Quick Tip & Pets – Cat Scratch Mat

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My cats Rusty…

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and Hans, love to sharpen their claws. This is not a good thing if it involves furniture or rugs. I’ve found a bit of catnip, a fibrous doormat, and a box of some kind makes a quick, easily moved, cat scratch mat.

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Place the mat over something that will give it some height.

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In our case we used a wooden box. Sprinkle the area that has a bit of a bend with catnip you’ve finely ground. The catnip sinks into the fibers. To stir this up for easier smell appeal my cats sharpen their claws against the swell of the mat against the box. Voilà  the perfect cat scratch toy, and better yet, it is about a third of the price what a store-bought mat will cost you.

Quick Tip – Easy Translation

 

Hello, My Friend – English
Helo, fy ffrind – Welsh
Hallo, Mein Freund – German

There are times I will visit a blog and find the post is written in another language. Google Translate is a great tool for detecting languages and translating the words into your own. I’ve also used the translator to compose a comment when a blog is written in another language. In the box above I’ve used the translator to say hello in a few of my ancestral languages.

Quick Tip – Transferring Letters Part II/Defeating the Wind

One of my blogging promises has been to post on projects or plans that don’t work as planned. Yesterday, after hanging my newly crafted plaque, I looked out the window to see an empty hook. The plaque was lying topsy-turvy on the front lawn, the wire I used to hang it broken and frayed. Hmmmm….my plaque was behaving more like a windmill than a sign of peace. What was the solution?

I tried taping first…electrical tape, duct tape. My next idea was a shepherd’s hook positioned directly beneath the plaque. None of my solutions worked. Finally, the answer dawned on me. I needed to keep the plaque steady by stabilizing more than just the center of the hanger, which by the way I replaced with a sturdy leather lace.

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Success!!! After moving the plaque closer to the house to block some of the wind, I found two hooks worked to keep the plaque from wildly swinging, and my “PEACE ON EARTH” stayed firmly in place through a very windy night. The moral of my tale: Sometimes two hooks work better than one.

Quick Tip – Transferring Letters

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Creating this simple ‘PEACE ON EARTH’ plaque was easy and inexpensive. A scrap piece of wood would work just as well as a purchased plaque. I used FolkArt artist pigments for the best possible coverage. Because I wanted the wood to look rustic I only gave it one coat of Napthol Crimson.

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The Napthol Crimson alone was a little brighter than I expected; I used Liquitex Transparent Burnt Umber Ink to antique the plaque. It worked perfectly. Quick Tip: Use a disposable brush to apply the ink, wipe off quickly to remove the majority of the color.

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I chose a font and printed out letters in the size I desired for the plaque. I was lucky, you can see I almost ran out of ink. To transfer these letters to the plaque I colored over the back with a piece of children’s sidewalk chalk.

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Taped onto the front of the plaque with painter’s tape, I was able to trace around the edges of these letters with a ballpoint pen and transfer the chalk to the plaque. The outline is easy to see, yet any residue left behind after painting can wiped away when the paint is dry.

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I used a gold acrylic paint to fill in the letters. A swipe of black paint along the right sides gave the letters a bit of shadowy dimension.

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PEACE ON EARTH TO ALL MY BLOGGING FRIENDS! A BLESSED DECEMBER TO YOU.

Posies – Easy Bouquet & Quick Tip

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White miniature Roses, Baby’s Breath, light green Mini-Carnations and Hypericum Berries are usually available in the floral department of many grocers.

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This combination, in the neutral colors I’ve chosen, or in any pretty color combination, make a fast and easy bouquet.

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Quick Tip: The outer petals of roses are often browned or damaged. You will do no harm to the rose if you gently peel these petals away. Cut all flower stems on an angle to keep the bottoms from resting flush against the vase, this allows more water to flow through the stem.

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A tall narrow vase works best for this arrangement. Cut the mini-carnations a few inches taller than the vase. Insert them into the water like the spokes on wheel.

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Add the rose stems next, cut most of these double the height of the vase, with one or two an inch or two taller. The bottom stems of the carnation, will help hold the roses in place.

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Fill in with some Hypercium Berries and Baby’s Breath. There you have it, the transformation of a few bunches of flowers into a bouquet that can rival anything you purchase in a floral shop.

Quick Tip – Pinpoint Repairs

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A good glue can certainly make life easier. We all need to make repairs at some time; having the right glue on hand can eliminate frustrations large and small.

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I found Beadalon G-S Hypo Cement in the jewelry section of the craft store. It was pricey for such a small tube, but I had a 40% off coupon. The glue comes out after a slight squeeze and is easy to apply. The needle-like tip places a small amount of glue in the exact location needed without any difficulty.

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I placed the post of my stud earring in a bristle brush while it was drying.

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The hardest aspect of using this glue was getting the cap wire back into the applicator tip. This glue is toxic if swallowed or inhaled. Keep off of skin.

I will keep a supply of Beadalon Hypo Cement on hand to repair jewelry and for other projects that need small amounts of adhesive.

Plantings – Tip on Tuesday/Collecting Seeds

Coleus seed pods
Coleus seed pods

The beautiful blossoms of summer have dwindled leaving an abundance of seeds in their wake. It’s time to collect for next year’s garden!

Hyacinth Bean Vine Pod
Hyacinth Bean Vine Pod

Recycled water bottles are my container of choice this year for collecting seeds. I’ve overturned many a plate, glass and paper bag while collecting in past years. I’ve found holding a water bottle between my body and upper arm frees both hands. Even if I drop the bottle, the small opening keeps a good portion of the seeds from spilling out. Give it a try!

