Archive for the ‘Home and Garden’ Category

One-Day Tuesday Mystery Item - March 8

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

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One-Day Tuesday Featured Item

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

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Gifts From My Mother

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Recently, while cleaning someone else’s bathroom floor, I thought to myself, ”My mother would have had a fit.” Although the middle of the floor had been kept clean, the sides, corners, and behind the door hadn’t been cleaned in years. I was taken back to my teens, with my mother telling me how important it was to clean thoroughly, and me arguing back, ”Who cares; no one ever sees it anyway?” She was teaching me the right way to clean, and as a teen, I was arguing for the easy way. Now, years later, I was witnessing what happens when you don’t know how to clean properly. Not only had I never thanked my mother for teaching me this valuable skill, I had argued with her about it.

My mother passed away before I owned a house, was married, or had children. While she was alive, I was in frequent touch and told her how much I loved her, but while cleaning this bathroom floor, I realized she gave me so many gifts I had never really thought about — gifts I use or benefit from to this day. So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mother for all the gifts I didn’t know were gifts:

• Teaching us that a clean house is important, but family time was more important.

• Showing us that people were more important than things. No matter what broke, spilled or went wrong, you always asked ”Are you ok?” before you asked about the things.

• Having us work beside you until we could do the job right by ourselves.

• Making us clean the kitchen and stay there until everyone was finished. At the time, I thought you were just trying to make sure the whole job was done and no one said, ”That’s not my job.” Now I realize you were also creating bonds between us siblings.

• Making us go to our siblings’ activities. This increased our circle of support and helped keep us out of trouble.

• Teaching us to be polite to older or lonely people — sometimes that is the only chance they get to communicate all day.

• Being there to listen when we needed someone to listen (I doubt anyone realizes what a gift this is until their mother is gone), and listening to us with your full attention — not only to us but to our friends as well.

• Believing in me. To this day, I think of you when I am having challenges.

• Teaching me how to iron, stand up straight, and swim.

• Enjoying my company and biting your tongue when I came up with my grand philosophical ideas.

• Letting me learn and accepting that Chemistry was as hard for me as Spanish was for you.

• Showing me that even after failures or problems, we can pick ourselves up and go on with life.

As we approach this Mother’s Day, I hope we can all take the time to think about the intangibles gifts from our mothers and the other important women in our lives.

Taking That First Step

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I am hooked on all the home decorating shows that are so popular now. Whether it is a do-it-yourself show, or a have-someone-do-it-for-you show, I’m there. Maybe part of the reason I am so into these shows is that my family and I have been living in a perpetual state of remodeling for the last several years. We bought our house 11 years ago, knowing that it would take ‘quite a while’ to get it into the state we wanted. The house was built in the early 1970’s, with the shag carpet and redwood siding to prove it. The kitchen didn’t have any cabinet doors and the floor was a cement slab, but the multi-levels and huge windows in every room captivated us. Even the lack of an oven didn’t dissuade us. You’d be surprised how well cookies turn out when baked in the barbeque. Well, after several years, we were finally ready to get started. The boys, of course, were convinced their bedrooms wouldn’t be finished until after they left for college, but I am happy to report they are now moved into their rooms and the oldest won’t graduate from high school until later this year. Ha!

One of the reasons we were so hesitant to start on this massive undertaking was that we were terrified of doing it ‘wrong.’ How would we know if we picked the right colors for the walls or the right flooring? There were so many details and so many choices for each thing that at times we were paralyzed with indecision. Finally, we just started. (I use the term ‘we’ rather loosely. I didn’t offer much in the way of physical labor; I was busy trying to regulate the temperature in the barbeque, but I did offer a lot in the way of support and ideas.)

Now, when I stand in my gorgeous, magazine-worthy kitchen (thank you, Scotty and Dad) and inhale the delicious aroma of dinner roasting in one oven while dessert bakes in the other, I think back on how uncertainty limited us for so many years, when all we had to do was take the first step. We finally stopped worrying about what anyone else would think of the choices we made. We weren’t doing all of this work for anyone other than ourselves and we needed to make it work for our family and no one else. I am trying to apply this lesson to other areas of my life as well. Some decisions are more critical than others, but when I remember that I am unique and that what is best for me and my family may not be best for someone else, it is easier to take the first step. Even if I have to pause and change my course a little, as long as I listen to my heart I know the end result will be beautiful.

Enter the Land of Dirt and Bugs

Friday, February 5th, 2010

I don’t think there is a worm left in our yard that hasn’t been turned. My son has discovered the joys of digging in the soil, and every rock, block, and grain of sand has been flipped in his search for underground creatures. At any given time I am sure to find a container of dirt in the yard, a new ”home” for his bugs until he releases them back to the earth. I think his fingernails will always have dirt embedded underneath them, despite my attempts with a nailbrush and a firm scrubbing every night.

