Tuesday, March 31, 2009

He Must Have a Really Ruff Life

Awwww. Look at that angelic, sleeping puppy. Isn't he so cute?

Don't be fooled. That angelic puppy is the same puppy that decided a few days ago that he wasn't content with the look of his yard and decided to take it upon himself to improve the landscape...

with none other than large breed puppy sized hole! In just a couple of swipes, nonetheless.

Okay, so he USUALLY is a cute, angelic puppy who loves to be babied by his kids.

And I just happen to have the awesome privilege of filling the large hole he so thoughtfully decided to strategically place in the middle of my yard. Wasn't that so gracious of him?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"I'm Not Sick"

Says my three-year-old with a 102 degree temperature, as he's laying in bed semi-wheezing with bloodshot eyes that are somewhat sunk in his head, dozing off to sleep.

He woke up this morning with a fever and I was letting it go until it hit the 102 degree mark. I'm not a big fan of medicines. We choose natural remedies whenever possible. Unfortunately, my urge to quickly lower his fever overcame me today and I gave him some Motrin. Two doses thus far. He still isn't feeling well, although he won't say so. He laid on the couch watching movies most of the day (the only time they really get to watch an obscene amount of television), groaning and dozing. He hasn't complained about anything bothering him so far, so I'm just keeping an eye on him.

I just felt him and he's burning up again, so I think I'm going to try some cool cloths while he sleeps and see how that works.

I'm hoping that he'll feel better tomorrow.

Anyone have any tips on natural method for fever reduction? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sadness from the Fish Tank

We lost one of our beloved gold fish this morning. Our four gold fish are about two years old and made the move from Virginia with us, so they are definitely included in the list of family members when the kids are asked who is in our family. They each have a name as well. At first, they were each a different color/shade with certain defining marking, but they are now all the same shade of orange, two with "fancy" tails, and two that are plain.

We lost Ally, one of the fancy tailed fish. When we got home yesterday from our camping trip, I noticed that one of them was swimming very slowly at the bottom of the tank and figured something was wrong, so I wasn't surprised when one had died this morning. After taking it out of the tank and checking on the others, I realized that it was a different fish that had died. The slow moving fish was still slowly swimming at the bottom. Wondering if something was wrong with the tank, I changed the filter and am keeping a close watch on it. I don't want to lose any more fish if I can help it.

The kids took the news rather well. I told Jolie as soon as she got up because the tank is in her room and I didn't want her to be alarmed when she noticed there were only three fish in the tank. We discussed that fish and animals sometimes get sick or just grow old and will eventually die. Jake got a slightly more advanced explanation, having a better understanding of the loss of an animal. Jensen, on the other hand, is still in the dark on the fish situation. He slept later than the other two, so I’ll have to give him the news another time. He isn’t really interested in the fish (unless he gets to feed them), so he probably won’t notice for a while.

My parent's dog just passed away as well, so they have had some experience in this area. Hercules was 13 1/2 years old and lived a wonderful life. He was the only dog that I had growing up and he will always hold a special place in my heart. Jensen still doesn't understand that he is gone, and keeps talking about Herk and how he is old and sick. I'm sure he'll understand more the next time we are at Mom and Dad's and Herk isn't there.

Losing a pet is so very hard. I don't want to go through a major loss again for a long time to come.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Wonderful Weekend for Camping

We have been so busy lately that it was nice to finally slow down for a change. We have a local military recreation facility that has some wonderful campgrounds, paintball fields, playgrounds, disk golf, bike trails, miniature golf, and water access. The price was right, too, so we loaded up the tent, kayaks, kids, and dogs and headed over with our neighbors for some much needed R&R.

The site doesn’t take reservations for camping, so the kids and I drove over Friday morning to pay for and pick out our spot. We were quite indecisive and took nearly 30 minutes to find the “right spot.” We didn’t want to be too close to the bathhouse, but not too far away either (small bladders, you know), and we didn’t want to be squished between two big RVs (we have a tent, but our neighbors had a camper and we were sharing the site). We did finally find a great spot and were stoked. The kids and I loaded up the car with all but the kayaks in preparation for Justin to get home. He strapped on the boats and we were on the road.

We hadn’t been camping in over three years. Our last camping adventure was a wonderful trip we took down the west coast from the San Juan Islands in Washington to the Redwood Forest in northern California. It was a beautiful trip. We went whale watching, saw the Sea Lion Caves, a bunch of lighthouses, and the towering Redwoods. My parents and one of my sisters went with us on the trip. We all loaded up in our (no longer with us) Suburban, and saw the west coast. Seeing the Redwood Forest was one of my requests before we left that side of the country, and doing so in a tent was a wonderful way to see it.

