Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Great Wall of china

I've noticed that in Goodwill stores, flea markets, yard sales, etc. there always seems to be a plethora of mismatched plates.  I buy them - even the broken ones  I often find a group of four to ten plates all taped together for two or three dollars.  Sometimes they're chipped, but that's okay.  The broken and chipped ones I break even further to use in mosaics.  The intact ones are used in the Great Wall of China.
Okay, technically none of these plates are china, but they do form a wall.  Why spend the big bucks at the big stores for border material when you can spend a couple of bucks?  Plus, these look so much cooler.  Then there's the eco-friendliness of using something that may have very likely ended up in a landfill one day.

I like to find ones with plenty of color and funky patterns - the more out of date the better as far as I'm concerned.  So far, three different people who have seen my Great Wall have mentioned their "grandmother had that very set!"

Plain white ones are great to find, too.  Especially if you have a child who loves to paint anything she gets her hands on and has discovered glass paint that you can bake on in the oven.  Stay tuned for photos of that craft project.

And what garden is complete without a Buddha and a pre-teen worker bee?  One allows me peace and the ability to focus.
The other, not so much.  Guess which is which.

It's still a work in progress, but it's getting there.  Now if I could just figure out what to do with a bunch of old frying pans.  Ideas are welcome!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Funky, DIY garden markers

 Oh, how I wish I could claim this idea as my own.  But alas, I have to credit Linda from the Garden Web for her creativity.  I was happy to come across it, since one of the things I've been collecting at flea markets are old license plates.  My thinking is that you never know what you could do with them.  And now I know!

Another cute idea for garden markers comes from Jessica at Window Ledge Arts.  For the DIY instructions, click here.  Thrift stores and flea markets always have dozens of spoons and other utensils.  The letters were
made by a metal stamp kit.  Jessica recommends using older spoons since they're thinner and easier to pound flat.

Fern (now, how much more perfect of a name could have if you're an avid gardener?), from Life on the Balcony made these super easy garden markers out of river stones.  These as so easy, you can let the kids go wild with them.  Imagine the colors they'll come up with.  Plus, what a great idea for Christmas gifts for the gardeners in your life.  My kids love to make gifts for people.

And now, I'm off to start cutting up license plates...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Backyard tea

In the south, tea is a given.  I should also point out that tea in the south is always iced tea.  No need to specify unless you go to a restaurant and want hot tea.  Your waitress will then look at you like you grew another head.

"You sure you want hot tea, hon?  In July?  In Tennessee?" 

The other thing about tea in the south, and the reason it's sometimes called "Southern crack," is because of the proportion of sugar to cup of brewed tea.  Approximately 5 to 1.  Am I kidding?  No, this stuff is like syrup. Now I'm not criticizing or anything, 'cause my husband and my kids love the stuff, but I can barely swallow it.

So, I make my own version.  And my kids have come to call it "backyard tea."  It comes by this name honestly, since the main ingredient comes right out of the backyard.  Here it is in spades, barely visible aside the oregano jungle.  This particular variety is called chocolate mint.

I also have pineapple and orange mint.  These two are a little more under control as they've just been planted this year.  The small plant you see in the front is coconut thyme - smells delicious, but I wouldn't recommend making tea out of it.

Making this lower cal version is easy.  Grab a handful of the mint of your choice.   This is chocolate mint in the pic.  I managed to find my way out of the oregano to take this photo.  Put this handful into a pot of cold water, turn on the heat until it boils, then take if off the heat and let it brew for a good hour.  I use honey to sweeten - but only two tablespoons for a whole pitcher.  If you like your tea syrupy, I suggest you go to Milo's, 'cause this herbal concoction ain't for the weak-minded. It's delightfully refreshing, low cal, all natural, and best of all, free.

Oh, and when I went out to pick the mint, I was harassed mightily by this volunteer squash plant.  Those free range vegetables have such attitudes.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Really cool old stuff

The family and I drove down to Birmingham yesterday, which is where hubby grew up. Unfortunately, his mother passed away last Fall, so we've been going through the houses (she had two), cleaning out stuff, and getting it ready to have the extended family choose things they'd like to keep. Well, I've always adored my mother-in-law. We hit it off the instant we met, which I realize is super lucky compared to some relationships with mothers-in-law. My husband is very well aware of the fact that a large part of the reason I married him was because I'd get her.

Anyway, I didn't know it was possible to adore her even more until I started going through her belongings. It's almost as if she read my mind, and filled her house with all kinds of cool stuff I love. I brought home three VERY LARGE Hefty bags full of vintage fabric (her mother was an exceptional seamstress). And that was only half of what was there. The other three gigantic bags are going to the Goodwill. Mostly because the fabrics weren't that unusual or fun.

There are tons of glass, metal kitchen gadgets, tins, etc. Check out this pile. The book is entitled "A Fortune In The Junk Pile." How appropriate - the irony makes me almost giddy.

Speaking of books, I had no idea of the extent of her cookbook collection. We could open a book store devoted solely to old cookbooks from her collection.

Here they are all sorted and semi-organized on the dining room table. They range in publications dates from 1926 to the early 2000s. This photo only shows the ones on the table. The floor on the opposite side of the room is covered with full boxes, as well.

If I had to pick a favorite of the treasures I brought home yesterday, it would have to be this little collection of tins and glass. I especially love the ancient Noxema glass jar (on the right behind the clear glass soda bottle. It brings fond memories of mornings at my great grandmother's house.
I forgot to mention the dozens of vintage sewing patterns. Does anyone know if there is a market for them? Judging by the clothing styles, I'd say they're from the late 60's on.

Oh, and one thing that made me truly laugh out loud... Wait, did I say laugh out loud? What I meant was laugh my ass off. And I'm allowed to laugh, because I personally remember when coats had lapels this wide!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Raising environmentally aware kids

We talk a lot about the environment around here. At 8 and 12, the girls are old enough to understand the impact our nation's current exploitation of this earth will have if it continues unchecked. This week Shelby, our almost 8 year old, attended one of her favorite camps. Besides towel, swimsuit, and sunscreen, we pack a lunch from home. While grocery shopping for her lunch items last week, she begged for Lunchables (I did a cringe that was so noteworthy I think my face may be stuck that way). But, it was the perfect lead in for another conversation about conservation and keeping unnecessary crap out of the land fills. I asked her to pick one up and look at it.

Me: "Where do you think all that stuff comes from?"
Shelby: "Probably China."
Me: "Probably so."
Shelby: "And that's a lot of stuff to throw away. And it doesn't recycle."
Me: "Right."
Shelby: "Well, then let's make our own and not take anything that has to be thrown away."
Me: "Perfect!"
Shelby: "Because otherwise, that would be a gigantic carbon footprint."
Me: Happy sigh.

So, our solution:

You can find these little guys a lot of places, just Google bento boxes and they'll pop up all over your monitor like hair removal ads. We picked up ours at Laptop Lunches. Need some other ideas? They have a whole gallery of photos that people have submitted with their kid's lunches. If your kids are more sandwich types, this looks pretty tasty.

At the end of the day, Shelby comes home with her lunch box and the plastic containers. The only thing she throws away is the Gogurt packaging. So far, I haven't really found any ways to re-use those. I'm open to ideas!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cool Junk

One of my favorite places to find stuff to re-purpose is at a little antique/junk store in south Tennessee. Donny, (hereinafter referred to as The Junkman) travels all over the country to flea markets, estate sales, yard sales, etc. He even stops at old barns and asks the inhabitants if he can look through their stuff and buy some of it. Most people are delighted to cull their junk. And surprise! His favorite show is Pickers!
Yesterday, I drove the farm truck (because it's a long bed, and therefore has more room) down to the Junk Palace to pick up some metal tulip chairs. In case you don't know them by their name, this is what it looks like. This one is not mine, but was restored by another junk addict. It does inspire me to paint mine pink and white, though.

These chairs used to be all over the place in the 50s and 60s. My grandparents had them on their screen porch. I like them because you have to bounce up and down a little while sitting on them. This keeps me from jiggling my leg, which drives my husband nuts.

So, I bought two from The Junkman. Along with a few other things. Check out these columns!

These are cool for two reasons: They're aluminum, and therefore easy to paint. And they have bases. Husband and I have been trying to figure out a way to build a pergola on our back patio without having to tear up the concrete. These babies are the perfect solution! They can stand on their own two feet, so to speak.

There is a sign on the door of The Junk Palace (which is not its real name, but what I call it). It's written with a sharpie pen on a piece of cardboard. Why didn't I take a picture of it? It says: "Open whenever we get here till whenever we leave. No exceptions". I just love the place.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Not your grandmother's kitchen!

Or is it? I'll admit to having a penchant for retro looking stuff. In fact, I have plans to take the uber energy-inefficient 50s-ish fridge in our garage, paint it red, and bring it in the kitchen as a pantry. It's even got one of those separate metal door ice box thingies. Perfect for soup cans.

However, THIS is the bomb. If I ever come upon a windfall, I will plaster these nifty appliances all over my kitchen. The big question will be: should they all match, or get one appliance in every color?

And really, what an apt name for their business. Big Chill.