Saturday, July 31, 2010

Do you have one of these? (UPDATED WITH PHOTO)

Everyone I know seems to have one of these on their shelves.  I've had mine for so long, I stopped "seeing" it years ago.  That all changed a few months ago.  A neighbor and I were combining efforts to make dinner for our two families and one of her contributions were these amazing dinner rolls.  Buttery and soft, they were melt in your mouth rolls.  My kids went crazy for them.  "Mom, you have to get the recipe for these.  They are amazing."  So, I asked my friend for the recipe.  She replied that I had it already, in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.  Really?  Huh...  So, we whipped out my version of the cookbook and there it was, just as she said it was.

Fast forward a few months and it was my turn to head over to the neighbors with my contributions to the meal.  She was making stew, so I thought the rolls would be perfect.  Again, they were amazing and easy.  They were good enough, in fact, that I think you should make them yourself.

 Plain Dinner Rolls - Cloverleaf Rolls
From Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
Makes about 24

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 pkg)
1/4 cup water, warm (110 degrees F)
1 cup milk, scalded
1/4 cup sugar*
1/4 cup shortening*
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted

Activate yeast in water.  Set aside

Combine milk, sugar, shortening, and salt; cool to lukewarm.

Add 1 cup flour to milk mixture, beat well.  Beat in softened yeast and egg.  Gradually add remaining flour to form soft dough, beat well.

Cover and let rise in warm place until it doubles in size; about 1 1/2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease standard muffin tin.  Turn out dough on lightly floured surface and shape dough into small balls (about an 1" in diameter).  Three should half-fill a muffin cup.  Melt butter and put a teaspoon of butter on each muffin.  Let double in tin and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Notes:  Interestingly, my friend's version of this cookbook is the 1953 version, while mine is the 1965 version and some of the recipes have been slightly modified from their original versions.
*The roll recipe in my version uses 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of shortening only as an alternative version of the recipe for richer rolls and actually calls for 2 tablespoons of each.  (Trust me, you'll prefer the 1/4 cup version.)


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quick Fix for Under $3

My neighbor was getting rid of this antique cabinet and I immediately thought it would work for Buttercup's room.  It is a really cute little cabinet and, while it needs some tender loving care, it is shabby chic the way it is now.  The piece was obviously some kind of curio cabinet and originally had a glass front which disappeared long before we got it.  Since Buttercup doesn't have a dresser, I thought this would work well for her and keep her room from feeling crowded.  She loves it and has been using it for two months.  Yes, it has taken me this long to put some fabric in it.  Better late than never, right?

Life calmed down and it was time to fulfill my pinky promise.  So, I headed to Walmart and bought a yard and a half of lightweight cotton fabric.  Attached it with a little velcro and, viola, a quick fix for under $3.

Oh, and Buttercup says it is just "perfect".  No greater praise than that, right?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stuff - Dealing with it All (Part 3)

Okay, so thinking about where an entire society got the habits of collecting stuff was too much fun, but what does it all mean?  Honestly.  You know as well as I do that you can read book after book about clutter and organizing, clearly understand the situation needs to change, and still be living with the effects of too much stuff. 

Just like an overweight person who has read every diet book known to man, but is still overweight. 

Knowledge isn't the issue when dealing with too much stuff.  While they're fun to see, those before and after transformations that we watched on shows like Clean Sweep, I really don't think that anything truly changes for those people.  Why?  Because it seems to me that all that work just gave them new space to fill.  One or two afternoons of introspection does not create a lifelong behavioral transformation.

So, what is it?  Why can't we take what we know and apply to our own lives?  In order to solve the problem, we have to look at what the stuff IS and is NOT.  Specifically, too much stuff.

Too much Stuff is:   Inanimate.  Overwhelming.  Taking up space in your mind and your home.  A source of conflict between who you want to be and how you want to live and who you actually are and how you actually live.  A source of guilt, embarrassment, and frustration.  Not useful in your life.

Too much Stuff is NOT:  Possessing of feelings.  Judgmental.  The definition of your worth.  Proof of love. 

But, you know this.  None of this earth shattering.  None this is a surprise to you.  Just like the perpetual dieter, it hasn't changed your reality.  Why?  What is holding people back from clearing it out?  Being done with it all?  Living within their spacial, their economic, and their mental means?

I asked around.  I talked with friends.  I've received all kinds of off-line emails since I started this topic and I think I've figured out a way to quantify put it into terms that are simple enough that we can all start chipping away.  No, I don't have a system for you to follow.  No, I don't have a 10-step fly-lady type of schedule for you.  Instead, I have a new way of telling you what I believe to be the simple key and, if people are interested, some of the things that have worked for me along the way.  No miracles.  (But, it is easier than dieting!)

So, here it is:

We hold on to stuff that is no longer useful or acquire more stuff than we need because it is our way of insulating or protecting ourselves from perceived possible future emotions.  Think about it:  possible future emotions.

Let me explain:

My sister, who knows I'm going to use this example and won't kill me for this, has four sets of china.  FOUR sets of china for a married couple with a household of exactly two two-legged beings.  She has her wedding china, her Christmas china, her mother's china, and her mother's friend's china.  She doesn't want four sets of china.  She can't use four sets of china and yet, she holds on to all four sets of china.  Why?  In our discussions, we talk about how much her mother loved her own set of china.  How she collected it over 30+ years of marriage.  How much my sister doesn't particularly care for the pattern.  (Oh, there is nothing wrong with is lovely; she just doesn't care for it.)  Let's not even get into the mother's friend's china.  So, let's recap:  Both women for whom this china was so special have died.  The china is a source of duty and guilt for my sister.  Why doesn't she get rid of it?  Because she's afraid of the disappointment she imagines her mother would have felt at knowing she got rid of the china.  So, duty and guilt are warring with perceived future disappointment. 

Let's be clear here:  My sister's mother has passed away.  My half-brothers and their wives don't want the china.  There is no one to express this anticipated disappointment and yet it is powerful.  Then there is the loyalty the mother and the friend felt for each other and my sister is tackling feelings of disloyalty by not perpetuating that bond between those two women in her own mind.

Let me give you a different example:  I wrote about my dilemma with my scrapbooking supplies.  It seemed so silly, but I was really agonizing over the disposition of my scrapbooking stuff.  So why couldn't I just make a decision about it?  Because I was anticipating my own feelings of failure or inadequacy if I failed to follow through with a project I anticipated completely.  By holding on to the items, the potential for the paper to be used, the scrapbooks to be completed (or at least show progress) remained.  I didn't have to deal with or acknowledge the reality that they weren't getting done and, most likely, wouldn't get done.  I was protecting myself from future possible feelings of failure or inadequacy.  Let's go further with my example:  What if I found time to scrapbook?  I might have future need of the stuff!  I was protecting myself from the possibility that I would not, in the future, be able to replace the things I got rid of.  Again, perceived future emotions are making decisions for me right now.

That is it.  That is my miracle epiphany.  You are holding on to stuff that no longer "fits" your life or never did "fit" your life as a way to protect yourself from future possible emotions.

Let me give you another example:

I had a friend who asked me to come over to help her organize and rearrange her family room.  In her room was a big square wooden cube that was open at one end.  It was probably 3' x 3' and beat up but good.  I asked her about it, asked if we had to decorate around it.  She said absolutely.  What?  It turned out that the cube was an empty speaker from 1970.  Her uncle had given it to her years ago and she just couldn't get rid of it because he gave it to her and he'd be so disappointed in her.  He had died 10 years before and had gotten rid of his speakers five years before that, but that had no relevance to her.  Here she was, trying to decorate around an empty speaker cube.  She was unshakable.  I couldn't get her to budge on it.

Holding on to something that someone gave you, especially a hand-me-down, protects you from the feelings that you've somehow been disloyal or unworthy because you didn't want whatever the item was.  The thing is NOT the person, but the thing allows you to keep yourself from disappointing someone.  Holding on to the item allows you to put off the feelings.

But what about people who just buy too much stuff?  People who keep bringing stuff into their homes long after their homes are full?  People who are paying money to rent homes for their stuff?  What?  You don't think of it that way but whether you have rooms full to the brim or you pay for a storage unit, you are paying money to avoid feeling things. 

What?!  You don't have sentiment attached to all that stuff.  No one gave it to you.  You just got a good deal or thought you'd do something amazing with it or some other amazingly valid reason it came into your home.  Guess what?  If you didn't do the project or the good deal didn't match your home or the gift was never given and you still have this stuff, you're protecting yourself from future feelings, too.  You are...they're just different feelings. 

