21 October 2012

Domestic Diva And Saver Of The Planet

A while ago, probably over a year by now, I read a post on the blog Thy Hand Hath Provided on how to make your own liquid laundry soap. I very much liked that idea. It's easy, cheap, and chemical free. I love projects that are kind to the environment as well as my wallet.

I bought a bar of Fels-Naptha soap, a box of borax, and a box of washing soda and set out to make my first batch. Easy as pie. A little grating, a little stirring, and some patience was all it took to end up with five concentrated gallons of detergent. A lot of people seem to prefer powdered detergent but since my washer and dryer are located in a rather damp basement, that is not an option for us. I added about twenty drops of lavender essential oil to make it smell nice(r).

So far, I am really happy with my soap. It works great. I use the same amount of detergent per load as I always have. The only thing I changed in my laundry routine is that I have started to add about 1/3 of a cup of borax to every load. We have very hard water and borax is said to help with softer water, nicer smelling laundry and better stain removal. It seems to do the trick.

To complete my transition to chemical free washing, I made my own dryer balls, too. These balls of tightly wound and felted wool yarn (from local sheep!) replace the need for fabric softener and dryer sheets. They work by tumbling around in your dryer and fluffing up your laundry, cutting down on dryer time, taking care of static cling, and smoothing out most wrinkles. They too can be made to smell nice with a few drops of essential oil.

Depending on the size of your dryer and the load of laundry, you need about three to six balls. If you have an extra large capacity dryer like I do, you might want to throw in a few more. The dryer balls will last you for many, many years. And all that time you're saving money on fabric softener and/or dryer sheets. And the planet thanks you, too.

20 October 2012

19 October 2012

Catching Up: Six Years

Ryan and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary last month. The original plan was to camping in Door County together while Lola stayed with her grandparents. But then we learned about the Kermis in Little Chute and we decided to go admire their genuine, imported from Holland and rebuilt in Little Chute windmill instead. And we brought our Fairy Godmother along.


Our Fairy Godmother is my aunt. Some twenty years ago she, my uncle, and my cousin moved to the US and ended up in Wisconsin. My cousin and Ryan went to school together and when T. got married, I flew in for the wedding and my aunt seized the opportunity to hook her niece up with a nice looking usher. That was in July. We were married in September of the same year.

The Kermis was much smaller than we thought it would be, but the Dutch pancakes we had for breakfast were the real thing, and it was strangely comforting to see a working Dutch windmill against an American skyline. Kermis in Dutch means carnival but there were no rides to go on. We visited the craft fair and took silly pictures in our foam Dutch hats. Next year we'll go camping in Door County.

18 October 2012

Woman At Work

So I have been a bit of a slacker lately but only on the blogs, I promise. In fact, I have been hard at work for the past two months. It started with various projects for my husband’s employer that I was usually able to do from home. Slowly it progressed to a near full time job. And since the first of this month I happily commute to the UP every day. I do a little marketing, a little project management, and whatever else comes my way. It’s fun. Lola is back in day care and lovin’ it.

Of course, something’s gotta give, and that’s the blogs. I participated in my very first craft fair and was reasonably successful at it. (It was cold that day, though. It even snowed a little bit.) I try to keep a clean house and am reasonably successful at that, too. We purchased a dishwasher to assist with household tasks. It sits in our garage, patiently waiting to be installed. We want to tile the kitchen floor first. Makes sense, doesn’t it? And so I wait patiently as well.

Summer is officially over. It is full on fall here. I have seen some gorgeous colors come by on my commute but the rain and wind of the last few days have blown most leaves off their branches. We spent a couple of lovely weekends camping up in the UP on the Keweenaw Peninsula. We putzed around looking for property to realize our B&B dream on. We tried one on for size and squatted on the land for a night. Nice spot with a perfect view of Mount Bohemia.

Lola is back in school, a true kindergartner. She is learning to read and write. It’s fun hearing her sound out letters and watching her write them. She can almost count to a hundred now. No more skipping the number seventeen, and getting confused at twenty. Just like that, it clicked. She has been getting into a little bit of trouble every now and then, mostly for talking too much. But she genuinely seems to be enjoying school. She had enrolled in dance again and goes to girl scouts every other Monday.

