Baby Spoons

Yesterday was a crazy day of errands intermingled with fun. First thing in the morning, I had to take care of an expired registration ticket. There wasn’t much fun there. Then Caleb helped me replace the loose step going up to our porch. The fun there was the old do-it-yourself glow of satisfaction.

Later in the morning, we drove over to Pennsylvania to pick up cream and milk to make ice cream for our Christmas in July party of Friday. On the way home, we stopped at the park and played until the pool opened and then swam for an hour or so.

After going home to work some and package up some toys, we headed out again to the Farmer’s Market and the hardware store and the local general store (aka Walmart). On the way home, we stopped at the park for a run (me) and some baseball (Caleb).

When we finally arrived home to stay, it was after 8pm, and I was checked out for the night. My son is at the point where errands bore him to tears. He hates going with me, but today, despite all we had to do, went quite smoothly. I got my stuff done, and he got to have fun. Win-win.

I didn’t however remember to share a new toy with you, however, so I’ll be posting twice today.

I made these darling little baby spoons a couple of weeks ago, and now they are available for you on etsy!

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You can also have them personalized.

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They are finished with organic jojoba oil and local beeswax. You have the option of leaving the spoon plain or having your child’s name burned into the handle. They are the perfect size for little baby hands, and would make a darling addition to a baby shower gift.

It would also make a nice gift for an older child to use for feeding their dolls or using with your play kitchen.

This evening I hope to post a steamroller, if I can get the kinks worked out by then. So stay tuned! And don’t forget your coupon code JULYXMAS14. There is only one more day left.

 

Lacing Toys

Since I missed yesterday, today I’ll be posting not just one new toy, but three. I have three different lacing toys for sale. Clicking on the picture will take you to the purchase page on etsy.

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Butterfly

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Apple

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Whale

 

These toys are great for practicing the sewing motion. They are made of solid maple or cherry wood, and finished with my homemade beeswax polish. The “needle” is attached to the natural cotton “thread” to make it easy to poke through the holes. 

As soon as I explained to my son what they were for, he got right down to sewing, and he’s not really a sewing sort of kid (more of a “let’s play TAG!” sort of kid). Lacing them up myself, I found it to be rather relaxing. I think a little girl would get quite a kick out of these. 

I’ll be back tomorrow with more new toys, and don’t forget to use the coupon code for my Christmas in July sale before it expires Friday night. JULYXMAS14

Christmas in July Sale plus New Toys!

This year for my Christmas in July sale, I’m offering 25% off everything in the shop, but you’ll have to hurry, because the sale ends July 25th. The coupon code is JULYXMAS14.

And since it’s half-Christmas, I have some new toys for you too. Every day this week I’ll be posting a new toy. I’ve been busy the last month prepping for craft shows, and the pressure really fuels my creativity.

First up (and the one I am most proud of) is the bucket truck.

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These were a HUGE hit at my last craft show. People (even people without any kids) couldn’t help playing with them as they walked by. It is flexible at all three joints, and the whole bucket assembly swivels. It has places for a driver and another man in the bucket.

It comes with two handpainted men 3/4″ in diameter at their base. You can request firemen (as pictured) or workmen (orange clothes and yellow “hardhat” seen in the digger listing), depending on whether you want it for a fire truck or perhaps an electrical truck.

The truck is 8.5″ long including the bucket, and 3 inches high all folded up, and extends to 14 inches high fully extended. It’s made from cherry, oak, and walnut woods, with birch wheels and axels.

 

 

Roasted Green Beans

I have been inundated with green beans. I have beans in my garden. Friends have beans in their gardens. There are beans in the community garden, which I HAD to pick, because you have to keep beans picked, otherwise they’ll quit producing.

The problem is, I’m not that crazy about green beans. I prefer my beans all grown up and mature. They’re okay, but on the whole I prefer broccoli, collards greens, and kale for my green veggies. That is, I did, before I learned about roasting green beans.

Snap the stems off your beans, put them in a bowl, drizzle a little olive oil on them, sprinkle them with garlic salt, and spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake them until they are as tender as you want them. Baking times will vary based on the thickness of your beans, but generally about 15-20 minutes at 350 should do it.

They aren’t exactly like french fries, but they definitely aren’t like your garden variety steamed or boiled beans either. The flavor deepens and sweetens until you just can’t get enough of them.

I’ve been eating them every other day for the past week. And they are so Easy. I tend to eat them with my fingers, so I don’t even bother to chop them into bite size pieces. They make a great snack.

I haven’t been able to convince my son that they are good, though he did eat them when I served them for dinner the other night, but if your kids aren’t already prejudiced against green beans, I bet they would love them like this.

Getting Back to My Roots

Lately, I’ve been feeling very disconnected as a parent. Maybe it was due to the 2 craft shows that I just did and the lead up of extra work. Maybe it was due to the lice we picked up from some neighborhood children that disrupted our bedtime routines. Or maybe it was before that even. Maybe at some point in the past year or two or three, I lost my way as a parent.

Attachment parenting, the parenting style that I found myself practicing before I even discovered that it was a “thing”, focuses great attention on the early years. If you read Mothering magazine back when it was still published or read the Natural Parenting Project website articles today, the vast majority focus on the baby and toddler years.

Breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, etc. are the mainstays of the movement, but what about after that? How do we maintain that connection we had when our kids were babies/toddlers while still giving them room to grow and explore?

The fact is, in the thick of daily life, we can forget our lofty intentions, and start acting on autopilot, Knee-jerk parenting, you might call it. These small people living with us can be messy and annoying, and we just react, rather than acting intentionally out of kindness and purpose.

Go back to those articles you read when your kid(s) was small. Do you still think what they suggested is a good idea? Do you believe it in theory? How can you get back those ideas?

Think about the areas of conflict in your day. How can you handle them in accordance with your beliefs? Read articles, blog posts, etc, about how other people handle those areas, and see what resonates with you.

Don’t abandon your ideals because you are just too busy to think about them anymore. Connection with your kids is worth taking the time for. It’s worth examining your prejudices for. It’s worth changing your attitude for.

StickK to it

If you remember my goal of consistency in May, I have to confess that I started out very well, but faded at the end of the month. The last week of May I didn’t run once, and for most of the month, I didn’t keep up with my morning and evening routines.

It’s frustrating to realize that despite my best intentions I couldn’t stick to the simple tasks I set before myself. But I found a solution. It’s called StickK.com.

On this website, you put your money where your mouth is (or your mop or running shoes or whatever). You make a commitment, and you put money on whether or not you keep your contract. Your money either goes to a specific person, a charity, or an “anti-charity” (an organization that you would never, ever give money to willingly).

You can announce your commitments on facebook or twitter to your friends. You can recruit a referee to keep you honest. But you don’t have to.

I made 3 commitments for the summer. One of which isn’t really a commitment to do something as to NOT do something, so I don’t think it’s too much at a time.

1. No TV for the summer. If I cheat the rules that we set up, I have to give Caleb (my son) $100 at the end of the summer. I’m not big on giving kids money that they haven’t earned, so I’m pretty motivated to keep my end of the bargain.

2. Run 5 days a week for at least 15 minutes. Ideally I’d like to run for at least 30 minutes, but I wanted to make it easy enough that I wouldn’t get discouraged and quit. I mean, 15 minutes isn’t anything.

A couple of days I’ve had to do my run in the evening after my dinner settled a little, but I’ve stuck to it. If I don’t get the 5 runs in for the week, then I have to pay $5 to a charity on Sunday.

3. Do my morning and evening routines: specifically…

Morning-wipe down bathroom, do laundry (either starting a load, hanging to dry, or folding), put away the dishes in the drying rack (no dishwasher), 25 crunches, 15 pushups, work in the basement

Evening-wash every dirty dish, wipe and clear table and counter, vacuum the living

Very, very simple routines. I purposely only put 25 crunches and 15 pushups (knee pushups at that), because I couldn’t possibly say that would take too long or be too challenging. If I feel like doing more, then I do more, if not, at least I did SOMETHING.

I have to do these routines every single day, without fail, otherwise I give $5 to a charity.

 

These sort of commitments are very effective for me. I made a bet like this with my cousin one time about not eating any sugar for the month (every time we ate sugar we had to pay the other person $5), and I didn’t touch a drop of the white stuff.

I didn’t choose a referee to keep me honest, because the only person that would really know whether or not I was keeping my commitment (without me telling them) is seven years old.

I purposely kept the amounts low. I figured 5 dollars was enough of a penalty to be a deterrent, but not so much that I would be tempted to lie about my progress.

There have been lots of times in the week and a half since I started this that I didn’t feel like doing X, but I did it anyway, because I had to. It’s not so much the $5, though I hate to spend money; it’s more what the five stands for. Going on the website, and clicking that I didn’t make my goal this week, the ridiculously easy goal that I set for myself, is painful to think about. So instead, I get on the floor and do my pushups, and I get out the door and run despite the big dinner I ate an hour ago, because I will not admit failure.

 

 

 

 

Summer Buying Rules

The no-buy week was hard. Much harder than I thought it was going to be. I guess it’s like when someone tells you that you can’t do something, and all you wanted to do is that thing. But I survived.

I’m far from a spendthrift, but I wouldn’t go so far to say I’m a very frugal person. I am good at saving money on the big things (house, car, appliances, etc.), but not so good at curbing my every day spending. I’m terrible at budgets, and really can’t stand the thought of them. In that light, I wanted to make myself some buying rules to keep my spending in check this summer.

Summer Buying Rules

Principle: Think Investment Purchases instead of Consumptive Purchases

  1. No clothes, kitchenware, or houseware purchases
  2. $50 a month for entertainment, eating out, and other stuff like that
  3. Write down every penny spent as soon as I spend it
  4. Food shopping only once a week

I want to spend my money in ways that will either make me money in the future or save me money in the future. Like if I buy wood, that will make me money. And if I buy more canning jars, that will save me money by preserving my fruits and vegetables. But if I buy ice cream, that will waste my money (and expand my waist).

I gave myself a slightly larger entertainment allowance than I might have during the winter, because we tend to do more in the summer. We like to go out to eat after craft shows and when we go to the lake, and I’m okay with that. I just want to make sure I have a cap on that so we don’t get carried away.

I have more than enough clothes and housewares, so I wanted to have a rule to keep me from picking up more stuff, however useful, from the Goodwill for a while.

One of my favorite farmers markets opens on Wednesday, and with it, my local summer eating begins. I have 2 markets that I go to, so the food shopping only refers to the grocery store. I’ll hit the markets on Monday and Wednesday and one of those days I’ll stop at the grocery store for my dry goods and bananas.

I think these rules will help curb my spending this summer. In the fall, I’ll reassess, and see what changes need to be made.

Build Your Own Strawberry Tower

We love strawberries. LOVE. On average, we eat about 2 pounds of them a week, between fresh and frozen berries. My son loves strawberry shakes (bananas, frozen strawberries with some water to blend with), and he likes to eat them plain fresh or frozen. I’ve had strawberries in the ground for about three years now, but my garden (aka my available land area) doesn’t have the space to grow a significant amount of berries (and by significant, I mean we’ve never had more than 3 or 4 ripe berries at a time).

But I came across this blog post from 100 Dollars a Month (my favorite new gardening blog) showing off someone’s strawberry tower, and I knew that I had to try this out. 

I went online to Gurneys (I tried a few other places first, but they were sold out of strawberry plants at the late date), and ordered 100 everbearing strawberry plants. They arrived during my no-buy week, so instead of going out immediately and purchasing cedar wood to build my new strawberry tower with, I used some 1 x 6 pine that I had on hand.

The first tower I built on Sunday was 6 feet tall, but I had leftover plants, so I decided to build another one, and today (Thursday) was when I got around to doing it. 

You’ll need:

4 boards, cedar fence boards are cheap and should last longer than the pine that I used

2 2×3 or 2×4 scraps (about 18 inches long) to use as support legs

landscaping fabric to cover the bottom-you could use a board with holes in it too, but I had the fabric, so it seemed simplier to just use that

Drill bit (spade, forstner, hole saw) measuring about an inch and a half for the holes

Drill to drill holes and screw it all together

Screws, preferably exterior screws, though I didn’t have any so I just used drywall screws

1. Cut your boards to the length that you want your tower to be high. My first tower was 6 feet tall. The second one was only four feet tall, because I only had about 30 plants left. 

2. Drill the holes in three sides. I staggered them about 4 inches apart (though I didn’t do any measuring). And leave eight inches or so at the bottom, so your plants aren’t growing on the ground. I left one side without holes, because that side would probably not get much sun as I plan to keep these near the house to save them from the deer.

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4. Screw the boards together into a box shape. Pre-drill your holes so your wood doesn’t split. I put screws in every 18 inches or so.

5. Once you have the box done, spread the landscaping fabric over the bottom and either staple it onto the wood, or use the support legs to hold it on when you screw them on.

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6. Screw the 2 by’s on two sides so they are even with the bottom of the box to keep it from tipping over.

Now you are done the box, and you need to fill it with some sort of growing medium. And of course plant your strawberries in it. 

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For my first tower, I filled the whole thing up and then added the plants. I also didn’t pack down the soil as I went, so there were some air pockets in the bottom half that I had to fill by trying to squish soil in through the holes. I don’t recommend this.

The second time, I put the plants in as the soil got up to the holes, and then gently tamped the soil down as I went. 

For my growing medium, I used straight compost. The six foot tower took about 8 gallons of compost (measured by filling up my five gallon bucket there). The four footer took only slightly more than one bucket. If I didn’t have large quantities of compost available from my compost bins, I probably would have gone with potting soil. 

I’ll keep you updated on the strawberries growing progress. So far in four days, the plants are already leafing out nicely. 

If you search the web, there is also a strawberry tower that is made of a PVC sewer pipe with holes drilled in it, if you aren’t a woodworker, that will be easier for you. In that case, you should definitely get a hole saw drill bit for the holes. 

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Let me know what you think and definitely let me know if you have ever tried this before. 

Halfway Through the Buy Nothing Week

This is WAY harder than I thought it was going to be. I think of a dozen things a day that I just HAVE to go out and buy. 

Mostly it’s food. Oh there’s still plenty of food in the house, but I want more. Plus we ran out of bananas, so yeah, that’s depressing. I’d have made a lousy homesteader. Practically all Laura Ingalls ate during the winter on the Prairie was game meat, corn mush, and bread. 

But it’s also plants, given the time of year. I want to buy flowers for my hanging flower baskets on the porch. Pepper plants and more tomatoes need to go in the vegetable garden. And how about some more blueberry bushes to replace the ones that died over this harsh winter? Oh and roses! My roses died too, so I need to replace them. RIGHT NOW!

And envelopes, I’m getting low on mailers. 

And I really want to go to the flea market and yard sales on Saturday to buy anything I see that I might need/want. 

So, buy nothing week is torture. But it’s rather instructive.

I cleaned out my freezer on Monday of everything that is too old to eat, and it was a lot of food. I was surprised, because I tend to pat myself on the back for not being a food waster. If I buy lettuce or kale, I eat it. I don’t leave fruits and vegetables languishing in the  produce drawers. But apparently I did get over enthusiastic on green beans last summer (though to be fair, they were free), and I haven’t used up all the bags of tomatoes I froze. And what’s the point of freezing that dish that wasn’t very good in the first place? If I didn’t like it then, freezing is unlikely to improve the flavor.

But it’s also instructive on how often I want to buy things. I live in town, so it’s so easy to go out buy thngs every single day of the week. And I might go to the store to get bananas, which are an absolute necessity, but I’ll also get five other things which aren’t. And I may stop at the hardware store for pansies and come home with $20 worth of things that I hadn’t planned on buying. 

And of course there is the internet which makes buying just about anything easy as pie. I don’t even have to convince my son to leave the house. 

This week has made me think, and I’m thinking of trying out some buying guidelines for the future-more on that at the end of the week. 

I really want to quit buy nothing week, but I’m trying to build self trust, like Tynan talks about in his latest blog post, which is a must read. So go read it.

 

 

Sticking To It

Yesterday, I took Caleb to track, and rather than getting out for my run right away, I sat in the car and watch Netflix on my phone. I was feeling lazy, and it was kind of cool outside. I just didn’t FEEL like going running. But track practice is 2 hours long, so after 50 minutes, I said, “Cheryl, if you spend 2 hours staring at your phone and don’t at least try to go running, you are going to hate yourself when practice is over.” So I got out of the car, and started running.

At first it was slow and painful. With every step, I thought, I (pant) am (pant) so (pant) fat (puff). Lifting up each leg seemed like such a trial. I felt clumsy and flabby, and wished it would just rain already so I could quit. But then, I thought, what if I really was overweight? What if I had an extra 50 or 100 pounds to carry around? If I was running with all that extra weight, that would be heroic. THAT would be a challenge. That would be much more interesting and inspiring than wanting to look like a svelte Kenyan on the trails, or my 19 year old self on the beach this year (a lot less vain too). 

And somehow imagining that snapped me out of my bad running mood, and I relaxed after that, and started thinking of other things besides how much I’d rather be sitting down watching TV. 

I play these games with myself to keep myself going all the time. Sometimes I pretend I’m trying to come back to the WNBA after an injury and my coach is pushing me hard (think Rocky). Sometimes I pretend I’m racing other people on the treadmill and try not to stop or walk before they do. I imagine I’m giving lectures on the benefits of aerobic exercise and running, trying to inspire people strengthen their bodies and minds. 

I’ve always hated running. I liked to play basketball for exercise. I would play for hours. Sadly that is no longer a part of my life, so I have set my mind to enjoy running, and usually I’m successful, but sometimes it takes mental games to put me in the right frame of mind. It helps me ennoble the run.

Yesterday I gritted my teeth through the first mile, and then I found my rhythm. I was still slow (as always), but I flowed. It was a perfect running evening: 70 degrees, cool breeze, humid air. It couldn’t have been more lovely. I did a good 4 miles in a cemetery next to the track and on trails like this:

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it’s my favorite place to run in the world, and I’m so glad I stuck to it.