Archive for ‘home’

May 14, 2012

the soft soap recipe

my husband and i have a fondness for mrs. meyer’s soft soap.  we used to purchase it just when we needed a pick-me-up but then we became so attached we began adding it to the grocery list on a regular basis.  if anyone has used any of the mrs. meyer’s products i don’t need to tell you that they aren’t cheap, so when i saw the recipe for soft soap using a bar of mrs. meyer’s as a base floating around on pinterest, i repinned immediately and decided to give it a try.

when i had assembled my ingredients, i discovered that pinterest had eaten my pin so a quick google search soon revealed that there are many recipes out there.  the one that i chose used a bar of mrs. meyer’s soap, one gallon of water, and 2T of glycerin.

since the recipes are so easy to come by i won’t repost here.  suffice it to say the soap is grated, heated in a large stock pot with the water and the glycerin and allowed to cool.  the prep was super easy and came together very quickly ~ well within an hour.

i noticed on some posted recipes, there were comments that the soap was very thin when completed.  i found this to be true.  it did resemble skim milk both in consistency and appearance.  the key here is to allow it to cool for a significant length of time.  after it has cooled, it does have somewhat of a lumpy appearance and i did need to whisk it before pouring it into the dispenser.

my thoughts on the finished product:

~this is a $ saver and one i will definitely be using on a regular basis however:

~the scent is not as strong, and i have to say that is one of the reasons i loved mrs. meyer’s soap.  the scents are so clean and unique.  i can still smell lemon verbena though, and considering the savings i’m willing to overlook this tiny flaw.

~the consistency is still not the same as the original.  perhaps it was the amount of glycerin used (i saw other recipes calling for just 1T) but it seems a bit slimey and often times a drop is left on the pump after use which can make a mess on the countertop.

~after whisking the soap to pour it into the dispenser, i poured the rest into a gallon milk jug for later use.  it promptly solidified.  not rock solid.  more like cream of wheat.  how i will get it out when we need it next remains to be seen. :/

~one blog recommended giving the final product as inexpensive gifts. um. no. don’t do that.  this isn’t *that* great.  if you want to give soap as a gift my suggestion is to make it from scratch.  sorry.

bottom line: if you have a free hour one afternoon and want to save some $ give it a try; it works.


April 16, 2012

moving the maple

when we signed on with our builder the original plan was to start around the first of this month.  we’ve had some nasty weather however, and for that reason, things have been delayed by a few weeks.


i’m so excited about our new place, but decluttering, getting rid of things, putting everything else in a box, and moving it all from here to there – not so much.  in order to make the process easier i’m starting early and just doing a little bit at a time; sorting through and packing up the things we don’t use on a daily basis.

this includes some of my plants.

yes, i plan to take with me a few things growing in my yard.  one is a japanese maple given to me by my parents.  the other is a rose bush given to me by a dear friend.

i know it seems really crazy to try to bring these along when they are both pretty happy right now where they are, but they mean a great deal to me.  they have very great sentimental value and the thought of leaving them behind in the care of someone who doesn’t know what they are and why they are there is unbearable to me.  so they are coming along,  even though they may not like it.

we started last weekend with the japanese maple.

we located the largest plastic pot we could find, about 20″ and drilled holes in the bottom:

i put stones in the bottom for drainage:

we filled it with a small amount of potting soil:

and then we set to work digging her out.  well, my husband did that.  i took pictures.  here she is:

we worked, and worked around the base; digging and lifting in order to get a good sized root ball.

pause here for a brief look at the east side garden:

the majority (if not all) of these plants will stay here.  i’m still undecided about the siberian iris….

back to the tree.  we then lifted her out, and placed her in the pot.

we then added some more soil, some mulch, and with the help of a wheel barrow moved her to the back porch.  we have no pictures to document this little journey because i had to put down the camera and hang on to her to keep her from toppling out of the wheel barrow.

she made it though just fine, where we positioned her and watered her in.

i was pleased that she showed very little signs of stress and seems to have transitioned quite well.  so well in fact, i’m thinking we may keep her in a container permanently and use her for the outdoor seating area of the master bedroom we have planned for our future place.

isn’t she lovely?




