Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nightime Visitors; or, why my cacti look as though they are falling apart

 This is my cactus.  It is an okay plant, really I am not a huge fan of desert landscaping, but I don't have to water it so it makes me happy.  I ignore it and just pick up pieces and toss them from time to time so the front looks like I might care about it (I don't really care about the front yard).  Those glowing eyes belong to my neighbor. 
This is one of many little guys who came to visit us the other night.  Not an unusual occurrence.   In fact this family of javelina are our neighbors, we co-exist in our community and as long as they aren't tipping over my trash can I have no issues with them.  The herd is growing though.  What started out as five or six has grown and now when I have to wait for them to cross the street so I can drive by there are sometimes ten or more. 
 This one is sniffing the air, can you tell?  They don't see well.  They don't see you standing there really but they smell you and they will charge at you if they perceive a threat to the herd.  I have never had that happen.  Mostly I just wait or walk away from them. 
This little guy is enjoying a bit of a munch on that cactus of mine.  I am actually perfectly fine with that.  The cactus does grow up and there are still viable parts at the top, mostly because over the years they have eaten the parts at the bottom.  I say it is better they eat my cactus than my trash, and it is truly better they eat what they find rather than having people feed them the wrong foods!

Interesting fact for the day:  Each herd of javelina has its own smell.  In order to introduce a new animal to the herd you have to let it live amongst them awhile and take on the odor or they will not accept her to their family. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Repurposing old washcloths

I don't know about you, but I like to wash my face with a nice, soft, thick washcloth.  After awhile all washcloths get worn, and I had a LOT of washcloths.  We keep baskets of clean washcloths in all our bathrooms, you know, for when you want a clean face!

What to do though with all of those worn ones.  I didn't want that many rags but I also didn't want to toss them. 

I have decided not to buy more paper towels,  but what about those cotton balls, could I live without them? 

I can now!  I just cut the washcloths into squares and filled three pickle jars with little squares that you can use for toner, nail polish remover, ear piercing cleaner, etc. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Growing Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts is back in full swing for me.  I had so many Girl Scout things to do last week and I was so busy that when Friday came and I knew my girls would be arriving for their first meeting I was a little tired.  Not dreading the meeting, but not full of the energy I knew would be required to interact with all my girls. 

To add to my trepidation we had two new girls joining our troop for the first meeting.  One of whom the girls were just getting to know because she just moved here.  Also, this is the first year we have an "accelerated" class, and half of my troop was in that class, the other half not.  I am still not sure how or if this will effect the girl dynamics, but I am going to keep an eye on it! 

So.....what happened, why this long winded introduction, get to the point lady!  Right?!

I was pleasantly surprised.  That is what happened.  I had to reassert myself for some of the girls who need a little discipline and structure.  That was expected and not as difficult as it was last year.  We played a fun get to know each other better game.  That went well.   They were noisy and boisterous, and had fun, which was good. 

Then I told them we were going to do a circle, a REAL Girl Scout circle.  Now, we have been doing circles for all their years in Scouts, but we have never really set rules.  We have always commented and not necessarily gone around the circle, sometimes it was a raise your hand and let's see what happens event.  This time we had guidelines ahead of time.  I appointed a timekeeper to keep a maximum limit of two minutes on our long winded girls.  They were not allowed to talk or respond unless it was their turn.  They had to actively listen.  We talked about this before we started, and I was a bit nervous.  They are only eight, I wasn't sure they were ready for this. 

We started with a full stop moment, but I don't really like that term.  Instead I told them we were going to take a minute and put ourselves on pause, close our eyes, and just relax and not think so we could better focus.  This resulted in a few giggles, but I think the more I do it the more it will work.  

Well shock me silly, there were a few infractions in our circle, but we are learning, for the most part they were attentive to one another and willing to share.  Most of the kids just shared a quick little something about their week or summer.  I had one girl who HAD to fill up her two minutes and kept going and going and going and going, even though she really had nothing left to say.  I had one pass because she wasn't yet comfortable, but even my new girls shared. 

I am not going to share what they shared with you as that is our private knowledge, but some of the girls were sharing things you could tell touched them deeply.  I was touched. 

For our next meeting I have one or two more girls joining us.  I am going to build on what we have a started and make sure it becomes our tradition.  My true hope is that these girls remain in Girl Scouts and are able to stick with each other through high school.  Growing up is hard, the more good friends you have the better, and they know that I don't tolerate hearing that they are not helping each other out and being a sister to every Girl Scout.  Sometimes that is challenging for them, but eventually I hope that no matter what social circle they join at school they will still be there for each other. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Strawberry Jam part 2

If you follow my blog you know I made strawberry jam earlier this summer.  Here is the link with the recipe, in case you are inspired to try it out.  Well, we already ran out, so I was back in the kitchen the other day making more.  I have noticed that our strawberries at the store have been sweeter lately, and organic strawberries were on sale so I took three of the four pounds we bought and went to making jam. 

 Don't they look yummy?  This time I had a different child helping me.  Little l helped by....well....she ate strawberries, kept her fingers off the cutting board, and watched off and on until I was done, other than that she was not much help!
 If anyone has a quick way for dicing strawberries I am all ears.  3 pounds of strawberries took me an hour to dice, of course I was interrupted frequently by my helper, but still that was a long time!
 My favorite part when making strawberry jam is the smell that permeates through my home.  I wish it always smelled so scrumptious.  Next time when it comes time to boil down the syrup I may just keep the syrup separate and make strawberry syrup for pancakes, or at least keep some of it separate. 
This time I didn't mess around.  I filled our one liter jar and only had enough left for a little mold jar.  We went through ours so fast last time I think I will be lucky if this lasts more than a month!  I am not complaining, it is nice to make something for your family that they just eat up!  I may need to make another batch soon though before strawberries are out of season.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Homemade Yogurt

I have been experimenting with the homemade yogurt.  First, I only like it Greek.  Get rid of that whey please, it does not like me!  Then there is the type of milk used.  At first I only used whole milk, because that is what my milk drinkers drink.  I, however, do NOT need the extra fat in my diet, so I recently switched to non-fat.  It takes longer in the incubator (my term for the yogurt maker), but it tastes fine to me.  The sad thing is to make full 8 oz servings (that is a full serving to me) I only end up with about 5 servings from eight cups, sometimes four.  Once all of the whey is drained away you are left with less, so I am trying to stay on top of how frequently I should be making this stuff!  I am still trying to adjust my planning so I am not asleep when the yogurt is ready to be strained!  This is not something you just decide to make, you have to know what you are going to be doing in 12 hours, a little planning is necessary.

I am still playing around with my additions.  I know you see my white chocolate chips up there.  Even using those as my sweetener and adding some dried fruit I am under in sugar count compared with most store bought yogurts.  That is just crazy!  I am still working my sugar count lower, so we will see how it goes.  I have also been adding some flax seed for good fats and fiber.  I think it is a yummy lunch, and my calorie count for lunch if I only eat this is under 300.  Not too shabby!

Now if I could just become better at anticipating when my husband and I will finish off the yogurt so that I can not run out..... Then I have to figure out how to do this with rice milk, because Big L wants some yogurt.....argh.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Summer Fruit is almost gone....

One of my favorite parts about summer is all of the fruits you have to choose from.  During the summer we have a nightly fruit salad.  Usually it has peaches, nectarines, strawberries and blueberries.  Sometimes I throw in some grapes, raspberries or blackberries.  Rarely do I have any leftover at the end of the meal. 

This is my favorite part of summer, and I am a little sad this year as the fruit starts to come to an end.  I wish I had canned more and done more to extend the tastes of the season.  Maybe next year.  What is your favorite part of summer? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Doughnut Muffins-My latest attempt at feeding a picky eater

If you follow my blog you know that my daughter is a PICKY eater.  Understandably so, due to her allergies she likes to stick with foods she knows and loves.  Unfortunately, she gets tired of these foods at times and I have to find something new.

Blueberry muffins were a hit with the adults in the house, but NOT the kids.  Big L actually said she liked the muffins, just not the blueberries.  WHAT?!?!?!?  I could not understand.  BLEW MY MIND!

So, I dove into my piles of recipes that I have saved and clipped to see if I could find a plain muffin recipe that everyone could live with.  Thankfully King Arthur Flour sent me a recipe for Doughnut Muffins with my last flour order.  For the record, I have no sponsors and receive no money from companies I mention.  I just like KAF flour.  Of course, to make this recipe I had to change it up a bit.

Doughnut Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1/4 cup Soy Free Earth Balance
1/4 cup Safflower Oil
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
6 Tablespoons unsweetened natural applesauce
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Organic King Arthur Whole White Wheat Flour
2 scoops NOW unflavored Pea Protein powder
1 cup rice milk

3 Tablespoons of soy free earth balance
3 Tablespoons of cinnamon sugar (I used 2 tablespoons cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar, but I LOVE cinnamon)

Beat the butter, oil and sugars until smooth.  Add the applesauce and baking powder.  Add in the baking soda, nutmeg, salt and vanilla.

Stir the flour and pea protein in alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix until well combined.  Spoon the batter into the muffins cups, filling almost to the top.  Bake at 425 for at least 17 minutes.  You can tell they are done when a cake tester comes out of the middle of the muffin clean.