Remember I said that your stuff did NOT validate you, did NOT define you, and did NOT prove your are loved.  Yet, buying stuff can make you feel like you're different than you hold on to the feelings those intentions create.  Want to see yourself as creative, generous, wealthy, elite?  In our world, it is easy to try to create at facade that would seem to perpetuate those things.  So, if you are always buying potential gifts, but don't always get around to giving them away, you can't get rid of the stuff or you'll have to admit you didn't gift those things and you will have to own that.  All those craft supplies?  If you give them away, you're having to admit you're not as crafty as you'd like to think of yourself as being.  Expensive clothes, decor items, electronics?  If they don't fit, you can't afford them, or you don't use them, getting rid of them would force you to be honest about yourself and deal with the secret feelings of inadequacy you are running from.

You know it.  You know all of it and you don't want to deal with it.  So you don't.  You put it into some inaccessible areas in your home and your mind.  Maybe you just have a couple of "bad" rooms.  Maybe it is your deep dark secret and you all storage units full of stuff.  You tell yourself it doesn't matter...because you are protecting yourself from future possible emotions.

So, I'll leave you with this:  Your stuff doesn't define you.  Your stuff doesn't love you.  Your stuff doesn't prove you're worthwhile.  Your stuff is simply inanimate objects that is designed to provide usefulness and convenience to your life.  It is not supposed to be a burden, a duty, or a source of shame or guilt.  It has no feelings and is not the repository for your memories...for that, you have a heart. 

Think about it.

Seriously? Seriously.

I live in one of the first counties to have banned phosphates in dishwasher detergent.  I am also one of the hold-outs who quickly realized that the phosphate-free stuff wasn't going to work in our hard water, so I stocked up on the "good" stuff before the ban went into effect more than a year ago.  Unfortunately, my stash has run out and I'm a bit peeved.

Now don't get me wrong.  I completely understand the desire to get phosphates out of our waste water, but this is unacceptable.

This is what my glass looked like after going through the dishwasher.  (I broke it when I put it into the sink to hand-wash.)  So, for all of you who think those of us with hard water are just being babies about this (and there are plenty of them), take a look at this glass.  Let's be clear here:  This was washed with one of the "new, reformulated to work better in hard water" formulas.  Really? Oh, yes.  This is much better than the one I tried last year.  Still, I'm thinking this isn't going to work for me. (And I didn't even show you the me, you really didn't want to see that.)

What do you think?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Do you ever wonder how your kids see your family?

I am apparently well-hydrated and least according to Buttercup.

Food for Thought

Bringing up a family should be an adventure, not an anxious discipline in which everybody is constantly graded for performance. - Milton R. Saperstein

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stuff - Part 2


In my previous post I touched on the following points:

1)  We ALL have more stuff than we NEED.

2)  Most of us were not raised by parents who had any idea a) how easily stuff was going to be acquired, b) how quickly technology was going to change, c) how shopping would become a MAIN SOURCE of ENTERTAINMENT for people, and d) how easy credit was going to transform our reality and our perception of NEED.  Therefore, very few of us were raised with the skills we'd need to manage the onslaught of stuff, the consumer-driven economy, and the overwhelming pressure to acquire we all face.  (To those of you who were raised to resist, go hug your parents.)

3) Acquiring things feels good, at first.

So, where does that leave us?  What is the point of all this?

Well, let me take a step backwards for a minute and tell you why I'm thinking about this at all.  I recently had the opportunity to help out some friends who were in the process of moving.  They really needed help packing, so some of us got together to help.

Packing someone else's stuff is really quite interesting, because you have absolutely no emotional attachment to the stuff you're packing.  Instead, you consider each and every item based on its intrinsic value, not some emotional value assigned to the item.  My friends had a lot of stuff to be packed.  Seriously.  A lot of stuff.  Frankly, I found it overwhelming when I paused to see just how much stuff we were talking about.  (Don't worry, they know I feel this way...I told them.)  Here is the thing:  They were overwhelmed by their stuff, too.

So, as I was packing (and packing and packing), I started thinking about my own life, my friends, our society and our relationship to our stuff.   I thought about the causes of our consumption (above) and then I thought about the end result of acquiring all this stuff.

The causes might be interesting, but the end result of having all this stuff is what we're dealing with.  Seriously.  I'm not a big believer in wallowing in the past trying to come to the roots of a problem.  I think you can get lost in the past instead of ever fixing the present.  Look back a little, say "hmmm" and move right along.

So, the problem:  Too much stuff.  The symptoms:

Anxiety:  How am I supposed to take care of this stuff?  Store this stuff?  Pay for this stuff?

Guilt:  I don't even like this stuff, but it was a gift.  I don't even want this stuff, but X does and doesn't want to let it go.  I paid X for this stuff, so I have to keep it.  I haven't even paid off this stuff, so how can I possibly get rid of it?

