Monday, April 30, 2018

Eggs, Potatos, Bunnies and more

My kids really like YouTube. Greta gets up early most days and parks herself and her blanket on the computer chair and watches videos on YouTube. Most of the videos are about 5 minute crafts, or toy reviews. But recently she's been looking at science stuff. Slime making and such. She ran across a clip of someone putting an egg in a cup of vinegar. After 24 hours it will dissolve the hard shell leaving the intact membrane and egg. So of course she did this and 24 hours later she had this very cool shell-less egg. She played with it for several minutes before it popped all over the table. 



I just celebrated my three year vegan anniversary. Technically I should say "plant based" but we'll say vegan to make things easier. Do you know the difference between plant based and vegan? You go plant based for your health, and you go vegan for the animals. I love animals but I'm doing this for my health. I'm really enjoying it! It's so nice to find something that works for me, and it's carb heavy. I love carbs! My go to snack when I'm out running errands is a baked potato from Wendy's with several mustard packets and pepper. It's so good and healthy and fills me up for hours. I follow Dr. McDougall's program, here is a easy color picture book in case you're interested: LINK




My kids are not 100% plant based but eat a lot of plant based meals. They often ask for junk food and I give in some times. Other times I try to find healthier options for the junk food they crave. I was given a silicone donut baking tray for Christmas (thanks Mom & Dad) and finally got around to trying it out. I found an oil free vegan donut recipe and baked them in the oven. They turned out so delicious! The kids devoured them.




We've been trying to get Tuttles out of her cage more often lately. She's not exactly a pleasant rabbit, often trying to literally bite the hand that feeds her. Once out of her cage she's nice and calms down. She's litter box trained in her cage but tends to lose that knowledge when running around Greta's room. But we're trying. Greta sure loves getting her out.



Sean has been busy with many projects lately. The skid steer has had an energy drain since we bought it. It needs to be hooked up to a trickle charger to keep the battery charged and Sean thought it was time to fix it. He took the batteries out and put in new cables. The bays that the batteries sit in were rusted and falling apart so he welded up new ones. It was quite the project taking two weekends. He's getting better and better at welding, soon he'll be at his fathers level. The skid steer is all back in working order and starts right up without the trickle charger which is nice.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Plant Love

I love plants, always have. I've had a fascination with them since I was a kid. In college I took several summer jobs working at plant nurseries. I learned all about scientific names and growing techniques. In college I even contemplated going into botany or landscape design as a major. My weakness seems to be sad plants. Perhaps it's because I'm thrifty but I like finding good deals on plants that are a little stressed or sad, taking them home, repotting them and giving them care until they are back to thriving. Most of the plants on the property were clearance plants.

Last December I went to the feed store to get some animal food and there sitting outside in a rack were a bunch of clearance bulbs. They were all marked at 90% off and I knew if I didn't buy them they probably would have chucked them in the dumpster soon. So I bought all of them, it was like a whopping $6 for four massive bags of bulbs. They were mostly mixed tulip bulbs but there was a bag of some unidentified flower bulbs in there too (still not sure what I planted). So I got home and found the mildest day in December to go plant all of these bulbs. I put most of them up at the top of the driveway next to the road. Now every time I pull into the driveway I'm greeted with a colorful display of tulips. It was such a good find and this fall I plan to buy even more...maybe at full price (gasp!).


I planned on that being the end of the blog post but had to add my find yesterday. Once again I make my trek to the feed store (I always find the best stuff at the feed store apparently). There in front of the store was a pallet with some really sad bushes on it. They had gone through a freeze without being protected and had their leaves froze off. I've been planning of adding several berry bushes to our property this year. We already get gallons and gallons of blackberries each year and thought we needed raspberries and blueberries too. So when I went to investigate the sad bushes on the pallet I was delighted to see they were blueberry bushes and they were 50% off. Score! They had eight of them but I could only fit six in my SUV unfortunately. I'm excited to have fresh blueberries for the kids to pick.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Scrub-a-Dub

I remember, as a kid, cleaning a lot of cars. My Mom would work weekends often and my sister and I would go outside with my Dad and he'd put us to work. I remember waxing, vacuuming interiors, washing....pretty much detailing the family cars. He's a car enthusiast so there were many cars to clean. Fast forward 30 years....my car is a mess. We live on dirt/mud roads, I have messy kids and I transport all sorts of strange things in my car. It's not disgusting by any means. I don't let the kids eat or drink (for the most part) in the car so it's not some living experiment. But, it's usually got dust and dirt on it, in it and under it. And if it rains it becomes a mud monster. Case in point:


My Dad informed me a few weeks ago that he was going to come collect Wesley and my car and go teach him how to wash and detail it. I, of course, said "Wonderful, when will you be here?!". So off he went teaching Wesley the fine art of making a car spotless. They were out there for 5 hours washing, vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing and making it shine. Wesley did a great job and learned a lot. I got a beautiful car that has never been cleaner (seriously, it wasn't even this clean when we bought it!). Thanks Mom and Dad!






Monday, April 2, 2018

Happy Easter

We had a lovely Easter! The kids and I are fairly involved in our church, we've been going for two years now and really enjoy it. I joined the choir last fall and this was my first Easter cantata. We sang six songs and had a lot of fun.  We are very grateful to have found such a warm and welcoming church to attend.


Easter wouldn't be Easter without the local egg hunt at the ball park. We've been doing this every year since 2011. his year was the first year Wesley was too old for the egg hunt (It goes through 9 years old) so he and Alex hung back and watched the sisters race for loot. Greta has one more year.






Thursday, March 22, 2018

An outing to see Ivan

Spring break is in full swing. So far it's been far superior to last spring break since last year the kids were throwing up all week. The weather has been beautiful and we decided to go on an outing with my parents to see The Museum of World Treasures. They have a T-Rex skeleton they named Ivan. Ivan was quite impressive.


Greta and couldn't resist taking a selfie with Ivan.


They had quite the variety of exhibits including local fossils, Civil War, Ancient statues,  Vietnam War, Geology, Berlin Wall and WW2. There was a little of everything for everyone. The kids had fun, as did I.


















Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cucumbers, Reading and Science Fairs

I am so excited and ready for spring! I find myself just lying out in the sun whenever I have the chance. My indoor gardening is going well. The cucumbers are still growing like crazy with several big ones nearly ready to harvest. After three months I feel like I'm getting the hang on this Tower Gardening thing. I'm experimenting with many different plants to see what grows best and have several winners in the spinach and herb department. It's very cool to walk over there and harvest your salad each day.




We've been battling some behavior problems with the kids lately (mainly Greta). They have gotten very used to have regular screen time, whether that's computer, tv or tablet. I don't have too much problem with computer time as long as it's educational but usually it's not educational and more Roblox (their favorite online game). It had gotten to the point that it was a constant question coming out of one of their mouths..."Mom, can I play on my tablet?", "Mom, can I watch a show?", and so on. I hit a point where I couldn't take it anymore and Sean and I decided they needed to earn their screen time. So now they have to read for an hour to have an hour of screen time. This has been particularly helpful on the cold weekends when we are stuck inside. So far so good!


Wesley has made his way through the Harry Potter series and is now on the last book.

This year Wesley entered the Science Fair. It's open to all fourth and fifth graders. He had to research projects and pick one and then present all of the information he gathered on a tri-fold. He chose "How much salt will it take to make an egg float?". He did the experiment and took pictures and then typed out all of his findings to present. There were around 10 entries and he took first place. I'm so proud of him!



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Catch Up

It's February, it's cold. The kids are home again for a snow/ice day (the second or third this school year). I thought I'd sit down and write a catch up post since I haven't been posting regularly.

I am dreaming of spring. I'm sure you are too! I am so tired of being chilled, even in the house. I broke down and bought a king sized heating blanket. Sean and I wrap up with it on the couch in the evenings and watch Netflix. It sure makes the winter bearable. So do these beautiful Valentine flowers that my sweetie got me.


My sculpting business is going well. I used to have to sell on eBay just to attract customers for custom sculptures but the word is out and I have a steady flow of customers just through word of mouth. I feel very blessed. I did take a couple of weeks off after Christmas to give the old hands a break. We went and saw the new Star Wars movie and as soon as I got home I got the bug to sculpt one of the cute creatures. Here is a little Porg.


Wesley has had a big month. One of the major school projects is called The Wax Museum. They get to choose a famous person and research that person. Then they dress like the character and resite a memorized speech when someone pushes the "button" on their hand. The whole school and parents are invited to this event. It was well done and all the kids really did a great job. Here is Wesley as Harry Houdini.




He is also doing really well in karate. He started last fall and has been learning his moves. He got his first strip two weeks ago, which is a big deal! We are very proud of him.


Wesley started an instrument this year in 5th grade. My parents were nice enough to let him use my old saxophone from when I was in middle school. It's still in good shape and he's able to play well with it. We are planning on having some pads replaced this summer so he can go into middle school with an instrument in tip top shape.  


The dogs got a nice new dog bed for Christmas and they all like to pile into it (except Winston). Chance will be turning 15 years old this spring and is pretty spry still. The addition of the two young boston terriers seemed to have brought out his inner puppy. We hope to have him around for at least a little while longer.



The first crop of lettuce in the tower garden has has come to an end and the second round is already growing. The instructions say that flowering crops are not recommended for inside growing. I figured this was due to the lack of pollinators (bees & butterflies). I'm always up for a challenge so I planted eight cucumber plants in the base of the tower. Here we are two months into growing and there must be 80 flowers. I was clueless as to how to hand pollinate so I went to YouTube and learned all about male and female cucumber  flowers. It was pretty easy to tell the female flowers after watching a video. They have a tiny little cucumber under the flower and if it gets pollinated then the cucumber continues to grow bigger. If unpollinated it dries up and falls off. The flowers are open for about 24 hours so once a day I go over there with my little paint brush and hunt for the female flowers. There are usually about 2-4 a day to pollinate, it takes less than a minute. Now I've got 20+ cucumbers growing and am looking forward to fresh cucumbers soon. Have I mentioned how much I like the tower garden?



A couple of weeks ago we finally got some beautiful weather and we all got to get outside and enjoy some sun at the park. It was a welcome change. Come on spring!


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Basil

The Tower Garden has been planted for over a month now and is growing like crazy. The lettuce is nearly at its end and new seeds have been started to replace them this week. The cucumbers are all full of flowers and baby cucumbers which is super exciting (yeah my life is pretty dull). When you grow flowering plants that need pollination indoors you don't have all the bees, moths and butterflies that normally do the pollination for you. So each morning I get up and take my small paint brush and brush the male flowers and then brush the female flowers. I had to watch a YouTube video showing me the difference between the two flowers but now have the hang of it. I'm excited to have fresh cucumbers to eat.

The four little chambers of basil I planted produced a ton of basil leaves. Far more than I use fresh in my cooking so I was trying to figure out ways to preserve the crop so it didn't go to waste. It dawned on me that I have a dehydrator sitting unused in the cabinet so, once again, I went to YouTube to learn how to dehydrate basil. It looked simple enough, put the basil leaves on the dehydrator trays and let it run at the lowest heat (95 degrees) for 12-24 hours.


I filled all 6 trays, cramming all the leaves in there. Twelve hours went by and they were just limp little leaves. So I left it going over night, the next morning still limp leaves. That next evening I checked it and it was still the same, limp not crispy. At this point it had been 36 hours and I was about to give up. I got online and found a site that said to just pop it in an over at the lowest temperature (which on ours is 170 degrees). I put them all on a cookie sheet and popped them in the oven for 20 minutes. They came out nice and crispy and beautifully green. I crunched all of them up and put them in an empty spice container. This is what a big mixing bowl of fresh basil produced.


I do have a newfound respect for the price of organic spices. :)