The Groundskeeper

Oct 302017
 

I was compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thank you for helping support this blog.

The end of the calendar year is always a busy one – end of gardening season, school is in full swing, several major holidays, and several birthdays, all packed within a two month time frame.

Planning ahead has always been one way I try to keep things from getting too chaotic.  I would rather be able to focus on enjoying what is going on around us … or being able to spend time at home with a book and cup of warm drink of choice.

Some years I do better at planning for the year’s end, while some years find me way behind learning to let things go.

This year, I am not only planning to have gift shopping completed by the beginning of December, but I am also getting a head start on crafting with the winter season and Christmas holiday in mind.

If it were left up to George, we would live in a craft store, have unlimited funds, and have an unlimited supply of glue and glitter, with no particular instructions on how to use any of the items on hand.  The reality is, though, we live in a house, I like knowing where the craft is headed, and only have as much money as our bank account says. As we also like to be warm, dressed, and fed, that money can not solely go to crafts.  Enter – Dollar Tree.

Thanks to this store, not only are we able to let our imaginations run wild (within reason), but we can do so without breaking the bank.  Even better, we can order supplies online and have them shipped to the house!

Last week I surprised George with a bag of craft supplies from the Dollar Tree, along with a few other items we had on hand.  We took everything outside, put together a few crafts, and talked about other ideas.

There was a slight breeze, which made a few of the actions more difficult to do than I had anticipated (hint: ‘snow’ does not weigh much, even when in a bowl).  Next time I will double check the weather before doing it outside.

We ended up making two ornaments and a flower/light arrangement.  Below you can follow along as we put these together, as well as read my thoughts on future attempts at these particular crafts.

Flower Arrangement

Having family members who are allergic to candles (the soot from the flame makes their sinuses clog up) has meant a lack of candle holders in our house.  However, these batter powered flickering flame ‘candles’ are perfect.  We can add atmosphere without allergies or fire hazards.

I began this craft with George, but the wind outside was causing the glue to dry too quickly.  Later, when I finished it, he was no longer at home.  However, this would have easily been something he could have done with supervision.

Supplies for this craft:

Instructions:

  1. Pull flowers off stems.  You can do this by turning them over, grasping the bottom of them, and pulling hard where they meet the stem.  *You need to keep the plastic part on bottom as part of the flowers; do not pull it off that portion or it all falls apart.
  2. Set one flower aside to glue on top. (Step #7)
  3. Pull the leaves off the stems, to use as filler around the flowers.
  4. Turn glass over. Remove sticker from bottom. Leave glass turned upside down.
  5. Working on one flower at a time, add a spot of hot glue on the bottom of the glass (now the ‘top’).  Work your way around the rim, spacing them evenly.
  6. Take half the leaves and glue them between the flowers on the top, skipping every other space.
  7. Take your reserved flower and glue it in the middle of the top.
  8. Turn glass upside down, continuing to hold it in your hand.
  9. Glue the remaining leaves to the underside alternating them to not line up with leaves on top.  If you have extra leaves, places them as desired.
  10. Cut length of ribbon.
  11. Fold length of ribbon in half width-wise.
  12. Wrap ribbon around the stem of the glass.  As my ribbon had no wire and was very flexible, I was able to wrap it a few times.
  13. Either tie the ribbon in a knot, or tuck the ends up and glue them in place.
  14. Place in desired location, with battery powered candle underneath arrangement. (see picture above.)

Notes: if a flower, leaf, etc. comes loose, add additional glue to help hold in place.  This was an easy craft to do and is something I would definitely do again.  There was one candle and extra ribbon remaining, enough to have done a second such arrangement.

Painted Ornament 

Making ornaments seemed like a great idea for a kid who loves to be creative – no two need be alike.  After seeing this craft online I thought it was the perfect thing to try.  The variety of colors, no need to be perfect or color in the lines, and the ease of doing it fit all of my requirements.  Even better, we had several various paint colors already at home.

Supplies for this craft:

  • plastic ornament
  • pouch of stickers
  • various paints
  • …and napkins for when paint invariably ends up on hands or the table.

Instructions:

  1. Take top off ornament. Set aside for use after paint is dry.
  2. Set the ornament upright, or balance it.  Add a few drops of color into the ornament.
  3. Rotate the ornament, allowing paint to spread around.
  4. Add several drops of another color.
  5. Rotate again.  It is okay if the colors begin to mix, it adds interest.
  6. When finished adding paint, apply stickers to the outside.
  7. Place upside down over plastic/paper cup till dry.  The cup will catch any paint which drips out.

