Our Fairy Garden

Fairy GardenAs a Waldorf-inspired homeschooling mama, who loves to garden, it’s kind of amazing that I haven’t got around to creating a fairy garden any earlier than I did. We finally got around to it last month though.Fairy Garden WellTo house our garden, I used a large metal tub that I bought a long time ago. I drilled holes into the bottom of the tub, put a layer of rocks on the bottom of it, followed by a large layer of coconut coir, which is very light and bulky, followed by a layer of potting soil. I planted a couple of moneywort plants, a couple of thrift plants, some British soldiers (lichen), and lots of moss. We then decorated the garden with gems and fairy garden miniatures. Two items that I particularly love, are the adorable fairy house, which came from an Etsy store, called Gnome Sweet Gnome, and the wooden well, which came from another Etsy store, called Dragonfly Studio Arts.Fairy Garden HouseWe really enjoyed building the garden and a couple of days after building it, I left a small bottle of “fairy dust” for Dora to find. She was so excited that the “fairies” would leave something for her. She was disappointed that it didn’t make her fly though. She even warned me that if she suddenly started floating in the air that evening, it would mean that the fairy dust had finally started working.

Maureen

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Fariies, Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Crunchy Tuesday–My Garden’s New Friendenemy and New BFF

Welcome to week two of the Crunchy Tuesday link-up! To learn more about the link-up, please scroll to the bottom of this post. Wild LettuceTwo seasons ago, a new plant showed up in our backyard. I was too busy dealing with Dora and my undiagnosed connective tissue disorder to do  much weeding and the plant wasn’t that ugly, so I kind of ignored it. Last year, more of them showed up, but my health was even worse and nobody could see the backyard, but us, so I only made a half-hearted attempt to pull them up. This year, however, the plants took over our backyard. As soon as spring began, the plants were all over and new plants continue to show up every day. Also, they grow at a phenomenal rate. Nor do they seem to have much discernment when it comes to soil, they like the vegetable beds as well as the grass and the rocky/sandy rock wall area. I had no idea what they were and was too busy pulling them up to bother researching them. I nicknamed them “Devil’s Weed”, which I still think is a good name for them. I never saw them anywhere, but our backyard and wondered if they had been in one of the wild flower packs we had planted by our rock wall over the years, though couldn’t imagine anybody thinking they were pretty enough to intentionally grow. This weekend, though, I happened to mention my problem to a friend, who is very knowledgeable about all things botanical and herbal and who had me e-mail her a photo of them. At the time, none of the plants were flowering, but her best guess was that they were wild lettuce. The next day, one of the plants had grown several inches and bloomed, so I took this photo and then looked up wild lettuce. I had to agree that these plants do look a lot like the drawings of wild lettuce that I found. I also learned that wild lettuce is sometimes ingested for its psychotropic effects. Not exactly the type of plant I want growing in my yard! I have read that some people harvest wild lettuce for a variety of medicinal purposes, but I’m never going to allow another one of these plants grow in my yard again, if I can help it! I’ve read that it is a biennial, so I may be fighting a second invasion next year.Lactuca virosa - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-213Garden KnifeOn a positive note, my garden and I also have a new BFF. Last year, I read about something called a “garden knife”. I had never heard of such a thing and decided to purchase one this year. All I can say is that if I could only have one tool for my garden, this would be it! I don’t know how I have lived my whole life without one of these things. It works as a trowel, but also has a serrated edge, which is great for cutting open bags and for hacking out deep rooted weeds. The part of the knife that I have just recently started using and really love is the “dandelion popper”. It works very well for pulling dandelions out of grass.

Anyway, that is what is currently claiming my attention in my garden, but now it is time to get one with the link-up!

Maureen

Labels: Crunchy Tuesday, Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–June 1

Sunday – Having time to catch up on several household chores

Monday – Watching Epic with Dora, Secunda, and Mr. Mo

Tuesday – Washing my car mats at the car wash – they were sooooo yucky!Farmer's Market 1 - smallWednesday – The weather clearing up just enough for us to be able to go to the farmer’s market and Mr. Mo happened to be taking the day off, so he got to go too (and eat yummy Greek food!)Delphinium 1 - smallThursday – Blooming delphinium plants! I finally gave up on trying to grow them from seeds and they look lovely in our front yard.Delphinium 2 - smallFriday – Now my peonies are blooming too! They smell wonderful!Peony 2 - smallSaturday – Getting to enjoy the sunshine and a walk with a very dear and precious friend!!!!

I’m linking this post to:

Gratitude Sunday

Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Yarn Along Wednesday–It Actually Looks Like a Sweater

Sunday Sweater in ProgressI missed the last two Yarn Along Wednesdays again. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, both Dora and I caught colds, which set me back a bit. Also, I had to start over yet again on Dora’s Sunday Sweater! My thwarted efforts have not had anything to do with the pattern, which is very easy to follow, but have been a direct result of my lack of knitting skills. I finally seem to have hit my stride though. I’m 3/4 of the way done with the body and then just need to do the sleeves, neck, and add the buttons. Dora is super excited and keeps trying to convince me that the sweater is finished enough and that she should be able to wear it now.With us being sick and staying home so much the last week, I have been getting in more reading time than usual. I finally just gave up on Becoming Jane Eyre. It has some really good reviews and at another time, I’d probably enjoy it. Right now, however, I found it to be far too depressing. Instead, I started reading about another Jane – Jane Austen! I’ve been reading Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being A Jane Austen Mystery. This is the tenth book in this series, which I have been reading since day one. It is a historical-mystery series about Jane Austen. This book also stars Lord Byron, who I did not know much about. He has been such an intriguing character in this book, that I’ve done some extra research to learn more about him. He was such a cad, that after learning more about him, I had a nightmare that he had seduced Tertia! He definitely was the type of man that you didn’t want sniffing around your daughter!On a more serious note, I’ve also been working my way through American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques. I checked this out from the library, but it has been so helpful, I intend to purchase it. I am hoping that I can start collecting seeds or using other propagation methods to grow new plants from the plants that I am already growing. Not only will this save me money, but I will harvest seeds only from the hardiest plants, which did the best in my garden. My hope is that by using this method over the years, I will be able to grow continually hardier plants with a higher yield. In regards to this year’s vegetable garden, I actually do not intend to collect any of the seeds as I have been very unhappy with the seeds I purchased. They are producing an adequate amount now, but it took three times more seeds than it should have to get a good number of plants and the plants that have grown have not been very hardy. So I will begin harvesting my vegetable garden seeds next year, hopefully. This year, I may start to propagate some of my flowers, as more flowers means more pollinators to pollinate my fruit trees and flowering “vegetables”. Not to mention, Dora and I just adore flowers.

I’m linking this post to Ginny’s:

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: Yarn Along
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Crunchy Tuesday–Body Custard Recipe

Crunchy TuesdaySorry for my absence last week, but I was working on a project for this blog and then Dora and I came down with colds, so hopefully everyone can forgive me (since I know that everyone noticed my absence). Recently several weekly link-ups/memes that I participated in have closed. It has been very disappointing, though I totally understand why the bloggers who ran them felt the need to close them. After awhile, it occurred to me that I should start hosting a weekly link-up/meme to help fill the void. It took awhile for me to come up with a common theme between all the link-ups that I participated in, but I finally realized that the one thing they all had in common was crunchy-ness. So I created “Crunchy Tuesday”. You can read more about this link-up at the bottom of this post.Body Custard RecipeFor my first “Crunchy Tuesday” post, I’m going to share with you the body custard recipe that I feel is finally ready to post. What is “body custard” you ask? That is a really good question! I was originally trying to make a creamy body lotion recipe from the book Better Basics for the Home, by Annie Berthold-Bond. Unfortunately, Annie never clarifies in the book (that I could find anyway) whether or not to use fluid ounces or weight ounces in her recipes. I e-mailed her to ask for clarification, but never heard back. So I finally just opted to muddle through the recipe to the best of my abilities. My best abilities were apparently not good enough, but I ended up creating an interestingly textured product, though not something that was truly useable. Once I figured out how to make the original recipe from the book (all measurements are in weight ounces), I decided that what I really wanted was something that was in between the actual recipe and my goof-up recipe.The problems that I had with the original recipe and many other natural body lotions and butters is that my very dry skin doesn’t seem to absorb oil. So these products just sit on top of my skin until I brush up against something, at which point I have dry skin AND oil-stained clothing and furniture. After months and months of experimenting, I ended up with what I believe, is a perfect recipe (at least for my skin). The texture is very custardy, so if the thought of a custardy body lotion seems gross to you, then don’t even bother with this recipe. I use it twice a day and it keeps my skin perfectly moisturized with no lotion build-up, like I get from commercial products and no oily residue, like I get from other natural lotion recipes.

