Friday, February 20, 2015

My Decluttering and Spring Cleaning Project

We have had a few days now of beautiful sunny weather, and although it is a bit early for all of this spring weather, I am loving it! :) Whenever sunshine pours in through my windows I am motivated to get things clean and organized. This year I have some fun goals to deeply organize our home and get things more streamlined. I can't stand clutter, but at the same time I am drawn to eclectic baubles and collectibles. I also tend to be a natural at archiving family history and memorabilia. Both traits that can lead to too much clutter. My youngest child is graduating this year, and I am transitioning from a mom of kids to a busy household with young adults. So this year I wanted to honor that transition by really thinning out unimportant things to make our space easier to maintain, and not bogged down with too much stuff. Since Lent began this past Wednesday I thought it was the perfect time to start this project, instead of giving up something like sweets, which I am not really inclined to do, I decided to give up stuff. I have decided to get rid of 40 bags of clutter in 40 days.

I am off to a good start with five bags done. My sweet old dog Xena is overseeing the process, and making sure her toys are not decluttered! This won't be too easy since I did a good declutter of closets and such this past autumn, but it is surprising what you can go back and decide to get rid of after all when you really approach it with fervor. I got rid of clothes that have been in my closet for some time, they were beautiful and good quality, but either they were not my style or not my color. I am often drawn to clothes in the colors I like, but colors I may like in a home or garden aren't necessarily colors I should be wearing, so they sit in my closet, taking up room where clothes in colors I actually will wear could be.

I also recently organized my costume jewelry. I got two inexpensive hooks at the hardware store in a nice copper brown, and hubby installed them for me on the little wall space between my closet and the bookcase in our room. Below that I re-purposed an old plant stand I had to hold my little jewelry box that holds my bracelets and brooches. This way I can easily see my jewelry and it stays nice and untangled. This little five dollar project has made me very happy, I love the way I can see my jewelry when I am getting ready for the day. :)

Like I said, I am drawn to collectibles. I am trying to narrow down what I keep to the collections that are most important to me. One of my first collections ever was my kaleidoscope collection. I keep out my favorite ones on the top shelf of the bookcase in my bedroom surrounding a pretty luminary lamp I found years ago. I know I only want to keep the items that I like enough to move when I dust, that helps limit my collections to a reasonable amount. :)  This week I will be tackling my office, we need to really thin it out and make space for all of us to have a computer station, not sure how that will happen in my tiny office but I'm up for the challenge! Plus I will be going through holiday stuff, every time I try to thin out my holiday decor it is the holiday season, when I am more sentimentally attached to the items. I am hoping that by sorting them in the off season I will have a more logical frame of mind. I hope to post more about my decluttering spring project over the next month.

In other news, it is Girl Scout cookie season. The sweetest little Daisy Scout came around with her mother selling cookies. My Sarah was a Daisy Scout when she was little and it brought back great memories. So of course I bought a few boxes! The perfect little snack, cookies and milk, a nice treat for a mid spring cleaning break!

Thanks for stopping by! :)

Check out my recent post about The Great Backyard Bird Count!

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count 2015

This has been a fun weekend. We had a lot of fun celebrating Valentine's Day as a family. I also really enjoyed taking part in The Great Backyard Bird Count through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. I have wanted to do this for quite a few years, but usually remember a bit too late, this year I was on top of my bird watching, and had a camera, binoculars, and pen and paper ready to go. I have always been a fan of exploring nature, and bird watching tops my list. You can read about the backyard birds that frequent my backyard in many of my posts, such as The Backyard Birds from Autumn, I posted about this past November. Here are some of the birds that have visited during this weekend's bird count.

The first day I was bird watching there was quite a bit of fog, but with my camera fully zoomed, I was able to zoom in on some of the jays that were playing in the trees behind my yard, as well as a robin. There were plenty of my regular visitors, black capped chickadees, as well as the fully black headed little birds, similar to the black capped chickadee in size, which I thought were just another type of chickadee, but have since learned are junkos. We had a lone little finch which I could not capture a good photo of due to it being fast and very tiny. Our finch usually arrive in about a month, and then the yard will be full of them. :)

On Valentine's Day as I was waiting for everyone to be ready to leave on our outing, I looked out the window and was surprised by the cutest flock of teeny tiny birds, which I believe are bushtits. They are so teeny, and travel in such a large little group, I was quite happy to see them at the suet feeder. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos, they ate for a bit, then were on their way. I only see these little birds once or twice a year, so it was a real treat. My kids thought I was a bit nuts for my excitement over these cuties, but they are used to me getting giddy over different birds stopping by. :)

Of course I also counted up a good number of house sparrow, that live here year round, and occupy my bird houses, as well as nooks and crannies all over the neighborhood. I observe these birds the most, and I think they have such cute little characteristics.

I am lucky to live in a rural area with lots of birds, and have also made my yard inviting to birds by creating a backyard habitat friendly to birds. You can read about our Certified Backyard Habitat in this post. Watching the different birds that stop by my little yard makes me very happy. This year I hope to expand my bird watching by visiting some bird watching locations out and about, and seeing how many different birds I can spot.

If you are interested in taking part in The Great Backyard Bird Count there is still time, stop on by the website for more info through the link. Otherwise mark your calendar for next year, this was a really fun event to take part in!


Aside from the bird watching I had a nice Valentine's week. This sunrise one day last week seemed like the perfect pink Valentine's week sunrise there could be. The sky was stunning and vibrantly pink. 

We spent Valentine's Day at one of our favorite spots, Powell's Books! Last time we went to the Powell's location in downtown Portland, which is a really fun bookstore, but I wasn't really up for a trip into the city, so we decided to head out to the one in Beaverton, Oregon. This one is still quite a drive for us at nearly an hour away, but we took country roads most of the way and the scenery was beautiful. The Powell's in Beaverton isn't quite as big as the one in Portland, but is still huge. We all had fun exploring the books and found a few to bring home. Then after the bookstore we stopped in at Sonic Drive In, and had a yummy dinner. There are no Sonic Drive ins close to us, so we have only ever been once before, and it is still a fun and novel thing for us to do. The treats were tasty and it was a really enjoyable way to end the day. :)

So that is what we have been up to. :) Thanks for stopping by!

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Baked Donuts Birthday Cake and Valentine Preview

We have had a nice start to February. Last week we had a fun little celebration. Last week was the first night of the girl's youth group meeting here at our house, and it also happened to be my son's girlfriend's little sister's 15th birthday. So I thought a fun dessert was in order for the evening. I know the birthday girl is not a huge fan of run of the mill cake, so I thought I'd do something a little different, and make a cake out of doughnuts. I have doughnut pans for making baked donuts, and wanted to incorporate a cake mix style recipe. There are plenty of great cake mix baked doughnut recipes on Pinterest, they are all pretty similar, but I felt this one had a great tutorial - Funfetti Donuts. I used this recipe to make my donut cake.

The recipe is very easy, just mix together a box of Funfetti cake mix with 3/4 cup of buttermilk, 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, and 2 eggs. When the batter is mixed transfer to a gallon zip lock, and cut off the corner to pipe into greased donut pans. This recipe made an even dozen. Bake at 425 F. for about 8 minutes. Let donuts sit in pan for a couple of minutes until cool, then transfer to a cooling rack. Let the donuts completely cool before glazing.

For the glaze I combined two cups of powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and with just enough milk to make it smooth, I start out with a few Tablespoons then add milk a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency, thin enough to glaze, but still thick enough to be a good layer of icing. I also used a little pink food coloring. I diped the top half of each donut in the glaze, then set it back on the cooling rack, topped each donut with sprinkles, and let them dry a bit. Whenever I glaze I put a sheet of wax paper below the cooling racks to catch drips and make clean up easier. When the glaze had set up, I stacked the donuts on a platter and topped the donut cake with these cute chevron birthday candles I found.

The donut cake turned out really cute, and was a fun way to celebrate. This is definitely something I will be making again, I would love to try this recipe with all of the different cake flavors too. :)

In other news, early signs of spring are all around. We have had the weirdest winter so far, fairly warm, and not too wintery at all. Still no snow this year, but we often will have late February snow days around here, so who knows we may still get a bit of snow. We had the most surprising thunder and lightening storm last night as well! The first of the bulbs have started to blossom, the little narcissus and mini iris have bloomed this week. I even had quite the shock last week when I had to kill a giant yellow jacket that had decided to wake up for spring and surprise me in the living room, not the nicest of spring surprises! I felt it was way to early to start having to deal with yellow jackets! My most favorite sign of spring are my busy backyard birds and especially with the return of this pretty thrush. He has been hopping around my yard for a couple of weeks now, he seems to really enjoy my globe spruce and is often hopping around underneath. Last week I finally was able to snap a few pictures of him. I also heard him singing very beautifully in the trees along the little waterway behind my house, I zoomed in with the camera and sure enough it was our thrush, and from far away I heard another bird answer him after each of his calls. It was really neat to hear. :)

I am looking forward to Valentine's Day this coming Saturday. I still have some fun projects in mind that I hope to do this week. In the meantime I have set out some of my valentine decorations, as well as some new goodies I have found. I found this super cute fox candy dish for only $2.00 on clearance at Walmart, he is quirky and cute and I really love that I found it. I also picked up some cute little wooden and felt signs, and faux chalkboard signs from Target's dollar bins that I think updated my Valentine decor nicely. I think the signs look cute with the Valentine gnomes I needle felted a few years back.

I am also happy with this geometric brass sculpture I found at it looks nice with my other wood decor. I also found some fun new Washi tape for my collection, perfect for Valentine's Day crafting projects!

Thanks for stopping by, have a wonderful week ! :)

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