Shame:  What if someone sees how much stuff I have?  What if someone knows how I can't manage the stuff I have?  What if someone becomes aware of the debt I incurred to get this stuff?
 (For a little bit of transparency, I confess to being in the "debt for stuff" group.  I tend not to have too much stuff, but I have not always paid for my stuff wisely.)

If you're a repeat offender, like I am, what you really need is a new way of thinking about stuff.  A new way of understanding the stuff you bring into your house and the stuff you keep in your house.  But what?  How to change the way you think about stuff, acquire stuff, and manage stuff?

What we really need is a new way of owning our actions.  Shame, Guilt, and Anxiety are passive ways of thinking/feeling.  As if we're victims of circumstance, victims of our stuff, if you will, rather than co-conspirators.  Make no mistake.  We did this to ourselves regardless of the outside forces encouraging us and we have the ultimate responsibility for resolving the situation. 

What we need to do is change the manner in which we acquire things.  All things.  Big things.  Little things.  We need to have a way of being deliberate as we acquire stuff.  Notice I'm not telling you not get stuff.  Life changes, your needs change, you'll need stuff.  Instead, I'm telling you we need to be deliberate about how stuff enters our homes.   We need to think it through.  But how?  Everyone has different circumstances, different wants and needs, and different thresholds for "clutter" (mine, I can tell you, is very low; my sister says hers, in contrast, is very high).

Whatever we do has to be simple and universal.  It has to be quick, too.  It has to be something you can do wherever you are, whether you're shopping at Target, Nordstrom, Wal-Mart, online, at a garage-sale, or face-to-face with some well-meaning friend or relative trying to gift you with something.

As I was thinking about this, I thought of getting pets.  How often we say decline to accept pets, even free pets!  And I got it...

What if every single time you think of buying something, accepting something, of keeping something you already own, you acted as if that something were alive, like a pet? Living things need obvious care and maintenance, but so do possessions.  At minimum they need to be stored and cleaned.  They need a specific home.  Each and every item you bring into your home requires a home and maintenance and some will even require "feeding" (ie., ancillary equipment or materials to keep them running).  Given these realities, what if you asked yourself these questions every time you consider adding stuff to your household?:

1)  Where will this stuff  live? Think about it for a second.  If you buy that cute little end table because it is such a deal or it is just so beautiful, where EXACTLY will you put it?  If you buy that absolutely sublime sweater, will it fit in your sweater drawer?  If your brother and sister want you to take Aunt Edna's china, where will you put it?

2)  What is involved in caring for this new item?  Is it going to need "feeding", special arrangements, a combination of things, just to keep it minimally functional? When Superman and I bought this house, it came with a hot tub and an above-ground pool.  Superman was thrilled.  So, was I, at first.  Then came the maintenance:  filters, heaters, chemicals, water testing, covers (oh, and let's not mention gas bills).  With our really hard water, it was pretty much impossible to keep our water stable.  We were constantly having to test the water and even the pool people were struggling to help us keep it clear and clean.  It was a LOT of work.

3)  Will you be glad to put energy into care for this stuff?  Remember, you'll be spending time caring for this item instead of other items.  Back to my pool/hot tub example.  We worked our butts off to keep the pool clear and the hot tub clear.  All this for a swimming season that barely last three months.   I quickly determined I hated the pool.  I wasn't grateful for it.  I resented the time, energy, and money it took to keep it up.  The hot tub?  I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it.  I resented the time, energy, and money it took to keep up, but not as much, at first.

Can you imagine if you asked yourself these three questions every time you bought something?    Think about it.  I know it sounds weird, but seriously.  When your child (or your spouse) says, Oh, please, can we have a kitten, puppy, rabbit, or whatever? do you just say sure, throw it in the cart?  Of course not.  You are very clearly able to stop and think about the responsibility for caring for the animal that would be introduced into your home.  You make a determination as to whether or not you can care for said living thing and, the vast majority of times, you decline to bring a new pet into your home.  Yet, when it comes to more stuff, we don't stop to think of the maintenance involved in adding more stuff to our homes.

And we should.

Every item we bring into our homes should be deliberate.  It would make our lives so much richer, because we would have clearly chosen, not just impulsively accepted the stuff in our lives. 
Are you consciously accepting the work that bringing MORE into your house will require?

Just because something is a good deal, doesn't mean it has a place in your home.  Just because something looks really handy, doesn't mean it will work well in your life.  Cute isn't very cute when it is covered with dust or in the back of a closet.  Just because you already have something, doesn't mean you need to keep it. 