We got to take the kayaks out for the first time this weekend. We got them about two weeks ago (our belated anniversary gifts to ourselves), and since Justin is now able to lift things and exercise again, we wanted to get them in the water and try them out. I LOVED it! I had never been kayaking before and to be honest have some fear of the water (a near-drowning experience in 8th grade will do that to a person), so I was surprised with how relaxed I was once I got the hang of paddling. It was so quiet out in the water. I could have stayed out there all day. Justin and I let Jake have a try with my kayak, and he was a natural. He loved it as well and has requested a kayak for his 10th birthday in June (we’ll have to see about that).

Due to the dryness of the area, fires were off limits, but who says you can’t cook S’mores over a charcoal grill? I’m not sure how good that actually is for you, either the charcoal flames or the S’mores, but I guess you only live once. Justin and Jensen had traditional S’mores with marshmallows, organic graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate bars. Jolie and Jake, on the other hand, are vegetarians and won’t eat gelatin that is found in traditional marshmallows. I ordered some vegan marshmallows online, but they didn’t get here in time. I tried making some marshmallows from scratch before Thanksgiving, but didn’t have any luck. I’ll try again, I’m sure, but in the mean time, the kids used marshmallow fluff (they weren’t too happy with that either because it does have some blue food coloring in it and corn syrup), fair trade chocolate, and organic graham crackers. There is a ricemellow fluff that is out on the market that I need to try and find for the next time we need “the fluff.” I just assembled the alternative S’mores the same way I would a regular S’more, and placed the whole thing on the grill grate (near the edge, away from the flames) so that the chocolate could melt. Everyone was happy. I think our neighbors thought we were funny for using alternative ingredients, but the kids enjoyed their treat.

We took a nice walk through the forest along the bike trail. There were wild blueberry bushes everywhere that had already flowered and were starting to produce fruit. Justin was excited to find the trail and might use it as a training area for his adventure races.

The fun had to end this morning, so we packed up and headed home, but continued the relaxation by watching movies all day (after putting away the camping gear, of course). We did well setting up and taking down the tent and accessories. We could have used some additional child participation, but I’m sure that will come with time. The dogs were doing quite well by the end, and I think they will warm up a little more each time we camp.

I’m itching to get back out there for our next camping trip. I’m hoping to see if I can get my parents and whichever of my sisters that are able to attend to meet up sometime next month for a little camping rendezvous.

It’s back to the real world tomorrow. I have a floor that needs to be mopped (it is Monday Mop Day), a yard that needs raked and mowed, a garage that needs to be cleaned out, and (hopefully) a garden that needs to be tilled. Slow and steady wins the race, but first I have to get a good night’s sleep. I’m not much good without my beauty sleep.

Here’s to positive thoughts and a great week ahead.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday Mop Day

Mondays are Mop Day at our house.

Justin got me a book for my birthday last year that opened my eyes to a new way of mopping. Green Housekeeping, my first resource for keeping my housekeeping green, very gently pointed out that each time I mopped I was sloshing around dirty water on my supposedly clean floor. It didn’t matter if I was using one of those squeezable mops or an old fashioned cotton mop. Either way the dirt from the floor was being added back into the clean water and I was mopping the rest of the floor with that dirty water. Gross! Why hadn’t I thought of that earlier? I had been mopping for nearly fifteen years and had never thought of that grodiness factor.

In Green Housekeeping, Ellen Sandbeck introduces the idea of using a Dutch Rubber Broom, a bucket of water and vinegar, and some clean rags as a means of mopping. One just wets the rag in the water and vinegar, wrings it out slightly, drops it on the floor and scrubs away with the Dutch Rubber Broom.

Well I’m all for cleaning effectively and efficiently and decided to give it a try. I don’t have a Dutch Rubber Broom, but found an old Swiffer Sweeper in the hall closet when we moved it. I have been using the Swiffer instead of the rubber broom with much success.

I grab several old rags, fill a bucket with water and vinegar and go to town. The wet rag fits nicely on the Swiffer. I mop with that rag until it’s dirty, and then I toss it in the laundry room and grab another. The floor gets mopped with clean water, rather than dirty. The vinegar and water give the floor a nice shine without any film. I also use the technique on the laminate floors, just using a slightly damp rag without any vinegar.

The floors look much better now than when I used to use other cleaning products and a regular mop, without the need for harmful chemicals. I've been very pleased.

