Carrie’s Garden Corner 4/26/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

By now, all of the gardening folks have been well into their gardening season. For some of us, myself included, we’ve had to start just a bit later than usual, due to unforeseen circumstances which are beyond our control. Like, mother nature fitting all weather types possible into a 1 week period, for example. For anyone out there who is just starting to get into gardening, do yourself a favor…do NOT think it’s some kind of hyper-complex skill that will take you the rest of your life to master. It isn’t. Most gardeners have a ton of gardening books. They have these for one reason. Reference purposes. Want to learn about plants? Plant something, and study it as it grows. Really, it’s that simple. Don’t know how to properly plant a seed? NOT difficult. Simply get a small pot of dirt. Then, stick your index finger into the center of the pot until you reach the first knuckle. Pull your finger out of the dirt, and drop a seed into the hole you just made with your now soil covered index finger. Cover the seed with the displaced dirt. Water lightly. Oh my God! You just planted your first seed! Congratulations!

It is said that patience is a virtue. That being the case, gardeners are probably some of the most virtuous people on the planet. Like people, plants take their own sweet time to grow. I’ve had seed packets, where the contents all seem to have their own different agendas, all growing whenever they darn well feel like it, but somehow ending up fully matured within a week of each other. When you read seed packets, and it tells you how long it will be before the seed grows into maturation, trust me, it’s a ‘well educated guesstimate’. You can read all the educational material you want to, but until you plant your first few seeds, all of that knowledge will be moot.

Talking to more experienced gardeners does help. If you run into things that you think may be an issue, take a photo, and show it to someone who is a more experienced gardener. If they can’t figure it out, perhaps they will know someone who can. Never be afraid to ask questions, no matter if you think they’re ridiculous or not. Gardeners are people who can generally read plants, the way teachers read books. One look, and we have a really good idea as to what’s going on with the plant. Also keep in mind one very important note: If you’re going to plant an organic tomato seed, and hope it turns out looking like the pristine ones you see in the market, you’re putting far too much hope in nature. Chances are, nature will make it look better, taste better, smell better and cook better. So grab a packet of seeds, a few small pots, some dirt, some water….and just plant something. You’ll be happy you did.

Carrie’s Salty Corner 4/12/17

by: The Unusual Suspect

Many folks, along with myself, have been suffering recent bouts of severe allergy attacks. This most barbaric onslaught of allergens has been brought to you, in part, by this year’s overly abundant precipitation events. Much to our dismay, this type of prolific infiltration can not be avoided. It can, however, be easily treated. Preventive measures, on the other hand, do not seem to deter the most devious determination levels of said allergens. This being said, it would be in our best interests to take stock of our natural medicinal belongings, to at least aid in guarding ourselves against our microscopic predators.

A good, solid, arsenal is the best place to start. Having a large cache of the following items will help to improve your chances of withstanding this year’s level of absolute allergen macabre. First, and foremost, you’ll want to have a good supply of raw, unfiltered, organic, local honey. We all know that the word ‘local’ is a relative term up in these parts. None the less, get as close to this as you can, and in large quantities. Second, you’ll want to be sure that you have a decent supply of green tea (organic is always preferable, but in this case, as long as it’s green tea….you’ll be fine), lemons, oranges, ginger and salt (any salt will do). Before anyone thinks I have lost my mind (again), be assured that no, you are not going to be putting salt in your tea. If you ever did that, I’d have no choice but to come to the conclusion that you’re more bonkers than I am, and I’d have a problem with that.

The salt is used as a steaming agent, which will help dry out any of your unruly sinus cavities, that have decided to break the land speed record in an attempt to exit your nasal passages. Boil salt water…hold a towel over your head (which helps to direct the steam into your sinus cavities), and take a few deep breaths. The steam will help loosen up any solid bits, so you can remove them, and the salt particles in the steam will help to heal up any damaged areas within the sinus regions. The rest of the above mentioned ingredients are for the tea. Easy tea recipe. Throw it all into a pot of boiling water. Let it steep on low heat for about 15 minutes. Pour it into a mug, and drink. If your muscles are tense, add Chamomile. If your nasal passages are clogged, add Peppermint or Lavender. The honey, by the way, can also be taken twice daily, as a natural form of allergy aide. 1 tablespoon in the morning, and one at night. Warm lemon water is also helpful. Stay well, clear those nasal passages often, get some rest, and have a hoppy Easter everyone!

