Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Big Storm

Because I know you are all dying to know, yep, that big storm barreling across the U.S. finally reached us today.

This is our beautiful Maple Tree.  Look how low her branches are hanging.  And this is actually a little higher than they were early this morning.  We did lose a few branches off the pine trees, but thankfully, they didn't hit anything.

This is looking west down our road, after the snowplow went through of course.  So beautiful.  Everything is white, even the sky.

The kids were very excited, their morning started off with a 2-hour delay which turned into a snow day which by lunch time turned into two snow days.  So we did what any good parents would do. . . we put them to work.  We shoveled the driveway.  Yes, we have a snowblower and a snowplow.  But we really want our children to have those pitiful "we worked so hard when we were kids" stories to tell their children.

We worked with them of course so we could share our hard work stories too.  Oh wait, we grew up in Arizona. Ummmm, remember all that dirt we had to sweep all the time.

We are supposed to get some more this afternoon and tonight but we are in the rain/snow area so we shall see what we wake up to tomorrow.  We are hoping it is not too bad because we are heading out on our roadtrip tomorrow.  But we are determined to be like mailmen - rain, snow, sleet, or shine we are GOING to Missouri.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Voila! La salle de bain est fini!

Finally!  After countless months, and lots of procrastination, the upstairs bath is finished!  I gave you a sneak peak months and months ago thinking that we were just about done.  And really, we were, but other things got in the way and it was usable, so finishing it kind of got delayed.

That before picture really gives the "before" way too much justice.  The bathroom was really, really bad.  I am so happy with how it turned out.  Now if we could just get the rest of the house finished.  :)

My french quote.  "Sing away your sorrows and cast away your cares."  Vinyl so graciously provided by my cousin over at Decal City.  Check them out!

I couldn't find the exact mirror I wanted.  They were either too big or too small, the frame was too big or too small or not enough detail or way too much detail.  So we bought just a standard mirror and then hubby framed it in for me.

The walls in this house are all plaster.  The plaster in the bathroom was looking a little shabby.  But we really didn't want to tear it all out and drywall it.  I also love, love, love wainscoting, so we decided to beadboard the bottom of the walls and leave the top as is since that part of the wall was in pretty good condition.  The ceiling was not, however, and we were trying to decide what exactly we were going to do with it.  My brother suggested we put the beadboard on the ceiling also.  Brilliant!  I love the way it looks.

The linen closet.  I love this thing!  I wanted it to look like a piece of furniture more so than a closet.  I think the hubby did a great job.  I love the handles and the screen.  Love it!

It is so hard to get a picture of the entire shower.  The diagonal pattern on the ceiling of the shower is repeated on the floor.  The glass mosaic tiles on the back of the shelves is repeated in subway tile size bits and scattered randomly throughout the rest of the shower.  And that little hook next to the shelf nook, yep, I made the hubby put that in.  It is for the bath scrubby.  I hate when they hang on the handle and with that shower head, there is no way it was going up there.  So I had him put in a hook specifically for that little scrubby!

Details, details, details.  So many little things I love in this bathroom.  All these little details have been collected over a very long period of time.  Some of the things I bought many years ago in the hopes of using them in our house in Tucson.  Sadly, that never happened, but they have all found a lovely little home here.  Some of the things I found digging around in antique shops, thrift stores, or yardsales.

This not so pretty metallic gold shelf I got at Goodwill for $2!  I wasn't too sure about it but decided for $2 if I didn't like it, no big deal.  I am so, so glad I got it.  Amazing what a coat or two of black spray paint will do.  This is now one of my most favorite things in the bathroom.

Sitting on the shelf is a vintage Avon bath set I won in an auction also for $2.  The apothecary jars are awesome.  I bought one at an antique shop for $2 (I guess it is a theme for this shelf area) and one I bought at a yard sale for - get this - $0.10!!!  I love yard sales!  The Paris lady is from a Ross store in Chicago.  I still have plans for her hooked skirt, someday that may get done.

Gotta have a magazine rack.  This works perfectly and was a great find at a Goodwill for $2.99.

This antique Bayer aspirin jar was picked up at a local thrift shop for $1.  The flowers are scraps from the curtains and twigs from the yard.  So cute.

