Jan 042018

meditative mandala partially colored in

I got a bit of time to add some color to my meditative mandala after dinner (btw Instant Pot chicken and potatoes was A+++). Careful coloring takes time, at least for me, so I’ve got another night or two after this to finish this drawing. Also, I’m using watercolor pencils so I might do some water blending at the end as well.

After only these first few days I’m noticing an additional benefit from restarting this project – it’s luring the kids out of their rooms and away from their electronics! Tonight while I colored V read to me, and D complimented my mandala and then asked to draw too (which, of course you can!). What a great reminder to me about how important modeling behavior is, and how vital it is for them to see that adults can draw or color or paint without an end goal or product in mind.

Oct 202014

home pressed apple cider

Every year my extended family gathers in the fall to make home pressed apple cider. It’s one of our best and most enduring traditions – this year was our 34th year pressing cider, which is kind of amazing if you think about it. Some of my cousins weren’t even born when we started “Cider Day” and now there are grandchildren participating too.

home pressed apple cider

My aunt and uncle have an old wooden cider press that’s all manually operated – no machine grinding or cranking for us. The process is simple – we start with apples, lots of apples:

home pressed apple cider

The tradition initially started when a number of our families had apple trees in the yard and lots of apples in the fall. Now almost no one has any trees (and those of us who do have kind of wormy apples) so we buy apples from an orchard in eastern Washington. They’ve been Tonnemakers apples for quite a few years now, and we usually have a few other random boxes as well.

apples for home pressed apple cider

The apples go into a galvanized steel tub of water to get rinsed off, and from there they’re up onto the cutting boards for a rough chop. The grinder is pretty powerful so we only need to cut the apples into eighths before we dump them in to get ground up into a kind of apple mush.

apples for home pressed apple cider

The grinder spits the apple mush into a kind of a barrel (wooden staves open on the top and bottom) and when the barrel is full a heavy wooden cap is placed on top and the press is screwed down, which presses the cap into the apples and the juice out. Once the apples are pressed dry the leftover mash is dumped and the process is repeated again. We strain it into bottles, cap them and voila! Cider! Everyone drinks their fill of cider on cider day and we all get bottles to take home as well. This year I’m trying my hand at fermenting a bottle – I’ll have to give the results in a few months.

Apr 172014

Keep your dog off the counter in one easy step

Okay folks, if you’ve got a reasonable sized dog with longish legs who likes to, shall we say, counter surf, then this post is for you. We’ve got one of those kinds of dogs and I was starting to go a little crazy with his grazing ways. This dog couldn’t pass through the kitchen (and its basically a galley kitchen, so there’s a lot of passing through going on) without putting his front paws up onto the counters or the edge of the sink to see if there was anything to eat. Of course, there usually is because with little kids there’s always some food either being prepared, waiting to be served, or abandoned half-eaten at any given time. We tried correcting him with a gentle ‘no’, with a forceful ‘no’, with a loud noise (meant to startle him – yeah right), with a squirt of water (uh, he’s a hunting dog so he likes water) . . . nothing worked. Finally we tried this method to keep the dog off the kitchen counters. Get ready, you might want to take notes, it’s pretty detailed:

Step 1: Put double sided carpet tape around the edges of your counters and sink.

Step 2: That’s it! there is no step 2. You’re done now. Here’s a visual aid in case you need a bit more information:

counter tape labeled

The first day of Operation Counter Tape we set up an experiment – a nice big cookie right in the middle of the counter. Poor Pisco tried one side of the counter, then the other side, then the third side and each time he got right back down again his paws stuck to the tape. The tape is pretty sticky, but not enough to actually hurt when you’re stuck to it and it’s easy to pull off of. The cookie stayed right there for an hour or so, until my son ate it (Note: counter tape does not appear to deter children at all). We also put a strip of tape along the front of the sink and that kept him from jumping up to lick dirty dishes. It’s been two weeks now and he does still occasionally try the counter but gets down again before he grabs anything. I think we’ll need another week or so before we can officially say the counter surfing problem is solved.

There are a few things to keep in mind: 1)  You’ll need to pull off and redo the tape occasionally depending on how often the dog, kids, dishtowels, your own clothing etc get stuck to it so that it stays sticky; 2) We have crappy linoleum counter-tops and although the tape comes off easily without a residue, I’d be a bit wary of using it on higher end surfaces – at least test it out in a small inconspicuous area first; and 3) You’ll need to keep the tape up until the dog completely stops jumping up because if she jumps up after the tape’s gone she’ll be right back to that counter surfing habit in no time.

Good luck, and come back and let me know if this method does (or doesn’t) work for you!

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Introducing Pisco!

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Jan 022014

pisco bed

I just realized that I’ve not yet introduced you all to the new guy in my life – Pisco the puppy! He’s a German Wirehaired Pointer, born on a farm in Eastern Washington. We got Pisco when he was just a 9 week old bundle of fluff, and now he’s a tall, skinny 6 month old. He’s a big part of the reason I didn’t post much at the end of last year; between him and the four-year-old (and the two of them together) I just didn’t have a lot of quiet time for making things, much less writing about them. Now that he’s a bit older and more calm I’m hoping to get some time to myself again.

pisco sitting

Even though he’s been keeping me busy here at home we all love him and he’s the kids’ best buddy. He’s a total lap dog who’s snuggled up with them right now watching a show, and once they’re in bed he’ll come snuggle with one of us.

pisco closeup 2

He loves to get into things he shouldn’t (sleeping on the warm laundry pile is a favorite no-no) but with that face we can’t get too angry.

 pisco laundry

I mean, look at that.  He could get away with murder.

pisco closeup.jpg

He’s smart as a whip, which is awesome except when its not. We taught him to ring a bell to go outside in about 3 days – he taught himself to open our bedroom door by jumping up and turning the handle in about 30 minutes. He learned to sit right away, but he also learned to identify an unsecured roll of toilet paper in under 15 seconds. He’s great fun though!

Needing to Find Some Motivation

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Jun 102013

Do you ever just feel lazy and unmotivated? Man do I have a case of the lazies lately. It’s not that I can’t think of anything to do, it’s that I can’t bring myself to do anything. I’ve been crazy busy with the end of school for the kids so I think that has something to do with it – sometimes when I’ve got down time I just want to zone out in front of the TV or with a good book (speaking of good books, I read a great one recently: The Favored Daughter by Fawzi Koofi. This woman is amazing – she’s had an incredibly hard life in Afghanistan. Now she’s the speaker of parliament there and running for president in 2014. Reading this book certainly put my little problems into perspective).   (Disclosure: The book link above is an affiliate link and if you happen to make a purchase through it I’ll receive a small percentage  – at no cost to you!)

I’m trying to think of ways to jump start my creativity again. I’m going to put together summer journals for my kids that combine road trip journals with field journals, so I did a small watercolor map of our beach trip this summer. I scanned it and I’ll print one out for each journal and paste it in.

OK, the map is not quite to scale, obviously.

I did also manage to put together the flower arrangement at the top of this post, and isn’t it so happy-looking? It makes me smile just looking at it. Otherwise I’ve been puttering around the house but not doing anything much of consequence.

Do you have any advice to get unstuck and get busy?

May 242013

Sometimes I feel like I’m locked in a never-ending battle with the TV. My kids will whine and whine constantly to try and break me down and get me to let them watch another show. I try to limit their screen time to two hours a day (which seems like a ton) but man is that hard some days. Things around the house always seem to go more smoothly when the kids know their limits and the house rules, and we definitely need those when it comes to the screen (Netflix is my nemesis, seriously).

Last year I came up with TV tickets as a way to limit their viewing time and those worked reasonably well, but I got tired of printing out tickets (or writing out tickets) every day. Plus the tickets were using up a ton of printer toner so I needed to find a better way. I wanted to find something durable and permanent so that I could reuse them every day, but also so that I could customize them to cut down on the chance of forgery (my daughter became quite a dedicated forger when we used paper tickets).

I decided to use plastic poker chips: they’re cheap, they come in a box of 100 so I had lots of spares for mess-ups or other projects and they’ll be durable. Plus they come in three colors so I could color-code them for each child. In our system each chip is worth 30 minutes of T.V. (“one show”) so each child gets two – if they each watch each others’ shows it is two hours of screen time, but sometimes they don’t do that for whatever reason and that cuts down on the T.V. time. I also made two bonus tokens – if they have an excellent day behavior-wise I have the option to give them a bonus 30 minute token but that’s not a regular thing. Of course if your kids are less devious than mine or you toss out the rest of the box of poker chips then you really don’t even need to label them – just assign each kid a color and you’re good to go!

The tokens were super simple to make. I used PicMonkey to create images for the labels on each side of the chip. I started with a blank PicMonkey image, cropped it into a square and then used a circle overlay and stretched it to fit the size of the square. I then changed the background of the overlay for each separate chip color (green for the blue chips, purple for the red chips and blue for the white chips) and added text for each chip as well. I have a 3/4″ craft punch, which happened to be just the right size to make the paper labels for the center of the chips (you could just freehand cut the circles with scissors).

1) Plastic poker chips, 2) Mod Podge, 3) your token images printed on paper, 4) craft punch or scissors. Not pictured: paint brush.

Now there is probably a better way to print the images out so that you can attach them to the chips, but this is how I did it: I opened a text document and inserted each image into it, then resized them to be a bit more than 3/4″ in diameter, saved and printed it out. I punched out the images using the punch and then used Mod Podge to affix the circles to the poker chips.

Clockwise from top left: Put Mod Podge in the center of the poker chip; Add the paper image; Cover the image with more Mod Podge; Let dry.

The Mod Podge took about 20 minutes to dry and I only used one coat. The directions say you can seal it with acrylic sealer to keep it from feeling tacky but I didn’t need to do that – they dried clear and glossy and smooth. So far we’re back on track with the new system and it really works to cut down on the whining and begging since they know that when their tokens are gone they’re done.

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!