The Groundskeeper

May 262017
 


MyGiftCardsPlus is celebrating Memorial Day with huge deals! If you’re not familiar, MyGiftCardsPlus is a site where you earn cash back (in the form of SB points from Swagbucks) for purchasing gift cards to your favorite retailers.

Purchase gift cards now through Monday and you’ll earn an extra 33% cash back on all gift cards! (that’s 33% more SB for your gift card purchases). For example, when you buy a $50 Applebee’s gift card you usually earn 300 SB, but now you’ll earn 399 SB! Use gift cards to stock up on summer essentials, treat your family to dinner, or book flights and hotels for a long weekend getaway. You won’t want to miss these cash back deals, so click here to make advantage of this deal while supplies last!

May 222017
 

Swagbucks is holding their Swago promotion on Monday, May 22nd! Your board is active till May 29th at 12PM PT.

It’s just like bingo, but in this case you’re filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online. If you’re thinking of trying Swagbucks, this is a great chance to learn all about how the site works and earn bonus points while doing it.

The best part is that the points you get can be used to get free gift cards to places like Amazon, or PayPal cash!

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points – if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 500 SB bonus!

Click here to sign up and get started! If you sign up through my link and earn 300 SB before June 1st, you’ll get a bonus 300 SB!

May 222017
 

 

how to tackle the challenges of a less than perfect garden collage

continued from Part 1

No yard is perfect.  Overcoming the challenges can either be viewed in a positive light or as a overwhelming chore.  I am choosing to go the first route, viewing this as a time to grow and use my creative juices to find solutions and help the garden grow.

The first step I took was to address one of the biggest visual and immediate problems.  For me, this meant mowing the grass to help get the weeds under control and to get myself moving.  The Laws of Motion can also apply to our motivation when doing things in life.

An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by another force.  -Newton’s First Law of Motion

The other force takes the look of our self-doubt, the feeling of being overwhelmed, freezing up by indecision, and so forth.  By doing something, anything, we have begun the motion to reach our goal.

#2 Form A Plan

While this step would ideally come first, something it is best to get moving and do something. 

Have you ever spent time making an awesome, color coordinated, shiny plan, only to then feel so exhausted by it you go take a nap? You never get around to actually doing the plan you spent so much time making?

Or how about researching, and researching, and researching to find the perfect whatever-it-is?  In the end you are so frozen by indecisiveness you give up.

So, we put into motion our goal with a first step which was obtainable and quick.  It was not perfect.  It was not necessarily researched or planned out.  What it was is quick and simple.  The other steps can come later.

We are now in motion.

The first time I mowed, it was nothing fancy or full of thought as to the pattern. I mowed and everything was shorter. It no longer looked like an unloved home. The end.

The second time, I put a bit more thought into it, mowing the other direction.  Not only would this help catch any missed places from the first time, but it would also help the grass keep from being blown onto the exact same spots in the yard each time.  By going a different way, I could also view the yard from a different angle and begin to gain a sense of how the yard worked.

I am not sure there is any great wisdom behind changing direction. I did find various dips and bumps the second time which did not stand out the first.  As for timing, I am thinking mowing parallel with  my house saves a few seconds, as all the major obstacles would be along a particular pass or two, rather than at the end of every row.

While mowing I began to form a plan to address various issues. I also contemplated how to use challenges to our advantage. It was all theoretical, nothing was actually put into action.   The end.

The third time I mowed, I tried to make a concerted effort to actually look closely at the plants making up the yard as I passed them.  Grass is not the only plant growing, and the others may give me an insight into what is going on below ground.
initial front bed planting

During these first three times, though, I was doing something to help the yard.  Others might think I was purely being lazy, but it was an active choice, one I knew would eventually help the lawn.  I left the clippings on the ground.  

Instead of bagging up the grass clippings or composting them, I let the mower blow them straight back onto the ground.  By putting back the organic matter I had just removed, the grass clippings will break down over time, returning nutrients to the soil.

They will also (hopefully) help keep weed seeds from reaching the soil and taking hold as quickly.

Once summer comes in full force, having a layer of organic matter on top of the soil will also help in shading the ground, helping keep moisture loss lower than it might otherwise.

