Category Archives: Shopping
I am 31 weeks pregnant. I had two and a half glorious months, post-morning-sickness, where I felt AMAZING. Now, my large belly has caught up with me, and I am feeling rather crabby and swollen and it’s hard to breathe, and I generally feel uncomfortable. I’m also getting exhausted in a way… well, prior to my diagnosis with Celiac Disease, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome*. I remember how it felt in the evening, anticipating even ONE outing the following day, and having to fight despondency, because I knew that ONE outing would wipe me out, entirely. That is where I’m at, now.
Until the last few weeks, the worst I could say was that the mass of varicose veins on the back of my right leg was giving me pain. All things considered, being a 39-year-old pregnant woman, I figured that was quite good. I got my stinkin’ expensive “pregnancy support garment” — which is very much like a girdle, or a compression garment. On one hand, it’s a blessing: It allows me to walk around without feeling like my leg is going to fall off; it minimizes the pain and pressure, as well, from vaginal varicosities. However… it is 80% nylon and 20% spandex which, apparently, my skin doesn’t appreciate. If I wear it for too long, I get hives. But if I’m NOT wearing it, I can literally be on my feet for maybe 5-10 minutes at a time.
I went to Illinois this past weekend. I went to my maternal grandmother’s memorial service and visited my paternal grandmother, who is very ill. I traveled with my sister (who lives in the Phoenix area, as well) and my brother (who drove down from Utah to travel with us). It was, all things considered, a wonderful trip, in spite of the sad catalyst for the journey. I could write for a very long time on my thoughts and the events of the four days, but I likely can’t: My experience is so intertwined with others’, for whom I deeply care. Telling my tale would necessitate telling theirs, as well, and I don’t know if they would appreciate me broadcasting their story; it’s not mine to tell.
Still, in spite of late nights, days spent going hither and thither on necessary business, spending my days in the endless company of others (which generally drains me, as an introvert) — whom I needed to see and wanted to see and LOVED to see, cramming a couple of weeks of events into those four days, in spite of unending exhaustion of both body and mind, an aching leg, and the aforementioned hives, it was an exceptionally worthwhile journey.
I love Illinois. The above picture was taken from the back steps of my aunt’s home. I took it, steaming coffee in hand. The sun was shining, it was about 7 a.m., and the temperature was 35°. The view is a corner of a field, which will likely have corn growing in it within a month or so, and a little pond beyond that. In the timber behind the pond is the remain of an old road, likely last used in the early 1800s. It had rained torrentially in Illinois, the day before our arrival, so the ground was saturated and impassably muddy in many places, and I didn’t own the boots which would allow me to go down that lovely road-path.
My husband, though, is considering having our family return to Illinois for our family’s summer trip this year — which would be our first time as a whole family — and I will most certainly meander down that road…
It shouldn’t be odd that, with the absence of The Mom, there are many things, upon my return, that have needed my attention. Life does go on, even when I’m not here at home. Laundry continues to pile up. Children still need attention in their schooling. The dog’s medicine runs out.
Today was much busier than I would have preferred, even if I weren’t pregnant. So far, I have:
- Gone to a grocery store — needed especially for milk and meat for the week. (In related news, I got three gallons of organic milk for $4.99. This was accomplished due to the fact that Shamrock Farms organic milk was 50% off this week, with the final price of $2.49 for a 3-quart container. Two containers were near their “best by” date, and were marked $2.50 off. In other words, FREE. I figured that even if they went bad before we finished drinking them, no harm done; they’re free. I got two other containers, as well. Four containers, three gallons total, $4.99 spent.)
- Done two large loads of laundry — it’s still not folded, yet.
- Overseen school with my three older children. I will admit my first grader, Audrey, did pretty much nothing today, other than some self-directed art and Lego-building.
- I fertilized my mini-garden with fish emulsion and epsom salts — something that should be done every two weeks, but of which I was very overdue.
- I called LG for my washing machine — again. It keeps having issues. I’ve needed to call them for a couple of weeks now, but kept putting it off.
- I ordered Algebra 2 on Teaching Textbooks.
- I had an overdue, hour-long conversation with another homeschooling mom, helping her (I hope) with some issues she’s having with one of her children.
- I went to Trader Joe’s for more groceries.
- I returned some overdue library DVDs. Yes, even with a smart phone, I kept forgetting to renew our family’s DVDs while I was away, resulting in $7 in new fines.
- I went to the pool supply store and got chlorine tabs and shock. Our poor pool… It really needs a new pump. It is under warranty until July, but a repairman has already been out once, and he said that there’s really nothing he can do, under our warranty, until the pump breaks. If it breaks entirely before July, the $400+ cost of replacement will be covered. If it only limps along inefficiently, as it has been doing, we’re out of luck. I must admit that I am tempted to sabotage the pump to “help” it completely break. My husband, though, man of absolute integrity that he is, wouldn’t hear of such a thing. But, it’s in the 90s now, and our pool-cum-pond is unusable.
- I went to pick up more fluconazole for our dog, Tally, who is still recovering from Valley Fever.
- I stopped by a used furniture store and bought a small chest of drawers for the new baby ($25 — it needs to be either painted or lightly sanded and revarnished — I haven’t decided which, yet). I also bought a very solid, medium-sized bookcase for $35. It has a blond finish, and appears to be from the 60s. It is almost cool. Tomorrow, I will clear out the beleaguered particle board book case which is currently holding most of our school books for this year. It keeps collapsing.
- I still need to shower.
- I need to make dinner — which will be the Crockpot refried beans I made last night, reheating a roasted Costco rotisserie chicken, and likely some roasted beets from the CSA I host each Wednesday. Easy peasy.
