Friday, May 17, 2019

New Garden New Home

After 3 years of waiting, praying and waiting some more we moved in late fall. Thank you Lord!

  In the blur of moving the only thing I remember about the gardens before winter hit was lots of hostas and sticker burr plants towering over them.  Now that spring has arrived I'm discovering what other plants are growing.  There have been some lovely surprises! 

I had planned on bringing lots of plants from the old house.  We did manage to get a few things in the ground (rose bush, hydrangea and a Japanese maple tree) and the rest I put into garden pots in the shed.  The later did not survive the Arctic cold that we had this year.    The planted ones are doing fine.   And the garden's are showing me that everything I thought I needed to bring is all right here.

We  have lots of hosta's (over 50!)  and so far have found:
Bleeding Heart,  Daffodils, Allium, Forsythia, Sand Cherry,  Columbine, Oriental Lilies, Lily of the Valley,  Iris, Ferns, Rudbeckia, Lamium,  Sedum.....

And the colors!   As I was dreaming over plans for the garden in the dreary months of February and March  I picked purple, yellow and red as the theme colors for my flowers.    When I started buying them a couple of weeks ago the red was changed to dark pink.

So far all the things that have bloomed in the garden are those 3 colors!  How cool is that?
And after spending weeks weeding ( the war on thistles!) we were able to put down some mulch and not have to worry about it floating away. 

I so appreciate the previous owners who planted some perennials and love in these gardens!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving Journal Recipe Book

The journey of a turkey journal and how it all began.

For the first 20 or so years of my marriage my job on Thanksgiving was just to eat two meals and wash a lot of dishes. This was because our Moms lived closed by and liked to cook so we would visit both of their houses on the same day, one in the afternoon and one at night. Since they had done all the work of cooking I didn't mind washing the dishes. Truth be told I liked it much better too!

   So 10 years ago when it finally became my turn to make the meal I was a bit of a wreck!  Definitely would have been nicer to figure that all out when I was younger, had a better memory and could take these new experiences in stride. 

  I managed that first year with the help of my wonderful husband who promised me that if the turkey did not come out he would run to the store and buy some salmon, bless that man! 

And I had a red NOTEBOOK.  I had called both of our Mom's and asked for their recipes and advice and carefully wrote them all down in that notebook.  It had the menu so I wouldn't forget anything.
  It ended up turning into a journal too because  I wrote down what we did after dinner, who was there, and any thoughts I had for improvements for the next year.  Little did I know how helpful that book would become as the years rolled by. I can now calmly pull it out and read all my scribbled notes on how to cook all the dishes and smile over past memories. 

This year I started early and enjoyed the whole process at much more leisurely pace.

  I began shopping a couple weeks ahead of time since there have been times in the past when Aldi was out of some items during the week of the holiday.  So I added this page to the book.
Things to buy ahead of time:
 2 bags of frozen  french cut green beans,
 7 big Sweet potatoes,
Can of fried onions,
canned Cranberry sauce,
2 Sparkling fruit Juices - had cranberry and blueberry grape this year,
Yukon gold Potatoes,
2 Chicken Broth cartons,

One year I made a shopping list in the notebook which includes everything!
Have learned this the hard way as in different years I have run out of  tin foil, poultry seasoning and other things that are usually just there without thinking about it. They are now on the list.

Another year I made a list of  how many cups of  each of the veggies I need for all the recipes.
 2 cups of onions, 2  cups celery, 1 bag of potatoes, one bunch of parsley etc
Then I could  sit down at the table with a big scrap bowl and cut up all the veggies at one time and know that I had everything I needed.   My oldest son used to nicely help me peel and cut up raw sweet potatoes and almost needed a hatchet! I mentioned this jokingly to my Mom  and she told me to parboil them first and oh boy, so much easier.   That method is now in the notebook.

 This year  I am adding a new schedule for cooking the meal because I liked how it turned out.
I had bought my Turkey early since I wanted a 15-17 lb one and there wasn't many that size at the store, lots of 10 lbs (too small) and 20+ lbs (too big).  Having spent one year up half the night because I bought the bird two days before and wrestled to get the plastic handle out of it until 2 in the morning, I vowed to buy one by Sunday at the latest!  This year I bought it even earlier than that, which I thought was great until I realized that it had been thawing in my fridge and maybe I waited too long.  Oh that bird!!  Everything depends on how it comes out.  The cost, the worry, the blessed relief when it is done and looks and tastes good!
 So I woke up on Tuesday and thought I have to cook it today.  It was nice to know that the bird was all nice and browned in the roasting pan in the fridge on Thanksgiving morning.  It was already covered with foil, so I put it in the oven by itself for a hour and a half at 350 and it came out nice and hot. and tender.  Yay!  Yep adding to the book to cook the turkey on Tuesday, the rest of the dishes on Wednesday and if I ever learn how to make pies will add that to Monday.

