Friday, October 31, 2008

Eureka A Ukulele Case

My little girl has been clinging to the box her ukulele came in to carry it everywhere. It came in a brown box and had no case of its own. I told her I would make her a case for her ukulele. She was excited by the promise and now I just needed to find a way to do it for her. I’ve never made anything like that before.

Last weekend we went to a Jo-Ann fabric and craft store to get some supplies. We came out of the store with a little fusible batting, extra wide bias tape, a 30” zipper and a pair of bamboo handles. Once we were back home I started with tracing the out line of her ukulele onto some packing paper and picking out fabric. I thought the pink and blue flower fabrics I got while on vacation in Hawaii would be perfect. I cut out and ironed together the front and back pieces with the fusible batting then put the whole project down for a day to think about how I was going to assemble the rest of the pieces.

Two nights latter I picked it up again. I was planning on taking it one step at a time to see how far I could get. I was hoping my daughter could use it the next day but there was no rush…. until she saw me working on it. Then I had to do what I could to get it done so she wouldn’t be disappointed the next morning. I was up until past 1 am but I finished it. When she woke up the next morning she asked if it was done. I told her it was and where I had left it. She took off for it. I saw her hesitate in front of it and give out the adorable little giggly squeak. She picked it up and turned it all around with a huge smile on her face. I asked if she liked it and she said yes and then said thank you. The look on her face made getting less then 4 hours of sleep the night before all worth it. She barely would put it down to get dressed or in to the car to go to school. When I left her at school she was still holding onto it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roses Be Gone

Normally I love roses but mine haven’t been looking very good. The former owner of our home admitted she only did what she had to for them to survive. I tried to raise the bar and have given them some rose plant food and lovingly weeded the bed for 2 years. No matter how I fed or trimmed them they always looked straggly and out of control. This year because of other projects the weeds got away from me. It didn’t help that the only place it seemed last year’s fall grass seed grew was in the rose bed.

I decided the rose had to go from that bed. I also decided there really was no better place for them in our yard especially with 2 young children who like to play outside. I talked to my lovely gardening neighbor Pam and she agreed to take the evicted roses to give them a new home.

The kids and I made a trip to our local Merrifield Garden Center to talk to the experts and pick out some replacement plants. We picked out a beautiful yellow cone flower and a purple one too. We also picked single purple parachute plant and two beautiful short flowering plants with beautiful yellow and red flowers to go under the windows. I picked 2 Russian Sages to fill out between the windows. They don’t look like much now but they will get to be 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide. I transplanted some of the bulbs my sister gave me from one end to the other to add some balance to the 23 foot long bed.

All of the new plants are deer resistant, drought resistant and almost no care. I was told I can mow it once a year and be done. I do believe I will still have to weed it but that is still so much easier then old fashion roses. I had thought they always looked bad because of the soil and neglect but it was actually lack of rain. After 2 days of steady rain. Our rain gauge said we got over 3 inches and ½ of the bed was wet and the other half was sending up dust clouds. So glad I invested in drought resistant pants for that bed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Recycling: Beds

I am a firm believer in buying used furniture. I love antiques which is just another way of saying old and used. If you don’t need it any more someone else might. Passing it on or selling are good ways of keeping it out of the land fill and saving the resources it takes to make a new one.

My latest acquisition is not an antique but is a formally owned daybed. The neighbor was redoing her guest room and wanted to sell the barely used day bed to make room for a new queen bed. I normally am not a fan of used mattresses but since the full barely used history came with these I took the frame and mattresses. It fits nicely in our sun room.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We Will Rock You

After months of the kids practicing the word ‘guitar’ I finally gave in and got them each a new instrument. We found William a ½ size acoustic guitar that fits him quite well. It came with its own case, too. Selena found ukulele that is just her size. I’ll need to make her a case to carry it to class. They will join my guitar lessons this week but they are telling me they already know how to Rock n’ Roll.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Selena's Sunny Butterfly Room

My daughter’s room is nearly finished. I just need to hang pictures and put things on the shelves.

Paint can be tacky for a few weeks so I’m waiting before putting some of her treasures up on her new plate shelf over her bed. I also would like to get some no-slip material to put on the shelf to be sure things aren’t going to fall if the wall gets banged hard. These are 2 plate sheves purchased from Michael’s Craft Store. We trimmed the joining ends flat and painted them white to match the rest of the trim in her room. I hope to use blue ribbons to hang pictures from the hooks along with some of her other treasures.

The butterflies took a while to cut out. Four of the butterflies were pre-cut wood shapes from the craft store. The others were made from enlarged or shrunk photocopies and traced onto craft wood. They are hung with a spongy removable 3-M adhesive designed to hang up to 10 pounds. When my daughter came home to find them hanging on her wall her face completely lit up as she gleefully shrieked “butterflies”.

The shelves around her dresser are working well. The blue canvas storage cubes I picked up at Lowe’s are working out much better then the two foam ones I found at the container store and cost much less. I am considering getting her 2 or 3 more for all of her tea sets and Match Box cars.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Colvin Run Mill

The kids were out of school for yet another holiday. Since we are currently unaffiliated with any place of prayer, I had to come up with another meaningful plan.

I collect hotel soaps etc at the office for a homeless shelter so I had brought that home. I sorted, counted and packed them up. I picked up 2 cases of Raman noodles on my way home the night before. I packed the kids each a cheese sandwich and a juice box along with a picnic blanket. I had 1/2 a loaf of homemade bread in the freezer which I defrosted and packed. I got the kids dressed and loaded everything into the van. We drove to the shelter and the kids helped me take in the 5 boxes which were very warmly received.

Then we were off to Colvin Run Mill Park (a Fairfax County park). The park has a running stream which usually has a few ducks. We walked past the working mill wheel, a gaggle of geese, and stood on the bridge to toss bread crumbs into the stream. The tradition is to go to a body of running water and cast out the crumbs (bad words, thoughts and deeds) from the year before. I told the kids to try to think of what they did right and wrong last year and think about how to do better next year. I tried but the interest was more on the 5 mallard ducks who swam over and the small fish which were enjoying the bread. We then walked to the picnic area of the park overlooking a different section of the stream where the kids had their picnic. We went to the store where I let each of the kids get 1 geo to break open latter.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall Harvest

The kids had another day off from school to celebrate brining in the crops in from the fields. So I took them back to Frying Pan Farm Park. How else would you celebrate the fall harvest? My small garden is showing them some of the joys of having a garden but it doesn’t quite compare to going to a farm with big furry animals, wagon rides and fields of corn. I also wanted to fulfill my promise of a wagon ride since we missed the last ride while the kids were milking a cow last time we were there.

This time we arrived in time to see the small farmers market on the green. The kids thought it was really cool they could pick out their own pumpkin. They also thought the Chinese eggplant I bought was a really pretty vegetable. We loaded our fresh from the farmer goods into the van and headed to the wagon rides. We and one other mother of two had a wonderful ride around the farm listening to the history of the farm, what each building is used for and what they offer horse riders. We were even treated watching a beautiful red fox running through the cow pasture.

As we ended our ride the rain started. According to the it was suppose to be SMALL thunderstorms. So we headed to the close by barn with about a dozen other mothers with young kids. As the rain came pouring down the kids were entertained by the not so small baby pigs, the baby goat and her mother, two draft horses and a dairy cow. When the rain let up we jumped puddles over to the rabbit hutch and chicken pen. Then it started to pour, again. We waited for a little while under a very small shed porch roof. We tried to name all of the vegetables in the near by kitchen garden and I explained the fencing was to keep out hungry bunnies and other critters. We gave up and ran back to the barn. The kids thought it was great fun. We petted the animals for a bit longer hoping it would let up so we could get to back to the van without being completely soaked. I could see it just across the field but we need to go around a long fence to get to it. We were doing okay until my daughter announced she needed the potty. Since you don’t want to discourage a potty training 3-year-old we made a run for it. We ran to the van then once we were buckled in drove and dashed into the bathrooms. I am happy to say the little girl stayed dry, accept for the rain. We drove home to peanut butter sandwiches and very happy kids who took well earned naps.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What to wear?

My usual week day morning starts with shouts asking what the kids can or should wear to school. Over the summer the questions usually revolved around special colors or themes of the day at camp. The seasons are changing and there are days it is in the 80’s followed by days in the 60’s and back again. This is quite normal in the mid-Atlantic area of the US in the fall and spring. It all depends which way the wind is blowing. If our weather is coming from the south it can be warn and even humid. If it comes from the northern plains or Canada it can be quite cool and dry. I try to watch the weather every school night and dress the kids in layers so they stay warm and dry.

Since I am trying to raise independent self-reliant kids I’ve made a new poster to hang in the bedroom hallway. After I get the weather report I’ll move the pictures on the poster to show the kids (and their dad) what they should wear that day. If it is sunny and hot they can wear shorts and sleeveless shirts. If it is cold they need long pants and long sleeves. Today I posted a pair of long pants and either long or short sleeves. We’ll give the poster a trial period to see if it needs to be altered or tossed into recycling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mt Vernon

I was very lucky to attend a meeting at the Mt Vernon Estate. I have lived here for 13 years and have only been to Mt Vernon on two other occasions.

Just think this beautiful historical landmark is living proof the power women have… even when we didn’t even have the right to vote. When the heirs of George Washington were ready to sell the government said no thank you. It was a woman who pleaded to her fellow patriotic ladies to help preserve this site for generations to come. Women across the United States sent in pennies, nickels and dimes and contributed enough to purchase the site. The organizing group is still restoring and preserving the site for us to see.

After our informative meeting we were able to take a tour of this beautiful estate. The organizer had arranged for us to go on what is being called the “National Treasure” tour. The tour is named for the Disney movie which used the site. The tour includes the basement, the ice house and a few other spots not included in any of the other tours. Our animated tour guide told us of the history of Mt Vernon along with the tidbits from the making of the film. Luckily the price of the ticket also includes a tour of the house too if you hadn’t had your fill of history.

In the basement is the original corner stone of the original foundation. George Washington extended the house on both sides so it is now nearly in the middle. There are no secret passages ways to any tunnels but there are well maintained brick lined sections ready to store the next season’s crops.

The Ice House does have a quite long tunnel from the river to its deep pit. It was a major undertaking to just haul it into this pit. When you stand below the opening of the tunnel by the river you have a hard time imagining them cutting the ice from the river, dragging and lifting it up the hill, pushing it down into the tunnel and then finally stopping it down to pack it tight. All that work for ice you could not eat but could be used to make ice cream and other treats.

Since Mt Vernon was a dairy farm it had its own creamery.

One of the other treasures hidden from the general public view is a 1938 Ford fire engine given to the Mt Vernon fire department by Mr. Ford himself. The barrels of around the car are whiskey aging to be sold in the gift shop.

After the National Treasure tour I did go through the house tour. And got to see my dream kitchen: so spacious and light.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sorry I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus.

This month has been a very busy one which means I have lots to get posted.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Avocado Slicer

The “evil” friend, Moi Mo, isn’t all that bad after all he did invite me to visit him in Maui and he introduced me to his handy dandy avocado slicer. I’m usually one for less gadgets and ones that are multi functional. A paring knife fore example can do everything an avocado slicer can and so much more and it takes up relatively little space in my very small 1950’s galley kitchen. When he was showing his off, I must admit I was intrigued. Little did I know there was a belated birthday gift waiting for me back on the east coast which was one of these wonderful gadgets. Three avocados latter and I’m loving it. The first avocado I purchased was huge. It took two passes to slice and scrape out all of the avocado tender flesh. The next two avocados were smaller. One I used the new slicer and it was sliced and even diced in seconds. The last one I tired the old tried and true paring knife. I will have to admit hands down the slicer wins.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Moon Pies

I have an ‘evil’ friend who introduced me to Fluff marshmallow cream and Nutella spread sandwiches while I was in Hawaii. You may ask “Why is this so evil?” Well because it is absolutely delicious and could be a perfect comfort food. It has a wonderfully creamy chocolate flavor from the Nutella hazelnut coca spread and the fluff is like the center of a gooey marshmallow. When made with Trader Joe’s spelt bread and just the right amounts of Nutella and fluff are applied it can taste like a moon pie (Wikipedia).

Moon Pies are one of those rare treats we had when I was in elementary school. It was an almost too sweet sandwich of marshmallow between to graham cracker cookies covered with chocolate. These are not something you would eat every day but there were moments when it would just hit the right spot and be just right to bring you to that “ah” moment. Since being diagnosed with a wheat allergy nothing else has been able to hit that same spot. Cotton candy may be even sweeter but it just can’t do it.

You maybe still asking why was he so evil to introduce me to a wonderful sandwich which can bring back wonderful moments of family vacations and childhood. Well just like so many of those other things that taste oh-so good they are terrible for any decent diet. I’ve tried to limit myself to half a sandwich after the kids have gone down for a nap or for the night so I can savor each and every creamy gooey nibble.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Parking Lot Wildlife Adventures

It is amazing what you can see when everyone is quite and ‘still’. This adorable little cotton tail lives on the grounds of the school. This wild hare seems to have resigned to co-existing with people and will allow quite slow moving children to get within 2 yards of him before he bolts for cover. He is so cute and adorable at the school but I’m so glad I haven’t seen any signs of him or any of his relatives in my garden. The squirrels, chipmunks and deer are doing enough damage on their own.

On another day the kids noticed the hole in the grass at the edge of the parking lot was “moving”. I repeated the usual warning of not putting their hands into the hole. We watched the leaves wiggle in the hole and caught a glimpse of a small black snake passing through. It was most likely a Elaphe obsoleta snake. The kids were curious what it ate, where it was going and if it would hurt the bunny rabbit. The snake was small enough that the adult bunny was safe.