That’s pretty much it, I think. You’re all caught up. I will try to upload some pictures this weekend to accompany the aforementioned events. But I am also working on Lola’s Halloween costume (she will be a mermaid this year), sewing a custom order for a client, and getting my Etsy shop ready for the upcoming holidays. So I can’t make any promises.

20 September 2012

Squeaky Toys

Before Sandman was introduced to Wisconsin winters, he was a year round outdoor cat and a formidable hunter. In his early years he was even made to wear a bell on his collar, to give the local birds a sporting chance. These days, he’s more of a comfort creature. He likes staying indoors when temperatures drop, even if that means using a litter box. And hunting? Not so much. Nowadays, he just likes to sit under a bush and watch the wildlife instead of running after it.

The other day I was sitting outside, enjoying the late summer sun, when Sandman came walking towards me. When I called his name, he seemed genuinely surprised to find me there and I wondered if his eyesight could possibly be starting to fail. Perhaps that’s why he’s stopped hunting. Lola immediately wanted to have his eyes tested and was very disappointed when I explained cats don’t read eye charts. When I mentioned it to Ryan, he was insulted on behalf of his boy. How dare I suggest such a thing?

And as if to prove Ryan right, that night Sandman brought home a little rabbit. The offspring of the rabbit we chased away earlier this year. Or so we thought. We had noticed her hopping around this summer but she didn’t bother with our vegetable garden so we didn’t bother with her. When I found the rabbit, it was already dead. Baby bunnies are so cute; I couldn’t help but feel sad, even though the last thing I want is an entire family of rabbits living in the backyard. Really, Sandman had done us a favor.

The next night, as I was putting Lola to bed, I heard a noise that sounded like a squeaky toy outside her bedroom door. We don’t have squeaky toys in our house. When I went to investigate, I found another baby rabbit sitting in the door opening to my bedroom. This present from Sandman was still alive. While I locked the cat in the closet, Ryan caught the rabbit and took it back to its home. Only to be caught again by Sandman the very next day. Two down. Could there be more?

Why yes. Of course there were more. We're talking rabbits after all. Yesterday Lola and I walked into the house and found bunny number three dead in the hallway. We had not told Lola about the other ones, but there was no hiding this one from her. She wasn’t as upset as I thought she would be, but she did want Sandman punished for this awful deed. I seized the opportunity to educate her on rudimentary Darwinism although I phrased it a little different.

And now we wait to see if there are even more bunnies. I really hope not. I'm done cleaning up little corpses.

28 August 2012

Musketeer Concerns

"Mother!" (She calls me 'mother' these days. I don't like it but I have decided to pick my battles.)

"Mother. This is a serious question. What if I'm a musketeer and I have two horses. How do I get to town?"

"That is easy," I tell her. "You ride on one horse and you tether the other one to the horse you're riding on.

"I don't want to be a musketeer anymore," she answers me. "It's too hard. What if I cut myself with my sword?"

That seems like a legitimate concern.

"That is why you practice. Most things are hard at the beginning. Do you think being an artist, a farmer, and a biologist (her other chosen professions) is easy?"

"My friends will laugh at me. I'll be the silliest musketeer ever!"

I set her on my lap, my silly musketeer with the serious concerns, and we snuggle for awhile. I tell her she has time to think about it. All the time in the world.

17 August 2012

Summer Bucket List


Lola and I made a summer bucket list at the start of her summer vacation. I went over it the other day and we're looking pretty good. More than half the things we wanted to do, we actually did.

There was fun in the backyard with water. Check.

There was father and daughter fishing. Check.

The father also taught the daughter how to fly a kite. Check.

A sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa. Check.

We went to a pick-your-own fruit farm. Check.

Unfortunately the pick-your-own raspberries are only available in the fall. So we went to the zoo instead. Check.

We went camping this weekend up in the UP. Check.

We finally made it to the Pulaski Polka Days. Check.

We are going to the county fair next week. It's right here in town so there's really no excuse to miss it. We are seriously considering entering a craft, by the way. Our vegetables, while tasty and prolific, are not quite 'fair ready.' Check.

Not on the bucket list but nonetheless accomplished this summer: going to the circus, riding on an elephant, feeding a giraffe, catching a bullfrog, riding a bike, and learning to sew.

So what's left? Hog wrestling, a trip to the farmer's market in Green Bay, a pie festival hosted by Lola, and learning new campfire songs. By the campfire of course. I'd say we are having an excellent summer, if a little hot at times. How is your summer going?

16 August 2012

Adventures In The Squash Patch

On Tuesday's to-do-list was weeding and mulching around the zucchini plants. They are located next to the blueberry plants which are consequently barely visible. Next year I'll plant the zucchini on the other side of that particular spot in the garden. The zucchini is doing very well. We started some indoors but the biggest plants are the ones that sprouted from the seeds I simply pushed down in the dirt this spring.

The pumpkins had a rougher start but are now slowly taking over the patch at the back of the garage. Only one plant made it from the indoors to the outdoors but again, dropping a few seeds in the dirt gave the results we were looking for. Sort of anyway. So far I have spotted only one jack-o-lantern in the making.

The finickiest plant turned out to be the watermelon. Not one of our indoor starters made it and only one of the seeds I planted, sprouted. But we do have a little watermelon growing behind the blueberries. I hope it ripens before summer ends. We'll have to wait and see.

A gardener must remain vigilant at all times however. While I was harvesting zucchinis I spotted squash bugs on my plants. I immediately ran inside to grab a spray bottle of Neem oil, a biodegradable leaf polisher and bug killer. Wonderful stuff! Because I was stalking my zucchini plants, anxiously waiting to rob them of their fruit, I caught the bugs at their nymph stage, which enabled me to ward off a full fledged infestation. I cut off the leaves with eggs and sprayed the remaining leaves with Neem oil. I think we're going to be okay.

Squash bugs are not the only animals to look out for, though. When Lola and I were looking at the baby watermelon, I spotted a snake in my patch. I nearly jumped over the corn fence. It wasn't very long, not even two feet, but it was a fatty. I don't know much about snakes but I could tell by the markings on its back that it was not a garter snake.

Source
I don't like animals that slither. But at least with garter snakes I know they are harmless. Nevertheless, they freak me out when I stumble upon one. This snake looked like a rattle snake with a bright colored head. It lay there, very still, with its tail in the blueberry plant and its head under the mulberry tree.

Lola and I went back inside to see if we could identify it with the help of Google. Sure enough, we discovered it was a Fox Snake. Looks like a cross between a rattlesnake and a copperhead, but without the venom. It's actually very useful since it rids your garden of rodents. With Sandman having decided he is too old for that sh*t, we could use some help in that department. The chipmunks are out of control, to be honest.

We went back outside to take the snake's picture. Knowing we were not in imminent danger, we quickly made our way back to the squash patch. Too late. The snake had vanished. I did not like that. Much as I fear the creature, I would prefer to be able to see it and know where it is. Our grass needs to be mowed (hint, hint...) and it's difficult to see if there's anything hiding in the grass.

Needless to say, weeding and mulching around the zucchinis is still on the to-do list.

23 July 2012

Things I Learned Today

:: Every time I think I am making progress, I find another obstacle on my path. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning. I succeed in making it to the surface and am briefly able to breathe, only to be pulled back down moments later. I want this to change. Now.

:: Lemon Verbena is not a hardy plant, at least not in this part of the country. (I have quite a few in the backyard, and they are not in pots.)

:: A furnace filter needs to be replaced every thirty to ninety days, depending on the filter and whether or not you have a cat.

:: I don't hate ironing anymore.

:: There is no such thing as 'wrinkle free' cotton.

22 July 2012

Bounty







The Journey Of A Seed

The squirrels have finally figured it out. After numerous attempts to get to the birdfeeder with the squirrel guard, they recently noticed there is another birdfeeder hanging in the ornamental cherry tree that has no such protection. So now the birdseed disappears even quicker. The chipmunks take care of the feeder outside the kitchen window and the squirrels empty the other one.

It's not all bad news, though. I don't know who is responsible but either the squirrels or the chipmunks, or both, buried a sunflower seed by the garage. That seed subsequently sprouted. Lola found it and asked us to transplant the seedling to her garden. I have done this before in Washington and while the sunflowers did bloom, it wasn't something to write home about. They grew less than a foot tall and had itty bitty flowers. I figured this would be the same thing.

It was not.


Impressive, no? Naturally we are saving the seeds of this one.

21 July 2012

Da Bears Still Suck



“Hey Lola. Why don’t you whisper ‘Da Bears Still Suck’ in Wenzel’s ear?”
 
(For those of you not in the know, Wenzel is the drummer and the last remaining original member of the Happy Schnapps Combo, a local Wisconsin polka and party ensemble who sing in glorious Wisconsinese. Also, da bears in question are the Chicago Bears, a local football team from south of the Wisconsin border.)



“No, really. It’s okay. He’s not going to bite you.”




“Would you like me to say it instead?”




“Psst…, Wenzel, my daughter thinks da bears still suck.”




“High five, sister!” 


17 July 2012

Karmic Payback

When I was ten years old, we moved to The Hague, into a large town house where my sister and I each had our own room. I don't recall ever adorning my door with anything, but I know my sister did. She always had a poster hanging on her door.

I remember this so clearly because I used to rip her posters when I was angry at her. Not full on tearing and trashing, I didn't have the guts to do that, but tiny little tears along the edges of the poster. Just to make a point, albeit a very sad and pathetic one.

Fast forward three decades. I walked into my craft room yesterday where I have a project laid out that I am currently working on. It consists of six felt squares with appliques. Some squares are cut from craft felt and some from hand died, rather expensive, imported all the way from Holland, one hundred percent wool felt.

In one of the cheaper felt squares I noticed a few small cuts along the edge. I was pretty sure the felt was whole when I cut my squares. I suspected Lola or her friend B. accidentally cut the felt when they were cutting up some paper.

I was wrong. As it turns out it was not an accident. My daughter fessed up to cutting the felt on purpose. She was "just so mad" at me. Not that she knew why she was mad, she just remembered she was. And to make her point, she cut my felt. Like her mother, she did not have the guts to really go for it and cut the good stuff, so she went for the cheap felt instead. A wise choice.

Naturally she was reprimanded for this little stunt and threatened with eternal banishment from the craft room (a fate worse than death in our house) if she ever pulled something like this again. But I had a very hard time actually being angry with her.

As I was talking with her, I was chewing the inside of my cheek, trying to suppress a smile. I could not believe she did the exact same thing I did as a child. And all the while I could hear my sister laughing in the back of my head.

Karma is a b*tch. So is payback.

06 July 2012

Summer Tidbits

I dipped my foot outside this morning and discovered it was nice out. A balmy 86F (28C). Much better than earlier this week. Finally I can sit in the garden again, and watch my vegetables grow. I feel bad about staying indoors when the sun is shining, but really, it was just too warm to be outside. It was 99F degrees (38C) yesterday. That's hot. Sweltering hot in fact.


Speaking of my garden, it is looking wonderful. The tomatoes are out of control, as are the weeds, the corn is growing well (the second round of planting yielded a much higher germination rate), and the peas and beans all need trellises now. I picked up an old metal chair at a garage sale which I placed just outside the garden, in the shade. It's my new favorite spot.




We harvested our first peppers on Wednesday, and a bunch of basil. I made fresh pesto last night to go on a homemade chicken, sausage, and artichoke pizza. How's that for summer fare? Goes nicely with the watermelon pops, too. And the red clover lemonade, a very interesting drink. I am still tweaking the recipe, but as soon as it's to my liking, I'll share that one with you.





We had a very relaxing Fourth, not doing much of anything. A little bit of fishing, a little bit of grilling, a little bit of hanging out. As summer days should be.

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