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What I’ve Been Up To

I am BACK! I can’t say that I was exactly on a vacation because I was actually getting a lot of stuff done.

Mostly, I was busy stocking and opening my new store on Etsy called Sweet April Cards and Gifts!! I would love it if you would check it out at www.sweetaprilcards.etsy.com and let me know what you think. So far, there are just blank note cards and Thank You cards in the shop but I am planning on adding a variety of gifts in the upcoming weeks… hopefully some in time for Mother’s Day.

Also, check out this week’s featured card, a bright design with flowing vines and modern paisley print.

I would really appreciate it if you could leave me a comment here or send me an email at sweetaprilcards@gmail.com to let me know what you think of my site overall, the products I currently have for sale, any similar products you would love to see, the price range for the cards or anything else that strikes. There’s nothing better than getting some advice from the public on what they would like to see, so please… advise and request away! If you like my work, head on over to my Facebook page and like me there: https://www.facebook.com/SweetAprilCardsAndGifts . You can also follow my Twitter @SweetAprilCards.

I am excited to be back blogging after dedicating my time to other things. With all of our spring weather, I have so many great things to share with you about all the little changes in our yard and landscaping and the delicious foods I have been making on the grill.

Just as a little “taste” of spring, here’s one of my current favorite creations. I got the idea from a grilling recipe book but then completely changed it around. These burgers are phenomenally juicy and absolutely delicious. Sorry that I don’t have any pictures but I’ll let you use your imagination instead.

Blue Cheese Turkey Burgers

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey

1/4 cup chunky blue cheese dressing

1/3 cup plain bread crumbs

6 mozzarella cheese slices

Directions:

Mix the first 3 ingredients together completely with a wooden spoon. Form into 6 equal patties.

Grill over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once.

Place a slice of cheese on each patty for the last minute of grilling time.

Serve on hamburger buns (or like I did, on Grand’s Buttermilk Biscuits) with you choice of condiments.

So… head on over to Sweet April, tell me what you think and I’ll see you again soon!

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Dear Rust Stains, Please Leave My House!

Back to my nasty bathroom sink. Just in case you forgot what it looked like, here it is.

After my post about getting rust stains of a porcelain sink, I got a few helpful comments from readers. Thank you so much for those! It’s so fabulous to get helpful hints from people across the country and even around the world. Let me pass some of them on!

One idea from Cleaninup Kate was to use cream of tartar along with some hydrogen peroxide if the stains are particularly bad. I did give that a shot since I had both of those products on hand. It worked a little but I think my sink was too far gone for a home remedy. On to the big guns!

Another reader alerted me to some products that she had used when she was living in northern Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes and 10,000 gallons of hard water. She mentioned Red-B-Gone as well as Whink Stain Remover, both of which can be purchased online. Check out the Pro Products website or the Whink Products website if you are interested.

The last product that she mentioned, we actually already had hiding down in our basement. Iron Out. Why haven’t I used it before? I have no idea! The fumes can be a bit much so make sure that you have adequate ventilation.

This is a powder that can be used on many things including toilets, sinks, showers, the dishwasher and in your laundry. I first wet the sink and a scrubbing brush, then sprinkled some powder on the brush. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed (let me tell you, I worked up a sweat the way I was scrubbing!).

Now it’s looking a lot better although it still needs some more Iron Out-ing sometime when I have regained my energy.

Thanks again to all my helpful readers! I appreciate any helpful hints and tips that you have for me!

You can email me anytime at myorganizednest@gmail.com if you have any questions, comments or tips about organizing, cleaning, cooking, decorating or crafts and do-it-yourself projects.

Cheaper But Just As Nice… Or At Least Just As Functional

I have a great excuse for why this post is so late tonight. I was paging through my March 2012 copy of House Beautiful. House Beautiful is a fantastic magazine for imagining your dream house or for discovering the newest decorating trends. However, it doesn’t usually help me out too much in my own decorating. There are two reasons for that.

Reason one: price, Price, PRICE! If I were rich, perhaps I could look at these pages with a different mindset, but until my ship comes in…

Check out that big green picture above. It is massive, over 7 feet long! And it is made out of dried sphagnum, Spanish and mood moss. Pretty impressive. But not only do I not have a wall long enough and open enough for that, I don’t have a room modern enough for it, nor do I have a bank account big enough. Would you believe $3,995?

Another example. I love the idea of the retro chaise lounge. I could definitely see one in my bedroom someday. Don’t you just love them? But I’m pretty sure I won’t be dropping $4,538 on it, which is the price of the bottom center chaise. I do applaud them for including an offering from Ikea – the center green chaise lounge. More than affordable for my lifestyle at a super-reasonable $349. Now if I only had a box of trufffles and bon bons sitting next to my chaise lounge…

Reason two: Not really my style sometimes. Now there are parts of this dining room that I do like… the Persian-looking rug, the mirror, the hardwood floors. But on a whole, I like lighter and brighter areas with a more relaxed and inviting look.