  • Let the seeds dry for a week or two in the bottle before packaging/storing
  • Store your foil-wrapped seeds in a jar/container in the fridge or cold garage, some seeds need a period of cold (cold stratification) to germinate.

Quick Tip – Did You Know? Free Audiobooks

Did you now that many classic works of fiction are available in a read-aloud fashion on Youtube? I recently listened to ‘1984’ by George Orwell, and for a happier change of pace am now listening to ‘Enchanted April’ by Elizabeth Von Arnim. The quality of the reading is very good, comparable to a library or purchased audiobook. The one change I made in listening was to purchase an inexpensive pair of portable speakers for my computer to bump up the sound just a notch.

Since most books are several hours long, make note of where you stop. At times the book will begin again where I stopped it, but don’t count on this feature. I’m near the end of ‘Enchanted April,’ and will soon be searching for a new book to begin.

Quick Tip & Posies – September Bouquet

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My summertime flowers are still going strong. Though a few have bloomed their last, in many instances they have left behind beautiful pods and seed heads. I used several of these in two summertime bouquets for my table.

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Here’s a close-up view of several of the pods in my bouquets. Flowers used in the bouquets: white hydrangeas, sunflowers, zinnias, rose, rudbeckia, bee balm, and blue perennial lobelia.

Quick Tip – Stabilizing Pots

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I had a late start growing my coleus from seed this year. To give them a better chance to grow larger, I planted them in pre-fertilized potting soil in pots. My ivy beds beneath the pines were the perfect spot for the pots to sit. The vines were the perfect height and strength to hold the pots in place. Now some of the coleus are nearing twelve to eighteen inches in height. The wind has continually knocked them over in the last few weeks. To stabilize the pots and keep them from overturning I aligned short stakes with the drainage holes and hammered them into the ground. This has worked perfectly, a quick solution to a constant problem. I also thought a dollar store pack of pencils would have done the trick for holding the pots in place. Sharpened, and pounded in through the drainage areas, they would also keep the pots stable.

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anthirrium

Quick Tip – Houseplant Grooming

The low humidity in heated homes causes curling edges and browning of houseplant leaves. A trim with a pair of scissors is a quick fix. This is temporary, as the edge will continue to brown, but the plant looks better in the meantime.

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Placing a pan of water near a heating vent can easily add humidity to a room.

Quick Tip – Hidden Sources of Aluminum

Did you know Baking Powder (Baking Soda is aluminum free ) contains aluminum unless otherwise stated on the container it is sold in? This is what gives some baked goods a tinny taste.

ALUMINUM

“One of the least expensive, and most effective, things you can do to improve the taste of your cakes, quick breads, cookies, and muffins is to switch to aluminum-free baking powder right away.” ~ David Lebovitz

Why You Should Use Aluminum-Free Baking Powder by David Lebovitz is an informative article on avoiding aluminum in baking powder.

Aluminum is toxic in food. Aluminum can be absorbed through the skin through deodorants and lotions.

A substitute for baking powder can be made by combining these easily available ingredients:
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch.

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Quick Tip – Candy Cane Cure

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Candy Canes, made with natural peppermint oil, are not just decorative and fun to eat; candy canes can battle stomach ailments during the holiday season.

“Peppermint is effective at settling an upset stomach, and it tastes strong and refreshing. If that rich holiday dinner leaves you feeling a little queasy, just snag a candy cane off the tree and you have dessert and a convenient stomach remedy all in one. It also makes a handy breath freshener. If you don’t have a candy cane around, a peppermint lozenge will work just as well.” ~ How Stuff Works

Read more on the history and benefits of candy canes: How Stuff Works – Candy Canes

Pheathers & Quick Tip – Winter Bird Bath Solutions

“Bathing is especially important in cold weather in order to keep feathers in top condition. Research has shown that a chickadee with well-maintained feathers can sustain a 70 degree layer of insulation between the outside air and its skin”. Wild Birds Unlimited

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I have a bird bath that is over fifty years old. It once sat in the yard of my grandparents in McDonald, Pennsylvania. I remember peering into it, so small that my eyes were level with the rim, fascinated by the mirrored bottom. Leaving this heirloom outdoors in the cold is not an option. The constant freeze and thaw of winter weather would likely crack it. Still, birds need water in the winter as much as they do in summertime. I decided a solution would be to replace the bird bath with a Rubbermaid trashcan lid. The plastic should expand and contract during freezing weather without cracking. The lid is also very light and will be easy to empty out and change. When the water in the lid freezes, I can pour on a bit of hot water for thawing, without worrying about cracking.

The birds accepted the lid as a substitute for the fancier bird bath. Within a hour or two of setting up the bath  a little sparrow took a quick dip. Oh Happy Day

Plants & Quick Tip – Amaryllis Blooms & Natural Supports

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My amaryllis has opened, displaying white petals blushed with pink. Before the plant bloomed, the heaviness of the buds caused the stem to lean precariously to the right. A quick walk in the woods yielded a dead branch from a laurel bush. I prefer to use natural support for my houseplants. The curvy twig was the perfect helping hand for my amaryllis stem, and gives an artsy/woodsy feel to the flower display.

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windowsill herbs

Quick Tip – Repelling Fruit Flies

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This year, the usual horde of fruit flies swarming our fruit bowl seemed non-existent. I realized this is probably due to the herbs we have on our kitchen windowsill. Strong-smelling herbs, oregano, rosemary and others, repel fruit flies. Even in winter months a few stray fruit flies make their winter abode in our home. To keep them out of the fruit bowl I’ve placed a piece of rosemary amidst the fruits.

Herbs that Repel Insects