Thursday, November 10, 2011

A day of printing

The girls and I spent several hours today playing with blank rubber stamps and linocut tools.  A friend came up with the brilliant idea of making her own seed packets and I've decided to follow suit.  We have been collecting seeds from our garden for over a month now.  I've also been working on making and printing envelopes for those seeds for about the same amount of time.  

Today the girls decided to try their hands at print design.  I had them sketch their images onto the rubber stamps, I cut them out and we printed them on cards.  I love having homemade cards on hand.  You never know when a thank you will be needed or just a note to the grandparents or a friend.  

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday morning waffles

Growing up it was Saturday morning pancakes.  Here in this day and age its Sunday morning waffles.  At least since I got my much dreamed about snazzy waffle maker last Christmas.  Waffle morning is now anticipated and much awaited.  Most Saturday nights a typical conversation between a three year old, five year old and thirty-two year old (Phil) includes the line "tonight is Saturday night which  means tomorrow morning is 'WAFFLE MORNING!"  We serve them up many ways: with fruit and whip cream or butter and maple syrup.  Occasionally I'll make fruit syrup with various kinds of fruit heated up in maple syrup.   One thing is certain, two small members of this family always need waffle faces for breakfast.   This particular morning we are enjoying peaches and black raspberries (freshly picked) with a little whip cream.  Hope everyone else out there is enjoying a good, peaceful Sunday morning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Small victories

Last night at a neighborhood barbeque, my neighbor and I pulled apart our screaming, kicking, crying three year olds.  The argument was over a feather.  The usual chorus of 'It's mine!' 'No, it's mine!' rang through the back yard.  We removed to our separate houses where I sat down with Noine and asked what had happened.  As she clenched the feather in her tight little fist she told me Mia had found it while they played in the yard; but now she needed to keep it because it was so beautiful. We talked about how if Mia had found the feather then it was really hers.  The right thing to do would be to give it back even if it was so beautiful.  I also pointed out that if the roles had been reversed Nonie would be pretty sad and angry with her friend.   We went next door and Nonie returned the feather politely and calmly without fuss.  As we walked away holding hands it felt really good to be able to look down at her and say 'Nonie you did the right thing.'

I think too often as a parent I have a tendency to want to 'fix' problems for my children.  To fix the crying and handle the problem myself because it's faster, easier.  (Why I always feel in a hurry is a really good question for another day)  But in the three minutes it took to ask what the problem was and help her solve it, we both learned a lesson.  I count that as yesterdays small victory.  I look for them everyday.  Then when I make a mistake I can remind myself that I am human too and there will be another small victory later in the day or tomorrow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A day fishing in the Rockies

My Dad got us into fly fishing when we were kids.  I've never been 'great' at it but then that really isn't the point is it.  There is nothing like standing in moving water in nature with only your thoughts and the birds and burbling water.

My brother Matt lives in China.  It's been far too long since his last visit.  But finally this past week he joined us for a few days.  I figured fishing in the Rockies would provide some clean air to repair his lungs from all that China, city living.  (And who could resist those mountains?! Not that I'm trying to convince him to move to Colorado or anything...) We spent the day in the river.  This was one of just a few in the area right now that is low enough to fish.  We have had record snowmelt and lots of rain.  Even here we fished from the bank much of the time.  Just before lunch the rain clouds rolled into the valley.  Thunder echoed in between the mountains.  Eventually the rain clouds opened up and drenched us.  It was heavenly.  Nothing like spending a day in a river to refresh the soul.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lady bugs

Our small aspen trees started spitting a month ago.  Turns out they have aphids.  LOTS of them.  Lucky for us ladybugs are sold by the bag.  Our aphids are biting the dust and our garden is full of beautiful spots of red.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011


It finally feels like summer.  There are refrigerator pickles pickling, flowers on the table, a sour cherry cobbler to be eaten and sour cherry jam to make.  The house smells like inspiration and good food.

Packing up a balloon

On any given weekend morning we see around ten hot air balloons.  We spend our early  mornings watching them fly over.  Occasionally they even land nearby. Our neighbor knocked early to tell us a balloon had landed down the street.  We got there in time for Lil to help squeeze the air out of this beautiful, brand new Cameron balloon.  I like Cameron balloons because I grew up near their shop in MI.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book making

I know I've said this before but my children regularly amaze me.  Today it was my oldest making a magazine for the younger while she waited for the actual one to come in the mail.  They took turns reading it to each other.  The words were simple enough that they memorized them.  Lillian decided what it should say and asked how to spell the words.  I know its hard to tell but the middle picture says 'Kim and Carrots are climbing a mountain.'