This seemingly little step may not sound like much.  However, over time it will begin to add up.  Any organic material I can add to the lawn will only help improve the soil, and thereby the plants and animals living there.

Another step I plan to take for the next mowing is to raise my mower as high as it will go.  Not only will this allow the grass to have larger leaves by which to absorb energy from the sun, but it will also help continue to shade out any other smaller plants (i.e. weeds) which decide to try to grow.

 

May 192017
 

Kid in Library

With summer looming very close in front of us, one of the items on my non-gardening to-do list involves signing up for various summer reading programs.  This is also a great reminder to keep participating in other reading programs that are not season oriented.

One of my highest goals for our kids, to love reading.

Participation in summer reading challenges is one of the ways we use to hopefully create kids who turn into young adults who love to read. My thinking is that if they can read, they can learn anything.  They can also travel to places otherwise unavailable to them.

In addition to your local library’s reading program, here are a few more you can check out.  (Pun intended.)

Meatheads Burgers currently offers the Voracious Readers reading program during all seasons.  There is no guarantee that this program will continue, so make use of it while it is here.  The kids love being able to order their own burgers and ‘pay’ for them with the certificate they earned by reading books.

 

book cover 2

From the website:

The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program is here to help you on your way, encouraging you to read books of your own choosing and earn a FREE book, simply by following these three easy steps:

1. Read any eight books this summer and record them in your Summer Reading Journal (English or Español).

2. Tell us which part of the book is your favorite, and why.Bring your completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store between May 16th and September 5th, 2017. Find a Store

3. Choose your FREE reading adventure from the book list featured on the back of the journal.

My kids are excited about being able to choose from the books and have already selected the ones they want to work towards.  I love the fact that they are excited to be reading.

 

Download Now!

Books-a-million’s 2017 Summer Reading Program runs now through August 16th.  As the image above shows, read 4 books from their Reading Challenge secelction, fill out the form and return to receive a free Maze Runner series water bottle.  Click here to find a store near you.

There are book selection for both kids and teens.  The Kids’ selections online are not easy readers, so you may have to help your young reader choose something appropriate (or maybe read aloud to them).


Half Price Books’ summer reading program for kids 14 (or 8th grade) and under is for June and July.

Once you’ve read 300 minutes, turn in your completed log to earn HPB Bookworm Bucks.   By August 31, cash in your HPB Bookworm Bucks in store for books, music, movies & games.- Half Price Books bookmark

While 300 minutes may seem like a large amount, it works out to just 10 minutes a day for 30 days.

If you need ideas for young ones, they have put together a list of Alphabet books as well as books for even younger ones. You are encouraged to read aloud to your kids if needed.

LifeWay R.E.A.D. - Summer Reading Program 2017

Join us on our 2017 Summer Reading Quest with Bibleman, June 1 to Aug. 31. We want to help you and your family promote the love of reading in your home as well as encouraging the love of God’s Word through reading His Scripture. This program is geared toward grades 1 through 6, but all are welcome to join in the adventure.

Read six books over the course of the summer and memorize six Scripture verses. Then, turn in a completed summer reading journal at your local LifeWay store to earn a free book and a new free Bible.

Join them in-store for a Kickoff Party May 26-27 to receive your FREE Summer Reading Program Journal, Bookmark and Pencil. At that time you will also be able to purchase books from the recommended reading list at 40% off!

Turn in your reading journals by August 31, 2017

Read 10

For every 10 books you read, we’ll give you one free*. What’s the catch? You just have to write a short report telling us: 1. Your name and age 2. The title and author of the book 3. Why you liked or disliked the book You can even include drawings. When you’ve finished your 10 book reports, bring them to your favorite Bookmans and we’ll reward you with a free book for all that hard work.  – Bookman’s Programs Page

Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange has locations in Arizona.  While many of you may not live or visit these areas, it is a great example of finding a reading program at a location you may not have thought to look.  We visited a Bookman’s a few years ago, while in the Tuscon area on vacation, and loved it.  The initial reason for going was to attend their story time, as we were looking for things to do with 4 little boys  under 4 (we had nephews along with us).  While the kids were listening to the story, I got to indulge myself (my husband was with the kids) and look through a large selection of used books.  We came away with several classics for a very reasonable price.  I probably would have bought more, but we were flying home, so space was limited.