March 5, 2012

land shopping part 2

this is a continuation of land shopping part 1

this particular spot wasn’t what one thinks of when one thinks of a farm.  the only real place to put a small home and a garden was on a flat, narrow “ridge” situated between two “vallies” each containing a pond.  it didn’t fit the image we’d had of a flat grassy plain, but it was beautiful. and standing on the ridge that fall afternoon, looking at the trees just starting to turn, i was swept off my feet.  within a few weeks we had a contract on the place.

and then, almost as soon as we’d signed on the dotted line, a very uneasy feeling began to settle in.  something felt wrong.  we couldn’t articulate or figure out what it might be.  there was a deed restriction on the land.  i had never seen one before and in my opinion, the wording was very harsh.  while we made our intention of a hobby farm clear and put  in writing, i still feared that our ducks, goats and chickens, and our “temporary” home (even though it wasn’t a mobile) might get us into trouble.  we kept asking questions hoping to stumble across whatever it might be that was causing our apprehension.   when all of our questions were answered satisfactorily we chocked it all up to “prenuptial jitters” of sorts and moved to closing.

then, within just days of sealing the deal we were given the final survey of the land.

it soon became clear that our apprehension was there for a reason.  the survey showed a significant number easements on the place.  the easements could not be lifted, and the  majority of them centered around  and on the one and only spot to build: the ridge. as far as building a farmette,  the land was pretty much worthless.   the deal bottomed out the day before we were to close.

as soon as we were released from the contract we both knew where we wanted to be.  we wanted to go back to to our original plan.  if we had gleaned anything from our previous experience it was this: go with your gut.  learning that the ten acres with a pond was still on the market, we took another sunday afternoon drive, and this time we managed to drive right to it.  when we got out of the car and stood in the middle of a grassy field we both knew without even saying to each other that this. was. IT.

within six weeks it was ours.

February 27, 2012

why folding the laundry is so terribly difficult…

because i no longer get started when i am joined by this little guy who wants to help:

he jumps into the basket,

situates himself comfortably,

then burroughs down…


until he falls asleep.

…and he looks so cute and cuddly, that i just don’t have the heart to remove him.

February 16, 2012

farmette? or homestead?

last friday we became first time land owners.  we now own ten acres in a very small farming community with a population of less than 1,800.  we’ve spent the past several months dreaming, scheming, scratching out figures, drawing up floor plans, researching,  land shopping, then land shopping again (we had one false start), and finally closing out on a place we absolutely love.

the desire we’ve had for some time was to have a place where we could have a large garden, a few fruit trees, and some small livestock; a place that would basically become self-sustaining.  i use the word “self-sustaining” loosely because to some self-sustaining means that one crafts one’s bricks from the dirt in one’s yard – then uses said bricks to build one’s house.  that isn’t at all what i mean.  i mean self-sustaining in the sense that one simply grows and produces the majority of one’s own food but still unashamedly uses the grocery store from time to time  for staples.

last year when asked about our plans for an acreage i described it as “ a sort of homestead” .  i said “sort of” because our scenario doesn’t really fit that of the typical homestead: about 2-5 acres with a garden and some small livestock.  at the same time i couldn’t really say we were planning a  farm because your average farm consists of several hundred acres and a series of out buildings.  i later picked up the term “farmette”.  not only did it describe our situation to a “t” , but  i loved the sound of the word.  wiki describes a farmette as “a small residential farm run by an owner who earns income from a source other than the farm. “  farmettes typically are no more than fifty acres,  and contain a garden and some small livestock.

our farmette will feature ten acres and a pond, a small simple “starter home”, a single outbuilding to serve as a shop and garage, a honkin’ big garden,  and some small livestock.  for the sake of not getting too overwhelmed, we’ve divided our plan into three phases.  phase one: the actual purchase of the land already being completed.

the second part of our plan is to now build  our home. we’re starting out small and temporary (most likely).   i see this as the modern day equivalent to the sod houses and log cabins of our pioneer ancestors.   i’ve found that in starting out on the land  it is common to use a travel trailer, a mobile home, or in some cases even a yurt as a temporary residence while the permanent home is being built.  but my husband and i are not good at roughing it.  we hate camping.  we must have heat.  we must have running water.  so we’ve decided instead to build a small barn,  influenced by the traditional red barns seen in a children’s story book; and fit it out as a cottage.  it will be very, very simple but i still plan to give it some style.  my decor has evolved over the years, starting out very colefax and fowler, to  williamsburg colonial, now to modernish vintage country chic (is there such a thing?).  my hope is that when we open the front door to our  new home for the first time our reaction will be “this is gorgeous! let’s just stay here!” instead of “omg.  what on earth have we done!?”  once we have the home built we’ll put our current little house on the market, and move.  we’ll do a lot of landscaping (i’m thinking native perennials) and put in a kitchen garden similar in size to what we have now.  then we’ll purchase three chickens.

phase three will be to establish a very large garden, large enough to provide the majority of our produce with enough left over to freeze and can.  we have also toyed with the idea of growing enough to someday enter the farmer’s market arena as a small business.  the garden phase  will also include some apple trees and blackberry bushes.  then, we’ll  purchase a few more chickens.

if i’ve learned anything since we’ve started acting on our  plan, it is that things never go according to the plan.  so i’m trying to keep it all loose and just go with the flow.  should however, things actually go as planned, they may look a little something like this:

~ increase the chicken flock to provide adequate eggs and meat

~ add some ducks and turkeys to the mix; maybe geese if they will be nice

~look into the possibility of taking on small ruminants (dairy goats and sheep)

~ train the sheep to graze picturesquely on the front lawn.  ::sigh:: ok maybe not.

~mmmmmaaybe…raise a pig or two so we can have bacon with the eggs

~plant millions of daffodils on the slope below the pond

~toy with the idea of a dairy cow

~contemplate bee keeping

~dig out the pond a little deeper and see what it would take to stock it

and finally:

~build a new-to-look-old-white clapboard farmhouse depending on how much we like our barn cottage and whether or not we decide we need or even want anything more than that.

i know we’ll be crazy busy.  i know it will be a lot of work.  i know it will be a tremendous challenge, but it is a challenge we welcome and we can’t wait to get started.

as for timing?  i really don’t know.  we plan to start as soon as we can but i’m sure we’ll encounter some snags and delays along the way.   again, i plan to just try and go with the flow and in the words of tim gunn “make it work” regardless of what happens.

February 13, 2012

new experiences

this morning i am preparing to call someone about hay.

this is a new experience for me.  i have never discussed hay with anyone in all my life.

until we closed on our property last friday, i didn’t even know it grew hay. it does however, and while we were passing the paperwork back and forth to sign, the seller’s broker presented a small slip of paper containing only a first name, and phone number, and told me  that this fella lived about five miles south of us  (or was it north?).

he is the hay man, apparently, and has been cutting the  hay on our acreage for some time now. the seller and her broker assumed i knew all about hay, how it was mowed, when it was mowed,  how cutters of hay deal in their services and product.  i just nodded dumbly.  “yes, of course, the hay.  we were wondering about that…”

so this morning i am going to give him a call.  i was informed that this call needed to be made soon because at some point something will need to be done with the hay, some sort of spraying schedule or something like that, which has this organic gardener somewhat alarmed; but for the present, i’m letting it go.  i’ve more important things to worry about, such as the orientation of the window above my kitchen sink.

marco and i went out yesterday to evaluate the lay of the land and try to decide how things should be situated.  i spent a good deal of time standing where i hope the sink will go, looking at the view, and deciding if this is exactly where i want to gaze while scrubbing pans.

while surveying the barbed wire fence, i grabbed a switch of something wondering if perhaps this was the hay.   i decided to use it while shopping for paint chips and thought how it would be lovely to tell folks, “yes i had the dining room paint tinted to match the color of our hay”,  as if i was born and bred on hay making.

for all i know it may just be some sort of weed.  i hope the hay man is kind and patient enough to give me the education i am going to need.

February 10, 2012

the start of a new chapter

marco’s and my new year’s gift to each other; a bit belated due to one false start but arriving just in time for valentine’s day:

as of 11:00 am this morning, she’s ours.

all ours.

all ten acres and the pond.

>cue theme from little house on the prairie<

we’re gonna homestead folks (although i prefer to say we’re going to build a “farmette”).

come this summer or thereabouts, should all go well and  go as planned, a small farm town in ok. will increase its population from 1,788 to 1,790.

surprised?  so are we.

thought we were settled into our little house never, ever to move again? so did we.

struggling to see us as bona fide country folk? ummm….think a little harder..we do have a garden and i’ve been yakking on and on about chickens and such for the past several years.

there is a story behind it all and one that will eventually be told;  a method to my madness as well as a vision for this beautiful spot we plan to call home,  but for now let me just say…

we’re absolutely ecstatic.

February 3, 2012

why i need a greenhouse

i love the scene in the remains of the day where emma thompson  is sitting (if i recall correctly)in a green house of sorts mending a needlepoint cushion.  or something.  the important thing is that she is sitting in this beautiful  glass conservatory and sewing.  that is one reason why i need a greenhouse.  so i can sit peacefully amongst the plants and sew.

another reason why i need one is this:

this is a plumeria.

it was given to my be a fellow gardening friend.

i knew nothing of plumeria plants when she gave it to me.  in fact, i naively thought that after it had been given to me in january, it would grow and bloom by the following april, so that i could surprise my birthday-twin-friend who grew up in hawaii, with a plumeria plant of her own; started from mine.

i will pause here and allow the other experienced plumeria growers reading this post (if there are any) to clean up the coffee they just spewed across their keyboard and recover from their uproarious laughter.

ahem. anyway.

i need a greenhouse because when the cooler weather arrives, i need to bring this plant inside.

and i don’t know where to put it. i started out by putting it in the bathroom until i could figure out a better place.

but it doesn’t like the bathroom, so it drops leaves in the sink like this:

which i ignored for a time.  but then i noticed this:

and upon further observation i saw this:

and this:

and i had to spend the entire afternoon with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol getting rid of the little buggars.

now, i know that a green house would not have eliminated aphids and that other winged creature i cannot identify (pest identification has never been my strong point); but it would have prevented the mess in the bathroom,which believe it or not took great effort, and it would give me some other place to store this plant, other than where it is now.

i moved it to the den.

where it sits.

aphid free.

but shedding leaves all the same.

January 9, 2012

how to spend a delightful evening at home alone

i am a road warrior’s wife.

most monday mornings (like this one), i roll out of bed at the crack of dawn and drop my sweetheart off at the airport where he travels to one place and another servicing clients in need of his consultation.  we do get to spend the weekends together but he is gone at least two weeks out of the month, very often three, and this month: all four.

as a result, i spend many evenings at home alone.  being the classic introvert, this can be wonderful but there are times where it can also be lonely.  following are some ways i have learned to spend a very enjoyable evening at home by myself:

~ make dinner special.  order take-out, or purchase fancy ingredients and make something i have been wanting to try.  i also use nights alone to fix something i particularly like, but my husband doesn’t care for.

~ watch a tv series.  i love the bbc period flicks.  i’m currently working my way through “lillie” on the life of lillie langtry.  some others i’ve enjoyed: north and south, wives and daughters, the forsyte saga, and middlemarch.  it is also fun to have a jane austen marathon.

~ while watching tv, i serve the special dinner on a tv tray, or brew a lovely pot of tea and watch while working on needlework.

~ soak in the bubble bath, light a candle (or candles), and listen to my sarah brightman pandora station.

~ read a book for hours.  when i’m home alone, i choose an easy read, something very engaging where i can sit up in bed propped up with pillows, crank up the electric blanket, snuggle with the doggies, and just read.  if i can manage to keep curious doggies at bay, i’ll add a pot of tea to the mix.

~ sew.  sometimes after dropping my husband off at the airport i’ll head to the fabric store and choose a project that can be completed that week.  in the evenings, i’ll pull out my sewing machine and ironing board, queue up my current bbc series and sew the evening away.

how do you like to spend your time alone?

January 3, 2012


i suppose this is the sort of post one publishes on january 1 but i consider this first week of the year still early enough to reflect upon the last year and set goals for the year to come.   as i said before, i’m not much of a resolutions sort of person, i like to set goals: reasonable goals that i can actually accomplish.  it isn’t very often that i reach every goal on the list so it is frequently added to the list again :sigh: in hopes that someday i will actually make it.  this past year was one of those years where a few on the list will be added again in hopes of possibly being able to cross them off this time next year.  2011 knocked me off my feet and not really in a good way.  we experienced some major set backs and major disappointments that we are still working through – many of my goals  simply had to be set aside for one reason or another.  so, looking back at 2011:

1. complete our dossier in a reasonable amount of time.  at the time of writing this goal we haven’t yet talked with the family coordinator from our agency so i don’t know what constitutes “reasonable amount of time”.  i would though like to have it done by spring.  if you have no earthly idea what i am talking about see the link to my other blog on the sidebar of this page and read the “our news” post.

the link on the sidebar is no longer there as our plans to adopt fell through.  i followed up with this on a post entitled “the other blog” which is tacked up on my home page.

2. by the end of ’11 i would like a place for everything and everything in its place.  this will require better time management on my part.

wayall….we’re still working on this one but i can say that my kitchen is pretty well organized.

3. continue working to establish our potager (a potager is a fancy word for kitchen garden.  i used to throw it out there periodically to show off and then discovered i wasn’t pronouncing it correctly).  i would love it if we could purchase less and less produce from the store and use more and more from our garden.

yes!  this we did accomplish and were even able to grow veggies year ’round.  i have cabbage, lettuce, and brussels sprouts happily growing along out there.

4. run the john 3:16 10k with a better finish time than last year.

5. complete the st. paddy’s day 5k in less than 32 min and 27 sec.

6. depending on whether or not we travel abroad to meet little one and when we could potentially travel, run the 15k tulsa run in october.

due to some ongoing health issues i’m still dealing with my running was very sporadic this year so the 5k, 10k, and 15k were out of the question.  this was a big disappointment for me.

7. show some things on etsy and hopefully sell them.  this is another repeat from last year which was a repeat from the year before.  we’re getting there.  at least now i know what i want to show, it is just a matter of executing it.

…aaaand this is another that had to be set aside in order to deal with set backs.  sooooo…..

goals for 2012 (in no particular order of importance)

1. show somethings on etsy and hopefully sell them.

2. start making a quilt for our queen size bed.  someone gave me a series of quilt patterns as a wedding gift and i have never made one.  my grandmother made lots of quilts, and i always wanted to follow in her footsteps but i’ve just never done it.  a quilt seems ridiculously ambitious in light of this potentially being a very busy year for us (more on that later on) but i’m afraid if i don’t just jump in and do it, it will never get done.  we need a new bedspread, this is a great opportunity to start.

3.  i want to be more punctual.   i always seem to be running 5-15 minutes behind and have no excuse for it other than i spent too much time on facebook or was having a bad hair day.

4. begin to increase our garden space to about 4,750 square feet (including paths).  are you shocked?  yes, this can be done. i’m stoked.

5. purchase three chickens.

6. while i would absolutely love to run that 15k in october, proceeded by a series of 5 and 10k’s; i’m just not sure that this will be the year so i’m not going to mark it as a goal.  i would however like to commit to regular exercise whether that be yoga, walking, or light jogging.

….and once again

7. have a place for everything and everything in its place.  that actually may happen this year, as i may not have much of a choice.

i like having seven goals.  seven is a perfect number.

what are your goals for the upcoming year?