right now

right now

Jan 11, 2011

washing rocks and other nonsense...

I am deep into "spring cleaning" mode, and it occurred to me as I was washing ROCKS that I may be just a teeny bit weird!  But then my kids walked in from school and Loch said, "oh, good thing you are washing those rocks, they were getting dusty"... I thought to myself either I'm not weird, or I'm warping my kids since they apparently see nothing wrong with it!

Truth be told, they are actually the rocks from a vase of water that had evaporated so they were scummy and needed it.  I have an obsession with rocks, they are everywhere in my house, in vases, scattered on bookshelves, I even have a couple of slabs of slate that are on my coffee table.  So my rocks are my chotzkies.

one can never have too many rocks!

I am officially caught up reading all your blogs, that took some time but it looks like you all had wonderful holidays from the photos I saw!

Since getting a dirty look from the mailman with my "hold mail" stack of seed catalogs upon our return, I have been pretty anxious to get planning and ordering for the Spring Garden.  Slight problem:  whenever I have a project that I LIKE doing, such as garden planning, sewing or the like, I need for my "space" to be uncluttered and pleasing when I begin.  So.... I started by rearranging the living room and then that morphed into tossing huge amounts of "stuff".  I only have one bedroom left, but that is the one that is destined to become both a sewing space AND office AND my bedroom - so now I am going to start tackling that tonight and hope that then I will be able to start my garden planning.  The joys of less than 1000 sq ft...

So let's review:  I can't seem to plan my garden unless my bedroom is clean??  yep, wierd...

Good news from the week since we returned:
1.  I got the other side of the duplex rented.  I'm sure you can imagine what a stress this has been, not too many people are looking to move during the holidays/middle of winter.  Since we are a one-income family, I was not looking forward to carrying 2 mortgages with no rental income.  Our new renter is a really nice single military gal with a 6 year old boy and an Australian Cattle Dog - how perfect is that?  My boys will love having someone their age next door and we are overjoyed about the dog, LOL... that's the one herding dog breed we haven't had and we only allow ourselves 2 dogs at at time!  If you come for a visit, beware of the ankle biters circling you!  Seriously, we are very lucky to have found such a nice person as a tenant and are looking forward to moving day in February.

2.  I got a new "old skool" washing machine!  Hubby ripped apart the LG front loader as soon as we got in from vacation and he easily found the problem:  needs a new bearing and spider shaft.  I researched online and found that the bearings are only 19.95 but are terminally backordered because this is a huge problem with this machine, and the spider shaft is 104.95, yikes!  Under normal circumstances, I would order the parts and fix the darn thing but we decided that $125 is too much to spend on fixing it AGAIN, and we were spending $15 a week at the expensive laundromat.  This is the 3rd time the LG has needed fixing, and no guarantee that it won't take a dive yet again, since that seems to be a common theme with these washers.  I am now the proud new owner of a $299.00 basic super capacity top loader no-funny-business-no-digital washer.  It has pretty much been running all week, I love the loud sound of it, it means it's working!

Scheduled for the rest of the week:  finish cleaning bedroom, come up with a plan for a sewing space, try to repurpose some things for craft storage, write Loch's packages for school next year (he is eligible for 2 gifted schools, so he needs a separate app for each, ugh!), write down some goals for the next year, and get to those seed catalogs before they start reproducing!  Oh shoot, the mail is here again...

I also wanted to thank Apple Pie Gal for the wonderful gift that was waiting for me when we got home! She and a few others have been huge inspirations for me to get moving on my desire to sew - apparently she is bribing me over to the dark side with temptations of fabric creations :)  ...

She obviously remembers my massive influx of peppers last summer!  A cute pepper coffee sleeve, and a  perfect patriotic little wallet!  I know just what I'm going to put in it too... that is going to be my new "sewing purse", where I will keep my craft store rewards cards and sewing stash money!  Hubby is cringing now!

p.s.  I am loving reading everyone's seed orders this year, it's keeping me motivated and it looks like it's going to be another fun garden year watching everyone's harvests!

Jan 10, 2011

New Post Below!

