Cowgar Family Adventures

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

OK, so it wasn't as big as the Berlin Wall...

Over the weekend we tore out the rest of the pantry wall. Now I have 3 trashcans full of broken tile and horse hair plaster that will slowly go out with the trash, because it is really really heavy. The next step of the plan is to rerun the outlet to the outside wall, so we can turn the fridge. The back of the fridge will then be against that wall with the little window, and we will have to flip the fridge doors so they open the right way. I'm hoping to get that done in the next couple of evenings. We also need to look into getting some wood to even out the floor where the wall was attached. The floor now dips a little bit there, and I don't need anyone breaking an ankle in the house, especially at the birthday party.

The bathroom still hasn't been touched, but I don't plan on doing anything this weekend, which means something should get done. I will also focus on the dining room, since it wasn't finished last weekend due to the pantry wall.

Continuing the Going Green Phase 1

I received some of my “green” items in the mail a few days ago. I bought some all in one (AIO) cloth diapers and some wetbags. The cloth diapers fit Lilly, but they are almost too small, even though they go from 8lbs to 35lbs. I’m hoping she gets a little taller and thins out a little bit, or just hurries up and potty trains, but I don’t think she’s ready for that. We’ve been doing really good with them. We did cloth on our trip to Mentor, and some small trips out in town, and I haven’t had any problems. She wore one overnight and the diaper cover kept all of the wetness inside. I will wear disposables on her at night for a little while longer though. The cloth diapers are supposed to be washed a few times to help increase their absorbency, but I was impatient, so as we use them they will get washed, and after a few times, I will switch to them full-time at night as well. The wonderful thing is that when she poops, her butt doesn’t turn bright red anymore!

I bought 5 wetbags. Two blue ones for cloth diapers, wipes and whatnot. Two white ones for rags, and one greenish aqua for on the go. They’ve worked awesome so far, and I am excited to try my hand at the cloth toilet paper lifestyle. I still have material to cut, so maybe by this weekend we can be mostly cloth toilet paper. I made a small order for some essential oils and other stuff from I need to make some wipe solution for baby wipes and for some toilet paper for the “sticky” messes. We probably won’t be completely switched over until I get that in and start making solution.

I want Luke to make me a little sink sprayer that I can hook up to the bathroom sink and spray some of the “sticky” messes off of the diapers a little better, to help reduce staining. We will have to take a trip to Lowe’s and see what we can come up with.

I also got in my little compost bucket. It’s about 11 inches high, and 9 inches wide. It’s meant to go under the sink or on a countertop. It has a carbon filter on top that should be changed every 3 months for the smell factor, but we can empty it every few days outside, instead of running out every time we have something we can compost. We already have eggshells and banana peels in it! We have a large pile of yard debris in the top corner of the yard, and that is where I plan on dumping it out. After we start mowing the lawn, I’m sure I will have smaller clippings that I could mix in and help the compost process, but most of the pile is larger sticks, so it’s hard to turn all of that.

Lenses, Cameras, and More...

Luke got in his prized possession last Wednesday. A Minolta 100-400mm APO lens. I guess it’s one of the ultimate best lenses in history kind of deal. I’m just glad it makes him happy. Here’s a picture of it on his camera along with his 1.4x teleconverter. It’s quite the mammoth!

We’ve been trying to go out and get some shots with it, but since it’s so big, you do need a lot of light to get a nice sharp picture, and this Ohio weather isn’t the greatest right now for that. We took it out the other day down to Funk Bottoms, but it was after work, so the sun was already getting really low. We did come across some Canadian Geese in the water down there, and the sunset was really pretty. We also found some ducks hanging out at the skating rink. Here’s a few shots.

Sunday we made the drive to Mentor to buy another 5D and the 70-210mm “Beercan” lens. It also came with the kit lens, which was a bonus for us, because we didn’t know it was included. The girls had some pastries at the Panera Bread we met at, and Aunt Angie got to see first hand how much energy and curiosity Lillian has. We are pretty sure that she would walk away with a complete stranger because she is just that trusting. The weather was absolutely pooey on the way up. It was snowy and windy most of the drive. Here’s a view of the weather we drove in, and our end result.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

And The Wall Comes Tumbling Down

I’ve decided that my dining room will not be finished this weekend. We still have lots of e-Bay stuff that needs auctioned and shipped. On top of that, we started busting out the pantry wall in the kitchen, so the dining room is being used as a catch-all space for the kitchen. Our plan for this weekend is to get the rest of the wall out. We also received Lexi’s invitations, so we are getting some wallets printed at Wal-Mart today, so I can get them handed out this weekend, or mailed off Monday.

We are heading up to Mentor tomorrow to pick up another Maxxum 5D camera we found on Craigslist. It also comes with a 70-210mm “Beercan” lens. We are getting them at a good price, and we are anxious to get up there tomorrow and meet the owners at a Panera Bread. I’ve never been to one of those either, so it should be fun. We hope to meet up with Luke’s sister Angie since she lives up in Euclid, so I’m hoping we have an exciting day out tomorrow.

Here’s a picture of the wall right now. Hopefully by Monday, you will see the fridge, and not a wall!