Let them cool for a bit and prepare the topping.  Brush the top of the muffins with butter then sprinkle cinnamon sugar mix.  Or do like I did mix it all together and paint it on top.  I left some muffins with the topping because Big L still refuses to like cinnamon.

They taste better to me warm, but Big L will eat them right out of the fridge.  They lasted through the school week in the fridge for me.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Hair Creativity

 Big L has long hair, can you tell?  She is also VERY creative and comes up with some of the most intricate and time consuming hair designs.  Sometimes I think she is just trying to challenge me.  The one above took at least 25 minutes to complete.  Two ponytails in the front, 10 braids in the back, pull back the ponytails to the middle of the back of the head, clip down with a barrette.  CRAZY yeah?  Kind of, but really it looked pretty darn cool in my opinion.  Sometimes it takes her awhile to get me to understand exactly what it is she wants me to do. 
Take this one for instance.  It was easy, but it took almost as long for her to get me to understand what she wanted as it did to put it up.  What did she want?  One ponytail.  Divide it into four sections, twist, weave end back through rubber band, barrette twisted portion to head.  It also looked a little cool.  I could show more!  This one below was her attempt at a crown I think.  There was a specific order I had to put those rubber bands!

My favorite of late seems to have escaped photographing.  For that one you start with a ponytail.  Divide that into three and braid each section, then take the three braids and braid them together.  IT is awesome at keeping the tangles away and stays pretty tight most of the day despite sleep and vigorous play. 

What hairstyles does your child come up with? 

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I have posts, I even have pictures, they just aren't written or uploaded as of yet.  It will happen when it happens.  As it stands right now I am waiting for little l to take a nap so I can GO WORKOUT.  Almost put go to sleep there instead of workout.  That is the couple days I have had. 

Did you know sugar is addicting and a hard habit to break?  I really have NEVER completely given up sugar.  My body would quite probably go into shock or crash if I did, however, I did dramatically reduce my sugar intake for a while there, especially when losing weight.  For some reason that only my subconscious is aware of I have had an out of control sweet tooth for a week.  I look forward to when the junk is gone so I don't have to buy more.  Really I could just throw it away, but.......HAH!

Oh and did I tell you meager blog readers that I lost five pounds in a month while NOT on my diet.  That is an official weigh in at the diet doctor.  Take that doctor, I can lose weight without being on your diet.  Of course, that did not apply at first, but I feel confident it can apply to the last 10-15 pounds.  

Today is a rambler of a post so feel free to disregard.  I am still waiting to hear back from my plastic surgeon, little l is still having issues, big L is HAPPY.  You heard me, this kid is happy.  She is finally learning to make lemonade out of lemons.  Is she always happy?  No.  The yelling at the oldest because the youngest did something to irritate me thing is occurring.  You know, that thing we oldest children SWEAR we will NEVER do when we have kids.  The truth is that I explain to L why she is getting in trouble instead of l.  There is always a logical reason, and she understands.  Taunting your little sister into doing something wrong is just as bad as doing it yourself.  At least in my world it is, especially when we are trying to walk out the door and this something wrong involves dumping cereal all over the floor.  How do you handle it parents?  Is there really a FAIR way to handle it? 

My children love each other, but they also compete for time with me.  Sometimes I think their little minds believe that by getting the other one in trouble they will have more of that precious mama time.  I am hoping they will quickly learn that is not the case.  In fact, this constant manipulation makes mama happy to be leaving for the weekend.  I love my children, want to be with them a lot and have fun.  However, I need a break every now and then.  I know how spoiled I am that I actually get these breaks.  If you are a single mom, or just don't have a good support group you don't get this time.  To be honest, with my first child I didn't take breaks very often.  With this second child I have learned that breaks are necessary for both of us.  She needs the time away so that she appreciates the time with me, and I need the time away so I can have a grown up conversation and use big words without having to define them.  It all works out in the end. 

Well, I think I hear silence so I am going to run off and exercise before the silence is shattered!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Last Week-Food Allergy Fears

This last week was a rough week in many ways.  I had lots of plans of things I was going to do and share on this blog that did not come to fruition.  Life moves on and I am flexible, so I just ignored it all for awhile.  I had three doctor appointments last week and a toddler who as of today is going on eight days without a normal bowel movement. 

Little l has had diarrhea/loose stool for over a week.  At first, I thought it was a virus, as did the doctor.  If this is a virus it is apparently not very contagious as no one else has become ill.  That is the good thing about last week.  However, if not a virus what?  We sent off on Friday to have a test done to determine if virus or parasite, but my paranoid food allergy mom sense is tingling, and I can just hope that it is overreacting. 

Little l hasn't had anything new recently, so if we have a new food allergy it is going to be to something she loves.  I just hope it is not wheat, but if it is I am sure that we will adjust and move on.  For her sake I hope it is not one of the many fruits she loves, or her milk.  We did go a few days without milk, but that did not seem to help.  She asked a lot during those few days to drink her milk, eat cheese, eat yogurt, etc.  I put her on some probiotic supplements so we will see if that helps at all.  She is my healthy kid.  Even when she gets sick she is usually quick to recover.  It doesn't linger, and she has not been on antibiotics a lot, twice maybe three times in her whole life.  Like I said not a lot. 

We will see what happens with the little one, and now I am waiting to see if my insurance will approve a breast reduction.  I went to the plastic surgeon, liked him.  He warned me I would likely be flat, I told him I was fine with that.  He warned me that he had to make it look good, I told him to do what he had to do.  Now we wait to see what the insurance says.  I am nervous because I have not complained about my neck, shoulder, upper back and chest pain a lot.  When I did complain of chest pains they told me it was something else, they did not relate it to my boobs.  We will see what happens, but I am a bit nervous about the waiting, and excited to have it done.  I just imagine what it will feel like to not be weighed down anymore and I can only imagine how awesome it will feel. 

So that is my long winded excuse for having nothing to write about last week, though truth is I had things I could have written about I was just preoccupied by a potty training toddler with diarrhea, a back procedure for myself, and the stress of getting Big L back into a school schedule.  I swear she takes the smallest bites in the morning just to drive me nuts!  That is another post.  Enjoy your Monday!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Under the Stars

In general I am not a fan of the Arizona landscape.  It is not my favorite.  I don't hate it, I don't love it, I am just meh about it.  Until I get to the pine trees and then I do love it.  I love looking out over the mountains and seeing a sea of trees.  I find it calming and reassuring.  So part of what I hoped to share with my Girl Scout troop this trip was that awe that I feel at times when I am in nature.  Whether or not I succeeded I am unaware, but I tried to share how it makes me feel.  Sometimes, though words are not possible to describe what I feel when I am in nature. 

Our troop camping trip started out a little rough because the camp we were supposed to go to had pump issues with their well and had no water.  Well (he he) that was not acceptable, so we were rerouted to another Girl Scout camp.  We rolled with the punches and talked up the cool things we would be doing instead of canoeing and rock climbing (the camp we ended up at did not have these activities).  The girls were great and adjusted to the change with enthusiasm.  Until the camp told us that we would be having a sleep out the second night of our trip.  Trepidation was felt all around.  I was not sure how sleeping under the stars would go with a few of my girls who were not so outdoorsy. I also had a few homesick girls who were putting on their bravest faces for us in the evening when it was hardest, but still cried at night. 

So I started out the evening thinking that after the girls watched their movie out on the field we would be moving back into our cabins to sleep.  I could not have been more wrong.  I underestimated their energy level and their willingness to try new adventures.  More than half were asleep before the movie ended.  We had one girl who wanted to go back when it was over, but she was willing to try to stay out since no one else wanted to go back. 

It was a beautiful night.  The clouds had cleared away and the stars were amazing.  The sheer vastness of the universe was very humbling.  To think that from other planets we look like a small dot in the sky is amazing.  The number of stars and planets that were visible was awe inspiring as well.  Even with the lower levels of light pollution where I live we do not see the night sky in this way.  It was amazing, did I say that already?   Let's try marvelous then. 

The only sounds were the beetles and crickets making night music.  The breeze was cool and soft, and the air was finally cool and comfortable.  We were all sleeping next to each other squeezed onto tarps.  There was a sense of community and togetherness you don't feel sleeping on bunks in a cabin. 

I however did not sleep.  Once my girls were comforted and sleeping other ones began having issues.  Intermittently throughout the night we heard panic, crying, anxiety and chit chat.  They had to wake up friends to have a truddy to go to the bathroom.  They then had to find their way back to where they were sleeping, and it was dark enough to make that a little challenging after having been in the unnaturally bright lights of the bathroom. 

There were moments of peace however when all human noise was silent except for the soft breathing of little girls all around me (and the leader snoring a few sleeping bags down from me).  I did manage to sleep a few hours, I think.  It was peaceful, quiet in a natural buzzing way and the stars were a great night light to observe.  I even saw a shooting star as I lay there thinking about how proud I was of my girls for trying something new, and of myself for actually sleeping outside as well.  This is something I would not have been capable of a few years ago.  I reminded myself as I looked into the night sky to not underestimate myself or my girls again, because when we put our minds to it we can do anything.