Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pay It Forward 2012

I know I'm behind on my Picture Perfect Room challenge and I have a to-do list a mile long, but when I saw this I just had to get on board right away!


A dear friend of mine, Leslie, posted on her Facebook page that she is participating in Pay It Forward 2012.  For those of you who are not familiar with the concept or the movie, the expression "pay it forward" is used to describe the concept of asking that a good deed be repaid by having it done to others instead.


Paying it forward can be accomplished on many levels... from simple acts of kindness like paying for the order of the person in line behind you at the drive-thru to more life changing actions like giving your old car to a single parent [or needy family] with no means of personal transportation.  Leslie has decided to send a handmade gift to the first 5 people who comment on her post... which is perfect for the DIY, thrifty, crafty, Blogland world in which we live!  And, I am lucky enough to be one of those 5!  In turn, I have to post the same message on my Facebook page and do the same thing.

Want a handmade gift from me?  Simply visit my Facebook page and leave a comment on the Pay It Forward 2012 post.  If you aren't already a "friend" of The Old Park Homestead, please click the LIKE button while you're there.  But, there's a catch... not a catch really, but more of how paying it forward works... you must post the same message on your Facebook page and pay it forward to 5 more people... or 10 or 20 people if you like!

Here's to an idea for changing our world... and putting it into action!



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Friday, February 3, 2012

What I Like About Your Blog



Yikes! I don't know if I'm ready for this... but I joined up none-the-less over at Inspire Me Heather. What better time than the present to dive right in... with both feet... even if the water is cold... and it's freezing outside... and you forgot your swim suit... and... oh, get over yourself and just do it!

Here's what it's all about [from Heather's blog]:

Would you like to have some other bloggers give you an honest critique of your blog?
You won't know who they were either.
You can take their advice or dismiss it as you please - only we will know what they said.

1. Enter your blog.

2. Heather will email you 2 blogs to critique. Visit them and email her back with these 2 responses: what you liked about their blog and what you didn't like about their blog.

3. When you reply back to her with your 2 critiques (in one email, please) she'll give you a link to a private blog page where she'll post the reviews in random order.

Like I said before... yikes! No one wants to hear they have an ugly baby.  Who wants an ugly baby?  But, sadly, it happens.  Somehow the parents are blind to the ugliness.  Who's to tell them any different?  And the ugliness continues.

I have read countless blogs and posts about how to blog and what to watch for [good and bad].  I view all blogs with a discerning eye... making mental notes... and Pinterest notes... of what I like and dislike.  How can I make my blog better?  Can I incorporate "that" into my blog?  What do "the people" want?

My participation in this project will, in return, offer likes and dislikes from only 2 people.  But I'm OCD a perfectionist remember?  I need to exhaust all avenues... leaving no stone unturned.

So, I'm asking you... my Blogland BFFs... would you also be so kind [do I need to highlight "kind"?] to let me know what you think?  Pleave me a comment with your likes, dislikes, and what you'd like to see in the future.  I can take it.  Really I can.  If I once ran into burning buildings, I can handle this... [I think]

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day 2012


Today is Groundhog Day... and there will be 6 more weeks of winter!

We're not far from Punxutawney, PA and Phil is somewhat of a local celebrity.

On February 2, Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow on Gobbler's Knob - in front of thousands of followers from all over the world - to predict the weather for the rest of winter.  According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather.  If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring.


So the story goes, Punxsutawney Phil was named after King Phillip.  Prior to being called Phil, he was called Br'er Groundhog.


Groundhog Day is a popular tradition in the United States.  It is also a legend that traverses centuries, its origins clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening on specific dates.  Myths such as this tie our present to the distant past when nature did, indeed, influence our lives.  It is the day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow.  If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole.  If the day is cloudy and, hence, shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground.

 
Pennsylvania's earliest settlers were Germans and they found groundhogs to in profusion in many parts of the state. They determined that the groundhog, resembling the European hedgehog, was a most intelligent and sensible animal and therefore decided that if the sun did appear on February 2nd, so wise an animal as the groundhog would see its shadow and hurry back into its underground home for another six weeks of winter.


In 1993, Columbia Pictures released the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.  A weather man is reluctantly sent to cover a story about a weather forecasting "rat" (as he calls it).  This is his fourth year on the story, and he makes no effort to hide his frustration.  On awaking the 'following' day he discovers that it's Groundhog Day again, and again, and again.  First he uses this to his advantage, then comes the realization that he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place, seeing the same people do the same thing EVERY day.