As for Superman and me?   We realized we felt burdened by the pool and I realized we were burdened by the hot tub.  We sold the pool and six months later we sold the hot tub.  Superman agreed immediately to me selling the pool and, after more persuasion, grudgingly said if I found a buyer for the hot tub, he'd agree to it leaving, too.  Well, I did (oh, please, did he really think I wouldn't?).  And you know what?  The second that hot tub left was loaded onto the buyers trailer, he felt a sense of relief that was so strong, he was amazed.  He didn't realize how much pressure he was feeling to maintain that thing.  (Oh, and we're chipping away at our debt and not incurring any more debt...finally learning life lessons that have vexed us for years.)

(To be continued...Part 3 - the emotional baggage associated with our stuff.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stuff…Part One

We ALL have more than we need and, in most cases, that excess is a source of anxiety, not pleasure for us.

(Picture credit:

It is no secret that I'm in the midst of simplifying my life and redefining my priorities. Here I wrote about our now-almost-three year journey of unloading stuff from our lives and here I shared with you the difficulty making the decision to let go of something can be.

The past few weeks have been tremendously helpful to me as they've helped me focus in my feelings on the topic of STUFF. I've talked with friends who've confessed to the inability to get rid of stuff because of the emotions they've attached to the stuff. I talked with friends who feel their anxiety levels rise as soon as they think of dealing with their stuff. I talked with friends who've put blinders on so they no longer see all their stuff. In every case, this stuff that they've brought into their lives has become a source of stress and instead of pleasure.

 Let me be very clear here. It doesn't matter if the stuff came from Nordstrom or Wal-Mart or Target or a garage sale or Craigslist or a friend. It doesn't matter if the stuff is worth a lot of money or is virtually worthless. It doesn't matter if it is clothing, farm equipment, scrap-booking stuff, or furniture. The stories I was hearing (and my own experiences) were all the same. Our stuff is creating stress in our daily lives.

So, what gives? What is going on here? My friends are representative of various socio-economic and political positions and with kids of all different ages, yet they all share the same story: I'm over-whelmed when I think of dealing with my stuff. I'm stressed when I try to tackle it. I just can't deal with it.

This is serious stuff. There have been tears, drugs, and guilt.

So, I've been thinking about it. I've been letting it bounce around in my head. I've thought about all I've learned in the past six years, as I've worked so hard to simplify our family's life and I've come to a few conclusions.

First, our parents couldn't have prepared us to deal with this stuff because there wasn't this MUCH stuff when they were raising us. The television your parents had when you were six was probably the same television your parents had when you graduated high school. The princess phone you got when you were 16 still worked well when you were 26. Cell phones, DVDs, CDs, Sony Walkman, personal computers, video game systems, laptops, didn't exist in our parent's era. (CDs were introduced to the public in 1982the year AFTER I graduated high school.) They had no way to prepare us for the onslaught to come.

What about clothing? It wasn't until the late 70s that real branding of clothing hit the mainstream. Remember Polo shirts, Calvin Klein, etc. Before that, clothes had to last the entire school year, so we changed into play clothes after school. Suddenly, clothes weren't enoughthey had to be the right clothes and what was right changed every 3 months.

When I was growing up, "cheap Chinese imports" were a bad thing. Not only were people aware we were destroying our manufacturing base and putting people in our own country out of work, but the quality of the products was, well, terrible. People weren't willing to buy junk just to save a little cash. Whatever they bought, they bought to last. Now, our belongings are disposable and our parents couldn't prepare us for this.

Second, shopping became an end in and of itself. When I was a little girl, shopping was something we did in August for Back-to-School. Other than that, we spun dreams via the Sears Christmas catalog. The rise of the mall gave us "shopping" as a thing to go do for entertainment, rather than something we do when we have a specific need to fill. By the time I was 11 or 12, we were "heading to the mall" to go "shopping". My friends and I were looking for stuff to buy, even if we didn't need anything. 20 years of that has had our society redefining "needs" faster than you can swipe a charge card through a reader.

And thirdthe rise of easy credit was the final straw. Suddenly, we didn't have to wait for anything. If we wanted it, we could buy it. No cooling off period, no saving until you could buy it. Nope. We just signed our names and that wonderful widget was oursright then and there. We felt powerful, we felt grown-up, and we felt we had arrived. We liked that feeling, so we kept heading to the mall, buying things we didn't need to keep us feeling cool and powerfulat least until the next widget caught our eyes and before we knew it, we felt like we were falling behind if we weren't joining in.

