Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adult Scout: I Did the Work. I Want the Badge.

The Girl Scouts are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. Were you a Girl Scout? I never was and I think I've been trying to make up for it ever since.  Several years ago a friend had me sew her son's merit badges on his sash when he made Eagle Scout. As I was attaching those badges I noticed how many of them I've earned, but I never got credit for.  Maybe we need "Adult Scouts" for those of us who still want credit for our efforts.  Think how much fun parties would be if we all displayed our badges of honor.

"Oh, You've got your Traffic Safety badge! My daughter will be 16 next year."

If we don't deserve a badge for teaching teenagers how to drive then I give up.

The Boy Scouts offer a lot of badges and I like theirs better.  I'm going to need to fill in the gaps neither set of scouts have thought of like the ability to carry on multiple Facebook conversations simultaneously.  I'll need one for decorating using things I've dragged out of trash on the side of the road. Of course maybe those would just fall under "Communication" and "Art." There isn't a badge for hosting a ten year old's birthday party or planning a wedding. Clearly this is an oversight by someone...

Here are some badges the Boy Scouts do offer. I think I've got these covered:

Canoeing: and I'm going to want a special one for doing it while pregnant in stifling heat in a river that dried up. I had to help my husband drag the canoe (loaded with camping supplies) 2 miles over a dry river bed infested with snakes. If you've ever been canoeing with your husband, you get the basic version of this one.

Theater: I survived having a teenage daughter. If you want to give me a "drama" badge instead, that would be okay.

Sports: Dragging kids and equipment, to games and practices and taking hundreds of hours of video should earn me this one. Can I get an extra one called COACH'S WIFE? I can't begin to outline the survival skills necessary.

Animal Science: Does raising 2 baby squirrels, 3 baby chicks, building a beehive, saving a school of neon tetras from a leaking aquarium while talking to my daughter's algebra teacher about her grade, and trying to figure out how to coax a hamster our from under the washer count toward this one?

Can we create one for best run on sentences? 

Family Life:  If every one got fed and no one was missing or bleeding, it was a good day. Go ahead and claim this one, moms. You've earned it! I'm going to want one for each childbirth and one for every 5 years I've been married.

Anyone who has more than one child definitely earns a "Peacekeeping" badge.

First Aid: Got a child old enough to walk? Then you've earned this one. 

Painting: Are you kidding? Around here, there's nothing a good coat of paint won't cure.

Reading: Reading! There's a badge for it!

Personal Fitness: Yep.

Archeology: I earned this one cleaning out closets, attics, and the back of the SUV at the end of baseball season.

Cooking: Every day. Every. Single. Day. 

Gardening: Got it.

Dog Care: The border collie can get the paper. I rest my case.

Home Repairs: Unfortunately.

Pathfinding: Earned while carefully making my way through the room of a Legomaniac.

Public Health: I hope passing around the hand sanitizer, and giving coughers and sneezers who don't cover their mouths dirty looks, count toward this one. I have also been known to (as sweetly as possible) ask "Shouldn't you be at home?" You know, as opposed to out spreading, what is clearly the Black Death, among the general population...

Here's a link to a good article about the founder of the Girl Scouts: Girl Power: Starting in 1912 "Daisy" Lowe launches a Girl Scout movement.

"Come right over! I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!" ~ Daisy Lowe

Which makes me wonder why there is no "One person can change the world" badge...

Got a badge you think you've earned?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Recycler's Glass Menagerie

This is one of those posts that makes my daughter roll her eyes. As if you couldn't figure out how to save glass jars without my telling you.  That's not the point. It's a reminder. We thoughtlessly trash a lot of very useful items, then go out and buy something similar. That's wasteful and silly when all we need is a little intent. You aren't going to want to whip up some of the upcoming fun home made goodies only to realize you have nothing to store them in. step at a time...

 I'll confess that when I'm at the grocery I'm not just selecting the jar of olives or jam I want; I'm giving the container a once over. I know I'm going to try and reuse that piece of glass, so if something I want is on the shelf and one container is more attractive than the other, I'm going to choose the one I think my body cream would look best in. Glass is the most easily reused product. It's easy to clean and attractive and it doesn't hold scents like plastic does.

Speaking of things holding on to a scent...the other night I chopped garlic, then later put on some  body cream. I smelled like someone's Italian grandmother. There's a reason there aren't any garlic scented bath products...

Don't forget to save all those deliciously delicate containers from your bathroom. Tiny lip balm pots, and the elfin-like jars filled with commercial eye cream or blush can be reused to hold your own creamy concoctions.

Labels that are clear plastic are a dream; they peel right off. You could leave your labels on, of course, but I'm funny about getting body scrub or moisturizer out of a jar that says "pickles." Maybe that's just me.

 99% of us need or maybe just want, inexpensive and simple...I'm on it in the next post with something wonderful for your frugal faces!

More about glass cutting and how to make a cute little set of juice glasses coming up soon!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Feeling Beautiful?

Our shallow culture has our girls obsessing about their looks at increasingly younger ages.  And aging gracefully? Forget it. The idea of wrinkles and fine lines or gray hair keeps us tied to both the mirror and pricey products. I'm not going to pretend I'm above that; I'm not. I'm not apologizing either, for a whole host of reasons, a lot of which are tied to traditional (and I think healthy) femininity. I think it's sad when women completely give up on their appearance--blog post for another day.  Recently however, I ran across something that reveals how much young girls need some balance modeled for them in this area.

A recent trend on Youtube is teen and preteen girls making videos asking viewers to weigh in on whether or not they are pretty. My first response is to look at their luminous skin and silky hair and to want to shake them for even asking the question now, knowing how long and mighty the struggle with that question is going to be.

I  noticed something as I watched these girls seek validation online. While my initial response to the images of them was that they were all beautiful girls, the display of teen angst and desperation for approval made me feel sorry for them. For the girls who shared that they were regularly told that they were ugly, my heart just broke. In some cases, however, I noticed something else. Girls who clearly knew they were pretty, given their commentary, seemed to be seeking a little extra ego boost. "Everyone tells me I'm beautiful, but I just don't KNOW." Yes, you do but hearing it is pleasant. It is however unattractive to be soliciting praise this way. Pretty is as pretty does. Mothers used to say that.  I'd like to know what happened. I look around and wonder if lots of adult women don't believe it anymore.

When I look at those darling little faces, all beautiful from what I can see, I remember an age when I didn't care at all what I looked like. In those days it was possible for untamed girlhood to last until puberty. I'm sorry for this generation of girls who will never know that freedom. There was a casual wildness in that childhood oblivion to appearance. I regularly had hair that was uncombed, feet that were dirty from going barefoot, and an older sister who was embarrassed to be seen with me. There were all kinds of exciting and important things to do, most of them outside--who had time to look in a mirror?  Freedom from the mirror is still something I practice occasionally. One of the times I feel the most beautiful is when I'm working in the garden and covered with sweat and dirt. Or in yoga class with no make-up and bare feet. Maybe those times are just moments when I'm calm and happy. Perhaps calm and happy feel beautiful.  It's possible to feel beautiful even when you don't look it. Embracing that idea frees us up to feel lovely and graceful even when the fleeting youthful glossiness fades...and it will. If there is a lesson in all this it could be the one that we need to teach these young girls by modeling it for them:

It is going to be so much more important in the long run to have a beautiful life than a beautiful face. And you have so much more control over one than the other.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Kinds of Things do You Do with YOUR Friends?

Yesterday I had lunch with one of the people I love the most. I hope you have some friends you adore. Sometimes life is tough and you are going to need someone to hold your hand. Sometimes you are ridiculously happy and you are going to want to share it with someone who is genuinely glad for you. Sometimes life is silly and you are going to want someone who will throw all manner of dignified caution to the wind and do a little chicken rustling with you in front of people they've never met...

After meeting for a downright decadently Southern lunch of barbecue chicken, we headed over to William Sonoma. How can they keep coming up with dishtowels and table settings that are painfully beautiful? It's always fun to try and figure out what everything on the wall full of kitchen gadgets is for. We stayed long enough and chatted loud enough that the sales woman ended up with websites to order poultry from and had her questions about beekeeping answered.

We just try to spread the backyard homestead love wherever we go.

At the bee yard on Saturday I met a man who was getting rid of his chickens and he overheard me tell someone else I was looking for a Rhode Island Red. He gave me his card and told me to feel free to come get it one day this week. I shared this with my friend, we decided we would take them all since he was planning to eat them if he couldn't get rid of them.

Well, we couldn't stand the thought of that!

Did I mention our delicious lunch?

We're women. I can't be expected to explain why one thing is yummy and the other is unthinkable.

So I call the man to let him know we'll take them all, and get directions.

My husband: "What are you going to put it in."

Me: I don't know we'll figure something out."

My husband: "So you have no plan?"

Me: "Yes the plan is to figure something out later."

I know what he pictured: Me driving in rush hour traffic with a wild hen flailing around in the SUV and me trying to explain the situation to the officer who would arrive at the scene of the accident. 

We decided cardboard boxes from the store she manages would be good enough. We arrive at the home of these poultry rescue cases and after some friendly small talk we go to the back yard to pick up the birds...

sounds easy enough.

Have you ever chased a chicken that doesn't want to be caught? The first three were a cinch, but there is always one trouble maker. I held onto my hen while walking gingerly around trying to herd the other one back toward my friend. The chicken ran around the garage. The chicken ran around the pool...and some a forest of wire tomato cages. The man, who I think was enjoying the entertainment went into his garage and came out with a long fishing net.

Now it was going to get interesting.

There was chasing. Lots of swooping with a net. Some screaming. Some squawking. Lots of laughing. Eventually she emerged from behind a fence, victorious and into our boxes and cars the chickens went. Never knowing the fate they had avoided.

Oh and my chicken? She went quietly into her box, and never made a sound all the way home.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Finished Bee Hive

A tree stump makes a handy place to paint
My bee project is humming along. A couple of days ago I primed and painted the hive. If you missed the beginning of this process click here. I am now ready to be the mother (though not the queen) to about 10,000 little humming darlings. The bees (sold in 3 lb. packages) are set to arrive at my local post office the last week in April. Judging from the reaction I got from the employees there when I picked up my baby chicks, I'm guessing a noisy swarm of bees in a box is going to get me moved right to the front of the line!

A surprise visit from out of town relatives taught me something about beekeeping. It's pretty darn fascinating and people are intrigued by a hive even when it's empty. Everyone has questions (some I have answers to and some I don't) and everyone has jokes. So yes, the buzz on the street is that this will make me the queen bee if it doesn't turn out to be a sting operation...oh, Honey, you get the idea. Please feel free to make up your own...

Underneath the metal topped telescoping cover you find the top cover of the hive body.

Removing the top cover reveals the frames, in this case ten of them.

The frames hold the foundation that the bees will actually "work." This is plastic foundation covered with bees wax but I've ordered a smaller local variety of bee and may need to replace this with a real wax one with smaller compartments. This is better for the larger breeds of bee, and apparently my bees will grow larger to work the larger cells on this foundation if I don't replace it. I'll be ordering up some small cell beeswax foundation and putting it in these frames before my bees arrive.

I'm making my first trip out to the local bee association's bee yard this weekend. Look for pics on the Facebook page.

What do you call a bee that goes into space?

Buzz Lightyear.

What's really sad is that I just made that one up...which is probably a bad sign...

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Challenging Hive of Activity

I have spent this week putting the hive together and cursing whoever photocopied the ridiculously bad pictures that are attached to the instructions. Normally, I'm pretty handy. The island in my kitchen? I built it. (Okay I ASSEMBLED it from prefabbed parts, but still...there were power tools involved so I'm totally claiming credit. There isn't too much I'm afraid to tackle so...bee hive?

Okay, I'll admit to being intimidated...

I've spent 3 days looking at precut pieces of wood on my den floor. It turned cold again so I've been working on this project indoors. I'm beginning to have a feeling perhaps the powerful wood glue is something I shouldn't be breathing any more of. But a couple of hours ago...a breakthrough! Suddenly the way the pieces were supposed to fit together and what I'd been doing wrong was SO OBVIOUS! This is why when my husband continuously asks me if I don't want to call someone for help I just keep repeating "NO"....How embarrassing would it be to have someone SHOW that to me.

                    My stubbornness in this area is a lifelong problem.

I do NOT like to ask for help. I am always trying to convince my husband that we can find it and that we MOST CERTAINLY do not need DIRECTIONS!

Do I LOOK like I need help? Please ignore the fact that I am covered in wood glue and have multiple splinters. 

Unless you want to come and make dinner. Then, please....PLEASE! I beg you! Come and help me!

Here's what has been accomplished on the hive so far:

The hive body.

 Building the outer cover, which will be the top and protect the hive from the weather...

 ...flip it over to add the galvanized metal top.

The floor boards (not pictured) were not exactly even once I got them glued together and didn't easily into the grooved side pieces. There was a lot of vocalization of frustration which led my husband to ask me once again if I needed...

I gave him a look that told him not to finish that sentence.

When it finally went together the way it was supposed to (with a little extra persuasion from my hammer) I yelled:


You know for whoever might be listening. I find victory over inanimate objects something to celebrate.

I also completed a third part which includes the bees' landing strip.

Okay, maybe it's starting to come together. The night before last there was a honey bee in the kitchen...I've never had that happen before.

                                                                         Do you think they know?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What Happened Between Assisi and Rome

Originally published in 2009. Hence the Katie Holmes and blog references.

You never know what will happen when you are traveling, who you'll meet, what you'll see, what you'll learn.

There was a rather lengthy bus ride between Assisi and Rome made even longer by a massive traffic jam as they neared The Eternal City. Assisi had been lovely and My Owner and her friends had done some shopping. Unwrapping purchases and looking at them and discussing them filled some of the time during the bus trip. MO and her friend are notorious for hunting down the gift shop wherever they are (I'll tell you a funny story about that when I recount their trip to New York, Philadelphia & D.C.).

Chatting with other travelers was another way to pass the time and MO happened to strike up a conversation with the man seated behind her, based on whether or not Katy Holmes needed several magazine covers in the same magazine. After that, I don't know what happened except that the discussion moved on to stimulus packages, worldwide economic collapse, religion, and a host of other subjects that they found endlessly interesting and put everyone within the sound of their voices to sleep.

I can assure you I was NOT in the cargo hold of the bus discussing these issues with Professor J's bag. I was busy catching up with my friend, Mr. Polka Dots (he is very fashion forward) who I had not seen since we left home as he had been lost in Paris and was telling of his harrowing adventure!

But THOSE two...Mr. Smarty Pants and My Snarky Owner, they didn't run out of anything to say. As a matter of fact, they are still at it! They have a blog together and have been having an ongoing discussion for over a year and a half.

I just wish they would get around to tackling something relevant like the dreadful conditions under airplane seats and the rough treatment of checked luggage by those hateful baggage handlers.

UPDATE: So what happened to that blog?

They kept it up for 5 years but it died an untimely death due to My Owner's carelessness. You can read about it here: Blog Obituary: RIP Professor and Housewife

It all just goes to show you never know what travel will bring your way.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Surprise Stop at Pisa

Are you lost? This Italian adventure might be confusing you, but it is somewhat disorienting to travel at times upside down or at the bottom of a stack of other baggage, in the dark. I'm doing the best I can.  To make up for my directional challenges here's a map. I've marked our travels in pink, My Owner likes pink.

Pisa wasn't even on the itinerary!

Did you know this thing is famous for leaning?
Pisa was a surprise that the tour guide and bus driver threw in between Venice and Florence because we had made such good time due to an unusual lack of traffic. Just time for a quick lunch some photos and then back to the bus for the trip to Florence.

The thing bad thing about this lunch was that they were on a very tight schedule and the leader of their group never did get her food.

The weather was absolutely perfect this day. What a lovely little surprise...and here my owner is always going on and on about how she hates surprises. She can be so ridiculous.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Lazy Recycler's Guide

Compost bin in the garden
I'm not quite as efficient as I'd like to be in lots of areas. Today, I'm cutting glass bottles that have been stacking up around here and noticing that I could tighten up the recycling ship in some other ways.

The bathroom: I'm lazy. There you go. Now YOU can feel better about yourself all day. A shampoo bottle is much more likely to find its way into a landfill than a milk jug around here. Why? Because when I empty the shampoo bottle I'm probably standing in the shower dripping wet. Plus (can I just be completely honest?) it's farther from the bathroom to the recycling bins in the carport than from the kitchen.

Did I mention I'm lazy?

The office: Paper tossed here that isn't important enough to get shredded is not nearly as likely make it to the recycling center as newspapers and cereal boxes. But the waste from the shredder religiously gets hauled out to the compost bin.

Go figure.

Clutter: I'm pretty good about shlepping things down the street to my local Goodwill since when I go shopping that is my store of choice--I get points for that, right? But I'll confess that if something doesn't neatly fit into a category, I am very likely to toss it, rather than have it lay around as a testament to my inability to make a decision about it.

The car: I'm vacuuming my car and there is a plastic water bottle someone left, or a newspaper. There is a trash can RIGHT there next to the you really think I'm going to take it home to put it in the bin? I finally did figure out a pretty good solution to this one which is to clean the car immediately after dropping off the recycling. I can give the car a quick once over while I'm at the plastics dumpster.

The refrigerator: Did you know that Americans throw out about 12% of the food they buy? Not broken toys, or empty containers---FOOD. This is someplace we can tighten up not only our recycling but our budget by making sure we use every bit of food we purchase. What to do with the vegetable peels and cilantro stems? A compost pile in the garden with a handy small compost bucket under the sink can solve this problem nicely. For leftovers, careful menu planning can help you cut down on waste.

The lawn: For a gardener and compost fan it is sacrilege to see piles of plastic bags stuffed with leaves on the edge of the street. Most garden waste can be composted (hopefully you are avoiding having your lawn sprayed with chemicals) and if you have a fireplace or outdoor fire pit the trimmings from pruning  branches and other yard waste, like pinecones make great kindling. 

While I'm spring cleaning and getting ready for the gardening season, I'm resolving to do a little better in some areas where I've been slacking. I don't know about you but this housewife needs more than one chance every year for resolutions.