You can watch the Live Groundhog Day Webcast here.

Love Punxsutawney Phil as much as we do?  LIKE him on Facebook.

[Groundhog Day facts and photos from www.groundhog.org]


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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cheaply Green - Homemade Laundry Detergent

Since we've become a one-income family [for now!], it has challenged me to look at how we spend money and the products that we use everyday.

In my quest to live on the cheap, I realized the benefits of making your own laundry detergent.  It's less expensive [under $20 per batch that lasts, oh, FOREVER], more concentrated [uses only 1/8 cup per load], and greener for everyone involved [no lengthy chemicals you can't pronounce].

The first recipe only included three ingredients: Borax, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, and a bar of Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap.  It worked great in our front-loading HE washing machine [and no complaints from Mr. Homestead!] but I couldn't stop thinking about our hard well water and "tweaking" the recipe to help combat dingy whites and hit those stains a little harder.

My current recipe includes 2 additional ingredients and beefs-up the amounts used so it makes a bigger batch.

[I'll apologize in advance for the long post, but I had a lot of questions when I was wandering around the internet researching my recipes and I hope passing this information along to you will answer a lot of your questions... all in one place!]


Borax is what helps to soften the water... softer water allows the soap to work better.  20 Mule Team Borax is made of 100% Borax, a naturally occurring mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen and water.  20 Mule Team Borax is not harmful to washing machines, plumbing or septic tanks and does not contain phosphates or chlorine. 

If you have a lot of iron in your water like we do (well water), don't use bleach on your whites because it reacts with iron and can cause holes in your clothing.  And I was blaming it on the dogs!

Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda works as a laundry detergent booster and as a household cleaner.  It's not only effective, it is all-natural too.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda acts as a deodorizer, cleaner and softener.

Oxygen Stain Remover... pretty self-explanatory, I think.

Fels-Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Bar Soap is a time-tested stain remover and pre-treater.

CONSUMABLE INGREDIENTS:
1 - 4lb box Borax [WalMart $3.38 - found in the laundry aisle]
1 - 3lb 7oz box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda [WalMart $2.39 - found in the laundry aisle]
1 - 4lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda [WalMart $2.16 - found in the laundry or baking aisle]
1 - 3.5lb tub oxygen stain remover [WalMart $6.97 - found in the laundry aisle]
3 - Fels-Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Bar Soap [WalMart $0.97 - found in the laundry aisle]
-------------------------
Total $17.81

REUSABLE SUPPLIES:
5 gallon container with lid (WalMart $3.97 - found in the home goods or storage aisle]
Cheese grater [Dollar Tree $1.00 - used only for utilities and crafts]
Large spoon for mixing [Dollar Tree $1.00 - used only for utilities and crafts]
Small scoop [Dollar Tree $1.00/pair - used only for utilities and crafts]

The hardest part of all this is grating the Fels-Naptha laundry bars... by hand!  But, it builds character and puts hair on your chest!


It should look like real shredded cheese... for the world's largest taco!

With the shredded Fels-Naptha in the 5 gallon container, pour in the entire contents of the remaining ingredients.  Stir.


VoilĂ !

There is plenty of room left in the container.  You could use a smaller container... or make more if you want to.


For convenience, I keep a smaller container on top of the washing machine.  The scoop is a 1/8 cup coffee scoop.  You can also use the FREE 1/8 cup scoop that comes with the oxygen stain remover.  I am still experimenting between 1 scoop or 2 scoops... a scoop in the detergent tray and a scoop in the wash tub... both scoops in the tray... both scoops in the tub.  Mr. Homestead is currently working on a job at a famous chocolate factory here in Pennsylvania and you wouldn't believe how stubborn those cocoa stains can be... although I'm certainly not complaining when he comes home resembling a giant Easter bunny!  You'll need to experiment on your own depending on your soil load and washing machine type.


Store the remaining detergent sealed with a lid.  If you use a smaller container for everyday use, you won't be needing this stash for a long time!

Have you started going green or living on the cheap?  What modern products have you given up?  What "old-fashioned" ways have you incorporated into this "instant satisfaction" era?

Now... to create some cute printables for my containers...

