How to Get Rid of Ants: The Two-Pronged Attack!

After taking a break from blogging for a while, I noticed when I came back that my blog had a distinctly old fashioned look, with a teeny banner that wedged in the middle of the page. I spent the morning sprucing it up. Now that it looks all pretty, I'm going to be uploading some disgusting pictures of Ants.

Every year ants invade our home in the spring, but this year we had a lot of rain in North Texas, and they have taken over. They were everywhere. The kitchen counters and cupboard were awash in ants. They even attacked at my computer desk. We dutifully went out and bought the evilest looking insecticide we could find, a black gallon jug of foul smelling chemicals that made the kitchen seem poisonous and, guess what, DIDN'T KILL THE ANTS. Really, the only way we could kill the ants with it was to drown them in it, along with our food and dishes.


After a well spent hour on Google, I put together the two pronged attack. You only need the things above to get rid of them. You probably already have vinegar, sugar, and on old spray bottle kicking around. You may not have Borax, but it's well worth buying for about a million cleaning and household applications.

You're going to make two solutions. One to make ant traps and the other to spray on your counters and surfaces. Rinse and old spray bottle and fill it with a moderately strong solution of vinegar and water. I used apple cider vinegar because that's what I had on hand. You're going to use this as a companion to your ant traps.

Now mix the Borax with sugar at a 1:3 ratio. One cup of Borax and three cups of sugar will make enough for many traps.  Add enough water for a syrupy consistency. We used jar lids to make our traps. Set them in an area where ants are coming and going and wait for your customers to show up at the Diner of Death. The sugar attracts them and the Borax kills them. They don't die immediately, they just never come back. They also take it to their nest. In the first 10 minutes after deploying our traps, everybody was bellying up to the sugar bar:


During the evening I kept the vinegar sprayer at the ready. Ants who didn't notice the traps would be gunned down by vinegar. It kills better than the insecticide and you don't have to worry about getting it on your food. Also makes everything squeaky clean! After about two hours, this is what the trap looked like:


They couldn't get enough of it.

This morning, the ants were all but gone and this is what the trap looked like:


The solution had been eaten and had dried. There were still a few ants coming and going but the improvement was vast! Someone spilled some sugary baked beans on the counter last night and didn't bother to clean it up. Imagine that! There wasn't a single ant feasting on it. This brings up perhaps the most important aspect of ant control. Don't feed them. I continue to be vigilant with my spray vinegar, and we plan to reset the traps and make more for other rooms. This is a big old 1921 Bungalow and there are lots of places for them to get in. It should be kept away from pets and children, of course, but I think you'll agree that this is a far less toxic solution to the ant problem than a gallon of expensive pesticide.

According to the box, Borax is good for all of the following: Tile, grout, pots & pans,cleaning refrigerators, ovens, microwaves, stainless steel, fine china, garbage cans,mattress odors, and outdoor furniture. It's also a laundry booster. I intend to explore all of those uses, since modern commercial cleaning solutions tend to be about as lame, useless, and expensive as pesticides. It also makes pretty good play slime combined with Elmer's glue, but that's a post for another time.

Sunflower Fields in Texas

There are a lot of sunflowers grown commercially here in Fannin County. Every summer we get glorious fields of sunflowers. I snapped these a couple of years ago. 


I decided to pick 6 of them and prepare to sell them as downloads on one of my Etsy Stores, Digital Funhouse.  I think they would look great printed out and framed as a group. If you didn't want to go to the expense of matting and framing, simply mount on thick foam core board and trim the edges with tape or a marker. Here's what I think they would look like on a light yellow wall like the one in my kitchen:


Or try it this way:


Of course, I'd loved it if you skipped over to Etsy to buy my sunflower photos, but think about a series of photos you could do yourself. What about six bowls of ripe, colorful vegetables, six photos of roses, or six photos of your favorite vintage finds? Happy shooting!

How to Junk Up Your House (Without Even Trying!)

I was looking back on my original home restoration blog today. I hadn't paid much attention to it since I moved from Wordpress to Typepad. Here's a shot of my living room before I started working on it.


Actually, this is just a close-up of the fireplace, but you can see the nasty blue shag carpet. The rest of the room was just as bad. Somebody had used some kind of two in one stain and sealer on ALL of the woodwork. It was a dull brown color and the surface had reticulated.

So this is what I did:

Pounded all of the Portland cement off the fireplace. Somebody who owned this house went through a "Santa Fe" phase. They put it on the brick columns outside, too. After I got all the cement off the brick it had a dull, dusty color. I solved this by applying the same woodstain I used on the floor. It really soaked in and cleaned up the brick.

I removed the gross blue carpet, sanded and refinished the floors myself.

Painted the walls. The color in the picture isn't accurate. It's called Aruba Blue but it actually has a greener look than the photo.

I stripped the woodwork and achieved a beautiful finish by applying a layer of Tung oil, buffing, then applying another layer.

Ok, that was a LOT of work, and this is what it looked like:


So why does it look like this today?


I imagine this is a common problem. I thought I'd find an old house, fix it up, and Bam!, make the front page of Houzz. I'm running into this all over the place. See my post, A Great Big Mess in the Kitchen Garden. Yes, that is unfolded laundry on the coffee table. The coffee table was meant for another room. My ratty crochet chair, which I refuse to part with, has made it's way into the room along with my giant Ott lamp. The molding was never installed. The ceiling fan was never re-assembled. The light switch covers were never put on, and the leather chair has seen better days. So I'm now entering the second phase of restoration, which I call "Integration and de-Junkification". Maybe I'll make the cover of Houzz yet.



A Great Big Mess in the Kitchen Garden




This is the nook created by the former owners when they enclosed the breezeway between the house and the garage. It was poorly done. Note the haphazard trim and the out of place big-pane windows. The door leads into the laundry room, once envisioned as a Pinterest Nirvana of utilitarian beauty and efficiency, it too has languished.


Over the last year, my dreams of this as a kitchen garden/potting area were slowly dashed as the nook became a depository for junk, random lawn furniture, and all sorts of unholy debris. Add to that the fact that this part of the house was never painted and you have a great big mess.


I'm determined to make this right. As you see, I've started painting and have done pretty well. The most challenging parts remain. I have to take the very ineffective storm windows off and paint the trim on the kitchen windows. I also have to figure out how to get my 5'3" self up high enough to reach the top parts.


Progress is progress, however. I've managed to paint the biggest eyesore, the nesting box my husband ineptly built from scratch(see The Chicken Saga, a post I haven't written yet). It's so ugly, I don't want it to stand out, and so heavy I can't get rid of it, so I'm trying to make it blend in by painting it the same color as the wall. I intend to use it as a potting bench and storage, maybe with some trailing plants in some of the cubicles. 


The area approaching the nook is also pretty sad. As you see, I've managed to plant some spring greens in the tubs. I intend to put herbs and perhaps a squash vine or two here. 

Kit3 it is today.  I'll keep plugging away at it.

Retro Cooking...Four Fabulous Recipe Cards

I ran across a wonderful insert in one of the 1950s magazines in my collection. It had lots of salads, including classic 1950s molded and fruit salads, so I decided to convert the whole thing to digital format and put it in my store. You can see it here in my Etsy store

Why not do something with the recipes that's fun and just a little more convenient to use? I decided to take some of the graphics from the booklet, along with the recipes and sat down with my trusty Photoshop Elements to make some recipe cards.

According to the folks who make them all the time, here at The Cookbook People Blog, most modern recipe cards are 4x6 and even bigger, replacing the old standard 3x5 cards you'll remember from your mom's recipe boxes.

It turned out to be a fun project. I isolated the graphics and saved them as transparent background pngs, then placed them on the card that I made with the recipe. I added some fancy titles from my collection of retro fonts, then I uploaded them to my online file storage where you can download them. No funny business. If you click the link, it's going to take you to the files, not a blinking, whirling maelstrom of ads and email sign-ups(although Dropbox will present you with a sign up box when you get there, but just click it away and you're good to go. It's a simple download).







Top Ten Pinterest Gardening Pins From My Boards

Since I've been following my Pinterest Boards through Pinterest Analytics, I find that certain categories rise and fall through the year. Of course, right now some of the top pins on my boards are garden pins. Here are my top ten garden pins for the last 30 days. I've supplied a link to the source so you can click through and have a look.

How to Grow Lavender 

Informative article on Better Homes and Gardens covers growing, propagation and drying,with multiple links to more information. This is the number #1 gardening pin on my boards.


April's Bean Tunnel My Pinterest friends have an optimistic outlook about how much time they'll have to spend on gardening, because this was the second most popular pin! The article was written for Pith + Vigor, and links back the the creator of the bean tunnel, April, and her engaging blog, Wahsega Valley Farm


Ladders in Decor The ladder stays in place and the plants change with the season. A great idea that's very do-able. Have a look at the whole post at Ashbee Design


How to Collect Moss Covers collecting, care and propagation. If you've ever wanted some of this magical emerald green for your terrarium or walkway, this is the place. This guy is all about moss!


Growing Wheat of Your Own ...and I thought baking your own bread was ambitious. Mother Earth News tells you all about it.95aaaa91d18e56f6f4c5de6544a71e5c

Black Tomatoes This is a picture post from The Meta Picture with no article. There are some helpful comments below the pictures about growing these tomatoes and other heirlooms.

