Monday, July 30, 2012

My oasis

 Over the years I have tried growing sunflowers and never was able to get anything. I think those damn squirrels have been eating them.  Well this year I planted them inside my garden and not along our fence.  Guess who decided to come out and play today? Look how pretty she is! So nah nah nah nah nah squirrels!!!!

 I have been getting many volunteer tomato plants in my compost and moved them into my garden beds.  This one is simply too big to move and would probably not make it if I touched it.  So it stays! All that compost is giving it lots of good vitamins. 

I harvested my sage for using in my kitchen.  I dehydrated it for about 24 hours then put it in a mason jar in the kitchen. The rest of the plant will be used in making smudge sticks.  Ive always been interested in trying one of these out and heck it will be a free project with the kids.  Love this stuff!

 Found some basil plants for 75% off woot! I have 3 different kinds to try out.  I harvested the large leaves and they are in the dehydrator as I type this.  Now I will plant them in the garden and hopefully get another harvest to make fresh pesto from.  I want to some how blend them with oil and freeze them to use them all year. Looking into that.  I also bought some beet berry plants and can't wait for them to fruit so my girls can try them out.  This plant is a first for me. Love new stuff! Check some info out here.

My hens and chicks have lots of baby plants so we moved the babies to my cute not-so-water-sealed fountain.  Perfect for them!

Once they get bigger and fill this in it should look really cute. 

 Don't you just love when you forget what you planted? I think this is a squash but who knows. Could be a pumpkin! Either way I'm happy its doing well.

 I have a pretty good green thumb. Well except for lavender which I suck at growing.  This is the first plant I have not killed. Throwing salt over my shoulder a lot!

 Scarlett beans are doing well and looks like we will get to eat some tonight.  Woot! These are my ultimate favorite plant to grow because they are so beautiful.  One day I will plant some to grow up some cattle wire hanging from our gutters. I will get so much beans and the plant will shade my house keeping it cool.  I can just imagine all those red flowers!

 I told myself I wasn't going to plant very many beans this year.  Last year I went over board and my daughter says she will never eat another bean again.  Well I might have planted....some.....more...oops. I can't help it!

 Another first is this lettuce which I cannot remember the name of.  Love the colors!

Okay and last but not least I wanted to share this with you.  Anyone wanna guess what it is? It's another first for me and I can't wait to eat them. 

So did you have any first this year? 

Friday, July 27, 2012

School Time Savings

Are you tired of going broke paying for all the school supplies, clothes and shoes? Well so was I. So I stopped the school games and started saving money. Whether you have one child or four like myself you can use these tips and save money. 

Inventory check
I go through all my girls clothes and shoes.  My oldest hands down out grown clothes to my middle daughter. If she fits anything it goes into her closet.  If its too big it goes into a box for later. Same goes with my middle daughter. Everything out grown goes to my twins.  Into the closet or into the box.  Anything not wanted gets donated to a friend or person in need.  This clears their closet for new things for school.
This is a great time to check their school lunch bags, containers and water bottles. Add any of this to the list if you need it. 
I then write down each child's name with their size of tops, jeans and shoes.  I keep this note in my purse for when I am shopping.  Check off what we get along the way.  This way I don't buy things too big or small. 

Put the word out!
Let your friends and family know your on the hunt for clothes for your children.  My sister sometimes gives my twins things that my niece has out grown.  You can post on your Facebook that you need stuff.  Also tell your friends you will take anything they want to throw your way.  But keep in mind to do the same! Let friends/family know when you have stuff to give away.  This is the best tip ever for getting things for free and no money out of your pocket. 

Shopping time!
Instead of going to the store to buy new items I go garage sale shopping. It's another form of recycling! Clothes are already worn in and are 90% less than new clothes.  Shoe's are also a great price! I also keep an eye out for lunch boxes, backpacks and food storage containers that are not plastic.  I try my best to find what I can at great prices.
Another way to save is shop at Goodwill Outlet's.  They sell everything by the pound but you have to dig to find anything.  Nothing is sorted and its best to bring a friend/family member who knows your kids sizes.  Dig like crazy and meet up ever so often to trade clothes you found for each other.  The more you buy the better the price.  And be prepared to stay for a few hours. Trust me its worth it. And don't forget to bring your own bags to bring them home!

