Monday, April 30, 2012

Re: 10 Win-Win Tips for Laundry


Did you know that whether you do a couple of loads of laundry a week or a dozen, eventually nearly all your laundry products make their way into the world's waterways?

No matter how much you'd like to avoid doing laundry, that just isn't going to happen. So, this week's Re: tips will help you reduce your impact on the waterways whenever you take on that favorite chore. They can even save you a little time and some money.

All images via The Graphics Fairy
  • About 80% to 90% of the energy used for washing clothes goes to heating the water. Turn the dial to cold for clothing, which makes up the majority of laundry in most households. Hot is best for bed linens and towels, though.
  • Choose the shortest wash cycle possible. Unless you're washing heavily soiled items such as muddy sports uniforms, you don't need to use a long cycle. Saves time and money.
  • Don't run the washer until you have a full load. One large load is more energy efficient that two smaller loads. Even the most energy-efficient machines use about 40 gallons of water per load. If you reduce the number of loads you wash by washing larger loads, you save time, water and money.
  • Select natural laundry products. A good place to start is to avoid detergents with labels that carry the words "warning," "danger" or "poison." Avoid chlorine bleach and boost your cleaning power by adding a little baking soda or hydrogen peroxide to a natural detergent. Skip the fabric softener and add a 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. Or, make your own laundry detergent. There are many recipes available on-line. Mother Nature Network has some recipes you can try.
  • Add only the amount of detergent recommended on the packaging. Your machine runs less efficiently when it contains more bubbles.
  • If you live in a humid area of the country, use the highest spin speed to remove as much moisture as possible before transferring laundry to the dryer. This reduces drying time and saves energy.

  • Hang your laundry to dry, when possible. You will save energy (therefore, money) and extend the life of your clothing by saving wear-and-tear on the fabric.
  • If you must machine dry your laundry, don't over dry. Did you know fabric fibers can become brittle, which results in faster deterioration?
  • Clean the dryer filter after each use. Also be sure your outside dryer vent is clean and free from obstructions. These steps will help your dryer work more efficiently and help prevent fire.
  • Whenever possible, do back-to-back loads of laundry on one day instead of spreading the loads out over multiple days. This will allow you to take advantage of retained heat from previous loads, reducing your total energy use. You got it--saves you money.
Sorry, I can't help you avoid doing your laundry, but perhaps these tips will encourage you to think a bit differently about how you approach this weekly chore. You must might save a little time, money, energy and water.

Make it a great day!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

#%&! Turkey Mess

This is the scene that greets us nearly every night when we arrive home from work--mulch scattered out into the street.

Here's the scene a few minutes later--after my husband, still in his work attire, rakes the mulch back into the garden plot.

We have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the turkeys that have made our woodsy yard their home over the past couple of years. They're totally fascinating to watch. The strutting. The preening. The squabbling. Oh, and the gobbling. I love the gobbling.

What I hate is that this spring, more than in the past, the turkeys have begun kicking up a whirlwind of mulch. The light scratching and easy pecking around the garden has given way to activity of twister proportions, resulting in mulch scattered everywhere--in the grass, on the street and completely obscuring the stone garden path.

We leave for work each day with mulch neatly in place and return most nights to a mess. Oh, the games those quirky turkeys play.

Sometimes the deer join the party and make a meal of our hostas. Definitely not the way to endear themselves to me (no pun intended).

Given the choice, I'd much rather deal with the turkey scratching. After all, a little light raking never hurt anyone.

Make it a great day!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Is That a Poem in Your Pocket?


Sandra's seen a leprechaun,

Eddie touched a troll,

Laurie danced with witches once,

Charlie found some goblins' gold.

Donald heard a mermaid sing,

Susy spied an elf,

But all the magic I have known

I've had to make myself.

--Shel Silverstein

April is National Poetry Month. Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day.

To observe the day, I whipped up a pocket and filled it with a few fun poems to share with my staff at a team meeting today.

I cut the breast pocket off a thrift store men's shirt and attached a ribbon so I can hang it from a hook or doorknob. I printed several poems onto banana paper and cut them to fit inside the pocket. 