Holly's Meatloaf Recipe


1 lb practically organic ground beef

½ of an onion-diced

½ of a green pepper-diced

½ cup oats

½ cup crushed saltine crackers

1 egg

1 organic carrot-shredded

1 clove garlic-chopped

Seasonings: (I just shake them in until it looks good)



Garlic and Herb



Brown Sugar—tons and tons

(You can probably replace with honey, you just want a sweet yummy topping)

Organic ketchup—enough to soak up the brown sugar…lol

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all ingredients and seasonings in a large bowl. Place in a medium sized loaf pan, and scoop all remaining veggies that didn’t mix into the meat and place on top of loaf. Bake for 50 minutes. Take out and put on the topping. Bake for another 10 minutes.

You then have a moist, vegetable packed meatloaf. It doesn’t stay together very well, but I’m not looking for cooking show quality appearance here, I’m going for taste. It may stay together better if there wasn’t as many vegetables stuffed into it, but I try to get those servings in anywhere I can. I love it, Luke loves it, and the kids won’t go near it, although they have both tasted it and had a few bites, I don’t think they really recognize it as anything they might want to eat. Lets face it; meatloaf does not look like a chocolate chip cookie!

You can freeze them, without the topping, but I find myself setting the oven to 450 instead of 400, and after an hour, checking it to find that it is still a little undercooked even though the top looks done, so I put it back in for another 20 minutes or so, and then add topping and leave it in for another 10. My plan next time is to let the meatloaf thaw overnight, and drain it a little bit before cooking, and see how long it takes.

Wal-Mart was out of the medium sized pans, so we bought the big size last time. I made those a little bit bigger, using a pound and a half of beef, and ¾ of veggies, oats, and crackers. I don’t know how long those will take to cook, especially frozen. You can do what I did with this recipe, just throw a bunch of stuff together, cook it, and see if it’s edible. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry, I guess you don’t have the same taste buds that we do.

So here it is. It doesn’t look the prettiest, but it’s yummy!

Houston...We Have Our Driveway Back!

Josh wasn’t due home until 9PM, so we left him a note on his door…

He didn’t have a ride over to the house, so Chris picked him up and made him buy the pizza and beer. I’m just happy that truck is out of the driveway!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Countdown To Lexi's Party!

We have less than 3 weeks until Lexi’s party on March 8th. This will be the first year that we actually have the party at our house. In the past years, we have done a party at my dad’s for my side of the family, and a party at Luke’s parents’ house for his side. Our families are so different; I fear some cosmic intervention from the heavens above would create a black hole and kill us all if they ever come together. Maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, the only time they have ever been in each other’s presence was our wedding, and some immediate family during the girls’ births. It just seemed easier to separate the two, but I don’t want the girls to get used to have multiple birthday parties, and with my dad’s side, it gets weird to have mom’s side of the family there in his house, or for mom to bring her boyfriend and things like that. So this year, I’m letting everyone tear up my house for the day!

But…. we still have so much to do around here. We haven’t even touched the bathroom yet, and I want to have the shower tile installed, and the trim cut and nailed up at least, if not painted as well. The dining room needs to be organized better, to accommodate a bunch of people in a small space. The kitchen ceiling is still peeling some paint from our washer leak, so we need to scrape as much of the ceiling as we need to, so it doesn’t start falling on people. I also wouldn’t mind if we knocked part of the pantry wall down completely. It would make it easier to get to the fridge, and free up a bit of space in there. (I really hate that kitchen) We need to steam-vac the living room, and just keep up on normal house maintenance so we don’t get too rushed last minute.

I will be opening up the sunroom, so the toys will migrate in there for the day, leaving a lot of room in the living room for guests. We have lots of folding camping chairs, so hopefully we have decent seating. I’m just trying to figure out what I want to do about plates now.

The party is at 2PM, so we are thinking of having a meat and cheese tray for sandwiches, and a veggie tray. We may have a few bags of chips or something, and then the traditional cake and ice cream. I’ll borrow Chris’ coffee pot (he owes me one anyways), because there will be coffee-a-holics. I don’t really like punch. It’s just sugar and dyes, so maybe I’ll get some V8 juice (I’ve found one that doesn’t have dyes, and it at least has that serving of fruit and veggies), and then offer water, and as always Dr. Pepper. Without it my husband would not be alive.

The only problem I see is parking. If someone that got here early wants to leave, everyone will have to go out and move cars…but I’ll let them worry about that, because I don’t plan on leaving (is that mean?)

My Thoughts on Winter...and Upcoming Spring

It's nice and bright outside, with no snow on the ground, but it's only 38 degrees, and muddy. The groundhog Phil is teasing us with nice looking weather and cold temperatures right now. It occurs to me, how unactive we are as a family when winter hits. There is nothing to do in Ohio, with 2 small kids that wouldn't enjoy it anyways. We've taken them out in the snow, and they look like that kid on "A Christmas Story". They can't move, and Alexis just complains that she is cold. Lets face it...right now winter in Ohio stinks!