Thrift Stores
When I'm having a hard time finding something and there are only a few weeks till school then and only then I will go to a thrift store. They have used clothes with no holes or stains and are sorted in sizes.  But they will be a bit more money but still not as much as retail. 

Retail Stores
Only after I have tried all the above tips will I actually step foot into a retail store. If my girls need under garments I will buy them. But only if they have out grown theirs and need a larger size.  Why buy more when they have them already? School time doesn't mean new clothes people.

I resort to buying online only if I cannot find it local at a good price.  If your not worried about buying local then online is the way to go.  Lots of sales and clearance.  Keep in mind that you still have to pay shipping so take advantage of free shipping if you can. Don't forget you can find things free online too.  freecycle,  craigslist and sometimes even Facebook have free forums for just about everything.

These rules can apply to school supplies too!

School Supplies
Each school will have a list on their website of what each grade needs to bring to school.  Most are shared items for kids in lower grades and will not only be used by your child.  My kids get to bring home stuff at the end of the school year and we just stash those until the first day of school.  I go through all those items with my list of stuff they need.  I then make a list of what they need.  I have yet to have a teacher return any supplies we already had.  Why let those supplies go to waste? Why spend money when you don't have to?

My mother is obsessed with buying school supplies. She has been my whole life. Yep even when I was older and moved out. Now that I have children she likes to buy them things.  So I usually send her a list of what we didn't have at home and still need.  She gets to buy school supplies and we save money. Its a win win situation for me. Thank you mom!

For those who don't have an obsessed mom I would keep an eye out for sale flyer's.  Remember the closer to the first day of sale the better the sales.  Some stores drop their sales on the week before school hoping to cash in so keep that in mind. 

Last but not least don't forget to keep the earth in mind. I keep an eye out for plastic free package, things made with recycled materials, and sturdy items that we can use year after year.  If you invest a little in well made products you will be able to use them for a long time.  Cheaper doesn't mean better! The cheaper items are usually made of some sort of plastic, poorly constructed, or just plain junk! Also remember to buy from local companies (to you) if you can.  Keep your money in your own state is supporting a local family.

Lunch time!
You can easily find fabric snack bags but be ready to pay the price for them.  You can save money by either finding a great sale on them or google instructions on making them yourself.  Keep an eye out for fabric sales! Let's not forget organic fabric!  I also use small mason jars for things like fruit.  Only use those with kids that can be careful when opening them and not drop them.  I will be replacing them with metal ones as soon as I find a good sale on them.  You can pack your own silverware and fabric napkin.  Don't buy paper/plastic disposables! The kids can empty their lunches when they get home and everything can be washed and reused the next day.  We use stainless steel water bottles and fill them with water.  If you pack anything else there is a high possibility of them not getting to the sink and juice/milk will go bad.  I usually pack a sandwich, fruit, crackers/pretzels and then a water bottle. 

One last note
You don't have to buy everything before school.  Let's not forget the after school sales. Retail stores are wanting to get rid of school items and moving onto Thanksgiving/Holiday items.  This is the perfect time to find metal soup containers, fabric sandwich bags, and water bottles.  Maybe you need that important graph calculator? Keep an eye out for that. You can replace things as you go as well.  Out with the plastic containers when you find a metal/glass one.   Just because something says its BPA free doesn't mean it is.  Trust your gut and go with the good stuff.  Maybe try getting one thing out of each check.  This way your not going broke trying to buy everything.  Eventually you will get everything done. 

Oh yeah and don't forget to not stress.  It's not worth it. Really.

Did I forget anything?
Have a tip you want to share?
Leave a comment, share this with your friends/family and lets help each other out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Go Green, Get Fit Challenge Week 5 with a side of kindness

Week 5 of the Go Green Get Fit Challenge I decided to spend some time in nature while getting some exercise.  My oldest daughter had soccer practice at Commonwealth Park so this was the perfect time to get out in the air with the kids. She could have practice and I can go walk around the pond with my other 3 girls. It was a perfect 75 degree night so I packed a blanket and good old tried and true UNO. Woot!

There are so many things to do here but we always like to sit and look at the pond for a few minutes first.  This lake is so peaceful that you literally could take a nap easily here. From people fishing, kids playing soccer, kids on the play structure, people walking, people jogging, and then the people having a picnic. Its still nice and quiet.
The girls favorite part of the pond is all the underwater life.  I love that all my girls are so curious about nature.

We started our walk as soon as my daughters team mates showed up.  This park has a great path circles around the pond and is only about .8 miles long.  Enough to keep my girls busy and not bored. That's an A+ in my book. 

The twins lead the way hand in hand.  This rarely happens so I had to get proof for my husband. I just love sisterly love :)

Look what I found mama!

 For you mama!

And this is why we love this park so much. BABY DUCKS!!!! I mean come on?

POOF!!  Just like that they are gone. There were about 3 tiny baby ducks doing this over and over again.  Who needs TV when you have this? All we needed was popcorn. And then I would throw it out for the ducks instead of eating it. Hoping no one would catch me. No feeding ducks allowed here :( Then I am sad.

And then we were of again. There are several post with doggy bags along the path.  One of my girls found this little card. What a lovely gift someone left us.

I just love this.  Someone took time out of their life to write this card for others to enjoy.  I wonder how many people have read this already and how many will read it. Inspiring for sure!

My personal favorite part of this day was all the trees. My girls run up to them and hug them.  I love my little tree hugger girls!

 Well I love trees and this. My walking hand in hand with the girls is becoming limited.  They are older and don't need me to hold them up very often anymore.  I snuck in this picture so don't tell them!  What a wonderful night it was.  We came back to our blanket and had a hour long UNO game which a 7 year old beat the pants off of me. My days are crazy filled with chores, grocery shopping, being a taxi, and lots of other things all with 4 kids running circles around me. Tonight was so relaxing and it was just what I needed.

It's not too late to join the challenge!
We still have 7 weeks to go!
Join for free and share with me your goals.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Go Green, Get Fit Challenge Week 4 Hard Labor

 Last week my husband built our deck and I saved all the left over lumber because I knew I could make some small garden beds from it. Look how pretty they turned out.  I nailed them together and slapped some linseed oil all over them. Now where to put them.....

I like to take advantage of every square inch of my garden area.  I picked up some seed's for my winter garden and finally decided where to put my beds.  2 on either side of my garden gate will be perfect.  I had a small rectangle garden box with flowers here and I would much rather have some edibles here instead.  I planted beans on the right and chard on the left. 

On the left side of the gate I have come cement blocks I re purposed into planters.  My are doing very well here so I decided to leave them as is.  I simply put the beds in the front of them.  Radishes on the right and carrots on the left.  Ive never grown radishes or really ever liked them but I'm determined to start liking them.  I also want my girls to experience every single vegetable so there's no time like the present!

 I then moved some wooden garden box beds so I could make room for 2 more garden beds.  Here I planted romaine lettuce on the right and broccoli on the left. 

Instead of buying organic dirt I just used our compost dirt.  Since I don't turn it often this is dirt 3 years in the making. Yeah I'm kinda lazy.  Its beautiful dirt and the seeds should thrive off this stuff. 

 Last week I put straw around all my cucumber and pumpkin plants.  Its been in the 80's all week and I have had to water 2x a day.  Now when I water the straw should keep the water from evaporating so quickly and now I only have to water once a day. Woot!  My tomatoes are coming along good and I even have some flowers!

 We moved our bench away from our fireplace and leveled it.  I will be planting my jasmine plants on either side to grow up the side of the bench. Can't wait! Jasmine is just so beautiful and smells wonderful.  On the right side of this bench I had to dig up a huge mound of grass.  Since the dirt was so hard it took me forever and I felt like I was having a heat stroke. Tomorrow should be cloudy so jasmine can wait till then. 

 We had a 2 story play structure in that big dirt area you see here. My husband demolished the first story and then his friends helped him move the top story up in that back corner behind the bushes and tree's.  This is our girls private play area now. Now we have a big area to decide what to do next with.