So if you like this idea my advice to you would be to buy a nice notebook.  My poor book looks rather forlorn, with cooking stains and well thumbed pages but I am truly thankful to have it.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Preparing for the Flu Season

I try to keep these things on hand to be prepared for anyone getting sick-

In the linen closet "cold care" box-
Vicks Vapor Rub - to put on chest, nose and the bottom of your feet with socks.
(a bottle of Eucalyptus Oil works for your feet too or for use with the vaporizer)
Box of lotion Kleenex - so much softer!
Cough drops / lozengers
Vitamin C chewable tablets
Cold Medicine - Alka Seltzer cold care and Cough Syrup
Vaporizer on bottom shelf

In the Pantry keep stocked-
Homemade Soup Supplies:
Boxes of chicken Stock
Fine Egg Noodles
Better than Bouillon Chicken Base
Fresh Garlic
Tea Bags

In the fridge-
Fresh Lemons or Limes
Parsley - Fresh (can sub Dried)

In Freezer-
Frozen Chicken Breasts - can cook quick in microwave
Homemade Chicken Broth - made with lots of onions & garlic from Rotisserie Chicken

The minute it is needed I start by making a big pot of soup, it always seems to help kick it .
I put in at least 3 big onions, 4-5 cloves of Garlic, Carrots, Celery with leaves & Parsley.
Season with lots of pepper and not too much salt as the chicken base has enough.
Add cubed cooked chicken and lots of noodles.

Make cups of hot water with fresh lemon wedges put in the cup and Honey - very soothing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Our Life When it Rains Too Much

Well all the rain last weekend has been seeping into our basement...again.
This is not a new experience for us, so we at least know what needs to be done and I think we surprise people by our calm attitude.  I never know how to quickly explain the situation so they understand without boring them with all the details.  I'll try to tell it here instead.

For starters our basement was reduced down to the bare bones of cement after our 3rd flood, so we don't have the stress of trying to save the drywall that once was a family room & bathroom.
And after that,  my brother, who is an electrician nicely came and moved all the electrical outlets 4 feet up so we can still go down if it gets really bad.
So now the only things we need to worry about are our washer, dryer, hot water heater, freezer & furnace.   We have acquired the equipment we need along the way too- a generator in case the electricity goes out, floor pumps with long hoses, a squeegee on a broom handle, long extension cords and a back up sump pump.

If we think that we may be in for the next episode we start getting ready early.
First, is to get all my laundry caught up since we will need to limit our water use and not have to pay to use the laundromat.
Second thing, that I have learned from experience, is to thoroughly sweep the floors.  That way there isn't any debris floating around that could clog the floor pump.
My husband makes sure that we have a full gas can & everything is ready to go.

We make sure there isn't anything on the floor that can't get wet.
  All of our shelves purposely, have a bottom shelf that is up at least a foot from the ground.
All our eBay inventory that is waiting to be photographed are in plastic bins with lids are down there.
This is a part of our livelihood so we protect it as best we can.
 We carry up all our hanging clothes because even though they are not touching the water the moist air will make them damp.  We unplug lamps and heaters and put them up high.  The boys carry up the wooden ironing board,my art easel.  And the big bin of blankets, all food from the back up cupboard and anything else that we want to rescue.

All this does help but when we are all set then our living room looks like we are hoarders!
Boxes, Bins and baskets are everywhere!  You never realize how much you have until you have to try to squeeze it into one average sized room.  So while it really is very nice for friends to offer to help we are not sure we want them to see our home like this   Then we also have to explain that we are not hoarders but resellers, really!  Please believe us.

.It requires having some one being up at all times of the day and night and this needs to be explained too.   The floor pump works great but it can't just be left running or the motor will burn out.  I have been doing the graveyard shift, as my husband works during the day.  Being somewhat of a night owl anyway this works fine and explains why I look so tired at church and am up at 3 in the morning writing this blog post.     We use the timer on the stove to keep up with when the pump needs to be turned on and off.  At the beginning when it was at it's worst with the rain coming in fast it had to be turned on every 15 minutes, let it run for 10 and repeat.   Now a week later we are up to every 45 minutes off and 5 minutes on.  And so it goes.

I'm sure it gets to sound like a broken record after awhile as it's one of those problems that doesn't clear up quickly and I understand that it gets to be old so I try not to talk about it too much.
It's just rainy days routine for us.   We honestly do appreciate the concern and I've realized after typing all of this up that maybe there isn't a short explanation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Last Minute School Project - The War of the Worlds Shadow Box

This is the project we did for an Art & Literature Fair last night.   It is a shadowbox from one of my son's favorite books  The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.
I discovered the day before when I thought we weren't going to participate that he REALLY wanted to and so of course I adopted a can do attitude and we spent the entire day working on it. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we can make these type of decisions and we got it done!

It reminded me once again the importance of keeping certain supplies on hand so these can be done without trips to the store.  In the hopes of helping other parents who may be faced with this situation here is my list of items to keep in stock.

From the Dollar Store - 3 sided Display board and poster's boards in white and maybe a few colors
Also pick up some of those thin plastic cutting boards, great for painting on or cutting out things.

Good Markers and the key to having these is to hide them!  I can't tell you how many times we dug them out only to find half of them had dried out.  So keep a stash for emergency use only.
Add some black sharpie markers in with the colors too.

Acrylic paints are awesome in that you can literally paint anything.   Our alien and the houses and ground on our project were done with acrylic paint.  The other great virtue about the paint is that it dries fast, we put some newspaper down in front of a fan to speed up the drying time.  The quick drying time allowed us to add a second color or even change it as we worked.

Add box cutters or an exacto knife along with a good pair of scissors to your private stash.
Use the plastic cutting boards with these.   We cut up several thick cardboard boxes today.

Fimo clay is another versatile tool.  You can shape it and bake it hard and then paint it.
 It held up the trees saplings that I dug out of our garden today.Another year we used it make little stands for some playing pieces for a geography game that we made.

Stock up on all kinds of paper, construction drawing, tracing and typing.

Wooden dowels or skewers, plastic straws and cups, cotton balls, Wire are good to have on hand too.  The legs of our alien was made with plastic bendable straws which looked good but ended up not being strong enough to hold up tin cans, so we strengthened them with wooden skewers like the kind you use to make shish kabobs.

We made the alien out of food cans with an old CD and a plastic funnel with a marble on the top.
The arms were from thick pieces of wire.  Tin snips were used to cut the wire and we used a glue gun to put it all together.

I hunted for ideas on Pinterest and saved websites that had interesting facts and images as we researched the book.   We glued some quotes from the book on the top of the box after we put construction paper on it with a big glue stick so add that one to the list.    

The dining room table was a mess when we ran out the door but the project came out great and that was the important thing.  The key is to remain calm and think creatively and help your child to make something you both can be proud of.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Moving Means Lists!

We will be moving to a new house sometime this year.
With that thought comes different emotions...the fun of a new place to decorate, feeling sentimental about leaving our home of the last 12 years.
Of course I have started making lists!

List 1 - has two columns Wants & Needs
This was to help me figure out what we really need in our new home versus what would just be nice to have but we could do without if necessary.  
On the Need side:
1  Bedroom on the main level (not getting any younger and stairs do bother my  knees sometimes).  Connected with that one is a bathroom nearby  (at the moment it is down said flight of stairs).  A master bath would be great but probably falls closer to the want then need.
2.  Dishwasher and Gas Stove - just essential in every way.  
3.   Garden - even if it's smaller I still want to be able to put in tomatoes, some herbs & flowers
4.   Basement - Have to have somewhere to go during really bad weather and we need it for our ebay business.
5. Privacy - We have come to realize that we are just more like country folk and need some space around us to feel comfortable.
6. 3 Bedrooms - for the boys and down the road for our daughter and family when they come to visit
7. Wood floors - This was more necessary when the kids were young and we had dogs but it just fits us better. That and leather couches that can be cleaned is just who we are.
8.  A room big enough to entertain company - This has been on our list a long time and a open floor plan where the living and dining room flow together would work.
9. Parking.  This goes with the above entertaining idea so a long driveway or easy street parking
10. Central Air Conditioning - yep there's no going back once you've had it.
 On the Want side:
1. Fireplace - we have so enjoyed having one.    Connected with that is a little woods nearby to collect fallen branches to burn
2. Covered front porch - for sitting on and a protected place for packages
3. Pantry -  Would be so nice to have All my kitchen items in one area.
4. Built in Bookshelves - we are avid readers.
5.  Ebay room - somewhere with natural light for photographs and an area for packing and storing        inventory.  All in one place would be a dream.
6. Big closets - where I could actually have all of my clothes instead of storing out of season ones.
7.  Deep Bath tub -  This almost should be on the Need list as I like to take baths over showers
8. Whole house humidifier - for those long dry winters
9. Attached Garage - where we would actually park our car for a change.