There is also a Kid’s Club, which offers enrolled kids a discount on books, as well as sending them a gift certificate on their birthday.

*The free book come in the form of a $10 certificate to be used in the store. I could not find the information online, but a call to one of their stores confirmed they are still doing this program

mcalendars

Chuck E. Cheese is a restaurant I did not grow up living near.  However, there was a time or two that we went for a party and I always had fun going.  With George and Jack being on the young side, and easily overwhelmed, we have not gone before.

I was surprised to find that they offer a very diverse reward program.  Fill out one of the calendars, bring it in, and earn 10 free tokens.  Their calendars are one that will help you form good habits in your kids and include the following calendars: reading, picking up your room, doing homework first, no picking your nose, daily chores, and more.  In all, they have 15 different calendars to choose from.  Additionally they have other awards you can earn and redeem for 10 free tokens.

A food purchase may be required to receive your tokens.

“Book Adventure is a fun, free way to motivate your child to read! Kids in grades K-8 can search for books, read them offline, come back to quiz on what they’ve read, and earn prizes for their reading success.” – Book Adventure website

We have yet to participate in Book Adventure, as our kids have been too young previously.  Their prizes page does include some unique items that the kids can earn points toward.  Teachers can also set prizes for their classes.

summer-reading-challenge

“The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a free online program designed to motivate and excite your kids around reading books this summer. Kids can log the minutes they spend reading, play games, earn virtual rewards, and enter sweepstakes, all in an effort to set a new reading world record for summer 2015!” – Scholastic Reading Challenge

Scholastic’s 2017 Summer Reading Challenge begins May 8 and ends September 8.

“During the summer months, DoD-MWR Libraries around the world will host a range of free activities for children, teens, and adults that encourage and support a love of reading. Participants also can earn incentives by reaching their reading goals.”

If you do not live near a base or libray on base, there is also a Virtual Summer Reading Program available.

 

Keep an eye out for the following programs this summer:

Kids can earn $10 with our Summer Reading Program.

TD Bank had a summer reading program in 2016, which rewarded readers with money in their bank accounts for reading so many books.  They have not said yet whether they will do it again in 2017.

 

 

May 172017
 

how to tackle the challenges of a less than perfect garden collage

Each garden is unique in its challenges and abilities.  That is part of the fun, and frustration, of gardening.

Add in to this the fact that each gardener is different – desiring different things from their garden, using it differently, and having different abilities and time with which to dedicate their skills.  This is where we often find ourselves growing or letting go.

With our new yard, I was looking forward to a younger yard, one where perhaps the need to water and increase soil nutrients would be the biggest worries.

I was wrong.

While the previous owner took great care of the inside of the house, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the outdoors were not where a lot of time was spent.  If there was time spent there, it was not on landscaping or improving soil quality.

The first time  I mowed was about 3 weeks after it should have been done.  It actually needed mowed the week I had surgery, the week after we had just taken a family vacation … it was not happening.  I had assumed I would be up for the task after a week or so of recovery.

Wrong again.

In order to mow the new yard, I had to load our non-selfpropelled lawn mower into the back of my car and drive it over there.  Then I had to unload it and push it around the yard.

“Take it easy and let others do things for you,” said the doc.  In other words, no lifting or pushing.  I assumed with it being the beginning of the season, I could get away with a few weeks off.

Wrong again.

By the time I was able to get to the lawn, here is what the backyard looked like:

new yard initial

Not exactly a monoculture of grass.  I was thankful it had not reached what I dub the “hay-mowing stage”, where all the grass is a lush 3 feet tall and you may as well buy a goat.

The weeds were/are still abundant and growing at a wonderful rate.  The soil you can see will easily tell you that topsoil is sorely missing.  Certain parts of the yard are getting too much water, while other sections are not getting enough sun. Other parts are doing great in regards to sun and water, but also have some serious weeds (beyond the standard crabgrass, dandelions, etc.)

So much for being an easy, challenge-free yard to begin our gardening adventure at the new house.

wet shaded yard initial

How are we going to tackle these challenge and turn them into something which will be productive and an asset?  While I do not have all the answers right at this moment, I do know one thing – small steps add up to big changes.