Notes: This is not a craft we will do again.  Or if we do, I will try to clean out the inside with alcohol first.  Or use stickers only and completely skip the paint.

Here is why:

As the paint was drying, it kept sliding down.  I would rotate the ornament, the paint would spread. I would set it down, the paint would slide down. I would rotate … well, you get it.  In the end, most of the colors mixed into a lovely purple, yet there are streaks inside where you can see straight through.  It looks like someone used their finger to make vertical stripes.

George had fun mixing the paint.  His disappointment when it did not stay, though, was obvious.

A second ornament we did was much easier and is something I will do again.  I did not take pictures of this process, as I was trying to take a video.  However, the steps are super simple:

Supplied for this craft:

Instructions:

  1. Remove top of ornament
  2. Using funnel, add about 1/4 cup of faux snow *If there is too much later, you can easily dump out what you do not need.
  3. Insert small figurine
  4. Put cap back on ornament

That is it.  This was so easy and fun, we will most likely do this again at some point.  This would be an easy ‘craft’ if you are needing to do a lot of ornaments.

Note: Mister Minifigure would not stay stilling up.  However, we had fun helping him ‘jump’ in the snow.  If you are wanting the figure to stay upright, I would try to hot glue them to the bottom first, let the glue cool, then add faux snow.

Thank you, Dollar Tree, for a fun Sunday afternoon crafting in the sunshine.

Oct 292017
 

In April I shared a bit about growing green onions, also called onion sets.  What if you are wanting larger onions, though?  Onion sets do not always grow into big onions, especially if they are meant to be green onions.

Now, in most parts of the country, this is not the time to be planting onions.  However, it is always a good time to learn.  If you are wanting to increase your knowledge of onions for next Spring, here you go.

Oct 272017
 

mason jars

After spending all the time canning produce from your garden or elsewhere, the last thing you want to happen is to have jar go bad and not realize it till you “smell something funky” when you go to your pantry.

Take a few minutes to look over the jars you have.

Are they all still sealed?

Do any need to be wiped down?  If so, do it now before you forget.

If any have gone bad, dump the contents and sanitize the jars.  Check for chips before storing them till they are needed again.

Oct 262017
 

IMG_20160224_144515343

By now, I think most of you are aware that one of our children is home schooled.  The other one technically is out-of-home schooled, a.k.a. goes to public school.  In the end this makes both of our kids ‘schooled’.  However, the schooling each receives is not the same.

The difference?  The goal of each.

This fact has become more obvious over the past year, and is something I have begun to feel guilty about.

Public schools have various goals, some official, others not.  In the end, their focus on academic measurements shows they are more worried about imparting facts and “knowledge” upon students.  Yes, they would also like them to become good people (hence anti-bullying campaigns, food drives, etc.), but the diploma at the end has everything to do with whether you could recite back what they told you.

Our home school focuses not only on the academics, but also the person.  That last part (the person) is something I would argue is even more important than the academics.

How we work on that aspect of the kids’ education takes on different looks at different times and ages.  Some of it is so subtle, even I did not pick up on it at first.

cooking hotdogs child

Moving has afforded us a welcome change, a small thing that most would have brushed off, but which I was so happy about – George rides the bus to and from school.

This means I no longer have to get George ready for school and:

  • gather up all I need to drive to school
  • warm up the car
  • wake up Jack
  • try to get  him dressed, or carried to the car half awake in pajamas, kicking the whole way while he is abruptly shocked out of Dream Land (he is one of those slow to wake sort of kids lately)
  • drive to a building with lots of kids around, reminding Jack of all he is missing
  • a quick “Goodbye” while I try to get my social, talkative ADD kid into a building on time, while sitting in my car (his theory – Time? What is time? Life is too short to be constrained by something as pointless as a clock!)
  • back to the house
  • then both Jack and I inside, where we both are so out of sorts it takes us another 30 minutes to transition back to being at the house and ready to move on with out morning.

Then we repeat it all for the afternoon.

We only lived a mile from school.  So it was not even the transportation time that was the issue; it was the disruption of routines, the emotional reminders.

We could have paid $50 a month and cost George 2 hours of his time each day to ride the bus. The mile to our house.  With a bus driver I did not impart full confidence in being able to keep the older kids from harassing the smaller ones.

It did not take much to see that the cost to George (40 hours of his time each month and potentially bullying) was greater than the discomfort to me.

Now?

  • Jack gets to sleep till he wakes up naturally – 6:30 or 8:10, it does not matter, and he can take 2 minutes or 20 to wake up
  • George rides at most 20 minutes on his bus each way
  • The bus ride is just enough to help George begin his mental transition from school to home
  • For the most part, our routines at home are not disrupted by the brief minutes needed to collect George from the bus stop
  • I am very confident in the bus driver, as all the kids are sitting two to a seat, fairly in order, and disembarking in a very regulated state every day
  • Jack no longer has be presented daily with a reminder of what he could be missing out on

There are days when we still have to pick George up or drop him off, but those days are very limited.

