Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A few things to do . . .

We recently purchased a new house with .4 acres in what I describe as a somewhat "jungly" condition. One of our neighbors mentioned that the previous owner rarely ever mowed.  We have our work cut out for us, but we are looking forward to making improvements. We've been living either in the desert or in an apartment for the last 7 years and haven't even owned a mower in that time, so this is a big change for us.

Here are some "before" photos of upcoming projects:

This is what I call  "the scary slope"  in front of the house. It's got various types of trees, a lot of crown vetch, an assortment of weeds, some junipers and who knows what else is hidden in there? The neighborhood cats enjoy stalking prey here and I'm scared to know what exactly lives in the mess a few yards from my front door. This photo was taken after my husband went after it with a machete. It was spilling out over the concrete making the sidewalk impassable.
This is the official garden area. This is after I spent an hour or more digging out buried tomato cages and pruning back some blackberry canes.  It's still a tangled mess that needs many more hours of work.  I plan to make a compost bin in one corner and a small salad/herb garden and flower cutting garden in the rest--nothing too ambitious.
I call this one the "hidden spruce."  Our yard slopes up in back so that this beautiful blue spruce could be seen from the back of the house nearly at eye level if the scrub oak wasn't in the way. It will be trimmed back a little. My husband already trimmed back some of the small branches.

And this is the front door with a patch of eroding dirt between the sidewalk and the garage and a patch of weeds on the other side. I'm thinking that a smallish conical tree with blue-green foliage on either side would be nice to set off the entrance. I also want to improve the curb appeal by sinking flagstones into the sod in front of the picture window to make a patio seating area to take advantage of the splendid mountain views from there.
The view.  No need to improve that.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Foolish Friday

Knock Knock !
Who's there ?

Dragon who ?
Dragon your feet again ! 

My son Caleb at the Rice Harvest Festival in South Korea 2005.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rose of Sharon

 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. Song of Solomon 2:1

As I have mentioned before, we have a new house with a big yard. We have an entire hedge of Rose of Sharon and a few others scattered around. They grow tall and make a nice visual barrier between us and the street. Rose of Sharon are a type of hibiscus. The ones we have are a pink doubled flower variety that looks much more like a rose flower than the single flowered type. They are blooming right now in August and should continue through September.

This bee was very busily wedging himself between the petals.
Just can't get enough.
I love the mountain view.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Foolish Friday

Knock Knock !
Who's there ?
Who Who ?
Is there an owl in here ?

My son, Caleb and a little girl with an owl at Bantey Srei temple in Cambodia in 2007

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The quest for a daily shower spray recipe

Those of you who know me or have been following my blog for a while know that I love homemade cleaning products. I love them for a very good reason. I find they work better than the store bought kind for pennies on the dollar and are non-toxic and pleasant to use.

I have my favorites on my website for anyone to use:

Green Cleaning Recipes

Now, I'm trying to come up with my own recipe for daily shower cleaning spray and I find it's not exactly a straight forward process.  The commercial brands are expensive and most are toxic--definitely not something you want to routinely mist in your shower and breathe in or get on your skin. And they are stinky :-(

You want your shower spray to do at least two things well:

1. make water sheet off your shower walls in order to prevent water spots and to make the shower dry off quickly so mildew won't form
2. kill germs--especially mold and mildew, but also cold, flu and athlete's foot germs

You may also want it to break up hard water deposits and residue from soaps and hair products

There are all sorts of recipes and suggestions out there for formulas to make your own, but what will work for you depends on three main factors:

1. What materials your shower is made from
2. How soft or hard your water is
3. What products you use to wash your hair and body

Some of the homemade recipes contain scented bleach or ammonia. These are probably very effective, but not great things to mist around your living space and breathe in so I'll cross those off the list. And you never want to use the two together or to mix either one with vinegar or you will form a toxic gas.

Commercial dishwasher rinse agents are also sometimes added to help water sheet off and prevent water spots. Once again, you really never know what the manufactures put in these products. They are not required by law to list them. They probably work great, but do you want to breathe them in or get them on your skin? Products DO get into your bloodstream through your skin--that's why a hot bath with Epsom salts works for sore muscles. You are especially susceptible to this when your skin is freshly clean and your pores are open like after a nice hot shower.

Vinegar is an excellent product to use since it will break up hard water deposits and help to break up akaline deposits from soaps and shampoo products and it will kill germs. However, if you will want to avoid acidic formulas using vinegar if you have tile with grout or it will eat away at your grout. If you don't have grout and you do have hard water you may want a vinegar based formula. I used to use one that was made from vinegar, purified water, tea tree oil and a few drops of liquid soap with good results (but now I have grout).

Rubbing alcohol and peroxide can be used and also used in combination. They decrease the drying time and kill germs. The peroxide may even help keep your grout white. They have the benefit of not leaving a residue.

Essential oils can be added to help kill germs and provide a pleasant scent. Tea tree or lavender essential oils will kill germs as will other types of essential oils. Citrusy essential oils are very pleasant. Avoid using too much of these as they can add an oily residue. Don't use synthetic perfume oils.

Liquid soap or detergent can be used to break up the surface tension of water drops to help them sheet off the surface. Once again, you'll just want to use a few drops or you'll leave a residue. They also have the added benefit of helping to break up oily residue from conditioning products, lotions and body oils.

Borax or washing soda are sometimes added. These are alkaline and kill germs and can help protect your grout or caulk from acidic ingredients. These tend to change the scent of essential oils and will help neutralize the acidity of vinegar. Find these in the laundry aisle at the grocery store and dissolve them in hot water before adding to your formula.

Purified or distilled water is usually the base for all the homemade formulas--often more than half water and less than half other ingredients.

Commercial liquid all purpose green cleaning products can be diluted and used daily to help combat build up of hard water and personal care products. If doing this you'll probably want to dilute 1 part product with 10 parts purified water.

You can reuse another spray bottle to mix your formula or get a heavy duty spray bottle from the garden center.

If you give creating your own shower spray formula a try, leave a comment and let me know what you used and how it works.  I'd love to know!

CAUTION: homemade or commercial shower spray products can make your shower or tub floors a little slippery--be careful. Also, many of these ingredients should be kept away from children.

Other things to try:

* Get a shower squeegee and use it--especially if you have hard water
* Use gel products instead of bar soaps or creams as they wash away more easily (I love my bar soap though)
* Fresh air and sunshine. Mold, mildew and most other germs can't live in dry and sunny environments. The faster you can get your shower area dry the better. Always ventilate and open window blinds or curtains during the day if you have a window.
* A water softener--takes away the minerals and adds a tiny amount of salt which is also a germ killer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NEW item

I just finished this beautiful black keishi pearl necklace. Keishi pearls are also called petal pearls due to their flower petal shape.

Classically hand-knotted with tiny coils of French wire covering the bead cord at the clasp for extra durability.
Find it in my on-line store and also in my Etsy shop
I also carry this style of necklace in white pearls and natural pink pearls.


Monday, August 16, 2010

DIY - a little change

I've always wanted to paint the insides of my closets robin's egg blue. I don't know why. Being military, we move around a lot and getting into a house and getting settled right away is usually a priority.  Once those closets are filled with items it has always seemed like too much of a project to empty them and paint them--who is going to notice after all?  This time, I had a long weekend between getting into the house and having our household goods arrive.  I put it to good use.

Coat closet before
Coat closet before
The closets in our new house had only had builder's primer on them for the last 17 years.  I think the builder used up various shades of paint or primer to get the job done.  I found beige, white, grey and a pinkish beige color. One closet had three different colors. The original owners put in a lot of wood shelves, but not all of them got painted so I had bare wood too. I also had builder's notes in pen and childrens' scribbles as well as the typical shoe marks, nail holes and it seems about 50 foam adhesive pads to remove. A previous owner of the home apparently had some sort of addiction to adhesive backed plastic cup hooks.

Pantry After
Pantry After
Above is the soft shade of robin's egg blue in the pantry closet. Afterward I put down thick clear ribbed shelf liner to protect the surface and it looks clean and nice.

A few of the closets got a french vanilla custard type of color instead of the blue and I still have one closet to go, but they do look so much better!

Stay tuned for more house and yard photos of our new place. There's lots still to do.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

NEW item!

I recently re-strung a similar set of pearls for someone. She had simply worn out the silk thread because of constant use. She said they just go with everything. These also look great with every skin tone and the 17 1/2 inch length is good for almost everyone. If you are looking to buy a gift for that special someone, this might be it!

 Find this necklace in both my On-line Store or in my Etsy Shop



Friday, August 13, 2010

Foolish Friday

Knock Knock !
Who's there ?
Cat who ?
Cat you just open this door !
Caleb's tiger drawing from last summer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Great price for this unique bookmark.  Makes a great gift!

Regularly $14.50.  This week $11.50.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Foolish Friday

Knock knock !
Who's there ?
Safari who ?
Safari so good !

Caleb's tapir picture from last year. The tapir is his favorite animal.