I used to enjoy digging and getting dirty too, back when I was called a ”tomboy,” rode an oversized bicycle around the neighborhood, and didn’t come home until the streetlights came on. I spent spring days after school outside with my mom’s trowel, digging big holes in the yard (which I know my mom appreciated!). I’d happily scrape my trowel deep enough to reach past the sandy top layer, through the moist dark layer, down to the red clay treasure until it was too hard to dig anymore.

This spring, may we all have time to dig a little deeper and get our hands messy alongside our kids. By gardening, bug hunting, and exploring in the dirt together, we not only connect with our children and to the earth, we are also reminded of the outdoor memories of our own childhood. Remember the delight of holding a leaf that was bigger than your head or the fascination of watching an earthworm or caterpillar wriggle in front of you? And of course you could just take a trowel and dig as deep a hole as possible, not with any purpose, but just because you can!

I Think it’s Time

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

”I think it’s time,” my friend Kathleen said as she looked at the wilted tangle of vines hanging from the basket on my patio. Last summer, they were a lush tumble of bright blue morning glories. The thought of now chucking the whole shebang into the compost bin felt a little harsh to me. After all, I had known these vines from the time they were little seeds in a packet!

I know I’m not alone in sometimes hanging on to things that no longer add any value to my life. Some of us stay in relationships way past their shelf life, others stubbornly refuse to lose the spare tire ’round our middle, and others fiercely hold on to our big hair like it’s 1987. Instead of making way for the new, we rationalize our resistance with all kinds of excuses: ”If I lose weight, I won’t be able to wear all my beautiful clothes.” ”If I rip out these dead vines, I will admit defeat as a gardener. (Besides, it’s not like the whole plant is dead. Every morning, there’s one blossom that looks great.)” But for someone who has always followed William Morris’ words ”Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” since when is 99.9% dead a keeper for me?

Mother Nature’s got it down with spring. There are no stuck places in Nature. Everything runs its natural course, so there’s a beautiful flow that ultimately results in new life, new beauty. But what do we do? We hold on, even when what we have is 99% ugly. We hold on to our pain, anger, and resentment, and we wonder why we experience headaches, depression, and possibly even cancer?

We need to welcome spring into our beings. As Kathleen says, ”I think it’s time.” Let’s ask ourselves what it’s time to let go of. Spring is the perfect time to say goodbye to everything from that volunteer job that no longer brings joy to that 4-year-old jar of capers left over from the company picnic.

My hanging basket is once again an object of joy and beauty, this time with orange nasturtiums and blue and white allysum. I don’t miss the 1% of beauty my one lone morning glory blossom brought me. My basket reminds me of the importance of letting go and clearing space for the new. And if I feel this good after replanting a hanging basket, cleaning out my bedroom closet could very well catapult me into nirvana. Wishing you all a springtime of release and renewal!

Less Cleaning, More Meaning

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Once again, I am rushing around trying to spruce things up before guests come over. Don’t get me wrong, things are picked up and relatively organized, but why does it always seem that stuff just appears right before visitors are due to arrive? I know for a fact those dust bunnies I can see under the chair as I walk up the stairs were NOT there last night. Neither were the fingerprints on all the light switches, nor the smear across the front of the refrigerator. Where does it all come from? Maybe from the two teenage boys, the dog, the cat, and the perpetual remodeling projects in progress both inside and outside the house?

So, I take a deep breath, rip a drooping, yellow leaf off a plant as I pass by to answer the door, and have a sudden flashback of a weekend my family spent camping out in a friend’s backyard. There was nothing fancy about it; in fact, the yard was filled with 19 old cars, all in various states of disrepair, a few stacks of tires, some rusted yard implements, and several little buildings (shacks?) in need of a fresh coat of paint, among other things. There were three different enclosures filled with chickens, doves, parakeets, cockatiels, and finches. Not to mention three or four domestic turkeys, as well as two wild turkeys that hopped the fence one day, hoping to make new friends, and decided to stay. That yard was a little boy’s dream, bursting with endless possibilities of exploration and discovery. Resort-like, it was not.

