Sunday, May 31, 2009

Please think of Bo in your prayers tonight...


Little Bo has a kidney infection. She peed on my bed this afternoon (which was odd in and of itself) and it was bloody urine... so we took her to the ER vet and $180 and 3 hours later they said that she has a UTI probably caused by internal injuries to her tract somehow. I don't know what could have caused that... scratch that... I know A LOT of things that could have caused that. She is tiny, Logan isn't the gentlest toddler in the world, she sleeps with a 60 lb 7 year old, she fights with her brother who is still twice her size and she just started climbing trees and frequently falling out of them. Many times to get an injury to her back or kidneys.

Ugh... seriously... will the stress ever just stay constant. Cyan's toe, her recital, and now this? I keep wanting to see a message here but all I keep getting is "Go to bed early and sleep late." Sigh.

Everybody's moving this week!

The cute little raccoon family has been getting some flack lately from kids and cats. And so the mama decided that she was going to pick up and move to a different den yesterday afternoon. Since the tree is in our back yard, she was bringing her babies down into our yard and we came out of the house when one of the babies protested, loudly, to being drug from her warm and cozy home and thrust into the great world beyond. It was a similar noise to the tom cat and the mama raccoon fighting the other night and so I thought that the mama may have been fighting with one of my cats... but no. Our cats were out there. But just as an audience. ;) It was the baby screeching... obviously scared to death. And you can see why... that den is WAY up there. I am hoping they are all safe and secure in their new den now... we probably won't see them again.

Here is a link to the large slideshow if you want to see it full screen.



This is a great time to give a plug to one of my favorite authors. Shirley Woods is an amazing nature author. He has studied many animals and written stories about what that animals life must be like in the wild. Woods doesn't pull any punches... he is a nature writer... so brothers and sisters of the baby animals die to feed other animals. The circle of life in the wild is clear. One of the raccoons brothers gets hit by a car. The foxes sister gets carried away by a hawk. But my kids were absolutely transfixed by the story.

Without reading this book I may have never known that raccoons have three or four different dens each year and they switch between them when they feel stressed about their home at all. There are many aspects of nature that you don't see unless you follow them for a whole season. And that is hard to do. But these books do that and more... they describe why the animals have their queer little habits and how their behavior may help them survive in the wild.

I describe these books to my friends as being like Meerkat Manor... but in book form. Real nature. The ones we have owned are Amber: The Story of the Red Fox, and Kit: The Adventures of a Raccoon. We loved them both.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

OUCH!


Old pictures (from Feb) but appropriate. This house has really hurt us financially. I just figured out that it has cost us $2154 in gas bills alone to live here for the last 6 months. That is more than replacing every appliance in our new house. That is insane. I can't wait to be done with this house. I had such high hopes but good god that is just nuts. I will miss the birds a lot... the bills, not so much.

I called the gas company and asked them what the average bill was for the new house in the winter. He said that the average was $175 or there abouts... and the highest they have ever had was $211. That same month that their bill was $211, ours was $573!! I think we will be much happier there this next winter... what do you think? :)

P.S. Cyan was able to do her dance recital today and she did GREAT! She did better on stage than I have ever seen her in rehearsal. It was awesome! Thanks for all the well wishes about her toe. It is doing much better although won't look right for weeks yet. But she is handling it all well.

Friday, May 29, 2009

ONE WEEK UNTIL SIGNING!

What a completely crazy week! I really could use some thoughts and prayers.

Don has T/W/Th off with his job right now. Tuesday we had planned that Don was going to court... but it got put off until Wed. Which meant that we had to try to get everything done that we had planned for Wed, on Tues. The joy of the job. :( Court was Wed morning, and then in the afternoon we had a 5 hour First Time Home Buyers class. Nothing got done on Wed.

Thursday was Cyan's dress rehearsal for her dance recital on Sat. We tried to get as much done as we could, but then the day is split in half like that, it is hard to stay motivated or on task for any length of time.

But this was the last weekend Don had before the move.

This morning, Cyan tripped on the patio and somehow ripped off her toenail and some of the top of her toe... the day before her dance recital. Poor baby is all kinds of messed up. Hopefully, she will still be able to dance. But it doesn't look good. Good thing her shoes are a size too big or she wouldn't have a chance at all.

In housing news, we are right on schedule. Our banker is cutting it a bit close for the signing, but she feels really confident about it, and that makes me feel better. We are trying to set up a meeting with the owners of the house for Monday so I can get a feel for the new place and the lady can walk me around the yard and let me know where she put what so I don't mess up her yard that is so beautiful now.

The stress is picking up. The end of the school year, start of the good weather, etc is bringing out the thugs and so Don has gotten quite a bit of overtime which leaves me to do all the home front stuff... and right now that is really overwhelming. My body is starting to react. I have a condition where my body starts rejecting food if I am too stressed. I haven't mentioned it, because it has been under control for the past 4 years.... but it is starting to surface right now a little bit and of course, that is adding to the stress. There is just a whole lot on my plate right now...

Declutter Fridays ~ Media and Miscellaneous

Media is easy to store, doesn't require much room (depending on how you store it) and you can have a LOT of it in a small amount of space... this is why I tend to be overloaded with the stuff. About two years ago I got binders for CD's and DVD's. They have been there ever since, and the cases have been in a box in the garage.... until I gave them all away yesterday. We haven't touched them since we put them out there and in my extreme declutter mode, that just seemed like two more boxes to move that we didn't need. So I took the plunge. I may regret it... but I doubt it.

This week is all about getting rid of the last bits of stuff that I didn't get to go through for the first four weeks of the challenge so it is a bit muddled and disjointed:
  1. Tapes and CD's
  2. Video games and DVD's
  3. Decorations (Regular and seasonal)
  4. Memory things (Scrapbooks, blankets, etc... mostly organize, but getting rid of some wouldn't hurt)
  5. Kids toys
  6. Furniture (Yep, even the big stuff)
  7. Laundry room stuff (cleaning supplies)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ecolovies ~ I Spy Bottle

My friend over at Her Cup Overfloweth made this last week and I couldn't wait to try it. Everything about it I already had. I used a large tall quart mason jar... I know it's glass, but they really are sturdy and I don't keep plastic around much (even Logan has glass drinking glasses).


First I wandered around and picked up tiny things. I have an obsession with tiny things so it took all of about 4 minutes to gather the things up for this jar. In there I have tiny things like carrots, milk jugs, and wooden books from their doll house stuff (anyone who wants to see my craftiest crafts... check out the doll house pictures), tiny shells and stones from the nature table stuff, small rocks and heart shaped glass pebbles, a tiny clothes pin, a couple of glass marbles that had peace signs and quotes on them (for the older kiddos), and a sweet little glow in the dark frog. Then I filled the jar 3/4 of the way with short grain rice. At first I over filled it, thinking that it would be better, but it really doesn't uncover the stuff quite as well when there isn't a bunch of headroom, so if you try this, bare that in mind.

After that, it just takes mixing it up for a few minutes, giving it to a toddler and watching the delight!

Logan had a blast with it. He spent about a half an hour just turning it and looking for the frog. He would find the rock and I swear he called it three different things. One was "a bug!". lol! It certainly was a perfect Eco-friendly craft.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Declutter Day 5: Garage storage areas

Ok, so adding this into the declutter challenge two weeks before we move was a bit crazy. I'll give ya that... but adding it in to the declutter challenge when I was frantic about organizing everything in site two weeks before we move for the second time in 6 months? That was just INSANE. My dh came in and told me so today when he caught me vacuuming out my tool boxes. He told me it was against the tool welding code to vacuum tool boxes in the first place. If you have a tool box, it is supposed to be messy and have dust. lol!

But alas... my tool boxes now have no dust. Each one (one for garage and one for house) has a multi head screwdriver (yet another "no-man's" idea... according to most men I have met, if it has more than one use it isn't a "real" tool), needle nose pliers, a small wrench, tape measure, level, and a good hammer. All of those little bobs and bits that have cluttered the bottom of my tool box and various bags and boxes through out the years are now all neatly in mason jars and I will probably follow that ancient tradition of screwing all the tops under a shelf in the hopes that they will stay neat and out of the way... at least for a little while.

This really is the best way to keep these types of things. I currently have one jar for each; nails, screws, tacks, batteries, cup hooks, picture hooks, and headless tack nails (for woodworking).

I threw away a lot though. Old tiny bits of used sand paper, paper plans, bolts from beds we haven't had for years, etc. It all went. The garage tool box lowest section was dedicated to all the things we definitely will need, but don't need very often. Things like dry wall patch, wood putty and the putty knife, touch up paint for the car, packages of wool pads for the bottoms of chair legs, the knife sharpener... stuff like that.

I went from a whole cabinet to a milk crate and my two tool boxes. It feels pretty darned good... Even if I could have done it less meticulously.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Menu Monday

Let's face it, organic chicken is spendy. The easiest way to get your moneys worth is to buy whole chickens and have a two day chicken meal. I usually make a whole chicken for my family about once a week. I stick a whole organic chicken in the crock pot, cover it with chicken broth, and drop an onion (skin and all) in there with it. After 3 hours we have a perfectly cooked chicken for dinner.

The next day I have tons of tiny pieces of chicken that are not quite enough for a meal for the 5 of us... but perfect for adding to another set of ingredients to make a good meal base. Our stand by is of course, chicken soup. Adding the chicken back into the crock pot with all the juices, some celery, carrots, sliced onion, and a couple bay leaves. Sometimes I add some Summer Savory and broth concentrate (low salt bullion substitute) to make the flavors pop.

Lately I have been trying to mix it up a bit. The kids are kinda sick of roast chicken and soup and it is getting on summer weather out here, so I have been making chicken casserole and chicken/spinach quesadillas instead. And the change has been good. ;)

Leftover Chicken Casserole

Leftover chicken pieces (no bones)
1 box chicken broth (28oz)
2 pouches reduced chicken broth (or 1 cube bullion)
4 lg stalks celery
4 lg carrots
1/2 summer savory
2 bay leaves
1 lb package of small shell noodles
salt and pepper to taste

Add it all back into the crock pot and cook on high for 1 hour. That is enough time for the chicken to heat through and start to fall apart, the noodles to take on the broth and make a yummy thick casserole, and for the veggies to be tender but not quite mushy... and it is SO good!

Leftover Chicken and Spinach Quesadillas

Leftover chicken
1/2 lb Monterey jack cheese
pepper jack for the older people in the family
raw baby (or cut up) spinach
tortillas
Chop up the chicken into small slices. Grate cheeses. Place the tortilla on a hot pan or griddle and put some cheese on half of the tortilla. Then add the chicken, spinach, and then a bit more cheese, folding over and flipping when the cheese is melted.

Dip for quesadillas

1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbs hot salsa
1/2 can black beans
chopped cilantro leaves

Add all of this into a small food processor and process until chopped but still slightly chunky.

So good!

This weeks menu:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New critters


Last night I woke to the strangest noise about 3 am. It was awful... it sounded like a wounded animal, but also a bit like a baby crying. I went outside (after checking through the curtains to make sure no one was anywhere around) and all I saw was a cat. As he walked away, I saw that he must have gotten in a nasty fight with something... and today we found this mama in our tree. I am SURE this time of year she has little ones up there...... and I bet you the cat got a bit too curious.

Big stretch!

And today at the park we saw this sweet little bird. It is a type of barn swallow, but I kept waiting to see the classic swallow tail. We saw males, and females, and juveniles... no swallow tail. If they weren't living in barn nests like below I wouldn't have believed they were swallows at all.


Isn't he cute?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spontaneous Gratitude for a packing day



My favorite part of this house... the yard where the birds are. (And a used swing in perfect shape I picked up to replace the one that broke.)

The blue sky peaking through the beautiful green trees.

The beautiful sunny day.

All my favorite books in a row.

The most wonderful dinner, made with leftovers.

Declutter Friday ~ Storage areas

I don't know about you, but my storage areas were seriously lacking in organization or neatness in this house. Usually, about 6 months in to a house, I go through and put up hooks, baskets, buckets, buy lg storage Tupperware, etc so the spaces look decent and can be used. Well, 6 months is up, and we are moving again so I am feeling the need to get them organized and then set up organized spaces right away in the new house.