Weekly Cleaning Schedule

Several years ago I stumbled across the Fly Lady when a friend mentioned she used the Fly Lady’s cleaning techniques to keep her house organized. I really liked the program. At the time, it helped me to get an established schedule for cleaning. Focusing on one area of the house each week of the month really helped to "zone" in on each area and get it up to par. Though the program does work, I don’t follow the Fly Lady program to a “T” anymore. I just don't have the time to be as meticulous with my cleaning as I once was. We now focus on cleaning basics and get the nitty gritty when needed. Because of this, I have created a somewhat modified program that meets my family’s needs a bit better.

Rather than divide the rooms of the house and concentrate on one room each week, as in the Fly Lady’s method, we focus on a different room of the house each weekday. I do the major cleaning, and the kids help with some of the smaller tasks in addition to their other daily chores.

Monday – Kitchen (mop; wipe cabinets; clean microwave; wipe out fridge)
Tuesday – Bedrooms (vacuum; dust; wash sheets; clean off dressers)
Wednesday – Office (pay bills; file papers; organize desk)
Thursday – Great Room (dust; mop; organize book shelves)
Friday – Bathroom (scrub; wash towels; organize under sinks)

Each day I will look to see of any additional organization or cleaning needs to be done, and will do them as needed. Sometimes a drawer will be unruly, so I’ll spend Fly Lady’s fifteen minutes and get that drawer organized. Basically, each area of the house is getting the same amount of cleaning time on each program; I just like to see things done on a weekly versus monthly basis. We can usually have each room (and all of the daily chores for that matter) done in two half hour sessions during the day.

We have been using this schedule for a few years now and it is nearly second nature to us now. The kids’ daily chores are tailored to meet the “room of the day” (i.e. Jakob chose wipe cabinets as one of his daily chores…and did a fine job I might add, and tomorrow they will strip their beds and vacuum their rooms).

The schedule helps keep the house clean and ensures that everyone works together as a team to get the job done.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Saffron Yellow Rice

Another tasty recipe to add to the mix. We have always loved yellow rice (with chicken for those family members who eat meat). For the longest time I just picked up one of those packets of yellow rice mix from the store (okay, really two packets because my family loved it so much), added shredded chicken to half of it, and POW, dinner was served. Well, not exactly. Some liked to add salsa to the top (me included) and there were always green beans on the side.

In my attempts to healthify my family, I have been reading any and all nutrition labels. You'd never guess what I found in my innocent looking yellow rice mix. None other than MSG! That's right. That pesky little preservative was hiding out in my rice mix, just waiting to cause a migraine or CVS episode. I have since banned said rice mix and we have gone without for several months.

Jolie is a really big fan of yellow rice and asked about having it again several weeks ago, which prompted my search for a healthy alternative. I knew that the rice mix had saffron in it, so I started there. I spent a whopping $8.50 on saffron at the commissary and started looking up recipes. I looked through quite a few, hoping for a vegetarian version that I could add chicken to for my omnivores. I finally settled on a variation of the Arroz con Pollo recipe on the McCormick website. I figured they sold me the saffron, maybe they had a recipe to go with it.

Below is my altered version, lovingly called "Saffron Yellow Rice." I doubled the recipe for my hungry brood. I wish I had a photo to share, but it went so fast, that there just wasn't time.


Saffron Yellow Rice

1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Paprika
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper, Ground
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup long grain rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) vegetable (or chicken) broth
1/4 teaspoon Spanish Saffron, crushed
1/4 cup sliced green olives

Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add rice and garlic; cook and stir about 1 minute. Stir in broth, salt, paprika, pepper, and saffron. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken rice is tender. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with olives, if desired.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mother Nature's Reminder

Since placing my seed orders, I’ve received one box of seeds in the mail. I have measured out the garden and started working with the PlanGarden software. Jolie and I bought some tomato and pepper plants from the farmer’s market last weekend and are planning to get some strawberry plants this weekend. There are also some blueberry bushes and an orange tree in our near future.

Needless to say, I have the itch to get planting.

Luckily for me, Mother Nature has her own special way of reminding those of us with plant-itis to just hold our horsies for a little bit longer. Several nights of below freezing temperatures will solidify that hint every time.

It has been cold here the past few nights with temps in the low 30s at night and mid 50s during the day. According to PlanGarden, our last spring frost is around March 13th, so not too long before I can really get out there and get my hands dirty. There are a few plants that I can start indoors. Unfortunately, most of those plants are in my second seed order that hasn’t arrived. Hopefully it will be here soon, so I can get some of those seeds started.

Here is my garden plan thus far.

My Garden Design

I’m not finished with it yet. I still have some tweaking to do here and there, but you can get the general idea of it all.

I’ll keep an eye on the weather and follow Mother Nature’s cues. I’ll plant soon, but not too soon. Mother Nature is sure to keep my on my toes this year.