List 2 - Garden
Our house will be knocked down as it floods so there is no reason to leave anything so I am saving all my pots for transferring my garden to the new house.
The Need List:
1.  Japanese Maple Tree - slow growing so still small.
2. Blueberry bushes - DH's favorite
3.  Peony bushes - one of my favorites
4. Rhubarb
5. Bleeding Heart
6. Virginia Bluebells
7. Hens & chicks and small Sedum
8. Lavender & Sage
9. Lily of the Valley
10. Spring Bulbs
11. Ellen's Lily plant
12. Hydrangea
13 Azaleas
14. Japanese Iris
15. Primrose

And depending on if there is room at the new house can add to the want list
  Balloon Flower, Forsythia bush, Raspberry Canes, Hosta, Vinca, Mint and so on.

List 3 - Purge
There is nothing like moving to really clear out the house!
Of course we won't really know everything that needs to go on this list until we find the new home but for now it is a growing list.
It just feels good to go through everything we own and pare it down to only those things we use or love.    Plan on having a huge garage sale in May.
First before the sale is giving things away to anyone who may need them  It's good to share!

Making the lists have helped me with all the emotions tied to moving. I know that the Lord will provide a new home for us so I'm trusting in Him as to where we will be going.   I am praying that he helps us along the way in really letting go of things that are just that..things.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Selling on eBay

This winter my husband and I decided that our big project would be going through all the boxes in the basement and clearing out stuff.    We hit upon the idea of  selling on ebay, which we have done off and on for a number of years.
The added incentive was to have my cousin and her husband come over and teach them how to sell online too.  It has worked out amazingly well.   We have kept each other motivated and have fun at the same time.   Karl takes such professional pictures that makes selling anything easy.   The photo's do all the "talking."    Once a week we  get together take a bunch of pictures, talk and laugh and then have dinner together.   And in the meantime the boxes are slowly disappearing and we are making some extra money as well. A definite win win!   Our "store"

We have learned so much together and I wanted to make a record of all of it so I don't forget.  So in no particular order here is my brain dump on selling on eBay.

1) Notebooks -  Having a notebook just for selling is great for staying organized especially for  researching the items I want to sell. My method is to write the name of the item at the top of page and use that page just for that, no more hunting through pages of notes. 
As I research online (ebay, google...) I make notes on description words, model numbers and anything else that stands out to use for when I am posting the item for sale.  I also note a dollar range and measurements.
On the side I write down the pictures numbers / date taken to make those easy to find.   After the item is listed I put a big check mark on the top. It is satisfying to check them off one by one.  Later after it sells, I note how much we sold it for.  I just started my 3rd notebook.

2)  Facebook Groups -I have found some wonderful groups on Facebook that have made the experience this time around so much better!   The best one with helpful folks and always a positive attitude is called The Thrifting Board.  With this group you can post pictures of items that you need help with and since they have so many members others will chime in with their advice.  We have learned LOTS about selling and good customer service. I highly recommend it!    I now know what BOLO's are (Be On the Look Out).  These are items that are regularly seen at Thrift stores, garage sales. etc. that I normally would have just passed right up.  I have learned that some of these are worth more than you would think.   I have tried a bunch of them and am so thankful for the knowledge that others have shared with me.   Some of the BOLO's I have learned about are coffee mugs,  Needlecraft kits and stuffed animals.    Of course the flip side of all this information is that it makes me want to rush out and buy more things to sell!   And as the initial goal was to clear out the basement it seems counter-intuitive but it has worked out quite well.

3)   Selling -In the past we just did auctions only. We still do them for the first time we are listing items, especially if we are not sure what price to ask for it.   But gradually we became more comfortable with trying BIN (buy it now) and BO (best offer) options on eBay. I have learned how to make counter offers.  We have also learned how to use online shipping labels that save a lot of time.   The only  thing we have not become comfortable with yet and that may change down the road, is selling internationally.   One step at a time.

4)  Pinterest -This has been a great way to organize Resources.  All those wonderful pages with information about identifying silverware patterns, hat styles, jewelry makers and so on that would have got lost by book marking them, are now on a board on Pinterest.   I have also learned that it can be a great marketing tool.   For instance I had a number of items that related to weddings.  So on the advice of TTB (the thrifting board)  I made a vintage Wedding board.   The idea is that you pin a number of items related to the topic and after every 4th one you add one of your own ebay listings and keep going.  Putting together the wedding board was fun and I really got into it.   It has also been a good place to keep track of BOLO's. 

5)  Packaging - My husband has become a master packer!  Most of the positive feedback we get mentions the great packaging.   We use as much recycled material as we can.  Saving boxes from anything has been a great way to save money.  Bubble wrap, tissue paper, newspaper, brown grocery bags, plastic grocery bags are all used.  A new one I just learned about but haven't tried yet is pool noodles. You can cut these up and use them to hold fragile items like plates or to line boxes with it.
We are always on the look out for packaging materials at stores.

6)  Storage - Once I list an item then it is moved upstairs and kept safe until it is sold.   I have plastic bins that I have found at the thrift stores and I put a paper on the top listing the items that are individually wrapped inside.  Another great discovery was berry crates that we found at Costco.  These are heavy duty cardboard boxes that stack very nicely.  I try to keep like items together so for instance have all my jewelry in one and toys in another.  The raspberry crates are a nice small size.   I am still working on keeping track of the stored items.  Ideally I should have the bins/ boxes numbered and somewhere either in my notebook or on a spreadsheet a note about where the item is stored.

7)  Record Keeping - As eBay only stores a list of items that have been sold for the last 60 days I am coming up with a system to keep track of the sales.  If we ever get to having a store I believe there are ways to keep track of these on the site.  In the meantime I am using google sheets for the purpose.  I am trying to keep records of the name of the item, how much we paid for it, what it sold for, shipping costs and dates for each one. 

8)  Pictures - The better the pictures the less you have to describe your item.   Most listings let you have up to 12 pictures for free so we try to take enough shots to use all those.  We do all angles, insides, bottoms and close ups of tags/ markings. Also any defects or special features.   We have had fun "staging' these shots to make them look their best.  For glass items it is better to try to use sunny days where natural lighting makes them just shine.  We are so thankful to Karl for his professional shots and knowledge!!  This year I learned that if I highlight the first picture I want for my listing then hold down the shift key and click the last picture (if they are in order) then it will select them all and load them one after another. Big time saver!

9)  Descriptions -  I have learned from Diane to copy and paste my title into the description post. I've discovered that the title doesn't have spell check so by copying it I have found spelling errors I might have missed.
I try to use up all the available spaces allotted for the title and get all the pertinent information. Each letter in the title should began with a capital and take out all punctuation (it messes up search engines).  By copying the title into the description box I can just add more info for each part of the description.  I try to have just bullet points so they are easy to read.   To make your listing mobile friendly use at least 14 font size and align it to the left.

10)  Finding items to Sell -  This is the part I think is the most fun!  We like going to thrift stores  year round and garage sales in the summer.  I have always loved treasure hunting.   Now I feel like I have graduated to being a more informed shopper.   The ultimate tool for this is a smart phone or notepad.  Then you can research items while you are shopping.  Some day soon we hope to have one.  In the meantime  I just go with my gut reaction.     My method for thrift stores is to go through the store and really concentrate on a few areas during the "hunt".  I put anything I might be interested in my cart.  When I am done with that then I go through the cart and start really looking at each item and deciding what I want to buy.  I try to keep the BOLO's in mind and I am learning to trust myself more.  If I really like it then I figure that someone else will like it too.   Garage sales are a little more work but you can find some great deals.   The other more obvious place to look for items to sell is at home.  Once you have made a few sales you start looking at your belongings in a different light!  It has changed how we think about our stuff.   We have made it into a part time business and are are loving working from home.