I have plenty of plans once Spring hits. We have a garden to work on, and keeping the backyard nice. Right now the neighbors dog comes over and marks his territory all over the backyard, but once the weather is nice enough to play outside everyday, I'm gonna have to put a stop to that. We have the land we can start clearing out, that way we can camp on it this summer. There are also plenty of around the house projects that will be easier to accomplish once it's warmer. I'd love to hit The Wilderness Center and the Metroparks to do some hiking with the girls. Lilly has so much energy, we need to channel it into something productive. We also want to get out and get tons of nature shots for Luke to put on the photo blog and put up for sale.

I'd also like to do a little storm chasing this year. Luke loves bad weather, and we enjoy being in the moment of things. A couple years back we had a tree blow over on our land, and a few branches come down here around the house. I believe the second year we were here, we had a tree fall on one of the cars we had parked out back. It needed a new transmission, but after the tree bent up the side of the car and broke some glass, we decided to scrap it. Last summer, we drove through some dime size hail while heading towards the land. It actually knicked up the paint on our brand new to us car we had bought in May, so for the first time in either one of our lives, we filed an insurance claim, and got the car repainted. I think it would be cool to do those tornado chasing tours in the midwest. Maybe when the kids get older.

I plan to have a few yardsales, as you've seen, my foyer is stacked from top to bottom with boxes of stuff, and I add to it almost daily. After a few yardsales, I figure I'll post an ad on my local freecycle to come pick up what's left, so I don't have to deal with it. I'll have plenty more things to go through at my dad's house. My mom and dad divorced about 6 1/2 years ago, right after Luke and I got together. Then 4 years ago, we bought this house and I moved out. Mom and I still have things in the attic, and the basement, and the shed. Dad wants to take a weekend and pull everything out and go through it. My brother also has totes of old toys, that mom and I packed up ages ago. Most of them were probably broken anyways. That will be quite the project, and I fear I will come home with totes and totes of stuff, but hopefully most of it will just go in the yardsale pile.

On Top of Things...For Now

Yesterday was a decent day. I babysat, got a little organizing done in the dining room and found out a few things we ordered are on their way to the house already. We spent the evening chopping vegetables, and putting together 5 meatloaves, although we made one that evening for dinner, leaving 4 to be frozen. I’ll have Luke help me later, and I’ll post a picture with the recipe. After we put the girls to bed, we straightened our room a tiny bit, and then just sat in front of the TV and watched Star Trek for a couple hours on Sci-Fi.

Today started off great. It’s Luke’s day to work at his brother’s house, so he needed to be up early. I naturally woke up at 8:12AM! Since he needed to get up and get packed, I just got up with him. I helped him pack really quickly, because he had boxes he needed to take to the post office with e-Bay items. He listed one of his lenses as a “buy it now” last night (like midnight), and it already sold, so he had to pack that as well. I had kids fed, a packed husband out the door, Kendra (the little girl I baby-sit) settled in, laundry in, the dishwasher running, and chicken in the oven, all by 9:30AM. I must not be feeling well!

So I think the plan for today is to just keep on top of things. Luke will be home late, because he has to stop by my dad’s house. The guy that was supposed to look at my Fiero on Saturday is going to stop over about 5:30, so Luke will be there for a bit before he heads home. Our evening will be spent picking chicken off the bone to use in some chicken and veggie pockets I want to make. I’ve got 10 lbs of chicken leg quarters my grandma gave me that I plan on baking all day until I know they are done. I guess we are having chicken for dinner tonight.

Best of all, Chris is off today, so Josh's truck should be finished and out of here, unless something goes terribly wrong.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Today Got Better...

I went outside and got "Man Hammer", who is a small sledge that the guys had been using on the car. I came in, pounded at the pantry wall a dozen times or so, swept up the mess, and I felt better.

Luke finished up helping with the transmission about 5pm. It's still not finished, but it was to the point that Chris could take over himself. He came back inside and quickly rearranged Lexi's invitation photos in the collage, and we got those ordered. The pictures are up on the photography blog now.

We moved a bookshelf from the dining room into the sunroom. It is still too cold to keep the sunroom open all the time, but we moved some toys in there to make a little more space in the living room. At least if feels like I have accomplished something for the day.

After we put the girls to bed, we asked Chris to keep an ear out for them, and we went out to Wal-Mart to do some grocery shopping. It's the first time since Alexis was born that I've been grocery shopping without a kid. It was actually quite nice, but I worried in the back of my head the entire time.

Tomorrow I babysit during the day, so I may straighten the living room and dining room a little bit. I already made plans for Luke tomorrow evening. Since we went grocery shopping, it's time to prepare some meals. We have 7 pounds of ground beef thawing right now to make 5 meatloaves tomorrow, so we can freeze them. (We bought a cow and a pig last fall, so we have lots of meat) I also have some other dishes we can prepare and freeze, so we will keep busy tomorrow evening.

It's past my bedtime now, so I will close for now...

A Bad Day So Far...

Do you every feel like your world is falling apart around you? Today is one of those days for me…

I knew Luke would get sucked into working on Josh’s truck, and he’s been out there half the day with Chris getting the old transmission out, and getting the new one in. I wouldn't mind it so much if I knew in advance, and had prepared myself for being inside with the girls all day by myself, but when I have other plans that get interrupted, I get angry. There are plenty of things around this house that should be a lot more important than that transmission. I don't care if that truck has to sit here for a year until we would get our things done first.

We got our photo shoot done with Lexi for the front of her birthday invitations. Now I just need to get them ordered, and the collage we put together looks OK to me, but I don’t think Luke likes the way it looks on the invitation, so he will probably sit here for hours tonight tweaking it, and all I want are invitations ordered.

After getting most of the e-Bay items shipped off on Friday, the dining room still looks like a disaster. There’s photography equipment and books everywhere.

We charged wet bags and cloth diapers that I wanted on a credit card, and because I felt so bad charging something I wanted, I let Luke charge his lens. Unlike his lens, the stuff I charged is for the house, and will help save us money in the long run…and it’s 4 times less expensive than his lens. We have more things to e-Bay, including 2 lenses he won’t need since he has ordered this one, so he will get his portion paid off pretty quick. Chelsea is doing hospital training this month, so she is getting lots of hours, so February should be a good babysitting month for me. I’m not worried about paying for the balance, it’s just buyer’s remorse, and being a little upset that everything I tend to want is for the girls or the house, and everything Luke wants is for him. I know he is trying to start up a business and all, but if you don’t even advertise that you want portfolio-building clients that you will charge a next to nothing fee for pictures, you’re never going to have an established business.

The kitchen always upsets me. The wiring is dead in the kitchen, except for new wires running in there for the dishwasher, fridge, and freezer. We also have an outlet strip that we can plug small things into above the freezer, so the microwave works, and anything else I can plug in. Problem is at night, when you can’t see anything. The pantry area still has a ceiling light that works, but it doesn’t put out much light, so we have a trouble light that hangs above the stove, so we can turn it on for light, and the stove is plugged into it. The cord for the light runs across the floor in front of the cabinets and plugs into the bathroom outlet. That wire always hangs up my kitchen drawers when I push them in and it drives me crazy. Every time I put silverware away, there it is!

I must just be in a mood, because all kinds of little things just aggravate me today. Lilly won’t stop climbing on things, Lexi won’t help pick up toys, there are Cheerios all over the living room floor, and I’m ready to walk out the door. Sometimes the stay-at-home mom life isn’t very appealing to me anymore…

I think I'll go pound on the pantry wall. It's going to come down sometime anyways...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Chocolate Day!!!

Happy Valentine's Day! In this household, it is the day for chocolate. The girls each had a Little Debbie chocolate cake filled with marshmallow for breakfast with their milk and Cheerios. We have someone interested in my Fiero at my dad's house. So we will probably head down that way this afternoon, but not before we go shopping for candy. We were completely lazy and didn't buy anything, so we will be out today in all the Saturday shopping madness buying up some chocolate.

The girls received cards from their Nana and Papaw in West Virginia the other day, and Aunt Angie called for our address, because she was sending cards too. So they had cards from Aunt Angie in the mail, and from Grandma Perkins. I think we received more Valentine's Day cards than Christmas cards!

At the end of the day....
Valentine’s Day was a chocolate overload. We stopped at Drug Mart, and I ran in to buy little hearts for the girls, and bought a big heart-shaped Whitman’s Sampler for myself and Luke to share, and I found these awesome original Star-Trek series Pez dispensers, so I picked one up for my dad (he’s a big time Trekkie).

We drove down to Funk Bottoms to check out the flooding, since we just had a foot or so of snow melt, and then rain on top of that. It was cold enough that it had started snowing again, and by the time we made it down there, the water had a thin layer of snow on it, so it didn’t reflect at all. Not so great for pictures.

We drove up to Luke’s parents to pick up a letter he received in the mail. After living at this house for 4 years, voting from here, getting married under this address, the county must still think he lives in Doylestown, because he got a summons for jury duty. Yippee! *note sarcasm* It’s not until March, and it’s almost always canceled.

We got to dad’s house and hung out for a bit, and had some Dairy Queen for lunch. After 4-5 hours or so, and talking to the guy that was supposed to come and look at the Fiero, we called again to see if he was coming, and his van still wasn’t back together…well, a courtesy call would have been nice. He said he’d call that evening to set up a time for Sunday…well that didn’t happen either. I despise dealing with Craigslist, it just seems like hardly anyone is serious when they e-mail.

So we left dad’s house, the girls napped in the car, we came home, watched a little TV, bathed the girls and put them to bed, and then we vegged out on nothing for a couple hours before we went to bed too. Exciting times…

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Tourmaline is Here!!!!

I received my cut Tourmaline in the mail!!!! It is gorgeous. Using Chris’ grain scale (for weighing bullet powder), we think it may be about 2 carats. It seems gemstone appraisal is expensive, with local jewelers wanting anywhere from $50-$100 to appraise it. The lowest appraiser won’t even do it unless it’s mounted in something. I think it would make a beautiful ring, so I plan to get it mounted, just not right now. I figure I will try to hit one of the rock and mineral shows that will come around the Cleveland area in the next month or two, and see if I can get any “less expensive” information from the dealers there. I also plan on taking my rough material, so I can maybe find someone local to cut some more for me. I went through my picture of all of the loose rough, and came to the conclusion that this is the gemstone that was cut. Here is a before and after.

The Craft Gene

I got my bead order in, and made my mom’s necklace and my brother’s necklace for their birthdays. I have a few more pendants I bought, and some Swarovski crystals in Lexi and Lilly’s birthstones, so I have a few more necklaces I can make. I think my next purchase will be some more candle making supplies, or my going green bathroom supplies. My candle order will be kind of big, so I want to make sure I order everything I need at once. My bathroom order will probably be twice the price of a candle order. That means both orders might get held off a few months to make sure I have the full funding for it. In the meantime, I’ve bought a few knitting looms at Pat Catan’s to try my hand at making hats. (I blame this all on Luke’s mother, she is so crafty!) I’ve made a few so far, and they turned out OK. I’ve got a baby size that I need to try out on a baby, 2 toddler sizes, which fit the girls’ fine, a large, which fits Luke just fine, and a medium for me. Here are some shots of the necklaces and hats.

Meet Chris

Single-White-Male seeking Single-Female for companionship! Sound like a dating advertisement yet? This is Chris (he will be 29 in July). He is our upstairs neighbour, and one of Luke’s best friends. We bought this house because it was a duplex, and we knew he was looking to move out (along with another buddy Josh), so here we are 4 years later.

He loves anime, guns (he reloads his own ammo), bad b-movies, kung fu, fishing, NASCAR, cooking, and computer gaming. *Note* He doesn't like cats! He works part-time in retail, and we keep trying to convince him to find a better suited job for himself. He drives a white Pontiac Fiero, and is good with tools when he needs to fix it. He also likes children, and comes down often to play with ours (he even baby-sits on occasion). He needs someone, that way we can rent our entire house to him and a girlfriend, so we can move on with our dreams (because we will never sell this house for what the mortgage is in this market, so we are stuck with it for a long while otherwise). The house is a great location for The College of Wooster and the OARDC, plus all of the shopping Wooster has to offer.

He’s a really great guy, just doesn’t social much with the outside world. When we became hermits after having kids, he did too. So, if you know anyone, please leave a comment and let us know. Here is a couple pictures of him with two of his loves. Don’t these look like gun magazine covers?

Our Shuttle Vacation Plans

Our vacation plan is to see a shuttle launch before NASA retires the current shuttles (which is scheduled for sometime in 2010). The mission we are aiming for is STS-128. The Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for take-off to the ISS on August 6th. A time hasn’t been announced, but online searching looks like it may be sometime in the morning. Of all the days to schedule a launch, right now it’s on a Thursday. Our plan is to leave Monday and drive half way to Florida and find a place to stay overnight. Tuesday we will finish our drive to Florida. Wednesday we will check out how to get to the complex, and maybe find some places to take shots of the shuttle on the launch pad, and then Thursday is launch day. After that, we will spend some time at the beach. I have never been to an ocean beach, so I am really excited. We will be close to Florida’s treasure coast, so I am bringing my metal detector. I guess a bunch of Spanish ships sank of the coast, and the gold is still washing up on the shore. I will be instructing the girls to pick up anything that looks interesting to them. I don’t know how long we will stay, it all depends on if the launch goes as scheduled. That is my biggest fear. The tickets are good for the mission, not the launch date, so if they reschedule, the tickets are still usable, but what happens if we are already down there and they scrub the mission? I don’t know if we can arrange to get back down there when the launch actually happens. A policy of NASA’s also scares me. The tickets you buy to get on their launch field to be as close as possible (6 miles) are only good once. So if we get clear out to the viewing field and they scrub the mission, the tickets have already been used, so you’re out of luck. Sounds like a real crappy policy. I’m trying not to worry about it, because face it, it’s just too early in the year for that launch yet. That date could change another 20 times before July would come to purchase the tickets, so I will have a more definitive schedule in the summer.

We would like to camp to save some money, since hotels run about $100 a night, and camping is only $25 a night at Jetty Park. The park is located in Cape Canaveral, and is right off the beach. (Pray for no hurricanes!) It’s gorgeous, and I find myself staring at the satellite image on Google maps. Our taxes are funding the trip, so the more money we can save while we are down there, the more money we will have to put towards debt when we get back. I am very happy that we will not be charging the vacation though, that definitely shows me that we are making progress. Now for your viewing pleasure, go to and type in 400 Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral FL. Switch it to the satellite image, enlarge, and stare! MMM…BEACH!!!!

Going Green at Home....Phase 1

So, I want to be as environmentally friendly as possible in life. Hard to do on a tight budget right now, but I am slowly transitioning things around here.