(to be continued)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Food for Thought

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere
with what you can do."
- John Wooden

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dust Bunny?

I guess when the dust bunnies in your house can look right at you...

or just curl up and ignore you...

it might be time to clean. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shoot Me - River Edition (23 of 52)

Sunday marked the occasion of my dad's birthday.  I loaded up the kids, a cooler, and headed out to his new place to help in celebrate.  (Wasn't that nice of me?  With Superman overseas and Charming on his own, we're not so much of a descending hoard of locusts these days.  Now we're more like annoying can't really avoid us, but you don't run for cover, either.)

Anyway, Grandpa John and Nana's new house is on the river.  Unfortunately, the path to the river is a) in disrepair and b) down a steep incline.  That means the kids love it and the adults often take a pass.  It was hot on Sunday, though, so I headed down to join the kids.  It wasn't easy.   Seriously.  I descended the last 8 feet on my butt.  Once there, however, it was bliss.

See?  Here I am.

Did I mention I wasn't dressed for swimming?  No?  Well, I didn't let that stop me.

As you can see, the kids were having a blast.

What can I say?  A day at the lake brings out the goofy in everyone.

Man, I love these kids.

Our neighbors were there, too...Buddy seemed to be having a good time.

In the end, so did Grandpa John and that is what it was all about, right.

The end of a long, fun day.

Head over to Carin's at Forever in Blue Jeans and join Shoot Me.  Get yourself in the picture (as you can see, it doesn't have to be many of them!) 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Food for Thought

"If you don’t have time to do it right,
when will you have time to do it over?"
- John Wooden

Friday, July 9, 2010

What a Difference a Day (and modern drugs) Makes!!

I woke up feeling much better than yesterday; a phenomena I attribute fully to the power of Doxycycline and ibuprofin.  (Sorry about the whining post.)  Regardless of the reason for my improved health, I am grateful.  Grateful enough that I'm combining two posts into one and joining both Shoot Me (23 of 52)...

...and Fertilizer Friday with this post.

The days here, like in so many parts of the country, have been unseasonably HOT and my potted plants have needed some tender loving care.  The sun is HOT, however, hot enough that I've been forced to drag out my sun hat, which doesn't stay on well, but does shade my face.

As you can see, I'm still under the weather and feeling tired, but being outside feels fantastic, even with the hot sun.

My garden makes me smile and I love spending time in it.  If you had told me give years ago that I would be a budding gardener, I would have said you were crazy and yet, I love it.  It is so gratifying.

Here is a glimpse of the back of my house as viewed from the backyard.  When we bought the house, the deck was uncovered and bare.  There were overgrown bushes everywhere and we didn't even know that was an apple tree.  (It didn't produce fruit for the first two years we lived here.)  Look at it now!  Covered deck looking out onto a gorgeous garden.  Superman and I did it all, with the help of our children, the donations of plants from generous neighbors, oh, and five 8 yard dumpsters stuffed full of ripped up, overgrown, plants.  I love how it has all come together.

These  lily-type plants with little purple flowers were gifts from a neighbor who was desperate to get rid of some.  You just separate them the way you do day lilies and plant the sections. They grow so quickly, they already need to be thinned.  The petunias in the hanging pots were wintered over in my dearly departed greenhouse.    (The silly lights are Buttercup's under deck lights, but something chewed through the wire last winter, so I have to get them fixed.)

Sorry for the horrible picture, but this is our koi pond.  I don't even remember what was here before...I don't think anything other than overgrown bushes, but maybe Superman will remember better than I.  It has a waterfall that burbles all the time.  I love the sound of the water feature.  Since two of our koi were roughly 2 feet long, we found new homes for them and only have two little ones in the pond these days.

Not part of the view, but still amazing are these Asiatic lilies...look how many we have!  The pink color has faded, but they're still gorgeous.  (Doesn't the football add that little something?  Yes, this yard gets used!)

Superman, look at the day lilies we transplanted last year...we put them along the fence to add some no maintenance color and they are doing so well.  They obviously love this strip of fence because they don't look like stragglers, do they?

Oh, and look at our squash...they obviously have no problem with the lasagna gardening technique I used to plant them.

So, there you have it, my garden tour for this week.  All these plans make for a beautiful view out my window as I sit at my computer.  I love sitting down here, listening to the waterfall and looking out at the fruits of my/our labors.  Head over to Tootsie's to see what everyone else is up to.  Oh, and don't forget to join in the fun at Forever in Blue Jeans...get yourself in the picture.  You won't regret it.  (Three more and I'll be halfway through!)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Unabashed Whining

Feel free to move on to another blog in your reader right here.  I'm whining.  I'm pouting.  I'm probably being snarky.

My ungrateful children gave me the plague.  I asked them not to.  Seriously.  When Buttercup came down with it more than a week ago, I told her I loved her and I would take care of her, but that she didn't need to share.  I think she shared.  A few bedtime kisses and some unscheduled coughs and sneezes may have done it.

But maybe it wasn't her.  Maybe Valiant did it after she shared with him.  Yep, 8 days after Buttercup came down with the plague, Valiant was felled.  That was Monday.  Today is Thursday.

Instead of playing around and coming up with a Shoot Me post or working on my Fertilizer Friday post, I caved...right after I finished all the grocery shopping, got the car smogged and registered and picked up a couch for my oldest son, the one who seems to have gone AWOL.  Right when I thought I'd be heaving a sigh of relief and doing a little bit of fun stuff, the sledge hammer hit.  I, too, have succumbed to the plague.

I told the kids they were bad children.  I whined via email to my sister.  I put my pajamas on.  I took drugs.  I feel horrible.  The kids don't seem to have much sympathy.  Valiant put Bean on my chest and she scratched me.  Buttercup generously told me that since I was dying I didn't have to read a chapter of our book at bedtime and, in the meantime, what could she have to eat?

I wonder if I'm already dead and this IS hell and I just don't recognize it because it looks so much like my bedroom.

Is hell being in my bedroom, feeling like I'm going to die, and feeling frustrated because I have so much I want to do?  Maybe.  That is it!  I've solved one of the worlds mysteries:  hell is my bedroom, sick as a dog, stuck playing solitaire because you can't fall asleep but you can't focus to read. 

Glad I figured that out.  Now I can go back to feeling sorry for myself.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kindle for your PC

Have you ever heard of the Kindle?  It is Amazon's e-reader and it looks so cool.  Unfortunately, the price tag is far out of my reach.  Far enough out of my reach in fact, that I forced myself to stop  lusting after one.  (Keeping my kids clothed and fed is so darned inconvenient, you know?)

Amazon must have heard my secret thoughts, however, because they've made a Kindle for PC program available for FREE.  Have an iPod Touch or an iPhone?  They have an app for that.  Blackberry?  You're covered.  MAC?  You, too.  FREE, FREE, FREE.

Even better?  They have tons of books for download that cost exactly NOTHING.  Yep, free!   Obviously, they have thousands upon thousands of books you can buy and download, too.  I am just doing the happy dance for FREE right now.

Now, if you're not a voracious reader, this might not tickle your fancy.  Me and mine?  We think this is pretty darned cool.  I've been using it for more than a week and I am so jazzed.  It works just as "advertised" and my free books have been, well, free.  What more can I ask for?

So, if you're looking for some reading happiness, I recommend the Kindle for PC.   It is quick, easy, and free...again, what else can I ask for?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Plenty of Time!

I saw this quick craft from Jess at How About Orange and decided it was right up my alley.  She calls them "mid-century clock faces", but to me they were more George Jetson.  Regardless, I thought they were super cute.

Just one little problem:  I'm not a drinker and I don't ever seem to have bottle caps.  While the past few months have made me long for a few good Long Island Iced Teas, even those wouldn't have helped in my quest for bottle caps.   Fortunately, in addition to the two bottle caps I could scrounge up, I also had some flat disc magnets that weren't the cutest, so I included them, too.

For the bottle caps, I used a hot glue gun and attached magnets to the inside of each cap.

I painted everything white.

Then I used the template that How About Orange so kindly provided and I used a 1" circle punch and cut out all the little clock faces I wanted to use.

A little Modge Podge attached the clock faces to the magnets and a coat of Modge Podge finished them off.

Aren't they cute?
Quick, easy, and virtually free.  You've got to love anything that fits in all those categories! 

Don't want to make clocks?  What about pictures?  Buttercup would definitely love squirrels, hamsters, kittens, etc.  Flowers would be pretty, too.   Oooh, or a monogram of the first letter of your last name?  or an inspirational word?   Hmmm...I might be making a few more!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Silly Fun - What is Your Fairy Name?

Green Fairy Wings Fly Images

My sister has a blog filled with whimsy and shared this little bit of silly I aspire to be a fairy princess when I grow up, I just couldn't resist. When I plugged in my name, I discovered the following:

Your fairy is called Moth Reedweb
She is a panpipe player and enchantment singer.
She lives close to crystal caverns and stalagtite grottos.
She is only seen in the mist of an early morning.
She collects crystals to wear on her dresses. She has gentle green butterfly wings.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Food For Thought - Independence Day

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.  ~Thomas Paine

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On His Own...

Well, my first child has officially flown from the nest and is starting the next chapter of what has already been an exciting life.  Yep, Charming has moved out and into his own apartment.  No roommates.  No college cafeteria.  Just Charming and his "charming" new apartment. 

We loaded him up with the furniture we could give him and with the labor of friends, the trailer of Grandpa John's and some grunting and sweat (yes, he's on the 2nd floor), we got him moved in.

Buttercup even tried to embarrass him by wearing those socks and slippers. 

It didn't embarrass him, but Valiant was a bit bugged. 

He showed the boys his bedroom and it was time for us to go. 

He wanted us out, so he could start his very first night in his very first apartment and I could blame him.

I made him smile for a least one picture by telling him I was sending it to his dad and I hugged him and told him how proud of him I am.  Then we left. 

It was weird.  Happy weird.  Not even bittersweet.  He's worked so hard for this and is so obviously ready for this.  I was nothing but excited for him. 

Then I decided I'm weird for not being sad.  But maybe the college experience prepared us both for the fact that he's supposed to move along, fly from the next, do his own thing.  I guess he has a whole new meaning to apply to "Independence Day" this holiday weekend!

I'm happy.  He's happy.  It is all good.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fertilizer Friday--Rainy Day Edition

I know I've been a no-show to Fertilizer Friday, but it is not because my garden isn't doing anything.  Really!  On the contrary, our garden is thriving.  Unfortunately, my life is crazy chaotic right now and blogging is play I'm struggling to make time for.

Still, I love Fertilizer Friday and decided that I'm allowed to run a week behind until life calms down.  To that end, I took pictures last week (which I intended to post last week) that I'm sharing this week. 

It is pouring rain today and I can't do yard work (darn!) and pictures taken today won't be particularly good, so having pictures from last week is just perfect.

My Asiatic lilies are blooming...

Our littlest apple tree as tons of fruit.  (Superman, this is the one by the back fence...go figure!)

My broccoli formed florets too soon and so their tiny. Does anyone know why they're doing this?

Our tomatoes are doing really well.  The one we wintered is already producing fruit...and the ones we started as seeds are thriving.

Finally, our squash plants are going crazy and our lettuce is loving life.  Growing plants from seeds I've sown has been so rewarding.  Yes, I'm still making mistakes, but I'm just so gratified to have the success I've had.  We've already harvested a zucchini and it wasn't even July.  We've got an orange-sized pumpkin on the vine already and more zucchini on their way.  It is so weird (but good).

So, there you have it!  Our Fertilizer Friday contribution.  The Nagle5 have been working hard to make our gardens grow this year and we're having fun doing it.  And really, isn't that what it is all about?

Head over to Tootsie's to see what everyone else is sharing this week.  You'll be amazed.  Me?  Oh, I'm enjoying the came just in time and now I don't have to feel guilty for not wanting to mow the lawns!  Yippee!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shoot Me: 22 of 52 - More Painting Edition

Got these lovely polished brass planters from my friend and neighbor down the street.  I saw them and thought, hey, these will work on my patio.  I just didn't think polished brass would work on my patio.  So, I painted them.

And that brings me to this photo.   It was a bright, shiny day and the sun felt fabulous.  I decided it would be the day I tackled the planters and so I headed outside and grabbed my trusty can of spray paint.  Little did I realize that Valiant decided to help me continue my participation in Shoot Me.  Yep, he snapped a picture of me before I knew what he was doing.  I decided he was right and so here you have it, my 22nd Shoot Me.  Only 30 more to go!

Oh, and while I'm more than willing to have my snazzy for-the-yard-faux crocs and overalls photographed, Valiant wisely deleted the picture he took of my rear!  There is only so much reality I'm willing to deal with.

Shoot Me is the brain child of Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans.  As she puts it:  Shoot Me! It's time to stop hiding behind that camera of yours. Your family is missing you in the picture. So it's time to post a picture of YOU (yes, you) every Thursday with your child, your spouse, your friend, your dog, or even by yourself. Just get in the picture, you'll be glad you did! And just jump in now with 1 of 52, you can do it!

PS.  Hey, Superman, it was black paint so the over-spray won't leave much of a mark.  (Now, the bronze I used last month?  That is a whole different situation!)