Monday, February 23, 2009

Hurry up springtime!

Is anyone else out there ready for spring???? Certainly it can't just be me. Thank goodness I don't live in Alaska or Maine. I don't think that I could take all of the cold and staying inside all of the time. Although I have humored myself this winter by learning to knit.

My fingers are itching to garden and my feet are ready for flip flops. I've had mine by the back door for two weeks just waiting on warmer weather. My clothes line has been bare too long and my laundry is ready for some sunshine.

There is something about going for long walks and your little toes not freezing, or waking every morning to the birds twittering outside your window. Opening the shutters to let in the warmth of the summer sun and opening the windows to let in the fresh air are some other long awaited favorites.

What are yours? Make a list on your blog about the things that you love about the spring and tag me!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Funerals...something no one wants to talk about

Earlier this week I received a phone call from my best friend of 20+ years. She was notably upset and proceeded to tell me that one of her good friends from 10 years ago had passed away in a terrible car accident.

I had met the women twice in 20 years but know one of her brothers very well. We all used to run around together as teenagers and have maintained some contact over the years. The woman that passed had lead a very hectic life and while we all slowed down, she kept going. Understandably, my best friend had lost touch with her over the years, but the time they spent together meant alot to my friend. She grew up significantly during their time together and had grown to appreciate their relationship for that.

During our conversation we both agreed to go to the funeral home visitation together and offer our condolences to her family. Last night was the night. Three hours before our meeting time, my friend called in a tizzy and said she was definitely NOT going. She couldn't do it. I let her vent her emotions and patiently waited for my time. Her last remark to me was, "I don't do well at funerals."

That is an interesting remark. Do you know anyone that does well at funerals? Maybe one or two people, but most people can't stand to go to a funeral. They don't know what to say, they don't want to let anyone see them cry, and they don't want to say goodbye in most cases. I'm no different. I confess that there are easier things to do in life and other things that I'd rather be doing than crying at a funeral home, but I believe that everything has a time and a place.

Fact: We will all die one day.

No matter how hard you try. No matter how many plastic surgeries you have. No matter how many trips in an airplane you refuse. No matter how careful you are to wash your hands after handling raw chicken. WE WILL ALL DIE. It's an unavoidable fact.

That doesn't mean that we should spend all day, everyday wondering how, when or why. It just means that it will happen. No one says it will be easy for anyone involved. It just happens.

I didn't explain this to my friend. She knows that. I guess we all do on some level.

I did remind her that she had treasured this friendship and that there were other people involved. The woman left a teenage son and two small children, in addition to her mother, father, brother, and sister. These people are in need of comfort as well. They will miss this woman. Over the next few weeks there will be major adjustments in the lives of this family and in the care of her children. Wouldn't it be nice to go and let them know that you care? that you will miss her, too? that her life meant something to you? Of course, she answered yes.

We went. She cried. We talked to the family. They cried. She had to remove herself from the room because she was that upset.

Did she regret it? No. In the ride back home she was glad that she had gone to say goodbye. She was glad that the last few days have been spent running over memories in her mind. She was glad that she was able to comfort the family in her own way. Seeing her probably brought back good memories for the woman's family, as well.

Do we have to go to funerals? No.

Would we want someone to comfort our family if our lives were lost? Yes.

The next time you're in doubt about whether or not to go to a funeral remember that. You would appreciate someone extending love to your family when you're gone. It really is that simple.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Now showing (in the garden!)

Here at home spring is just around the corner. We've had temperatures in the 50's and 60's the past two weeks and my garden is showing signs of life. Secretly, I'm a little worried that it'll dip below 30 again and my plants will suffer, but there's always next year!

One of my many rosebushes putting out leaves and new growth.

My camellia is loving this weather!

And, last but not least - the crocuses!

I see hundreds of daffodils waiting in the wings, my chives are springing to life, and my irises are starting to green up. It won't be long until the yard is full of color once again. I can't wait! I know that winter is necessary but spring and fall are my favorites.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My other babies...

For those of you that don't know, I have 4 children - 2 human and 2 canine. My 2 canines were actually behaving the other day so I snapped a few pictures. Bam (on the left) is our lab mix and Scooby (on the right) is our Great Dane.

What mama? Am I in trouble for rooting through your garden again?

Now, seriously, mama, let's talk. It was brother, not me...really...honestly... Uh, is this getting me anywhere?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Completed Compost bins

Hooray! My Valentine's compost bins were finished yesterday.