Another favorite area of mine.  Ok, I need to quit saying that because pretty much the whole bathroom is my favorite.  These handles are from this very, very awesome antique shop in Grand Rapids.  Phil's Stuff is one of my favorite places to riffle through.  Seriously, it is two floors of awesomeness.  If you go, go with someone who likes to do the same, because you can spend hours in that store.  In the basement of this store is a room dedicated to house items.  Old handles, claw feet, hinges, grates, you name it, it is there.  I searched through all the bins of old cabinet handles and couldn't find two matching like I wanted.  As I was very sadly about to leave the store "Phil" plopped down a bin of new handles that needed to be put down in the basement.  These two beauties were right one top.  Quick coat of black paint and they are a perfect fit for the bathroom.  The screens are from Home Depot and those got a quick coat of black paint before they were installed.

The towel/robe hooks are from Home Goods from many years ago.  The candle holders are another find from Goodwill at $1.99 each.  Already black so no painting required.

And finally, the curtains.  Since I live so far from my great seamstress sister, I had to tackle these by myself.  I love they way they came out.  The shower curtain fabric is from Joann's and is awesome.  It is french script with the english translation following.  I coveted this fabric for a long time.  Three times it was in my basket to get for the bathroom and three times I put it back.  I couldn't decide, was it too much, not enough, do I just want the window curtains and the shower curtain to match?  But every time I would put it back and then come home and wish I had bought it.  So finally, back to Joann's I went and - yep, out of stock and they were not reordering!  Thankfully the wonderful lady at the cutting counter found some for me at another store and had it shipped up.  Whew - I guess you know I then bought whatever they had left.

So there she is in all her beauty.  You really should just come see her in person though, she is beautiful!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Laundry Experiment

Laundry.  Blech!  Probably one of my least favorite household chores.  For one reason only.  It is never done!  I love fresh clothes from the dryer.  Love to see them neatly folded and in there place (a rarity in this house), love the smell of clean linens as you slip into bed.  But no matter how much you get accomplished in a day, you know there will be dirty clothes as everyone changes into PJ's, there will be dirty towels in the morning from all the showers, and those fresh, clean linens will now be considered, umm, not in the morning.

So laundry in this house full of people is an ongoing event.  If you don't hear the washer and dryer going on a daily basis, something is amiss.

So in the interest of saving a little moola, and since in the last couple of years my skin has decided to become a little more sensitive, I have been looking online at homemade laundry soaps recipes.  Interesting.  And since my nose also doesn't like the smell of most laundry soaps and fabric softeners, I like the fact that I can create a scent of my choosing.

So this week, after pinning this article and then reading her homemade laundry soap recipe, I decided to not only clean out my washing machine but also to try some of these recipes I keep reading.

ecoKaren has some great ideas on her blog.  I liked her laundry soap recipe and was tempted to try it.  I still might down the road, but the problem here at our house is our water pressure.  At least that is what I am assuming it is.  I love using baking soda and vinegar in my wash.  So for a little while, I was putting it in the soap dispenser drawer on my washing machine.  Not a great idea.  All the powder gunked up behind the drawer itself and caused a blockage.  I don't know if this is because of our low water pressure or the machine itself, but I decided to hold off on the powder direction.

Further searching found this recipe on an equally great blog.  First go-rounds on recipes I usually try to do exactly as told so I can see how I can tweak it to my liking.  I followed recipe as is on the blog and added about 1/6 ounce of sweet orange essential oil.

There were a few options for the bar of soap.  The Fels-Naptha brand happened to be the only option available here in the boonies.  The local health food store however, had lots of options in essential oils.  I love the clean smell of citrus so for first go round I bought sweet orange.

I added the essential oils while the soap was melting.  The heat would let the essential oils melt and spread more evenly through the mixture.

While the laundry soap was brewing, I started on the dryer satchels.  For actually fabric softening, I add white vinegar to the washing machine in place of fabric softener.  Works great.  I wanted something for the dryer to add scent.  I decided to stick with the orange theme and grabbed some dried orange peel at the healthfood store.

To make the dryer satchels is really pretty simple.  Most blogs, website, etc. all had the same recommendations.  Add something unscented for weight, dry beans, flaxseed, etc.  Then add your scent items.  I read mixed reviews on adding essential oils to the mixture.  Some said to be careful because the oils could heat up and transfer to your clothing.  Others simple made felted balls and doused them with essential oils and said they have never had a problem with the oil transfer.  I am experimenting to see which theory I go with.

Here is what I put in my dryer satchel.  A handful of dry navy beans for weight, one tablespoon dry orange peel, 10 cloves, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and a few drops of sweet orange essential oil.

Finished products!  The kitchen smelled heavenly as these were being made.

Lessons Learned:

I think I may tweak the soap recipe just a tad.  Less water and a little more cleaning agents.

These dryer balls are awesome and I will be making a basketfull of these so you can choose your scent for your own load.

Dried ingredients are expensive.  This spring, summer I will be collecting and drying local wildflowers for my own use.  And drying citrus peel is very easy so I will be doing this on my own as well.

What's It Cost:

Box of Borax    $3.38
Box of Washing Soda   $3.24
Fels-Naptha    $0.97
Essential Oils   $4.19
Dried Orange Peel  $2.34 (for a small bag with about 1/2 cup)

Not too shabby.  The Fels-Naptha bar will make three batches if you use exactly as in the recipe.  The washing soda and Borax will make a LOT of batches considering you only use 1/2 cup for each batch.  The recipe as is makes about 2 gallons of laundry soap.


The first load of wash has been washed.  Clothes came out smelling clean and faintly of orange.  Perfect.  No overpowering scent but definitely clean.  They are now in the dryer.  I will update you on results, but so far, everything is great!

Dryer is done, clothes all warm and smelling great.  There is not an overwhelming smell of orange.  But as the basket sits in front of me I can definitely smell the orange spicyness of it.  I think I will either make larger satchels or put two satchels into the dryer.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book of Nature

So. . .A.'s most favorite person in the whole world has this pretty awesome little brother.  We shall call him "Bob".  "Bob" loves animals.  Loves as in LOVES loves!  He has an animal scrapbook that he pastes pictures of animals cut from magazines and writes in little facts about animals.  Very cool.

We have a couple of books here that I aquired while my children were growing up.  They are Wildlife binders and once a month we would get a package in the mail with 5 new animal cards to put in the binder.  Bob covets these books!  So I decided, since my kids won't let go of their precious wildlife binders, that we would make one of our own for Bob.

What to fill it with was the next question.  Thankfully, we have this pretty awesome feature in The Awake! magazine, "Was It Designed".  So we created a section for these pages.  We just glue the pages from The Awake! to scrapbook paper and then glue the pages together, laminate, and voila!

I love these articles.  So much information and color on one little page.  Bob loves them too.  We also wanted to give him a section or two with plant and animal life.  So we created three more sections.  "Animal Life", "Plant Life", and "Bug Life".  These sections will contain both articles from The Awake! magazine and also photos and info from local nature.

The first page to go in the "Plant Life" section was a page dedicated to the Maple tree.  The photograph is the Maple tree in our front yard, we collected leaves in various color stages, and included loads of facts about the Maple tree.

And of course, a bookmark.  I made Bob a set of bookmarks one time as a gift and he loved them, then came over to make some of his own.  You would think by now he has enough bookmarks to last him a lifetime, but this is what he requested so I shall oblige him.

The notebook was delivered on a Sunday afternoon.  I explained to Bob that I would send him a package once a month to fill up his binder.  We saw Bob again the next Saturday, the first question he asked was if I had finished the next package yet.  Umm, no - once a month!  We saw Bob again the following Saturday, guess what his next question was - yep!  Sigh!  So I put the package together for him and delivered it to him the next Saturday.  He was pretty ecstatic!

With this package I also decided to make him a set of bible character cards, also from The Awake! magazine.  Want your own set?  You can download them here.  We have been doing this with our character cards.  I cut out the card, glue it to a colorful piece of scrapbook paper and laminate it.  We are creating a set for the car, the house, and the camper.  It is fun to quiz each other on the bible characters.  So Bob got his first set of character cards with this first package along with a very cool Jungle book we got at the Friends of the Library sale.  These are awesome sales!  If you have never been to one you should look it up for your local library and go!  We also created a card for his "Animal Life" section.  Cute little wood frogs that are all over the garden in the summer.

This last week I finished the second package and got it mailed off.

No local pages this go round, mostly because I was running out of time and wanted to get it mailed off.  Plus J. was hogging the computer doing his school work!  The nerve!

Today we had a crafty day after service.  I started work on my next little project - A little book on The Six Creative Days.  Want a sneak peak?

Not sure who this is going to, but when these projects start swimming around in your head, it's best to just let them escape.  Maybe a certain little niece and nephew in Arizona might like these?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hay Ride Time. . .mmmmm Sorta

The congregation in Mt. Pleasant invited us to their annual hayride hosted by a great family.  Apparently they do it every year and brothers and sisters from all over come for a hayride, great food, associationg, and a big bonfire.  J.'s buddy was here for the weekend so he tagged along as well.  And of course, the car ride was crazy as ever.

All the teenager-ish girls sat waiting and played the ever fun game of "truth" and "would you rather".  Yes, just truth, they took out the dare because they decided it was more fun just to make people tell the truth about weird and random things.  Silly girls.

And the boys do what boys do best and played football.

I know, tiny little specks that you can't really see, but a girl can only carry so many lenses at once!

The girls were super excited to see each other again.  And there was an awesome tire swing.

At one point the girls stole the camera so it is pretty funny going through them all and seeing the silly faces and poses and seeing random people pop up on my screen and I have no idea who they are.  It was a lot of fun and we met a lot of new brothers and sisters from all over the area.  But as for actually riding on hay - nope.  There were a LOT of people there and they hayrides were going in shifts, by the time it was our turn, we decided we wanted to stay next to the big warm fire instead.  But there really was a tractor pulling a wagon full of hay bales, I swear!  Maybe next year. . .

And lastly, we had a very cute little backyard visitor Monday evening.

She was so cute, not very skittish though.  We banged on the window a little and she didn't budge, but I took the picture through the window anyway because I didn't want to open the door and scare her off.

That is all the newsworthy items from these parts.  Saturday we have a work day at the Kingdom Hall and I am assigned to working in the flower beds again.  So now I will be pulling out the flowers I planted in the spring.  And our family is taking over one of the flower beds so I have to plan what we want it to look like in the spring so I can get some bulbs planted soon.  I will post pics for you all next week.

Love you much and we are sending virtual hugs and kisses to you all.  If you want to feel the real thing turn to the person to your right or left and hug away.  Unless of course it is a stranger. . .then that would just be awkward!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Raising Children In This Crazy World

This is the message I try to teach my children, the message I try to live by.  It's tough, and frankly, I have most likely failed on a number of those counts.  I'm hoping it is like lessons my parents taught me.  I may have known what they were teaching me but sometimes the understanding and the practicing of those lesson didn't click right away.

Okay, here is where I show my true age and start sounding like my parents.  I think about the difference of times and influences from when I grew up and this crazy world my children are growing up in.  What influenced me?  What shaped me?  The first word the comes to mind is "physical".  Friends and people that were physically present in my life.  Family, friends from the Kingdom Hall, parents of said friends who later also became friends, super awesome teachers, very bad teachers, workmates, random strangers you meet at work.  You get the idea, right?  Influences that you could actually see AND touch.  Of course there were also influences that were not physical.  There was music, TV shows, movies.  Most of which were far more innocent than what is available today.

Today my children are subject to those same influences but are subject to this new phenomenon we call the internet.  I hate that there is so much negative influence on them.  Even when it is supposed to be positive.

The tone of TV shows and movies is so different today.  I share classic movies with my kids, and silly old movies, so silly, so stupid, but so innocent.  Today the comedy is usually based on funny at someone else's expense.  And then our children imitate that, and then they take it further, and now it is bullying.  Things we try to steer our kids clear of are now broadcast as family TV and if we don't allow our kids to watch it we are called "extreme parents" who don't allow our childrent to be who they are.

And then of course is the "association" they receive via the internet.  They take photos of themselves in positions and doing things they wouldn't dream of doing in person.  They say things they would never say in person, and it is all filtered or excused with phrases like "I am beautiful", "I am great", "Be yourself no matter what anyone else says".  Yes, all great empowering messages for our children.  But let me ask you, when, in person, do you just love a person that tells you how wonderful and beautiful they are on a daily basis?  Right!?!

The most beautiful, strong, confident, and most respected people I know and have ever known never had to tell me they were any of those things.  I know it because of who they are, the things they do, I respect them for who they ARE.  And THAT is what I want for my children.  I want them to love who they are, I want them to love others for who they are.  And I want them to do both without feeling the need to shout it to the world and demand acknowledgment.  Nature does it, why can't we.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Great Fall Cleanup 2012

Yep, it is that time of year again.  Already!  We love, love, love our giant Maple tree.  She is beautiful, provides us plenty of shade in the summer, beauty all year round, and for all that she provides us, we have a price to pay.

We get to rake up and somehow get rid of all those beautiful leaves.  You remember how much fun we had our first year.  Last year was no exception, and every year here on out will be the same.  This year we tried to do things a little different.  We thought we would just burn the leaves.

So while this was somewhat successful and what a lot of people do around here, we found that it created a LOT of smoke and pine needles and leaves really, really stink when you burn them.  So we stuck with the tried and true.  Load up those tarps and haul it off to the woods and compost them.

Snow shovels - not just for snow!

Some of us had the all important task of holding down those tarps.  Yep, tough job, but someone has to do it.  So he paid for it accordingly.

Not to worry, he was rescued by his faithful sidekick, Gilbert.

And off it goes.

Oh the joys of fall!  It is so beautiful it is worth the little bit of work that goes along with it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Random Updates

So October is shaping up to be quite the wet month.  But the rain is good.  Would have been nice if we had more of it this summer, but such is life and all this rain will make the ground great next spring.

As always, we have been so busy!  J. is doing K12 Virtual School this year.  Took us awhile to get back into that swing of things, but I think we are finally there and have a good schedule going.  Z. is officially out of elementary now.  They do things a little different up here.  The go to "Middle School" which is 5th and 6th grades and then to "Intermediate School" which is 7th and 8th grades.  He is still so little I am scared to death of him being at the giant school with bigger kids.   A. is doing great.  She is a sophmore this year. She brought home a class ring brochure the other day.  I didn't even want to look at it.  I can't imagine my little girl graduation high school.  Nope not possible!

September was another month of vacations in our congregation so we had a lot of sparsely attended meetings.  A few Sundays ago there were only 27 there when the meeting started.  Cameron was back in the sound department and Z. ran up and said I have to do the rovers.  And then he was off again before it even registered what he said.  One of the elders took him downstairs for a quick how-to and then when the Watchtower study began, there was my little baby, running the mics.

What!?!?!  He did so good.  No one bonked in the head, no dropped mic, no tripping over the cord.  He was so cute, and now that he got the practice in when there was just a few people there, he has been added into the rotation and will now be doing it more regularly.  He is also learning how to do the sound equipment.  So proud of my little guy.

Cameron, I, and J. went up to Manistee, MI for a quick build.  Cameron has been approved or at least has been going to quick builds up here almost since we arrived.  There was a little mix up with applications so it took me a little longer to be official.  So Manistee was my first quick build in Michigan.  What a great time to go up there!  The fall colors were at their peak.  It is so beautiful!  One of those, stab you in the heart, take your breath away, fill you with awe, make you wanna cry, all at once kinda beautiful.  The weather was yucky but the kingdom hall was built in record time and we had some time to go exploring.

Lake Michigan
New KH in Eastlake, MI (Manistee, MI)
It was so much fun to be a part of it.  I ran into a cousin there that I haven't seen in a very, very long time.  So it was good to catch up with her and her hubby.  Met lots of new friends.  And one of my most favorite things about the build was getting to the site from where we had to park.  On the other side of those trees you see in the back ground was the main parking area.  There was a path from the parking area to the build site through that little patch of forest, and when we arrived in the morning and left at night it was dark so the path was lit up with little twinkle lights.  It was so cute.  I know, it's the little things that get me all excited.

And lastly, friendiversary was this past weekend.  A. and her buddy have a friendiversary every year on the day they met, which also happens to be the day they were suddenly glued together.  The girls haven't seen eachother in two months so it was an extra special weekend filled with junk food, laughter, all night talking, and of course, gifts.  So many gifts!

 They know each other so well.  This past year A. has discovered the Beatles.  So, yep, she was pretty excited about this gift, there was also a Beattle's t-shirt to go along with it.  She is over the top excited.

And as most young teenage girls are, they both LOVE Taylor Swift so A. made this for L.  I promise to post more pics about that project later.  Very cute.  But I do believe the best loved gift of the evening came from a certain Auntie in the house.

Yep, that's the reaction you get to Taylor Swift perfume.  They were so cute, and so appreciative.

Pileated Woodpecker
This is a Pileated Woodpecker that visited us a few days ago.  This is a seriously big woodpecker.  It can measure up to 19 inches in body length and have a wingspan up to 30 inches.  Cool.  This is only the 4th or 5th one I have seen.  So cool.

That's about all the news from the home front.  We are gearing up for winter, and I am praying for a historic blizzard that keeps us in the house for days so I can just do nothing.  Or catch up on some crafts or something other than going, going, going.

Love and miss all of you.  Give each other hugs and kisses from us here up north.