 Century Old Milk Cans part of the decor at Bellington Manor, a wedding and events venue in Utah. You'll want to visit when you see the pictures of this place!


How to Support Tomatoes A comprehensive post found  on The Vegetable Gardener Covering several different methods of supporting tomatoes. If you crave flavorful, homegrown tomatoes, this is a must-read. You'll never want to buy them at the supermarket again.


Up-Cycled Garden Gates  A gallery of garden gate ideas from The Garden Glove. A few too many ads on this site but the gallery is nice.



There's no #10! I had too kick out so many of my top pins because they led to annoying, spammy sites with pop-ups and re-directs, that I can't finish the article as planned. Next time, I'll write about my FAVORITE garden pins. Speaking of which, I'll devote the #10 space to fellow Etsians,  Kenyon Organics. They are responsible for my renewed interest in gardening. Thanks to their seeds, I have rows of happy little seedlings that I hope will yield delicious vegetables. 

We always start out enthusiastically here in North Texas, but as it grows hotter and hotter, people (me!) begin to dread going outside and start to neglect their (my!) gardens. I'm determined this year to be eating those juicy tomatoes and putting up green beans for the winter.


Hello Again! Spring has Sprung

It's been quite a while since I've posted, but since the leaves on the trees started to bud and the world gets greener, I realize I've missed it. Just to get started again, I'm posting a vintage pattern, actually two from the 70s, but the one I really like is the simple Kimono pattern. I would love to see someone out there make this up in modern colors, maybe with a boho touch, like some fringe or edging. You can download it here. You don't have to sign up for anything or be hit by a million pop up's my private file sharing. Have fun and please send pictures if you make it!


Pinterest Recipes I Actually Made in 2014

Sirracha Honey Wings

I made these for the family and ate them all before they got home. The recipe says to cook them in the crockpot and glaze in the oven, but I simplified it but just cooking them in the oven. I put the chicken wings (frozen) on a cookie sheet and baked at 350 for thirty minutes, poured off the water and dipped them in sauce. Then I cooked for 10 minutes at 375 and repeated the process. They came out with a yummy glaze.


Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

This was tender and delicious...another winner, and all crock pot, though I suspect that if you want the glaze in the picture, you'll have to pop it in the broiler for a few minutes. Crock pots make wonderful, juicy meat, but not caramelized glazes.


Honey Bun Cake

I can't rave enough about this cake! Easy and delicious. What's more, it comes out looking just like the picture. The base is a yellow cake mix, but you'd never know it.

A5389db40cb0ab0bb56ea45883f56d7aCream Cheese Pound Cake

What's not to like about tons of butter and sugar, moistened by cream cheese? Great cake. I tried the plain one and experimented with a chocolate version. The cocoa I added just masked the wonderful flavor of the butter and vanilla, so keep it plain. Save this one for Spring and serve it with strawberries.


Double Tomato Fresh Tomato Pie

This is my own pin..something I've been making for years. Only make this in the summer wiith perfect homegrown tomatoes.


Apple And Cream Cheese Dessert

You'd be surprised at how many things can be stuffed into a crescent roll. This easy recipe brought about a flurry of various crescent roll concoctions.


Is that all? Oh yes, I did try the Hawaiian Roll marinated sandwiches that were all over pinterest and that was sort of a fail. I'll have to get busy this year because my board has 612 recipes waiting to be tried.

Paas Color Snaps

Use Paas Color Snaps (for easter egg decoration) to dye small bits of fabric. I bought a bunch of these on sale a couple of years ago and never knew what to do with them. I started making muslin rosebuds and wanted an easier way to make a colored edge. I had been laboriously painting the edge after the bud was assembled. I came across the color snaps and they were great! It's super concentrated dye that you swap on with the q-tip end. There's only a little dye in each one, but they're good for a small strip of fabric or bits of lace. They also blend well.



A Wardrobe for My Jars

After a flurry of fingerless gloves, I've turned my attention to, yes, Mason Jars. I know, everything that could possibly be done to a Mason Jar has been, but I'm still fascinated by the idea of a common utilitarian object that has the power to inspire so many people to create.

I set about making a sleeve for my favorite jar. First I had to figure out how wide to make it and settled, after some experimentation, on a G hook using #3 cotton string yarn, and starting out with a chain of 53. Once you get this fit right, the rest is up to your imagination.

Once finished, I dyed the wrapper with good ol' tea and muslin rose buds. I'm pretty happy with it. you can see them in my Etsy store.

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Brag, Brag, and Credit Where It's Due

I made this series of fingerless gloves for Etsy. They are fun and easy to make, and I've already sold a pair. I've seen lots of styles of fingerless gloves and tried many patterns, but this is my favorite. It's a basic pattern that you can change and add anything you want. Thanks so much to Bitsy at Dear Bitsy for sharing this pattern with us!