How this works:

The wooden frame supports the plastic barrel by a piece of rebar. The rebar is threaded through the center of the plastic barrel and rotates on two plumbing parts (found at the local hardware store) for smooth rotation. The barrel is mounted high enough on the frame to allow full rotation which should properly aerate and stir the compost.

The barrel has a locking lid and a screw on cap that allows easy access for adding water and materials. My hubby drilled 4 small holes on each side of the barrel to allow further aeration of the decomposing materials.

I can't wait to start filling these up. I'll keep you posted as to the decomposition rate and results. Hopefully, I'll generate more compost since I'll be able to properly turn the pile. I think I'll start by turning it daily.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Composting 101

I mentioned my new compost bins recently so I thought I would elaborate a bit on what I compost, how, and why. (This is a picture of my kitchen compost container.)

Composting came up several times at Master Gardener meetings I'd attended shortly after we moved in our home. I'd never composted growing up and didn't know anyone who did, so this was a foreign concept to me. Five years ago it must have been a foreign concept to alot of people in this area of the country because I could find next to no information on how to do it. These days information is everywhere as this idea has caught on like wildfire.

Composting basics -

  • Find a corner of your yard that receives a decent amount of sun daily and, if you want to compost in a chicken wire bin, fairly hidden from the main yard. But, don't put it too far out of sight or it will be out of mind, as well!

  • Construct or purchase your bin.

  • Place untreated yard waste, non-meat kitchen scraps, and any other bio-degradable material you have into the bin.

  • Turn the pile periodically.

  • Reap the rewards of a mineral and nutrient rich top dressing for your established garden or construct a new garden with it!

Construction costs can be minimal if you have scrap materials hanging around but the bin can be as elaborate as you desire. Some are made from a few posts and chicken wire and some from redwood decking with bottoms and lids. There are many types available for purchase on the market and each with have it's own gadgets or gizmos. Some are rolling barrels, some are mounted and have hand cranks while others are large plastic bins.

My current bins are repurposed black, 32-gallon, rolling trash cans. A rolling bin would be great to enabled movement within the yard, without multiple shovelings. We live in the heart of a large urban area, but have a huge wildlife population due mostly to our neighborhoods grand, old, pecan trees, so I felt that something lidded was called for. The color black was chosen due to the extra heat it retains and this helps to speed up the "cooking" or disintegration process for the compost.

Modifications were modest. We poked holes randomly throughout the garbage can to allow aeration of the compost and changed out the flimsy standard plastic wheels into lawn mower wheels of the same size.

The problems came when it was time to turn the pile, which is recommended daily, weekly or monthly depending on how quickly you expect results. I could fit the pitchfork inside the trash can, but flipping the compost was next to impossible once the bin was half full. For the past several months I have been adding material but have done next to no flipping. This results in extremely slow composting and removal of the highly composted material the the bottom is going to be a chore. (This would be no problem if I could lift 200+ pounds, but I can't without throwing out my back. At which point I couldn't garden, so you see the dilemma!)

These problems led me to search for an economical alternative. Trust me, there are hundreds of ideas out there. The problem is to find something that works within your range of knowledge and to find materials that you can obtain without going over your individual budget. We're giving this project a try and I'll keep you posted as to how it turns out!

Things I compost:

  • egg shells

  • fruit and vegetable scraps - raw and unseasoned

  • tea bags

  • coffee grounds and filters

  • leaves

  • grass clippings

  • dead plants - undiseased and untreated

  • wood ash from untreated wood

  • wood shavings from untreated wood

Can you compost other things?

Certainly, this is but my meager list. I might add that my pile never has an offensive odor. In fact, with fruit scraps I find that this fragrances my yard with the fruit scent - especially pineapple!

Too avoid offensive odors and rodent problems most people recommend avoiding adding pet waste and protein based materials to the pile. If you've ever had meat go bad in your refrigerator you should understand this perfectly.

I prefer untreated wood items because I'd like to keep my pile as free from chemicals as possible. Manufacturers treat wood with a heavy dose of chemicals to keep it from rotting outside so of which is arsenic. For those of you that don't read V.C. Andrews novels - arsenic can kill you if you intake enough of it and even moderately high levels can make your life miserable with possible life long side effects.

Why do I compost?

Why throw all of that lovely, nutritious material into the garbage? Keeping all of these things for my own further use prevents me having to rush out every year and stock up on manufactured manure, compost, and formulated, chemical plant feed. The first year I saved over $100 dollars in feeding expenses and my plants looked happier.

Composting also saves expenses for your city or county because they have less waste to pick up and process. In turn, this can lower your taxes, especially if enough people do it - so be sure to get some friends in on the act!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Things that move me...

One of our youth group leaders at church introduced us to something he found on YouTube. He wanted our youth to preform it for the church and our local addiction recovery center called Prodigals. Once the kids saw it there was a resounding "Yes!" coming from them.

Have you ever been shown something that moves you to tears? Have you ever been moved to the point of sobbing? You may be if you watch this.

Apparently these skits are running rampant through the Christian youth groups around the world. Our group performed this in September and it's on YouTube, but the quality of the filming makes it hard to see all of the details. This video is by a group in Australia.

This skit touched people that I never thought to see cry. Everytime is see it I find it hard not to fall to the floor sobbing. Like many of us, I've been there, done that and Jesus saved me...just like He does in this film. He saved me from myself and all of those worldly things that are so easy to get caught up in - love for others, money, looks, partying, self-pity.

This blog is my journey from the other side. This is my new life. This is my God Walk. None of this would be possible without having Jesus in my life and Jesus as my savior.

Jesus can change your heart and life if you open yourself to receive Him - yes, it's that easy...just open up and let His love in your'll never regret it!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Valentine's Day present (or new compost bins)

Here are some pictures of my prospective Valentine's Day present -

Isn't it wonderful? I currently have two large compost bins/ repurposed trash cans. We even bought new, sturdier wheels for them. They're great, don't get me wrong, but it's a pain to trying to turn the compost. Since it's a pain, it doesn't get done.

After discussing buying new compost bins last year, we arrived at the same conclusion - not enough extra money to buy them. We certainly can't afford one of those nice $400 composters or, really, even a $100 one.

My husband works in construction and is forever bringing home scraps of various items. Many of which simply accumulate in our garage waiting for a home. Last week he brought home some large oak timbers. I got giddy when I saw them, plans tumbling about in my head. Then, last weekend, he mentioned that a buddy had access to plenty of old barrels which had been used for food storage. (This was highly important as you certainly don't want to use petroleum barrels for composting. Can you imagine )greasy veggies? Yuck!) Pop! Did you hear my lightbulb go off????

Today we went to the local farmers market and took pictures of some composters available for sale and, as I write, he's cutting the timber! Yippeeee!

Have I been married too long since I'm excited over compost bins? Nah! This is the single most thoughtful thing he's ever done for me. My hubby actually listened when I that's a gift!

(Added Bonus: I'll have life sized R2D2's in my yard...hehehe...)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How to Make an American Quilt

I truly wish I knew you?

My first attempts occured this past summer. I'm making a crazy quilt. I figured a crazy quilt was a good place to start since you don't have to stick to a pattern (and I have a major problem doing that. Guess I'm too rebellious!) I know. I know. Crazy quilting is meant to use up your scraps and I also know that many people don't consider crazy quilting a true form of quilting. Again, the no pattern thing won me over.

How this all started -

Ten years ago I finally watched the movie "How to Make an American Quilt". If you haven't seen it you should. You may not agree with all of the actions that occur in the movie and it may upset your senses a bit. However, I've found that these scenarios are completely accurate in most people lives, unfortunate as that may be. Please don't misunderstand this as an endorsement for living your lives that way. Sometimes our lives are made more palatable by knowing that others experience the same problems.

If I recall correctly this movie came out about the time of "Fried Green Tomatoes", which is another movie you should definitely see. Actually, if you're so inclined, I recommend purchasing both of these movies because you'll probably want to watch them over and over again.

Anyway, back to my original thought. "How to Make an American Quilt" follows along the story line of a Quilting group that makes various quilts together over the years. The movie tells of how the group came to be together and provides other stories that make up the participants lives. Together, this group makes one beautiful quilt after another. Without further giving away the story line I'll say that making these quilts has become a source of release for them, good and bad.

Quilting is an art form. It's an expression of the creators inner most thoughts and feelings. Like all other art forms, the object can be kept private or displayed for the world. The maker can also choose whether or not the item can be utilitarian or just for looks. This movie illustrates these points and tugs at your heart strings. It instills in you a deep desire to create something that can be passed down through your family for generations.