With that in mind I have decided to do those small steps, focusing on places where I can initially make the biggest impact or where the issue is something which can be handled quickly.  These small, high impact steps will help keep me moving forward.

#1 Choose a place to start, something which will make the biggest impact

First up – regular mowing, blowing the grass clippings back on the yard, as well as beginning a late spring garden.

By starting here I can remove one of the largest visual challenges.  It may not be the toughest thing to fix, but it will help me start feeling like the end is not impossible.

Also, by mowing, I am keeping this aspect from becoming a larger issue as the weeks pass.

Looking at planting calendars from my state’s colleges, I noticed it was not too late to start some of the vegetables we like.  What I did not have time for was to build a raised bed.

While out shopping one day, I noticed stacks of potting soil next to the cash registers.  I picked up a bag (and later another one), took it home and planted seeds. (more details to come).  This is probably the smallest garden I have had in over a decade.  Not really an issues, as I am not looking to provide all of our vegetables for the year.  My goal was to have a few fresh things now without causing too much work.

In a few months I will look into creating a late summer/fall garden.

to be continued …

May 152017
 

cup of matcha latte

I am always on the look-out for new recipes and foods to try.  Unfortunately, that does not always mean I have time or the ingredients to test them out.  However, I try to keep my eyes open for things that will fit into our menu in the upcoming weeks.

Sometimes, something catches my eye and begs me to get it then figure out what to do with it.  While this is not the normal way I function, it does happen rarely.

This was one of those times.

match tea powder

As you may have picked up over the past several weeks, I like a cup of hot tea.  Usually a red or black tea, preferably nothing fruity.  Knowing green tea is also good for you, I had picked up a box a few months back with the intent to add it to my mornings.

I didn’t.  It sat there mocking me on the shelf every time I opened the door.

Once I began having a cup of tea in the mornings, while watching the sun rise, I decided it was time to open the box of green tea and let some of the natural benefits work their magic on my healing body.  As it turns out, while it is not necessarily my preferred tea, it was not bad.  Actually, I was beginning to like the flavor.

When I was given the opportunity to try out Matcha (ground green tea powder) I decided it was a safe, yet exciting, step to take into trying something new.  “I like green tea, so … surely I can find some way to make this so I like it, too. After all, it has a lot of health benefits and I have not exactly been going to the gym lately.”

And find a way I did.

Thanks to their website I found a recipe for a green tea latte.  How great is that? Not only does it call for matcha powder, but it also contains coconut oil.  AND it is a latte.  I love lattes.

making matcha tea

While the recipe was for a Bulletproof Keto Matcha Latte, I did not need all the restrictions. In the end, I did make a few adjustments due to not having certain items or not needing certain dietary restrictions.

  1. I had no coconut milk in the house, instead substituting regular Vitamin D milk.
  2. With a lack of a milk frother, I found my hand blender to work well enough for my tastes.  Thankfully I am not a huge fan of froth on my drinks, so the results were exactly as I like them.

bulletproof matcha tea latte

One of my concerns was the size of the packaging.  For the price, I was expecting something larger.  However, once I looked through the recipe and found I would only need 0.5-1 teaspoon of the powder, I realized how many cups this would make and the size was not such an issue.

If this is something you often order when you are out and about, at $4 a cup, or would like to keep as a special treat or a healthy alternative, then I could see where it would be a good deal.

If, however, you are looking to make several cups a day because you are an avid tea drinker and want to watch your costs, then you may want to counter the cost with a few cups of a cheaper option of tea.

If cost is not a deterrent to making several cups a day, then go for it! It was easy to put together and the coconut oil did not clump once the drink cooled off. (I was not in an extremely cold setting.)

 

This post contains affiliate links.

May 132017
 

concrete flower container with pic borderContests. Giveaways. Sweepstakes.  No matter what you call them, these little gems can be fun to enter.  It is even better when you win and open your mailbox to find something besides bills.

However, in order to win, you must know about them and enter them.  While I can help a little bit with the first step, the second one is up to you!

Here are some giveaways from around the web. A few things these giveaways have in common:

  1. A garden theme
  2. They are open at some point in this month, though closing dates vary

I try to also have these common themes, though that is not always the case:

  1. They are not on major commercial sites
  2. The majority do not have thousands of entries (so the chance of winning it higher for you)

I hope you find something that peaks your interest.

IMG_20140706_125450329

SEWCIAL BEE SAMPLER

“Julie at The Intrepid Thread is offering a $20 gift certificate to spend however you’d like at her shop!” Enter now through Monday, May 15th!

 Cottage Garden Collection Fat Quarter Bundle

With a review like this, how can you not want to find a craft in order to use these prints? – “The Cottage Garden Fat Quarter Bundle will give you those cozy feelings with prints of woodland animals, ladybugs, strawberries, and other whimsical details.”  Ends May 21, 2017 at 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time.  Note: there are a lot of ads to skip or click “No” on to get to the confirmation page.  You will get there though without having to say yes to any of the offers.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses Giveaway

“Enter to win a Proven Winners Rose Garden package featuring the At Last Rose, Oso Easy Double Red Rose and Oso Petit Pink Rose and Dave Thompson’s Organic Healthy Grow fertilizer to get your plants off to a great start!” Ends May 21. 2017 at 11:59pm CT. Open to legal U.S. residents of IL, IN, IA, MI or WI who are 18 years or older.

Sharpen your seed skills with Botanical Interests & $50 gift card giveaway!

“…you can buy your seed anywhere from the local garden center to the grocery store or even in bulk at a farmer’s market. But it’s quality over quantity today as we sift through seed. That’s why we are over the moon excited to have partnered with Botanical Interests and for your chance to win a $50 gift card from them to choose your own seed.”  Ends May 31, 2017

Nifty Homestead Giveaway – May 2017

“Spring is officially here and with summer right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about tomatoes. We love tomatoes so much that we wanted to do something a little special this year and make sure that you’re all set for the fruitful season ahead!” – Ends May 31, 2017

 

If you know of others, please leave a comment below. I will check it out and add it, if appropriate.

May 102017
 

 

Regular turning of your compost pile is one of those garden jobs that often is forgotten.  Turning your pile over does several things:

  1. Mixes the new items you have added to your pile with your older items.
  2. Allows air to get to items that may previously have not had it.
  3. Discourages pesky insects (gnats, flies, mosquitoes, etc.) from gathering and laying eggs by covering food scraps not yet decomposed. This is only an issue if your pile is near where people will be, and therefore they will be pesky.
  4. Speeds up the decomposition of your pile.  In other words, you will have compost that you can use faster.  (This is my favorite reason.)

If you are in a cooler climate, or just a down right cold area, you may have to wait till a warmer day. This is especially true if your pile is under snow or otherwise unable to be worked.

May 092017
 

Schoola.com

Earlier this week I went through the kids’ clothes with them, paring down on excess, passing along 2+ paper sacks of clothes no longer needed, and looking for where we needed to fill in.  With the weather all over the place, I had to leave out both cool and warm weather clothing.  Thankfully it was still cool, as I found 4 more pairs of next-size-up pants for George in our clothing totes.  However, he only had 2 pairs of shorts which would fit him. Yikes!

Buying ahead and also second-hand are two ways we are able to keep our clothing budget in check.  This is especially important with one kid who likes to change sizes quickly and is 4 sizes ahead of his (not much) younger brother.

Schoola has been a sanity-saver more than once.  We have always been impressed with the quality of their clothing, their honesty in the condition of each item, the shipping times, and the knowledge that our purchase is helping a school raise funds for various programs.

Currently, Schoola is running an early Mother’s Day savings event – Happy Mother’s Day! Get 50% off with code MOM at Schoola.com. Offer is valid 5/10-5/14.*

Know someone who would be as excited as you are about this deal?  Send a friend $15 off to shop the amazing deals on children’s clothes at Schoola.com and you’ll get $15 off too. Shop now!

And don’t forget, orders of $25 or more always qualify for free shipping!

*Fine print: Discounts and credits do not apply toward the free shipping threshold or promotional minimums. Discounts are applied to the post-credit order value. New-with-tags items are not eligible for purchase with discounts or credits.

 

This post contains affiliate links.  If you click through and purchase something, we will receive a small amount in return, at no added cost to you.