Our first step was laundry detergent. We've been making our own laundry detergent since sometime last summer. We buy Arm and Hammer Washing Soda and 20 Mule Borax locally in town, but the Fels Naptha soap bars we use I can only find on right now. Nothing more local. We buy a bunch at a time though, that way we are stocked for awhile...less shipping as well. We grate up one soap bar and mix with 2 cups Borax, and 2 cups Washing Soda. I store it in a big plastic coffee container that I got from Chris (since he is the only one that drinks coffee in this house). Online says you use 1 tablespoon per load. I have a small laundry detergent scooper that I use, and I put in 2 scoopfuls per load. Probably about 2-2 1/2 tablespoons. For tough stains, you can use a Fels Naptha bar and just pre-treat the stain with it. We gave up chemical laced dryer sheets as well, and use those dryer balls you can buy almost anywhere. I am thinking about making a small lavender pouch to throw in the dryer, to give the clothes a fresh smell, instead of smelling like warm clothes. Companies sell them, and say these pouches (I think about 1 oz), are good for 4 loads, and then you can refresh them with some lavender essential oil. I have lots of lavender left over from Christmas. We made sachets for everyone to put in their dresser drawers and closets, and have done the same for ourselves. (We also made rice pillows and t-shirt bags for everyone)

We also use vinegar to clean with. We mop with it, clean up spills, wash toys, anything you would clean around the kitchen, we use it for. I just use a half and half ratio of vinegar and water. You can add a few drops of essential oil to make it smell like whatever you want. Along with all this cleaning, we no longer use paper towels. We have a bin of rags in the bathroom that we use to clean up messes, and a small trashcan with a lid that snaps on to put the dirty ones in. It keeps the smell in there very well, although I am looking forward to buying zippered wet bags to use, that way I can throw everything in the wash, and not have to take the trashcan outside to rinse with the hose. We also have cloth napkins, and I stay away from paper plates and plastic utensils as much as possible. We still soft scrub the toilet and sinks occasionally, but I am looking for a better alternative to so much bleach.

I am trying to convince Luke to ditch the toilet paper next. I have a soft cotton/flannel blanket that I cut into pieces to use. I really need a wet bag to put them in before we would make a complete switch. For the number 2's, I want to get a wipes container, maybe even a wipes warmer, to keep some damp with some aloe vera juice and essential oils. I'll let you know when the switch happens, and get some pictures of the setup.

We were doing good last summer composting things. We have a brush pile in the backyard that we put all our organic waste in, but since winter hit, we kind of stopped cold turkey. I am looking at getting a small countertop compost bucket, so we don't have to run to the pile every time.

My next phase will be much bigger. I am looking at replacing shampoos, conditioners, lotions, deodorants, toothpastes, facial scrubs, body wash, hand soap, and hand sanitizer. I also want to make my own feminine products. This phase will take time. I will probably spend about $300 on everything, but the supplies will last a very long time. I'll go into details about all of that later on, with recipes and what-not.

You Can Do It EEEEEEEE-Bay!!!

Remember those e-Bay commercials? They were my favourites...the song and dance numbers. Anywho, Luke's e-Bay auctions went off yesterday evening. He had some of his old recording equipment from when he used to be a Christian Rock Star, an older laptop, a broken camera lens, and I had some of my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys. We expected $125 from everything, maybe $150. The grand total....roughly $260!!! Exciting eh? Too bad it all goes to Luke's camera fund to get his uber-expensive Minolta 100-400 APO. He did buy a 1.4x teleconverter for his lenses. It is out for delivery as we speak, so he will be playing with it later tonight.

So now we are scrounging around looking for anything else we can put for auction to get some more money...

Chris asked to borrow the keys to the car. Josh found a transmission up in Mogadore, and of course Chris can't fit a transmission in his Fiero, so our car was the only form of transportation the guys could come up with. As long as it comes back in one piece, I will be happy. We are a bit overprotective of this car since we do have a loan on it and all.

Oh, and Happy Friday the 13th, for all those who are superstitious, or are just horror movie fans!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dangerous Spring Fever

We had very unusual high temperatures outside yesterday for being February in Ohio. Highest temperature we recorded on our thermometer was 66 degrees! We actually opened the dining room windows (the only ones without plastic on them) and enjoyed some fresh, stinky, city air. We ditched plans for the day, and after Luke was off work, we packed up for a drive. By that time, it had started raining, so it was pretty dark outside. We did our usual stop at Starbuck's, and then did our usual driving route out to the land (about 20 minutes from town). The girls had fallen asleep by then, so we kept heading West to Ashland county. We turned down a dark side road off of Old Old 30 (They've built a new section of 30 for the current 30, so this 30 is the orginal Lincoln By-Way). We ended up outside of Mohicanville, and into some really heavy rain and wind. You could see the wind blowing the rain in bands across the road. We seen a bright flash in the distance, and assumed we had seen lightning. We were wrong. The wind really picked up. Trash and stick debris flew all across the road (why is it always on the road, and not in the field?). We turned down another road, only to find a kid's plastic playhouse in the ditch beside the road. It must have blown across the field. A little further up the road we were met with a flashlight. The flash we had seen earlier was a telephone pole that had blown over across the road! Talk about some wind eh?

Obviously we made it home safely, and now it's like 37 degrees and cold out. It is supposed to be a snowy/mix over the weekend, so Spring will have to wait a bit longer. (Dumb groundhog!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Pretty Rocks

My Christmas present was a 65 pound bucket of mining rough from the gemstone mines of Gem Mountain, in North Carolina. In another life, I would have been a geologist/archaeologist, so I am quite the rock hound. The girls and I had a great time sifting through the dirt on the dining room floor, picking out all of the “pretty rocks”. I sent my finds back to them to be identified, and I had a free facet ticket to use as well. I’ve received my identified stones back, and I hope to find a lapidary service that will cut some of them for me. I’d love to get them faceted, but will consider other cuts as well, just as long as I can find someone in the Northeast Ohio area that will do it…inexpensively! Gem Mountain kept a Tourmaline for my free facet, and I can’t wait to see it, so I’m anxiously waiting by the mail everyday. I also have emeralds, aquamarines, amethysts, quartz, and lots of others. Here is a group picture of the finds! I want to get pictures of the groups that were identified, but that will come later.

Dude! It's Not My Truck!

Do you see the white truck? It’s not mine, or Luke’s, or Chris’. It’s Josh’s, as in Josh “The Samurai” Knode that rented part of the upstairs with Chris for a little over 3 years before moving out a year ago. Apparently the transmission if going out, and the mechanic he talked with wants at least $600 in labor to fix the thing. Seeing as we have every tool to open our own garage, Chris volunteered to help him out and swap it. It’s been sitting in the driveway for at least a week now, and Chris just got to start on it. It’s warmer than it has been outside, but it’s soaking wet, and getting ready to turn cold again in another day or two. I haven’t even seen the replacement tranny yet, so who knows when this project will be done. Luke doesn’t have the time to help out. He is busy with work and photo shoots, and we still need to start on the bathroom! I guess I needed another lawn ornament in my backyard…

At least, as I type this, Chris is working on it, so with any luck, it won't be here much longer!

Declutter/Organize Project 2: Dining Room

Here is the dining room. A mess eh? It’s not even being used as a dining room. It’s a downstairs office/photography studio. We have clutter on the shelves, coats and shoes and misc. scattered all over the place, and tons of bigger ticket items waiting to be sold on e-Bay. We have e-Bay auctions on this week, so hopefully by this weekend a lot of that stuff will be cleared out. So, in any event, my dining room adventure is slowly beginning now, and my due date will be Saturday, February 21st. Hopefully it will look a little more organized, although the computer and photography equipment will stay.

We are looking to have Lexi’s birthday party here on Sunday, March 8th, so it will certainly be as organized as possible before then, since it’s the main room to do things in.

Oh...and notice the hole in the ceiling above Luke's head in the last picture. That's because the upstairs sink has a leak, and it made a hole in the ceiling, so we cut an even bigger hole to see how to fix it. Problem hasn't been fixed yet, so now I have this awesomely huge hole in my dining room ceiling. I'm sure that is just what clients want to see when they will be here for a photo shoot.

Anne's Birthday and some misc...

Last weekend was Anne's 3rd birthday. She is 1 month older than Lexi. The girls had a lot of fun hanging out with their cousins. We didn't stay too long, since it seemed the girls were a bit grumpy, and Aunt Angie left with Anne to take her to the Build-A-Bear Workshop for her birthday. Here are some pictures from the event, along with a picture of Lilly being bad. She is such a stinker, and no matter how much we tell her to not climb on things, she does it at least 20 times a day. It's either the couch, the stand, or those plastic kitchens. She is the one I will end up buying a leash for!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Our Land

A few months before we made the mistake of buying this house, we bought 4.65 acres of land on Funk Road, outside of Reedsburg (close to the Ashland border, but with a Wooster address). It’s very pretty…and overgrown now. It has a natural spring, that we want a pond dug out around, and a gas well. According to the previous owners, Colombia Gas owns the well, and Gatherco Inc. owns the lines. Both pay $100 a year for leasing. We received a check from Gatherco the first year, and Colombia received our mailing address from the old owner’s, and sent a letter requesting documentation that we had actually purchased the land. We had written down that we sent that information in October of 2004. Well, after buying a house and starting a family, we kind of forgot about the leases. Fast forward to now, we get out the land documents and call up the companies. We haven’t received any check in a few years. Gatherco says oops, has no idea why we haven’t been getting checks, and tells us they will send out a check for $300 for the past years (going straight to the E-Fund). Colombia wants documentation of the deed. Apparently, they never received what we sent in 2004. No big deal, we make copies to resend. They call back and say they don’t have an active lease on our land. They had a lease that was sold back in 1997 to Gatherco. Well then, why were the previous owner’s still receiving checks from Colombia? They even sent the check back to Colombia in 2004 with our mailing address, since we had bought the property. Colombia says they will look into it, in the meantime, talk with Gatherco and see when the lease they have was purchased. Well the guy at Gatherco is only in on Mondays and Fridays. Do you know how much of a pain it is to try to get a hold of someone that is in the office 2 days a week. We left a message last week, and have yet to hear back from him, so I guess we will be harassing his phone this coming Friday. I hope something turns up, because it would be nice to get more money from these companies. It would really boost the Emergency Fund right now.

Speaking of the land, we are hoping to start clearing it off this year. It starts off bearable in the Spring, but by Fall, it’s nothing but prickers and thorns, and it gets really thick. Our hope is to clear off enough space to camp out on, and have little fires, and cut some trees for wood. We want to get the girls used to camping, and this is the cheapest way to do it. Last Fourth of July we set up the tent in Dad’s backyard, but Lilly just wouldn’t stay asleep. She was a bit young, and it was noisy with cars and drunk people, so we ended up leaving at like, 1AM and coming home to sleep. We can’t do that if we go to a campground, but if we camp at the land, we can leave our stuff if something doesn’t work out, and since it’s out in the country, it will be a lot quieter. Once the weather breaks, we will head out there and start working. We will have to get babysitting arrangements figured out, because right now it is no place for little ones, and it will be really wet.