Anyway, without further adieu, here is my recipe (and please be kind if something goes awry, this is the first recipe that I have ever written/made, even though it is actually a variation of someone else’s recipe).

Body Custard

* All measurements in ounces refer to weight, not volume

** Disclosure: I am providing Amazon affiliate links for all the ingredients to the exact brands of products that I personally use for your reference, but any brand should work just fine. If you click on these links and subsequently purchase from Amazon, I will earn a small percentage.

  1. Mix aloe vera gel, distilled water, glycerin, and grapefruit seed extract in a medium-sized heatproof mixing bowl.
  2. Melt the oils and beeswax in a pan over low heat.
  3. As soon as the oils and beeswax are melted, pour them into the mixing bowl with the aloe vera mixture (do NOT allow the mixture to cool as the beeswax will begin to form into small bits if you do)
  4. Mix with a hand mixer, working your way up to full speed setting (start on speed as it will splash at first, when it is very liquidy). Beat until the mixture is the texture of warm custard.
  5. Store in a glass jar with top. The mixture will become even thicker as it cools.
  6. Depending on the temperature and humidity, the mixture may begin to separate a bit, but it is still safe to use for 3 months (I go through a batch within 3 weeks, so I can’t verify this estimate, but the grapefruit seed extract acts as a preservative.) Obviously, if the “custard” begins to smell or you can see any mold, dispose of the product immediately.

 

Maureen

Labels: Crunchy Tuesday, Natural Personal Care
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–May 19

Wildflowers 1Sunday – A wonderfully relaxing Mother’s Day, doing exactly what I wanted to!

Monday – Rain, at last! Ending the heat wave!

Tuesday – Setting up an obstacle course and competing with Dora to see who could complete it on her Purple Plasmacar the fastest (it can accommodate“children up to 220 pounds” – I’m interpreting the word “children” to mean “children at heart”, because I doubt you’ll find many children that weigh 220 pounds).Making Ice Cream 1Wednesday – Making homemade ice creamBalance Bike 2Thursday – Dora doing really well with her new balance bike

Friday – Seeing an abundance of wildflowers and two baby deer at the parkStory Fairy 6Saturday – Enjoying the last Kindermusik/Seattle Symphony concert for the year and Dora getting to visit with the Story Fairy

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

Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

DIY Vanilla Extract

DIY Vanilla ExtractThis week, our daily rhythm has been thrown all out of whack. Firstly, Dora has been tired and stressed out from doing vision therapy. I know that she needs it, as surgery is the only other option, but she is really having to work hard at it. Also, her balance bike finally arrived, so she’s wanted to be outside riding it every moment possible. Then, to top it all off, we bought her some of the Lego friends sets and now Dora is a Lego addict! None of our other kids have been interested in Legos, but Dora has been spending hours with them and they are the first toy that Dora will play with happily all by herself. So, though we’ve not been doing any Waldorf, I cannot complain about how we’ve been spending our days.
I also can’t complain about the weather. It’s been so warm that we decided to break out the ice cream maker. While making the ice cream, I suddenly realized that I have never posted about making homemade extract on this blog.
Several years ago, I went to buy some vanilla extract and it cost $15/bottle for non-organic extract! I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it at that price. I figured there had to be a cheaper way to make it myself. So I did some research and learned that it was very easy to make myself. I’ve been making it from scratch ever since. Here’s my “recipe”:
Supplies and Ingredients:

  • A clean amber colored bottle (I buy all my bottles from Specialty Bottle, with whom I have no affiliation)
  • 3-4 vanilla beans (you can use lemon rind instead to make lemon extract, mint leaves to make mint extract, etc.)
  • Vodka (other types of alcohol can be used and will yield different results, but I have found that vodka renders the most traditional taste)

Directions

  1. Slice the vanilla beans open lengthwise and place them in your bottle (you may need to cut them into smaller segments to fit them in your bottle)
  2. Fill the rest of the bottle with vodka
  3. Allow the bottle to sit in a cool, dark place for 3+ months, shaking the bottle up once a week (-ish)
  4. After three months, you can use the bottle of extract just like you would any store-bought extract
  5. I usually remove the beans after six months, if the bottle lasts that long. Some people like to use the soaked beans to make vanilla body scrubs or vanilla sugar with, though I usually dispose of mine.

