Monthly Archives: April 2013

Using a Worm Bin to Turn Ordinary Kitchen Scraps Into Awesome Compost

Worm BinYum! That picture sure helps to build up an appetite! This year, I wanted to start using our kitchen scraps to make compost for us instead of putting the scraps into our yard waste barrel to make compost for the city (and subsequently having to buy compost for our garden every year). I decided to use a worm bin, thinking worms would break down material faster and that we’d get more worms for our yard once we did have compost. The last time we tried this, we ended up attracting drain flies, though I later learned that this was because Tertia was tossing fruit remnants in the bin and not covering them. It was a very big issue for us, since our yard is so small that the bin has to be right by our patio door. This time, I did a lot more research before purchasing a system. I purchased  a Worm Factory 360 WF360B Worm Composter and Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm 1,000 Count Red Wiggler Live Composting Worms. We’ve had the setup going since January and not had any problem with odors or drain flies, though the summer heat will be the true test for this.

Dora has vacillated between fascination and repulsion in regards to the worms (as have I, if the truth be told). She has been very involved, however, with helping to “feed” and “water” the worms, as well as helping with layering the compost materials. Overall, the worms have been very low maintenance. Once we had all the trays full, we have just had to water them once a week.

Unfortunately, this system is just too small for our family of seven people and three pets, even when I expanded it as much as possible. I even added another thousand worms, but the worms can only eat so many banana skins and apple peels a week. So I recently ordered a traditional composter. Based on it’s design, I’m hoping it can hold more. At the very least, we’ll have two systems going, so we’ll get twice the compost. I’m really hoping that I never need to buy compost again, as the first seven years that we lived here, I spent hundreds of dollars a year trying to rebuild that natural ecosystem in our soil that the builders destroyed when they built our house (this is a problem with all new housing, between scraping off the top soil when they clear the land and compacting the soil when they drive their heavy machinery on the land, construction crews wreak havoc on soil).

What about you? Do you have a worm bin or compost pile? If so, is it near your door? Does it attract flies or smell? Do you know any other secrets to controlling odors and flies (other than covering all “greens” with “browns”)?

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–April 28

Tulip 4Sunday – Having a surprisingly relaxing and productive day after a rough morning. We even had time for me to cook split pea soup and cornbread for dinner. Yum!

Monday – A twofer day!

  • Secunda unexpectedly taking Dora out to the park and for a picnic for a couple of hours, giving me the gift of “me” time.
  • Tertia helping me solve the hair problem that I was having with my troll doll.

Tuesday – Dora’s rousing (and hysterical) rendition of Old McDonald Had a Farm!

Wednesday – Dora’s supposedly perplexed expression when I came into the backyard to find that in my one minute absence to retrieve her sunglasses, she had soaked herself and the house with the hose. She quickly dropped the hose and looked at me as if to say, “Gosh, I wonder how everything got so wet?” Rose Bud 2Thursday – Working in the garden with Dora, enjoying a lovely, mild spring day, planting roses while she studied the life and times of “Wormy the worm”. She later built a memorial for Wormy, who did not die, but went off to pursue darker and danker pastures, leaving Dora with only the memories of the good times they had.

Friday – Gohan watching Dora for an hour for me to take a badly needed nap.

Saturday – Mr. Mo being able to mow the lawn, which was really, really long, right before the downpour started.Icelandic Poppy 1

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Window Transparencies

Window Transparencies 26Last week, we decided to play with kite paper some more and made window transparencies. We used large sheets of kite paper, which are harder to find, though Palumba carries them (I’m not sure where I bought mine, but I only purchased one sheet of each color, so it was much cheaper). I’ve also read on other blogs that people have used tissue paper to do these. Dora found this activity to be extremely frustrating. Were I to do it again, I would cut out a variety of shapes ahead of time for her to use. She really had trouble grasping the idea of how shapes would go across the frame, so she’d cut giant pieces of paper and then not understand that she needed to trim the paper or she’d cut tiny pieces of paper and not be able to understand how to attach them to the frame, leaving gaps. So we ended up cutting the project short, with a much simpler design than I had hoped to do. To make the one that we did finish, I cut out a frame from black cardstock (I just made a random design).Window Transparencies 3We then glued a piece of blue kite paper on the back of the frame for the background. I later read that it is best to start with a clear or light colored piece of paper. I will admit, that we had some trouble with trying to blend yellow and blue kite paper to yield green, so I would probably use a light colored paper for the background next time.Window Transparencies 15We then glued on shapes to the back of the blue kite paper to make our design. This is where things fell apart, so we rushed the process. I would have liked to experiment with layering a bit more, but maybe next time….Window Transparencies 20To attach the window transparency to our window, we used double-sided tape. I really like window transparencies and am looking forward to being able to create more elaborate designs.

If you’d like to see some other designs, which I have pinned on Pinterest, be sure to check out my Pinterest board.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Good Spring Books for Young Children

I created a new page with our favorite books for spring and Easter on it, but thought I’d share the spring books as a post also, for those of you who read my blog via readers, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

What are your family’s favorite spring reads?

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Maureen

Labels: Literature, Spring
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–April 21

Vase of Daffodils - 7Sunday – Reading the comics for the first time in years and years!

Monday – Grateful that everyone in my family is safe and accounted for. Feeling deep sorrow for all those who cannot say the same on this truly horrific day.

Tuesday – Cutting the last of the daffodils for one final vase for the house. Their sweet fragrance fills the whole downstairs.

Viola 24

Wednesday – Violas, now that I figured out that the slugs won’t gobble them up if they are in planters!

Thursday – “2-for-1” sales on outdoor containers! Score!

Friday – I am very grateful that the Boston Marathon suspects are no longer at large.

Saturday – Mr. Mo bringing a nice warm chai to me before I even got out of bed.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening, Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Making Window Stars

Window Star 18Last week, I was going to tell a story to Dora that involved star flowers. So I thought it would be fun to make some window stars. I’d never made window stars before. The only thing that challenged me was my own mentality that paper folding crafts should stay together by themselves, as with origami. It really bugged my OCD-ish senses to use glue and tape! Otherwise, the process was pretty straightforward. I used this video from Sarah from Bella Luna Toys to get us going.

To make a basic window star, start with a piece of Kite Paper. Fold the paper in half length-wise and width-wise. Then open the paper back up.Window Star 1Bring the corners in to the center lines, like this.Window Star 2Fold two of the sides towards the middle like I did in the photo below (I only show one side folded, so that you can see the difference, but you would fold both sides).Window Star 3You will end up with a kite-like shape. Fold eight of these shapes and then join them with a little bit of glue (that dries clear), applied to the center line, as seen below.  When you come to the last “kite” you will need to tuck it under the first “kite” so that it layers properly.Window Star 4You will end up with an eight-pointed star that looks something like the star in the picture at the top of this post. You can attach your stars to your window using small pieces of double-sided taper. I then decided to experiment and made an extra fold for each star point. I ended up with some rhombas-like shapes.Window Star 5This small adjustment meant that I needed 16 star points for my star! Window stars are a great way to learn about geometry by the way. I messed up a little on this star, in that my folds don’t all go the same way. This did not become apparent until I hung the star on our window and I could see the gaps in the inner shadowy circle. With window stars, the inner shapes that are made by overlapping pieces of paper are almost as important as the outer shape, so I will need to pay more attention to that the next time we try this.Window Star 7

If you are interested in trying to make window stars and want to take things a bit farther, there are two good books that can provide ideas and inspiration. They are both available through Amazon. If you know of any other good sources for window star designs, please mention them in the comments below. I am totally in love with making these and though Dora can’t fold the paper quite right yet, she loves helping to pick out the color schemes.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Maureen

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Paper Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Yarn Along–Sunday Sweater

I’ve been totally bitten by the knitting bug! I’ve been learning lots from fellow knitters and various knitting blogs. As I’ve integrated more into the knitting community (as a stalker, not as a contributor of knowledge,  mind you), I’ve decided to start joining the weekly Yarn Along link up with Ginny at Small Things. The link up’s description is:

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr.

After my success with the knitted horse, I had thought that I might move on to something a little more complicated, like, oh I don’t know, a hat or a scarf! Dora, however, had other ideas. She happened to see me reading Nicole’s post about the Sunday Sweaters that she made for her daughters and Dora begged me to make the same sweater as Nicole’s older daughter is wearing. Dora wanted the same EXACT yarn and everything. Yarn Along 4-17-8So I am now knitting my 2nd real project ever, a sweater. So far it is going fairly well, though I’m not very far into it. I had to restart once already, because my “center pull” ball of yarn that I wound “jammed” and no more yarn would come out. In the process of trying to “unjam” it, I ended up tangling it and making a big ‘ol mess of everything. I then wound the yarn without a center pull, for fear of repeating this incident, but it is driving me crazy having the yarn roll all over the place. So I need to bite the bullet and learn how to roll a center pull ball of yarn. I’m also new to the whole Ravelry thing, but I am attempting to post notes for this project, which include the yarn color and sweater pattern link.I’m currently working my way through two books, plus the latest edition of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I’m slowly, but surely, trying to absorb a portion of the information from Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book. I personally think this a book that would benefit every knitter (or at least every beginning knitter). It is a very large book that covers types of yarns, various ways to cast on and bind off, increasing, decreasing, types of stitches, reading patterns, etc. It also has a few patterns at the back of the book. In all honesty, when I am first learning a stitch, I usually turn to The Knit Witch over at YouTube, but this book is easier to reference when I just need to jog my memory.I also just started reading Painting in Waldorf Education. The book looks promising, but I’ve not gotten far enough into it to say more than that. I hope it is helpful, as we are really struggling with watercolor painting here and thus far, I’ve yet to find a book that is much help.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Maureen

Labels: Good Reads for Moms, Knitting, Yarn Along
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–April 14

Conch Shell 3Sunday – Mr. Mo sawing a hole on Dora’s conch shell, so she could play it (I made the mistake of telling her that some people blow them like horns). Amazingly, she can play it quite well. I still have yet to be able to make a sound from it.Blowing Bubbles 2Monday – Mr. Mo holding down the fort for me while I slept almost all day after having what was supposed to be a minor nose procedure. Not sure if it was the procedure (they did inject epinephrine into my nose to minimize the bleeding and my body did not enjoy the effects of the epinephrine) or the arthritis flare up that I had over the weekend that wore me out so, but I’m very lucky to have a husband who will just jump in for me during these episodes, when I practically “pass out” (especially given that he also happens to have a stressful job that we need him to keep). He never complains though (once again ladies, he is taken).Face Painting 4Tuesday – Receiving a new bag and wallet in the mail today. My old one was starting to fall apart. I am beginning to wonder if I will ever go back to carrying a normal-sized purse again. Every single time I try to, Dora has some sort of mishap and I end up greatly regretting not having a change of clothes in my purse. Plus we both have Raynaud’s, so I always need gloves/mittens in my purse. Then, I always have to carry sun hats and sunscreen, as even a little bit of sun exposure sun can cause my connective tissue disorder to flare up. Add to that rain jackets, supplies for impromptu geocaching, etc. I don’t know how other mothers manage to carry so little, I have always had a big bag in tow.Yarn2Wednesday – a big box of yarn came in the mail!Face Painting 1Thursday – Finding a new vision therapist for Dora. She suffers from exotropia (her eyes wander outward) and our wonderful ophthalmologist has had to take an indefinite leave of absence, due to a family crisis. There aren’t that many doctors who can treat this condition in children Dora’s age and those that can, often favor surgery. I really wanted a doctor who would at least try vision therapy first, as it worked really well with both Primo and Tertia, who had eyes that wandered inward. It has taken me six months to find the right doctor, but it was well worth the effort. The only negative is that this doctor is about 45 minutes away (without traffic) and we will have to drive there once a week.IMG_1395Friday – Dora slept late for the first time in months! She doesn’t appear to be sick, so I have no idea why she slept so late, but it felt good!Being CoolSaturday – The food co-op had Bosc pears again! I think they taste so much better than Bartlett pears, though I think people are prejudiced against them, as they are kind of ugly.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Bird Nesting Materials

Bird Nesting Supplies 4Some birds have been returning to our area for the season and both Dora and I have been sad that we can’t feed them like we did last year. For those of you who haven’t been reading my blog for long, here is a short summary of what happened to our feeders last year: We woke up one morning to find our bird feeders completely destroyed. We were standing there, staring at the feeders in disbelief, shaking our heads sadly, trying to puzzle out why vandals would feel the need to so thoroughly destroy our feeders and worrying a bit about how strong the vandals must be, when Tertia came back from walking our dog and pointed to three bears headed our way. Once we thought that the bears had departed the area, we rushed out to clean up the bird feeder mess, realizing that the bears must have been attracted to it. Then the mother bear suddenly charged at Mr. Mo from behind our neighbor’s house while he was trying to dispose of the food and so forth and so on…. I then made the big mistake of calling the Department of Wildlife to report the bears and ended up getting chewed out for putting out bird feeders, given that I lived in “bear country” (which was news to us).  To top the whole thing off, a law was passed a couple of months later, which makes it illegal to feed bears, knowingly or otherwise,  in the State of Washington. This year, I briefly toyed with the idea of placing bird feeders in our backyard, but was a bit worried that the bears would just climb over our fence. Plus, I didn’t really want to attract birds to the area where our fruit trees, berry plants, and vegetable garden are.Bird Nesting Supplies 2Still, we have been really missing the company of all the birds who visited our yard last year. So, we finally decided to set out some nesting materials for the birds. We filled a suet cage with some scrap yarn and wool roving. Dora was very interested in this project and insisted on picking out and cutting the yarn herself, which is why the yarn is a bit brighter than I would have chosen. Maybe the birds don’t care, but I kind of felt that they might prefer colors that lent themselves more towards camouflaging a nest, but who am I to argue with a four-year-old? I did get to pick out the wool roving, however, so I chose a natural, undyed Alpaca wool for that. Thus far, the birds have not opted to take any of our offerings, but our tree is still a bit bare for the birds to be hanging out in. In fact, the only birds we’ve seen thus far, have been  robins and sparrows eating worms from the grass in our yard thus far.Bird Nesting Supplies 3-2What about you and your family? Do you set out feeders or nesting materials? If you set out feeders, do you have problems with bears or other unwanted guests? If you set out nesting materials, what types of materials have you found that the birds in your area like best?

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Maureen

Labels: Nature Study, Spring
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our Summer Gnomes

Summer GnomesI finished our summer gnomes some time ago and then forgot to post about them. For those who have missed my previous posts, Dora asked me to make a gnome for each month of the year. We put them out on our nature/seasonal shelf with our days-of-the-week gnomes and weather gnomes. Dora doesn’t know the names or order of the months, but wanted a gnome to associate with each calendar page of our family calendar. With five children, three of which are in college, our calendar plays a central role in our life and is prominent in our kitchen. You can go to these links to see my previous posts about our winter gnomes and spring gnomes.

I really struggled with the summer gnomes. From the beginning, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do with the winter, spring, and fall gnomes. The summer gnomes – not so much. Some readers gave me some suggestions and I kind of bounced off of some of those. I was trying for a hot and fiery look. To make their hats, I needle felted a “skull cap” for the gnomes, but left the tops of the caps unfelted. I then kind of twisted the tops to make them resemble a candle flame. I’m not 100% happy with them, but have yet to come up with a better idea (other than perhaps make felt sun caps, which I may yet try).

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gnomes, Needle Felting, Peg Dolls, Rhythm, Summer
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff