn't even like peanut butter cookies until this recipe, so that's saying a lot!

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup honey
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Oven 375 degrees

In a mixing bowl beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of the flour, the sugars, egg, baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat until thoroughly combined. Beat in remaining flour. If necessary, cover and chill dough until easy to handle.
Shape dough into one inch balls. If desired, roll in additional sugar. Place two inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten by crisscrossing with the tines of a fork.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 7-9 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Makes about 36.

Chocolate-Kiss Peanut Butter Cookies:
Prepare as above, except do not flatten with a fork before baking. Immediately after baking, press one milk chocolate kiss into each cookie.

Another fun variation:
*If you want peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, try adding 1 1/2 to 2 cups chocolate chips, depending on taste, to the mix. However, do not flatten with fork before baking.

Not everyone likes peanut butter, though, and I found the best double chocolate recipe in a little Nestle Toll House recipe booklet I found at the check-out stand at the grocery store.

Double Chocolate Dream Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12 oz. package) semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake in preheated 375 degree F. oven 8 to 10 minutes or until puffed. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

For Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies:

If you like the taste of peppermint, try adding 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract in substitution of vanilla, or even in addition to the 1 tsp. vanilla, and this makes a wonderful mint chocolate chip cookie.

(My only advice is use peppermint rather than mint extract. When I was first experimenting with this, I used mint extract, and a lot of it...oh, my goodness! It tasted just like my toothpaste. (Which is fine if you are brushing your teeth, but your "sweet tooth" won't care much for it.) Okay, cheesy pun, but I just couldn't help myself! :)

On a more serious note, I didn't want to close without saying something about today's date, September 11th. It doesn't feel right not to pause a moment and reflect on it, to say a prayer for all those who were, and still are, affected by the horrible tragedy of that day. To say a prayer of thankfulness for our safety and our freedom, and to remember.
*Edited to add: Oops! I forgot to say that the recipe for Peanut Butter cookies is from the Better Homes and Garden cookbook.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A little craft, an award...and an egg?

I was in the dollar store yesterday, looking for pumpkins ( I found one but can't decide if it's cute or ugly) and found these, too...

...Just a run of the mill glass candle holder and a glass vase type thing. Hum, I thought, thinking of you bloggers who glue candle holders and plates together to make cake stands. I thought I could try something new (for me) and glue these two together to make a pretty holder for a pillar candle. This sounded like such a good idea, I bought two of each piece. I used a glue I already had on hand, especially for glass and metal, to bond them together, and presto! A pretty candle holder...although my husband thought it was stemware, which kind of depressed me, but I decided not to let that deter me.

So I glued the other one together and put some green ribbon I found in the dollar ribbon section at Michael's around each "candle holder". Then I took a fall berry garland (also from Michael's) and cut enough length for each holder, simply wrapping it around each glass.

Now, all I had on hand tonight were these little tea light candles, but I am going to buy a couple short pillar candles to use in these. I'm definitely not Martha Stewart here, but I was pleased. And I've decided that they don't look like drinking glasses. Especially with the candles inside them. What do you think?

I also want to say thank you to Leslie at Our Family for handing me this award. How sweet is that?! I just love her blog, and always leave it with a smile on my face! :) I would like to pass this award on to a few other great bloggers: Kelli at My Lovely Vintage Cottage Life, Beth at Blossom Cottage, and Tricia Anne at Notes of Sincerity. All of these gals are fantastic and kind people, and visiting their blogs is such a special treat! :) I just hope you all know how very blessed I am by you! :) I didn't know how many sweet and talented people I'd meet just by having a blog, and that includes everyone I've "met"!

One last thing...

You are probably wondering why in the world I'm showing you this egg, huh? Well, it's not just any egg, you see. This morning, my friend's youngest daughter arrived at the bus stop with a "gift" for me, which was this egg. Their new chickens have just recently started laying eggs, and this is one of them. The last one I saw was much smaller, and now they are about the typical size.
I thanked my little friend for the egg, and her mother looked over at me and joked, "Naturally nested." (This is a joke because this is the brand name of the eggs I buy.)

I hope you are having a good week! We're half way through! :)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words!

I hope it was a good weekend for you! I had an excellent weekend, and I am going to show and tell you why! :) One of the nice things about this weekend~ our girls played together so well! They were very busy and intent, playing "The Game", as they call it. They haul out all of their Playmobil toys and their dollhouses and essentially, play house! But you have to hear the funny part. In our dining area, there are four chairs. There are five of us that sit at the table, so we usually bring in our youngest daughter's desk chair in at dinnertime. The reason? Well, it's not because we don't have chairs. It's just that they are either waiting to be painted or painted but with no seats covered yet. It takes me forever to do anything in the summer, and so, we have no chairs. Here are a couple of them in our hallway, painted white but, well, lacking a necessary part to be of any use. This is something that would take an hour tops (to recover the seat forms). I know I'm lame but, this is the way it is right now...

Now this is the "scene" in the house our girls set up with their playmobil furniture.

My youngest, we'll call her Gracie, pointed this out to my husband and said, "Look, Daddy. I took the seat out of the chair, because the mom is going to paint it." Okay, there are times when my kids just crack me up, and this is one of them. To her, this is as much a part of "being a mom" as washing the dishes or getting them ready in the morning, things she watches me do all the time. (A funny side note is that since my husband cooks dinner more often than not, they think that is "the dad's job"! But really, it's just what has worked for us, not necessarily his job or my job!)

So, anyway, because the kids were all so happily occupied, we got so much done! We are in the process of remodeling our kitchen and dining room, and we are so far from finished! We have added a few things to the list, so we expect into next year before we are done. We do pretty much everything ourselves, so it takes a long time! I'll show you pictures of what we have been up to soon...when it looks a little better. Why is it that it has to look so bad before it looks better?
I am also working on the living room, so this is going to be a busy year!

But today I had some fun and finished up a couple of things I've been working on. You know those frames that have the cut-outs for pictures so you can have kind of a collage of different pictures in the same frame? Well I saw these cute little fall stick-on embellishments and got an idea. I thought it would be fun to make a scrapbook type of collage and frame up it cute and display it through the fall. I can use it every fall, and prop it up on an end table until the season's over.

I liked this idea so much, I decided to make a Halloween one, too.

It was such an easy, fun little craft. I had some unused 11 x 14 sized frames, so I spray painted one black and one an apple green. Take some scrapbook paper, ribbon, decorative tape, and the fun seasonal embellishments, and I was good to go. It is fun to look at these and see the kids at all different ages. I am going to do a "page" for every holiday~ Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines, 4th of July, you name it! It will be a sweet little reminder of what is really important and it will be fun to look at! :) I can just pull out the previous page and slip the new season's one in. So what do you think? :)

Oh, and I don't want to forget to remind you to check out the Tip of the Day thing at the top left side of the page. I am going to give tips on cool things to use or do that either make life easier or just more fun! This week I am giving out different ways to use baking soda, in ways other than just cooking. I just love the stuff! You'd just never believe all the ways that this little item can improve your daily life! Honest! :) So, even if I don't have a new blog post, I will have a Tip of the Day every day of this week, so be sure to check back! :)

Have a good night and a wonderful Monday! :)