A story about Poem in Your Pocket Day on National Public Radio yesterday inspired the idea, so by the time I got home from work, I didn't have a lot of time to invest. Were I to do this over with more time, I'd probably embellish the pocket a bit and create more visually appealing cards.

The cute pocket could be used for party favors, recipe cards, reminder cards, to tote a sweet vintage hanky and hung on a knob for interest.

All in all, a poetic project.

Make it a great day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Re: 5 Tips to Add Sparkle and Shine

Hope you all had an eco-friendly Earth Day!

This week, I thought I'd share a few easy tips on how to make your reclaimed and vintage finds sparkle and shine without using harsh chemicals or soaps. These tips are so simple! They all make use of an inexpensive, all-natural and common household staple: distilled white vinegar.


For that vintage glassware you bring home despite its cloudy appearance, soak a soft cloth in full-strength distilled vinegar and wrap the cloth around the inside and outside of the glass. Let it stand awhile before rinsing clean and drying.


To remove the unsightly film and some stains from the narrow necks of bottles or vases, fill to the top with undiluted distilled vinegar and let sit overnight. Add a little sand or rice and shake vigorously to loosen more stubborn stains and deposits. Rinse and repeat, if necessary.


To prevent your glassware treasures from being further  etched by hard water minerals, spray with full-strength distilled vinegar after washing, then rinse with hot water and dry with a soft towel. 


Remove the tarnish from copper, brass or pewter pieces by making a paste of equal parts distilled vinegar and table salt. Rub it on, remove with a soft, damp rag and polish with a soft cloth.


Doesn't it just make you nuts when your local thrift store or estate sale vendor uses adhesive labels that leave behind that thick, gummy residue?  Removing that gooey mess is generally very easy if you cover the label with a vinegar-soaked cloth and let it sit overnight. The label should slide right off.

Now, go grab your bottle of vinegar and shine, shine, shine.

Make it a great day!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chickens Come Home to Roost

Is it just me, or do you occasionally experience this, too? You find something you really like:  a pretty plate, a vintage linen, a compelling old photograph. So, you buy it. Then, all of a sudden you start seeing other items the same shape, composition or style everywhere you turn.

That has recently happened to me with chickens, particularly roosters.

It may have started with my son who, as he was looking to decorate his new apartment at about this time last year, seemed drawn to vintage roosters. Like this vintage trivet he found at a thrift shop.

Naturally, I began noticing roosters when I became aware he had an interest.

A while back, as I was browsing Karen's extensive library of wonderful images at The Graphics Fairy for a project I was working on, I came across a gorgeous rooster image. I had been saving a fabulous piece of Waverly fabric (an estate sale find) for just the right project and decided to stop right then and make a pillow with these beautiful elements. I can be impulsive like that.

The polka dot fabric is gorgeous and the large rick-rack row at the bottom is part of the print. I transferred the rooster image on a piece of vintage muslin using my inkjet printer. I added the black rick-rack frame to finish it off.

It even looks pretty from the back.

And, the chickens just kept coming. My husband and I grabbed a set of 10 embroidered fabric cocktail napkins at a recent estate sale. The proud white rooster is accompanied by his cocktail shaker. Won't these be fun for a summer get-together?

Then, on a recent trip to Illinois to visit my husband's parents, my mother-in-law asked if I'd be interested in some of her old tablecloths and linens. They are trying to downsize and have started sorting through their accumulation of household items. Lo, and behold, more chickens.

This beautiful brown tablecloth is in perfect condition and is adorned with roosters and hens. Yes, I told her. Yes! I'd love it! Thank you.

And, finally, last weekend, I came across this sweet vintage apron at an estate sale. My daughter, a barista in a cozy, locally owned coffee shop, enjoys wearing fun aprons to work. She has a nice collection of them, but is always looking for more. And, recently, she also seems attracted to the chicken motif. This cute apron will be a birthday surprise for her tomorrow (if she doesn't read my post today).

As you can see, when the chickens come home to roost around here, it makes for a fun and interesting collection of goodies.

Make it a great day!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Re: It's Your Earth--Love It

Image Source:  NASA and the NSSDC

April 22, 1970. Earth Day birthday.

After witnessing the devastation caused by a 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., and inspired by the student anti-war movement, Gaylord Nelson, then U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, announced a national teach-in on the environment. And so, Earth day was born.

That first year, more than 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthy and sustainable environment. I was a senior in high school in a small Midwestern town. My parents, my sister and I marked the day in our own way, vowing to be more proactive in protecting our precious environment--every day, not just on Earth Day.

Admittedly, I'm no environmental saint. But, I try to do my part in many small ways in hopes that my efforts make a difference.

This Sunday, April 22, more than a billion people around the world are expected to observe Earth Day by participating in events, activities and acts of green.

Our daughter and her boyfriend are making a difference by purchasing a small plot in a community garden within walking distance of their house. They regularly compost and recycle. She walks to work and campus, driving as little as possible.

Our son and his girlfriend, who are apartment dwellers, have parked their cars to the extent they can and bike or walk to campus every day. They planted a vegetable and herb container garden that resides on the terrace of their apartment. One of their plant containers falls right in my repurposing wheelhouse. They sowed their lettuce (above) in a wheel rim left over from one of my son's previous repurposing projects.

Not fully confident that our nighttime temps will stay above the freezing mark, I haven't done my planting yet this season. But, I do plan to expand the smorgasbord of flowers that attract butterflies and other plants that serve as food to their larvae. I have scheduled annual service of our central air conditioning system and sprinkler system/rain sensor to ensure both work as efficiently as possible. I remain firmly committed to my five R's: Reduce, reuse, recycle, relaim, repurpose.

Most communities offer Earth Day activities for both adults and kids. Check you local newspaper or search for local activities on the internet. Learn more about 2012 Earth Day activities and what you can do to be more Earth friendly at these great sites:

How do you observe Earth Day and honor this planet we call home throughout the year? Share your activities and experiences by leaving a comment.

Make it a great day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Some Like it Hot, Some Like it Cold

Things have been crazy busy at work and in life lately, which has dramatically cut into my thrifting, blogging and crafting time.

A few weeks ago, we made a trip to Illinois to visit my husband's parents after his dad had a medical procedure. We did get away for a short time to check out a sale in a beautiful red barn on the outskirts of the city. Lots of wonderful antiques and vintage items to choose from. We found these wonderful Thermos to add to our collection. They are in great condition and the prices were amazingly reasonable.

It's thrilling to find the older ones that have the cork stoppers.

My daughter and her boyfriend picked up this pretty steel Thermos with its (once again) trendy aqua lid. I picked up the plaid version at a recent estate sale.

So what does Barney have to do with Thermos collecting? Absolutely nothing. I just threw in this photo because Barney's so cute. Now that spring's arrived, he's enjoying romping in the grass and playing with his stick. Just as the toddler who would rather play with a cardboard box than an expensive toy, Barney would rather chew a stick than his red rubber bone.

Make it a great day!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Color My World

Here in the midsection of the country, the season is a full three to five weeks ahead of normal. But, who's complaining?

My crocus, above, are long gone. Some years, we'd just be seeing them now. All of the tulips are well ahead of schedule. Some of my varieties are on the downhill slide now. Others, I've already stuck a fork in.

The wild violets along the creek ravine were spectacular this season. More blooms than I think I've ever seen on them. Most of them are spent, but they leave behind such pretty clumps of heart-shaped leaves. My mom always wanted me to pull out the violets, as, admittedly, they are very invasive. Over the years, I've compromised by choosing to "control" them to prevent takeover of flower beds and lawn.

The native Prairie Smoke flaunts it pink heads. By the time these normally bloom, the pretty blossoms will have given way to an intriguing puff of smoke--fluffy seed heads that grace these attractive plants until winter.

Brunnera are among my favorite early bloomers. This year's show does not disappoint.

I don't remember what these lovely white flowers are that cascade down the rock wall. I bought one small plant at closeout at Home Depot several years ago. It looked like it was on its last leg when I bought it, but has looked like a million bucks every season since.

Garden, the color becomes you.

Make it a great day!