Carrie’s Mostly Corner 3/29/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley – Mostly

Armillaria Ostoyae (a.k.a. Honey Mushroom), is the world’s largest living organism, as well as one of the oldest, with one specimen covering over 2,200 acres, and being just over 2,400 years in age. Marie Curie, and her husband, Pierre, discovered the phenomenon of radioactivity, and two years later, discovered Radium, which is so radioactive that it actually glows in the dark. Bookworms are real, but more resemble flies, and they hate paper. Thirty two species of bats live in Texas, the most species to be found in any state in the country. Lake Erie is one of the most, if not the most, polluted lakes in the nation, which they’re still trying to clean up, since 1970. The Red Sea was named after it was seen during a full bloom ofTrichodemium Erythraeum…or, a type of marine algae that is rich in phycoerythrin, which, is red.

The call of the Blue Whale is the loudest on Earth, registering a whopping 188 decibels. When an elephant stomps its foot, the vibrations created can travel 20 miles through the ground. The roar of an African Lion can be heard up to 5 miles away. Sea Horses only travel just less than 1 foot per minute. It is possible to grow your own Penicillin. Rats, mice, lions, chickens, caterpillars, seagulls, crows, spiders, mantid, hippos and sand gobies are all known to practice cannibalism. Bats are not blind. There, now it’s up to you to decide if all of these above statements are fact, fiction…or a little bit of both. The answers can be found in In Libro Fatum insolitus et Triviae libare.

Carrie’s Hoard Corner 3/29/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

We’ve all seen those organizational videos, where some lady seems to have it together, and can seemingly organize her entire house in a matter of a few hours. We sit there and think that we too can organize our home in a matter of a few hours, if we just follow those ‘easy’ step-by-step video instructions. Then, we look at what we have to organize, and get overwhelmed, stressed out and, at times, totally perplexed. Seriously, how many twist ties does 1 person actually need before it’s over kill…and why, for the love of God, are we saving every single plastic container, and jar, that enters our home?! I was organizing my pantry the other day, and came to the realization that I am a jar hoarder. That was, until I looked in my kitchen drawer, and realized that I am also a rubber band hoarder. Did I throw out those jars? Heck no! Glass is easy to sterilize, easy to clean and can be used for a multitude of things – inside, and outside. Need a small greenhouse effect for a new plant? Turn a glass jar upside down over it. Instant outside terrarium. Glass jars also make for excellent water-proof, puncture-proof, organizer containers, which are also difficult for little critters to open with ease (squirrels, raccoon, ring cat…etc.).

Organizing is something that most people really need to get the hang of before they start watching those ‘how to organize your life’ videos. We all hoard something. Regardless of what that something is, we’re all guilty of it, at least during some portion of our lives. I have never met a true minimalist, for even self-proclaimed minimalists hoard at least 1 thing (even if that 1 thing is a paper clip collection). The secret? Use what you hoard. The other secret? Have multiple uses for what you hoard. Easy example: paper towel rolls. Not only can they be used for storing taper candles, but they can also be used to store cloth napkins, kid’s artwork that you don’t want to lose, stuffed with used paper towels to be thrown into the wood stove as fire starters, gift containers, children’s craft projects and, well, I could go on for hours about that one example.

