Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I want one…

Researching for my blog could get expensive. While looking for the link for my existing Castle Bundt Pan, I discovered this Castles Cakelette Pan from Nordic Ware. It makes 6 wonderful miniature castles. For a family of sci-fi and renaissance faire fans, I may be able to justify getting yet another castle mold.

Our little princess turned 2

Every little girl deserves at least one princess party. We had a simple party at her school which featured Disney’s Little Mermaid movie, a castle cake with M&M ocean and a school of Swedish fish. They stuck foam stickers onto beach buckets which we then filled with their party favors.

Disney’s Little Mermaid coloring pages. We also had an underwater scene printed on to cardstock for sand painting and gluing shell pasta.

“Come In” Door hangers: The pattern is from printable doorknob hanger. I used a free coloring castle from Lucy Travels. I precut the hangers for the teachers but I left the doorknob opening in place so it would be easier for little hands to color without ripping off the hanger.

Cake: I used a Castle Bundt Pan from Nordic Ware to make the castle. The Betty Crocker yellow cake mix turned a beautiful sandy brown color. You can order bags of single colored M&Ms to fit almost any theme directly from M&M Mars. I ordered three shades of blue for our aquatic theme. A healthy ocean should have a few fish so I stocked ours with a few Swedish Fish. Strangely enough these are easily found at our local Home Depot and they taste so much better then the other gummy type fish. The cake and ocean were arranged on a cardboard soda case covered with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Party favors: The kids’ beach buckets were filled with a princes rubber duck and aquarium sticker sheets from the Oriental Trading Company and a ball from the local dollar store. The Oriental Trading Company site is a favorite for teachers, party throwers and neighborhood carnivals for their assortment of cheap stuff.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Maps are one of those things I have had an interest in since I was very young. I remember drawing detailed maps of my neighborhood when I was is 1st grade. Maps have so many used like agricultural, economical, topographical, populations and of course how to get from here to there. A while back my husband sent me the Maps of War showing the History of the Middle East in 60 Seconds. It is quite fascinating.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Monster Door Lock

Last month while surfing the web I came across this adorable door lock to keep monsters from coming out of the closet called Petunia Petunia- Monster-in-the-Closet-Lock. The image was of a large padlock or miniature crocheted purse with a green bag and blue handle. Form the handle it has a cord and hanging crocheted key. On the bag portion there is a one eyed monster with five crocheted tentacles which sort of looks like a beholder.

I not sure having this shipped from Peru is very green but I do think it is another reason for me to learn how to crochet. I might need to sketch out a pattern for a knitted or quilted variation for the little guy who is sleeping with the lights on because of monsters.

Wheat-Free Snacks for Long Walks

I find for a long walk, over 6 miles, a nice wholesome banana, a chai late with fat free 1/2 & 1/2 (watch the sugar in some of these) and an occasional Shot Block will get me where I'm going. Oh, yeah, and water, lots of water. If you walk past the port-a-potties at 2 checkpoints in a row you probably aren't drinking enough. I have also found that Zone bars are wheat free and quite tasty. I found this is a good wheat free meal replacement for all of those sandwiches they give the walkers (and runners, bikers, etc). Because of food allergies that is pretty much what got me through 17 miles this past May. Most walk-a-thons have 'carb loading' snacks loaded with wheat so I have to be prepared with a pouch of healthy complete snacks which will get me through. Other walks I have taken small single serve bags of nuts, dried meat like beef jerky, or dried fruit. It might sound strange but I have considered getting a bag of the Gerber Graduates for Toddlers Mini Veggies toddler sweet corn snack (freeze dried corn) to take to the next long walk. It is really tasty, healthy, light weight, and wheat free. The Iroquois were able to go great distances on dried meat, dried corn, nuts, and berries. It worked then and it still works now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Science Searchs & Learning Languages

Scirus is a science-specific search engine on the Internet for searching more than 415 million science-related pages. This is the site I used to find some of the references I used in my balloon release post.

This week’s WTOP website of the week is really cool. It is the Foreign Service Institute language courses . This could come in handy for the people know trying to learn Chinese. I could also use it to brush up on my Spanish.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Daddy Tree

I’ve been eyeing tree faces for a while. Up until now none were quite right. The Merrifield Garden Center has several tree faces but this one just looked too much like my husband to pass up. My son has renamed the Silver Maple the ‘daddy tree’.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fresh Tomato

I have been asked why I am trying to grow a vegetable garden when I live in the suburbs and less then 5 blocks from a grocery store. The photo should be enough of an answer. There is nothing better then a fresh tomato picked from the vine. If that isn’t, then there are at least two other reasons: 1) I want the kids to know where their food comes from. Fruits and vegetables are not born in plastic wrappers or wooden crates. I also want them to respect the land which they live and walk. The more they learn how they are connected to the earth, the more likely they are to respect it. 2) Locally grown food takes less energy to get from the garden to the plate. Yes, we need to ship in some things like seeds and water but our compost and grass trimmings should help feed the food which will feed us.

I love fresh picked tomatoes with just a dash of salt or a dollop of mayo. This past weekend Trader Joe’s was featuring samples of Heritage Tomatoes, Feta Goat Cheese and their balsamic vinaigrette. They have also introduced me to marinated fresh mozzarella cheese with tomatoes and fresh basil which has a bit more spice and heat then using a plain fresh mozzarella.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Balloon Releases

After the Virginia Tech massacre I was torn between being touched when I heard about the 33 white and the 1,000 burgundy and orange balloons which were released at the memorial ceremony shortly after and being out raged that the organizers were so indifferent to the environment and the safety of others.

Back in the 70’s I remember hearing about balloons being removed from the blow holes, lungs, and stomachs of dead whales and other marine mammals. In the past decade there has been a campaign to raise awareness of the choking dangers of latex balloons are to young children. In the hands of a young child they can pop and if swallowed can suffocate the child. A piece lodges in the throat and is nearly impossible to remove weather it be a human child or a whale at sea. The fallen balloons litter our forest, towns, and waters. There are many groups organizing clean ups across the country and trying to put out the word not to litter. Yet the news carries stories of releasing hundreds of pieces of litter… a beautiful memorial but it is all litter once released.

Released balloons threaten air traffic. I’ve been told that the latex balloons and probably the Mylar ones too are a real problem for jet engines and have caused engine failure in mid flight. The good news is most jet planes have multiple jet engines and can usually land with one less. I’ve heard people tell me that balloons don’t go that far. Balloons can travel high and far. During WWII Japan released balloons hoping they would reach the shores of the United States. Several did with one killing a civilian with its cargo.

With all the damage released balloons can do, can we come up with a better substitution to remember our loved ones and be more environmentally and safety conscious?

And to be fair here is a supporter of balloon releases with a set of rules trying make them more environmentally friendly, Outdoor Balloon Releases. To be honest as soon as they mention sending pet ashes up in a balloon, I cringed. The idea of having ashes from a cremated pet falling on me is just totally gross. Then she goes on to recommend “telling” the local airport not asking them so you don’t get tangled up in the red tap. This acknowledges the problem but sort of makes it the ‘pilot’s problem’ not theirs has information about balloon releases and an alternative of butterflies as well as more scientific information about balloons themselves. The argument that most fully inflated balloons will reach an altitude where they will freeze and burst before falling back down as small ribbons of latex seems to forget that all of those pieces will land somewhere, usually within 5 miles of the release. Considering people don’t want landfills in their back yards, would you really want it to be raining balloon droppings in your yard? Yes, latex balloons are biodegradable. This is a great argument to compost your old balloons. I don’t see it as a reason to release them.

The Balloon Council seems to think that adding only a small percentage of the litter cleaned up off of the beaches isn’t enough to worry about. Hmm, if everyone didn’t contribute a small amount there would be so much less to clean up.


My husband sent this YouTube video about composting a while back. I’ve saved the URL for when ever I need a smile. It is sort of like a muppets compost rap.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pine Pitch Be Gone

I’m trying to remove a small pine tree from a very over crowded flower bed and managed to get a hand full of pine pitch. I tried dish detergent and liquid hand soap which failed. Then I had an idea of trying olive oil. Yes, OLIVE OIL and it worked. I washed my hands with the olive oil then with the dish detergent to get the oil off. It worked great and was not toxic so I was able to go right to cooking or playing with the kids.

Checking out Wikipedia they don’t mention using olive oil as a cleaner. Chrisjob at has a list of 25 Alternate Uses for Olive Oil and pine pitch isn’t listed anywhere.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Old Time Photo

This spring the kids had old time photos taken. Since part of the package was buying the copyrights to use as we please, I should share at least one.

From Salad to Shrinky Dinks

It must be fond childhood memories or just the magic of watching plastic twist, bend, shrink and flatten out again. Either way Shrinky Dinks were one of those things I seem to be able to vividly remember from my childhood and hope to share with my children when the get a little older. Which is probably why I got a bit excited today when I found a DIY Shrinky Dinks blog on how to do your own with recycled take out dishes. He uses Clean #6 Plastic (common in cold deli take out containers & recyclable in only some areas), permanent markers, aluminum foil and an oven (or heat gun) to make his own Shrinky Dinks in just 3.5 minutes at 350°. So yet another cool (or is it hot) craft which can use stuff slated for the landfill. Even if you can recycle #6 (polystyrene) in your area you can always make it into a fun gift tag, cell phone dangle, zipper pull, etc and recycle it latter when it gets worn out.

Helpful Internet Sites

One of my favorite radio stations has a weekly Web Site of the Week segment. This week they sang the praises of How Stuff Works. The site has an amazing amount of straightforward information.

Last month they featured Webopedia’s text messaging chat abbreviations. I NEED this site to translate some of the emails and instant messages I get from my ‘younger’ friends and co-workers.

Any one in the GREATER Washington/Baltimore area should check out WTOP online or on the radio. It is a great source of local information including news, traffic, and events. The station goes almost as far as some of the commuters do and there are commuters driving in from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Finding Your Way

I’m trying to find new and interesting routes to walk. Between and I should be able to find new places to walk to and new routes to get there.

As I posted earlier, Walk Score can help you find out how ‘walk able’ a community is and list lots of different kinds of destinations in walking distance such as libraries, stores, restaurants, parks, and more.

Okay so you won’t see me running unless there is something really big and hungry chasing after me but the Map My Run site can be just as useful for walkers and bikers. On the site you can plot out a course on the interactive map. You can adjust your route to get different distances or vary your scenery during your walk, ride, or run. The results can be printed out or downloaded to your GPS. I’m considering leaving a hardcopy of the map for Tim so he knows where I am if I need to be rescued from pop up thunderstorms or surprise blisters.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Several years ago I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy. I am one of the fortunate ones who can actually eat spelt which is an ancient relative to the modern wheat. So for much of my homemade breads and such I substitute spelt flour for the modern wheats. Wheat-free products aren't always easy to find often they contain gluten, germ, or other wheat byproduct. I am so grateful for the flood of new gluten-free cookbooks, mixes and products which have broaden the possible foods even if it is only at home.

I find it absolutely amazing how few people know what is in their food. Listening to people talk about food you would think food was just made up of calories, fat, salt and maybe some fiber. So many are oblivious to the individual ingredients which make up the foods they enjoy so much.

There almost seem to be three types of people when it comes to eating: those who will eat whatever is handy, others are concerned with calories & fat, and still others that care what goes into there food. With these groups it seems two out of three people seem to have no chance to even know what wheat is. I was brought white bread and was told it was 'white not wheat' and this was while I was in a hospital.

For anyone who has a wheat allergy, Celiac, Lupus, or other reason to avoid wheat or gluten here area few helpful websites:

Gluten-Free Girl Fun to read and she has a lot of useful links
Gluten-Free mall If you can't find it at your local store they probably have it
Trader Joe’s is also increasing their gluten-free and wheat-free lines.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Shrinky Dinks Go Digital

This is so cool. There are now shrinkable sheets to go through your ink jet printers. Just print and bake. Not Martha used them for gift tags for her homemade sun jars but they have so much potential.

Pumpkin Flower

This morning I was greeted by a beautiful yellow pumpkin flower on one of the newly planted pumpkins.

The garden watch: several of the tomatoes are starting to get a pink blush, the squash and pepper are starting to form fruit and the watermelon is still growing but not quite ready yet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Unofficial Recycling - aka trash day

Yesterday morning I saw a little plastic picnic bench propped up against a tree on the curb. It was absolutely filthy. It looked like it had been in the yard under a tree for at least the past year. I took the kids home, switched them to the van and then went to see if it was still there. YUP! The kids scrubbed it clean (almost – Tim is planning on cleaning it again when less help is around) with a bucket of water with dish detergent and the hose while I made dinner. It is in good shape but doesn't look new. The kids are happy with it. William keeps asking to have picnics and it will be perfect for kid dinning on the porch. I think they had fun getting soaking wet from head to toe while they were washing it.

Monday, August 6, 2007


It’s been just over a month since I planted and posted our little garden. In spite of the very dry weather we have been having it is growing even faster then the kids. The tomato plant has some good size green tomatoes and the yellow pepper and yellow squash are showing some signs of fruit developing. But the watermelon is the king of the garden. Not only is it spreading to cover the whole bed but it is the only one the rest of the family is taking any interest in. This comes as no surprise and is the reason I only planted one of each of the others. When the first small watermelon was about the size of a quarter, I dragged the children over to the dirt pile they had been told not to play in for weeks. I explained that it was a baby watermelon and it was going to get bigger and then we would get to eat it. They looked at it and at me in complete disbelief. A few days latter I dragged them over again. This time it had more then doubled in size and their mouths began to water. We now have to check the watermelon every day before and after school to see how much bigger it has gotten. It probably has a week or two more to go before we can take it in side and see if we have watered it enough to get sweet juicy home grown melon.

This past week I finally got the opportunity to plant the pumpkin and watermelon we started from seed in the house. I had gotten 4 little containers of soil and seed from Kmart which fit nicely into a plastic Chinese take out dish. The clear plastic top made a great little green house and the kids thought it was really cool when the seedlings pushed the top off. It may be too late to get pumpkins and watermelon from them but the kids are really having fun watching them grow. They now have a home in the yard around yet another old tree stump. So far the garden locations have been determined by already hard to mow areas around old rotting tree stumps. The first garden covers the area where the ground was sinking from the rotting process and was hard to not get the mower stuck. The second one has a partial stump sticking up and a little sinking too. It actually looks like a cool natural garden feature now it is surrounded by a circle of salvaged bricks and healthy topsoil. And both spots are much easier to mow around.

Pull Top Handbags & Buying Locally

I discovered Escama handbags after reading a BITE email last week. They make really cool handbags made from can pull tops. They are hand crocheted in Brazil from 100% post-consumer recycled aluminum. Some of the bags look like chain mail so I'm thinking about experimenting with a bag and depending on how that turns out maybe make some armor. It would be great for the MD Ren Faire day of wrong and other not-historically-correct events.

Today's Tip from The Sierra Club The Green Life:
Is to buy from a local store instead of a large chain store. Each dollar spent in a local store has a larger impact on the local econoly as one spent at a chain store...
.... So buy locally

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Royal Crowns

I’m researching books and websites to find little kid party ideas for upcoming birthdays. I found a really cool idea in one of my children activity books called Days of Knights and Damsels: An Activity Guide by Laurie Carlson. She used a one gallon water or milk jug to make crowns. So on Sunday after looking at the diagrams and with kitchen shears in hand; I decide I should give it a try. A few snips here and there, some left over yarn and a hole punch we made a crown for a prince and for a princes from one jug. The kids were thrilled and have been wearing them nearly every day.

This looks like it could be a good form to design a costume crown for a masquerade or Halloween costume.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


I've been trying to do more walking but I really need to make sure I don't walk away without doing some posting. :)

The last 1/2 of July I managed to walk 18 miles. Most of it over my lunch breaks. It’s a great way of reducing stress along with trying to get a little more fit.

Over the past two days I've come across two websites which could make a walker's life much easier. posted a link to which calculates how walk able your community is. After you type in your address it will tell you what in near you (grocery stories, parks, movies, gyms, etc) and how far they are. The Sierra Club e-newsletter The Green Life had information about public transportation which list all the public transportation for an area.