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Picture Perfect Room Challenge - Gift Wrapping Organization

I have to admit... I've been moving slowly on my A Week of Change - Part 2: A Picture Perfect Room challenge by Funky Junk Interiors.  I get overwhelmed... bogged down... not knowing where to start.  My workshop is in such disarray that I end up moving this stuff over here and that stuff over there just to get to the space which is next on my list to organize and fix up.  This stuff and that stuff ends up on another horizontal space that is utilized slotted for something else.  Can you see the viscous circle forming here?

Oops... did I say I had a list of what's next to organize and fix up?  Silly me... no, no, no... my "list" is what I'm inspired and motivated to do that day.  At some point I had to stop fighting myself and beating myself up when I "failed" at getting my workshop set up.  Progress is progress.  I learned to go with what I was able to do that day... and accept it.  Some is more than none!

A while back, I saw Delightful Order's gift wrap center post where she hung tissue paper on hangers and used cafe curtain rods to hold wrapping paper.  Delightful order, indeed!  I knew I had too much in my stash a well curated collection and that it wouldn't be practical to hang that many curtain rods and hangers, but I couldn't stop thinking about her post.  Once an idea gets in my head, it's in there and I'll make it work... by golly!

So, what were my options?  I have a lot of vertical space to utilize... and blessed that it's all covered with peg board. Click here for [BEFORE] pictures.  I refused to buy some new, commercial organization system when I have plenty of shelves and cubbies and racks laying around just waiting for their next opportunity.  After mulling around a few ideas... and trying some of them out... here's what I came up with...


Rolls of wrapping paper went on wooden dowel rods [$0.97 each] and large/long peg board brackets [about $1 each] for support.  The diameter of the wrapping paper roll will determine how many will fit on the brackets.  I used one layer of wrapping paper dowel rods to create a shelf and stacked the surplus on top.  No need to buy dowel rods for each roll and there's room for more!  I organized each "shelf" as its own category of paper [Christmas, flowers/girl, foil, general/birthday, basket wrap, etc].  If I didn't, I would just go nuts!


This black wire shelving was stored in my attic space until I was ready for it.  Once I saw it, I knew this was it and the idea to hang the tissue paper across the bars, as if it they were hangers, was born.  VoilĂ !


Next was to tackle the gift bags.  I could pile them up on the bottom shelf or store them in a plastic bin, but I knew having to rummage through them wouldn't work for me.  I needed "S" hooks.  The bags could hang neatly organized and make it quick and easy to find just the right one.  Ugh... the bags would be hanging from front-to-back instead of left-to-right... another little quirk I wasn't going to be able to live with.  Solution: change the direction of the hooks.  After spending a bit of time wandering up and down the aisles of my local Lowe's, I made it over to the garden section and found these:



Flower pot chains!  Whodda thunk it?  Don't limit yourself to the everyday, ordinary uses of things... you never now what will inspire you and the creative ideas you'll come up with!  The smaller chain on the left [$2.27] has links with a twist in them; the larger chain on the right [$2.46] doesn't.  The twist is necessary to have the bags facing left-to-right.  They are made out of metal, but can be manipulated with needle-nose pliers and a wrench.  Yippee for left-to-right facing bags!


The smaller links were PERFECT, but they weren't able to hold as many bags on each hook as the large ones.  To get them into this twist, first I used a wrench to squeeze the link so the top half would bend in (the links are already split on one side) which enabled me to slide it off the chain.  Second, I held the bottom of the link with needle-nose pliers and used the wrench to twist the top part to one side.  I'll be saving the smaller chain for a future project.  I'm sure they'll come in handy somehow!




Once the hooks were placed on the wire shelving, I used the wrench to squeeze the top half even further to ensure it wouldn't come off.  I didn't have to squeeze or twist the bottom half of the link... it was perfect for what I needed it for... but it's definitely something that can be done to fit another application.  Oohhh... do I see the wheels of creativity turning?


I have a ton another well curated collection of bags... I just have to find them... and hang them.  The shelves are adjustable so I might slide the bottom one up a bit and see what fun stuff I can store underneath.  And, there's actually a second half of this shelving unit... just waiting for curiosity to hit!

Have you been working on your Picture Perfect Room?  Will you be ready for the First Bragfest Linkup on Friday, January 27th?  I am almost done with the yarn/knitting/crochet corner of my workshop.  As things move along... even slowly... I am hoping other things will fall into place.  It's either that, or hoping the Picture Perfect Room fairy will pay me a visit one night as sugarplums dance in my head.  I'm thinkin' I have a lot of work ahead of me...


