To Start Anew ~ by Sam

2017 finds us all poised at the breaking dawn of a fresh, new year.  A year full of hope, and promise and possibilities.  The problems, the struggles, the tears, the regrets, the trials, the toils of 2016 and before lay behind us, and what lies ahead is infinite and unknown.  People encourage us to move only forward, to cast off the negative, never looking back; but, like Lot’s wife, we find ourselves compelled to cast that glance aft, and then…

Then what?

Isn’t it our history that informs us?  Isn’t it our past that makes us what we are today?

And so, I offer this advice for the New Year: Don’t attempt to make a brand new start, as people suggest.  That is far too tall an order for anyone, and destined for failure.  Sure, go ahead, move forward.  But don’t just put one foot in front of the other and trudge blindly on.  Move forward informed by the past, strengthened by your experience, hardened in your resolve ~ battle-scarred and imperfectly-perfect, as are we all ~ ready to conquer whatever life happens to throw your way.

In that spirit, I give you my Resolutions for the New Year, in no particular order:

In 2017, I resolve to:

Be Kind.
Listen.
Visit Places.
Make Things.
Plant Things.
Play Music.
Take Care of Myself.
Cook.
Write.
Read.
Dance.
Laugh.
Sing.

I might clean some stuff, too.
Maybe.

I think I can handle that.

Wishing you and yours Peace, Love, Health & Happiness in the New Year and beyond.  With all of those things, how can we possibly go wrong?

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So Much to Say ~ by Sam

After seeing how well the photo-heavy post worked last week, I decided to do another this week.  Perhaps, I will just keep posting that way, just to keep posting something.  Shane has promised to post about the computer he is building ~ oh, the trials and tribulations of the Great Computer Build of 2016! ~ when he has time, but he is, as usual, working several jobs at once, so it might be some time before he gets to that.  Well, he is not working several jobs at the moment.  At this particular moment, he is sleeping, as he should, after a much-needed night out for just the two of us at Cheesecake Factory (and, yes, there are things I can eat there ~ there is a Vegan Cobb Salad, in fact, that is quite good, and almost as large as I, to boot, so I will be eating that for days) and a very heavy work week.  Kaia is at a friend’s Bat Mitzvah, and the other kids are still asleep, because it is Saturday morning, so they can sleep in.  Me?  I was up to get the kid to the early Bat Mitzvah, and now I am drinking coffee, writing, and neglecting chores.  Three of my favourite pastimes!

I decided to do another photo-post this week, because I enjoyed looking back on my week.  Sometimes, I feel like the days and weeks and months all bleed together, and I find myself gasping for air and thinking, “Wait!  Stop!  What??  It’s April?!!  When did that happen??  Where were January, February, March???  Didn’t we celebrate Christmas???!!!!  Slow down already!!!”  It is my hope that, by taking time to make a regualr “Week in Review” post, I will remember to pause and appreciate all of the moments, big and small, that make up our lives.  As Social Distortion told me: “Life goes by so fast!  You only want to do what you think is right.  Close your eyes and it’s past.”  Yeah, that certainly is the “Story of My Life,” too.  So, I am pausing to think, and I am letting you in, if you want to come along for the ride.  Here it is, then, my week in review:

We went to see The Tempest at the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival (find more info here: Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival
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I had a lot of busy days, but am trying really hard to remember to make healthy choices.  I don’t like much fruit, but I know it’s good for me.  The medication I am on impairs my appetite somewhat, and can, in combination with another medication I must take, cause dehydration, so I have to be very careful to make sure I:
a) REMEMBER TO EAT (trust me, this is not as easy as it sounds ~ and yes, I realize how ridiculous that is), and
b) STAY HYDRATED
Because I practically live in my car, I have to eat there, sometimes, too; but I am trying to make healthy choices when I do.  Pears I can stand.  They are an acceptable fruit.  Coconut water is very hydrating.  Violets are always a winner.

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Right.  That thing about being healthy.  I just said that, and now, I am gonna post poptarts.  It’s true, I made poptarts.  I made them because it’s all good and well to be healthy, but you have to also eat delicious things and have fun, too, and homemade poptarts are really the best poptarts.  You can make your own crust, or just use store bought piecrust (I make my own, because I prefer it, and it’s really pretty simple, using an oil pastry recipe my mom gave me) and you can fill them with jam or, as I did, brown sugar & cinnamon mixed w/ a little almond meal, butter and pinch of salt.  Okay, so they are still a little bit healthy and kind of nerdy, as compared to regular poptarts.  Being a little bit healthy and kind of nerdy, myself, I can live with that.

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I added a few little touches to the Alice Garden, including teacup & saucer birdfeeders I made using pieces purchased from a thrift store; and while I wouldn’t call it “finished,” by any stretch of the imagination (and I don’t think I ever will), I do think it is looking quite “Alice-y,” indeed.

Shane brought me a tiny bouquet of flowers; and I picked up two magazines about two pretty amazing people, but I haven’t had time to start reading either of them yet.

I continue to walk and use the free equipment at the local park 2-3 times/week.  I keep thinking about signing up for a gym membership or the YMCA, and I might just do it when it gets too cold for me to be outdoors, but, for now, this is my gym:

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Saw yet another positively glorious North Hollywood sunset.  I got to enjoy it with my kids, thanks to a phone call from Shane, to give us a heads-up from our homework and chores.  I love that we do this for each other.  Any one of the five of us will call or text to say, “You have to go outside and see (the Moon/sunset/rainbow,etc.).”  It’s just one of the things that makes us who we are.  I hope we always do that.  As usual, the pictures just don’t do it justice.  The sun was glowing deep red.  I did the best I could to capture it with my little phone camera, but you’ll just have to trust me, it was roughly 8,000x more glorious.

We celebrated Gene Kelly’s birthday by watching a bunch of his best dance numbers (which pretty much means all of them ~ they were all his best).

I baked a darned good gluten-free apple pie, if I do say so myself (I do, by the way)!  I didn’t intend for it to be gluten-free, but discovered, after I had already started peeling apples, that I didn’t have enough regular flour to make pie crust.  I did, however, happen to have some gluten-free flour left over from a baking project Kaia had done for her Girl Scout troop, so I decided to just go ahead and make a gluten-free pie crust.  Turned out great, so, should the need arise, I now know I can do this.  Also, I got to have pie for breakfast one day.  Oh, we totally had pie for dinner.  It has fruit, see, and fruit is good for us.

Justice brought home a huge bouquet of sunflowers!  Thank you!

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Kaia did her homework outside one day; and it was accidentally left outside.  The next morning, at 5:00 a.m., the sprinklers went off.  Later that morning, as she was getting ready to leave for school, she couldn’t find her homework. I’ll bet you can guess where it was.  Yeah.  We used a hairdryer set on low to dry it.  Only one finished math equation was completely washed away.  Her teachers were very understanding about its rumpled condition.

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I FINALLY started painting the detail above the shower in the kids’ bathroom.  I know.  It still looks pretty shoddy here.  Give me some time.  And look with your hearts. The Fox taught me that is only with the heart that one can see rightly.  What is essential is invisible to the eye!  (I’ll post more pics when it’s done.)

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Last, but not least, I played my banjo.  I am getting used to the new banjo.  She looks, feels and plays different than the old banjo.  I will still play both, but, for now, I am just playing the new one, because…well, the old one is a little easier to play, I guess; so I feel like I need to work with the new one until I get used to her.  The new banjo is so much heavier!  I feel like I am lifting a small child (or a medium-sized child…who is carrying a small dog).  I love her.  I mean, she’s beautiful, so it was kind of love at first sight, if you believe in that sort of thing.  Have you met her?  Her name is Babe.  Ain’t she a beaut?

 

 

If it IS broke… ~ by Sam

Chances are, at some point in your life, you have heard someone say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  That makes perfect sense, right?  Well, if that makes sense, then it naturally follows that, if it is broke, you probably should fix it.  

Shane and I are staunch proponents of this plan.  We don’t tend to believe that things are disposable or need to be replaced, until we have gone to great lengths to prove that they cannot be saved.  Well…or if fixing them will cost substantially more than replacing them.  Sometimes, in that case, you just gotta do what ya gotta do.  But, hey, a lot of broken things can be repaired, and we are determined to repair them, when we can.

Like this afternoon, when I was mowing the front lawn, and I ran over a spool of garden tape that had been left in the lawn.  (Garden tape is this stuff:  http://www.planetnatural.com/product/garden-tape-150-feet/ )  It was one of those moments when you see the inevitable disaster unfolding, and all you can do is watch.  I heard the noise, I saw the spool fly through the air and watched as every last bit of tape unwound form the spool and wound itself around the blades of the lawnmower.  I mean, I turned off the damned thing as soon as I heard the noise, but it was just too late.  It happened so quickly that is was just over by the time I realized it had started.  So, I turned over the lawnmower (after unplugging it, of course ~ oh, unplugging, because we have an electric lawnmower) and assessed the situation.  Well, most of the stuff was wound around the blades, so I untangled and unwound as much as I could, but then there was still some stuck up inside the lawnmower, so I cut away all of the stuff I had managed to unwind, leaving smaller tails to work with.  No dice.  It just was not going to budge.  At this point, it looked like this:Image

Then, I got the ratchet set and got to work.

It was pretty simple, really.  I removed one nut (it was on super-tight, so thank goodness for ratchets), and then I carefully removed parts, being sure to take pictures as I went, and to lay them in order on the ground, so I would know how to put them back on.  

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It’s hard to see here, but the tape had gotten pulled and wrapped very tightly in one area.  I tried to get a closer pic, but I am not sure you can tell in this one, either:

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You can kind of see it, if you look closely.  It’s the part that looks a little skinnier and lighter green.

Anyway, I very carefully unwound the tape, then I carefully reassembled the lawnmower.  In this next pic, you can see all the tape that was still stuck in the lawnmower when I took it apart.  I had already unwound about 10 times this much fro the blades.  

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Ugh.  What a waste!  But, at least I got it fixed, and was able to finish mowing the lawn.  

So, I mowed the front lawn and cleared some huge weeds from the side of the house.  Then, I set the jasmine I had bought to go under Hallie and Kaia’s windows on that side of the house, unwound the soaker hose that I thought would be a good watering solution, since that side of the house has no irrigation, hooked up the new garden hose I picked up for the front yard, watered the plants that needed watering, did  some weeding, and, eventually, mowed about half of the backyard, too.

Shane came out and planted the jasmine for me and set of one piece of lattice (we will need more ~ I should check freecycle), and buried the soaker hose in that area.  In the rose bed, I just kind of wound the soaker hose around the base of each plant. Shane said he may bury it, but, according to the package, it can be used above ground or buried.  

A soaker hose, in case you don’t know, is a hose that is porous all over (kind of like a sponge), so the water sort of sweats out all along the hose, instead of just coming out the end.  This is super convenient in flower beds.  You can install a soaker hose, and then, when it is time to water, instead of having to stand there and move from plant to plant, you just let the water seep in to the ground for a while, then come back later and turn it off.  Here’s what it looks like in action: 

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And, last but not least, here’s a pic of our tiny little jasmine.  

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These ones are Star Jasmine, rather than the Pink Jasmine we have on the other side of the house.  I decided it would be nice to have two different varieties.

 

Our Little Oasis ~ by Sam

I wrote this whole long entry about our garden ~ explaining how we mostly do-it-ourselves, but call in the professionals for big stuff, like trimming the huge mulberry tree, addressing my hopes to have an edible garden, and how they have fallen by the wayside as I cannot seem to stop buying flowers, chronicling the evolution our garden, justifying my choices, giving advice and providing resources… Trust me, this was a brilliant post.  And then, Chrome quit, and it ate my entry on its way out.

I give you a brief synopsis:

a) all that stuff I said up there.

b) I like flowers.  They make me happy, they smell good, tending them is therapeutic, and I save money when I don’t have to buy cut flowers for myself and to give as gifts.

c) Talk to people at your local nurseries, talk to your neighbours who garden, do research online regarding what grows and how in your area.  Know your zone, your conditions, learn about light exposure, and pay attention to the specific needs of individual plants.  My in-laws gave me two great books (Sunset Western Garden Book, and Pat Welsh’s Southern California Gardening) that have been invaluable resources for me.  You can find similar books that are specific to your area.

d) Get stuff free.  Post wanted ads to freecycle, craigslist, community bulletin boards for things you need before resorting to buying it (lattice, seeds, plants, rocks, gravel, pots…)  Check alleyways and curbs for pots, trellis, garden furniture, etc.  Ask your friends (in person, or on facebook or other social networking sites.  Trade for stuff (I’ll give you a clipping of my plant in exchange for a clipping of yours).   Ask your favourite coffee shop to save used grounds for your garden.  Keep an eye out for offers for offers of free shade trees from your city or your local utility company.  Check for local classes and workshops offered by your city, county, and local nurseries.  Many are free to attend, and some raffle off supplies and/or give  out coupons for special discounts, just for attending.

e) We have a lot of plants.  I went kind of crazy and bought a bunch of stuff, now that I can use my hand again in an almost normal fashion.

f) Here are a bunch of pictures that tell the rest of the story:

Sometimes, you buy two jasmine plants on sale at your local Costco before you realize that you aren’t sure they will fit in your car.  It might take a little longer to get them in there than you suspected.  You should probably go back and buy a pizza for dinner.Image

Primroses are awesome.  15 for $13.99 at Costco, and the pots are from the 99-cents store, but they look like a million bucks up there on the wall.Image

Alyssum smells amazing.  Like warm honey.  I dare you to walk by it and not buy some.  Image

My husband is awesome.  He helped me create this flowerbed in the backyard, between the raspberry and blueberry plants.Image

Oh, yeah ~ we now have raspberry and blueberry plants.  They were on sale at the Home Depot for $7.98/each.  You know how I feel about sales.  Oh, and Big Lots has great deals on pots and other garden needs, if you do find yourself needing to buy.ImageImage

E.B. Stone’s Sure Start is awesome.  I always use it was transplanting, whether in to containers, or directly in to the ground.  Good stuff.  In fact, i recommend E.B. Stone’s stuff, in general.  Love their Tomato & Vegetable Food. (African daisies, alyssum and primroses are also pretty awesome.) Image

I have a floppy garden hat, and I work in my garden.  Oh, and we put in snapdragons, because Hallie has always wanted them.Image

Yesterday, thanks to freecycle, I picked up two free sheets of garden lattice.  I am hoping to score enough to go across the back wall, bring up the height, giving us a little more privacy (our wall is shorter than me, and that’s short!), and keeping our kids frisbees, balls and hula hoops out of the neighbours’ very lovely yard.  I have seen sheets of lattice this size retail for $20-25 apiece, so the more I can get free, the better!Image

This is how our backyard is shaping up:Image

I got St. Francis and his angel friend for 70% off at Rite Aid, btw.

Okay ~ well, I hope you enjoyed this post.  We plan to keep learning, keep trying, keep doing it ourselves, and will continue our quest for free and low-cost improvements to our little oasis.  We plan to spend a lot of time out there.

The Farm Report ~ by Sam

Okay, so we don’t have a farm.   We do have a bountiful, beautiful, garden in which, thanks to our fabulous Southern California weather, we have been able to grow an abundance of vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers.  Our garden has produced enough in the past few months to not only feed us and allow us to put up jars of tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, vegetable soup and tomato soup, but also to trade with others in the area for items we do not grow.  If I recall correctly, we have traded guava, zucchini, peppers, lettuce and herbs for oranges, apples, tangerines, lemons and peaches.  That’s not a bad haul.

Nevertheless, as Ecclesiates tells us, there is “a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.”  For us, the time for uprooting was this weekend.  Shane did all of that hard work for me, while I ran the kids to band practice and did a little grocery shopping (and had my car hit in the parking lot…but that’s a whole other story).

Our zucchini and tomatoes were wonderfully prolific, while they were.  At a certain point, our zucchini almost died, then appeared to recover, started to produce lovely little zucchini…which promptly shriveled and died.  The plant looked healthy and green, but it was no longer producing viable fruit, and was robbing the remaining plants of water and nutrients.  The tomatoes ~ oh!  the tomatoes!  They were glorious!  In salads, sauces, stews, soups, caprese, on sandwiches, fried while still green, canned for later…they really were wonderful tomatoes.  Unfortunately, the leaf-legged bugs agreed.  We tried everything to get rid of the nasty little things.  We don’t like to use chemicals on our food (or in our environment, for that matter), so we tried safe, natural alternatives first (soapy water, soapy water with hot pepper, picking them off by hand).  When our home remedies did not work, we tried a couple of sprays approved for use in organic gardening.  With every try, the bugs would be chased away for a day, and then they’d be back, with reinforcements.  We cut back all of the dead branches, chased off the bugs, washed down tomatoes and leaves, sprayed with our organic-gardening approved sprays, picked as many tomatoes as we possibly could…all to no avail.  I want to thank Justice, who, knowing how phobic I am when it comes to bugs, did a lot of the picking during this time.  She is a real trooper, and saved a lot of tomatoes.  There were still so many tomatoes on the vine that we just couldn’t give up, so, in a last-ditch effort to save them, we took the plunge and sprayed a regular old garden pest spray.  I don’t think doing so saved a single tomato.  These tenacious little bugs just would not go away, and there were just too many for us to pick off and dispatch of by hand.  Last week, we finally looked at the garden and admitted to ourselves that we had gotten as many tomatoes out of our plants as would this season.

While I appreciated Shane doing all the work ~ and I knew it needed to be done ~ I have to admit, I was a little sad to come home and see this:
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Then, I got to thinking.  We got a lot out of our garden this year.  We ate tons of healthy, homegrown food, and we spent lots of time working outdoors with the plants.  We got exercise, sunshine and nourishment ~ for our bodies and our souls.  Our garden has been a great source of food (saving us money), has helped us connect with others in our community, and a wonderful stress management tool for me.

I decided to catalogue what we do have, instead of dwelling on what we don’t.  It needs a good weeding, to be sure, but there are still plants in our garden.  Only the tomatoes and zucchini are gone.  We still have:

ImageGreen Peppers

ImageJalapenos

ImageFennel (yes, yes, I need to weed!)

ImageA little bit of basil that was hiding under one of the tomatoes.

Imageand a few rogue carrots that we really didn’t expect to grow, considering how off-season we planted them.

We also have marigolds and petunias, but I really need to rescue them from the surrounding weeds, a.k.a. “grass,” before I can photograph them.  Poor things.  Where we live, we find that subscribing to the “weeds as grass” method of lawn maintenance saves us tons of water, but leads to the “grass as weeds” problem in our vegetable garden, as is evidenced above.

Our herbs continue to thrive:

ImageLavender

ImageMint

ImageCinder block full o’ thyme

There are tiny kumquats on our little baby kumquat tree:

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and tons of hard little green guava just waiting to be beautiful, juicy guava:

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There are even a couple of lovely pomegranates hanging over the back wall from our neighbours’ yard:

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So, all in all, I would say we are doing just fine.  I am starting to look in to what (and when) I can start planting for next growing season.  Looks like we have a lot of wonderful options.

In the end, maybe we didn’t lose plants so much as we gained space to put in new plants.  After all, ” There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven,” right?

Perhaps, it is now my time to sit on the porch, watching the birds.  It will be time to plant again soon enough.

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Just Checking In ~ by Sam

I realize we have been a little lax in updating this blog, so I am going to start trying to do a regular, weekly update, just to let our readers (do we have readers?) know how we are getting along.  This will also serve to keep us on track with our spending, and the choices we are making in our daily lives, because we know it’s going to be reported to the masses.  Yes, there are masses of you.  I’m sure of it.

So, here’s this week’s report:

Kids will be returning to school on Tuesday, so we need to make sure they are all ready to greet the new school year.  Over the years, we have learned a few things:

a) There is no sense in rushing out to buy them each a whole new back-to-school wardrobe every year.  It did take us a while to figure this out, but, let’s face it, we live in Southern California.  The season is not changing when the kids go back to school, so whatever clothes they have been wearing will be just fine.  We do check in to make sure that they have enough clothes that fit and fall within school dress codes.

b) There is not much point in running out and buying a bunch of school supplies, becasue teachers will give them lists in the first days of school, and our experience has taught us that, if we try to wing it and buy what we think they will need, we’ll just end up buying more later, because we bought the “wrong” stuff.  So, I bought them each some new pens and pencils, a couple of notebooks, any organizational stuff they need to have at home (folders to organize their work, calendars, that sort of thing) and a stack of loose leaf paper.  The rest, we will figure out after they meet their new teachers.

So, in order to get ready to begin the year, we have focussed our attention on home.  We want them to be organized at home, to know where they will do homework, stash their backpacks, hang their outfits for each day, store supplies, finished work, etc.

They have sorted through their clothes, weeded out what doesn’t fit and figured out what they need to fill in gaps.  Kaia received a Target gift card for her birthday, so she bought herself a snazzy 1st-day-of-school outfit, as well as a cute, casual dress.  Hallie needed a pair of jeans, so I sprung for those, and she used some of the money she won at school last year (yeah, she won money.  How cool is that?) to buy a cute new top.  At Walmart, I happened to stumble upon a cute pattern for a knee-length knit skirt with three sleeveless top variations that will work for Justice, Hallie and me, so we are going to take our coupons and head over to the fabric store for some cute fabric, but I doubt we will get much sewing done in the next day or two.  The pattern cost me two or three bucks, which I thought was kind of a steal.

Another thing that helped was having the older girls go through all of there clothes to see if there happened to be anything Kaia could use.  Now, most of the stuff they have recently outgrown is too big for her yet, but we will put that away and label it, so she can choose from it when she reaches that size.  The good news is that Justice found not one, but TWO hoodies that will fit Kaia this year.  One is lighter weight (perfect for Fall), and has a cute Hello Kitty design, while the other is red with a thick, furry lining (great for all but the coldest days here in SoCal).  In addition, Justice found a barely used backpack (black, with a paint splatter print) that Kaia loves and plans to use this year.  Awesome, because she was due for a new one this year.

Shane’s dad arrived for a visit on Thursday, which is a great way to end the Summer.  We are keeping it kind of low-key, since the kids are starting school in a couple of days, but we did go out to dinner one night, using a special offer from AmEx for a $10 credit back if we spend more than $40 at California Pizza Kitchen…which reminds me, I need to go pay the amount we spent last night to AmEx, so we aren’t charged interest on it, which would totally defeat the purpose of using that special offer.  We figured, since we were going to do that, anyway, we might as well play their game and do it for ten dollars less.  I think we might hit the Getty Center, too, which is free.  Keeping my eye out for other fun deals.

Today, we’ve been working on the yard.  Shane fixed the sprinklers.  How awesome is that?  I have been watering by hand in the areas that we had non-working sprinklers.  Now, I can just set them and let them go.  I spent some time this morning (and a good bit through the past week, too) weeding the vegetable garden, cleaning up dead leaves and chasing bugs off the tomatoes.  About that bug chasing: can y’all believe I did that?!?!  I am so afraid of bugs.  Phobias notwithstanding, they were eating all of our tomatoes, and we worked too hard to give our food away to pests.  So, I had to buck up and do it.  Trimming all of the brown, dead parts of the plant made a huge difference.  Justice helped me relocate one of the morning glories that had sprung up in the vegetable garden to the front yard.  We thought we had killed it, because it went all limp and sad for the first couple of days, but I am happy to report the appearance of three or four bright and healthy flowers this morning, so I am hopeful that the ol’ girl might pull through.  Best of all, now, I can easily get to all the parts of the plant and get the bugs off.  Still using only methods that are approved for organic gardening, but I am making some headway.  Zucchini and eggplant are still producing, and, in clearing up the weeds and dead leaves, I uncovered several carrots, some basil and a bunch of fennel that we thought had just not made it.  What a nice surprise!  In addition, now that the tomatoes are not literally on top of them, the peppers seem to be thriving.

Speaking of nice surprises, while I was paying bills and going over the books yesterday, I realized that, in the past month, our monthly expenses have dropped by $146 and change in the past month or so.  Some of it was due to efforts on our part.  For instance, we finally paid off Kaia’s trumpet, which we were renting to own.  In fact, the way it works is this: instead of owning the kind of beat old trumpet she had been playing, she got a like-new used Yamaha trumpet for what we paid.  So that’s $27/month we no longer have to pay.  There were couple of other things we realized we just don’t need right now.  I was getting a box once/month from Farm Fresh to You, and, while I enjoyed it, thanks to our own gardening efforts and exchanges we have made with friends, we just don’t need it right now.  That was another $31.50.  As luck would have it, we were informed of two wonderful situations:  a) we have been with our auto insurance company long enough that they are giving us a “loyal customer” discount.  There’s a great reason for staying with a company you like and trust.
b) we apparently overpaid escrow, so, not only did we get a surprise check in the mail (we did the responsible thing, and used that to treat the kids to Disneyland on Kaia’s 10th birthday), but our monthly payment has dropped a little, too.  Very nice to have expenses drop so substantially without really trying.  We are blessed, indeed.

The rest of today should be relaxing.  Justice is off with friends for the day, and Hallie and Kaia have friends over.

I was just going to start making my first batch of laundry detergent since I broke my arm.  When we ran out while my arm was broken, I decided it was just worth it to save us all a little stress and buy laundry detergent.  Doing so gave me one less thing to worry about figuring out how to do one-handed (or asking Shane or the kids to do), but I had forgotten just how much laundry detergent costs.  When I opened the Word document that contains my laundry detergent recipe this afternoon, I noticed it contains a note stating that I first tried it in February of 2008.  This means I have been making our laundry detergent for more than 5 1/2 years.  I cannot imagine how much money this has saved us.  Not to mention all of the containers that have not been tossed into landfills.  Wow.  I am so glad I can start making it again, and it struck me as such a great thing, I decided to share the recipe here.  I might have shared it before, but I am just feeling so excited about this right now, that I want to share it.  Yeah, I get excited about laundry detergent.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

3 Pints Water

1/3 Bar Fels Naptha* Soap, Grated

1/2 Cup Washing Soda

1/2 Cup Borax

2 Gallon Bucket

1 Quart Hot Water

Hot Water

Mix soap in a saucepan with 3 pints of water, and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in Washing Soda and Borax. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 Quart Hot Water to 2 Gallon Bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket with hot water, and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours, or until mixture thickens. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.  Shake gently before using.

Tested ~ 2/1/08

*you can use any soap you choose, really.  Above is the original recipe.  I have used Dr. Bronner’s bar soaps, too, and it works perfectly well.  Octagon soap works very well, too, as does Kirk’s Castile Soap.

**Instead of a 2-gallon bucket, I have kept some old detergent bottles and refill them with my homemade detergent.  I put a little hot water in each bottle, divide the soap/soda/borax mixture fairly evenly between them (use a funnel if you don’t want to make a huge mess and lose half of you detergent down the sink), then fill the rest of the way with more hot water.

***You may add some essential oil of your choosing to scent your soap.  The scent will probably not linger on the clothes as long (or as strongly) as commercial detergent perfumes, but it does make doing your laundry more pleasant.

****I have found that, in my HE washing machine, about ¼ cup per load is usually plenty (more for heavily soiled loads), so this recipe lasts me ages.

Hoper you are all enjoying these last weeks of Summer, vacation or not.  I think I am going to fry up some green tomatoes with dinner.  That seems like a summery thing to do.