October 6, 2016
Whenever the seasons change, I’m filled with nostalgia. Half-formed memories tug at my brain, promising to return a forgotten moment from childhood or, more often, to steep me in the sense of infinite possibility, which lit up like fireflies inside me in my younger days (and, sometimes, still does).
Today, the fall sunlight carried me back to my grandfather’s home. I lost both of my grandfathers when I was ten, so this must have been in the years before that time. Garden plants grew gangly around me, with leaves edged in brown. Bits of sawdust filtered through the air, glinting bright in the fading sun, which left the last of its warmth on my skin. I remember noticing it all, trying to hold every facet of those moments in my little-girl heart.
There was a later time, too, when I was doing the same thing–trying to grasp a feeling, knowing it was fleeting even as I tried to grab hold. I was in my favorite park on my favorite hillside, sitting by myself on a blanket. I was surrounded by trees and, beyond them, was a garden I loved–a formal garden that had learned to run wild. I wish I could go back there, just for a while, to spend the afternoon writing and painting like I used to do in college, when everything was possible. Then, I believed I could claim every part of myself and my story. Today, I still feel like I might have a chance.
I’m not one to adhere to the beliefs or practices of any one religion, but this time of year, I want to get my pagan on so I can celebrate the harvest. I want to dance in the orange light of a bonfire, beneath a silver moon. If wolves howled from the darkness around me, I’d be more than tempted to join their ranks.
Still reading? Okay, so not everyone is affected by fall in the same way I am, but to be fair, fall is a strange time even for me. It’s a yin yang of emotions. Nostalgia and déjà vu are playing tug-of-war with my senses. I feel equal parts sadness for what has passed and can never be again, mixed with the hopes and promises, which fall dances before us–lightly, evasively, like a breeze that waltzes with brittle leaves, only to drop them at our feet on its path to someplace else.
I know I’m not the only one feeling this mystical energy. Let’s face it, fall is utterly witchy.
Historically, this time of year meant we should pull in our harvest, gather close the abundance of a summer’s worth of labors. As autumn days shorten, life begins to slow, and a warm, firelit hearth calls to us, as it must have done to our primitive ancestors. We’re preparing for the quiet of winter. I’m not a big fan of winter, but I’ll hunker down and do my best to hibernate my way through its long, gray days.
For now, though, I’ll drink in the crisp, yellow sunrises and smoky, amber sunsets. I’ll go for long woodland hikes on warm afternoons, and wait for the sunlight to come in at that “certain slant” through the trees, casting everything in a golden glow. Fall may be a time for reaping and slowing down, but to me, it’s also a season of perfect possibility.
Please tell me fall casts a spell over you, too. Happy Autumn!
October 4, 2016
It’s downright balmy around here… at least our lips think so! Just in time for the cooler weather, we’re giving our lips a soothing treat. My daughter helped me create some homemade lip balm, full of nourishing oils and all kinds of goodness. Bonus: the girls’ versions has some pretty tints and extra shine, to boot.
Here’s the video, in case you’d like to see how easy it was:
My daughter and I hope you’ll enjoy watching!
October 3, 2016
I spent some of the day making a holiday-themed peppermint soap and hanging with my girls–chicken girls, that is. I’m hoping the soap turned out well (*fingers crossed!), but I won’t find out until I unmold it. I did get a chance to edit and upload a couple of chicken videos, though. 🙂
In the first video (you can click here to see it), I share our new bottle watering system, as a follow up to my chicken tractor video. The second video is just me sittin’ with a chicken (or two). Actually, they were two pretty grumpy chickens, but I still enjoyed their company. It was great to take a few minutes out of my day to relax outside with feathered friends.
The girls and I hope you enjoy watching!
September 2, 2016
My thumb isn’t exactly green, but it has developed a vaguely-greenish tint over the years. It’s maybe a chartreuse by now.
(Side question: how many of you think of chartreuse as being a color in the pink-red-purple range, instead of the yellowish-green that it is? I’m genuinely curious, because it seems to be a “thing.” I’d love to hear from you in the comments!)
Image via FreeImages.com/Sarah Williams
So that’s chartreuse??
Back to my chartreuse thumb–I love plants, but I have a system of what I loosely label “natural selection” happening at my house. If a plant can survive my sometimes-sporadic care, it is welcome to stay and thrive all it wants. If it doesn’t make it? Cue the guilt.
Aloe vera is a plant that falls somewhere in between for me. I can keep an aloe plant alive for a fairly long time, but then, all of a sudden, the decline begins and I start covering mirrors in my house. (No, not really.) Still, aloe vera is a wonderful, multi-purpose plant, so I love to have one here.
*NOTE: Aloe vera is toxic to cats and dogs, so if you choose to have an aloe plant, keep it somewhere pets can’t reach! If you’d prefer not to keep an aloe plant at all, aloe vera gel is available. Just check the label, to be sure it’s pure.
How do I love thee, aloe vera? Let me count the ways:
Image via pixabay/unsplash
Image via pixabay/PollyDot
More about aloe vera:
Aloe vera is a succulent, one of hundreds of varieties of aloe plants. Though cactus-like in appearance, it is related to lilies and onions.
In caring for your aloe vera plant, you can mix some sand in with your soil and allow it to dry between waterings. Drench the soil completely when it’s time to water your aloe, but make sure the soil drains well. Aloe plants do not like standing water.
Aloe vera does not need to be fertilized, but if you choose to add a fertilizer to the soil, do it once a year (in the spring) and use a very diluted version of the fertilizer (if using your aloe for medicinal purposes, make sure you use a fertilizer for edible plants). Aloe plants are accustomed to growing in harsh conditions and usually do better in similar environments within your home.
To propagate, remove “pups” or small offshoots with their roots intact and replant. Wait until the pup is about one fifth the size of the mother plant before separating. (Sometimes they will need to be cut away from the mother plant.)
Propagating the plant through cuttings can also be done, but it is tricky and not often successful. Cut the leaf close to the base of the plant, allow the cut area to dry (one week) before replanting, to avoid infection. Dip in a rooting hormone and replant.
**Some people recommend taking aloe internally, but not enough research has been done to convince me. It is known to be dangerous when taken internally by pregnant (also possibly lactating) women. I feel similarly reluctant about using aloe to treat dental or mouth issues. Also, some people are allergic to aloe, so you should stop using it if you develop a rash or any other symptoms of an allergic reaction.
***This post is intended as a reference only and NOT to take the place of any medical advice. Always check with your doctor before trying any new treatments, including natural ones.
Image via pixabay/strecosa
So, do you keep aloe vera in your home? Have you tried using it for any of the above issues? Any last thoughts on the color chartreuse?? 🙂
August 30, 2016
I’d so like to be a “real” grownup and have a love affair with my daily cuppa: Joe, Mud, Brew, Java, Daily Grind, Bean Juice, Brain Juice, Go Juice, Jitter Juice, Battery Acid, Cup of Jolt, Liquid Lightning, Mojo, Tar, and my current favorite, Brewtus. But alas, no. Coffee is just not that into me (see: Jitter Juice), so we’ve agreed to keep it platonic.
*sigh* unrequited love
So, how have I been filling my coffee-deprived mornings? Well, I drink tea sometimes, but … besides that? Pets. You heard me right. Pets.
Unless it’s raining buckets or bum-freezing cold, I plunk myself down on my front step first thing in the AM, sporting whatever mismatched concoction served as last night’s pajamas, topped off with my crazy morning hair. Then, I hang for a while with my four-leggeds.
Sure, it takes some finesse to pet four furry beings at once (side note: I’ve been brainstorming ways to add extra hands to busy-mom torsos, but still have only two as of yet. I’ll update you if there are any changes on that front). A cup of Brewtus might give me the energy boost all that petting requires, but since coffee and I are still only friends, I rely on the sparkle of sunlight, the freshness of morning breezes, and the faces of these four lovelies to start my day off right:
Beloved Queen Molly, ruler of all. She mainly divides her time between permitting well-deserved head pets or perfectly-placed chin scratches, and surveying her royal subjects from the elevation of a nearby table top. She also occasionally likes to swat at lowly canines, but only as a hobby. She is a Master Purrer and goes by the nickname World’s Bravest Cat, for consistently tolerating the obsessive stares and stalkings of a certain infatuated Golden Retriever.
Nellie Bean, aka Sweetest Beagle Ever. She tap dances when she gets really excited, but usually starts her morning with a short explore, before returning with a crooked smile and a distinctive waddle on her four-inch legs. She’s so thoughtful, she’ll even lift her front paw to make tummy rubbing an easier task. She can’t get enough of kisses or cuddles and does a spot-on impression of a stuffed animal (only her snoring gives her away). This senior-aged pup honestly couldn’t be more wonderful if she tried.
Miss Tess or Tessa Monster, depending on how high she’s set her sass meter at any given moment. She goes from attaining a state of perfect zen inside the house (have you ever seen a dog meditate? because I have), to becoming head-spinning incensed that a bee has dared to look at her family the wrong way. She’s also the universe’s fastest runner and a world-renowned escape artist (the two titles go hand-in-hand from what I understand). She has appointed herself guard duty over our morning porch sessions, but every so often she stops by for some ear rubs and a kiss–or two or five–on the head.
Last, but never least (especially if he has anything to say about it), is our Bodhi Bear. No, he should definitely NOT be sitting on that seat in the photo above, but what can I say? The dog sees a chair and believes he belongs in it (just ask our vet) and, besides, he has a pretty fantastic smile. (We made him get down immediately after the photo-op, by the way!) Mr. Bodhi Licious is certain he’s still a very tiny puppy, so he spends our mornings on the front step squeezing himself between “Mom” and any furry family member who is vying for attention. All too often that ends with him plopping his 70+ pound self onto my lap.
So there you have it, a glimpse of the magic that gets my mornings going. It’s no Cup of Sludge, but it’ll do. Besides, two of our furry loves were recently diagnosed with illnesses (thyroid and heart conditions) 🙁 and are also into their double-digits, so we’re treasuring every moment we’re given.
Our motto: seize the morning and the day will follow!
*One more aside: three of these four were official rescues and the last was “rescued” from a less-than ideal situation, so as you can see, we are all for adopting! Including these guys and former pets (whom we’ve loved into old age and beyond), we’ve adopted from small, local animal rescues, as well as larger shelters.
Please spay and neuter and remember to support your local rescues and shelters! 🙂
August 28, 2016
No, not the band. The concept.
Today is the last Sunday of summer break, so it seems even more important than usual for my family to take back the day. Where did it go, you might ask? Oh, it was stolen–by the work, technology, and myriad of other distractions that fill virtually every minute of our daily lives.
We as a people are stressed, aren’t we?
Stress? Who’s stressed??!
The lines between worklife and homelife are increasingly blurred–in fact, many of us work from home, which has numerous benefits, but also means we lose much of the workplace’s social aspects along with the regularlity of a 9-to-5 day. Whether WorkAtHome-ers or not, we habitually toil through lunches, endlessly check emails, and often chug away at projects round the clock.
As for technology … ugh. People who know me well know technology and I aren’t the best of friends–in fact, we’re barely on speaking terms–but I won’t launch into (much of) an anti-tech diatribe here. Instead, I’ll sum it up with one thought: technology is supposed to make our lives easier. It has done so in many ways, except in the ways it hasn’t. In today’s world, we’re busier than ever. “Downtime” has become a foreign concept, as we jump from checking emails to texting to Pokemon Go-ing (you know I had to mention it) and so on. People are having an increasingly difficult time disconnecting from the constant barrage of information and stimulation. We hardly ever take the time to be–just be–anymore.
Can’t we all agree to communicate through smoke signals??
So, today, this is what I want to do: be with my family.
Summer vacation is slipping through our fingers like sand. Working, texting, emailing, etc., will only make it spill faster.
This Sunday, therefore, the emails can quietly wait. The laundry can stay cuddled up in overflowing hampers. Yesterday’s unopened mail can rest easy alongside the general clutter, while outside, the weeds and grass get to soak up the sun and stretch a little taller. Today, those things can all just be–same as us.
Time to be, grass
Yes, my family and I are taking back this Sunday and then we’re going to take a walk together–at a park, maybe through the woods, somewhere beyond where the voices of our neverending chores can be heard. We’ll eat together. We’ll talk and laugh and breathe. Today, we’ll pet our dogs and cat. Maybe we’ll sit with a chicken or a guinea pig in our lap.
Just be today, Charlie
My family will take back our Sunday because we deserve it–a day of rest, a day to enjoy living, a day to be.
Happy Sunday to you–hope you take yours back, too. 🙂
August 1, 2016
Just wanted to share that I’ve posted two new videos to my youtube channel, one on making a simple, lovely rose body butter and the other on how I use flowers from my yard/garden to add extra nutrients to my oils. Hope you’ll take a peak!
July 27, 2016
Signed my publishing contract today (Woohoo!) and work is already getting started on releasing my sequel asap! :D (Looks like it will be available for pre-order December 1st and the release date should be January 1st.)
(Also put up a youtube video on how we made our chicken tractor. The girls say “Hi!” at 08:00!)
July 25, 2016
Think about it, just for a moment. Dumpster diving probably doesn’t conjure up pretty images for most of us. Not for me, either.
The other morning, though, I was needing a little self-TLC, feeling tired and a bit lost, so of course I found myself on youtube, looking up videos of Nigerian Dwarf Goats. What else, right? I watched a few and then I came across a video of a single mom, raising her kids on a farm and supplementing their lifestyle with dumpster diving. Since dumpsters don’t sound like pleasant places to dive, I opted instead for another video of bouncing (literally) baby goats. But that mom and her children and their dumpster trips were still there, along the side of the screen, waiting patiently with all their viewing potential.
Hmm, baby goats? Dumpsters? Baby goats? Dumpsters?
Okay, I’ll bite, I thought. So, I watched, ready to cover my eyes if the woman started sifting among messy, smelly dumpsters. Instead, what I found was a sweet young mom, raising her family on a farm in the midwest, spending her day feeding chickens and ducks with the help of her kids, going over homeschool lessons, pushing them on swings and sharing quiet laughter. It all looked pretty peaceful, to be honest. Sure, there were piles of clothing on her furniture and clutter in the corners of her rooms. She’s a single parent of four. I’m a co-parent of three and there are days when I wonder what the Health Department would have to say about our house. Still, she had yet to take her viewers on a dumpster tour, so I wasn’t sold on anything.
I didn’t have to wait for long. The woman broached the topic by mentioning she’d recently picked up some coffee from a dumpster, saying the package had been resting on the top–sealed, uncontaminated. Still, my stomach waited, threatening to turn. I don’t drink coffee (caffeine doesn’t like me), so this remained safely-distant territory.
No coffee for me. Definitely no dumpster coffee for me.
Cue the next scene: the woman parked beside a dumpster outside of a craft store, pulled out one of those long, reachy, grabby things (sorry–dysnomia moment), and got to work. Instead of extracting an item that looked like it was ready to crawl from a lagoon, she pulled out package after package of…craft supplies, each one perfectly sealed and clean as could be. On another stop, she found brand-new toys and, later, games, and books. All these items–the ones she plucked from the dumpsters–were fine. Better than fine. If someone had put them back on the racks inside the store, I suppose anyone would have bought them. Instead, for whatever reason, these items had been tossed into a dumpster and were destined for a landfill.
I started thinking: if I were in this woman’s shoes (she also found a pair of unused shoes in her size, by the way), would I do this? Well, maybe I’d cross state lines first, but…. Really, though, who am I to judge her? Pride is stupid. It’s useless. So, what is this woman doing? She’s going around pride. She’s doing the best she can for her family, simple as that.
I am not a single parent of four, but I do know something about having to struggle with finances. So many of us do, don’t we? Times are tough and people’s salaries aren’t necessarily keeping up with the demands. My husband is talented at what he does, but his paycheck doesn’t always reflect this as much as we might wish. I, on the other hand, have gone from being a stay-at-home mom for a decade and a half, to working 30 hours a week and writing on the side, to dealing with health issues that have me home again and looking for a work-from-home situation, which hasn’t shown itself on the map yet. So, yes, we are financially stressed and, no, I don’t usually treat my kids to many extras, unless it’s to celebrate a birthday or a holiday or an end-of-year reward for good grades. That said, my kids are fine. They’re happy and healthy and I couldn’t be more grateful. They understand there are limits to the things we can afford, but not to love.
I have to confess, since watching a couple of these videos, I haven’t dived into any dumpsters. Yet, this woman still has me thinking. There are ways to provide for ourselves and our families outside of what might be considered the norm. Should there be shame in that? I’ve been trying to shift my family’s lifestyle into a homesteading one–keeping chickens, growing our own herbs and vegetables, making soaps and other personal care items. I began it to help us live a healthier lifestyle, but I love the self-sufficiency of it just as much. Dumpster diving doesn’t completely jibe with my view, since I’m trying to streamline our lifestyle, minimalizing things we have around the house and don’t need, but then again, what if a dumpster somewhere contains a nice, clean, unbroken version of something we DO need? If you never seek, how can you find? Reduce,reuse, recycle, dive? Maybe that ought to be the new-and-improved way to provide for your family, while *bonus* helping to protect the environment?
Reduce, reuse, recycle, DIVE?
All I can say, is after watching that mom doing the best she could to make her family’s life better, working within what was available to her, I didn’t feel the least bit judgy. I felt ashamed, in fact, of the way I’d reacted when I first saw the headline to her video. Eww, dumpsters had changed to something else. This woman had shared a glimpse of her life and, afterward, I wanted to shake her gloved hand, maybe even peek with her into the next dumpster she visited.
So, I did something–took a very, very small step. I clicked “Subscribe.” Like I said, it’s not much. Maybe, though, it’s a move toward something bigger, a change in perspective. I just can’t help thinking there might be some important lessons to be learned from a woman who is noble enough do dive into dumpsters for the sake of her loved ones.
June 14, 2016
Today, I’m delving into one of my areas of expertise: parenthood bloopers.
Come on, admit it. If you’re a parent, aunt/uncle, babysitter, etc., you’ve been there, haven’t you? I sure have.
Here are some of my many, many blooper moments as a parent:
I’ll start with my oldest child. When he was a toddler, he used to walk around singing the lyrics to one of his favorite songs. No “I’m a Little Teapot” for him, though. Our little guy could barely talk, but it didn’t stop him from belting out, “Rox–anne, you don’t have to turn on the red light…” Maybe it wasn’t the optimal choice of music to share with him, but Sting would be so proud.
Later, when my oldest was maybe four or five years old, he was playing outside with some neighborhood friends. Apparently, everyone was hot and thirsty, so being the nice host that he was, he went into our garage to get some drinks from the fridge. We must have been out of juice boxes, because the next thing we knew, he was handing out a round of beers.
Both my older and younger sons were active as little ones; I used to say during my older son’s toddlerhood that he only stopped moving when he was asleep. His younger brother was, instead, notorious for climbing. I once left him playing with some toys on the floor of our dining room, while I dashed into the kitchen. I was gone for a only a minute or so, but I came back to find he’d vanished. His toys were there, but he sure wasn’t. I ran around the main floor of our house, calling his name, and when I made it back to where I’d started, a little voice greeted me, saying, “I up here, Mommmy.” There he was, at eye level, sitting on the top shelf of our baker’s rack.
This same son (my second) once got his head stuck between the “bars” along the back of our old rattan sofa. I was on the phone with a friend and he was sitting right next to me–one minute he was playing with the cushions; the next, he’d pushed his head through the frame. I nearly had to turn the sofa upside down to get him out. Did I mention I found my first gray hair shortly after he learned to crawl?
Turns out girls aren’t any easier. Years ago, I was again on the phone (I really didn’t talk on the phone that much), when a police officer showed up at my door. He told me someone from my home had called 9-1-1. I was so embarrassed and couldn’t understand what had happened, since my one-year old daughter and I were the only ones there. That was when I remembered having pulled the phone from my daughter’s pudgy little hands before I’d called my friend. Guess who’d made her very first phone call?
In kindergarten, my daughter repaid me for her earlier adventures by making me a beautiful Mother’s Day card. On it, she’d written that my favorite food was macaroni and cheese (such a gourmet) and my favorite hobby? Taking naps. Almost earned a nomination for Mom of The Year, based on those credentials alone.
Try as you might, the chaos of family life really does get the better of you sometimes. One day, during a particularly busy moment, I heard someone call out. Since I was occupied with something, I handled it the way I usually did: held up my hand and said, “Okay, just a second.” Took me a full minute to realize I was talking to the microwave. It had beeped and I’d answered.
The kids are all older now, but parenting is still blooper-friendly. This past year, while my family and I were staying at a hotel, I got up in the dark and walked straight into the corner of a wall. Being ever ready to set an excellent example, I dropped the F bomb, loud and clear. My 9-year old was so disappointed she could only shake her head at me, my thirteen-year old was completely embarrassed (either for me or by me, I’m still not sure which) and my 16-year old thought the whole thing was hilarious.
Still, one of most-notable parenthooding bloopers happened when the kids were younger: at a birthday party for one of my sons, I was trying to feed my infant daughter some pureed butternut squash. She would often turn her head a few times before she’d finally take a taste and start eating. This day was no different. I was talking to family and friends, while my husband held our baby girl, so I could feed her. After I finally got the first bite into her mouth, my husband started laughing and said, “Do you know what you just did?” I didn’t, so he filled me in on it. “You fed me,” he said. “I kept trying to turn away, but I finally just gave up and ate the squash.”
Ah, the joys of parenting. No one ever said it was easy! I would love, love, love to hear I’m not alone in my bloopers! Please feel free to comment and share away with any of your glorious parenting/aunt-or-uncling/babysitting/etc. hiccups!
Remember: “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~ Charlie Chaplin