A bit on shovels and other hard to store things: I have a large 5 gl bucket that I fill with one bag of playground sand that I keep my often used garden shovels in. The sand keeps them dry and sharp, and as long as you have it up next to a wall, it is a stable way to keep your most used shovels. The other shovels, along with my apple picker, tree trimmer, rakes, hoe, and picks, all hang on the garden shed wall. I have used many different tools to make this work, but my favorite is strategically set nails strait into the studs. For this next house, however, I am planning on using one of those broom holders that fits onto the studs and holds a variety of things with only two screw holes. I will have one inside the house for brooms, wipe rags, mops and plastic bags, etc. The other will be in the shed, holding all of those things that don't go into my bucket of sand. Axes and other sharp things that could fall on you while you are working in the shed should be as securely attached to the wall as possible. In the last shed, I just simply used two nails, securely put into the studs, with the ax on it, and then wrapped a rubber band round the nails so the ax didn't move unless I wanted it to. This worked really well.

Ok, on to the declutter list (only 5 this week because two are big jobs):
  1. Garden Shed
  2. Garage storage areas
  3. Canning jars and cooking extras
  4. Party supplies
  5. Fabric and sewing machines

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A decluttering and housing update


"GOOD MORNING!" That is what Logan greets us with every morning right now. He comes into the bedroom sometime between 5 and 7 am shouting "Good morning! Good Morning! Good mooooorn-ing!". It is really cute... after 6:30.

Everything is going well. At this point we are supposed to move in on June 6th. The inspection has passed, the papers have been signed, they have fixed the two things we asked them to. All is going really well. On the bank side of it, everything is going good as well. We have a first time buyer class next week that is, like, 5 hours long. Which isn't too much fun, but should be interesting and I am excited to get it over with. ;) All the papers are through except for a few things that have been updated. Those should be done within a week. No problems or bumps yet on that side.

On the decluttering front, we have gotten rid of about a dump truck load of stuff. I have bought a few things to replace a few that were run down, but other than that, it hasn't been coming back in either. Which is nice. Most of the stuff that was brought back in was decor for the new kitchen (the lamp, pictures, a red rug... that all makes me very happy. Teehehe!) and then summer clothes for the kids. I have given away tons of things that I never would have if we weren't moving and even after all the stress and the $2800 we have paid in gas bills over the last 6 months (yes, you read that right) I feel eventually it will be a blessing. (Ok, making lemonade here people!) I am still trying to figure out how to get some of that money back from our landlord. I don't think we can. The gas co rep said to seek legal council. I am just not sure if I care that much. Esp now that we are getting out.

For the new house, we need to get a few appliances. This is an interesting process for us as first time home buyers, because we don't know much about brands and price and all that. I know we have an electric stove top, a stove hood, an insert oven, and a fridge to buy. We are looking at the used places and the Sears outlet first to try to find some gems if we can. My goal is to buy them without credit at all. We are close to having enough in savings right now for both the rest of the down, and the appliances. If we get them used we will make it... *crossing fingers*.

This has been a really stressful week for me because I am trying to finish up the kids school stuff and then start packing. Don is a "works good under pressure" person... but he doesn't feel pressure until there is a fire or a shooting or something. So he is wondering why I am running around doing all this stuff 'so early'.... and it kinda makes me have mean thoughts. A lot. But the kids testing is done. So their school year is practically over (we still do school in the summer, so taking the next month off won't hurt us in the slightest), and I can relax and really concentrate on the house stuff soon.

My next declutter challenge is the garage and storage areas! I wish I had taken a before picture of our garage... cuz that baby was CRAZY... but the after doesn't look a whole lot better because it is clean, but PACKED with boxes. lol!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ecolovies ~ Recycled crayons!

Today we had our yearly testing for homeschoolers in the state. I never make a big deal of it, because their scores really don't matter. In fact, we don't technically have to do it or turn it in at all. But I like making the school system happy... the happier they are, the less you have to deal with them. ;) Anyhow, I don't make a big deal of testing at all. In fact, between the two kids tests, we decided to make recycled crayons for Logan out of crayons I found in the garage while decluttering.

Cyan was the official peeler and breaker. With the help of a shovel (don't ask) she got all of them chopped into tiny pieces and ready to melt.

Then we set the oven to 175* and put them in it. We used tiny muffin tins I found at Goodwill for this project. We also use these for paint cups with tempera paint.

When you let these cool, they will start to pull away from the sides of the pan all by themselves. When they were completely cool I just turned the tin over and all but one fell out instantly. The other was a bit more stuck, so I stuck the tin in the freezer and it popped out in less than 20 minutes.

Logan was pretty thrilled and he and Cyan decided to color while Alex was taking his test. It was a great way to use the old crayons, and a fun activity to offset the drab testing day stuff.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sweet Flower Boy

Logan has been picking me bouquets like Cyan does for the last couple days. They usually look like this:

Isn't he adorable??? I just love these moments. :)

Sometimes though, I manage to salvage enough of the actual blossoms to make a mini bouquet for the nature table:

It sure is a beautiful space in our house and I am glad it is back out.

Menu Monday

Today we had a really great morning making peanut butter and applesauce.

Then the kids saw pasta salad on the menu and wanted that for dinner. I figured, why not??


A while ago I started to add Newman's Own balsamic vinaigrette dressing into this pasta salad (about 2 Tbs) and it just took it to a whole new level of goodness! Everyone in the family loves it. Add in some fresh corn from OR (the first I have seen at the market) and you have a darn good dinner.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

I made this for my mom. A friend gave me this frame, which was perfect! My mom just got chickens, so I found a scrap of the fabric from Cyan's quilt that had the chickens on it and used that for the background... then I printed out a Mr Rogers quote (my mom's favorite) on some white cardstock and placed it in there with an off white bit of framing around it. I think it will be great for her kitchen and hope she loves it!

It reads:

In the external scheme of things, shining moments are as brief ast he twinkling of an eye, yet such twinklings are what eternity is made of - moments when we human beings can say "I love you", "I'm proud of you," "I forgive you," "i am grateful for you." That's what eternity is made of: Invisible, imperishable good stuff.
~ Fred Rogers

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Finished products

With the lamp shade (also goodwill, cost $.99 and I think it was brand new) on the large bulb, all that is left is the tiny bulb shades. I don't know where to find those, but I haven't ever looked for them either. So I have a bit of work to do to make this look perfect, but I adore the way it looks now.

And here is what the food pictures look like after I painted the frames:

Wont those look cute over the kids little stove in the new kitchen?

On the decluttering front, I have been getting rid of everything. Lol... I say that lightly, but I went through my kids rooms yesterday with a fine toothed comb, and then I went through the drawers in the kitchen and got rid of everything I hadn't used for the last 6 months. I have gotten rid of 'favorites', 'specials', and "But I love that ones". And in many ways it is freeing. I have decided not to keep anything I can't see inside the new house. If I can see where it goes, and have a place for it, than it stays. If not, it goes... and some of that is really hard, but a lot of that is freeing and feels great! With the nice sunny weather we have had for the past two days I am really enjoying getting everything out and taking trips to goodwill to drop stuff off. It feels so great!

How is everyone else's weekend going? Spring cleaning and decluttering going alright so far?

Friday, May 15, 2009

SCORE!

It never fails, the summer weather hits and all the kids decide to grow out of their pants and shoes. And usually it is VERY spendy. But yesterday I went to Once Upon a Child to find Alex some pants and I found two pairs of Levi 28X28's for $8 a peice!! Then I found a pair of shorts for him as well. Logan got two pairs of pants and three shirts, two pair capris and one pair of jeans for Cyan (Old Navy, same pairs she always gets), a beautiful green GAP hoodie for Cyan, and the score of all scores, BRAND NEW Nike Airs for Cyan for $8.50! Total for all of this was $71.34. SCORE!

Then today I was taking a donation to Goodwill and the kids asked if we could stop in... and I found this sweet little light fixture in my favorite color of red:



Arn't those details sweet? We plugged it in as soon as we got home and it works fine. Just needs light bulbs and little bulb covers for the three night light bulbs.

And my last score for this week:

There are three of these. One is bread, one is salad, and one is fruit. They are tiny, like 5X7 frames. And they were each $.99 a piece. I think I am going to put them over the kids kitchen set in our new kitchen. And to do that, of course, they have to match:


A can of spray paint for $4 and I have a beautiful little decoration for the new kitchen.

And on the news of the new house, there are two things they need to fix, but other than that, the inspection passed with flying colors! So it looks like we will be moving come June 5th. *Glee* We called and gave notice yesterday. SO excited!!!

Didn't see that coming...

...not even a little bit.

So the only show I really watch is Grey's Anatomy (oh wait... The Biggest Looser, too, but totally not the same). I started watching it online two years ago when the online show thing was just starting. And my favorite character is George. And now I am totally bawling. My kids don't get it... they just got up from nap time and I was crying. George. OMG. I don't know if I want to keep watching the show. That 007 finger signing moment had me bawling my eyes out with my hand over my mouth. I didn't see it coming. Not at all.

They better save George.

Declutter Fridays ~ Kitchen and Pantry

I am not a kitchen gadget user. A good knife has always done fine for most jobs for me. But for some reason, gadgets find their way into my kitchen just like everyone else's. lol! This is the week that I release the gadgets from their dusty tombs in my drawers to someone else's hands that will love them (or at least use them).

With this in mind, my declutter frenzy moves on to the Kitchen.
  1. Dishes, cups, and flatware
  2. Baking dishes and pots (including stored ones)
  3. Mixing bowls, utensils, and gadgets
  4. Cookbooks and kitchen towels/napkins
  5. Small appliances (and large ones if you have them to spare)
  6. Pantry (all out-dated food goes)
  7. Canning supplies and any other stored food prep items are cleaned or gotten rid of.

Every kitchen has a ton of things that are sentimental. For many people, food comes with emotion. And mostly good emotion. For this declutter challenge you may want to bring in a friend to help you be as brutal as you want to be.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Declutter Day 4: Finished school paperwork

The binder method that is used in the Well Trained Mind is something that I have always thought was a great idea.... but for me, it lacked the usefulness of a portfolio when looking back on the year. Right now each of the kids have three binders (FYI; I LOVE binders!) filled with their work in different subjects. But by the time the year is over, I want to have it all condensed into one portfolio... this slide show is mostly Cyan's portfolio for last year (1st grade) and shows how well you can see the years work when it is all in a personal binder: (My personal favorite is how well you can see her handwriting improve!)



There are other pictures in there too... Alex and Cyan do have their portfolios started for this year. Each one is a 2 inch three ring binder. Armed with a Costco pack of page protectors and a recycle bin I go through their work quite often (declutter modes come and go), taking out the gems and adding them to the portfolio. All major projects go in there if I can make it happen. If I can't (like Alex's clay map) then I take a picture or print out the blog post about it and add it in to the portfolio. I try to make as accurate a picture of their year as I can. The kids and I both love looking through them and show them to just about anyone who is willing.

Then, honestly, the rest of the stuff goes into the recycle bin. If there are 12 units in one subject, I try to take a bit of each of them (like their botany drawings from each lesson, shown in the last picture) so that shows what they learned or at least how much they did on a subject, but for the most part, if there is a repeat project, it goes. If they had to do the same math lesson a couple times, I don't keep both of them (I don't keep much of their math, it is awfully sequential and shows what they have learned quiet easily).

That is pretty much my system. :) Do you have a successful way to store your kids finished school work? Please leave a comment and let me know. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Today is my 9th anniversary...

9 years of having a partner, a emotional coach, a lover, a dishwasher, a diaper changer, a video game addict, a pasta chef, a birth coach, a hand to hold, a belly giggle producer, a toast maker, and a best friend as my housemate.

Hell... I am such a lucky woman.

Something that really moved me today:


Happy anniversary my love!

Ecolovies ~ A McDonald's Free Rainy Day List

I started this list when Alex was a toddler and have continued to add to it as I have had Cyan, and then Logan, home full time. It started out being a list of things to do with toddlers for under $5. Now it is stuff to do with three kids for under $9. lol! Evolution of a family and their budget to reflect it. It is also a Winter list to keep us out of McDonald's. Here in the pacific NW it is cold and wet for at least 7 months a year. Hard to avoid those tempting Playplaces if you don't have a plan.

9 Rainy day things to do out of the house with three kids for under $9: (Quite the title, huh?)

1. Find yourself a nice big bookstore. Most large bookstores now have coffee shops inside, and in the children's section, a small area with toys for toddlers. We often will split a Venti hot cocoa between the 4 of us and play there for a couple hours reading books. *Total cost: $4 *Eco-friendly: Absolutely! There isn't too much bad you can say about books.


2. Get a membership. We have one to the Children's Museum, the Zoo, and NW trek. We ask for these memberships (or donations to go towards them) for birthdays and Christmas gifts. It is a gift that keeps on giving all year long. Then when we start to get stir crazy we can get out of the house for free. We usually bring a packed lunch and make a day of it. *Total cost: $0 *Eco-friendly: If you remember to take your trash with you it gets 10 out of 10.


3. Story hour at the library. Most public libraries have story hours for each age group. We usually go to the ones for my youngest child (2 years old) and then the other kids just hang out in their sections of the library reading books. *Total cost: $0 (Ok, maybe a couple library fees.) *Eco-friendly: Doesn't get better than this.


4. The mall playplace. Many malls have started adding play places into their corridors for the youngest in the crew. Alex and I bring books and Cyan and Logan play. Most of the time we split a Jamba Juice, but it isn't a necessity. *Total cost: $0 (w/juice $4.82) *Eco-friendly: Mostly... I am not a huge fan of the germs that run around those places, but remembering some good hand washing skills and I think it passes the test.


5. Find some big water. On the nicer days around here we head to the beach/lake areas. The key with rain is; if it is a drizzle, the kids won't melt. But in a downpour, I move on to other ideas. Sometimes rainy days are the best times to be outside as it is much less crowded and you can see way more of the local wildlife than you would on a sunny weekend day. Make sure to bring nature packs or binoculars. And bringing snacks is essential, but we have been known to stop at a local burger joint and pick up a couple baskets of fries. *Total cost: $0 (w/fries $6) *Eco-friendly: Sure... Just don't feed the birds. ;)


6. Find yourself a nice big box. Cardboard can be such a treasure. If you call ahead, most Sears, Home Depot, or other of those types of stores have large boxes from display model washers and dryers on hand. Getting and bringing home a treasure like that will thrill even the older kids! When you find one you can make a whole world in your own living room. A friend of mine is a pro at this. She has made trains (like real looking trains) and airplanes from her cardboard boxes and her kids play in them for days. *Total cost: $0 (or 20 minutes on the phone) *Eco-friendly: Completely! Recycle, recycle, recycle.


7. The gem of a toy store. Yeah. Toys R Us is fun, but most of the time, it is the small expensive toy stores that you really fall in love with. We usually will pick up kids apple ciders from Starbucks and head to the toy store downtown. It has playmobile table, a train table, a wooden kitchen, and all sorts of other things for the kids to play with while they are there. It is harder to get out of here without buying something than the bookstore. But I can usually do it. ;) *Total cost: $3.49 *Eco-friendly: The least on the list and still isn't bad.


8. Local farm. Almost every town has one. It just takes finding it. Some of them are really kid friendly and others are not so much. We have two kid friendly ones within 30 miles of us and I consider us very lucky. One is a great place to take the kids to feed the goats, chickens, and pigs and pick up some great free range eggs, and the other has a farm store where I get most of my produce and their eggs are also free range and divine. *Total cost: $1 for goat food if your lucky... and maybe $3 for fresh eggs. *Eco-friendly: Local farms are usually pretty planet friendly... but you may want to check what their growing practices are.

9. Window shop at a pet store. Talk about easy to leave with nothing. lol! I doubt any one will consistently come home with a new Fido or Fluffy, but the kids LOVE these stores with a passion. The fish wall alone can be an hours worth of entertainment... McDonald's and TV free. :) We don't bring food to the pet store, but sometimes like to make iced-tea for the car trip. *Total cost: $0 *Eco-friendly: Yep. Nothing spent, nothing thrown away.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ok, declutterers... I need some help here.

Is declutterers a word?

I need some help with storing paints and paint supplies. I have a box of 12 large bottles of tempera paint, 7 sets of water colors, a table clothe I put over the table when we paint, paint mixing dishes, old 1/2 pint ice cream cups with lids, used men's shirts for smocks, and TONS of brushes. I don't plan on getting rid of any of it. But I want to be able to store it well, and neatly so I can pack it away when we are done with it and have it be really nice and neat. How would you guys accomplish this?

Shrimp and Sour Salad

Shrimp and Sour Salad

1 bag baby spinach
1 lb shrimp (25-30 or bigger)
Sea salt
black pepper
cinnamon
sugar
1 red onion

Wash and dry (spinning is best) the baby spinach and set aside. Clean and de-shell shrimp, and place them on skewers for broiling or BBQ'ing. Sprinkle sea salt, black pepper, and cinnamon liberally and the sugar sparsely onto the shrimp and cook for 4 minutes on each side on high heat or until they are pink throughout. Cut onion into slivers and place in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Saute until caramelized adding salt to bring out the flavor.

Dressing:

2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
4 Tbs Asian sweet and sour sauce (like to dip egg rolls in)

Place onions and shrimp on the bed of clean baby spinach, and drizzle the dressing over the top.

I served with artichokes (in season this time of year) with curry/mayo dip. YUM!

In house news: we got approved for the loan today. Just one more hurdle... the inspection. That is Thursday. Sigh... long process, but I think it is going really well.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Declutter Fridays ~ Office

Yes, I said Friday and I am posting this on Monday... But I have decided that I am going to start posting the list every Friday for everyone else. It seems that most people have more time over the weekends. My husband has a rotating schedule... Very little consistency and the hardest part about his job so far. But Friday is just as good as any other day for me. :)

For this week, we are moving to the Office/Homeschool area! I feel like I already got a head start... but for me, this also means that I am packing up everything we don't use all the time, so I may need the weekdays to get it all done.

When I have a system that works for a particular area, I will share it here (and sometimes just to toot my own horn ;) )... But I am ALWAYS open to new ideas so if you guys have a great system that works for you for any of these areas in your home please send me links to pictures, or leave a comment with your genius in my comments section. You know how I love comments. :D

Things I try to remember when decluttering:

  • Be as brutal as I need to be.
  • Things that are broken and/or don't work should be tossed.
  • Make lists of things that are needed and be patient with filling those needs.
  • Don't declutter just to bring a bunch more in.
  • Try to be honest with the difference between needs and wants.
  • For at least a week, try to make do... sometimes I am amazed at what I find that will fill the void just by decluttering another space!

Office declutter challenge for the week of Friday May 8th - Friday May 15th (one for each day):

  1. School books and projects
  2. Art supplies (stored ones, too)
  3. Supplies (binders, paper, stored packing materials, etc)
  4. Finished work
  5. Desk
  6. bookcases
  7. Craft ideas

Ecolovies crafts ~ Recycled Tealight Wall Sconces

I have decided to start a new craft day in my family... I am calling it Ecolovies... where we make neat crafts with recycled, reclaimed, and earth friendly things. Hopefully, it will become a weekly tradition I can share.

These wall sconces were super easy and honestly I LOVE how they turned out! With an old wire hanger from our dry cleaning days, a baby food jar with no top, and a pair of needle nose pliers these babies became neat little wall decorations for my great room. These are the first two, but I am sure as I learn more about the feel of the wire, and the way to use the pliers they will get more and more beautiful. Already I have plans to make some for people for gifts this Christmas. Best of all, they cost NOTHING.

I know, the red tacks take away from the feel of the picture... lol!

But they were so beautiful I couldn't wait to share.

Adding some more to Menu Monday

I want to make menu Monday more interesting. So I have decided to include budget recipes every week I have one. This week I was lucky... there were two!

Veggie Fried Rice
  • 4 cups cooked brown/wild/red/mixed rice
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • One large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 handfuls of each frozen golden beets and frozen green beans
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Bragg's Amino Acid or 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise

Chop onion into slivers, and mince garlic. In a large skillet, saute' over med high heat with oil until onion starts to clear. Add in beets and green beans and agitate constantly until they are cooked through. Add in the rice and mix until warm. Remove from heat and add the Bragg's and mayo. Toss and serve, warm or cold.

Mexi Comfort Rice

  • 4 cups cooked brown/wild/red/mixed rice
  • Olive oil or butter for cooking
  • 1 can or 1 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 can or 1 1/2 cup cooked black beans
  • 3 Tbs salsa
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped olives
Dice the bell pepper and saute in oil or butter until soft. Add in the beans and corn. When hot, pour into a large bowl and add in the rice and toss with salsa, cilantro leaves, and chopped olives (saving some of the cilantro and olives back for garnish if you wish). Add salt if needed (ours didn't need it... but it depends on the salsa.)

Either of these recipes could be converted to vegan, and both serve 5 - 6 people for under $5. I just love rice!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spontaneous Gratitude for this Mother's Day

A wildflower bouquet my daughter brought me.
(On an aside, she arranged this by herself. I was really impressed.)

Reading books in the sunshine with cute kids... and sweet kittens.

New books that are all mine.

A beautiful Mother's Day nature table filled with the great mother's gifts of nature.