Saturday, July 9, 2011

From the garden

Having a garden is good for so many reasons.  Best of all is that I can't get the girls to stop eating veggies.  What is it about picking something out of your own garden?  I could buy a never ending supply of vegetables from the grocery and they wouldn't touch half of them.  But let them go crazy in the garden and there will be nary a leaf of tatsoi or a carrot left.  

Friday, July 8, 2011


Can't beat good scenery while berry picking.  Love those mountains.

We found a great organic u-pick berry patch called Berry Patch Farm. We're going back next week for sour cherries.  The strawberry rhubarb crumble that ensued was mouthwatering.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sour Cherry Pancakes

I found myself up early this morning all on my own.  Imagine, a quite, early morning house just for me.  It was brilliant!  Wonder of wonders, Phil found our last bag of frozen sour cherries at the back of the freezer a couple days ago.  Those cherries, all defrosted in the the fridge begged to be used this morning.   As the title would suggest I used them to make pancakes.  I added some vanilla, a couple tablespoons of honey and a generous helping of cherries to our usual pancake recipe and then made cherry syrup to go on top.  The syrup consisted of berries and juice in a pan on the stove with some maple syrup thrown in for sweetness.  I've already had two plates but I may go have another.  If the kids don't get up soon they may miss out.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

We're going on a worm hunt...

we're gonna catch a big one...
A couple weeks back with all the rain came a whole bunch of worms in puddles.  We had great fun walking around the neighborhood collecting worms out of those puddles.  We promptly put them in our raised planter boxes and let them get to work.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The accidental urban girl's Tuesday guide to thrifty and natural living

on Wednesday...(fell asleep with the kids last night)

We all know this but I'm just going to go ahead and say it again: The Library!  We go about once a month in the winter and much  more often in the summer.  When I calculate the  monetary benefit we receive from going to the library I get somewhere between $500 and $800 (depending on the calculator used).  I've belonged to libraries where if they didn't have a book I wanted they would order it for me.  But most libraries will do an interlibrary loan for you.  This is often free but never more than a dollar or two.  Mostly we just like to go and find what we find.  Kids books, craft books and cook books top the list of most common barrows.  But we've also been known to barrow anything from that newest popular read to books on tape and music CDs.  Most libraries also  have programs for children and adults.  We've belonged to libraries that had theater, lamas and chicken programs for children and interesting lectures on art and health for adults.   At the very least most libraries have reading hour for kids once or twice a week.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Quick garden make over

The garden by our front walk has been an unsightly eyesore since we moved in.  Twenty years ago someone laid down a layer of rocks and planted ivy.  I'm pretty sure it hasn't been touched since.  If the ivy ever climbed the wall it had long since fallen down.  It was a mass of dirty, leafy, ugly, brownness.  I've slowly been ripping it all out, one trash barrel at a time.  Yesterday I came across a pile of free iris plants.  This was exactly what I'd been waiting for.  It took the girls and I about three hours to pull out the rest of the ivy and all the rocks.  I laid down one bag of dirt and planted my new plants.  I do love a good inexpensive project.  All it cost me was three hours of my time and a bag of dirt.

They should perk up in a day or two with some water.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The accidental urban girl's Tuesday guide to thrifty and natural living

Saving water...
Colorado is the first place I've ever lived where I've had to pay for water.  I've always lived places with well water or where the cost of water was such a pittance it was included in the rent.  But here we have to pay for water and may I say it ain't cheap!   We've tried to curb our water usage.  We take fewer showers.  But while I've hoped and prayed and strived to make less laundry it just keeps coming.  Drat!

I know it's a silly thing to get stuck on but I'm not looking forward to paying for all that extra water to keep our garden green.  We have a southern exposure and it is hot and DRY here in the summer.  I've made it a bit of a game to think of ways to save water for our plants.  So far I've come up with two things.  The first is saving the rinse water from the dishes.  The second is showering standing in this giant green bucket you see above.  We have seventeen pots of plants on our upper deck that will need watering.  It's only a few paces from the upstairs bathroom so using shower water makes sense right?  I'll get back to you on whether it actually works or not.  I'm not sure Phil will go for it.  Does anyone out there have any other ideas for me?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Painting and drawing with children

 It was another rainy day here.  In between wet, muddy adventures we took time to do some art.   We all sat down together with paints, crayons and pencils and came up with some pretty great stuff.  Hoping to make drawing a part of our regular summer routine once school is out.   Love this entry on the Camp Creek blog, on teaching kids to draw.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The accidental urban girl's Tuesday guide to thrifty and natural living

Bulk shopping...
It can save you a ton on grocery bills.  Bulk stores generally carry dry goods.  We buy our whole grains, flours, dried fruits, nuts and beans, among other dry goods at our local bulk store.  Between shopping once a month or so at a bulk foods store and shopping weekly at our local farmers market, we break the need to shop weekly at the grocery store.   The less I go into the grocery store, the more we save.  I have a tendency to pick up 'extras' when I grocery shop.  I find we eat more healthfully when shopping this way too.  (Quick note:  I often find the bulk section at traditional grocery stores to be more expensive than actual 'bulk food stores'.  Compare prices!)

Another nice thing about buying in bulk is that you don't have to pay for the exorbitant layers of packaging. Therefore, said packaging doesn't end up in a landfill.  I like to take my own containers when I can so as not to end up with extra bags.  Most of the above jars were actually a wedding gift from Target of all places.  But jars from peanut butter, honey and pasta sauce work just as well.

One might think buying in bulk like this adds too much extra time to cooking.  It can, but the money it saves, the health benefits of eating whole grains and unprocessed foods and the lack of packaging all make it worth it in my mind.  There are also a few tricks to it.  Prepare things ahead of time and in larger quantities.  Then they can be frozen and defrosted at will.  A crock pot is also a great friend. You can put things in before you leave for the day and come home to dinner already cooked.   Prepared beans and rice both can be frozen and reheated as needed.  I cook mine in big batches and freeze in small quantities.  A tip for cooking beans faster: add kombu(seaweed) to the simmering beans.  Remember to cook fully before adding any salt or seasonings.  Sometimes that can inhibit the amount of water the beans soak up and leave you with hard beans. Yuck!

Once you go into a bulk store the possibilities are endless.  You'll find interesting things to try every time you go in.  Do keep in mind that prices change each month on various items.  Once you've been going for a while you'll know when something is a good deal and can stock up that month.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A day of hibernation

One of the things I miss most about New York is the gray days.  I know you must be thinking "is she crazy?!" But here where we rarely get a gray day, where it is sunny all winter long, I miss the quiet days inside.  It is almost impossible to be inside on a brilliant, sunny day.  And so we spend all day, every day outside.  Let me tell you, it can be exhausting.  Today we will curl up with tea and blankets and books.  We will watch it rain and be grateful for the water in the gardens.  We will have chicken and dumpling soup for dinner.  And if it is still raining tonight we will sleep peacefully under the pitter, patter of rain on the roof.  Thank goodness for gray days.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The accidental urban girl's Tuesday guide to thrifty and natural living

I'm going to start a new Tuesday topic on urban, thrifty, natural living.  Check in each Tuesday for another installment. 

Some ideas this week on home-made planter boxes.  To double our planting space Phil and I decided to build two raised planters on the deck.  We also decided to try and trellis several things to maximize our space and grow as much as possible in our 15 x 30 foot back patio.
It should be noted that neither of us have a tremendous amount of wood working experience.  But we figured we could slog our way though it.  We started by measuring our space and drawing up some sketches.  We then visited our local used building supply store to see what kind of materials were available.  We purchased  the wood, screws and nails for the white planter for somewhere around $30.   The tools we used consisted of a skill saw, drill, measuring tape, hammer and some good old common sense. We borrowed the skill saw from some neighbors.  We could have rented it from a local hardware store or the reuse center if that wasn't available.  We own our drill but that too could have been rented if we'd needed to.  The large planter box is about 8 feet by 2.5 feet and 18 inches deep.  It does have a bottom.  We ended up making a frame out of two by fours and nailing white picket fence rails around to hold the dirt.  It is also lined with plastic to keep the dirt in place.  We made sure to punch lots of holes in the bottom of the plastic for drainage.  The trellis type thing going up to the deck is just that: a trellis.  The nylon rope was less expensive then building or buying a wooden one. We are also working with a sometimes very windy place.  Our hope is that the rope will be more flexable then wood.  The embellishment on the front of the box was just something we had kicking around.

The materials for the smaller cedar planter were free.   A couple days after we finished the white planter  some neighbors took down their perfectly useable cedar fence and redwood deck.  They were going to trash the wood until we offered to take it off their hands.  It is about 2.5 feet by 3.5 feet and a similar construction to the larger one with a 2 x 4 base (just built a little better).  Hey we're quick studies.

If you don't want to buy wood look for a local yahoo freecycle group.  (I recommend entering your town and state instead of your zip code.) Frecycle is a national organization with local chapters.  It uses yahoo groups to distribute information.  It's purpose is to reuse things that might otherwise go to the landfil.  You can offer things you no longer use or want and also ask for things others offer.  It is all free!  If freecycle doesn't yield wood keep your eyes open.  Ask builders at building sites if they have wood they won't use or have pulled out of the building project.  Do be careful with what you choose though.  Remember you'll be planting food in these boxes and some woods have been treated with things you don't want to eat.  An example of what not to use would be old railroad ties.  They are treated with creosote and you don't want that leaching into your planter soil.

The dirt was the most expensive part of this endeavor.   We ordered it by the cubic yard and went in on it with neighbors to share the cost of delivery.  I recommend ordering from a landscape materials supplier if you'll need any kind of large quantity.  Ask questions about the dirt you are buying.  You want to know what is in it and where it came from.  Ask if you'll have to amend it or if you can use it just as it is.  For $35 we got one cubic yard (that's 1500lb). One cubic yard filled both our planters by the way.   Bagged that quantity would have cost us between $100 and $200 depending on the kind of dirt we chose.

The plants we'll be planting were all started from seed in March.  Much less expensive than buying starts.  Our seedlings are ready for planting now if only the weather would cooperate.

Good luck building and planting.  Here's to growing our own food!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On the road again

We decided yesterday to take the next day or two and travel west.  Don't know how long we'll be in this part of the country but it could be as short as another year.  We've got to soak up the west as much as we can while we are here.  With Phil and Lil in school it's hard to find the time to hit the road.  But we decided to pull Lil out of school and take a quick trip down to the Great Sands National Monument.  I haven't been in years and the girls and Phil have never been there.  Can't wait!  Now here's hoping the weather is stupendous.  If it is we may just stay all weekend!

Above the lined stuff sacks I made last summer for our road trip.  I put different prints on the bottom so we could tell who they belonged to without pulling them all out.  The prints are Anna Maria Horner.  Love those fat quarters!  Good for a splash of color for not much money.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On the back patio

 We seem to spend a good portion of our days out in back now that the weather is getting nicer.  Today we planted seeds, made yarn art on nails in logs (Lillian's own project) and worked on the patio I've been laying.

 Phil made this spot for Rupert a while back so he could see what was going on in the greater yard.  He loves this vantage point.  He can scope out the evil neighbor cat before he gets scoped first.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The bag

I had a bit of a chuckle at my own expense today when I looked through my purse for something.  It's contents say so much about me.  I mean sure there are the usuals, kleenex, sunglasses, wallet, keys, cell phone.  But then there are the unusuals:  the half finished knit sock, the plastic harmonica, elastic thread, that invisible zipper foot I was telling you about.  Not to mention the Joann fabric coupons, fish magnet and race car.  Mother and crafter are chief among my professions or so says my purse.  Can anyone out there top the wacky things in my purse?  It is a  Maruca bag by the way.  It has been one of the best gifts I've ever received.  It's stylish and can hold a lot of crap.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tips on dying silk scarves with tissue paper

Had a go this morning at dying a silk scarf using Japanese silk tissue paper.  If you want to attempt it you'll need:

* A silk scarf
* Japanese silk tissue paper
* Vinegar water in a bowl (I used a 'glug' of vinegar in a half full bowl)
* Spray bottle - with one to one vinegar to water
* Plastic to cover your work space
* Plastic gloves if you don't want to dye your hands

1. Soak the scarf in vinegar water for a bit.  I think I soaked mine for 10 or 15 minutes
2. Wring it out and lay it on your covered surface.  Anywhere the scarf isn't totally flat will result in a bit of a marbling effect.
3. Tear or cut the paper into pieces and place at random or in a pattern on your scarf.  (I promise there is a purpose for the pattern on mine.  I'll show you in a couple days) You may need to spray a bit with the spray bottle as you go to keep the paper in place.
4. Once you've covered the scarf spray the entire thing to dampen the paper enough to stick to the scarf.  You don't want to spray too much because you don't want it to run when you pick it up to hang it to dry.
5. Press the paper into the scarf to get the color to soak in more.  I covered mine with the plastic and pressed over the plastic.
6.  Hang to dry.  The paper will start to fall off once it dries.
7. Remove any hold out paper and rinse to remove the vinegar smell.
8. For all intensive purposes you now have a beautiful scarf.  But it's not entirely color fast.  I rinsed mine for a while waiting for it to run clear and it never did.  I'm going to do a bit more research but so far I haven't found a way to make it completely color fast.  I just wouldn't recommend wearing it over a white outfit in the rain.
Little hands love to help rip paper.

The paper after it was all said and done.  It was like a work of art in itself.