Then came the issue of what to do once George was at home.

to be continued…

 

 

Oct 242017
 

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for helping support this blog at no cost to you.


The holidays are close and the online rewards site Swagbucks has a smart and fun way for you to earn and save while you spend. This is one of my most used ways to save money on Christmas shopping, as well as earn gift cards used to purchase gifts.

Swagbucks is hosting another round of Shopping Swago!

What is SWAGO you ask? It’s a bingo-inspired promotion run by Swagbucks, a website that rewards you with points (called SB) for completing everyday online activities. You can redeem those SB for free gift cards. If you’ve never used Swagbucks, participating in SWAGO is a great introduction to the site and an easy way to earn a good amount of points quickly.

Click here to get started!
Here’s what you need to know to get your 200 SB Bonus (and don’t worry, you don’t have to make a purchase to complete a pattern):

  • Shop Swago will begin on Monday, October 23rd at 9am PT/12pm ET, make sure you hit “Join” otherwise you won’t get credit for completing the action items. Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete.
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.
  • You have a limited amount of time to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value – up to 300 SB – enough for your first $3 gift card.
  • Once you’ve achieved a pattern the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.
  • The game ends Friday, October 27th at 12pm PDT/3pm EDT. So make sure to hit “Submit” on the pattern you wish to submit. If you don’t hit “Submit” before the game ends you won’t receive your SB bonus.Also, if you sign up through me this month, you’ll get a $10 rebate when you make your first purchase via Swagbucks Shopping! You can activate it in the “Swag Ups” area of “My Account”

So far this month I have earned almost $30 worth of SB, mainly through Discover activities, but also surveys and watching videos.  None of the SB earned were through online shopping.  I suspect that will change in the upcoming month as I begin to take advantage of online deals to finish shopping for Christmas gifts, especially for those whom we will not be near during the Christmas season.

Have you started thinking about your Christmas shopping yet?  Are you already finished with it?  My progress has varied from year to year … with last year’s Christmas being finished in February…1.5 months after the lovely gift giving holiday.  This year, I am doing much better.

Oct 222017
 

It is easy to get wrapped up in expectation and miss the fact that these expectations are really not all that important in the grand scheme of things.  As I was reading the news this morning, I came across an article which caught my attention.  I read it, then went about my morning of getting George on the bus.

As I came back toward the house, I mentally hit myself over the head again, as I looked at the grass hanging over the edge of the sidewalk.  Looking down the street, I could see how the neighbors had edged their sidewalks.  “Ugh.  My yard looks so unkempt.  They must think I am the worst neighbor ever.”  Then, at that particular moment of berating myself, I remembered the article and everything was put into perspective again.

While we like to have a yard that looks well kept, it is not so important that I spend every available hour working on it.  I am not going to be all OCD about grass hanging over the edge of the sidewalk.  Instead I am going to spend my time, at this point in my life, working on educating my kids, taking them outside to play, making meals for everyone, thinking ahead to what I want the yard to actually look like in 5 years, 10 years, etc.  For now, I will let the grass grow over the edge till I decide it is the week to edge the grass in both yard.

This train of thought made me pause, “What else are first world problems in regards to gardening?”

Life at the edge  drought in Somalia

Venezuela’s farmers: ‘Planting for the revolution’  He says the government’s tight controls on imports have made it impossible to get hold of seeds and fertilizer.

“It’s crippling us. Many people round here have the land all prepared for sowing, but we can’t get hold of the seeds.”

Venezuela’s new decree: Forced farm work for citizens

Venezuela is telling hungry city dwellers to grow their own food

The Hidden Radicalism of Southern Food

Kuki Gallmann, ‘I Dreamed of Africa’ Author, Is Shot in Kenya

Volcanic Minerals, Not Worms, Caused Disease Outbreak in Uganda

So, yeah, grass growing over the edge of my sidewalk…not really at the top of the list of things to really worry about.  The world will keep on turning and I will remember to be thankful for what we do have and not sweat the small stuff.

Oct 212017
 

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for helping support the running of this blog, at no additional cost to you.

As you are looking to bring your outdoor gardening season to an end, or perhaps you already have, this is a great time to see what yard items might need to be replaced for the Spring. You can find great deals online and in-store on garden and patio items right now!

I have seen a variety of items while shopping, from fertilizer to hoses, garden flags to flower pots.  And least you think you must go to a garden store or big box store to find deals, I have even seen them marked down at my grocery store.

However, one of my favorite ways to shop currently is online.  I can save time and gas of running from store to store, and do not have to load and unload (unwilling) kids in order to see what discounts may be available.

Here are a few deals I came either came across today:

As low as $29.99 (78% off), the 10 ft offset cantilever patio umbrella outdoor market hanging umbrellas & crank with cross base , 8 ribs has great reviews (4.3 out of 5 stars).  Shipping is free for Amazon Prime members. Prices vary depending on the color choice.Here is something which has been on my list all summer, a grill cover.  Ours did not make it through the move in very good shape.  I used to think these were an unneeded accessory.  However, after not having one for a few months, I realize it is a necessity to help protect our grill from the weather, thereby extending its life.

At just over $16 the Syntus Grill Cover with Grill Brush 58 Inches Waterproof Heavy Duty BBQ Covers Gas Grill Cover for Weber, Brinkmann, Char Broil, Holland, Jenn Air is very much in our budget, especially since I can use a gift card to purchase it, and definitely much cheaper than buying a new grill due to rust and decline from weather exposure.iconSolar lights are one of my favorite garden accents.  Not only do they save on having to run electrical wiring throughout the garden, but they can be placed in a larger variety of spots. Batteries are needed, though this is still by far a cheaper option than installing underground wiring.

These Solar Nature Lanterns are currently 50 % off their regular price.  If you wait a month or so, till we are closer to Christmas, you should also begin to see sales on batteries.

What ever it is you may be noticing needs updating or replaced, now is a great to search for its replacement.  While most post people are thinking fall holidays, take advantage of sales and start off the next Spring with more money in your pocket and a garden ready to be enjoyed.

Oct 202017
 

Not sure what to do with an excess of apples?  Here are a few ideas, as well as links to recipes and instructions.

Applesauce – NCHFP and PYO

Sliced Apples – NCHFP

Apple Cider Vinegar – PickYourOwn

Apple Cider – PYO

 

I tried making Apple Cider Vinegar a few years ago.  While it was not hard, I will try it again only if I also have someone near me who knows how to do it.  Let’s just say I think it ended up being a bit too fermented. 😉

Oct 182017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

You miiiiiiight have missed my post a few days ago about a  that will change dinnertime in your house in a big way. I don’t want you to miss it though, so here it goes again!

I’m excited to be connected with Katie Kimball, the “kitchen whisperer” who has taught thousands of families how to cook and tens of thousands of kids to (gulp) use sharp knives safely (including ours). Apparently, her kids actually stay at the table all throughout dinner most of the time – and she’s willing to share her strategies with us! 😉

These secrets will make dinner with your kids sound better than a hangnail, and you can expect more veggies to be going down the hatch than ever before. #itcouldhappen #evenpickyeaterscanchange

It’s kicking off soon – the first event is on THURSDAY OCTOBER 19th at 1PM EASTERN (10AM PACIFIC), so take 20 secs and register now:

YES! RESERVE MY SPOT!

You definitely should plan to make it LIVE because you get a special gift just for coming(a 10-minute cooking lesson for kids!!!)

If that time doesn’t work for you, you can also catch it on:

* Tuesday, Oct. 24th, at 7PM Eastern (4PM Pacific)

or

* Saturday, Oct. 28th, at 4PM Eastern (1PM Pacific)

Here’s a bit of what you’ll learn:

  • 7 Tips to Help you Raise Adventurous Eaters (even if you’re not one yourself…yet)
  • How to Make the Clean Plate Club Totally Unnecessary For the Good of Your Kids
  • The Magic of Doing Something Crazy at the Table
  • The Biggest Mistake Parents Make when inviting their kids into the kitchen…and how to avoid it.

If you’re already registered, awesome! Really try to make it live to get that knife class for your kids, but no matter what, you’ll get the replay, so you can register without checking the calendar and still feel good about it:

REGISTER HERE

We all put a lot of time and effort into being good parents, and training our kids in life skills and mealtime manners is part of it – but it can be hard to know just where to start. I often feel like the focus of mealtimes are getting the kids to not complain about some aspect of the meal, or to stay sitting till they have actually eaten enough to not be hungry again in 15 minutes.

So whether you feel just like me or the polar opposite, unless your kids are already competing for the healthiest eater award, you can probably use some encouragement and fresh ideas for meal times (and kitchen prep).

I’m looking forward to hearing what Katie has to say!

PS – The live event is totally free and all online. Expect no more than an hour with as much actionable info as possible packed in to respect your valuable time as a parent!! Don’t miss it!