Monday, April 27, 2009

Hot Enough for a Pool!

It's so hot here! We put the kiddie pool room up again. This pool, green outdoor carpet, and screened tent are going on their third year. The tent has some small holes which have been patched, so I think this will be the last year for the tent. Family Dollar had one for about $30.00, so I went ahead and bought this for next year. They had it up in the aisle, so I was able to see it before purchase. This is a really good price, and it looked sturdy. The one we are using now was purchased from the camping section at Walmart.

This pool room is great for a few reasons. It has an outdoor carpet running right up to the back door to keep the little ones feet clean. Clean feet means a clean pool and house. The outdoor carpet is easy to sweep when it does get dirty. The zipper screened tent keeps it cool and bug free. Placing it right outside the back door of the den means that I can watch(pool guard) my daughter from inside, which is a must for me when it is sweltering outside. The only way I'd stay out there was if I were sitting in the pool. When it's very hot, I hook up the hose to a side pole and put it on "mist". My son and daughter loved this last year. My son is getting a bit too big to even sit in the pool, but he does it anyway in hot weather.

This was our set up in 2007. That blow up pool sprung a leak after only one season, so we went a hard walled pool.

When the daughter is six, we'll get a bigger pool. I've got my eye on a nice 10 ft. x 30 inch circular Intex pool(ages 6 and up). These metal frame inexpensive pools snap together easily, and are simple to take down when the weather cools off. I have seen mixed reviews for this pool online, so I'm hoping this pool works for us. Most complaints were about the weak pump, and leaks during the seond year. The tarp has to be purchased separately; without the tarp, the bottom is prone to leaks from sharp objects. Amazon reviews, four out of five stars.

The Intex Metal Frame Pool - 10'x30 is $79.00 + $55.00 shipping(heavy to ship) at ToysRus might carry it as well. has got it for $129.00, and I think they may have free "ship to store" for pick-up much like Walmart. I'm keeping my eye on this one, but we have another three years before I'd feel safe enough to purchase this pool for the little one.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jean Plaidy Historical Novels

I decided to begin reading fiction again, so picked up one of many Jean Plaidy historical fictions at the library. I'm beginning with Plaidy's Murder Most Royal: The Story of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. "This novel focuses on the two of Henry VIII's Howard wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. It begins with Anne as a young woman leaving for Brussels and her homecoming to England and her subsequent rise to power in the English court. It also parallels the life of Catherine Howard, first cousin of Anne Boleyn who goes on to become Henry's fifth wife. The story of the rise and fall of each of these women are told in this story". This is out of order for the Tudor Saga, but my little one is not one to stay still in the library while I figure out which one to read first. Next time I'll request them online for pick-up.

Plaidy was known for her well researched historical fictions. From a Jean Plaidy site, a newspaper review wrote, "Jean Plaidy, by the skillful blending of superb storytelling and meticulous attention to authenticity of detail and depth of characterization, has become one of the country's most widely read novelists."

Great reading, but I am so tired today! You have trouble putting her books down.

An insightful review at for Murder Most Royal:

"I have read many Plaidy novels, but this delves deeper than the others and represents, in my opinion, absolutely the best of Plaidy, and probably the best on the period. What I don't like about modern historicals is the way they play with history. Plaidy sticks to the facts as they are known and provides insights and details that make the story come alive. The characters are real people, and the facts can't be disputed. In this book, she gives a fairly graphic portrayal of the torture used to extract the false confessions of Henry VIII's hapless victims, and after reading it, I found Plaidy gave me a new understanding of what this era in history, and this dynasty in particular, stood for, and it is even more horrific than I ever imagined.

Plaidy's Henry VIII goes about his grotesque and bloody deeds with a good conscience, patting himself on the back for being such a fine and righteous fellow, which makes him even more appalling to our civilized mind. It is a look into the black mind of a serial killer, and a gripping read. Once you pick up the book, you can't put it down again until you're done. Despite the graphic parts, I recommend this novel even for teens, because they won't get a twisted view of history, and besides, Catherine was only a child when this ogre chose her for his queen, so this book would appeal to them.

I think everyone who reads it will probably pause and give thanks for being born at a time in history when a monster like this can't roam the highest echelons of power stuffing his bloody mouth with the flesh of saints and sinners alike. That is the beauty of a great historical novel. It makes us understand the past, and appreciate our present even more."

The Tudor Saga

1. Uneasy Lies the Head (1982)
2. Katharine, the Virgin Widow (1961)
3. The Shadow of the Pomegranate (1962)
4. The King's Secret Matter (1962)
5. Murder Most Royal (1949) (aka King's Pleasure)
6. Saint Thomas' Eve (1954)
7. The Sixth Wife (1953)
8. The Thistle and the Rose (1963)
9. Mary, Queen of France (1964)
10. The Spanish Bridegroom (1954)
11. G*a*y Lord Robert (1955) (first by Eleanor Burford, republished as Lord Robert in 2007)

See here for a complete list of all her historical series.

Plaidy's books could be good reading for older students(seniors and college) wanting to enhance their understanding of history.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Before and After: Pallets Used For Outdoor Furniture


Read more here.

Chinese Take-In Recipes

My husband and son love Chinese food, so tomorrow I am going to try it at home for a change. I've made fried rice in the past, but I'm still looking for that perfect restaurant style recipe.

Recipes from RecipeZaar:

Fried Rice using sesame seed oil. 4.5 stars out of 5.

Bourbon Chicken
, fattening, but the hubby likes it. 4.5 stars out of 5.

I'll update this post with the results. : ) I still need to get some sesame seed oil which apparently is the key to the authentic taste for these dishes.

Here is the recipe for one of my favorites, but this will be for another night, Hunan Chicken.

Update: The Bourbon chicken was incredibly easy and very good! I used half the sugar to help with the calories, so it was more spicey than sweet. I added more ginger than mentioned in the recipe. This is such a wonderful base which can be adjusted. I can see myself using this for many dishes.

The fried rice was okay. It needed more, so next time I'll add garlic and more veggies. It was just a little dry and bland, but I used it as a base for the Bourbon chicken.

Leftovers: Yummy, this bourbon chicken tastes even better the second day after it's been sitting in it's juices. I had a little over a salad of dark greens with a bit of salad dressing and it was wonderful!

Grow a Salad in a Table Box

This is great for urban gardening, and for those who have limited mobility. Items can be stored underneath, so it's a great space saver as well. I think the rabbits would have a bit of trouble getting into this garden!

Read more here. Alternatively(and easier), you could just nail or place the box to an old shabby table.

You could put your garbage can potatoes right next to it, and a pretty Colonial bird bottle for natural insect control on a deck post. A compost bin could be stored underneath the table. Then you could hook up a garbage can rain barrel to the down spout. If your back door is near the kitchen, this makes gardening very user friendly.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homemade Natural Dog Flea Soap

We use Frontline Plus(fleas and ticks), but the dog still gets a few fleas, and we vacuum the house frequently(no fleas in the house). I get the authentic product deeply discounted from ebay which is good on the budget. When I bought Frontline directly from the vet we had the same problem, so it's not bad product from ebay. I briefly thought about going all natural with flea protection, but we would still have the tick problem. What we've had to do is combine Frontline Plus with monthly flea baths. I'd like to go all natural with the flea soap in the future.

I was browsing Etsy when I saw this really nice natural dog soap for fleas. I have many of the essential oils mentioned in the ingredients for the humans in our family, so I could make my own... or buy a bar. Time and energy are at a premium(scarce, so highly valuable) around here.

Here a recipe using similar ingredients over at Easy Dog Soap Recipes using bug rebelling essential oils such as citronella, citrus oils, tea tree oil, and lavender.

This sounds very drying to a dog's skin, but that is the reason it kills the fleas: flea bath with original Dawn(no bleach formula).

And here is a good comprehensive article full of recipes for repelling rid of fleas and mosquitoes using natural ingredients such as brewer's yeast, lemons, herbs, eucalyptus leaves, strong soap(dehydrates fleas), diatomaceous earth, etc.

It recommends using diatomaceous earth(dehydrates exoskeletons of insects) in areas of the garden where your pets tends to go most frequently. I actually do this with the cat. He likes to roll in one area of the gravel patio, so I sprinkle the diatomaceous earth in this area. I also put it in his cat bed.

If you use a drying soap, I think I'd follow this up with a herbal rinse containing some essential oils, or herbs steeped in water, and a few drops of glycerin and aloe vera.

I wouldn't recommend using essential oils on cats. I've read that some of them are very toxic to cats. Check with your vet before using herbal remedies on your pets.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Real Millionaire Next Door

“I don’t buy anything unless I need it,” he said. “And even then I try to find something used. Let other people buy the new stuff. I try to scrounge for everything I need. It may not seem like much, but it makes a real difference. By pinching my pennies right along, I’ve been able to set aside money to invest. And now I can do whatever the [heck] I want.” Read more.

Encouraging for those of us who get flack for living this way.

Make Your Own Neck Tie Snake

Click here.

HT to MJ

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Colonial Bird Bottles, Natural Insect Control

In colonial times, people used to hang these bottles, "martin pots" for purple martins and other small birds. This was natural bug control. Now if I could figure out how to attach this to the house without putting holes in the siding, we'd have some birds nesting. I may just attach a few to the oak trees, but the squirrels seem to bother the birds. Another option is to hand them on a secure pole.

These could get pretty expensive for purple martins because they nest in colonies(or so I've read), but great for other birds if you want something decorative.

The Jefferson Monticello Shop in Charlottesville, Virginia sells these online. They have a hook in back, and the little tab with the hole in it is to thread a stick through for a perch.

Here's a good example(pictured) of a bird nesting in a jar. These are reproductions of the jars excavated from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

DIY Kusamono Japanese Flower Arrangement

I made this today with a little terracotta tray which I got at the thrift store for .75 cents. This took literally ten minutes while I looked around the yard for treasures to fill the dish. The moss was growing along our gravel patio, so I just used the sandy soil that the moss was naturally growing in for soil. We have a good number of oak trees, so mossy tree pieces are every where. In the past, I've placed collected driftwood in among the plantings, so there are little sea rolled pieces of wood among the mulch.

I could not find any small plants to add with height that were small enough, and I would have liked to place a large piece of driftwood at the edge, but I couldn't find just the right size and shape. I compromised with a piece of mossy bark and a chunk of insect eaten wood(interesting tunnels) from a log. In the end, I figured this was a better representation of my woodland garden. And that is what Kusamono is all about, trying to recreate natural environments in miniature and in an abstract manner emphasizing simplicity.

The moss will fluff up and the stones will settle in time. I haven't watered it yet because it's been raining outside, so it's nice and moist. This arrangement is so easy to maintain, just mist it every few days. It will fit on one of my window sills which doesn't get direct sun, far away from my little girls fingers.

Hmmm, suddenly I feel like eating sushi.

Make Your Own Drinking Glasses with Recycled Bottles

I'm really trying to get the hubby to try this. I'm too nervous to cut the glass myself, but it's a neat way to recycle if you are good with tools.

I think using an Ephrem's bottle cutter is the easiest and safest way to try this at home. You still have to heat the bottle, and cool it down for the cut, but the gadget does the etching for you.

After you cut the bottle to the desired height, it is just a matter of sanding the rim. You can recycle the top of the bottle as a candle holder.

Bodhicitta, an experienced glass worker at Etsy makes the glasses pictured, but he fire polishes the rims.

A friend's father gave me some antique champagne bottles from one of his digs near the Panama Canal. The top broke clean off along a perfect angle for a vase(pictured). I'm pretty sure you could etch and break away the top off a bottle this way with the bottle cutter.

Here are some lights made out of recycled wine bottles. It looks as if they used epoxy to glue various pieces together, but you could just use one single bottle for each light:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spice Cake on the Fly

I couldn't be bothered with a recipe the other day, and made this simple cake with flour, sugar(white and brown) , an egg, a little milk, some oil(about a half cup), cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. I think I used two cups flour, one cup sugar, one egg, one tsp baking powder, one tsp baking soda, and a little cinnamon.

I can' recall how much milk I used, but I kept adding it to make the batter thinner. This cake came out really nice. I melted together a little cream cheese, powdered sugar, red food color(pink with just a drop), and water in the microwave for icing.

I think I like experimenting better than using recipes. Lately I've been almost too tired to read anything anyway... my eyes are not focusing well with all this pollen!

Recycling Glass Bottles: Self Watering Plant Devices

Those Aqua Globes are great, but free and recycled for me is even better. So I decided to try something with recycled glass bottles. The sizes and colors of glass bottles are diverse. I think you can get some pretty bottles that serve form and function, just soak the labels off.

I've only tried this with one plant, and I still have not seen if this works well. It's still a bit of an experiment, but I took a cleaned and empty plum wine bottle, filled it with water, and poked very small holes into the top. I pushed the neck of the bottle into the soil, and if this works it should drip water slowly into the plant(drip irrigation). In theory, it should work, but I may need larger or more holes. This is not the prettiest of self waterers, but it's hidden under to foliage.

Tiny vanilla bottles can be used with small plants, soda or beer bottles with medium sized plants, and wine bottles for the largest. I'm going to try this outdoors in the vegetable garden as well. I like the idea of using glass self watering devices with the edibles. I don't trust the chemicals that leech out of plastic bottles.

You can purchase plant nannies which are terracotta attachments for wine bottles, but really I think poking holes in a cork/screw top will work just as well.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kusamono Japanese Flower Arrangements

I've always liked Japanese gardens and floral arrangements, probably because I lived in Tokyo when I was little, and because I am drawn to peaceful and ordered livingscapes.

These arrangements are fairly easy to make, and perfect for spring. I wish I still had some of my bowls from my early collecting days. Vintage stoneware is perfect for these arrangements. I'm going to take a trip to the thrifts tomorrow to see if I can find some shallow bowls.

Check out these pictures from the National Bonsai Foundation... look how many of the plants used are common garden "weeds"! I've always known that there is beauty and elegance in wild flowers.

Kusamono are potted arrangements of wild grasses and flowers in unique pots or trays. The name is composed of two Japanese characters: “grass” and “thing.” Originally, this name referred to the small, potted grasses displayed with bonsai as companion plants.

More recently, kusamono has developed into an art form of its own. A well-chosen kusamono reflects the season in which it is displayed. Some compositions are designed to include plants that will look good in several seasons. Besides the season, a kusamono should suggest a specific natural habitat--such as a wetland, meadow or woodland. Whether using a single plant or a group of plants, there are three basic styles of planting: moss-ball, out-of-pot, or in a container.

I found the moss kusamono image at top on Google images. I'd love to try this one; I've got lots of moss in my yard, my favorite.

Growing Potatoes in a Garbage Can

Thanks Myrnie for this tip! We will be trying this.

Ciscoe's To-do List: Grow potatoes in a garbage can


Growing spuds in a garbage can is fun, and it's something you can do to get your kids interested in gardening. Any clean plastic garbage can will work. Drill at least four 1/2-inch holes in the bottom for good drainage and fill the bottom 6 inches deep with houseplant potting soil. Mix in slow-release fertilizer, or feed every two weeks with high-phosphorus, soluble houseplant fertilizer. Buy starter potatoes at a nursery, and plant them whole, 5 inches apart, just under the soil surface and water them in. The vines will soon begin to grow and as soon as they reach 4 inches tall, cover all but 1 inch of the lowest vine with compost, wood chips or potting soil. Continue to cover the vines in this way until they grow out of the top of the garbage can. Once the vines bloom, you can reach in and pick the biggest spuds you can find. These are new potatoes and they won't store, but they are delicious for that evening's dinner. Wait to do the main harvest until vines die back completely in fall. You never know what you'll get. My champion harvest was 42 softball-size Yukon Golds. Then for some reason, the next year I planted the same variety and got exactly 9,347,012 spuds smaller than pingpong balls.

I've got an idea to get two cans, one for us, and one for the food pantry. Gardeners, plant a row for the poor.

I'll be trying out these Red Pontiac Potato 2 Pounds Organic Certified Seed Tubers from Hirts Garden.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Make a Moss Terrarium

These can be made in much more elegant glass vessels, but this was spur of the moment, so I used what I had on hand. This little jar fits nicely on my kitchen window sill.


- Glass or clean plastic container
- Soil
- Pebbles
- Charcoal
- Moss

Put the pebbles in first, then the charcoal to control odors, soil, and moss. I didn't use charcoal, but I did made some air holes in the top of my lid with a hammer and nail. This will help control odor. Mist the moss once every few weeks, or less for smaller terrariums.

All these materials were available in my garden and recycling bin. Other ideas for plantings: lawn "weeds" such as oxalis, violets, sorrel, shamrocks, or anything on the small side. With a large container little decorative elements can be added, like coral, interesting smooth stones(Asian theme), drift wood, or whimsical items.

An elegant terrarium sold by Made by Mavis at Etsy. I love these terrariums; we had them in the house in the '70's. I'm glad to see them back. See more at the Make It Form Scratch Carnival(4/14/09)

Make Your Own Skirt - No Pattern, Easy

Make a Simple Drawstring Skirt
This is so easy. I'm a beginning seamstress, and I can handle this just fine. This skirt can be made to any length, and to any size. Try using vintage sheets for fabric on this project, especially for teenagers and small children.


Here is another one that I'd like to try. I've made pillowcase dresses for my toddler, but this one is a pillowcase skirt. You do have to be skinny for this project, so this may exclude me. I'll have to see if I can stuff myself into a pillowcase. If not, I'll try this for my daughter when she is older. This one requires only hand sewing.

Here's a good clothes saver for post baby body: How to Put Side Panels in Pants. This could be done with skirts as well.

How to Make Rag Rug

Easy, even if you are not an expert crafter or have never learned to knit or crochet.

How to Make a Rag Rug: The Basics for Beginners (Part 1)

How to Make a Rag Rug: The Basics for Beginners (Part 2)

Green Weaving: Make Your Own Loom

This is my kind of loom - easy, free, and recycled.

How to Weave on a Cardboard Loom

Here is another one made from a box:

Here are instructions for a children's loom using a craft stick. I have also seen people use a flat hair clip.

A few more loom ideas from Montessori World

Cardboard Weaving printable PDF instructions.

YouTube - Weaving on a Cardboard Loom

Here is a nice tutorial for a plastic bag rug, although any scraps of fabric will do.

Not cardboard, but doable with the purchase of a 2x4 and a wood dowel: homemade wood peg looms.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Random Crafts This Past Week

A few crafts I made for and with the children:

Butterflies using this template and junk mail:

A purse made of packing paper dyed with food color, a cream cheese box, and a braided plastic bag handle.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Free Vintage Children's Sewing Cards

This link also includes some free paper dolls.

Vintage sewing card instructions here, along with printable sewing cards.

A few more at Flickr.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Build a Rustic Wood Shed

I'm trying to convince my husband to build this. Right now, we are using a tarp and bungee cords for the lawn mower. Directions here. Really, any scrap wood could be used, including deconstructed wood pallets.

About Me

My photo

I'm a homeschooling mom of two, a teen and a little. I hope this collection of mine helps you as much as it has helped us. I have an Etsy shop here: And a blog: