Friday, April 30, 2010

Frugal Friday: Mulching the Yard

A couple of weeks ago we had our trees limbed up and one rotten elm removed. For this we hired professionals and thank goodness. Watching the tree guy swing about like a monkey while a running chainsaw dangled from his belt? Nerve wracking to say the least. I was quite glad Mr. Peculiar had not taken on this particular task. The work, however, was a budget buster in an already tight month.

As such I was bound and determined to somehow turn this expenditure into a frugal adventure. But how? Then, while picking up the kids, I had a light bulb moment. We were creating a plethora of bark chips. Perfect, I thought, for use as mulch and weed control. After all we'd hauled in playground chips last summer and they worked great.

I discussed the idea with Mr. Peculiar and, to be generous, he hated it. His plan was to have the tree guys chip the wood then haul it away. We would then go and buy new unblemished wood chips (a.k.a. minus the pine needles).

Brilliant. Let's spend money to put pine needle free wood chips under our pine trees. Because, you know, they will remain needle free for, oh I don't know, an hour?!! It's not as if I'd presented this idea without first doing a bit a research. As such I stood my ground.

Needless to say I won the argument but not without compromise. "Fine," said Mr. Peculiar, "you can keep your wood chips but I'm not helping you spread them."

"Fine," I retorted, perturbed but ready for the challenge. And I did it. I spread the entire load of bark ALL BY MYSELF -- thank you very much.

I got a great workout and our previous dirt/weed patch now looks like the forest floor rather than a dumping ground. It smells delectable and is very easy to maintain. Soon I hope to plant some additional fruit trees back there (the roots will be deep enough I'm not concerned about the nitrogen levels). But in the meantime it is perfect just how it is.

Now my frugal tip for you? You don't have to cut down trees to get bark mulch of your own. Simply call your local arborist -- more than likely they'd be willing to dump a load of chips for FREE. And then you, my friend, can develop strong arms and tight abs just like me.

Happy Frugal Friday!

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Things I'm loving today:
  • Friends bearing gifts (thanks Susan!)
  • Infinitely blue skies
  • Pulled pork in the slow cooker
  • A touch of me time before work
Things I'm hoping for today:
  • A spurt of energy to finish the dishes, bake and shower
  • An excellent start to the month of May (May Day everyone, May Day!)
  • Finding the perfect pair of inexpensive shoes to go with my old dress.
  • Finding an inexpensive pair of khakis for the boy.

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

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Play along here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On reading and cleaning and general randomness

I love to read, as in love, Love, LOVE to read. This reading amour has led to an obnoxious library addiction. Anytime I come across a book I'm even remotely interested in I place it on reserve via the library's online system. As a consequence I have a serious stack of novels waiting to be read. Not only are these publications waiting to be read but their clocks are ticking because they are due back in three week's time.

This would be all well and good if I lived solely within my head. I could ignore the outside world and sit and read to my heart's content. However I have a slew of responsibilities external to my noggin. For example I am raising three slovenly children. Yes I said slovenly. These trash generators put Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout to shame.

No matter what I've tried my children do not clean. Lord they don't even flush the toilet. And I'm not talking if it's yellow let it mellow. No. They're more along the lines of Number Two? Let it brew!

In other words it is a full time job in and of itself merely picking up after these slobs ahem I mean my lovely progeny. And yes the failure is mine. After all it is my job to mold these people from mere globs of potential to functioning beings.

{I'd like to take this moment to apologize in advance to my childrens' future spouses. I am sorry. Really. I yelled. I cajoled. I took things away. I was red in the face and hopped on one foot. I even cried and posted on the internet! Nothing worked. So I'm sorry for the mess you've been given but must admit I'm glad to give it away.}

Anyway those who have been in the upstairs of our house (Becky, Molly) know full well I have fallen down on the job as resident maid. But today is another day to tackle the mess. Why I bother only the universe knows. The mess will return like pine cones dropping from a hundred year old tree. It is inevitable. And yet I faithfully toil on.

However today is different. Today I have company -- a book on tape. Well, okay, not on tape. On CD. Why oh why had I not thought of this before?!! I can listen to a story while peeling goop off the carpet. Brilliant! I'm halfway through Kelly Corrigan's The Middle Place and loving it!

So, without further adieu, I'm off to clean. Wish me luck!

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Addendum: Upstairs cleaning complete! Book not. Still 1/2 discs to go.

Things I'm loving today:
  • Wind rustling through the trees (but not so rough as to knock them down)
  • The raspy croaks of frogs who somehow find ponds in the middle of the desert
  • A clean upstairs (not that anyone is going to see)
  • Memories of childhood (I really should write them down)
  • Handmade old fashioned bonnets
  • Being pleasantly shocked when reminded I've taken a few good photos.

Things I'm hoping for today:
  • A pleasant productive four nights at work
  • Continued luck with jury duty (only two days left!)
  • A house that stays clean beyond tomorrow (fingers and toes crossed on this one)
  • Safe travels for an upcoming trip (our niece is getting married - could I possibly be old enough?!!)
  • Sweet dreams on this last night before work
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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why I Carry a Camera

After nearly forty years on this earth I've become jaded. I wake to an alarm and prep children for school. I run a taxi service (aka carpool). I go to work. I do dishes and laundry and scrub the floors. I pull weeds. I put food on the table both literally and figuratively. And on and on ad nauseam.

Life too easily slips into a series of tasks; each one to be checked off then added again to the bottom of the list. While going through the motions and checking boxes we forget to see, to really see, the world around us. My camera forces me to stop, to look and to notice the wonderment of the everyday.

For instance -- do you see Rose Scooby Doo's feathers? The iridescent green that glistens in the sun? By what miracle did that occur? The smallest things in this world are truly stunning!

And without my camera I would have missed this:

I didn't think today was the day for a water balloon fight. The thermometer topped out at 55 degrees. But you see? I was wrong and my camera holds the proof. How delectable are those droplets of water? I mean seriously!

And what about this?

What do you see? A weed? Or a brilliant sign of spring?

So today I challenge you. Pull out your camera and take a look, a real look, at this wonderful amazing spectacular world . I can't wait to see what you find!

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Things I'm loving today:
  • Children romping and playing in the neighborhood
  • Quiet mama time
  • An invitation to dinner
  • Girl time while the boys are away

Things I'm hoping for:
  • Warmer delightful weather tomorrow
  • Still hoping to win these
  • Blissful children
  • Knitting inspiration (get thee knitting mama you have a project to finish!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

{this moment} via Soulemama

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

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Play along here.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

"Mister!" he said with a sawdusty sneeze, "I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees!"

Around here Spring arrives slowly and subtly. While the rest of the country is awash in color we reside in browns and grays. One must hunt to find undertones of renewal. I have been marching around our yard, camera in tow, poking and prodding, waiting for my beloved plants to return. Finally, finally this week our trees have begun to bud and bloom.

Of all our trees I absolutely adore the apricot in the back yard. This tree, technically, is not ours but rather our neighbor's. Nonetheless she is mine. I love the way she rests her branches across our chicken coop as if protecting the contents within. I'm smitten with her blossoms and, in the summer, revere her limbs laden heavy with fruit. She is also one of the first plants to show true signs of Spring. As she blooms my spirits lift; rejuvenation has begun.

And so today, Earth Day, I honor her and all the trees.

"You're in charge of the last of the Truffla seeds.
And Truffla trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffla. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back."


Things I'm loving today:
  • Trees, trees, trees!
  • Warm weather (after rain and snow).
  • Cupcake pencil toppers (another 4th grade town project).
  • The return of the scrub jays.
  • The delectable scent of our new pine mulch (which was free -- sort of. Stay tuned).
  • Florabella actions and textures.
  • A distinct lack of jury duty all this week (hooray!)

Things I'm hoping for:
  • Continued luck on the jury duty front.
  • Energy to finish the yard work and cleaning begun earlier in the week.
  • A gorgeous clothesline such as this.
  • Opportunities to earn some extra income (we could use a little boost).
  • Continued photographic inspiration.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

Well I'm at work and have found a small respite in between clients. Today the sun is shining and it is delectably warm outside. I keep sneaking out back just to soak up a few rays. Now I've got music playing on my computer (from my blog playlist) and am sitting here feeling happy. Really and truly deep down in my gut happy. I suspect this feeling is a combination of sunshine, music and prednisone. Yup. Steroids.

You see I am an asthmatic and I haven't been breathing right since I got sick last month. So yesterday I started a short course of prednisone. If I could I would stay on prednisone forever - it makes me feel all is right with the world (not so for some folks who report extreme crabbiness while on said medication). But for me steroids are definitely a good thing. I can breathe. My allergies clear up. My eczema goes away and I am ebullient. Oh if only these drugs didn't cause long-term weight gain and adrenal dysfunction. Ah well. I'll just enjoy it while it lasts.

And now I think I'll sneak back out in that sun. I hope you are all having a great weekend!


Things I'm Loving Today:
  • Sunshine!
  • Breathing like a normal human being.
  • Discovering a trail along the canal behind our clinic.
  • Eating healthy all weekend (lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains).
  • Music!
Things I'm hoping for today:
  • Minimal jury duty next week.
  • One more day of sunshine.
  • Inspiration for tomorrow's dinner (what to cook? what to cook?)
  • A clean house when I arrive home tonight.
  • A flash of photographic creativity (my camera is feeling neglected).
  • A decrease in my heart palpitations (which seem to arrive each and every spring and correlate with Juniper season. Hmmmm).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bumps and Bruises (are all right with me)

~Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)

When we bought our house I was exceedingly excited about was our new wood floor. After years of carpet and then laminate we were finally going to get the real thing (if only in a small area). Everything was new and pristine. The sinks sparkled, the counters shined and the wood floor was gloriously smooth and alluring. It all but begged for Risky Business. Then we moved in; two adults, two young children, three cats, two dogs and a bird. We subsequently had a third child and have now lived in this house for eight years. Shall we just say it is no longer pristine.

There are bumps and bruises in the drywall, nail pops along the ceiling, extra paint on the window sills, chips on the counter tops, nonexistent drawer pulls, imperturbable carpet stains and a multitude of blemishes on the wood floor. In front of the refrigerator the wood floor is bowing. One board, that oddly enough resides just under the water spout (read sarcasm here), curves upward and has pulled away from the edges of the other boards.

My parents had a similar defect in their wood floor caused by a refrigerator leak. This prompted them to replace the board and subsequently refinish their entire wood floor so as to get the replacement to match. This process was both expensive and labor intensive. Ironically the replaced board is now hunched again. They are back to square one (just where they should be).

And here is my secret. Shhh! Don't tell. I was shocked when my parents went to all that trouble. Why? Because I like the bump in my floor. It is the perfect place to slide a stockinged foot. Imagine me, in my pajamas, yawning, stretching and pouring that first cup of coffee. Then I greet the house by running my foot over the defective board.

It's hard to explain. It's as if the board bowed just for me. Kind of like the divot on the handle of my favorite creamer container. This divot is the absolutely perfect place to rest my thumb. And when I hold that container magic happens - my shoulders relax and a calm comes over me. Things are as they should be. The same holds true with my wood floor. I run my foot over the board and my body relaxes. It is as it is -- just right.

This doesn't mean I'll keep that floor forever. I still pine for others -- specifically reclaimed wide plank flooring throughout the entire house (Hello? Universe? Do you hear me?). But, really, things are perfect just as they are -- bumps, bruises and all.


Things I'm loving today:
  • The sweet cluck of chickens as heard through the bedroom window.
  • Black bean and sweet pepper quinoa salad.
  • Blooms on the apricot tree cascading over the red roof of the chicken coop.
  • Extracurricular science projects with Middle (as requested by her).
  • Red Box coupon codes DVDONME and BREAKROOM (can't beat free movies!).
  • And, of course, my bumpy wood floor and perfect creamer container.

Things I'm hoping for today:
  • I hope my space bar stops sticking.
  • I hope to squeeze tree care into our budget (a large elm in our yard needs to go).
  • I hope to win a set of bagpipes from this drawing (oh how AMAZING that would be!).
  • A productive yet minimally stressful weekend at work.

Monday, April 12, 2010

For The Birds

We spent Easter Sunday in the company of friends and family. Our neighbors hosted an egg hunt and, though it was chilly, a good time was had by all. Afterwords we gathered in their living room for mimosas and deviled eggs. Mmmmmm!

Their living room has a large picture window and just outside the window is a bird feeder. I was mesmerized. You wouldn't believe the variety of feather fauna it attracted. One minute I was enjoying the view and the next minute the green-eyed monster attacked. Oh how I wanted a feeder of my very own.

Now a bird feeder was not (and is not) in our budget. Plus with Easter and a few other monetary indiscretions (eating out - bad bad) our budget was (and is) a touch off kilter. Yet the desire did not wane.

Therefore, in a moment of bravado, I decided I could build a bird feeder. After all - the birds don't care one iota about fancy design - right? Easy access to seed and they are good to go -- at least that's my hope.

And as a result a ghetto bird feeder was born. All it took was a plastic bowl, a plastic soda container, remnant bamboo, sisal rope, a drill and a prayer. Don't worry - we wore our safety glasses. We're quite happy with the results -- now we'll have to wait and see what the birds think.


The bird feeder is hanging on the porch outside the front window. This is the view from my reading chair. I do believe an avian audubon guide ought to rest along side that chair. Perhaps coupled with the pair of opera glasses unearthed from our garage sale couch.

Tomorrow's task is to place some of these decals on the window. Another neighbor of ours invented them and gave us several samples. I'm very excited to put them to use.

Are you a bird watcher? I'd welcome any suggestions or recommendations you might have!


Addendum: Whooo boy -- I nearly forgot my lists!

Things I'm loving today:
  • Bright tangy lemony cupcakes
  • My reading glasses (no spring chicken here)
  • Spring rains to water my flowers
  • And, of course, new bird feeders
Things I'm hoping for:
  • A clean kitchen when I get home from work (sorry about the cupcake mess babe!)
  • Four eggs to be laid tomorrow (between eggs benedict, hard boiling, gifting and cupcake making I cleared our stash).
  • Four hours of uninterrupted sleep (this is enough for me to function on - though not ideal).
  • A smooth and stress free Tuesday.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Frugal Friday: The Kitchen in the Bathroom

Photographic Snippets of the Week

Back in February 2009 I went No Poo. I was faithful for a year but then got lazy. I started using shampoo again as it just seemed easier. But I discovered I wasn't happy with the shampoo. My hair was heavy, weighed down and greasy. So now I'm back on the No Poo regimen and quite content. I no longer put vanilla in the rinse (I think it dried my hair a bit). And, though I could be wrong, I don't feel like a walking "fish 'n chips" advertisement; i.e. my hair doesn't smell like vinegar.

No Poo, for those who aren't familiar, is a method of cleaning your hair without shampoo. There are many different methods. I use a baking soda paste and dilute vinegar rinse.

I also continue to use honey as a facial mask and brown sugar and olive oil as a facial scrub and moisturizer. For the mask simply take honey and smear it on your face. Let it sit for 15 minutes then rinse off. If some happens to get on your lips - no worries - it's just honey! (I love using all natural, and edible, beauty products).

For the facial scrub combine 3 tsbp brown sugar and a splash of olive oil (I never use an exact amount here but I'd say perhaps a teaspoon or two). Typically I'll scrub my face in the shower. I try to do the facial scrub first and then wash my hair. That way if any of the oil gets in my hair it is rinsed away in the wash.

