Monday, September 24, 2012

Favorite Garden Places # 3

Looks like Blogger pulled their old format finally and now I've got that new Dashboard (you know, the one they've been urging us all to upgrade to for months, which of course I never did because I like  the old one better and it takes me forever to get used to new appearances . . .), so it's taken me a bit to get up enough gumption and stamina to deal with this new format -- but here I am again, finally.   After much frustration.  Even though IPhoto says it is exporting my pictures to Picasa, Blogger is not showing them in the Picasa albums, and then when I import them directly from IPhoto to Blogger, it's throwing all the pictures in at once, and in random order!  So here is a very random tour of the Playhouse portion of the Big Backyard garden at the Memphis Botanic Garden (because I am tired of messing with it -- kind of like aversion therapy for computer!)

These are life size fairy houses created by my friend Mary at the Botanic Garden.

These are details of the mushroom house shown in the top picture.

Lots of little doors and secrets to discover.

The picture below is of the inside of the playhouse my friend Mary Jo made out of a discarded standard playhouse that was donated to the Botanic Garden.    It is filled with whimsical mosaic and lists of "find the . . ." for both the mosaics and things to look for in nature.  I helped her come up with the lists for the nature hunts.

Here is a view of several of the playhouses.

I've had some very busy weeks, with homeschooling starting up again.  Even though I only have my 15 year old left at home, I'm teaching an "election year" Civics/Government class to 15 homeschool teens each week (in my home! yikes!), and I have 3 other teens coming over each week to do a lab for Forensics, which Cree is doing for science this year.  With both Civics and Forensics involving other people besides my own child, I am having to do quite a bit of prep work for them, as well as send out reminders on the computer, etc.

So, the net result has been not a lot of time (or pictures) to put up here from the past month -- and, as I shared above, getting the pictures on to here has been a challenge!  Back in May we went to the Memphis Botanic Garden with some of our homeschool friends and I was able to take these pictures of the "Big Backyard" (or Family Garden, or Children's Garden, as some people call it) section of the Botanic Garden before my camera's batteries ran out.  Mary Jo and Mary are long time members of our homeschool group, and their work can be seen throughout the Big Backyard at the Memphis Botanic Garden (as well as galleries).  Our group (Homeschoolers of Memphis Eclectic -- known years ago as Unschoolers of Memphis) is the only secular and inclusive homeschool support group in this area and we have partnered with the Memphis Botanic Garden for the past 19 years for classes there for the kids in our group -- so members of our group have a very special relationship with the Botanic Garden.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent Even Easier!

I'm not kidding!  Making my own laundry detergent got even easier.

The most tedious part was grating the soap.  That was just a pain.  Maybe my hand held grater is too wimpy.  I don't know.  But it was not fun.  Not even close.  Although it wasn't THAT bad, but I'm just not into the zen of grating soap and really don't want it to last more than 30 seconds.

So -- I've started grating the soap with my food processor!

It's soap, right?  So it's kind of like cleaning it.  And people run needles across a bar of soap to -- do something -- I'm not sure what -- but it's "a good thing", as they say.

So first I grate the soap with the grater blade of the food processor, then I put in the "knife" blade and whiz it a few times to reduce the shreds to more of a powder consistency.  Then I pour it in a bowl and stir in the washing soda and borax.  The whole process took just a couple of minutes.

Here's the complete recipe:  1 bar of fels naphtha or zote soap, 1 cup super washing soda, 1 cup of borax.  Mix together, put in a container, use 2 Tablespoons per load of laundry.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

More Magic Bling for My Garden

Aah, we (and by we I mean my husband) finally finished painting the front of the house.  He had to rig up a special paint brush holder that could reach to the top of our top eave (saving us from having to rent an even bigger ladder than the huge one we share with my parents).  I have to say I just love love love the purple trim -- purple enough to be fun, but not too terribly outrageous for our somewhat staid and conservative suburban neighborhood.

Of course I couldn't just stop with the purple trim.  That eave has been begging for some kind of focal point -- some kind of bling!  I found the sun medallion at Costco -- this was the last one at our store, marked down to $16!   Of course it had to come home with me.  For $16 I could find a place for it, even if it didn't work out for the eave (it's really hard to tell whether it would be the right scale before getting it up there).

It is absolutely perfect for the space!  We are having a nice little cool down this weekend, with highs of only 80 and lows in the low 60's (which is good, because our downstairs AC quit working last night, sigh), so a great weekend for going to our local annual community festival, The Germantown Festival, and the grand opening of our new Urban Farm Park (Bobby Lanier Park).  And maybe some progress can be made on the remaining painting that needs to be done, on the south and north sides of the house.  But at least our front is finished now.

Monday, September 3, 2012

September Calendar and Hollyhock Challenge

One blog post -- for TWO LUSCIOUS CHALLENGES.

First up:  Violette, author and artist and a favorite blogger of mine (because she has an incredible Purple Magic Cottage with a giant Dragonfly she made mounted on the front) issued a HOLLYHOCK ART CHALLENGE.

Now hollyhocks are one of my favorite flowers AND I needed to create my September Calendar pages for the 366 CALENDAR CHALLENGE at The Kathryn Wheel, sooooo I painted up some hollyhocks for my September pages!

I used acrylic paints, colored pencils, watercolor crayon, and a white signs unibal pen.

Now, before I transform that into my SEPTEMBER CALENDAR, here is a picture of AUGUST all finished and filled in:

Now to turn hollyhocks into a calendar:

Let's see how those colors look outside.

And a closer look at each page:

It's not too late to join either the Hollyhock Challenge or the Calendar Challenge!  Check out Violette's and Kate Crane's blogs and all of their wonderful creativity.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Be the Change

It sounds trite -- but one of my core beliefs is that individuals matter and that individual action can and does make a difference.

A couple of years ago I heard about on the Bill Moyer's show on PBS (oh, how I miss watching Bill Moyers each week!).  It is an organization built on individuals helping individuals on a grass-roots level.  It is a micro-financing non profit organization that makes micro-business loans to individual men and women and to small cooperative groups in poor countries and communities to begin and continue running their own small community based businesses.  These loans are a little as $25.00.

So, through the website you can read about various entrepreneurs, choose who to loan $25 to, make the loan through Kiva, then when that loan is paid back I can re-loan the money to another individual through Kiva -- thus making that money work over and over again.  You can see what I am talking about here:

Kiva allows you to lend money to women and men in third world countries to help them grow their businesses. They then pay you back the money as their business grows, and you can choose to use it yourself or lend it to another person.

This is incredibly powerful. When businesses are able to prosper in third world countries, it brings up the standard of life and education for themselves, their families and their communities... and their country... and eventually the world.  And when you empower a woman in business, she grows to have more power and self determination within her community and is much more inclined to spend money on investing in her children and their education.

Kiva gives you the chance to make small loans to borrowers working to start businesses and improve their lives. I’m already lending on Kiva and thought you'd like to join me with a $25 Free Trial. Redeem your Free Trial while they last!

Right now existing Kiva members (of which I am one) can invite others to make a FREE LOAN (due to a large generous donation I believe).  You can click on the link below -- follow the instructions and direct a $25 loan (with no investment of your own) be made to the recipient of your choice.  Now, when that money is repaid,  rather than it going to you (which it would, if you loan more or choose to do a second loan with your own money), the money will then be used for another loan, continuing to help third world individuals fund small businesses (like purchasing chickens to sell eggs, or cloth to sell in the market) that help support their families.  Kiva has a great reputation and a 98% repayment rate, and is making a real difference to real families.  You can click the link below and join in this effort.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Where Does the Time Go??

Sheesh -- will I ever have the time to leisurely work in my garden, take some pictures, and write a nice blog post?  I guess, eventually.  In the meantime, despite all of the unrelenting heat and drought, it seems like I haven't really had a summer.  TOO MUCH BUSY-NESS!!  Which makes me kind of cranky.  And disorganized.  And discombobulated.

lofting the bed -- then unlofting when she decided it was too high
Got Hannah off to college -- 400 miles away on the other side of the state.  I hope she appreciates how I am not calling her and interrogating her every night.  We have had a lot of texts and emails over the past 2 weeks, and this afternoon a telephone call for me to walk her through printing something out from her new computer and unfamiliar word processing program to her new printer, and lengthy discussions about how to handle the purchase the required Spanish textbook (does the Amazon version that is $100 cheaper than the school book store come with the required computer code pass key, which appears to cost $100 separately, is the book store one bundled . . . ?).

This 1800's farmhouse is next door to her dorm, and is where she will be working as the Freshman Fellow for the Mountain Challenge organization that is headquartered here.  There's a dog and 2 cats, a garden, solar panels, etc.

A view of the (weedy) garden and the mountains beyond.  It was overcast that day -- on less dreary days you can see layers upon layers of mountains.

One of her first tasks was to climb to the top of this "Alpine Tower".  Down below are Mountain Challenge staff, with whom she'll be training all year.

When we got back, it was time for Cree to jump back in to homeschooling.  Here our some of our books for this year:  Civics, American History (Civil War to present), Algebra I, Forensics, American Literature, The Scarlet Letter.

Hosted and taught the first session of the homeschool Civics Class with my 15 paying (yay!) students.

And had a lot of this going on:

Our 3 yr old granddaughter spend an unplanned (as usual, sigh) 3 days and nights (while preparing for the Civics Class -- sure wasn't counting doing my prepping with a 3 yr old in the house -- challenging to say the least).  A 3 year old who doesn't take naps and doesn't go to bed until 10 or 11:00 at night.  I really understand how her mommy needs a break now and then because Ari is a huge handful, but she is hard to have over for that long of a time.  She's cute, but oh my she is so intense and in constant motion!