The thing that sticks in my mind the most, though, is how much fun we had. Those turkeys were a riot. Every time someone laughed, those silly birds would gobble. Laugh, gobble, snicker, gobble, giggle, gobble, gobble. We spent time with precious old friends, cemented friendships with couples we don’t get to see too often, and started new relationships with folks we had never met before. That ramshackle yard, with the mismatched stools set around some old doors for tables, the tub from an old washing machine commandeered as a fire-pit, and the goofy gobbles of the turkeys, became a haven. It wasn’t the place (although it did provide a lot of atmosphere!), but the people that made the weekend so special—the laughter, love, and open hearts of good people just spending time together. I can’t wait to go back.

As you rush around this holiday season, trying to fit in all the activities and functions that are a natural part of this time of year, I hope you find yourself not worrying about the dust and fingerprints, the stray sock on the floor, or the wad of dog hair in the corner. I hope you laugh with the turkeys and delight in the people you are with. I plan to. And my friend waiting at the door? I just kick the cat toys out of the way and greet her with open arms and a smile that comes straight from my heart.

Cost Saving E-Cloth Microfiber Cloths Offer Best Green Household Cleaning

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Check out what Rebecca Lacko, writer at Examiner.com,  had to say about E-Cloths, available at our sister site, Isabella.

Where Will Armchair Travels Take You?

Friday, September 18th, 2009

For a recent birthday, my boys gave me a great book about entertaining. Beautiful pictures with ornate silver, hors d’oeuvres, garden parties — you know, just what I do every weekend in my spare time! And yet, I just love to read through these books —  and cookbooks too, even though I’m not much of a cook. In fact, for years, I’d go to bed with a cookbook and absolutely devour them. Even though I don’t entertain too often, I absolutely love to read books about fabulous meals set with gorgeous dishes and freshly ironed tablecloths and just drink in the luscious photographs.

Am I dreaming? Perhaps, but I think that’s what these stunning books do – they transport us to the south of France, or a beautifully set table, or an extraordinary garden. Although my travels have not taken me too far from home, I’ve always counted on my books to take me places in my mind. And perhaps when I step outside on my deck, or pull another weed (or twenty!), I’ll take some bit of inspiration from these books.

As the summer comes to an end, consider doing some armchair traveling of your own with a book filled with stunning photos that inspire you. Cuddle up with your children and turn the pages – you may be surprised to find they are ooing and aahing right along with you!

Incredible Earth, Eye-Opening Photos of Our Powerful Planet (pictured above), can be found here:
http://www.chinaberry.com/prod.cfm/pgc/11200/sbc/11202/inv/15369

A Spoonful of Sugar

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Mary Jo, our Accounting Manager and mother of two adolescent boys, is sidetracked right now with a bad knee injury. The fact that she’s under doctor’s orders to lay really low, knee in a brace, isn’t helping her feel as organized or in control as she’d like to be. She was already behind with some housework when the accident happened. Additionally, her very elderly and relatively incapacitated grandmother is 2 months into a 4-month stay and guests are in town this weekend-enough to make nearly any mother’s head spin.

We’ve probably all been in this spot to some degree or another. Whether it’s because of doctor’s orders to lay low, because we’ve got such a bad bug that we can’t even think of getting out of bed, or because we’ve been called out of town to be with an ailing loved one, there are times when we just can’t do all that we expect of ourselves or that our families have come to depend on. We can go crazy with stress about it or do our best to surrender to the situation (which, I grant you, is no easy task). And there is a lot to be said for knowing that somewhere in the situation there may be an unforeseen gift.

In Mary Jo’s case, she’s using her incapacitation as an opportunity to show her boys how much she does as their mother and as the person who manages the household. (A priceless lesson, I’d say.) The first night, her younger son cooked his first dinner for the family: hot dogs, sliced oranges, potato chips, pineapple, and carrots. He also had to set the table and make tea for his great grandmother. And he had to time everything so that they ate at some semblance of the dinner hour! The next night, her other son concocted a dinner around sloppy joes. Acknowledging and wisely surrendering to her limitations, she called in a day care provider to help with her grandmother. Her husband has kicked it up a notch, too, despite a busy time at work, and her brother is driving the boys to school for the duration.

She told me that she watched “Mary Poppins” one night and was intent on looking for all the spoonfuls of sugar that she can find in this whole kerfuffle. When I last heard from her, she said that there really are quite a few spoonfuls. “The crutches should motivate me to do more pushups. My upper arms needed this workout,” was her last report. I had to chuckle-and marvel-at her willingness to find what makes this whole knee thing more than just an inconvenience. While she’s finding the silver linings, perhaps the most valuable gift in all of this is the fact that her kids get to step up to the plate and help with daily chores that they assumed (as most kids do) just miraculously happen. A gift for the boys in that they are learning how much their mom does and they now get to contribute to her, and a gift for Mary Jo in that her family now appreciates her on a whole new level. Silver linings, indeed!