The point -

The crazy quilt I am currently making is designated for one of the walls in my living room. We have an older cottage that stays cool all year round. This tendency is fabulous during the summer but terrible for chilly winter days. Being a history buff, I remembered that larger homes originally used tapestries to ward off winter chill, thus the idea to create wall hangings. My children are welcome to pass the quilt on or keep it for a similar use.

I wish that the fabric swatches I'm using meant something to me personally. There are people that save their children's clothing to make quilts for them as wedding gifts and such. There are others that simply save every scrap of fabric they've ever owned to re-purpose them. The fabrics I have were skirts from a local thrift store, chosen merely for their color or oddities. I suppose there will be little to reminisce upon when looking at the finished project.

Perhaps one day I can aspire to be one of these "savers of memories". It is on my to-do list. And maybe by the time I finish my quilt I'll have a unique story to share about the journey...

Friday, February 6, 2009

What do you do with those large, plastic zipper bags?

When you bring home new linens or that new bedspread that you just can't live without, what do you do with those plastic zipper bags? Do you save them and reuse them or throw them out with the sale labels?

For the past several years I've been saving them. AND they have been gathering dust, until recently! Shoot, I almost forgot I had them.

My church started a new ministry this year and we have storage needs involved. As I was shuffling and re-shuffling items from shopping bag to shopping bag in my large, but apparently not large enough, closet, it suddenly occurred to me that I had an untapped reserve of storage goodies tucked away on a shelf. Just when I was planning to head out to the store and invest in some lidded, plastic storage containers recycling hits me in the head - literally. (In the process of reaching up to my secret stash I knocked a box off the top shelf. Good thing it was just my wedding gown!)

Hidden treasure is wonderful! Some of these bags shape into large cubes; perfect for stacking. Several others come with carrying straps; fantastic for those bags that need to be toted about regularly. There are even some smaller ones to allow splitting of tiny items. Hehehe...I'm in clutter busting heaven!

Other things these delightful bags would be good for:
  • Camping - pack the supplies you need to keep dry in these bags and dare water to wet them!

  • Toy storage - great for those seasonal toys or that over abundance of stuffed animals

  • Seasonal clothing - the handled bags would work well here. Pack up those sweaters and store them away without worrying about dampness or moths.

  • Gym bag - why pay $50 for a gym bag when you can recycle one for free?

  • Yarn tote - these are clear so you can always find the needles and scissors you need!

  • Overnight travel bags - why get out that massive suitcase for an overnight trip?

Okay, your turn! Get out that imagination and dust it off...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thought for the day

We had Chinese last night, which is highly unusual for us these days, given the economy. But, we do splurge occasionally and boy was it worth it!

This was in one of the fortune cookies -

Knowledge and not doing are equal to not knowing at all.

Amen! Don't you just love fortune cookies????

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What's up in homeschool

I thought we'd share some things we've been working on in homeschool this year.For those of you that don't know, this is our first year at it and my son is in the 7th grade. In addition to the regular math, science and social studies program it became a priority to place bible study, art and home economics in the mix.

Bible study is the first class everyday because he needs to learn to place God first in all things. This was a fantastic idea and truly sets the tone for each day. We mix some Veggie Tales in with his regular lessons - yes, he's 12 and still loves Veggie Tales. There are two added bonuses here; I love Veggie Tales and I can quiz him on the actual reading versus the sweetened kids version.

Art is one of his favorite subjects. He has one of the most imaginative minds of anyone I know and I'd like to keep it that way. Conventional school tends to beat this out of a child in order to better mold them into the cookie cutter design, then teachers can't figure out why you have no creativity in high school when writing papers....duh! He is also a Boy Scout so we integrated some of the scout badge requirements into things he'd learn this year and killed two birds with
one stone - poor birds!

This is the cheap pottery wheel we threw a bowl on. Not bad for his first try!

Home Economics is a given in my book. These are things he needs to learn anyway - how to sew on a button, cook a tasty meal, run a household on a budget, etc... and I want him to be completely prepared to take on the world when he leaves the nest. He likes to question everything I do in the kitchen and I am bad for taking on everything myself. Including this into his learning schedule has allowed me to take myself out of the picture and let the teacher take over. I've also found that if he helps plan the meal he explores more options. Something happened from ages 4 to 5 that took him from eating almost purely vegetables to eating mostly meat and potatoes. When he selects the meal he chooses items he would snarl at otherwise!

Here's a crystal growing project for science. They grew everywhere but where we wanted! -

Some geodes we cracked open (some cracked better than others) -