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Monday, January 9, 2012

A Week of Change - Picture Perfect Room Challenge [BEFORE]

Funky Junk Interiors
A completed room. What a novel idea!

We moved into this old farmhouse [our forever home because I am never moving again!] in the spring of 2010. Our three... THREE... attic spaces are full. The 2-car garage is full. No rooms are complete. Livable... functional... but far from complete. We refused to bring anything inside unless we have a specific place or purpose for it. And at this point, if it's still in the attic or the garage we can probably get rid of it.

But where does all the time go? I know ambitious people who finish rooms in a weekend... painting wallls, new floors, window treatments... the works. I'm too much of a perfectionist [some call it OCD] and I get lost in the details. I can't simply file a stack of papers because the folders are not labeled and organized. So I start to work on the folders and never get around to filing the stack of papers. It's a viscous circle... and it needs to stop! My favorite excuse is that my workshop isn't done. But even I fool myself... the workshop is work-able. Cluttered, not quite organized... but work-able. Let's be honest... if I really wanted to make a project happen, I'd make it happen.

So, is it any surprise that I chose the workshop to be the first completed room? Then I'll have no more excuses, right? Right.

Here is the raw, cold workshop before we actually moved in. Please excuse the sub-par photos... they are clips from a video I took with my iPhone.

The Grand Entrance

 

This room is an extension off the garage. It was once the wood shed. Which came first... the wood shed or the garage? That I don't know. We do know the garage came after the house. My guess would be the woodshed came before the garage.

The South Wall

A wall of peg board.  A crafty girl's dream!  The wall rests on a large, wooden beam that runs the length of the room with stone and mortar below that.  Totally awesome!  I know it's dirty and in not-so-good condition... but can't you see the potential?!

The East Wall 

This is one of two walls that is built into a hill.  It also has peg board that sits on a wooden beam.  Again, totally awesome!  You can see the damage caused by the water that seeped through the stone wall.  The worst area is the corner behind that propane dinosaur [which has since been removed}.  And, let me tell you... stone walls and a concrete floor is COLD in the winter time!  I have plug-in heaters that are not very energy efficient and raise our electric bill more than we'd like.  I think I'll go add "install heat" to the My 2012 list!  Can you see the pull-down steps to my very own attic space?  Now, how to convince Mr. Homestead to finish off that space so it's more usable.  And, how about a spiral staircase instead of pull-down stairs?  Oh yeah, I'm on a roll... 

The North Wall - Left Side

 

More peg board.  More wooden beams.  More stone walls.  More awesomeness!  This is the other wall that is built into a hill and it leaked the most.  I am fighting the growth of efflorescence on both the west and north walls.  Mr. Homestead and nephew Aaron dug a French drain the entire length of the workshop so that all of the water runoff from the gutter drained away from the workshop and out to the driveway.  Water problem solved.  I treated the efflorescence once already [before the French drain was installed], but some of it is growing back.  I will treat it again and hopefully this time will be the last time. 

The North Wall - Right Side


You guessed it... peg board, wooden beam, and stone wall.  Y'all don't miss anything, do you?  To give you an idea of how deep my workshop is built into this hill... I can open both windows and put my hand in the grass [and pet the dogs when they come to investigate what I'm doing].  This window is higher than the window on the west wall.  Being not-tall, I'd need a step stool to actually touch the grass and pet the dogs... but those are just minor details.  Basically, the stone walls are keeping back the earth and the wooden beams sit just above ground level.  It does make for a lovely view though!

The East Wall - Left Side


More of the same here.  This window looks out into the garage... another reason I think this space came before the garage.  And the garage attic space built around the workshop attic space.  Mystery solved!


The East Wall - Right Side

We have now come full-circle in my workshop. I have my own electrical panel, which makes adding more outlets and fuses so I stop tripping the breaker very exciting! Did I mention Mr. Homestead is an [excellent] electrician by trade? And, NO... our garage DOES NOT currently look like that! We can't even park in our 2-car garage... yet.

My workshop looks different now. All of the peg board is painted. Shelves and cubbies are hung on the wall. Notions and other crafting necessities are at home on their hooks. Stay tuned for a post of "now" pictures...

How is your Funky Junk Interiors Picture Perfect room challenge going? Will you be ready for the First Bragfest Linkup on Friday, January 27th?

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