Features I like about this kitchen? I love the brightness and I love the sparkling clean look of the Lucite table and white counters and cabinets. And I love, love, love the color of those beautiful aqua chairs! However, this would never fit my lifestyle unless a) my cats never entered the kitchen, b) I never planned to have children, c) I would never cook anything with red sauce again. Oh, and did I mention that I would absolutely LOATHE dusting that… uhhh… chandelier?

And now, just because I’m so wrapped up in this issue, here’s a room I love. This is a great little reading and relaxing nook that turns into a guest bedroom when needed (check out the great daybed!). The crisp white looks great when paired with a very neutral cream. Very clean and cool looking.

And ahhhhh, check out that tub! And the woodworking! And I wouldn’t complain about having a bathroom so large that I could put a plush ottoman in the center!

Ok, now I guess I should move on and show you the not-quite-so-elegant changes going on in my house. Once again, remember I have a budget of virtually nil and an older home with small spaces.

Change number one happened in our dining room. I can’t say that I’m quite a fan of the design of the dining room chandelier (if you could call it that). It kind of reminds me of those old bathtubs with the claw feet. Anyway, more drastic changes may eventually hit it one day, but for now, I stuck with a small change of the glass pendants.

We went from this…

… to this. Not perfect, but a little more modern. And they were FREE, which is always a plus, since I had purchased them for a different light a couple of years ago.

Hmmmm, do I see some kind of spray paint in this chandelier’s future? I’m not going to change it until I have a solid idea of what I want in this room.

Change number two involved a nightstand for our master bedroom. For an older home, our master bedroom is actually a pretty decent size. However, fitting a queen bed on the one half of the room leaves very little room for nightstands on either side of it. While searching for nightstands, I discovered that most of them are much wider than they are deep. My problem was that I only had 17 to 18 inches on either side of the bed. I also wanted something with at least a small drawer to keep a few things from the reach of the kitties.

Enter this thrift store purchase. It’s an old-school living room end table with the faux-leather finish on the top. Parts of it remind me very much of a couple older pieces that were in my family’s home growing up. After cleaning all the wood up, it looked pretty awesome for less than $30. Plus, it could be rather multi-functional should we ever move.

And… TA-DA! It fits perfectly.

On the other side of the bed, I have a narrow bookshelf that works out perfectly. I am very thankful that the modern trend is to mix and match certain kinds of furniture instead of having complete matchy-matchy sets.

So, while I may occasionally like to steal a few looks from House Beautiful, I am perfectly content with the small changes that I can afford to make in my own cozy, little nest.

(Note: The first 7 pictures were taken from House Beautiful, March 2012, published by Hearst Magazines.)

Tips to Speed up a Web Browser

We had our first honest-to-goodness thunderstorm yesterday, complete with tons of lightning and hail. I cannot believe this March weather! The grass is a shade greener from all that rain, and the tree outside the window I am sitting next to has beautiful dark red buds. Who knows? Maybe it will soon be time to think about planting flowers, herbs and vegetables as well as getting our landscaping into shape. I’m sure we can create some beautiful landscaping with our large country lot, mature trees, and our lake and lake cottage. I’m getting excited just thinking about it!

Much as I would love to drone on and on about landscaping, I’d better do what I actually promised and give you a couple tips for speeding up your web browsing. Not quite as exciting, right? Think of it this way. The faster you get your web browsing done, the sooner you can get outside into the beautiful weather! (That’s stretching it, I know.)

Of course, your first thought regarding slow internet browsing may be to increase your connection speed. However, there are a couple free options that you can try first.

First, are you using the latest web browser? Go to www.whatbrowser.org to find out if you have the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer. Many people like Google Chrome since it has been shown to work up to fifty percent faster than other browsers. I must confess though that I am still an Internet Explorer girl.

Second, how long do you save your browsing history? To check or change this, select Internet Options under Tools on your browser. Next select settings on the General page and change the browsing history to the number of days that you wish.

Third, how many add-ons do you have running? You can check this under Internet Options as well. Select the Programs tab, then click Manage Add-ons.

It will pull up a screen that will show you all the add-ons you have installed, which ones are currently enabled to run on your browser and how long it takes each of them to load on a browser page. Some don’t take any time at all, while some, such as JavaScript or an internet security program may add a second or two.

I hope these tips speed up your life a little!

Banana Bread with a New Spin

I don’t know about you, but I sure do like homemade banana bread (which is pretty strange since I’m not all that fond of bananas themselves)! If I have bananas in the house that didn’t get eaten when they were the perfect yellow color, they typically get made into bread… or chocolate banana milk shakes, which is a different post entirely.

So, I’ll bet you’ve guessed it already, but I have a few bananas hanging around in my fruit basket just begging to get mashed. Here’s my spin on banana bread that gives it a nuttier taste and a healthier vibe.

A couple notes. This recipe makes two loaves. Also, I have cut the amount of sugar in half from what would be a normal amount. It still tastes great with the natural fruit sugars, but if you have a sweet tooth, you may want to add a bit more.

Banana Nut Bread with Streusel Topping

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 Tbs. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

4 eggs, beaten

2 – 2 1/2 cups ripe bananas, mashed (about 6 large bananas)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup cooking oil (canola or olive)

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

3 Tbs. cold butter

1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. packed brown sugar

3 Tbs. all-purpose flour

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (first 8 ingredients).

In a mixing bowl, beat the mashed bananas, eggs, sugar, butter and oil on low speed until combined.

Add the dry ingredients all at once. Stir together just until moistened.

Fold in walnuts.

Pour batter into two greased 8 x 4 inch loaf pans.

In another bowl, cut the cold butter into the brown sugar and flour until it looks like coarse crumbs. Spoon this streusel topping over both loaves.

Bake loaves in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool on racks for ten minutes before removing the bread from pans. Store in the refrigerator after cooling.

If you’d like to print this recipe out as a recipe card, you can download this Word document below.

Banana Nut Bread

Happy Baking!

Double Duty

Today, you get two posts for the price of one since I skipped out yesterday. Too much to do around the house! As we Minnesotans say, “Uffda!”

As for cleaning tips… I keep seeing recipes all over the place for make-them-yourself household cleaners. I’ve used some that are great and that do the job for a lot cheaper than their store-bought counterparts. (For example, check out my previous post about cleaning around the house with white vinegar.) I saw one recently though that I had never tried. It was pretty simple.

Supplies? Baking soda and a scrubbing brush.

Apparently, baking soda is supposed to make a great scouring powder for bathroom sinks and toilets. We decided to give it the ultimate test in our home. Our one-hundred-year-old home has quite the issues with iron in the water… to the point that you can smell it when you are running the hot water. We use a water softener with special salt for iron and we use another additive in the softener on top of that. So there’s no telling how bad it could be without these measures. Despite all this, we still deal with rust deposits in our sinks, toilets and shower. One of our more frequent battles is with the upstairs sink. Check out this impressive orange color.

My husband decided to give the baking soda a try.

Here’s the finished look. Now, if you don’t mind having an orange sink, the baking soda did get rid of the soap scum and dirt.

He then decided to follow up with our usual Comet Cleanser. It definitely looked better after that although we still have a ways to go to get rid of all the orange. My conclusion – baking soda is a great scouring powder for your general dirt and soap scum and is certainly a cheap solution but probably won’t do great with long-term stains!

Do any of you deal with majorly rusty water and have some great ways to clean stained sinks and toilets? I would welcome any hints!

Here’s a super quick look at some DIY I’ve been doing. Over the years, much of my furniture has gotten nicked up from moving, cat clawingand general living. I had previously used some basic furniture markers but had never been terribly impressed with them.

This time I decided to drop a little more money on a better product. I purchased a Minwax stain marker. Thankfully, most of my furniture is a dark stain so I was able to get just one marker for under $6. I purchased the Dark Walnut color. This marker has absolutely saved some of my furniture! While it certainly doesn’t fill in dented wood, I think it makes it look a thousand times better. I had spilled some of the liquid from a scented plug-in as well as some nail polish on my nightstand which had then gone through the polyurethane and stain to reveal the bare wood. I thought I would simply have to refinish it at some point, but now it looks so much better that I can’t even tell the wood was damaged unless I get really close. You should try the stain marker out if you need to do little repairs or small projects!

Check out the before and after on my coffee table. Certainly not perfect, but much better than before!

BEFORE

AFTER

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day weekend!

Stairway Picture Frames

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous here in central Minnesota. The only snow to be seen are tiny little piles here and there along the roadside. The sun is shining on the brown grass and it is so sonderful to hear the birds beginning to sing. I think we must live right under a Canada goose flyway because I have seen (and heard) so many flocks overhead. It is so funny to see the geese floating in the mostly frozen lakes. They sit in a few inches of water that covers all of the ice. I’ve seen chickadees and heard a woodpecker; now it’s just waiting for that first robin to herald the end of winter.

Big things have been happening in our home over the last few days too. I’m sure I’ll be sharing some of those things as well as some new projects that I am planning over the next couple weeks. But today, I thought I’d let you check out how my stairway pictures are coming along.

There’s not really any good angles for taking a picture that will show the entire layout of the steps. They are narrow and fairly steep and have a small landing halfway up.

This shows the beginning of the stairs and part of the living room (which looks different now due to some of the changes I was talking about).

The next two pictures show the first half of the steps before the landing.

This last picture shows the top half of the steps.

I’m really happy with how the frames look now that they’re up on the wall. I feel that they flow well but don’t look too uniformly boring. However, I haven’t decided my exact feelings about the flowers yet. Sometimes I like them, but other times they look a little silly. I’ve thought about taking all of them down or taking half of them down. I could put a few of them in my bedroom and save the rest for the future. What do you guys think? Are the flowers too crazy? I’m hoping that once I put my pictures (which I still need to order) in the frames and add some color, perhaps the flowers will look better.