The Budget...UGH!

Our budget for January is trashed! Between the busted washer pipe and wire problems, to buying a bunch of photo props for Claire’s shoot, to just impulsively buying way to much fast food and junk, we really screwed up this month. February will have to be the new January, and we will either sink or swim, so let’s hope we get it right this time. We didn’t get to put anything into the Emergency Fund, except for my last paycheck from K-Mart, which was about $76. Our home improvement fund was emptied, and we stole from the thrift and medical savings to help with the cost of the wiring. We went up to the outlet mall in Lodi and spent money we didn’t really have on a few shirts and Christmas dresses for the girls, since they were having a huge clearance sale. This month was just a mess. Luke also spent some money, getting a Maxxum 9, the best film camera Minolta ever made. It's a professional grade camera, and it came with 2 lenses Luke can use on his digital camera as well. So, on we are into February. Hopefully by the end of February, we will have something rock solid in place.

Accounts as of 1/31/09

Emergency Fund: $229.53/$1000

Thrift Savings: $0.00

Medical Savings: $0.00

Home Improvement Savings: $0.00

The minimum on the WAMU card dropped this month, so the new minimum will be $35. We needed that little extra, we had too many runs to Drug Mart this pay period. The price of convenience I guess. I didn’t pay any extra to any of the cards. I decided the best place to put extra cash for now is in the Emergency Fund, until we get to that $1000.

On another note, our snowball has been re-ordered. I'll need to redo the chart and post it, but we got a good promotion on one of Luke's empty credit cards, so we are doing a balance transfer, to get rid of my Bank of America card. It looks like one of the highest interest cards we have a balance on is Luke's WAMU, and it is also one of the cards with the smallest balance. That will now be the first credit card we pay off.

Luke has a bunch of e-Bay auctions going on this week. He is trying to raise money to buy a 100-400 APO lense for his camera, along with a 2x teleconverter. He is hoping to hit a few more air shows this year, and these 2 items will really help him achieve the close-up shots he wants to pull off.

We should be filing our taxes shortly, but all money we get back will go into savings for our upcoming shuttle vacation. I will post lots of details about that vacation plan at another time. Right now I need to get the motivation and make Luke sit down and help with pictures so I can update this blog with all the other life happenings that have been going on. He is working from his brother's today, but hopefully late tonight we can get some things posted.

There are also some new pictures on the photo blog. Claire's newborn photo shoot, and some of Lexi for her upcoming 3rd birthday next month!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Our Washer Nightmare

So, after the Lowe’s trip last week on Monday, we decided to just bust out a piece of drywall behind the washer so we can easily run the new pipe, and Luke would build an access panel to cover the hole, so we can get to the pipes if necessary. After busting out that piece, we find the wires to the 220 dryer outlet and the normal outlet on that wall have gashes in the sheathing. The 220 actually has bare wire showing!!! Needless to say, it’s a BIG fire hazard. Obviously both of the wires need replaced, so we shut the breakers off, and proceeded to knock out another huge chunk of drywall, so we didn’t have to fish for the new wires nearly as much. We didn’t have the wire we needed, so we hung it up early Monday evening, and Luke asked for Tuesday off.

Tuesday comes and Luke and Chris go back to Lowe’s to buy wire. $80 worth of it! Wire gets expensive. The wire gets up through the wall flawlessly; it just takes a little time. Chris had to start getting ready for work at 3pm, so after he left, Luke finished with that wiring and decided since he has all the wiring stuff out, he would go ahead and redo the girls’ bedroom outlet, since it’s needed done for a few months. Check one thing off the list anyways eh? After that he got the pipe assembled, and took a break so we could get the kids bathed and put to bed. I went upstairs with him and watched the new pipe go in while I vacuumed up the mess on the floor, along with 4 years of lint since Mr. Bachelor Chris decides not to ever borrow the vacuum and sweep! Grrr. (That’s OK though, because I brought up my recycling trash bags and took a whole bunch of his glass bottles and cardboard he just has piled in his kitchen and bagged them up for trash…hahaha. He growled at me when he got home.) Anyways, the pipe works, the outlets work, the washer and dryer are hooked up and they work. We mounted an extra fluorescent light we had laying around, so now we actually have a light up there.

That little laundry room still needs some work. We need to borrow a truck and get a piece of drywall, but we also need a big ladder to make it to the second floor, so we can actually vent the dryer outside through a hole, and not through Chris’ living room window. The old light wire is connected to the rest of the old wiring and is still hot, so we just put some wire nuts on it. It needs shoved into the ceiling and we need to patch the ceiling. We also need to install baseboard and then paint everything and we will be good to go. The hardest part is getting a ladder for the dryer vent, and we need to do that before putting up the new piece of drywall. Our home improvement budget is completely drained now, and we even had to tap into the medical savings and use it since wire was so expensive. We also still need to buy some tile for the bathroom, since the local Lowe’s didn’t have enough edge tiles for the shower. I don’t know when we will start that project now.

Here are a few pictures: