Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Waiting Impatiently!

If you're anything like me, this time of year is probably the most difficult because it's not quite time to be outside planting and having to wait nearly two more months seems like an eternity. The new seed catalogs have been arriving in the mail for the past couple weeks (making me all the more impatient), and the first of the spring bulbs are popping their heads above the ground. Birds cluster around the feeder in the birch tree busily feeding, and a pair of house wrens just started re-building last year's nest for a new batch of babies.
Well, I may not be able to plant outside yet, but I can get a step closer by starting seeds indoors so they'll be ready to set out after the last frost. I bought this seed starter at Walmart a few days ago for only $5.00, and will sit down this afternoon with my seed packets and get them going. There are 72 peat cells to work with so I must say, a great beginning to this year's garden!

Some of the things I'm going to start are lemon balm, chamomile, thyme, rosemary, stinging nettle (a great medicinal and nutrient-packed plant), marigolds, and calendula. I'm not going to start any tomatoes because I can get them cheaply at Walmart, as well as a few other things and they'll generally start setting things out in April.
Another project is to brighten up both the front and back yard. I went outside yesterday afternoon and took a long look at everything, making a mental picture of where I wanted to plant flowers and where I want my vegetable garden to be. I always think it's a shame when yards go untended or planted, but I realize that not everyone wants to, or has the desire to, be a gardener and so I have my work cut out for me because it looks like no one has ever done much around here.

 The back yard, left of the patio. That's our Yorkie, Clairee

Center of the back yard, and the birch tree with the bird feeder

This is looking off to the right of the patio. 

The ground is covered with a lot of moss, a variety of weeds, and the occasional patch of grass. It's also quite hard and rocky, but I love a challenge and can't wait to dig in and get my hands dirty! You'll have to agree though, that I've got plenty of room for vegetables and anything else I'd like to plant, so you know I've looked through the seed catalogs at least a dozen times each.......sigh.
Well, that's the start of some of my plans. What kinds of things are you planting this year? Anything new or different? Big garden or small? Be sure and let me know how your's is coming along and as my garden gets going, I'll be posting pictures and regular updates as well.

Happy gardening!   :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bird Watching

One of my joys, is sitting out in the back yard on the patio watching birds come to the feeder. It's quiet out there and if I'm really lucky and out early enough, I'll see the deer wandering through the woods. Maybe one of these days I might get lucky enough to get some pictures of them because they're so beautiful!
Recently, I've noticed a couple birds I hadn't seen before, so after taking some pictures I came in and got on the computer to see if I could identify them. It took about 30 minutes, but I found them...they were House Finches and Pine Warblers, both male and female and they've all been at the feeder all morning.

A male House Finch

Handsome fella!

Male Pine Warbler

Male and female.......

Before it flew off.......you can see the seed in its beak

Posing for the camera!

Black-Capped Chickadee.......a regular visitor

I took these pictures as I was waiting for the bread to finish baking, and glad we were blessed with such a gorgeous morning to be outside. 

Hope you're having a wonderful day!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Liquid Laundry Soap

This morning I decided to finally make up a batch of liquid laundry soap. I've been wanting to do this for a while but, not wanting to spend money on something new to store it in (remember...be frugal and recycle!), I waited until I had emptied out a few vinegar jugs as well as a large kitty litter container. Even if I don't use all of these, they do come in handy for other things, so I'll store the the unused containers on the shelf in my laundry room for future use.
There are all kinds of recipes for this on the internet, but the one I chose was here at Rhonda's wonderful Down-To-Earth blog. She also has pictures along with her recipe that you might want to look at, too.

1/2 cup Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1/2 cup Twenty Mule Team Borax
1 cup grated Fels Naptha or Zote laundry soap

Note: One thing before I go any further concerning the grated soap. It seemed like it took FOREVER to completely dissolve, so I decided that next time I will put the grated soap in my food processor to chop it into finer pieces to cut down on time!

In a saucepan, pour in 1 quart of water and add the Washing Soda, Borax, and grated soap. Heat this and stir until everything is completely dissolved. Just make sure you don't do this on a heat high enough to boil or you will have a big mess to clean up!
Next, pour 8 quarts of cold water into a clean bucket (I used a 5-gallon bucket we bought at Home Depot ages ago).
Once the hot soap mixture is done, pour it into the bucket and stir. You'll notice that it will start to gel fairly quick and that's ok. When you fill your containers, leave a good 2 to 3 inch space at the top so you can shake the liquid before each use because as it sits, the soap will separate but that's normal.

   You can see that the larger jug held most of the liquid!

I don't have the exact cost of this, but my husband and I did a rough estimate. For a little over 2 gallons of laundry liquid we figured it cost somewhere around $1.75 to $2.00. Compare that to an equal amount of the big name brand liquids and the savings is tremendous, not to mention that you're only using a 1/4 cup per load (maybe a 1/2 cup for larger, heavily soiled loads).
For me, the cost savings also goes further because I no longer use liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets. Apart from being expensive, they have a lot of chemicals, dyes, and fragrances that can irritate your skin and really, just aren't necessary! I use a cup of plain white vinegar in the rinse cycle. Vinegar not only kills germs, it also cuts any remaining soap from your clothing AND is a natural fabric softener. Even taking clothes out of the washer, I can barely get a hint of vinegar and once the clothes are dry, there is no odor at all (just in case you were worried about that).
If you happen to notice that your whites are graying slightly after a while, Rhonda suggests adding a scoop of Oxy Clean, or something similar, to the wash load every so often to remedy the problem.
Please let me know how this works for you, especially if you've never made something like this before. I've done a few loads of clothes while writing this, and everything looks wonderfully clean and smells great!

Happy washing!   :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Spring Cleaning & Thoughts Of Gardening

We're only in the first week of January and my mind is on getting some spring cleaning done around the house and of course, planning my garden. I had hoped to be able to get outside and work on cleaning up around the shrubs in the front yard so I could start amending the soil in a new flower bed, but it's been raining all morning and it doesn't look like I'll make it outside today. But that's ok. I've got plenty to do inside, AND I've got a new seed catalog that came in the mail the other day that I'd really like to take my time to go through. Hmmm.......sounds like a good cup of tea is in order while I'm browsing!

Just a bit of rain.......

So, my day will be a bit of cleaning, getting the laundry caught up, and maybe a nap later on (only after I go through my catalog!). Rainy days make me so sleepy and lazy, and sometimes it just feels good to snuggle under the comforter and doze off to the sound of rain falling outside.
I hope you're having a wonderful Sunday wherever you are and thanks so much for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Goals For 2012.......Not Resolutions

As the new year has arrived, I've decided it's time for something different. No more resolutions but instead, positive thinking and believing in myself.
Over the holidays my husband's sister-in-law bought me a book by Louise L. Hay called, "You Can Heal Your Life", and she said it has worked wonders in her life. Now understand, I have ALWAYS been the world's biggest pessimist and as my Mother would often tell me, I was my own worst enemy. I always expected myself to fail or fall short in one way or another and when it happened I was of the mind set of, "See??? I knew I couldn't do it!!!" or "I knew I wasn't smart enough to do that". Those thoughts came so easily to me my entire life, that I honestly believed it. What Louise Hay tries to do in her book, is to teach us to re-program the way we think and start believing in ourselves with positive attitudes and yes, FAITH, because you can't have one without the other.
The book also attempts to get you to look at/come to terms with the CAUSE of our negative thoughts and beliefs, turn them around and move forward. There are also exercises and affirmations in each chapter to help reach our goals, including daily affirmations (positive acknowledgements) to start the day.
I just started reading this book and I'm determined to change my life and thoughts into something positive to be the best person I can be, not just for myself, but to be the best wife and mother as well. I'm also learning not to overload myself with too many things during the day. I choose what I need or want to do for that day, finish them, and then move onto the next so that at the end of each day I can feel good because I actually finished what I started instead of trying to do a dozen things at the same time. For me, this is a more positive way of starting out the new year. Setting realistic goals, following through, and most importantly, learning to be kind to myself and truly LIKE what I see in the mirror every day.
So here's one of my daily affirmations.......2012 will be the best year ever and I'm worth every moment of it!