I love the days when I use this skin routine - my face feels GREAT!

And don't forget the nighttime facial moisturizer - Crisco. Yes. Crisco. Check out this post where Crisco was compared to Creme de la Mer. Guess which product did better. Personally I'm going to take her word for it because I have no intention of spending $125.00 on a measly ounce of skin cream.

Finally check out these recipes for bath salts. My daughter and I made some last night for her to sell at 4th grade town. I can't wait to try it out myself. We used grapefruit seed essential oil which has such a light invigorating aroma.

Happy Frugal Friday!


Things I'm loving today:
  • A contented husband (on my hope list here)
  • A weekend to sleep in and meander about
  • Garage sales
  • A new batch of tulips just for me (they are still on sale and I still couldn't resist)
  • Little girls who collect eggs while wearing their brother's boxer shorts and mama's shoes
  • Snoozing geriatric kitties
  • Green smoothies
Things I'm hoping for today:
  • Warm weather
  • Exercise
  • To find joy in household chores
  • That someone will build me a laundry line (hint hint oh hubbie of mine)
  • To find specks of inspiration scattered throughout the day

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Just Right

This is my living room. I snapped this shot yesterday because it looked just right -- not too big, not too small, not too fancy, not too shabby, not too messy, not too clean -- just right. If you go to Flickr you can peruse the photo's notes and learn a bit more about the individual objects within.

Right now I am sitting in that chair by the fireplace. My legs are criss-cross applesauce. There is a pillow on my lap and on top of that my laptop. Delectable heat radiates from my computer and the lamp next to me. Across from my chair is a large picture window that looks out onto the street. There is a slight breeze. The sky is blue overhead but storm clouds lurk on the horizon. Outside it is crisp and cold. I'm happy to be here, inside, still in my pajamas. Little sits in the next room watching the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - on loan from the library. Soon I'll gather up my knitting and join her.

Our house smells scrumptious. A honey mustard pale ale pork tenderloin is simmering in the crock pot. My husband is in the kitchen doing a load of dishes. Later today I'll go to the store for ingredients for my first ever green smoothie (thanks Tammie!).

To sum things up: Life is good.

And now my daughter beckons. I hope you are all having peaceful wonderful days.

Things I love today:
  • Spanish lessons on my ipod
  • Crock pots
  • Baby girls who love to snuggle
  • Pajamas
  • A weekend to sleep in
  • My friend's bird feeder (I am inspired to get one of my own)
  • Dreams of an orchard and clothesline in my backyard
Things I'm hoping for today:
  • Happy content children.
  • To finish Loving Frank before it's due back at the library.
  • To be bold and brave and follow my heart.
  • To let go of fear and take a chance.
Soon, soon I'll post my Mondo Beyondo list. For now it is simmering, just like that tenderloin, until it, too, is just right.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Frugal Friday

Ah it's Friday and I've let a few too many Frugal Fridays pass by. As such I have several ideas to make that dollar stretch. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

First off -- pudding. Don't ever buy pre-packaged pudding. Just don't do it. If you're like me, you'll spend way too much time prying those disposable lids off the carpet. Eeeew! There is nothing I hate more than pudding cups and other assorted wrappers spread about the house.

Instead buy instant pudding for half the cost of the pre-packaged stuff. Add milk, stir and in less than five minutes you'll have a sweet treat. You can buy reusable containers in which to put them (I find jelly jars particularly endearing). Save money, the environment and mom's sanity; it's win-win-win.

Second - peanut butter. Here in the Peculiar household we prefer natural peanut butters. However this means jars with gobs of oil piled on top and thick stiff peanut butter. Imagine an exaggerated late-night infomercial: Do you LOVE natural peanut butter but hate the mess? (at which point a housewife dumps an entire jar of oil and peanut butter all over herself and the counter). That is what natural peanut butter is like. Really. As a result we have been buying No-Stir Natural Peanut Butter which is more expensive and not as healthy.

But I knew there must be a better way. First I considered making my own peanut butter. This entails ordering peanuts, roasting, shelling and blending them. Somehow that endeavor seemed a bit too labor intensive. Then I consider this contraption -- a peanut butter stirrer. Not a bad idea and not a bad price. I almost ordered it but then discovered this patent, yes patent.

Doh! All I have to do is periodically flip the jar over and it will be mostly stirred; no device necessary. What an ah ha moment! So now I buy my organic natural peanut butter from Costco, turn it periodically and save a fair amount of cash.

Third - tail lights and head lights. After six-years of faithful service my tail light burned out. Great, I thought, another expense. But, as it turned out, not expensive at all. Two bulbs from the automotive store cost a mere $6.00. It took about five minutes to change out the bulb. Check your owner's manual - these projects are often easier than you might think.

Fourth - if you haven't already done so don't buy Easter egg dying kits. All you need is water, a few drops of food coloring and vinegar. And did you know you can dye brown eggs? I was so excited to find we could use our own eggs this year.

And one final note. Maya over at MayaMade is starting a new Friday tradition -- Fix-it Fridays. Her goal is to fix rather than replace. I love it.

Okay - phew! Long winded post. But, because I promised, a brief list.

I am grateful for:
  • Showers
  • Warm fresh from the dryer towels
I hope:
  • My kids don't freak out when they discover they aren't going to work with me.
  • For a productive but stress free night.

A Year of Living Positively

In February 2008 Peculiar Momma came to life. It was (and is) a simple place; a place to reflect, grouse and document. Mostly it’s a personal journal that happens to be open to the public. In other words I write for myself. If someone else reads these musings all the better. If not so be it.

Lately this blog has had less actual writing and more listing; lists of things for which I am grateful. These lists are cathartic. They bring about a sense of peace and make me truly happy. I find myself reviewing these lists periodically and, honestly, they warm the cockles of my soul.

Practicing gratefulness is not a novel idea. Buddhists, happiness experts and numerous others have preached this behavior for ages. You know the old adage “smile to make yourself happy”. Previously I thought this idea was oopey, goopy bologna put out by people that were either a) stoned or b) truly miserable and faking it.

And then I began to practice gratefulness. My life hasn’t changed but it has changed my life. My children still fuss and yell (you should have been here the other night - oi vay!). Money is still tight. I continue to work nights and weekends and holidays. My house is a mess. And yet ... yet. I am more content. I am incredibly grateful for the things I do have and do not lament the things I don’t.

Now this doesn’t mean I live without hopes and dreams. In fact I’m working on a Mondo Beyondo list as we speak (yes - another list). The Mondo Beyondo is a list of hopes and dreams that, in the words of Andrea Scher from Superhero designs, are " JUICY and unlikely to happen that you are even afraid to write them down."

Two-years-ago I wouldn’t have considered writing such a list. Again - oopey goopy. But, seriously, why not? And really it goes with my theme for the year - Imagine.

And what is point of all this? Simply to tell you that today - April 2nd, Good Friday, I begin my Year of Living Positively. With each and every post I will include a gratefulness list and a list of hopes (not Mondo Beyondo hopes - those are separate- but a small list of austere dreams and desires). I can't wait to see what unfolds!

And now, without further adieu --

Things I am grateful for today:
  • Gorgeous fluffy white snowflakes.
  • Babysitting exchanges.
  • Solitude.
  • A HUGE stack of books waiting to be read.
  • The promise of Easter brunch with friends and family.
  • My calendar with last year's photo that is oh so appropriate for today.
  • Bright and cheery table settings (something old, something new, something thrifted, something blue).

Things I am hoping for today:
  • I sincerely hope my husband can find peace and contentment at work (he's still living on the ooey gooey side of gratefulness).
  • I hope my girls behave tonight as I may have to take them to work with me.
  • I hope to finish a small piece of this blanket I'm knitting.
  • I hope the roads don't ice over.
  • I hope the Easter wheat grass I planted continues to grow.
  • I hope those less fortunate are able to find shelter from this storm.