Now that the warmer months are creeping in, many of us are turning our thoughts to the yard, and garden. For nuts like me, our minds never left the yard, or garden. So, what do you hoard that can be used for something else outdoors? Twist ties can be used to hold plants to their stakes. Rubber bands can be used to secure bundles of seed packets together. Pie tins can be used as water saucers under plant containers (as can any other type of lid you can possibly think of). Plastic utensils can be reused as plant markers. Jars, of almost any size, can be used as miniature greenhouses for new plants. Old pots and pans can be used to hold rain water, as well as mixing up plant food. Old scoops, measuring cups and spoons can be used for dirt scoops. Broken ruler? Use it as a plant guide for depth, and/or width. Just use your imagination. Look, when you’ve seen someone use an old pink toilet as a cactus container….you realize that there is no limit to the imagination, or the humor level, and it’s game on! Have a great week everyone!

Carrie’s Thumb Corner 3/22/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

Calling all pot heads out there!! OK, all plastic pot heads. FINE….plant container users. Spring has sprung, and it’s time for all you gardeners out there to start getting those containers ready for your crops (if you haven’t already started). You all know who you are, and you know the drill. For those of you who do not know who these people are, nor do you know the drill, but would like to be filled in on such things, allow me to help you understand this ‘drill’. Containers, as defined by normal people, and containers, as defined by gardeners, are normally two very different things. Non-gardening people see ‘plant containers’ as some type of plant pot, usually cylindrical, that you fill with soil, and a seed. Gardeners even so much as think of the word ‘container’ and it’s game on. ANYTHING can be used. We’re not even close to joking about this.

A gardener can find a way to fashion a plant container out of almost anything, from metal to newspaper, and back again. Don’t want to spend money on a plant container? Ask one of our handy duty gardening nuts. We’ll be more than happy to help you out. The key? Using your imagination. Old boots, old shoes, egg cartons, berry boxes/baskets, toilet paper rolls, cut up paper towel rolls, pants, old bags, old mugs, old drinking glasses, etc. Take us to any 2nd hand shop, yard sale, garage sale, junk shop or road side flea market…and we’ll have you leaving with a car load of stuff that you can use as a plant container. Heck, maybe even 2 car loads of stuff!

They key to a successful garden is not having a green thumb. Thumbs are not required in order to garden, much less green ones. In fact, if anyone actually has a green thumb, they should probably see their doctor as soon as possible. So, if you’re wanting to start some plants from seed, and are lacking containers from which to start them….just open the fridge. Egg cartons, milk cartons (cut in half, sans the milk), berry baskets, wide mouthed small jars (such as jams, jellies and mustard jars), egg shells (YES, egg shells), soda cans (cut in half, and sans the soda)…etc. Again, use your imagination and enjoy the creativity. Be safe while doing this, however. No one wants you to get too creative and end up hurting yourself over a plant container project.

Carrie’s Bird Corner 3/8/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

Have you been seeing a lot of birds in the area lately? I have. I’ve seen a notable increase of Robins, Flickers and even some Finch. The bird feeders are soon to run dry if this continues – and it will continue. Spring is just around the corner, even if Mother Nature is telling us otherwise. Living up here, we all know that it can snow as late as June (I’ve heard stories of it snowing in July as well). So ‘warm’ is a rather loosely used word in these parts, and often refers to someone sitting in front of a wood stove, or having spent all day cooking/baking in a kitchen. To a bird, however, ‘warm’ is a necessary thing, especially during the time when they have eggs in the nest. Keeping themselves well fed can also be another issue. So, here are a few things you can do to help them out.

If you have a dog, or a long haired cat, grooming them can produce enough hair/fur to construct an entirely new pet. Don’t throw out that hair/fur! Instead, combine it together in an empty suet feeder, and hang it on a tree branch. Birds will collect this and use it in their nests. You can also use hair from your own hair brush for this as well (those of you with long hair, like mine, will understand the human shedding process all too well). Bits of stuffing from old stuffed animals, and pillows, will also work for this. Just bunch it all up and shove it into the empty suet feeder. The birds will thank you for that.

 

Food for the birds is also rather easy to make. They love Sunflower seeds, as well as dried cranberries, blackberry bits, blueberries, and cherries (preferably cut into smaller chunks, or dried). Millet (specifically White Millet) is also a good ingredient to add to the bird feed. Shelled peanuts (not flavored, nor salted), shelled Walnuts (chopped into smaller bits) and shelled Pecans (also chopped), are other good feeder adds. Just throw all this together in a bowl, and then toss it into the bird feeder. If you want to, you can roll a pine cone in some peanut butter (crunchy, or smooth, is fine), and then roll that in the bird feed. Just use your imagination. Keep in mind that there are a few types of seeds that birds will stay far and clear from in the wild. Apple seeds, and Peach pits, to name two. Be sure never to have anything that has flavoring, or additional salt added, as well as sweetened dried fruit. These can be dangerous for the birds, and can do more harm than good. So, enjoy stuffing the suet feeders, and rolling the pine cones around….and have a nice week everyone!

Carrie’s Water Corner 2/15/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink! Well, not for humans at least. Plants, on the other hand, are getting a lot of water. For some plants, it might be too much water. Roses, for example, and other such waste-land plants. Yes, roses are a type of a waste land plant. We typically think of a rose as being some type of delicate, dainty, sweet smelling flower that needs special care, special soil, and a special place to be planted. Think again. Roses are one of the hardiest plants out there. The reason there are so many rose enthusiasts out there, who tend to be quite a bit over protective of their dear roses, is because roses are prone to various problems, ranging from minor diseases to total root rot, and back again. Larger roses also happen to be a favorite food of the local wild life, most specifically, deer. What of the miniature roses though? Deer almost never even bother to give them a second look. But, why?

I did some research on this a few years back, as I too was asking myself the same question: Why are the deer mowing down my larger roses, but not the abundance of miniature roses that are sitting right next to the larger plants? Answer: Because there aren’t enough little roses to make one bit of difference to a deer, and because most miniature roses often have twice as many little thorns, that run almost all the way up to the base of the flower, the deer just don’t seem to see the point in eating something that’s going to inevitably puncture their mouths with tiny perforations. Well, that certainly makes sense. So now, I invest in miniature roses, rather than their much larger relatives. There is one draw back to caring for a miniature rose, and it’s mentioned in the above paragraph – too much water.

Water ‘mold’, and mildew, are the two top causes of roses getting those horrific black spots all over the leaves, and once it sets in, it can be a royal pain in the neck to get removed. First, and foremost, do not let any of these leaves get onto the soil. If they do, remove the top layer of soil, and replace it with a very dry, sterilized soil (you can sterilize potting soil by baking it in the oven at 200F for about 30 – 60 minutes, in a 3″ deep dish, that’s covered with foil). Clip the remaining leaves that have black spots all over them, but do not let these leaves fall to the ground! Make sure you clip the leaves over a container. If you see any smaller branches that are also covered in these spots, prune those as well. It can be a chore, and by the time you’re done, the poor rose bush will look like it just got the world’s worst hair cut. In the end, however, it will flourish, and you’ll be very happy with the results. So, stay safe, stay dry and, if you’re feeling a bit down, go out and stay with a rose bush for a bit. You’ll be happy that you did! Have a great week everyone!

Carrie’s Thrift Corner 2/8/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

Have you ever gone through a closet, and found clothing items that just are not going to be used any longer? Well, unless you’re in the mood to go through the entire closet, bit by bit, bag it up, and then haul the lot of it to a thrift store, there are a few things that you can do to re-purpose said ‘not going to be used any longer’ clothing items. If you’re handy with sewing, the options are endless. If not, there are still quite a few things you can do, using only a pair of scissors, and some masking tape.

Make colorful liners/dust covers for your book shelves. Cut the fabric so that it’s about 1 inch larger than the size you need. Fold the extra material under, and secure it with masking tape. The folded edges, and masking tape, help prevent fraying. Needs washing? Pull off the masking tape, and throw it in the laundry. Drawer liners. Cut the fabric to fit, place it in the bottom of the drawer. Secure it with a bit of masking tape underneath if you want to (not necessary though). T-Shirt bags for shopping. Cut the neck line out. Cut the sleeves off. Lay the shirt flat, and cut 2 – 3 inch strips along the bottom of the shirt. Turn the shirt inside out. Lay flat. Tie the strips together in knots. Turn shirt right side out. That’s it. Gets dirty? Wash it.

Pillow covers. Have an old toss pillow that’s seen better days, but the form is still good-ish? Stuff the pillow inside an old sweater, shirt, or even an old pair of jeans. Cut 2 – 3 inch strips along the open edges of the shirt, tie together in knots. New pillow cover. Travel bags. See instructions for making T-shirt bags. Old doilies? Use them to protect dishes that are being stored. Just place a doily in the center of a dish, and stack the next dish on top of it. Larger doilies, table cloths and table runners, can be used to wrap the set up and protect the dishes from getting dirty. Most of all? Have fun. Use your imagination. For those who are handy with sewing, the material alone is a treasure trove. Always be safe. If material is moldy, smells bad, has mildew on it or is otherwise stained with non-food items, throw it out. Otherwise…game on!!

Carrie’s Rock & Relax Corner 1/25/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

Judging by the last few storms we’ve had, you’d think this county made a bet with Mother Nature, and lost. In truth, this is what’s known as ‘Winter’. Winter is cold, wet, snowy, icy, foggy, rainy, slushy and, in general, particularly crap on all levels. It’s supposed to be this way. Yes, we’ve had land slides, rock slides, mud slides and floods. The good news is that no one was hurt during all of those natural events (that we know of), and other than a lot of hard work, nature was just doing what nature does from time to time. It was adjusting, and reacting, to whatever was thrown at it…just as we all do. We had a few Sunny days, in between the storms. Where was I during those days? Out in my yard, digging out a rock wall. You read that correctly. I was in my yard, doing work. It was nice, warm and Sunny. I just couldn’t help myself.

Then, I thought about that for a moment. When I was younger, walking hip-deep in snow was normal. Ice storms were normal. We didn’t get to stay home from school just because it was -10 outside. We didn’t get a break from our classes just because there was a little bit of snow on the roads. Furthermore, when we got home from school, we were shoveling snow, chipping ice, snow-blowing the sidewalks and helping haul fire wood into the house. In other words, while the chore duties changed from season, to season, the amount of work that had to be done did not. It was just different kinds of work. Out here, that still holds true. Then again, ‘out here’ is an entirely different world from ‘over there in the city, down yonder a piece’.

Winter is a time when Mother Nature tells us that it’s perfectly OK to take a break from our daily chores, and relax. When snow falls, silence washes over the whole area, and when it comes to this kind of silence, it’s beautiful. Oh, I know many folks are ready for the warmer days, miss tropical locations they go to on holiday, or have cabin fever and need to get out of town for a day, or 9. Still, safety first at all times up here. If you see road signs that say ‘Road Closed’ – it means that no one is exempt from this. If there is a land slide, and the notifications read ‘road closed’ – don’t attempt to think that you’re going to get through, when everyone else can’t. Up here, those signs matter. Read them. Follow them. Stay safe, and enjoy the silence Mother Nature has provided you with. Silence isn’t always a bad thing, especially when you’re able to cuddle by a warm fire with a good book.

Carrie’s Slide Corner 1/18/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

We’ve all driven by the land slides. We’ve seen the raging rivers. We’re used to seeing mud on the roads, and, for the most part, we’ve become accustomed to driving around pretty much anything that’s in the road. At this point, having to wait on a moose to finish grazing on the fallen debris wouldn’t shock me one bit. Thankfully, no moose are known to be in the area…lest they become sloth with the over abundance of food that has fallen. What do I think when I pass these sites? Well, probably not what you’d imagine. Then again, to those that know me, these thoughts will likely not come as a surprise.

I think: “WOW! That’s a lot of fire wood!”, and, “Holy crap that’s some serious lumber!”, and, “Hmm…red earth. That would be very good for a layered look in the rock garden”. YES, I’m already thinking at least 6 months in advance. This is normal for me. Driving past these sites made me want to go home and start pruning everything to no end. I’ve got a Crabapple tree that’s just screaming for a hair cut, as well as a few Cedar trees that could use a good shaving, not to mention the umpteen Blackberry vines that are currently at war with the Castle Ivy and Periwinkle vines in my back yard. Meanwhile, my Camellia bush is trying to peek over the roof of the house (Yep, it’s that tall), and my rose bushes are yelling at me, seemly saying: “For the love of God, please stop raining! I’m a waste-land plant for crying out loud! Stop this madness!”.

So, as per request of my yard, I have taken on the task of making a monthly ‘to do’ list that hopefully will get my yard back into working order, after such an unusually harsh winter. Now, I say this with a bit of reservation, for if this was the area where I grew up, people would be outside in shorts, and T-shirts asking me when the real snow was going to set in. They’d be far more at home in the Eastern portion of the county, where the snow drifts are taller than the people. Yep, I’m already thinking of gardening….and wood stocking….and organizing..and, well, you get the idea. Just please, as I always ask you, be safe and stay warm. Also, be healthy! Take a day of rest if you need it. Take care of yourself, so that you won’t have to battle the sheers of a cold, flu or other nasty virus that’s flying around. Have a great week everyone!

Carrie’s Rainy Corner 1/11/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

Since there’s probably no use in asking the rain to go away, and come again another day, the best we can hope for is the Sun to shine sooner than expected. Or, at least long enough for us to get everything clean up, cleared out and dried off (just a bit). Most people are probably thinking about what’s washed out, washed away or just washed up. Me? I’m thinking of what just got drowned in a literal mountain of rain water, and mud. We live in a heavily forested area (no kidding, right?), and as such, we need to remember to mark these rain dates on our calendars, especially if we have gardens, or extremely large trees on our lot(s). In my case, I’m keeping an especially close eye on about 12 rather large Cedar trees that surround my house, as well as a very old Walnut tree. My Crabapple tree is also getting an eye kept on it, as it’s very old, and is in need of some serious pruning.

Live trees aren’t too much to worry about above ground. However, when it starts to warm up a bit, and the rain has gone away for awhile, you’ll want to take a close look at how the base of the trees look. Are the roots too wet? Is it possible there is some underground washout? Root rot? Just take a quick look. Take a closer look if the trees are near any power, or telephone, lines, satellite dishes, external power boxes or seasonal vehicles (campers, ATVs, snow mobiles, etc.). Make a note of what you find, so you’ll be able to remember what to keep an eye on in the Spring.

Always stay safe, no matter what, especially in this weather! Any branches that have fallen should be removed to a safe location as soon as possible. Keep an eye on any wires that are near, or attached to, your home, garage, barn or work shed. Be sure your pets are safe, and out of harm’s way, especially animals that are typically housed outside of your personal home (chickens, larger live stock, goats…etc.). Keep your emergency numbers handy, and near your phone at all times, and always be sure you have a land line hooked up (or a phone that can hook into a land line outlet) in case the power goes out (which, has been more of a frequent event these days). Be safe, stay dry and try to have a good week. Thank you to all of our responders who have been working to diligently to help get this cleared out as quickly as possible so the area is safe for everyone. See you all next week!

Carrie’s Hoarder Corner 1/4/17

by: Carrie A. Blakley

New year, new me? Nope. Not hardly. Improved? Perhaps. For me, the improvement will come in the form of further organization, that very well may send my dear husband even further into the ‘what in the Hell is she doing now’ realm. He’s more than used to seeing me do some pretty unusual things around this house. Small talk in this house consists of something along the lines of: “Um, honey? Why are we saving bread tabs?”, “I’m using them to label the power strip wires”. He’s used to this, bless his heart. He also no longer gets the “you’re nuttier than Queen Victoria’s fruitcake” look on his face. See, there’s a difference between hoarding things because someone might need them some day, for some reason….and hoarding things because you actually use everything that you hoard. Or, I should say, re-purpose/recycle everything that you hoard. In other words, I’m a very selective hoarder. I only hoard those things that I know will serve another purpose, for me. If they can not serve another purpose, then I give them to someone who can re-use the items, or throw them out.

We all know that empty toilet paper, and paper towel rolls, can be re-used for a million things. However, for me, it’s broken down into only a few things. Toilet paper rolls serve as fire starters (that are stuffed with used, dry, paper towels), small extension cord holders (easier to label the cords this way too), cat toys (because you know, store bought cat toys are just so last year, and never smell like cardboard – silly cats) and marker/pen/paint brush/craft supply organizers (1 basket + empty toilet paper rolls = instant organizer basket). Paper towel rolls serve as fire starters (same as the TP rolls), taper candle storage containers (wrap 2 tapers in wax paper and place into paper towel roll, bonus points if you remember to mark the color of the tapers on the roll) and dog toys (because you know, a toy box full of really cool store bought dog toys is so last year, and never rip apart quite like cardboard can – silly dog).

Bread tabs are used to mark power strip cords. Empty jars are used for just about anything you can put in a jar, plus they can be sterilized easily, including many of the lids. Brown paper bags can be reused for so many things that I don’t have enough space to list it all here. However, book covers, wrapping paper, fire starters, shopping bags, coloring paper, craft paper….are good ideas, to start with. Plastic bags (I loathe these things with more than just a passion), I reuse for rubbish bin liners in my bathroom. Basically, I’m the person who will take a look at something, and really spend a few moments pondering if that item can be re-used for something else, anything else. If it can be, I save it. The difference is that I don’t save it for a rainy day project that never happens. I save it, and re-use it almost immediately. Get creative, and have fun. Enjoy your new year everyone! Be safe, and stay well!

Carrie’s Disaster Corner 12 28 16

by: Carrie A. Blakley

Now that everyone has at least one room of their homes that looks like a complete disaster area, and another one that looks like they’re losing a game of Jumanji, it’s fairly safe to say that the Christmas portion of the holiday program has come, and gone. It is also safe to say that the local transfer stations will spend the next week, or two, being extremely busy. This is when most of us rummage through what’s left of our living rooms, and proceed to throw out anything that is not nailed down, and looks like it’s seen better days. Two words: STOP THAT! Every single November, I see countless people piling through the holiday decoration departments as if it’s the last place on the planet, digging through mounds of wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and gift tags….and, otherwise causing the once neatly stacked display of gift bags, decorative boxes and other such festive paraphernalia to end up looking like a satellite just landed on it. This is not necessary! You can avoid having to put yourselves through all that with a very simple clean up procedure after your Christmas celebrations have ended.

Step 1: If you can not for the life of you identify it, even as something the cat threw up, throw it out. Step 2: If it can not be salvaged in any way, throw it out (use your creative minds before you decide if it can not be salvaged). Step 3: Remember that even bits of wrapping paper, tissue paper, bows and other such items can be re-used (and should be). Now then, on to the boxes, bags and baubles. First, if the box hasn’t been shredded to bits, keep it. Use it. Put another gift into it. Use it to store ornaments….but use it. Second, If the bag isn’t written directly on, yank the name tag off (if it’s been used), and save the bag. Bags can come in very handy – especially when you accidentally run out of wrapping paper. Finally, baubles always have more than one use. Ornaments, gift decorations, cat toys…whatever.

Want to cut down on doing a ton of dishes? Keep your leftovers in ziploc bags, or wrapped in plastic, or foil. Does something need to be frozen? Same principle. Use bags, foil, plastic, butcher paper….but not a solid container (unless it’s absolutely necessary, and I have yet to see a good case for it ever being as such). For those of you who have fresh trees, you can bring them for the tree burning event, or, do as we do, and save it. We cut the branches off, and then section the center out into 12 – 16 inch pieces for use next year in the wood stove. The smaller branches are saved as kindling, and the larger branches are also sectioned off for adding to the log pile. So, have a wonderful new year, and don’t wear yourself out over the cleaning up. Make it fun. Enjoy your gifts. Enjoy the days, and have a good night’s sleep. Happy 2017 everyone!! Make it your best year ever!

Carrie’s Victorian Corner 12/21/16

by: Carrie A. Blakley

I probably ought to be writing about the holidays at this point. I’m not going to. Everyone else is writing about the holidays, which is great, and I love reading the articles, but I am not thinking about the holidays just yet. At least not with this Arctic cold front hitting the nation. I’m thinking about the many ways to keep everything at room temperature, without using enough electricity to light up Times Square. Wood stoves are fantastic ways to keep the house warm – or at least a room, or two, for those who live in larger homes. Cooking, and baking, are also ways to gently warm up a room, or two. Space heaters, that use less power than an electric wall heater, or central heating work well. Even though those are great during the day, keeping any of that going throughout the night is not going to work too well, without posing a fire hazard.

People sometimes wonder how folks kept warm during the harsh months of Winter, without looking, and feeling, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. We’ve all seen the pictures of the Victorian era towns in the Winter. Currier and Ives are the most famous images that likely come to mind when one thinks of a Victorian winter. Mind you, these folks look like they’re dressed in fancy clothing, but they hardly look like over-stuffed children in snow suits, waddling around and unable to bend anything but their legs – barely. Have any of you ever put on an authentic Victorian winter suit, or dress? If you have, you automatically know their secret. Fabric, and layers of it.
Victorian homes had thick, very heavy, draperies. This kept the warmth in, and the cold out. Drapes weren’t just used on the windows. They were used around beds, hung over doors and even along pantry shelves.

Now, I’m by no means thinking anyone is going to go out and find huge, thick, pieces of tapestry materials that they’ll hang all over their homes, but let’s face it. The Victorian, and Colonial, folks were on to something. The secret? Layers. When you have to turn your heating off at night, or if we’re in the middle of a power outage, layer up. Start smart. Short sleeves/tanks, long socks/tights, thermals, then heavier outfits/pajamas/sweats. This goes for socks too. With the modern fabrics we have, we can layer pretty well, without the physical restriction of movement. The idea isn’t to keep ourselves at a constant toasty level, but rather, to keep our core temperature as even as possible…especially with all this sickness going around lately. Stay well. Stay warm. Stay safe. Most of all, have a warm, and happy, holiday season everyone!

Carrie’s Decorated Corner 12/14/16

by: Carrie A. Blakley

Deck the halls, the stalls, the stairs, the yard, the tree, the patio…and leave no corner un-touched! Or, we can all get real about this and understand that decorating for the holidays can sometimes get a little complex, if not expensive. Let’s face it, those Shiny Brite decorations are fantastic, but even in some of the thrift stores, they’re running almost $30.00 a box. Fortunately, we live in an area that provides us with some amazing decorations that cost absolutely nothing. Pine cones, and trimmed lower branches from a Christmas tree, are the obvious decorations. There are a few others, however, that people may not really think about as being part of the ‘festive decoration department’.

Thin twigs and sticks can be bound together with thin vines, or twine, to make decorative holiday boxes. Combine different greenery branches with some festive ribbon that you may have left over from wrapping presents, to hang on the front door (tie in some small pine cones here and there to add depth to the hanging). Rocks. These might not be anyone’s first guess at a holiday decoration, but if we can set out painted rocks in the garden during the warmer months, why not have some painted rocks inside during the colder months? Let the kids go nuts painting special rocks to put around the house for Christmas decorations!

Dirt. Yes, I just said dirt. Dirt that has been allowed to dry out, can be placed in the bottom of a clear heat-proof vase, to be used as a type of pillar candle holder. Add festive ribbon around the bottom of the vase, or add different colored pebbles in with the dirt. If using an LED candle, you can just go bonkers with the decorations inside the vase, but never do this if you’re using a wax candle. Just let your imagination run wild. Heck if nothing else, it will get you out of the house for a bit of a nature walk, and some fresh air. That is, until the snow starts hitting again. Have a good, and safe, week everyone!

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