Can you see the playhouse? We want our girls to have their own space to play as they want and this turned out perfect.  Our willow tree will be getting bigger and should help out with the privacy.  There is also a apple tree (cut down before we bought this house) that has started to grow and another tree which I have yet to determine what it is.  Once this has filled in it should look better.

 While we were doing yard work the twins washed their barbie clothes and hung them to dry.  Also hung are stuffed animals and anything else they could get their dirty little fingers on. It kept them busy so I can't complain!

Lulu had decided that the brooder isn't good enough so she lays her eggs in this corner. Nope no cedar shavings just poop and straw is what she likes. Darn chicken!

So as you can see I didn't have time to run at all.  I literally have not ran since my race on the 4th of July.  But as you can see I did do some hard labor! I'm just happy I got my winter garden in and going finally.  I will also be planting things as I take things out.  Its a unorganized organized garden. Make sense?  

So did you get out and get fit? Or did you get sidetracked like I did?

Are you joining the Go Green Get Fit Challenge?
If so did you complete any of your goals?
Share with me!

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Can you say yummy?

The garden is finally getting going.  The worst time for me is the waiting period.  You know, when stuff is growing but nothing is ready to eat. This is when I start talking to the plants and threatening them.  "Grow me some produce or your out!"  Of course they never listen to me. But then again neither do my children....I'm beginning to see a pattern here....
 I totally forgot what this flower is.  Its just beautiful right now and the bees are loving it.

 This month I have been able to go to the garden and have raspberries for breakfast.  The chickens are loving this because if I find any bug infested raspberries I toss them into the coop. They love raspberries. Heck they love anything you toss their way.

 Soon I will have some blackberries.  This is a thorn less blackberry I bought last year but am too afraid to plant it into the ground.  I just don't want a over growth of them.  I might plant them next to my raspberries in the retaining wall.  Not sure just yet so for now they stay in a large pot. 

 Its been in the upper 80's here in Portland Oregon.  Today I put some hay down hoping that the water will not evaporate and keep my plants nice and healthy.  I have been having to water them 2 times a day and my water bill is high enough. 

 My tomato plants are finally getting bigger. My tomatillos have flowers on them so that's good.  Its my first year growing them and I hope I can harvest lots of them.  I planted about a dozen different tomato plants this year. My goal is to can as much as I can so I will never have to buy tomato sauce.  We will see....

I only planted one type of runner this year.  Scarlet beans I do enjoy eating but I REALLY enjoy watching them grow. What a beautiful plant this is. Just look at those red flowers! Love love this!

I planted a few echinacea last year but they never blossomed.  This year they are blossomed and just beautiful.  I LOVE them! After they bloom I will transplant a few in my back yard for more color.  So far my back yard consist of calla Lillie's and green trees only.  They should add a nice touch of color.

 I'm happy to report we are finally getting beans producing in our garden.  We call these magic beans because it was a way to get our girls to eat beans.  They love watching these beans change from purple to green when cooked.  They are called Burgundy beans and are a nice addition to any parents garden. 

 Although yellow wax beans are not really flavorful they are beautiful. So I grow them each year just to add another color into our meals.

 I didn't plant these but they are a welcomed addition to the garden.  Our front yard was a bit drabby so this makes it all the more pretty. 

 Hens and chicks are starting to bloom as well.  These were my gram's and when I was able to get her birdbath I kept the hens n chicks in it just as she would of wanted it. 

 I have 2 varieties of blueberries in my front yard.  Right now were getting a smaller blueberry but soon we will be getting large berries from this plant. The blueberries growing in my garden are for the girls to eat at will.  All U Picked ones go into the freezer for treats all year long.

This weekend my husband built a new deck in our back yard.  Our last patio was concrete and not level at all.  Most of it was sunk into the yard and anytime it rained it would flood a bit.  Then the kids would drag dirt into the house. We built our own deck for about $1,400.  If we had someone built ours it would of cost well over $3,000.  We just love building things ourselves. 

My next project is to harvest all my mint and lemon balm.  I will be cutting it and dehydrating it for tea.  I need to do this soon because it will start blooming in a few weeks.  The bees LOVE these when they bloom and I can't get anywhere near them.  Must do this soon!