Hard Water and Soap Scum on Your Shower Walls?

For those of you who don’t know, I clean houses about four days per week. Just a cleaning a day. It pays the bills, I get some good exercise in, and most of them are just a few minutes away from my house.

I’ve been doing this for nearly twelve years now and even had my eldest daughter doing it until she decided she preferred an office job.

Ugh…office jobs. The only office I like being in is my own, writing books.

But that is a story for another day.

I have a client that I recently took over from the afore-mentioned eldest. I had cleaned their house once and scrubbed and scrubbed at these awful hard water and soap scum stains on their shower doors.

I’ll tell you, if I had any input on building products, I would immediately eradicate glass shower doors. Make those suckers opaque, because glass looks pretty only when a shower is never used. Otherwise, it has water marks, soap drips, the works.

When I cleaned it last, I scrubbed again at the water marks. They were a cloudy white and covering the lower half of the glass door and walls. Ugh!

But today I had an idea that I tried out and was absolutely amazed at how well it worked.

Baking soda and a scrubbie sponge. That’s it.

How I wish I had taken before pictures! But I never dreamed it would work so well. I just sprinkled the baking soda onto the scrubbie side of a sponge and got to work. A quick rinse and then a wipe down with a microfiber and this shower is looking MILES better.

I can’t wait to try it on another client’s house that has hard water stains. I hope it will have as much of an effect.

Meanwhile, I hope my clients from today’s cleaning like their sparkling shower!

Posted in Cleaning Tips, Green Living | Leave a comment

Financial Tip #2 – Get a Better Interest Rate With This Savings Account

Remember When…

I remember back in the 80s when you could actually MAKE a decent interest rate on your savings account. Not that I had any money I could put into savings then. I was poorer than a church mouse at the time!

That said, it almost makes me miss the good old days.

Now that we are in a position to save some money, I’ve been pegging a savings account at $500 per month. And while I absolutely LOVE Commerce Bank, their interest rates are laughably low.

I figured “at least I’m saving money, even if it isn’t earning me any interest” until I saw THIS tip on Penny Hoarder today.

Try Nearly Quintupling Your Savings

I clicked on the link and read through the details. There are no balance minimums or monthly fees. You are limited to six withdrawals in a month (but if you are saving money, you aren’t withdrawing money, you are depositing it, and there is no limit to that.

An online Goldman Sachs savings account that pays you nearly five times the going rate? Yes, I’ll take it!

I decided I wanted to deposit $500 and then deposit $500 each month thereafter.

Here is what their online interest calculator showed me…

That’s a total “income” of more than a month worth of savings!

The Five-Year Plan

I really should have titled this Financial Tip #2 AND #3. But then again, this is just an idea that I haven’t acted on yet, so here is the second half of my idea.

At the end of five years, I will have nearly $31,000 saved. I’m considering buying one of those tiny houses (check out some of them here) for around $35k, installing it on my property, and then renting it out as an Air B’nB.

I hope that, in five years, I will have made significant progress in:

  • Landscaping my yard into a blooming oasis
  • Finished the renovations on The Cottage and have it available as an Air B’nB
  • Have built my Air B’nB online reputation and ratings to earn a decent income

All of these will combine into a nice little landing pad for Air B’nB Number Two.

Say it takes an extra $5k in prep work, bringing it to a total of $40k. At a rate of $80 per night (and I think I could charge more), I would have my initial investment repaid within 500 nights of rental. Conservatively? Two, maybe 2 1/2 years. And if things rent out at a decent 50% occupancy rate, I would be looking at a monthly income of $1200 (possibly more).

But first, let’s get that $30k saved. Right?!

[Opening account…NOW]

Update on 5/21

I’ve had a little difficulty opening the account. I think it will take a call to their customer service department on Monday BUT I also checked my various savings accounts at Commerce and found out that the savings accounts are only earning .02% interest…compared to 1.05% at Goldman Sachs. Holy cow, that is a HUGE difference!

You know I’ll be calling their customer service line first thing on Monday to get this all worked out and start earning some of that 1.05% interest rate!

Posted in Financial Advice, Frugality | Leave a comment

Financial Tip #1 – Uninsured? Try These!

I think I will start a series of financial tips. These have worked out well for me and mine, and perhaps they can help you as well.

I’ll post them as I think of them.

Uninsured? You Are Not Alone

Health coverage is EXPENSIVE, folks. And if you are thinking that you are the only one without it, think again.

Right now our little family is without any coverage due to my husband’s change in jobs. I hope that will change in a few months, but I’m not holding my breath. The last job he had, his medical was paid 100%, but if he had added us on? It would have been $1,000-$1,200 per month.

Who can afford to pay 1/3 of their salary for medical coverage?

I mean, seriously, we complain about Europe having higher taxes, call some of their medical plans crap, but WE are the ones paying some of the highest amounts in drug prices, insurance and more.

So I, along with many others here in the U.S., do a little dance with the devil. We assess our health, hope it will continue to be good, and take our chances.

Here are some ways you can mitigate the risk…

Walgreens and Other Doc-in-a-Box Locales

Walgreens and/or CVS often have a registered nurse on staff in their minute clinics. Designed to handle very basic issues, I’ve had rather good luck with them, especially for sinusitis, poison ivy exposure, and ear infections.

They are not as good for internal issues. So keep that in mind.

Groupon for Dental? Who Knew?

As I was checking my email this morning, I ran across a Groupon for dental services. That’s rather brilliant!

Many folks do not know that you can (and should) negotiate dental care. By offering cash, you can often see a discount on services. But seeing this Groupon was a first for me, and rather brilliant, since I have not had a dental exam in over four years!

Dr. Guerschon de Laurent at Kansas City Dental is offering an exam, cleaning and x-rays for just $49 each. I bought two, one for me and one for Dave. The kiddo recently had a cleaning, exam, and even a filling so she is set.

As a bonus, I ran this through my Barclay Card Rewards portal and received 4x the points for every dollar I spent!

For those of you who are open to alternative, Eastern medicine, Groupon often has acupuncture services. You can often find yoga packages for sale as well.

Concierge Medical Care

Concierge medical care has been on the rise as of late. I love the concept and will probably invest in this if my husband’s new medical coverage is too expensive.

If you have never heard of it, KSHB recently ran a piece on it.

Concierge care is NOT considered a substitute for having medical insurance when filing your taxes (no tax break there at all) but is great if you are not as healthy as you would like to be and can’t afford one of the high deductible health care packages available through the Marketplace.

For $50-$125 per month, you get a basic annual health screening and usually unlimited office visits. In addition, you can get drastically reduced prescription medicine prices.

Check out some of these providers websites for more details:

And those are just a few.

One Last Thing

I didn’t mention vision care, did I? Well, that is an issue as well. A lesson I have learned all too well in the past two years as my perfect vision has degraded. I use reading glasses right now, but the time for prescription glasses is quickly approaching.

I will report back after I’ve done some research on it.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE: I decided to take the plunge and signed up for Concierge (also known as Direct Primary Care) Care with Kansas City Direct Primary Care. It will cost me just $65 per month and I added Emily on for another $15.

Let me say that again – for $80 per month, Emily and I have 24/7 access to a primary care doctor as well as unlimited office visits and more. If she or I have anything that requires treatment by a primary doctor, we can email, call or schedule an office visit – at no additional cost.*

*Lab fees and prescriptions cost extra, but they are far less than what you would pay at a pharmacy. More on that later.

I don’t anticipate needing that much health care. In other words, I could probably keep on dancing with the devil and hope for the best. But I’ll take this opportunity and run with it. It will take away the massive levels of stress I have when faced with the incidental illnesses that come with daily living and it also means I can begin to focus on my health more.

My initial appointment is set for later this month. It will be the first doctor I have seen in over four years. Stay tuned for updates!

Posted in Advocacy, Financial Advice, Frugality, Health | Leave a comment

I’ve Lost My Lease on My Rented Mule (and other stories)

Iris in bloom

I have mentioned it before, but when my husband was downsized, I gave him “the look” and told him I planned to work him like a rented mule until he had a new job.

True to form, I have done just that, before and after the eight-day vacation he took to San Francisco!

As soon as my dear husband and daughter returned from a glorious week in San Francisco, it was time to knuckle down. Especially since he had several possible employers nibbling at the hook!

While on vacation, sitting on a beach in SF no less, the hubs handled two phone interviews and then scheduled the 3rd interview for the day after he returned.

And, as of Wednesday, May 10th, my rented mule has returned to the IT world.

I came up with a list of “gotta do’s” and we set to work in the few days we had left. We got a lot accomplished. Come take a look!

First you lay down the tarp…

She Dreams of Pond

I have wanted a pond, a nice-sized one, since I began digging to China the first spring we were here. And that has created a small problem…a hole in the ground with a perimeter of broken brick does not easy mowing make.

And hold it in place with rocks…

So I bought some landscape fabric and got to work. By laying down the weed block and then piling on the mulch nice and thick, Dave will be able to mow right up to it easily. This will hold for a couple of seasons at most. Mulch breaks down and weeds eventually move in, but it will give us a break from the high weeds and define the space better.

With the mulch all in place…

If I have time, digging the pond out more (and removing all of the vegetation that has grown inside of it) would really make a difference. It’s hard to visualize from photos, they just don’t properly show the depth of the project!

I hope to have this pond up and running by next year sometime. This year if I’m really, really lucky (which definitely means next year!).

Why look, my $140 order of 100% DEAD plants came in from USA Nursery!

Mulch Boundaries

This free mulch is great for smothering grass and weeds. Especially if you put it on thick enough! This is allowing us to terraform our yard into something we will not only enjoy, but be able to garden in successfully. The creeping charlie plants have basically taken over what little grass there was and I look forward to smothering them under a foot of mulch.

Here in the front, the tight quarters meant for difficult maneuvers around plants, so adding mulch here was a top priority. As were the bases of all of our trees and bushes.

It’s looking better, and I want to do more, but the fence for the back of the property is a screaming priority. So for now, this mulch is all we are going to do. On to fence-building next!

I adore this columbine. It is so dark, almost black. It is GORGEOUS!

I Love Spring

Spring is hands down my favorite time of year. The birds sing happily, and there is a dizzying array of flowers to enjoy. Here is what is blooming in our yard right now…

Poppies getting ready to bloom!

Multiple lamb’s ear plants are thriving

Yellow flag water iris

In the foreground is a free plum tree we got from Anita B Gorman event the first year we were here. It is doing phenomenal! Next to it is a redbud determined to keep up.

Porch cat, a.k.a. Gray, is a kitty who has been coming around for months. He has finally trusted us enough to let us pet him. Strictly one or two short pets, otherwise you get the claws again!

An Art Project

And I’ve begun that art project I was describing a few posts back. The one that will be installed at The Cottage.

I’ve got a bunch of flat glass marbles on order, but if anyone has any to spare, please send them my way. I need all I can get!

For this project, I am painting the windows taken out of The Cottage with the same green as the outside paint.

After I have filled the open glass areas with flat glass marbles and attached them in place with E6000 glue, I will be mixing some epoxy and setting them in place behind a clear epoxy wall.

After that I will find some good outdoor chain, and attach it to the tops and bottoms of the windows and mount them in the open spaces above the porch handrail.

Stay tuned to see the finished product!

Posted in Garden Planning, Mulch, Ponds/Waterways | Leave a comment

Rented Mules

The woodpile BEFORE we began

When Dave arrived home earlier than expected nine days ago, I took one look at his face and panicked. “I was downsized,” he said.

This was less than optimal, but at least the timing was good. My income has risen to almost the same as his net per month, so while we are on lockdown for expenditures, it isn’t a screaming “OMG, we are going to lose everything” panic situation. He has some great opportunities, awesome recommendations from his boss and co-workers, and several possible jobs already on the line.

Now that’s a LOT of wood! (p.s. We have AWESOME neighbors – thank you Kevin and Michelle for loaning us the truck!)

We were able to purchase two plane tickets for him and Em to fly to SF for a week, while I hold down the fort here with my dad. Dave hasn’t seen his parents in several years, so this was a wonderful opportunity to get it done now, since he had the time off.

I scheduled the flight and said, “Now, understand this, I intend to work you like a rented mule until you leave.”

I hope to clear this pond out further this spring and edge it with rocks and mulch to prevent more weeds from growing in and around it.

He has said since that rented mules are treated better.


G’Bye Wood and Brush Piles

We are really lucky to live in a city that has a recycling center for free brush drop off as well as free mulch. We haven’t managed to round it ALL up yet, but we moved SIX truckloads of brush and logs off of our property on Saturday.

Through the weekdays, there is a charge for brush drop off. However, on Saturdays, as long as you can show a valid i.d. with an address here in Kansas City, you can drop off as much wood, brush, and leaves as you can haul to any one of three sites.

The upper part of the future pond. It really needs a lot of work!

You can also pick up free mulch (we found out the truck can hold approximately 1 1/2 cubic yards or three scoops) that is rather rough. They also have better quality mulch for just $16.95 a cubic yard.

I told Dave that morning, “Tell me when you have had enough, and that last load, we will empty it and then have them fill us up with mulch.”

Our turnaround time was around 45 minutes to load, drive to the place, and then unload. On the sixth (and last) trip Dave suggested stacking the wood upright in the bed of the truck. What a fantastic idea! One of us stood in the bed of the truck and the other handed up the wood. Most of the woodpile has been there for approximately 2-3 years, so the water weight was gone and the wood was (for the most part) light and easy to lift.

The hill/incline where I would like to put in another pond/waterfall. I think I could incorporate the tree stump somehow.

In one load we managed to eradicate over 3/4 of the woodpile!

Mulch, Mulch, and More Mulch

We were worn out, but not terribly sore on Sunday. Thank goodness, because we had a truck full of mulch to unload and spread!

It didn’t take us long to finish the planted area around Thing One’s stump and then encircle two of the remaining trees in the orchard area.

Perhaps something along these lines (clipped from Pinterest) for the incline fountain/waterfall.

We only had about 1/4 of the load left, so we hit the area in the front of the yard, where it becomes difficult to get a mower in and out of. Dave had mentioned this a couple of times and I think it will take two full loads to fully cover that portion of the yard so that we don’t have to squinch our way into tight spots.

I can also add more blooming plants to that area by simply pushing the mulch aside, adding a little soil and the plant.

The remaining wood in the woodpile was moved out and became the boundary line for my wildflower and hosta garden.

Think Wildflowers and Hostas

So, back to that woodpile. I figure I had one more load to go for it to be all cleared out. I figured that this spot would be great for a mix of partial shade-loving plants.

I sprinkled a bag of wildflower seeds throughout the cleared areas and then realized the remaining wood could be put along the edges, creating a boundary inside of which I could go ahead and start planting.

I dug up one hosta and added it to the garden. Spread little hosta! Make lots of baby hostas!

My front yard is an incubator of blooming plants. It is jam-packed full of goodies to dig up and move to other parts of the yard!

Ponds and Waterways

I don’t know how much I will get done on these projects, but I have multiple water/pond projects I want to see happen.

  1. The Big Kahuna – I don’t really call it that, but it is a huge project, so it seemed appropriate! This was partially dug the first year we were here and I just cleared the area of most of the treelings that were busy trying to grow in it. It will have a waterfall in the upper pond, a stream that winds around the base of the lilac and honeysuckle bushes, and then two lower pools with a tiny island and natural tree-root bridge.
  2. Multiple mini-fountains with solar powered pumps scattered through the property. At least two or three.
  3. Using the natural incline of the hill coming down from The Cottage back yard into our newly acquired lot (the one that connects The Cottage with our other five lots), I visualize a waterfall and pool at the bottom, surrounded by water iris.

Some of these projects are years out – but a girl can dream, right?!

Meanwhile, things are really shaping up in our little piece of urban paradise!

Posted in DIY, Garden Diary, Garden Planning, Mulch | 2 Comments

Terraforming – Here on Earth, and on Mars

We borrowed our friend’s truck and got a couple of loads of free mulch.

I’m taking notes right now for Gliese 581: Zarmina’s World, which is a sequel to Gliese 581: Departure. Some of those notes include one of the sub-stories – the colony on Mars – and their efforts to terraform the red planet.

And I guess that got me to thinking about what I wanted to see in our yard – notably no more grass.

That’s years out, but here is the beginning of it. I’m laying down landscaping fabric and placing a thick layer of mulch on top. I can also do this with cardboard with less effective weed-blocking results.

A bird’s eye view from the upper back porch.

Eventually, these mulched areas will increase, as will the plantings within them. Between them, and around them I will lay brick and stone paths.

Our newest addition – a stray Dave began calling Gray – otherwise known as Porch Cat. He has basically moved in and wants desperately to come INSIDE the house, but we feed him and pet him and assure him that outside is where he is most welcome!

In five years or so, the areas now filled with grass will have bushes, flowers, trees, and groundcover. And it will be absolutely fantastic!

Columbine in bloom

For now, I’ve surrounded three of our trees with mulch and added in a section around the tree stump. Last year I planted daylilies and several other flowering plants there. Some came back, but the whole thing devolved into an overgrown mess. The mulch and landscape fabric will keep that from happening this time.

Today was the perfect day to work on this. It was nice and cool!

I can see it so clearly, the paradise of plants, and paths, that will begin to establish themselves over the next few years. I can’t wait to show you the vision I have of a terraformed yard. I think you will love it!

Our Asian pear is doing well! At its feet are iris, daylily and columbine.

Want free mulch?

If you are a resident of Jackson County you can go to any of three different locations and they will load up the “first ground mulch” for free into your truck. Here is the link.

They also have nicer mulch for sale starting at $16.95 per cubic yard (it’s a truck full).

Posted in Garden Planning, Mulch | 1 Comment

High Hopes and Fingers Crossed

High Hopes and Fingers Crossed

The weather is absolutely beautiful, isn’t it?! I have spent a good deal of the past four days outside gardening.

Just look at that front yard, it is about to take off and start blooming!

We’ve cleared parts of the yard, burned brush, planted seeds, and finished installing the rest of the hanging planters on our wraparound porch.

The hosta is from last year. I’d say it is well-established. This fall I hope to divide them and begin planting them in other shady spots throughout the property.

I’ve worked on the front yard of The Cottage as well, moving forward with plans for plenty of flowers and blooms year-round. It will take a couple of years for everything to fully develop, but we are definitely on our way.

Pretty, pretty tulips!

Ever since those punks hit The Cottage with their trashy graffiti, I have wondered what to do. Should I hold off on beautifying it until we are done with the inside? Do I risk having them damage it further, or even steal plants or planters?

And one of our favorite colors of tulip. As for the creeping charlie you see on the ground. I have given up. It may be a weed, but it is also an excellent groundcover. In some parts of the country, they actually intentionally plant it!

I tussled with this a while.

First iris blooms this year

I’m going forward with plans to create those decorative windows I mentioned in my last post, and I’ve decided to plant plenty of seeds and improve the outside of the building as much as possible.

The daylilies surrounding the TDN sign are well established and should bloom well this year.

This includes:

  • Finishing the painting (we have portions of the west wall that still need the green paint and some of the trim needs a second coat)
  • Transplanting more perennial bulbs and plants
  • Caring for any plants that sprout up
  • Installing the decorative windows in the open spaces of the front porch (they will have flat glass marbles, glued in place and then epoxy over them) with chains above and below anchoring them.
  • Add a tri-fold door to the end of the porch which has been decorated in Zentangle designs
  • Add curtains to the windows which prying eyes can easily access
  • Continue the brick path across the properties to join up with other brick paths

The stump from Thing One (one of the first cottonwood trees we cut down) will be one of the first blooming areas in the yard as I begin my mission of removing the turf and turning over half of an acre into a paradise of flowers, edible fruits, and more.

I guess you could say I’ve got high hopes and my fingers crossed that the punks will leave us alone and realize that this is a cared-for home, even if it isn’t occupied at the moment.

Our Mesabi cherry tree planted this spring. Fedco Trees has plenty of heirloom fruit and nut trees to choose from.

Building Bridges

I’ve gone round and round with the neighbor directly to the west of The Cottage. And I’ve decided on a new tactic…

Look how tall one of our heirloom apple trees has gotten. I think it is at least ten feet tall now.


Is that a word? Why look, it IS a word!

  1. 1.
    the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.
    “pupils draw power from the positivity of their teachers”

I am continuing that brick path heading east towards our house.

In any case, positivity is my weapon of choice these days.

I planted these hanging baskets with a ton of low-growing wildflower seeds, nasturtium, and morning glories. I’m taking a chance here, but I do hope it pays off and no one decides to steal the hanging baskets.

Yesterday, when I was over there transplanting some iris and daylily, he came out. The truth be told, Dale is incredibly lonely. But within moments of greeting me, he begins a tirade of negativity (the opposite of positivity!). Everything from ethnic groups, the government, the homeless and those “awful people across the street” are his target. Everyone, it seems, is his enemy.

Some transplanted iris, daylily and a local perennial.

I tried something different. “Hey Dale, tell me something positive.”

He stopped, smiled a little, and said, “It’s a beautiful day out.”

We will cover the bottom of the deck soon and then I’ll probably transplant some honeysuckle so it will grow up the lattice.

“Yes, it is.”

Later, after course correcting him out of his diatribes a few more times he said, “So I guess what you are saying is that no one wants to hear me be so negative.”

Hmmm…what to do with this interesting piece of stump. Does anyone have any ideas?

I told him, “There’s a time and a place for it. What I’m saying is that, in some ways, I was a lot like you. And everything changed when I changed how I viewed the world. That’s all.”

Here is the other side of it

The way I see it is like this. You can spend your life expecting that folks and fate are going to screw you over, and the world will give you exactly that. Or you can expect that life is good, that most people are innately good, and most likely, the world will respond in kind.

The jerks that tagged The Cottage were punks. They made our pretty little house look like trash. But I can also point to a dozen people (at least) who have told me how pretty it is, remarked on how much they liked what we were doing, and even in a couple of instances, run off n’er-do-wells.

Our new firepit. It’s way too small. I prefer the industrial size, burn a car in it size, but unfortunately, the fire department would object.

I really wish I had gotten to see the little old ladies across the street from me hollering at some punks trying to break into the back of it last year. They ran those kids off before they had a chance to get up to mischief.

We brought the elephant ear outside and after months of low, indirect light, it is in deep shock. Dave watered it well. It will recover. No worries!

It is that memory that I hold close when I saw the graffiti. Not the other way around. You get out of this world exactly what you expect from it.

In any case, that was my bridge-building for the day.

High hopes, fingers crossed, and shoring up that old bridge. I will continue to hope for the best.

Each year my garden gets better and better. I love gardening!

Posted in Challenges, Community, Garden Planning, Goals/Dreams, The Cottage | Leave a comment

Spring Has Finally Sprung!

With the warmer weather comes all sorts of interesting (and sometimes annoying) folks.

Take the turds who did this to The Cottage sometime on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning…

And a close up…


So we painted over it, and I decided it was time to get the rest of the porch painted.

When our contractor up and abandoned us in December, I figured it was for the best. I had paid out over $6,000 in wages and didn’t have much to show for it. I’m all for high quality of work, but an unfinished job is just that – an unfinished job. At some point, you need to show up and get it done or bow out and let someone else clean up your half-finished mess.

The city codes inspector showing up on a sunny day in February lit a fire under my butt. We had to get the porch finished and the back wall of The Cottage covered with new siding (we had torn off the rotting lap siding and just had a Tyvek wrap on it).

I bit the bullet and hired a local contractor. They finished the porch in record time. And I hated it, but chalked it up to being my fault. I had simply said, “finish it” and given no input on how I wanted it finished. Most of the 4×4 timbers were split and/or gouged, the joins were terrible (gaps, screws showing), and I just paid the money and figured “heck, it’s DONE, right?”

Every time I look at the porch, I find myself hating it. This is what comes from feeling like my back was up against the wall. My dreams for a Craftsman style porch may be realized in a decade or so, but for now, what I have will do.

A homeschooling mama friend of mine had a great idea. “Paint it the same color as the house,” she suggested, “and then possibly hang drapes to soften it.”

The fence before being painted (and before the taggers got busy).

So I took the first half of the suggestion and implemented it. I will add the curtains in the corners later. The entire porch, including the floorboards, are now painted. And man oh man, it already looks better!

I think the paint really pulls it all together, don’t you? If you look close, you can see our brand-new sensor light mounted in the porch ceiling.

Dave installed a motion sensor light in the ceiling of the front porch on Saturday night and then today he installed a burglar alarm.

pssst, would be burglars…It’s REALLY LOUD!

Next weekend we will install the motion sensor floodlights in the back.

Sloppy workmanship…

As you can see from the picture above, the 4×4 in the background is split, along most of its length. The one in the front was missing a chunk. Other 4×4 pieces are shredded in spots, and split in others. I have to wonder if they grabbed every crappy piece of wood they could find and assembled on the porch, just for me.

And did I mention that the porch does not actually fall within code? I’ve had two neighbors give me that bad news. I’ll figure out what to do about this later, but I hope to distract codes guy by hanging painter’s tarp curtains at the corners.

I’m also considering attaching some of the old windows. They will be fastened in place on the top and bottom with chain, and they will be decorated with designs in different colors of flat glass marbles.

Something like this…


Anyway, the idea is still brewing, so we will see how it plays out.

I also did a bit of gardening and laid some more brick down to begin working on a path that will eventually wind its way through the yard to our own front door.

I lay the bricks in place for months, then return and set them into the ground over pea gravel, with sand to hold them in place once they have compacted the earth a bit.

The tree stump has been filled with dirt and I’ve added a variety of flower seed in it. Hopefully this stump will be hopping with flowering plants in another month.

Around the base I’m planting perennials like daylilies.

All of the work from the years before is really showing. Here is a look down the edge of the city sidewalk. We have tulips, daylilies, and iris popping up and promising months of blooms!

There’s nothing quite like spring for the promise of flowers to come!

Already the bleeding hearts are blooming.

So I’m moving away from bulb planting to shrub planting. At least for this year. And to that end, I ordered a whole bunch of flowering shrubs and some trees from USA Nursery last night.

I, um, got a little carried away. I ordered:

  • 3 Hydrangea
  • 26 Althea (very small ones, I’ll probably need to grow them in buckets before transplanting them next year)
  • 15 Crape Myrtle
  • 40 Rugosa Rose (also very small)
  • 3 Forsythia
  • 5 Lilac
  • 4 Pussy Willow
  • 2 Rhododendron
  • 2 PawPaw trees
  • 2 Red Chokeberry
  • 6 Fountain Grass
  • 3 Burning Bush

So, that all adds up to 111 plants.

I’m not sure what happened. The free shipping and buttload of free plant offers just sucked me in. I spent $140, so that isn’t so bad, right? It ends up being, what, $1.26 per plant?

In any case, that’s IT for plant shopping for me for the year. I haven’t told my husband how many plants are coming in, he would absolutely freak. I’ll have to run by Suburban Lawn and Garden within the next week and get a bunch of their leftover empty garden pots that they give away for free. I’ll line up the Althea, and Rugosa Rose plants in those until they are at least a year older and I can see where they are once I plant them.

USA Nursery ships them at a 6-12″ size, so they are very small.

The Rosa Rugosa is a rosebush that grows up to 3-5 feet tall and forms a rather nasty hedge of thorny mayhem, which is softened only by the pretty blooms. The way I see it, the plant is hell to try and get through and that makes it perfect as a guardian for the back border of our property.

May your fences be pretty, yet sharp and thorny.

We also planted three fruit trees and four gooseberry bushes this weekend. The gooseberry bushes look absolutely lovely. I found them at Scenic Hill Farms and they are LARGE. I can’t wait to see them established and producing. Did you know that a mature plant can produce up to six pounds of fruit per year?

I’m reducing the size of my main garden, so we actually put some of the conditioned soil to work and planted the gooseberries in the southernmost row of the garden.

I’ve never eaten gooseberry pie. I hope I like it!

What are your garden plans?


Posted in Garden Planning, The Cottage, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

This Weekend’s Work


Bring on the Army!

The visit from the city earlier in the week lit a fire under my butt. So I called on some of those priority fixes…

  1. Stabilize The Cottage by finishing the south back wall with siding (the old lap siding had deteriorated too badly to keep), fix a small hole in the west wall, and finish the front porch.
  2. Get the two trees cut down (the maple tree in the dog yard that was very shallow-rooted and too close to the houses and the tall cottonwood tree near our fire pit)

I made some calls and picked an excellent tree guy Vic Vickers and also a highly recommended contractor – Lon Dorsey for the work.

They were able to come by, take a look at the property and give me quotes that were affordable. Little did I realize how quickly things would move – when I accepted their quotes, both parties said they could be here on Saturday!

And so here we are, Vic and his workers tackling both trees at once. And Lon Dorsey’s crew working on the porch today and knocking out the siding on Monday.

It is all quite exciting.

Gas Main Work

Meanwhile, our street is looking rather frightful. The city is replacing what I can only imagine is the original gas line in the area. This has entailed digging up enormous swaths of sidewalk, and then expanding to large, deep holes in the street pavement, all on the south side of the street.

Each time I’ve had to take my dad to an appointment it feels as if we are threading the eye of the needle, carefully moving around monstrous gaping holes and torn up sidewalk before crossing the street (far too slowly for my comfort) to get into the van on the opposite side.

The upside of this that we will have a brand-new safer gas main. The downside is of course, very limited parking options, a mess of mammoth proportions, and huge yellow pipes being assembled on our land.

The cost for all of the tree work was dramatically reduced when we told them we would not need them to haul it away. This means plenty of work for us over the next few months. We will create hugelkultur and mushroom growing biomes (more on that in another post). It saves us hundreds, and puts the wood to work.

I should have stronger upper arm strength by the end of it!


Magic in The Kitchen

Color me excited, but I made two new recipes today and I was oh so very proud of myself!

I had bought a head of cauliflower with the nebulous idea of making cauliflower cheese soup. I had forgotten this, and the cauliflower, for several weeks until this morning at breakfast.

Breakfast on one of the weekend days usually turns into a menu planning session. And since we were so busy yesterday, this morning ended up being the day for it. As I was thinking of meals, I spied my newest cookbook, one I picked up at World Market a weekend ago…

I hadn’t made anything out of it yet, but when my eyes fell on the recipe for Vegetarian Samosas, I was dying to try it out! It also asked for some cauliflower, so my mind was made up – dinner would be Cauliflower Cheese Soup and Samosas.

They turned out fabulous, but I marked the changes I would make next time. Oh, and we didn’t have black mustard seeds, yellow mustard seeds worked just as well.

Mix cuisines? Why not?!

Dave ate FOUR of these suckers. I look forward to obtaining some tamarind pulp so that we can make the tamarind dipping sauce next time. And a huge thanks to my husband for helping me create this recipe!

The Cauliflower Cheese Soup was kind of a fusion between a cream of vegetable and cheese soup. So I borrowed some ideas from two recipes in my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. Here is what I came up with:

  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 of an onion, finely diced (the rest of the onion went into the samosa)
  • 1 head of cauliflower, diced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 cup American cheese, shredded (or torn into pieces)
  • 1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Combine the chicken stock with the vegetables and bring to a boil over medium heat, cooking until vegetables are soft.

In a bowl, whisk the milk, cream, flour and seasonings together. Add to the broth and vegetables and stir until it has thickened and is bubbling. Reduce heat to its lowest setting and add the cheeses, stirring until fully melted. Serve immediately.

Two wins in the kitchen today!

Posted in Permaculture, Projects, Recipes, The Cottage | Leave a comment

The Multi-Generational Family

Within seconds of waking up this morning, before my eyes had fully focused in the gloom, I was hit with yet another epiphany.

All of my life I’ve dreamed of what it would be like to have a multi-generational family under one roof, and now I have it.

And the reality is nothing like I imagined it.

As a child, I grew up missing my grandfathers. One died months before I was born and the other died when I was just six. I remember visiting my paternal grandfather’s grave with my grandmother. We brought plastic flowers and put them there near the simple plaque that rested on the ground. I cried for the man I had never met. Everyone told me that he was so looking forward to meeting me, that he would have loved me.

By that time, I was seven, and had recently lost my maternal grandfather, who I had only a few happy memories of visiting. A big man who smelled of pipe tobacco and gave me bone-cracking hugs, he had died soon after we moved far away, to Flagstaff, Arizona.

I felt robbed. What had I done to earn such misfortune? Not only were my grandfathers gone, but my great-grandparents were all long dead as well. I envied those who had multiple generations in their lives. I read about them in books, imagined what it would be like to grow up in a house with parents, grandparents, and siblings.

My reality was far different. There was me and there was my dad. Or sometimes, my mom. My parents had divorced a few months before my mom’s dad had died and we were 1,000 miles from our nearest relatives, nearly all of them in Missouri. It was a solitary existence, one that would haunt me for decades.

That last sentence sounded rather melodramatic, but it is the truth. In some ways, I feel as if I have been battling loneliness all of my life. Perhaps it is why I started a family at the age of 18. I wanted to live my life surrounded by family – and if I had to make it happen by myself then so be it.

And just as I dreamed of having children, I dreamed also of the “good old days” when aging parents were taken care of, not in this new normal of nursing homes and retirement communities, but at home, with their families, where they belonged.

I saw worth in it. I imagined what my grandfathers could have taught me. The stories they could have told me, the things that they had seen. I dreamed of what it could have been like for me, surrounded by love, not alone in apartments and houses for hours on end, with books and television my only companions.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.”

And this morning I realized that I have continued to work towards that goal, that of the multi-generational family, all of my life. I have always seen its worth.

Dream and reality aren’t the same, though. Reality is far more messy.

Reality is that I can count the bones on my father’s body as I bathe him. They are better now, not so obvious now that he has gained ten pounds under my care. His clothes fit better, his attention span lasts longer, and he is improving.

Reality is that my eldest daughter wants nothing to do with him. NOTHING. He has asked, and I have explained, as best as I could, that their relationship is their own to fix, and not something I will involve myself in.

Reality is that we have pooled our resources and that, for however long this lasts, it benefits all involved. I am home more, the house runs relatively smoothly and is cleaner and more meals are fixed here. We are not suffering, and there are financial and emotional rewards to this new paradigm.

It also means that when my dad blew his whistle to call me last night, waking me up from sleep, it was to ask for band-aids to be put all over his feet as a “preventative measure” for the diabetic neuropathy he continues to deny he has. I said “no” by the way and grumpily told him to please refrain from waking me up with weird fixes for known issues.

It means learning things that I never knew, or don’t remember. Hearing the stories for the first time as he shares his wealth of knowledge and experiences gained over the past seventy years.

Reality is having to endure for the 126th time, the “novel” business idea (i.e. scheme for how to use other people’s money) to fund his unrealistic dreams for when he “returns to Panama and builds that Queen Anne.”

It means involving him in Em’s homeschooling. “Read to him from your Time Life for Kids series,” I say. She does, and he listens and then shares a story with her. She remains lukewarm towards him, but I hope that will change, that he will tell her some funny stories and that she will find worth and interest in him.

Reality is that some days he loves my cooking and other times he doesn’t. “These aren’t REAL tacos,” he says, frowning at the crunchy taco shell I bought at Aldi’s. “Someday I’ll show you what REAL tacos are like.” I say nothing some days, other times I snap back at him.


It means that there is another adult to talk to and spend time with each day. But someone who needs me, too, which has its moments of nice. I’m busy showing him all of the interesting series on Netflix as well – Sense8, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and more. We have established a routine of sorts.

Reality is that he can be petulant, demanding, imperious and a general asshole.

Yes, I just called my dad an asshole. And he is. Just as he can be sweet and kind and thoughtful.

He’s a human being, after all, and we all have a little (or lot) of asshole in us.

The end result of all of this? Two months ago (plus one day), I boarded a plane to Panama City, Panama. I had no idea what was going to happen or how radically my life would change. And for all of the positives, there are negatives. For all of the ups, there are downs. But one lone fact remains.

I dreamed of a life with a multi-generational family. I wanted it, desperately. That lonely little girl, with hours and hours and HOURS of just tv and books and the occasional interactions with children she did not understand or could not relate to, grew up. And she got that life she dreamed of, with all of the twists and turns she couldn’t even conceptualize of at the time.

She got her wish. It might not be in the neat little package she imagined. It might have manifested with puke in the sink and shit on the floor. Tears, laughter, mad as hell moments, and a lot of repeated “to the LEFT!” as a walker scrapes paint off of a door older than either of them. It may be full of interrupted sleep, multiple doctor visits and an army of home health nurses. It might mean that your relationship with your eldest is strained and silent and painful and the break she and you both have taken feels like abandonment. It might mean that your youngest still has a way to go before she sees the old man in the front parlor as anything more than a pain in the ass she does not understand.

But like Eleanor said, “Life is what you make it.”

And overall? Life is good.

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