- I need to pick out the worship set list for tonight’s small group. It is definitely one of those nights where, if I didn’t have to go to small group, I probably wouldn’t. Frankly, I’d rather put up my feet, watch baseball, and read my current book** during the commercials. When I’m actually there at group, I always enjoy it. Always. But, right now, I am tired, and wish I wasn’t compelled to attend by my responsibilities there…
So, that’s it! That has been my day. Too busy for me. Still not over. But, life could be worse, eh? All things considered, life is still good — many things have happened in the last week that are stellar, and on which I cannot comment.
If you’re still reading, thank you. Since it has been nearly three weeks since I posted, I felt that this post was overdue, as well… Not my best work, but it will have to do for now.
Blessings to all my readers, those whom I know personally, and those whose acquaintance I’ve only made through this blog… I’ve been feeling particularly thankful for you, lately.
*Virtually all CFS symptoms disappeared when I went onto a gluten-free diet. I do believe that the underlying cause of my chronic fatigue was celiac disease itself.
**In spite of middling reviews (which I have not read — only noticing it has only about 3.5 stars on Amazon), I am still very much enjoying it. Well, I just peeked at some reviews. It appears that those who love Anne Perry’s mysteries, set in 1800s England, are most disappointed. Perhaps that explains why I like the book: I don’t care for Anne Perry. (I did read her four-book series which was set in WWI, but once the series was completed, decided that any more of Perry would be a waste of my time.)
It’s not quite two p.m. as I type this, but today has been one of the sorts of days that I hope for, but rarely occur. To me, a “good day” is one in which I get things done in the home, outside, with the kids’ school, and that something pleasant happens for me, too. It has a nice pace: Filled, but not frenetic. I hate busy, deadline-driven days. I hate days where I feel like I’m doing stuff all the livelong day but nothing gets accomplished. I hate days in which there is an abundance of strife amongst the children. Today has been good, full of the things I like, and with little to none of the things I don’t. So, I thought I’d document it, if for no other reason, than to encourage myself.
- Let the day begin! The day started just as I prefer: On the back patio, with a cool breeze blowing, coffee mug in hand, reading the Bible. I have an odd (?) affinity for Old Testament prophets, and was reading from Zechariah. Then, my four-year-old, Fiala, came outdoors, sleepy-headed, and crawled up into my lap. It was just right. What started as a bright and breezy morning has turned into an all-out windy, dusty day, but that’s OK. It’s keeping the temps down to the high 70s, which is fine with me.
- Gardening. I am out of large and medium pots, now! In what I semi-affectionately call my “fake garden”, I now have 10 medium or large pots filled with plants and seeds, in addition to my two, 2′ x 4′ planting boxes. Today, after creating a mix of native “soil” (clay, really), compost (from a bag; my homemade stuff isn’t ready yet), and vermiculite in a wheelbarrow, I transferred two large heirloom tomato starts into my last two medium pots. I planted cilantro seed around one and cumin seed around the other. I also transferred three small tomato starts (not ready to plant outside) into larger containers. In related news… I thought that with such a small garden, that there was NO WAY I’d forget what I had planted. Wrong. I have three different kinds of squash (I think) plus a few cantaloupe plants and a couple of cucumber plants, and they all look identical. I have no remembrance about what is planted, exactly, and where. Around each larger plant, I also planted smaller things like chard, scallions, various herbs, and flowers. Some things are pretty easy to tell: Chard, for one. Scallions, too, are pretty apparent. But the various herbs and flowers??? I have no idea. AFTER I had planted cilantro seed around one tomato plant today, I noticed that some seedlings in another pot were getting real leaves. “That looks like cilantro!” I thought, “Or is it parsley??” I sampled it. Cilantro. From now on, I am making markers for each pot.
Yard work. I am happily transforming our back yard. Our home, into which we moved in July 2012, needs some serious work to the back yard. The front, too. But, the back is where the living and the gardening takes place. We have plans to seriously overhaul the back yard, but one bad thing about this being a larger property (almost 1/2 acre) is that the bigger the yard, the more it costs to re-do. We need a pool fence, a completely redone drip irrigation and sprinkler system. We need more trees. We need to install my REAL garden (which, blessedly, my husband does consider a high priority!!). We need to re-do at least some of the landscaping so that grass is not growing right next to the swimming pool. The cool-decking needs redone. We need gutters. The whole yard needs to be Roto-tilled, as the clay soil is VERY compacted. The list goes on. But for now, we’re doing small things. For instance, every Monday, I’ve been moving a sprinkler around the yard. I let it soak a spot for an hour, then move the sprinkler. It has very much greened-up the yard. Regrettably, a good half of what’s growing is weeds. But, when the collection of grass and weeds are mown, as my 15yo son did on Saturday, the yard is looking quite nicely. There are a number of bare dirt patches, still, though. I decided today to start aerating them, to see if that will encourage the grass to spread. Today, I only did a maybe 5′ x 20′ section with an aerator we already had. It’s just a four-prong step-on device.
- Homeschooling. In spite of the above, I still got school done with my four school-age children. Actually, I’m sitting at the dining room table with my son Ethan (who is a sophomore) while he works on science reading and questions… I read in several subjects to my 11 and 13-year-old sons, and gave them instructions for further self-directed work. For my first-grader, Audrey, well… I should have done more with her. I only had her do her workbook items (phonics and math) and then let her play with her new Play-Doh contraption all morning. That’s fine motor skills and creativity, right?? (It was her birthday on Saturday… Can’t believe she is seven!!)
- Laundry. I also washed, dried, and folded a giant double-load of laundry, and loaded the machine with a new load to start tonight, after the electricity rates go back down for the evening…
- Food, etc. I noticed that some red oak leaf lettuce, obtained from the CSA on Wednesday, was looking decidedly water-logged this morning. So, I sorted through that, as well as some CSA spinach, and started a small salad for my lunch, and a large salad for our family’s dinner tonight. And I used up the rest of the Red Russian Kale I had on hand, too, though that went on top my eggs this morning. It feels good to use something completely. I also harvested ten small-to-medium-sized Red Rhubarb Chard leaves this morning to add to the salads. It was the first chard harvest of this spring… I love my organic CSA veggies, but there is nothing better than plucking something from the back garden, which you’ve grown from seed, and nurtured into maturity.
Birds! I finally positively identified a hummingbird that has been flitting around our back yard for the last couple of weeks. It’s an Anna’s Hummingbird. I got to get quite close. “Male, medium-small, short beak, red gorget, throat, and head, green back, wingtips not quite as long as the tail… Think it’s an Anna’s.” Then, I went back inside and checked my Sibley guide. It was an Anna’s. Those are fairly uncommon here — I usually see Black-Chinned or Costa’s hummers. It wasn’t quite as satisfying as ID’ing a new-to-me species, but still very nice.
- Pain. The ONE bad thing about this pregnancy — I am now 28 weeks — is that I have a mass of varicose veins running up the back of my right leg, from my knee area up into my rear. It sucks. It is often incredibly painful. I am WAITING AND WAITING on a stupid, expensive, girdle-looking “pregnancy support garment” that I purchased about two weeks ago. I hope it works miracles. I do take Horse Chestnut Seed extract for leg vein support and pain, as well as cod liver oil to thin my blood. That worked brilliantly until about six weeks ago… Some days are better than others, and today, even though I’ve been on my feet for much of the day, has been good.
- The one bad thing about today: Last week, we took my truck — I call it The Land Barge — in to get fixed, as the RPMs were revving with little corresponding power to the engine. The shop found a cracked gasket somewhere that was letting air into the system. Problem fixed. Except that it wasn’t. On my way to the zoo on Friday (a 25 mile trip), the truck started to lose power and we had to pray it into the zoo parking lot. My husband came to our rescue and traded out vehicles. (Originally, all five children were going to go to the zoo with me, but my husband said that Ethan, our 15yo, needed to stay home and work on school. I wasn’t quite in agreement, but did go along with it. Well, if Ethan HAD been with us, we wouldn’t all have fit into my hubby’s small commuter car! As it was, myself and the four kids fit snugly but fine…) The truck completely broke when my hubby was driving it, and he had to get AAA to tow it back to the shop, which is closed on the weekend. (I don’t mind single-owner, small businesses that close on the weekend and give themselves and their employees a break.) Today, we heard from the shop that they had to take it out for a spin for a good 20 minutes to get the truck to repeat the problem, as no codes were showing up on the computer diagnostic system they use. The good news, I guess, is that the truck DID lose power and they DID determine the source. The bad news is that we need an entire new transmission for the truck. That’s an expensive fix! One good thing, though, about being 39 and gaining the perspective of years, is that I have seen provide for us NO MATTER WHAT, and I wasn’t worried. No, I don’t know where the money will come from — we’ve been saving money for a tax bill and the midwife — but that’s OK. God still provides, He still takes care of us, and I found myself saying, “At least it broke down now, not on some big, long summer trip.”
- Now, I’m blogging, which I’ve been working at, off-and-on (mostly “on”) for the last hour and 20 minutes… I’m always happy when time allows for that.
- Next, I will sort through Sunday’s coupons and plan my four-store grocery trip, which will be this evening, after my husband comes home from work with the car, instead of this afternoon…
No matter what happens the rest of the day (it is now 4:00), I can look back and say, “Today was a good day.”
If you think this is a post in which I
berate encourage you to do a better job planning, it’s not.
I don’t plan. Not really. Well, sort of, I do.
But not like my friend Daja at the Provision Room. She’s a pro.
A friend asked me yesterday, “Do you have a website that you use to plan meals or do you just wing it?”
Here was my response:
Somewhere in the middle. I don’t use a website. What I do is see what is on sale for the week, and plan my meals — roughly — around that. “OK. Pork roast is on sale. I can do a Crockpot with green chile pork.” And I know that I always have green chiles, onions, garlic, and the spices to make that happen. “OK. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are on a smoking sale. I’ll buy four packages, put one in the freezer, do stirfry with one, grill two packages using one batch of grilled chicken for dinner that night and saving the other grilled chicken for chicken sandwiches on the night I have small group and I need a fast meal…” Like that. I also purposefully make LARGE dinners, both so that Martin can take leftovers for lunch at work (he prefers that, and it saves money) AND so that we can have at least one night during the week (usually Saturday) where we have a whole meal of just leftovers.
And then… if there isn’t a cut of meat on sale at a price I want to pay, or if there are other staple items that have taken a big chunk out of that week’s grocery budget, I pull stuff out of the freezer.
So… I don’t plan stuff out like with a website. But, I do make a rough plan in my head, based on what I know I keep on hand in the pantry, dishes I know our family likes, and dishes that will best use what’s on sale that week.
Hope that makes sense.
This does bring to mind a few things:
- I have quite a few standard pantry items. When I run out of one thing (or come close to it), I always put it on my grocery shopping list. I know my pantry well, and I ensure it stays stocked.
- When I make my grocery shopping lists, I combine both what I know I need with what is on sale that week, using the weekly ads, if the store has one. With the sale ads, I can see what “occasional buy” type items might be found at a good price that week. For instance, in my shopping trip last night to Sprouts, I had, among other things, arborio rice, chia seeds, and yogurt on the list. When I looked at the sale ads*, I saw that Sprouts also had bulk quinoa at $2.49/lb, Mom’s Best cereal (not g.f., not organic, but all-natural and my older two boys can eat it) at $2/box, and Cascade Fresh 6 oz yogurt cups at 2/$1.00. Those are all things that I can and will use, even if they weren’t initially on my list. Yes, there was yogurt on my list, but I usually only buy plain. Cascade Fresh is one of my favorite brands — all natural, fruit-juice-sweetened, and it was nice for a treat. So, I purchased. (I also purchased one soy-based yogurt at $0.99 for my son who can’t have dairy. It was a brand that uses non-GMO, organic soybeans… I’m not a huge fan of soy, but when he only has one soy yogurt every month or two, I think his body can weather it.)
- I have a mental file of what is a good price for pretty much everything. For example, on my shopping list were dry beans and canned pumpkin. However, this shopping trip, both were expensive – - not on sale. So, I didn’t purchase. I’ll wait until next week or another store to get a good price. Can I wait for a few days or a week or even more to purchase those things? Yes, I can.
- I cook exclusively from scratch and mostly without using recipes. I know not everyone has this skill… My mom taught me how to cook, starting at age seven. I’m 39. That’s 32 years of cooking. I enjoy it, too! So, while I often keep an eye out for a new recipe to try, I would hazard to say that nine out of ten dinnertime meals are made without a recipe. This allows me to be more flexible. I know what I can make, I know what our family likes, and I can make those items, sans a recipe. I don’t have to pull out a recipe card, look at the 15 items, realize that I don’t have 13 of them, and then put all 13 things on my shopping list. In other words, what’s on sale dictates the menu, not the other way around.
- If I have a hankerin’ for something or someone makes a special request — like homemade pizza or homemade Caesar salad — I’ll put mozzarella cheese, (nitrate-free!) pepperoni, and tinned anchovies on the list, and I’ll purchase them if I can find them at a good price, and make that special item. Often, though, I will “plan” to make a special dish for two, three, or even four weeks before I find all the items needed to make that special dish at the right price. If those items cost too much that week — or if they don’t otherwise fit within the budget — I will add the “special purchase” item back to the grocery list for next week.
- My flexible approach makes participating in a CSA, farm share, or other “random” produce plan work well: It really doesn’t matter what kinds of produce I get that week. Whatever comes in the basket, I can find multiple ways to make it work.
So, I guess that’s what it boils down to: I prefer flexibility and saving the maximum amount of money OVER having all my ducks carefully lined up in a row and me knowing a week (or a month!) in advance what I will be making on any given day. But, like I wrote to my friend above, that doesn’t mean I don’t plan at all; I just don’t plan in what might be considered a traditional, menu-planning way.
So, how about you? What tools do you use? Any? Are you looking to change your meal-planning habits any time in the future? If so, why? If not, why? Inquiring minds want to know….
*As a bonus, Sprouts has double-ad Wednesdays. Each sale ad starts on Wednesday and ends Thursday, eight days later. So each Wednesday, two weeks’ worth of ads are valid. So, when there is a screamin’ deal — like navel oranges at 4 lbs/$1.00, I know I can buy 10+ this Wednesday, and 10+ lbs next Wednesday, too. I virtually always shop at Sprouts on Wednesdays to take advantage of double ads.
There are a lot of resources (including recipes) on the internet for all sorts of natural cleaners. I still get asked frequently, though, about what I use.
So, here’s what I do.
First, gather your ingredients:
- Baking soda. I buy baking soda at Costco in 13.5 lb bags, about $6.50 per bag.
- White (distilled) vinegar. I also buy this at Costco. It comes in a 1.33 gallon size, about $3.75.
- Essential oil. I buy this at Sprouts — there are a lot of online resources for essential oil, too. Depending on the oil, it will run you $4-15 per 0.5 oz dropper jar. I typically buy tangerine or lavender, both because I like the scent and because they’re one of the less-expensive varieties. Various essential oils are supposed to accomplish various things (for example, lavender has disinfectant properties and is calming), but I just buy them for the scent.
- A natural, phosphate-free dishwashing liquid. I like the kind from Trader Joe’s, but you can find it just about anywhere. Method, Meyer’s Clean Day, Seventh Generation, even Clorox Green Works is fine. Just not Dawn or Palmolive or the like; they contain chemical detergents and dyes and scents that aren’t good for you or for the environment and just don’t work when you’re using it as an ingredient to make a household cleaner.
Now, make your cleaners:
- For my Everything Cleaner: Fill a 32 oz squirt bottle about 60% full of white vinegar. Add about 20 drops of essential oil. Add about 1 tsp dishwashing liquid. Top bottle with filtered water. Shake gently. This cleaner literally works on everything non-porous: toilets, counter tops, windows, mirrors, stainless steel, whatever. And, it’s non-toxic, so use it without fear in the kitchen. The vinegar is a disinfectant, so if that’s important to you, let the cleaner sit on the surface for a while before wiping down. If you notice streaking on windows, mirrors, and stainless steel, you’re using too much dish soap.
- For things that need scrubbing: Baking soda. That’s it. If you want to get fancy, fill a bowl with baking soda and add 10-20 drops of essential oil. Store in a shaker jar. Use this to clean out tubs, sinks, cook tops, ovens, etc. This also works as a stink-remover on carpet and furniture. Sprinkle, let sit for a while, then vacuum off.
- For floors: A squirt of dish soap in a bucket of hot water. For floors that are NOT a natural stone, add a cup of white vinegar. You don’t need a fancy, expensive floor cleaner.
- For laundry: For about two years, I made my own laundry soap; I don’t any more. I now buy Costco’s Kirkland brand “environmentally friendly” laundry detergent. It is scented (much to my surprise when I first purchased it). To the bottom of each tub of laundry, I add 1/2 cup of baking soda. I fill the fabric softener compartment with white vinegar. The white vinegar is especially effective if you live in an area that has hard water, and/or if your family suffers from eczema and you need all soap residue removed from clothing. If your washing machine does not have an extra rinse/fabric softener cycle, when your clothes are washed, run an additional rinse cycle, adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar. I use regular ol’ unscented bleach on my whites. I do not use fabric softener in the dryer. Don’t need it. Our clothes aren’t as highly scented as if I were using Tide and Downy, but they are CLEAN and what I’m doing is better for our skin and our environment, not to mention cheaper.
Where I do use purchased cleaners:
- Murphy’s Oil Soap. I still use this on wood surfaces like kitchen cabinets.
- Method Wood For Good Furniture Polish. I like the scent, I like the shine. It works well.
- Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. You can use bleach or even baking soda, but the Cling variety of toilet bowl cleaner is still my old standby.
- Dishwasher detergent. I typically buy Palmolive Eco+.
There are folks who make their own dish soap, their own dishwashing detergent, their own laundry detergent… I have experimented with all of those. But from a cost + effort + effectiveness, at least for now, these are the things I have found to be the best choice for our family.
I’m unsure if I can actually call myself a “gardener” right now. After having a true, desert, organic garden for about 2½ years at our previous house (plus experimental forays into gardening sporadically over the previous ten years or so), I’m not certain if my current efforts qualify.
In desert climates, the GOOD news is that you can garden year-round.
The BAD news is that pictures like this make you want to puke, just a little bit:
This sort of pic implies — or outright states, on most gardening websites — that all a prospective gardener needs to do is remove an offending layer of sod, roll it back, and plant some veggie seeds in order to turn your lawn into a thriving garden.
Not so in the desert, dear reader.
- There is no “sod”.
- The soil underneath the sparse surface vegetation is not actually soil. It’s a compacted, dry, humus-free clay dirt called caliche.
- If the dirt isn’t transformed by adding VAST amount of compost, you’re wasting your time.
- If the composted dirt has no water source, you’re wasting your time.
So. If you want to have a “real” garden in the desert, you must prepare the bed with much greater effort and many more nutrients than is required in virtually every other climate. You must also supply a water source.
I know a guy who lives on a property that is flood-irrigated. He invested in storage tanks and pumps, and sucks up the flood irrigation water that is delivered (via a small gate and a neighborhood system of irrigation pipes) every two weeks, and then metes it out with an additional drip irrigation system he has attached to the storage tanks.
That sounds really expensive to me.
It also sounds impossible, as we have no flood irrigation available in my neighborhood.
I live really close to a flood irrigation district; less than a block to the east of my street, the homes have flood irrigation as an option. My home does not.
The home into which we moved, July 2012, has a large property (just under a half-acre) and MUCH SPACE for my garden. However, under that potential growing space is a broken sprinkler and drip irrigation system. The WHOLE THING needs to be dug up and re-done. That ginormous project is among the next things we hope to accomplish, but right now, it’s seeming a long, long, long way off. In the meantime, we had to shut down the sprinkler system. About 1/3 of it simply didn’t work at all. One third had broken pipes resulting in a few marshy areas. The other third did work, resulting in a few patches of green in our back lawn. We decided that the small amount of green provided by the sprinkler system wasn’t worth the overall waste of water.
This means that everything growing in our yard must be watered by hand, including any gardening efforts by me.
I have decided that supplementing a patch of dirt on the ground to turn it into actual soil and then watering it by can or hose was not going to be sustainable, especially when I would have to remove the whole thing when we finally re-do our sprinkler system.
So… All I have right now are two raised garden beds on legs, similar to this:
Except mine aren’t quite as big. They’re 2′ x 3′. That makes a grand total of 12 square feet of garden space, which is less than 1/10 of the size of my previous “real” garden.
I’m also trying to not think too hard about how difficult it is going to be to sustain these beds in the summer, when keeping ANY container moist enough in the bone-dry 115° air is nigh-impossible. I may just have to abandon them during the summer.
In the meantime, though, I have muted excitement about what IS growing in them, these last few days of January.
- Crimson Giant Radishes
- Calliope Blend Carrots
(both direct-sown into the soil)
- Brocade Marigolds
- Bouquet Dill
- Clary Sage
- Simpson Lettuce
- Yevani Basil
(all started indoors in Jiffy “pellet” pots, then transplanted outdoors when large enough)
Additionally, I have more seed starts going, some nearly ready to transplant, some still not germinated…
- more marigolds
- more lettuce
- more dill
- more sage
- Italian parsley
- Common thyme
- Big Red (bell) pepper
I also have at least 10 other things that I would LIKE to plant, and for which I have the seeds — some purchased, some saved from previous gardens — but I likely won’t have the space.
So, how is all of this related to blog monetizing??
This post started its life in my head as a wee blurb that I was thinking about posting on my Facebook page singing the praises of Botanical Interests’ customer service.
See, the stevia seeds are quite pricey: I paid $3.49 for a packet of 15 (TEENY TINY) seeds. I have been trying since the beginning of December to get those suckers to germinate. My two little seed-starter window boxes only hold 24 starts at a time, so I’ve been starting four seeds each of the various varieties. Every other seed variety has been successful so far, though a couple of them have taken two tries. I have had three go-rounds with the stevia seeds with zero success. This morning, as I was about to start the fourth try — and thus use the last of my stevia seeds — I decided to call Botanical Interests to see if they had any suggestions to increase my chance of success, this final attempt. “Final” because I didn’t think I was willing to spring for another $3.49 packet of seed, even though thoughts of homemade stevia tea and smoothies sweetened with fresh stevia leaf are VERY appealing to me. (Plus, stevia wards off aphids whilst it is growing among other garden plants. THAT is a valuable asset to have.)
Here’s what happened when I called:
- A person answered the phone. A HELPFUL person, not just a receptionist.
- After I explained my stevia germination problem, she told me that Botanical Interests guarantees that their seeds will germinate and if I would give her my address, they would send me a new packet, for free. That was a surprise to me; I wasn’t calling as a disgruntled customer demanding a refund… But I happily gave her my address.
- She volunteered to transfer me to the voice mail of the staff horticulturist who specializes in germination.
So, I did leave a message, and look forward to hearing from said horticulturist.
Over all, I would say that was a very successful call.
In my glowing satisfaction with Botanical Interests, I thought to post a bit, singing their praises.
THEN, I hesitated, concerned that I would come off as a shill for the company, as I have posted a number of times about how much I like them, as a company, and their products.
Please believe, gentle reader, that Only Sometimes Clever is NOT a money-making venture. I’ve been blogging for seven years, and if I post something saying, “I like this product,” it’s because I actually like it, not because someone has paid me $20 to say that I do. Or, if there is a link I’ve included, it’s because I think it’s for a worthwhile read, not because I am receiving a kickback per x number of clicks that link generates.
No one pays me.
I receive offers — usually 2-5 per week — for money in exchange for a positive review or a link or a guest post (where someone with financial interests guest-posts on OSC, and for which the other author will pay me).
But, I turn all of them down.
I do occasionally review products which have been sent to me for free, but I’ve been doing less of that lately.
I like to think of myself with a Consumer Reports mentality: It’s for your benefit, dear reader, that I post. You don’t have to worry about my reasons for suggesting a product. If I do, it’s because I have had a positive experience with it. Simple as that… I’m not trying to make money off y’all.
So, happy reading and happy gardening to you!
And go buy some Botanical Interests seeds.
Confession: If one claims to really detest Walmart, then moves about, oh, 1/3 mile away from a “Super Center”, one might find oneself there, oh, daily.
Seriously. In my “normal” life, I go to Walmart maybe 3-4 times yearly, and then only for a specific item or two that can’t be found locally anywhere else. It’s a black hole of plastic and other cheaply-made goods, full of surly employees, and altogether dingy. I still feel like that. But, darn it! It sure is convenient to our our new home.
Speaking of, our new home — for those who didn’t see it on Facebook — is perfect in many regards. It is a larger house (we moved up from 2111 s.f. to 2380 s.f.) on a much larger property (we moved from a lot size of 7,900 s.f. to 0.37 acres — more than double); we are 0.9 miles from our church; we are about 2.5 miles from my mom’s house; there is an RV gate and a concrete pad where my mother-in-law can park her movable home and stay ALL WINTER, if she’d like (I’d surely like it); the new home’s location cuts ten-fifteen minutes off of my hubby’s commute; the house has a pool — which, when the water is finally clear, we will greatly enjoy. (And, by the way, it is significantly less expensive than the home which we just sold. So, in the “posh” factor, we’ve moved down. But in every other regard, we’ve moved up.)
In addition to being 1/3 of a mile from Wally World, we’re about 1/4 mile away from my favorite grocery store, Sprouts. (A fact that is really unconnected to the rest of this post, except to demonstrate how perfect it is. My pastor’s wife was helping to clean the house, before we moved in, and she stopped, midway up a flight of stairs. “You know what I was thinking? The closest grocery store is Sprouts. Is that God, or what? How perfect is that?” Agreed. God shows His love, even in the proximity of beloved grocery stores.)
Structurally and mechanically, for a 38-year-old place, the home is in good condition. The interior needs desperate help, which we are slowly and steadily providing.
One thing that the interior needs is CURTAINS. Draperies. Window coverings. It came with none. That’s right: If you drive by our home in the evening, you can see right into our family room, because absolutely nothing is covering those windows. Not yet, anyway. I’m working on it.
I made curtains for the bedroom shared by my sons, Wesley and Grant. I’m not taking any pictures of those yet because I need to add some rings to the top, which droops far too much. That means taking the curtains back down and sewing 12 more button-holes, and adding rings to them. I’m just not up for that, yet.
But, yesterday, I made these, with which I am inordinately pleased:
I used a kit like this to make the buttons. I would have preferred the buttons to be metal, but Joann Etc only had the nylon kind:
By the way… From where did the really lovely, 54″, thickish, blue, green, and chocolate paisley home dec fabric come???
Don’t tell anyone.
So. I can’t say that my scalp never flakes, but I don’t really have dandruff. However, I have had an itchy scalp, um, forever. I have used dandruff shampoo since childhood, and assumed that it would be part of my routine forever.
I had discovered that salicylic acid-containing shampoos (like Neutrogena T-Sal) work better than… uh… whatever makes the blue dandruff shampoo blue.
Four or five months ago, though, I learned about the “no ‘poo” movement: People “washing” their hair with baking soda, and using apple cider vinegar as a conditioning rinse. I already buy my baking soda — which I use for everything — in 13.5 lb bags from Costco, and apple cider vinegar (raw, organic, unfiltered) in quarts. So, I had the supplies on hand, and was already a fan of them. Plus, I am always on the lookout for ways to make our household more natural. I suspected that my normal regimen of Suave clarifying shampoo for the first wash, Selsun Blue Naturals for the second wash, and Herbal Essences None of Your Frizzness conditioner didn’t meet any benchmarks for “more natural”, and on my low-priority list at the back of my mind, I’d been wanting to figure out a replacement for them. Win-win, all the way around, right?
So, I did no ‘poo for a few weeks and hated it. It’s not so much that it didn’t work, exactly. It’s because I have so much darn hair — it’s thick and reaches the small of my back — that the process took FOR-EV-ER. Working enough baking soda into my hair to wash all of it required a LOT of baking soda and a LOT of time. Then, it’s hard to rinse out. The apple cider vinegar rinse helps with that because the acid neutralizes the soda. However, I am already trying to minimize my water usage in the shower; I could languish in a hot shower pretty much perpetually, but know that it is wasteful. All that water draining as I’m trying to get enough soda into my hair to wash it, then enough water in my hair to rinse it… I just could never get all of the soda out, even using up an entire water-heater full of hot water in the process.
As a consequence, my hair would feel heavy afterward, and I hated that.
I had read that there is an adjustment period where your hair needs to get “used” to not being stripped of its oils, etc., like normal shampoo does, and thought that, maybe, that’s what was happening to my hair. But, I find myself suspicious of this because:
- Baking soda strips stuff of oil. That’s one reason it’s an effective household cleaner.
- I deeply suspect that the “adjustment period” is not your hair balancing out, but you, as a person, finally getting used to how weird your hair feels after “no ‘poo”ing.
So, I shelved that idea. Chalk me up as Not a Convert to No ‘Poo.
One thing I had noticed, though, was that my scalp was NOT itchy, at all, while doing “no ‘poo”.
I had already recognized that at least one of my children (Audrey) is “allergic” to Suave shampoo. It makes her head peel. I’ve know that for years. Literally, about four years. With a slowly-dawning “duh”, I thought, “Maybe my shampoo is what is making my head itch. Maybe I need to switch shampoos.” For nearly my whole life, I have used a clarifying shampoo as my first wash — I am not looking for frou-frou in my shampoo; I just want my hair clean. If I’m going to splurge, I save my $$ for conditioner. Therefore, I use the cheapest clarifying shampoo I can find: Suave. Hmmm… If it makes Audrey’s scalp peel, maybe I have the same problem, and that’s why my head itches. <facepalm>
I shopped for various natural shampoos, to give it a go.
Lemme tell you, I hated that. The cheapskate in me CRINGES over the per-ounce cost of natural and organic shampoos and conditioners. And, I had a reasonable fear that I’d plunk down my $15-20 dollars for two bottles of stuff that
- wouldn’t clean my hair,
- would make my scalp still itch, and
- would totally waste my money.
Finally, I settled on Everyday Shea, mostly because I liked the info provided on the bottle, and it was 32 ounces, and about $10, which is a fair price for such a large bottle. I’ve read some glowing reviews of it, but I’m here to tell you that stuff is CRAP.
- It doesn’t clean worth a darn,
- I had to use a good quarter to half-cup of both the shampoo and conditioner each time, to get a good lather on the shampoo, and to feel like the conditioner was being spread through my hair.
I had to stop using it, which made me groan at the waste. I tried using it a few washes even after I knew it wasn’t working for me, just to try to get my money’s worth, but I just couldn’t continue. Then, I tried — ahem — passing it to my children, because maybe their standards were lower than mine. But everyone — husband and children included — uniformly reported, “This stuff is weird. It’s so watery. My hair doesn’t feel clean. Do I have to use this?” Now, the bottles — FOUR OF THEM, mind you, because I thought that if one variety of it didn’t work, maybe another did — are just sitting around my house (and yes, that’s $40 worth of crappy shampoo and conditioner), because I can’t bear to throw them away, but neither could I, in good conscience, give them to anyone.*
Nature’s Gate, which, while somewhat expensive on the outset (about $6-7), at least comes in healthy-sized 18 oz bottles, so the cost per ounce was lower than most of the other options. It’s not organic, but it is sulfate-free, paraben-free, butylene glycol-free, and more. I’m not sure — at all — which of those — if any — is what was making my scalp itch. But, I thought it was likely to be at least one of those things.
I must say that, initially, I didn’t want to buy Nature’s Gate because I bought some, years ago, and the stuff smelled exactly like Old Spice, and it was a SSTROOOONGGGG scent. So, I’d smell distinctly like a man whenever I used it. That’s a no-go, even though I liked how it worked. But, in the store, I noticed that there were several new varieties of their shampoo, and it had that chipper “New Improved!” graphic, and I hesitantly picked it up. I opened the cap to smell. Wow! It smelled GREAT. I plunked two bottles in my cart.
I’m happy to report that, a few months later, after using both the Aloe Vera and the Jojoba versions of Nature’s Gate shampoos and conditioners that
- It cleans my hair, on ONE wash, even if it’s been several days since I last washed my hair.
- I don’t have to use a ton of the shampoo, just a normal amount.
- The conditioner conditions well, and even with my long, thick hair, I don’t have to use a gallon of it, either. It’s thick and rich.
- It doesn’t make my scalp itch. I am itch-free, and no longer need to use dandruff shampoo.
- And it smells great. Not like a man at all. But, my hubby likes it, so it doesn’t smell girly, either.
Overall, I’m very happy with Nature’s Gate shampoo and conditioner. It’s still pricier than my penny-pinching self likes to pay. BUT, it’s cheaper than dandruff shampoo. And, I have been pretty successful buying it on sale. Locally, to the Phoenix area, the everyday price at Bashas’, of all places, is LESS than at Sprouts, $6 vs. $7-something. But, from the 25th of April (today) through the 2nd of May, all of Sprouts’ vitamin and bodycare goods are 25% off, so if you’re interested, it might be a good time to buy… (And, NO, I’m not paid by Sprouts to say this; I just like shopping there.)
*Although, if anyone I know IRL is reading this, and wants to try it, even after my thumbs-down review, you’re welcome to. I’ll give you my bottles.
Finally watched Food, Inc with my boys today, as part of school. The 91 minute movie took us more than two hours to watch, because of the little girls needing attention, and for pausing to comment on the movie itself, both by me and by the boys.
I would say that I already was aware of about 95% of it, having learned from other sources the same/similar information. But, it’s just GOOD to have what I already know be reinforced, and to learn even that 5%.
Most of what I didn’t know had to do with the human element: The progression of how subsidized American corn has been exported to Mexico, putting Mexican corn farmers out of business. Then, slaughterhouses advertise in Mexico, soliciting illegal immigrant workers — often ex-corn farmers — and even BUS them to the U.S. Then, the employers have basically slave labor because the illegal employees don’t want to get busted by ICE and deported. So, they have zero voice, and they’re one more source that keeps the price of low-quality meat unnaturally suppressed in the American market. I had never heard that, nor pieced it together for myself, but it makes total sense.
I told my boys at the end, “I know that you already knew much of this, but sometimes, it helps that, instead of hearing your mother harp on you –” Twelve-year-old Grant interrupted and laughed, “You can hear OTHERS harp on you!” Ha! He said this with good humor, as none of the boys felt “harped upon”; they all appreciated the content and found it interesting and confirming. They also commented that, at the end of the film, where all the suggestions are made for how to be better food consumers, “We already do all of that!” My oldest said that, instead of our family being the health-freaks amongst our circle of friends* and being the odd man out, that, maybe by the time he’s a grown up, the weirdo will be the guy who regularly eats fast food cheeseburgers. Most touching was 10-year-old Wesley saying, “I hope you get to be in a movie like that some day.” Not that I aspire to be an interviewee, or that I even merit that, but that’s how he sees me, which is so precious to me.
*Not that we’re the ONLY people we know who are committed to eating healthy, but it’s still not the norm, by far.
Wee little garden update:
This morning, I harvested $6.58 worth of fresh, organic produce. Here’s how I figured it:
- One head of lettuce (Simpson Black Seeded — one of the BEST choices I made for my garden this spring). Seven oz, after being torn and washed. Five ounce containers of organic lettuce are typically $3.99. At that rate, my lettuce is worth $4.49.
- Two ounces broccoli — actually my largest head of broccoli so far, only about 5″ across… Turns out that broccoli typically doesn’t produce well at first try… Still, I’m not giving up. I may try a different variety next time, though. And plant it later, as the best of my broccoli has been harvested this month, when it’s warmer. Anyway. I can typically get organic broccoli at the store for $1.49/lb, so my two ounces equals $0.19 worth.
- Turnips — 3.5 oz. Actually, they’re not turnips. They’re the roots of Tyfon greens, which is a cross between a turnip and a kind of Chinese cabbage. Tyfon was a good choice when they were young and it was cooler, and we ate a ton of it, usually garlic braised and mixed with red chard. But as the weather has warmed, the Tyfon has been an absolute aphid MAGNET. Gross. So, I pulled the remainder of them out this morning, and a few of them had biggish, turnip-looking roots. Thus, 3.5 oz of “turnips”, at $2.99/lb = $0.65 worth.
- Six ounces carrots. We have a spot at the end of the garden where my daughter Fiala dumped an entire packet of carrot seeds. Even with regular thinning, it has turned into a carrot forest. I did a little research, because these carrot tops were developing powdery mildew. It turns out that powdery mildew — which is fairly harmless on carrots, though it can spread to other plants and stunt growth — flourishes in dry days, in shady conditions, and in crowded plants which inhibits circulation. The “carrot forest” is, unfortunately, largely shaded by a tree. It’s dry here. And, they’re crowded. Thus, I’ve had to pull out lots of baby carrots, which really aren’t akin to grocery store “baby carrots”. When they’re not full-grown, they’re rather bitter. But, they’re still edible. So, 6 oz carrots at $0.99/lb = $0.38 worth.
- I also harvested eight cherry tomatoes — 4 yellow and 4 red. Organic tomatoes are really expensive — typically $3.99/lb. So, my 3.5 oz of cherry tomatoes is worth at least $0.87.
If my math is right, that is $6.58. And that’s just from today! I’m daily harvesting produce. AND, there’s still a bunch of red chard I need to harvest before it bolts, which I will do later today. Organic red chard is typically $1.99/bunch this time of year, and I have enough for a good 4, 5, 6 store-sized bunches. Maybe more. And there are some lovely green onions that can be harvested. Even though my garden is small — about 7′ x 20′ — it has been extremely productive, once I got it going… Definitely more productive this spring than last; I’ve learned a lot in quite a short period of time.
“Two minutes. I’m walking Mommy out. I’ll be back in two minutes. Don’t come out. Let me have TWO MINUTES with Mommy,” my hubby Martin stressed to the children, who were finishing dinner.
It’s a weekly event. I go grocery shopping on Wednesday nights, and he walks me to the car, carrying my shopping bags and unlocking and opening the car door for me. When you have five children, it’s pretty amazing how valuable a tiny slice of time together can be.
“So, even though I didn’t start this diet to lose weight, I’m pretty happy to have lost some. Guess how much!” I demanded as we walked slowly toward the car.
I was thinking that he hadn’t noticed; he hadn’t mentioned anything about it. I thought he’d say, “Two pounds? Three?” and I could return with a triumphant grin, “No! Almost EIGHT!” I’ve lost 7.7 lbs, to be exact.
He looked me over with a thoughtful, “Hmmm…” Then, he confidently guessed, “Seven point five pounds.”
At that point, Audrey came running out, barefoot in the 45° weather, in tears, “Granty ran into me and hit my mouth!!”
Our two minutes were clearly up, so we quickly kissed, I stuffed my near-shock at his accuracy, got into the car, backed out, threw “I love you” hand signs*, and went off to the grocery store, smugness deflated, as Martin tended to the crisis.
I asked him about it again this morning, and I’m still not sure if it was just a good guess or an accurate estimate based upon close observation. It’s his secret, I guess.
*We have a “secret” sign in our family. It started with my hubby saying, “Love yas!” as he held up the normal “I love you” ASL short-cut, usually to Audrey, as he was backing out of her bedroom door at night. When she was really little, Audrey started one-upping him by holding up both hands with the sign, saying, “Double love yas!” Then, she raised the bar by crossing her two forearms into an X, with the “I love you” sign flashing on both hands, “Triple love yas!” So, now, we all “triple love yas” each other…