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

Labels: In the Kitchen
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Pumpkin Jack Gets Carried Away

Pumpkin Jack 1I posted back in November that we decided to grow a pumpkin from Dora’s Halloween pumpkin, just like the boy in Pumpkin Jack did. In February, our Pumpkin Jack was just starting to decay, but by March, he was just a shell of himself. Jack started growing a new plant recently, but in the last two weeks, our first, albeit minor, complication to the Pumpkin Jack experiment has arisen. He never stunk or attracted pests, as I had worried he might, but he did start growing a bazillion plants! This picture was taken last week. Right after taking it, I pulled up all, but two, of the seedlings. Today, there was a whole new batch of seedlings, just as many as before! To give you perspective as to how many seedlings they are, you can see the stem from the original Pumpkin Jack off in the left hand corner of this photo (I must admit that I’ve also grown a bit curious as to how long it will take for the stem to decay).  So all these seedlings are growing in about a 3” x 3” space!

One really interesting footnote is how healthy the soil is where Jack decayed. Every time I pull up some seedlings, I unearth about a dozen worms! The worms and other bugs (which I try very hard to ignore) are very clearly concentrated in that specific area. I guess Jack has provided a yummy feast of decay for them!

I also recently read that if you harvest seeds from your plants to grow the next year and continue to do this year after year, the plants will start to adapt to your specific soil and climate. Though, in reality, what is actually happening is that as you will most likely keep the seeds from the healthiest plants of each crop each year, you will be using an unnatural form of natural selection to grow healthier and stronger plants in each subsequent generation (clear as mud, eh?).

How is your garden doing? Though Jack is doing well, our other crops are only doing okay. I’m not happy with the brand of seeds we bough this year. I bought heirloom seeds (specifically to avoid seeds that were genetically modified), but I don’t think that should account for the exceptionally pour turnout that I’ve had. I’d say that only 1/5 of the seeds have grown. In fact, over the weekend, I planted a second crop of some vegetables. Next year, I’m going to try a different brand of seeds, as our weather most certainly cannot be blamed this year. I also may try to start my plants a bit earlier in some sort of mini-greenhouse type of arrangement.

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: Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–May 12

Icelandic Poppy 9Sunday – Finding Waldorf again in time for Dora to benefit from it. She absolutely thrives on the rhythm, so much so, that she has been trying to get us even more into a rhythm!

Monday – My Icelandic poppy has white flowers too!

Tuesday – Being able to go for a walk while Dora rode her scooter

Wednesday – Being able to help Gohan work through some extreme anxiety (it pains me that he and Dora inherited my anxiety issues, so I’m especially grateful when I can help them work through an anxiety episode)Toad Flax 26Thursday – Toadflax is a new plant for my garden and I’ve decided that I love it!

Friday – Dora’s new vision therapy went so well. She is doing it in hopes of correcting an outwardly wandering eye (exotropia) without surgery.Azalea 3Saturday – Finally attracting pollinators to our yard this year!

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

Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Yarn Along Wednesday–May 8

Yarn Along 5-8I missed the last two weeks of Yarn Along Wednesday, because I was very busy finishing photo albums, which I made for Mother’s Day presents. Also, I hadn’t made a lot of progress on Dora’s Sunday Sweater, since I realized I had made a mistake early on and had a perfectly curved line of purl stitches on my stockinette side of the sweater. I have no idea what I did, the curve was so perfect that at first, I thought it was supposed to be there. At this point, I’m 35 rows into the sweater. I do have a few messed up stitches, because I didn’t know that there was a right and a wrong to switch from knit to purl and vice-versa. So when I was incorrectly switching between the two, I was ending up creating extra stitches. I corrected this as well as I could and caught it early, so hopefully it will be okay. I am very nervous now as I am going to be doing the sleeves soon and I’m worried that if I mess up, I’ll lose everything I’ve already done. I did buy a new Bolga Basket for carrying my knitting supplies, which was a relief, as the sweater was getting to be too big for my old basket.

Reading-wise, I’m reading this month’s Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, as always. I also just started reading Becoming Jane Eyre: A Novel, which I’m not far enough into to give an opinion on yet. Finally, I’m reading The Art of Feltmaking, because, even though I can needle felt very elaborate projects, I’m a complete failure at wet felting. I really don’t like working with wet wool anyway, but Dora wants to learn how to felt, so I need to figure out what I’m doing wrong with my wet felting so that I can teach her how to do it.

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: Yarn Along
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff