"The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land."
-Abraham Lincoln

Quick and Easy Baby Sweater

One of the projects I had started for the holidays was the Quick and Easy Newborn Sweater.  I found the pattern on Ravelry, of course.

.  I really liked the garter texture on this pattern, it's something a bit different.  But I think if I try it again at a later date I'll probably modify it to be in stockinette stitch and maybe add some duplicate stitch designs for variety.   The only other problem I've found with the pattern is that I really think it's going to be a bit too large for a newborn.  My guess is it will probably fit the 3 month crowd a bit better than a newborn.

I'm excited for the next project even though I haven't completely decided what I'll be doing yet.  I think that the next one will likely be a baby blanket, I just don't know which pattern I'm going to work up yet.  I still have The Afghan from Hell to finish, just the fringe, but my yarn for it is out in the crib/workshop and there is seriously about 4 ft. worth of snow drifts blocking me from it.  I would like to get that finally finished and out of the way though.  That thing has been mocking me since I started it, not necessarily because it's difficult but simply because it's TEDIOUS. 

My mother in-law has an afghan she wants me to start on once I'm finished with The Afghan from Hell so hopefully I'll be able to make it out to the workshop in a couple of days to collect the yarn and finish it so I can start on her project.   The afghan she wants done is going to be a bit of a challenge because it was already partially started by DH's grandmother before she passed but there is no pattern.  Therefore, I'm going to have to figure out the pattern and gauge before I can really get any amount of meaningful progress done on that blanket. Fortunately, I don't think the pattern is overly difficult and I think, once it's figured out, it should work up pretty quickly.

Merry Christmas (belated)

I hope everyone has had a very Merry Christmas!   Around here we woke up Christmas morning and were kind of surprised to find that there was still a small amount of snow on the ground from the last "blizzard" that dropped a little less than 2 inches on the ground.  Nothing deep but it definitely looked more "Christmasy" than the mud we've gotten used to seeing around here.
Even though we only had a light dusting of snow on the ground for Christmas day, by Christmas night we were in the midst of a full blown blizzard. By the time it was all said and done (at least I think it's all said and done) we had received a full 10in. of snowfall.   It's the classic story over here, the children are extremely excited for the snow while the adults are dreading it.  Thankfully, I got DH a brand new pair of insulated coveralls and fleece-lined jeans for Christmas so he was well prepared for today's work.

Blizzards mean preparations, and lots of them, when you live in the country.  We piled up on salt.  Brought the shovels close to the house.  We spent part of the day hooking the snow plow up to the old tractor and attempting to make a drivable path down the lane.  We spent most of last night spreading an extra layer of straw down in the barns for added warmth for the critters.  But when we woke up this morning we found that the snow had blown through some of the cracks in the old walls and was starting to fill the pens and stables.  So we had to move the animals and clear out the pens, patch up the holes as best we could, remove the wet straw and all before feeding time.  Uggh.

We added a calf to the day of Christmas surprises.  A beautiful, big short horned baby girl.   The mother of this particular calf is normally quite the trouble maker, always getting out of the fences and into the orchards and corn fields, but she's a fairly experienced momma and her calves normally do really well so we weren't too worried when she arrived Christmas afternoon even with the approaching storm.  The only thing somewhat concerning is the fact that the calf had refused to suck for awhile but she was big enough and seemed otherwise healthy enough that we felt confident in taking the wait and see approach.  Sometimes, just like with human babies, it just takes a little time.  In this case the wait and see approach worked and by this afternoon she was eating like a champ.  One less thing to worry about. 

I spent most of these last weeks before Christmas making gifts for everyone and now that Christmas has come and gone I'm back to having empty needles, hooks, and sewing machines.  So I'm off to hunt for the next project. 

Happy Belated Christmas everybody!

Granola Bars Episode 1

Tis the season for snacking, apparently.  My trio of munchkins have been craving snacks for the last several days and so I've taken to the kitchen to save the day with homemade granola bars.

Now if there was ever an easy and versatile food to make this one is it.   The recipe is simple and it takes no time at all to cook and cool.   The combinations you can create are almost endless and you can even experiment with texture.   We have our family favorites including cranberry chocolate chip, cinnamon honey peach, peanut butter chocolate chip, dark chocolate chip (we're a chocolate loving family),  strawberry banana, and plain ol' raisin granola bars.   We also tend to like our granola bars thick and chewy as opposed to thin and crispy.

This time around I went for the cranberry chocolate chip granola bars.   The tart cranberry and the dark chocolate go together really nicely.

The recipe I use is incredibly simple and uses really easy to find ingredients.

3 c. whole grain, old fashioned oats

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

2 Tblsp. unsalted butter, melted

1/3 c. flax meal (optional)

1 c. dried cranberries

1 c. dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°.   Mix the oats, condensed milk, butter, flax meal, cranberries and chocolate chips in a large bowl until everything is blended together well.  Press the mixture into a greased 9x13in. pan.  Then bake for 20 to 25 minutes depending on desired level of crunchiness.  Allow to cool before cutting and serving.  These will keep really well for about two weeks if stored in an airtight container.  Because of the condensed milk, you really wouldn't want to store them much longer than that without refrigerating or freezing. 

Crochet Plastic Bag Holder

This was my pantry space. It was being taken over by plastic grocery bags.  I lived with it like this for way too long.  So this weekend I finally decided to take a stand against bag clutter.  I made a plastic bag holder. 

For the pattern I went with "Crochet Bag Dispenser" from Ravelry.  I really didn't make any adjustments to the pattern at all.  It was a really quick project and I'm kicking myself for not having made it earlier.  I used plain old RedHeart Super Saver yarn in green and I'm strongly considering adding a few crocheted flowers to it just to pretty it up a bit. 

That one little weekend project took me from that first picture to this one:
 Much, much better.  I can now actually see what is hiding in my pantry.  I even discovered a few items I didn't realize I had like the bags of Doritos and Tortilla chips and the Velveeta shells and cheese.  I think my mother in law may have done a little shopping when she was staying with the kids a couple of weekends ago ;) 

Now there is order in our cupboard once again and the cereal has lived happily ever after.  

Turkey Cookies for Turkey Day!

We've been baking!  The kids' home school group is having a harvest party in honor of Thanksgiving and we were asked to bring the cookies.   We thought about just plain Jane chocolate chip or simple frosted sugar cookies but then I decided to do a little searching for something a bit more "special".   In my hunt I came across these cute little turkey cookies from Pillsbury.   We made two substitutions to the original idea, we used a family sugar cookie recipe instead of slice and bake cookie dough and we used homemade chocolate icing instead of store bought.  Even though our decorating didn't turn out quite as neat and tidy as the original the kids had a blast helping to decorate them and gave rave reviews on the taste from the couple of cookies they sampled.  All in all I'd say it was a success. 

On the learning front we've been studying the Pilgrims and early colonial period of American history.  We've read The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern.

And we're reading The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty. 

 The kids have been busy coloring turkeys and listing all the things they are thankful for this year.  They've had a lot of fun learning about Thanksgiving this week but I think we are all ready for the holiday break. 

Because the Laundry Won't Do Itself...

Today was laundry detergent making day at our house.  I make a powdered detergent.  The process is quick and painless, taking me only a couple of minutes to make up the batch.  This simple, homemade detergent gets our heavily soiled, farm-family laundry clean with only about 2 Tblsp. per load.

What you'll need:
1 c. of Borax
1 c. of Super Washing Soda (you can usually find this at the larger grocery stores like Meijer or Walmart near the Borax.  If you don't find it there you can sometimes get it at swimming pool supply stores or you can get it online at Amazon)
1 bar of soap like Fels Naptha, Zote or Ivory
1 grater (I recommend keeping one separate just for this purpose)
1 airtight container (we use an old coffee can with a tight fitting lid)

That's Arm and Hammer's Super Washing Soda in the picture, don't confuse it with baking soda. They are not the same thing.

Once you've gathered your supplies there are all of four steps left to homemade laundry detergent.  Step 1: Grate your soap.  Step 2: Add your washing soda.  Step 3: Add your Borax.  Step 4: Replace lid and shake it up, baby!   There is an optional step 5: You can add a few drops of essential fragrance oil if you like.  I use a "fresh linen" scented fragrance oil on occasion but you can add any scent you'd like. 

The cost of making my own detergent breaks down like this:
The Borax costs me $3.29 for a 76oz. box= $0.34 per batch
The Super Washing Soda costs the same, $3.29, for a 55oz. box=$0.48 per batch
A three pack of Ivory soap costs $1.69.=$0.56 per batch

The grand total there ends up being about $1.38 for a batch.  I use the full 2 Tbsp. per load and get about 32 loads of laundry out of one batch detergent.  That puts me in at a crazy $0.04 per load of laundry! 
Compare that to the Dynamo I used to buy before I started to make my own.  For a 32 load bottle of Dynamo, I would normally pay about $9.87 at the grocery store.  That's already $8.49 more than for the same number of loads with my homemade detergent.  With the Dynamo the cost per load of laundry was about $0.31, more than six times the cost per load with the homemade detergent!
If I add the extra cost of essential fragrance oil to the mix I end up with a cost of about $1.47 per batch and still around $0.04 to $0.05 per load of laundry.  No matter how you slice it, I'm saving a considerable amount of money for a small amount of effort.  Definitely worth it.

I'm Baaaack!

I've been away from this blog much longer than I expected.  That seems to happen to me a lot but I come bearing updates. 

The first big news: We've moved!   We traded in the old house for a much larger one on much more land.  Moving is a lot of work and it seems to get harder the older I get.  On top of the move, DH has inherited a huge portion of his family's farm and continues to work with his father on said farm, he's hoping someday he'll be able to quit his day job altogether and make his living solely off of farm work.  We'll see how that pans out.

Oldest won first place in the fair on her sewing project.  She was extremely proud.  She did all of the sewing herself.  The only thing I really helped with was cutting and piecing.  Unfortunately, as soon as she brought it home from the fair and tried to wear it, it came apart at several of it's seams.  First projects seem to just work out that way sometimes.  She's done a couple of other projects since then with longer lasting results. 

We didn't end up getting the TWH from our friend that I had mentioned in the last post.  The stalls at the new house simply weren't suited or safe for keeping horses.   It was too bad though, Oldest was really looking forward to having a horse around.

I haven't had much time for crafting these days since I've been busy packing, re-packing, and then unpacking.  I'm so tired of seeing boxes at this point that I think I'm going to do all of my future packing in garbage bags.

In garden news, we've had our ups and our downs.  We've had some pretty good tomatoes coming in and our snap beans have been really nice.  The pumpkins were our problem crop this year, there just wasn't enough springtime rain to really get them going.  We did manage to get some pumpkins, about 150 or so, and the ones that did come up are really nice and large so we had enough for the family and for some friends but no pumpkin stand this year.   That's the way it goes, with farming/gardening you have to roll with nature.   

We did, however, have lots and lots of  zucchini. I have a zucchini bread recipe to share that makes a fairly basic but very tasty loaf that freezes well.  Just thaw and warm in the oven for a couple of minutes and it's good to go.  I found this recipe in a promotional cookbook for the local newspaper years ago and it's been my go-to recipe ever since. 

Zucchini Bread

3 c. flour
3 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 c. grated zucchini
1 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract

   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two loaf pans.   Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and pour mixture into pans, about 1/2-3/4 full each.  Bake for 1 hour.  Let stand 5 minutes in pans then remove to a cooling rack or board.  If you are going to freeze, let the loaves cool completely then wrap in each in plastic wrap and place in freezer bags.  If serving immediately, brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve warm. 

A large zucchini like the one in this picture will make 4-6 of these loaves. 

Oldest has finished her fair projects for this year.  She sewed a dress and has some framed photography she's turned in for Girl Scouts.  I'm pretty proud of the dress she made, she did almost everything by herself (aside from pinning and ironing) and, although there are some mistakes, it looks pretty good.  Considering she's only 8 years old and this is the first time she's ever sewn anything, I think she's done very well.  I just wish I would've gotten a picture of the finished product before we turned it in today but I was in a hurry and didn't think of it. 

I've nearly finished The Afghan From Hell which you can read about in a previous post.  I've been working on it off and on for more than three years.  Hard to imagine.  I've finally gotten to the point of adding the fringe.  Once that's finished, it's finished.  Unfortunately the fringe takes FOREVER because the blanket calls for alot of fringe.  And.....I'm starting to run out of gray yarn.  Uggh.   Hopefully I'll find another skein somewhere so I won't have to run out to Hobby Lobby, which is pretty far away from me, to pick up a new one. 

In farm news, things have been pretty slow for the most part.  We're looking at hatcheries to order a new batch of chicks and have several different places in mind at the moment.  We've had chickens in the past but it's been awhile.  We're in the process right now of getting the coop fixed and fencing an outside area next too it for them.  We're also considering taking on a friend's Tennessee Walking Horse.  She's having trouble paying to board her so she's asked if we would house the horse in exchange for full use of the horse.  She'd pay for the feed and ferrier/vet bills and offer the kids free riding lessons.  Sounds like a pretty good deal but we're still a little cautious.  None of our barns are really "horse ready" at the moment.   We'll have to see how that plays out. 

The few peaches we had are starting to ripen and considering the late frost and then the drought they've turned out really nice.   We have two trees that are chock full of delicious, huge, ripe peaches; one tree that is full of not-quite-ready peaches, and six trees that are completely barren.  Kind of strange how it worked out, it's definitely an all or nothing peach year.  Perhaps the smaller harvest is good this year though because we still have canned and frozen peaches left over from last year.

Fortunately, we've had several inches of rain out here over the course of the last week or two so the impact of the drought is starting to ease a bit.  The rain has been a Godsend.  It's not only perked up most of our garden crops but it's cooled the temperatures down a bit as well.  I've been able to go outside in my shorts and a tank top and not feel like I'm literally baking in the sun. 

That's it for us at the moment.  Nothing to exciting and, unfortunately, no pictures this time.  Hopefully I'll have plenty of pictures for the next post.

Summer projects

 The last few weeks Oldest has been working on her project for the county fair.  She decided to learn to sew and make a dress as one project and do either a photo collage or a family tree for the other project.  With the power outage and the computer being down for awhile, I'm thinking the family tree option might be out of the running this year.  

Otherwise, the kids have been busy working on "fun crafts" the last couple of days. 
They made the birdhouses this morning .  The houses themselves we were able to pick up at Joann's for about .50 a piece which was a pretty good price for an activity that kept the kids busy for at least an hour. 

The garden stepping stone I bought as a kit.  Each kid stuck in a few pieces of tile, stones and shells.  They really had a good time but wow, was it messy!  Good thing we worked on it outside.  I had to hose them off, literally, before letting them come into the house. 

At least I was able to keep them occupied another couple of days.  Now I just have to figure out what we are going to do for the rest of this week.   Maybe a few trips to visit Memaw and Papaw are in order...

Drought and Delay


We had a really quick and really nasty storm a couple of weeks ago.  The first and last bit of rain we've had around here until today.  Unfortunately the storm knocked out our power, which with our cruddy power company usually translates into several days in the dark.  No different this time, we went 4 days without power.  Signs of an aging infrastructure I suppose.  That's probably going to be the "norm" for most power outages unless it gets even worse. 

While we were out of power, DH decided he just had to get his computer up and running for at least one night.  He's much more dependent on computers and television than the rest of us, but we love him anyway.  So, he hooked up his custom built pc to the generator we had to run the freezer, fridge and a fan for a few hours a day.   Despite having two surge protectors between his precious computer and the generator, he still managed to fry the power supply unit.  So, even after the power was restored we were without a computer for another week or so which meant no blogging for me for awhile.  Fortunately things are now back up and running on the technology front.

Unfortunately, we are still in the middle of this really awful drought.  The area's largest river is all but dried up.  The "falls" are no longer falling and are instead reduced to a rather pathetic dripping.  The crops are suffering, of course.  Corn and soybeans are still doing "OK" thanks to drought resistant genetics. But the garden and orchard are in sad shape this year.  We have little in the way of peaches and apples thanks to the lack of rain and a late freeze earlier this spring.  We have nothing in the way of cherries.   Zip, zilch, nada.   Good thing we still have some frozen and canned.  The zuchini, brocolli, cauliflower, and sweet corn have all been experiencing pretty stunted growth even with our sprinklers running all day (at least all day since we've had power...life with a well means no power=no water).   The popcorn isn't even coming up.  It's really not looking good for the pumpkins this year either.  They usually need a lot of rain early in the season to do well.   It did rain some today, a good downpour for about 5 minutes.  Definitely not enough to even come close to getting us back on track. 

Our next best chance for rain is supposed to come this Wednesday when the half-blind, all-seeing eye of the weather center predicts we'll be once again getting some nasty storms.  They also predicted we would have rain almost every day last week.  Clearly they are not infallible.  Still, I hope the rain comes on Wednesday and stays around for awhile, I just hope it doesn't bring the wind with it.  Apparently, this is the most widespread drought since 1988 and we're right in the thick of it.   Yuck.  Without things getting any better, and it looks like they probably won't get much better, we can all expect food prices to hike up and up and up. Blech. 

But even in trying times like these we must remember to count our blessings and be thankful.  We can be thankful for the fact that this drought hasn't taken a huge toll on human life the way a similar drought could do in villages in Africa or other third world countries.  That fact also gives us all the more reason to consider reaching out in any way we can to help those people in third world countries suffering the effects of natural disasters.   We can be thankful for our good, old fashioned American resolve and resiliency.   We can be thankful for what we do have.  In our case, we have a pantry stocked full of canned peaches, cherries, tomatoes, juices, jellies, jams, pickles, beans, soups, etc. Which means we'll still be able to enjoy the fruits of our labors even without a grand garden this year.  Most importantly, we can be thankful for a loving God who knows and cares about our troubles and even when He doesn't solve all of our immediate problems for us, we can rest assured that He hears our prayers and is still in control.

Memorial Day 2012

Most of my family was here in America well before  America was it's own country, including European and Native American descendants.  Several of my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary war which made us a free and sovereign nation in the first place, including one who served under George Washington himself...pretty cool, huh?  I've had great-grandfathers, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins fighting in almost every American war since the Revolutionary war so I'm proud to take this Memorial Day to thank them and every last one of our soldiers and veterans, including those who lost their lives, for their service and to take this time to honor all my family and friends who have come and gone before me. Happy Memorial Day everyone!!!


I got so fed up with being sick.  I was coming up on two weeks of battling that viral infection and things weren't looking any better.  I did something I normally don't do.  I asked for help.  I asked for prayers.  Our God is truly an awesome God.  I went to bed feeling miserable Wednesday night.  I was itching all over.  The rash was still terrible.  My legs, arms, and hands ached.  I was tired all the time, every time I stood up my heart would start beating out of my chest.  I said my prayers as I do most every night (I know that I should make that every single night without exception and that's something I intend to work on) and I went to bed.  I woke up and the rash had almost completely faded.  My resting heart rate was under 100 for the first time in two weeks and it stayed that way all day long. I was starting to get my energy back.  I felt better than I had in a very long time.  And today was even better than yesterday.  The rash only shows up on my elbows, when it shows up at all.  My resting heart rate was even better today than yesterday.  The aches and pains are almost completely gone and I made it through the entire day without needing a nap.   Two weeks of doctors and medicines and fluids and rest couldn't do what one night of collective prayer accomplished.  I'm reminded again and again, these last couple of months especially, that God is there through the good AND the bad times. 
I know that there are many people out there who will read this and think it's a coincidence.  There are those who will read this and think it's all in my head.  There are those who will read this and think I'm crazy or downright stupid. I'm not posting this for those people.  I'm posting this for those going through a rough patch who will read this and find hope. I know many people won't see this as a miracle but I do.  I know it was "just a virus" and that's a small problem in the scope of many of today's ills but maybe my small problem and my answered prayers will give you hope in help and miracles for you problems big or small.  It's also a call to action.  You were created for good works.  I got help from everyone who took time out of their day to pray for me and it may seem simple but it made a big difference for me.  You're meant to be a help and hope for other people, whether that is through works or prayers or both.   Blessings.

So Things Haven't Gotten Much Better

My "little virus", hasn't gotten much better.   In fact, in some ways, it's gotten much worse.  I still have the low grade fever and still have the occasional muscle aches and headache.  However, my rash that was only on my hands and around my ankles is now covering my entire body. I'm exhausted all the time, my eyes have been bloodshot for 4 days, I itch, I have occasional stomach pain, dry cough, constant rapid heart rate, etc. but the swelling that had become severe in my feet and ankles has now gone down some which is a plus still pretty bad in my hands though.   After eight days of illness, two doctors office visits and one emergency room visit (for crushing chest pain that radiated up my either side of my neck), I still don't have an "official" diagnosis although two of three doctors suspect mononucleosis....nice.   Apparently mono can takes weeks to months to heal, so I could look like this,
for months on end if that's my malfunction in the first place.  Not a happy camper.  So I've been mostly sitting in my big, comfy chair watching tv and rotting what's left of my brain.  My garden is not too happy because I haven't been out to work on it in about a week and I have no intention of working on it any time soon.

As if we hadn't had enough, our water heater decided to die on Thursday so we've been shopping for a new one.  This translates into my husband making multiple trips to the hardware store and muttering things that would cause a sailor to blush.

At least t-ball season has started so we have the adorable t-ball games to keep us busy.  Middle is doing much better and taking it much more seriously this year than he did last year.  Last year he spent his time playing in the dirt, pulling up grass, dancing and chasing his friends.  This year he cares more about learning to hit from the pitches instead of off the tee and learning to field.  He loves playing first base and catcher.  It's really fun to see the first year players this time and think back to how similar they are to Middle his first year out and know how much can change in just one year. 

The t-ball games are a nice distraction from all the recent bad luck.  Otherwise, I'm turning to prayer.  Lots and lots and lots of prayer.  

99 Problems

This whole week has been pretty crazy.  We have been trying to clean up the yard and part of that meant moving a large dog kennel from the middle of the back yard to the fence line along with a lot of mowing, weeding, planting, and trimming.  At some point during that ordeal I pinched a nerve in my neck.  By the end of the night, I could barely move my head.  On top of that I had started to develop a headache and a low grade fever.  That was Saturday evening. 

On Sunday, I woke up in full-blown misery.  My neck still felt terrible.  My headache was awful.  My legs hurt.  My arms hurt.  My lower back hurt and I still had a low grade fever.  I took two extra strength Tylenol and went about trying to get my spring cleaning done.  The Tylenol helped but after a few hours I felt lousy again; achy, tired, queasy, just generally blah.  I figured out I was dealing more with a virus or bacterial infection than just simple muscle strains and took two more Tylenol and took a nap.  When  I got up, I found my husband asleep at the computer and my boys elbow deep in flour that they had taken from my canister and dumped on the floor.  Grr.

I swept that up. Then got the kids to bed and watched a bit of The Voice on TiVo.  I decided to get a little work done on the computer so I sat there for about 30 minutes.  I thought nothing of the occasional dog sneezes I heard coming from the living room area and continued on with my work.  When I finished, this is what greeted me:

She had rooted through the flour in the trash. Managed to spread it all over the floor once again.  Had it all over her nose, in her mouth, even on her back.  She looked as happy as a fly on poop.  I could've killed her.  Instead I wiped her nose and back off with a baby wipe and let her outside to pee. I took two more Tylenol, cleaned up the mess, put her to bed and then went to bed myself.  Ah, Sunday.

The next morning I woke up fully expecting to feel better and I did...for about an hour.  Then my stiff neck came back, my low grade fever came back, my muscle aches came back and I started to develop a rash on the backs of my hands. Two more Tylenol.  It decided to stop being as effective as it was before so my low grade fever stuck around along with the stiff neck, although the other body aches lessened in severity.  I tried to finish my spring cleaning but with the fatigue and general aches and pains I mostly just sat around feeling gross.  That was Monday. 

On Tuesday I woke up feeling as sick as ever, this time the backs of my knees hurt, my chest hurt, my entire back hurt, my ribs hurt and my arms were weak.  The low grade fever was still hanging around.  The rash had developed on my feet as well as my hands, mostly around the ankles.  I was tired of being sick so I made a doctors appointment, got the kids off to Grandma's and went back to bed.  The intake nurse decided to swab my throat for strep even though I really hadn't had a sore throat, barely had a cough, and my fever had always been less than 101 degrees. The doctor said she was pretty sure that my problem was viral but my strep test came back positive.  She thinks I might be a carrier but gave me a script for antibiotics anyways.  If I wasn't feeling better in a few days, I was to take the antibiotics.  If I was then I didn't need them.  Her main instruction: No More Cleaning.  Rest.  Rest. Rest. Rest.   Fine. 

I went home and took a loooong nap.  Then got up to take Middle to his t-ball game at 6pm.  Felt a bit better.   When I got home I found the dogs had gotten sick all over the floor.  Great.  Cleaned that up, got the kids dinner, and settled into my big, comfy chair.  By bedtime I was starting to feel the aches come back, although not as bad, and the fever started to come back.  Two more Tylenol and off to bed. 

By this morning my neck was no longer stiff, my headache was gone, and so were the rest of my muscle aches.  The pain in the back of my knees was still there though and now I had pain in almost all my other major joints: hip, elbow, wrist, ankles.  My rash had also gotten just a bit worse, much more red, a little itchy.  No more Tylenol, just in case it was causing the rash.  I went back to bed.   When I got up my right knee was swollen, my fever was basically gone (so far), both of the backs of my knees still hurt but my other joints weren't in quite as much pain.  Getting better.  But wait...why is there a stinging feeling in the top of my foot?  It felt sort of like stinging nettles.  It itched.  I figured it was the rash.  Until it started to swell.  That's when I found him.  This guy:

The pictures aren't so good but this dude is a yellow sac spider.  Probably C. inclusum.  I found him in my bed, right were my foot had been, dead as a doornail.  The little turd bit me.   These are spiders commonly found in homes and just last night I had seen him/her whichever, dangling just above my head in the hallway.  I gave him an evil glare, my hubbs laughed hysterically, but I left the spider alone.  Dang.  Then this morning I saw him crawling along the hallway floor.  Youngest told me that it was important to "be nice to spiders".  Indoctrination from his father, no doubt.  So I left the spider alone.   And this is how he repays me.  Although, perhaps the giant foot attempting to crush him made him a little anxious, which could be why he bit me.

These spiders are cytotoxic.  Meaning their venom is intended to kill cells and tissue. The bite commonly results in sharp or stinging pain (check), localized redness (check) and localized swelling (check).  Usually the reaction to the bite of one of these guys is fairly mild, comparable to a bee sting, but occasionally it can result in an ulcerated wound similar to that of a brown recluse, only not nearly as severe.  So far, in my case, the bite has been extremely mild.  After a few hours I had no more swelling, no more pain, and only a slight brownish/reddish discoloration (almost like a light bruise although without the discomfort) around the area where he had sunk his tiny little fangs. 

My boys felt sorry for me though since I am still a little sick and now had a spider bite me on top of everything else so while I made the fatal mistake of dosing in my chair, they decided to make me a snack. 

 The first snack came from Middle and included strawberries covered in about 1/4 of sugar along with some fruit punch with added sugar.   I ate as much as I could before my pancreas started to beg for mercy. 

 The next snack was made by Youngest.   It included a lovely mixture of sugar, white flour, cornmeal and cornstarch with lots and lots of water.  Middle was pretty sure it was poisonous.  The bubbling didn't make it any more appetizing.  I pretended to eat that one in my bedroom, while dumping it down the toilet.  He was very proud. 

By this point I realized there could very well be a monumental disaster in my kitchen so I headed off to investigate.  There I found Youngest's third course for me.  Flour, pepper, some kind of brown liquid, more pepper, lots and lots of pepper, and cornstarch.  Oh my.  And as suspected my kitchen was a mess.  Pepper, flour, sugar all over the floor, counters and chairs which Middle had tried to mop up by sloshing water all over the place.  I couldn't be mad though because their heart was definitely in the right place. 

Hopefully the rest of this week will be far less eventful than it started out.

Artisan Sourdough Bread and Crochet Sandwhiches

Our Random Acts of Kindness experiment has gone really well.  The kids have really enjoyed getting involved, which is great.  Some of our random acts included cheering on the walkers for the Multiple Sclerosis relay, baking treats for shelter animals and our own furry friends, writing get-well-soon letters to the grandfather of one of Oldest's friends, and picking up trash at the nature center while we hiked.   When we started I thought 30 days would be hard to accomplish but now that we are almost to the end of our month long RAK, it seems like it all went pretty quickly.  Hopefully we have developed some "kindness habits" that will stick around for awhile.

I had mentioned in a previous post (although I don't remember which one) that I was knitting and crocheting play food for the kids to use in their toy kitchen.   Well, I finally got around to taking pictures of the sandwiches I made for them.
Peanut Butter and Jelly. 

 The jelly in the picture came out looking a little blue but in reality it's purple (grape).

Sandwich number 2.

This is the ham, roast beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickle sandwich.

The bread and peanut butter and jelly pattern came from craft frog.  The ham and tomatoes I found on the lion brand website (free membership required).  The roast beef was my own adaptation of the knit ham from lion brand. However, instead of knitting in stockinette, I knitted it in garter stitch.  The lettuce pattern comes from the hook, yarn and needles blog.  The pickles were my own creation.  A simple crochet in the round pattern with single crochet stitches.  It took me a weekend to make and the kids LOVE it.  

I've also been baking more bread.  Making bread and noodles seems to be the majority of my time spent in the kitchen these days.  Recently I tried my hand at artisan sourdough bread.  

I really like the process of making the artisan style loaf, which is totally different than the traditional loaf I usually make.   There were fewer steps with this loaf of bread than the traditional loaves.  No kneading was necessary and it only had to rise once.   I appreciated that fact tremendously.  However, I've learned from this experience that I'm not a big fan of sourdough bread.  I do not like it Sam-I-Am and neither do the kids.  Hubbs thoroughly enjoyed it though.  He ate half the loaf on his own the first day.  He ate the other half the second day.  So for his sake alone, I'll be making it again some time.  For the rest of us, maybe I'll try a rustic white bread next time.  I think the sourdough flavor was just a little too robust for my liking. 

Random Acts of Kindness

A good friend brought up a challenge to me today in which she was planning to participate.  It's a Random Acts of Kindness challenge.  30 days and at least one Random Act of Kindness per day.  The kids and I have emphatically decided to join in with her.  In these days of hurried schedules, tight budgets, Christian-in-name-only attitudes, where we spend more of our day buried in Facebook and on our smartphones than we do actually talking to our kids, it obvious to me that we NEED more kindness.  We need to spend more time engaged with those people around us.  I think love is perhaps the only good thing you can't get too much of. 

I'm like many other people out there.  I find that I'm frequently so busy in my day-to-day that I don't spend any time at all actually considering ways in which I could be kind to someone else.  I intend for this challenge to teach me as much as it teaches my kids.  The challenge guidelines are as follows:

1. Decide to accept the challenge and work with your friends, family or solo to accomplish  at least 30 random acts of kindness in 30 days.

2.  Find a way to track and record your acts of kindness.  It could be a chart, x's on a calendar, tally marks in a notebook, whatever works for you.  Personally we are using a big chart, lest we forget, and each person is assigned a different color to use to fill in the blocks above their name. 

3. The "size" of the act doesn't matter.  It just needs to be a deliberate and random act of kindness.  It could be something small like leaving a quarter by the candy machines at the grocery store so a kid can get a free treat or something big like running a marathon to fight cancer.   For example, the first thing I counted for today was merely helping an elderly woman who had dropped her keys in the parking lot at the dentist's office.

4. At the end of your 30 days find a simple way to celebrate.  We intend to have a pizza and movie night. 

That's it.  Pretty simple.  It should be a good learning experience for everyone involved and hopefully it will make us more aware so we carry it on past the 30 day challenge.

Monkey in the Middle Afghan Completed

Youngest's monkey in the middle afghan is finally done.  It worked up really easy, the most complicated part was, obviously, the monkey square.  The stockinette stitched squares were pretty tedious but simple. I worked a double crochet border in complementary, variegated yarn around the blanket after I sewed all the squares together.  I didn't bother to block it since it was staying right here in the family and I know for a fact that my three year old couldn't possibly care less if the blanket has a slight and temporary curl.  He's already carrying it everywhere so I also figure that the curl will probably be worked out of it in a few weeks at most.

He seems happy which, of course, makes me happy. :)


In the south when someone says "greens" they are usually talking about mustard greens or collard greens.  In the Midwest, when we say "greens" we mean dandelion greens.  Since this was such a warm winter and early spring, we were able to pick this bucket of greens a full three weeks earlier than our first bucket of greens last year.  Pretty good.

Dandelions are healthier than most people think.  They rank as the fourth healthiest green vegetable in terms of overall nutritional value. They apparently help tremendously with liver and kidney function and strongly promote over all gastro-intestinal health.  They lower cholesterol.  They are rich in beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, the B vitamins, thiamine, riboflavin, and protein.  There are even some reports that suggest dandelion greens can help you lose weight, although I'm pretty sure a diet rich in any kind of vegetable is probably going to help you lose weight...just a thought.

We clean them, dry them enough so they aren't dripping wet, and separate them into gallon zip-lock bags.  Then we store them in the fridge where they keep for 2 weeks or better.  When we cook them, we wilt them, which means we cook them with a few tablespoons of white vinegar (2-4 tbs. depending on how much you want your greens to bite you back), a little flour to thicken everything, some bacon, and some chopped hard boiled eggs and onions.  We let them cook down until they are well wilted and coated and all around deliciously good.  Hubbs prefers them served over mashed potatoes but I like them better as a side dish all on their own.  Guess who usually wins?  ;) 

I still find it hard to believe that most people find this abundantly growing health food, with it's pretty yellow flowers, to be a pest and use all kinds of chemicals to rid their lawn of these guys.  Granted, once they turn to fluff they aren't very tasty for eating anymore and at that point they can be a bit of an annoyance but before you start going all chemical commando on them, try to just eat them.  I know it sounds weird to some, but really, they're tasty and their good for you, and you'll get them out of your yard.  Can't go wrong there. 

I Honestly Hate Titles.

I intended to start the seeds for this years garden this week but I didn't.  I intended to clean the back porch to get it warm weather ready but I didn't.  Instead I've been watching tv, something I don't do very often and I've been reading Killing Lincoln which is a pretty good book and I've been crocheting little trinkets to try and keep my mind off this last winter.

I like the way they've turned out, especially the button wrap bracelet.  It can double as a necklace so it's rocking that whole dual purpose vibe.  I'm going to have to head to the craft store for more thread though, I'm  getting a bored with purple, pink and white.  

Liebster Blog Award

One of my favorite Texans, Hossboss, over at hoof and barrel nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award.  I first found her blog when I was visiting her husband's blog.  I ended up originally visiting her husband's blog because of his name, Yeoldfurt.  I mean, really, with a moniker like that how could I not click? Anyways, I loved his blog, so I figured her blog would be worth checking out as well and I was absolutely right.  From horses to homesteading (and plenty in between), she definitely knows her stuff.  And she's obviously an excellent judge of character ;)

 Part of the process for this award is to find 5 other blogs with 200 or fewer followers and share the love.  Unfortunately, I don't personally follow that many blogs that have 200 or fewer followers...soooooo, I'm going hunting :)  And once I find some I'll post an update!

Declutter Challenge Update

I've been plugging along in my quest to declutter my house.  We've purged many useless, out dated, and outgrown items from our nooks and crannies and, as a result, I've found that I have all of this space that is housing stuff that actually belongs there, but is doing it in a very haphazardly sort of way.  I need a little organization so I've been on Pinterest finding inspiration.

Whether or not I'll ever get around to employing any of these ideas in my own home remains to be seen, but I thought they were pretty cute none the less and their associated websites have some pretty neat ideas for the home. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

These chocolate chip cookies are a family favorite. I always make them at night after the kids and after the hubby has fallen asleep on the couch because that way I can eat about 1/3 of them without anybody bothering me.  Don't judge me, I have to do it that way otherwise I would never get any at all. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick salted butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening
1 box vanilla instant pudding mix
1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 bag (16 oz.) chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375­°.  In a large mixing bowl cream shortening, butter, eggs, vanilla and sugars.  In a second bowl combine the flour, salt, baking soda and vanilla pudding mix.  Gradually beat the dry ingredients into the first mixing bowl.   Gently fold in the chocolate chips.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly sprayed cookie sheet.  Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. 


My trips to Wal-mart usually are few and far between and typically consist of me heading straight for the produce section or the pharmacy aisles.  It's not that I don't like Wal-mart, I just don't really have much use for it.  I don't go grocery shopping all that often and when I do I usually go to our local Meijer.  So, the fact that I took a meandering walk through Wal-mart last night was pretty unusual for me but I'm happy I did because I found some really cute buttons and picked up some fairly inexpensive yarn at 2 a.m.   Really can't do that at too many other stores. At least something good came out of these bouts of insomnia.

 So while I was sitting awake looking at my new little baubles I decided to put them to good use and made a crocheted bracelet.  I used a simple pattern of just plain double crochet with a single crochet border, it was 3 in the a.m. by this point after all, intricate patterns were just not feasible accomplishments that early in the morning.

The button really makes the bracelet, I think.  I have several patterns now saved in my Ravelry favorites folder that include more intricate patterns and some knitted patterns.  It's kind of nice to spend a  little time making things that are just for fun every once in awhile.   Time well wasted.  :)

On Track

Our decluttering is going well.  So far we have way more than the 14 items required by the challenge inour little bag heading for the veterans truck. It really isn't hard to find items when you have 3 young kids and a mother in law who cannot pass up a department store sale.  About a third of the clothes they outgrew were ones they only got to wear once or twice.  All this and we only went through two of six (yes, SIX) dressers of their clothes.  Ugh.

I'm Jumping In

I've decided to go ahead and join the declutter challenge mentioned in my previous post.  If anybody else wants to join in go ahead to Hoof 'n Barrel where I heard about it first or head directly over to the Single Saver blog.  
Around here we have a donation truck that stops by every so often where you can donate items to various causes (veterans, lupus, or the kidney foundation).  You place a bag of items out by your front door, mailbox, garage door or whatever and some time during the scheduled pick up day they come and whisk the bag away leaving you a brand new bag and a thank you  note. Since the goal is to donate 366 items in one year, I'm aiming for 1 item per day.  Which meant that when the truck pulled up to my house this morning I intended to have at least 8 items to give away to the truck.  In my house, 8 items really weren't hard to find and I easily met my goal.  Yay for progress! 

While I'm saving my sanity by clearing some of the clutter in my house I decided to also try to save what's left of my old, worn out furniture and crochet some coasters for the coffee table and end tables.

The picture came out a little dark but I'm to lazy today to try and fix it in photoshop.  You'll just have to imagine it a little brighter.

I had previously thought of buying new coasters until I found out that a set of four, simple, cork coasters cost around $7.50.   Needless to say I was a little appalled by that.  I'm not really a cheapskate or anything but, yeah, there was no way I was going to spend that much money for a few chunks of cork board.  I decided to crochet the coasters instead of simply cutting out cork board circles because I thought it would be a lot prettier and it was a way to use some some of my spare cotton yarn. 

I used regular old Lily Sugar and Cream Cotton yarn in ecru and warm brown.  As I mentioned, I used scrap that I had laying around but I priced them at my local Meijer and brand new they only cost about $1.79 for a 2 oz. skein.  I got 4 coasters and a matching dishcloth out of about 3/4 of a single skein of yarn.  SO, I got all of that for less than $2 and far less than the $7.50 for a new set of store bought coasters.  It pays to make your own.  There are alot of free patterns in the world for crochet coasters so I won't bother typing this one out here.  The basics are just a simple crochet circle to the size you want and then I added a very easy picot edge.  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. 

The Doldrums

Around here we are definitely experiences a strong case of end-of-the-week doldrums.  The kids are feeling it.  The hubby is feeling it.  Even the dogs are feeling it.  So I thought,  "what better time to explore the jungle that I call my kitchen cabinets?"  No, that's not an exaggeration.  They are a complete mess.  Picture those closet avalanche scenes in any children's movie...that happens to me in my kitchen at least once a week. It really is insane.

Considering the clutter in my cabinets it's really no big surprise that there are items in them that I swear I have never seen before.  This cutting board, for instance, came as a complete surprise to me.

Just to show the world that I'm a complete dork, I fell in love with it.  Most people I know would probably find it really tacky.  I love tacky!  I'm serious.  If it's low-brow, backwoods, nerdy (I'm not talking Star Wars nerdy...I'm talking full-blown, Grandma-chic kind of  nerdy), cheap, country-bumpkin kind of stuff, I'm all over it.  Alright, it's out in the open now, I've officially come out of the closet and announced my shabby style to the world.  So, needless to say, this cutting board has received a place of honor on my kitchen wall.  It's faded, poorly drawn, and I'm pretty sure the chickens are up to something sketchy and those are some of it's best qualities in my eyes.  It has character. 

After sorting through about two cabinets I gave up and moved on to bigger and better things.  Things such as cleaning up some of our empty mason jars.

I have a friend who has never owned a Mason jar.  She actually seems to think they are some sort of impossible to find relic from somewhere around the Civil War era.  This amazes me since I seem to have these things coming out of my ears.  They are taking over my garage, my pantry, my life.  I think they're multiplying when I close the door.  I mean, it's ridiculous.  Now, don't get me wrong, I don't set out to hoard Mason jars.  Most of these came from Gran, or came with the house when we moved into hubby's great aunt's place, or they were snuck in bit by bit by my in-laws.   I've never bought a single Mason jar in my life.  They just seem to find me. 

After spending a full day of sorting through clutter in the garage and kitchen cabinets, and not getting rid of anything, I got online and at the top of my blog roll was a post from Hossboss over at Hoof'n Barrel talking about a declutter challenge and encouraging others to join along.  Divine providence?  Perhaps.  We may soon be seeing a new button on my sidebar. 

Bouncy Balls

Despite the rough December we've had, life and homeschooling must go on. So, we've been learning the very basics about polymers. We started with a basic definition and have moved on to the best part, the experiments! Our first project: Make our own bouncy balls!

We made our first bouncy balls from a store bought kit.  They've turned out pretty well.  They bounce without falling apart which was something I was a little worried about.  My kids managed to make them without creating a huge mess, another thing I was worried about.  The crystals come in several fun colors and come with resealable plastic baggies plus two different molds so you can make all kinds of different concoctions.  There are supposed to be enough supplies to make 21 different bouncy balls which is enough to make it worth the $10 I spent for the kit IF the supplies stretch that far.  We'll have to wait and see.

Next up on the project list is a more involved bouncy ball project found here.  Then we will make our own slime.  As the household cleaning lady, I'm kind of dreading that experiment.   And then last, but certainly not least, we will try making our own silly putty. Part of the idea here is to help the kids realize just how many different things in their world are polymers and help them identify which things are not polymers like metal or brick.