Not sure why, but my laundry detergent post I just did isn't showing up on reader, possible because it is a modified "re-post"... anyway, page down to my last post if interested!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

In honor of my NEW "old school" washing machine (more on that later), I just made another batch of laundry soap and am reposting my laundry detergent recipe for any of those interested, along with some updates from lessons learned!

Yesterday was our day to make laundry detergent, and I was lucky enough to have a helper on hand!  I started doing this November 2008 and haven't used store bought since!  It's quick (15 minutes!) easy, fun, and makes a ton each batch, so I only need to do it every 2-3 months or so.  There are many recipes available on the internet, but I will walk you through ours:

INGREDIENTS:  (update:  more stores stock these ingredients than when I first started, looks like people are starting to ask for it!)

-1/3 bar grated soap (I use Zote or Octagon, Zote is easier to grate) -can usually be found in  an ethnic grocery if you can't find it at your regular store
-1/2 cup washing soda (different than baking soda!)  got mine at WalMart
-1/2 cup Borax powder (available at most stores)
-Essential Oil optional (I use grapefruit!)
- 2 or 3 gallon bucket
- Pot for heating soap
- Funnel
- Empty Containers (I use recycled store bought laundry containers, empty H2O or clean milk   jugs work too...amount depends on how big your containers are!

Step One:
Set out your ingredients:  note the "Princess Bucket" my child picked out for me, it has "sparkles"!
Step Two:
Grab a helpful child, or maybe not so helpful...

Step Three:
Put your grated soap plus 6 cups hot water (I grate by hand since I mangled my food processor doing this last time:) in a pot and heat just until the soap melts (do not boil!).  Add the washing soda and Borax and stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat.

Step Four:  
Pour 4 cups hot tap water into your bucket.  Add melted soap mixture and stir.  This is a good time to add a couple drops of essential oil if you prefer a scented soap.
Next, add 1 Gallon plus 6 cups water and stir some more...this is a great chore for the "helpful child"!

Step Five:
Let the soap sit about 24 hours in the bucket and it should come to a thin egg white consistency.  (The reason for 24 hour wait is if it gels too much you can add more H20 and blend to right consistency - BEFORE it gels "too much" in your containers and won't come out!) If the remaining soap flakes visible bother you, just run an immersion blender through it before funneling into your containers.  Voila!  You have a ton of laundry detergent for just a cent or so per load!  Use about 1/2 cup per load ( I just use the cap from the bottle).  This is safe and actually beneficial for H.E. machines since it is low-sudsing.

**Tip:  If the next day your soap is gelled solid, just add some more H2O and use an immersion blender to thin.  I only offer this suggestion because I made this mistake the first time...I think I heated the soap too much on the stove, evaporating too much water!!!

Recipe makes about 2.5 gallons!  I just use recycled store bought containers, but milk or water jugs work just as well!  When done, I just store all my laundry making ingredients away in the bucket and it's easily accessible next time.

I mix a few drops essential oil into a bottle of vinegar and add 1/2 cup to the rinse tray...soft clothes and cleans your machine at the same time!  Really great for those H.E. machine nasty seals!  Don't worry, your clothes will not come out smelling like vinegar, especially with essential oil added.  Happy Laundering...ok, well maybe "Cheaper Laundering" at least...!

**Note:  if you dry your clothes on the clothesline, you will find that the vinegar rinse does not do the same trick, I haven't yet found a homemade softener that works on line-dried clothes - if you know of one, please share!

Jan 9, 2011

Christmas in Minnesota - Part Two! (warning- LONG!)

I have finally gotten all my photos loaded on to the computer!  It saddens me that I'm not much of a photographer, but it is what it is... that's another one of my "someday goals"!  
For those of you who follow Mama Pea's blog, A Homegrown Journal, and her daughter Chicken Mama's blog, The Tales of Chicken Mama, Lady Homesteader, you might have seen some of the fun we had already!  Yes, it's true:  I got to meet up with fellow blogger friends over the holidays and had a wonderful time!  Everything you might have surmised from their blogs is absolutely spot on, and then some.  They are both some hard working, fun loving, witty and loveable gals!  Mama Pea sometimes mentions Papa Pea in her posts, and he is absolutely a wonderful guy!  Chicken Mama asked us if it was ok if she did a little "itinerary" for our week there, and wow, was it!  We really made some great friends, and great memories over the holidays... the kids are still talking about it daily!  Talk about great hosts, not only did we have some fabulous dinners out with them all, but our first night in town after driving all day we didn't even have to head to the store to stock the little house we stayed in:  we were invited to Mama & Papa Pea's home for some of her famous soup!  We also had some of her now-famous 2010 strawberry harvest, homemade apple sauce, I could go on... jealous?  Granted, I have strawberries, but how cool is it to partake in that unbelievable harvest she had this year?  What was it, 1000 lbs LOL?

Okay, let's go... there's lots of novice photos here!

Leaving the Twin Cities of Mpls/St Paul (my neck of the woods) headed north...
the kids were mesmerized by these tires!

The frozen port of Duluth...
still headed "north-er"...

It's a good thing Mama Pea & crew invited us for dinner, because when we got to our house, this was all we had brought from my parents' house:  local brew & cheese curds!
A little college dorm-ish when you have kids to feed.

Inside the little house, the kids had to flip a coin for who got to sleep in the wall bed

Finn fell asleep right away that first night

Next a day of sledding was up on the itinerary-
I even went down, it was very icy and fast!

Below is the view from our house in town

Another shot of the harbor

Below is the house we stayed at, perfect!

Another day was a work day in the morning for "the guys", followed by a snowshoe hike on the Pea Homestead, the views are breathtaking from their ridge.  One of the reasons we decided a few years ago to make this area our home after the military... the views and the fact that it is still largely wild and unpopulated.  Save for the tourist season of course, this area's geography, remoteness, and cold winters help to keep "the riff-raff" out.  Hubby laughs when I say that, but it's true!  You must love winter here, and not in the abstract sense, but in the sense that you need to dress not for fashion, but for necessity and warmth, this place is not for the crew that likes the occasional ski vacation, this is the real deal!  Hubby has family in Fairbanks, Alaska, so I know they are nodding their heads in agreement right now!

Below is a view of the Big Lake from atop their ridge

Hubby & Loch were dropped off in the morning for a half day of helping Papa Pea clear the trail from a recent blowdown they had.  I heard Loch was a great help.  Of course the below photo is with a non-running chainsaw, but we know where to send him for training when he's ready!  Hubby absolutely loved being able to be outdoors and productive working with his hands and chainsaw that day vs. being out to sea working 16 hour days in 125ยบ weather!

When I showed up at lunchtime to pick up the guys, they were being treated to hot chocolate courtesy of Mama Pea, so Loch's first exposure to this kind of real work was rewarded by yumminess, so he thinks pretty highly of the whole event!

They must have done a great job because when we all met back up for the snowshoe hike in the afternoon, we had a beautiful clear trail.

Above, Chicken Mama showing off the beautiful off-grid cabin, the "Hafweh Haus" she built on Mama & Papa Pea's homestead.  Below, Loch and Finn having a great time leading the pack.

Chicken Mama and Finnegan stopping to pose for the camera - her dogs Maisy & Tucker always near


Loch & Finn found the hunting shack/lookout/stand pretty cool!

Finn after a long while hiking and still looking happy!  See, all that terrible "mom-training" must have paid off!

A rare photo of my family all together!

Chicken Mama showing off her mad creek-jumping skills

Below, the girls!  Mama Pea, Chicken Mama & I
Someone should ask poor hubby & Papa Pea how slow it is hiking with 3 bloggers with cameras in hand!

 Loch's great eye spotted a fresh kill in the snow, it was determined to be a woodpecker.  He saw the kill site in the snow just off the trail, noting the blood spots and feathers.  This feather with the blood speck was taped into and became the first entry into the new Field Journal he got for Christmas.  Later on the hike a probable wolf kill of a deer was spotted beside the trail, all that was left was a ribcage and skull... very cool stuff for little kids with inquisitive minds!

 One of my favorites:  the guys -  Hubby, Papa Pea, Finn & Loch.  I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when they were clearing the trail earlier.  Papa Pea is a retired teacher, and it shows - he is so kind and patient with the kids and I am sure Loch just peppered him with questions!  Kids can sense a good teacher and Loch's questions sometimes are akin firing a machine gun, they never stop!

Mama Pea ruling over her land  :)

Papa Pea calculated that we had snowshoed about 4 miles - with kids still smiling!  I was so proud of them that day, of course they were having so much fun and had so much to look at and experience that they didn't even notice and would have gone on and on if nobody was watching!  Proof that they still need adults - otherwise they would be frozen in Canada somewhere if they followed every little side trail they wanted to!

Chicken Mama showing off the advantages of hiking uphill on the first part of the trip... getting to ride downhill!

No internet, no tv, no video games.... nice!

 Other interesting highlights:

Kids meals at restaurants that are actually good!

I won't say much about the below photo other than... woohoo!  Mama Pea & Chicken Mama took me one afternoon for a lunch out and then to their private yarn heaven! I want to protect all involved, but let's just say that they have definitely have the hook-up when it comes to beautiful fiber and prices that can't be beat -  I'll just leave you fiber junkies to cry amongst yourselves and work it out...

When they dropped me back at our house, I felt like a teenager trying to sneak in the house with all those bags of yarn I was carrying!

 Yes, I know... I'm a little anti-color LOL!

We finished out our week of activities with New Years's Eve at our little cabin.  We were really hoping to get to spend the day/night out at Chicken Mama's homestead, Swamp River Ridge, but an ice storm prevented us from doing that.  That's my excuse for a summer trip!  I was really looking forward to seeing everything she is doing there being off grid and seeing the lovely Swamp River Ridge, but weather rules the roost up here.  The rest of us were close or in town already, so she braved the roads to make it in and spend the evening with us.  There was wonderful food, drink, and lots of charades!

Below is Finn, he got the hang of charades right away, we forgave him for making up new stuff halfway through his act LOL!

We had a gift exchange, the kids received some nice duck/game calls that promply got packed at the bottom of the rooftop carrier when we left the next day, can you imagine 1300 miles of that LOL?  I was hugely surprised by a wonderful gift of a deer hide - apparently Mama Pea & Chicken Mama remembered that I rescued a beautiful chair with great wood details on it from the curb last year and was in search of a hide to cover it with.  They somehow got with hubby via email while he was out to sea to find the rough dimensions needed for it.  Amazing!  Now I am really worried about doing it justice... I have a lot of research to do.  Or I'll tackle it when my mom visits, she is great with this stuff.  I will post that when the project is near to fruition.

Below is one of the state forest trails we were wanting to snowshoe but the ice storm prevented it, so we have an excuse for next time!  We managed to get some photos of it at least as we were getting ready to leave.

Below, the trip home wouldn't be complete without the last chance for White Castle!

I can't even explain how awful and icy the roads were the day we left, but the Subaru made me proud, and I must say it's also my super-sweet driving ablility, HA!!!  Seriously though, I'm the one with experience, so I drove so I wouldn't have to constantly yell at hubby and white knuckle the passenger side - when I'm driving I'm perfectly calm though!  The kids saw a whole lot of road kill that day...

Also on the way home, the best McDonald's!  First let me say I HATE McDonald's, but the one in Wisconsin Dells is the bomb, the kids love it and look forward to it every visit on the way home.

Every animal/fish in the state of MN/WI is represented here, most are taxidermied holding drinks or fries LOL!

Terrible shot, but after a straight thru 26 hour drive, we're "home sweet home"!

So now I can say I've introduced my hubby and kids to winter in the place I want to move to someday, and they took it like champs, loved it even!  Of course, the true test would be end of Jan/beginning of Feb, LOL!

There is no way I could ever thank my wonderful hosts for the week, but we are sure going to try!  This trip confirms my belief that all us bloggers are really good people, after all, nobody is making us take the time to share ideas, advice, their families and lives with each other - we do it because we enjoy helping others and getting help and advice in return!  What a great week it was, I have a feeling all of us would get along famously should we ever have a "convention"!  I still say if I ever win the lottery I'm setting up a commune for us!  Everyone seems to have different strengths and weaknesses they have made public already, so our private office elections should be a breeze!