Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Making Things and Growing Things

I was really loving the mild weather we had in May and early June. Until last Friday, we'd only had 2 or 3 days of temps in the 80's, and only low 80's at that. But summer is here for sure now! We've had increasingly higher 80 degree temps the last 4 days; today is supposed to be close to 90, and tomorrow we're supposed to hit low 90's. (I'm sure you southerners are weeping for us).

I may not be liking the hotter weather, but our vegetable garden sure is.

This picture was taken June 3rd:

And this was taken today, almost 3 weeks later:

The Sugar Peas are going crazy. They're blooming, and we should see tiny pea pods soon. Some of the blooms are pink/purple instead of white. How fun!

Flowers in the long flower bed under our big front windows are starting to fill in a little.

Some potted flowers on the front porch.

Inside, I've knitted a couple more dish cloths. This is a cute checked pattern. I really liked this yarn (2nd Time Cotton), mostly cotton with a little acrylic.

And this cutie is a wash cloth pattern by knitter/designer Susan B. Anderson, who has an awesome knitting blog that I love. The butterfly was knitted with Tahki Cotton Classic yarn, which is a lighter weight yarn than the pattern called for. But I already had the yarn for something else I never did, and I thought it was perfect butterfly colors. It's so soft and delicate that I don't think I will be able to use it as a wash cloth and mess it up!

And last, I experimented with making my own liquid hand soap.

There's a ton of varying recipes on-line for homemade hand soap. But basically all you do is shred/grate a bar of soap and melt that into a pot of boiling water. I used a huge bar of soap (8.8 oz., about twice the size of an average bar) from Trader Joe's that's all natural ingredients. I didn't want it to turn out too runny, so I was cautious with the amount of water at the beginning. I ended up having to add more water 3 times before it didn't harden as it cooled, and I liked the consistency. I used 16 cups of water total; which made one gallon plus 2 cups of soap all together. All for the price of one bar of soap. Cool!

I also tried a homemade mix of Washing Soda, Borax, and salt for a dry dishwasher detergent (plus vinegar as a rinse agent). On it's own, it didn't get the dishes as clean as I would like. So we tried using half store-bought and half homemade mix in each load, and that's working better. Besides being cheaper and less chemicals, there's no more of that white residue left on some of the dishes, that was driving me crazy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nature Journal

I've mentioned before that I love old books. A couple weeks ago, while browsing through an antique store, I found a book that I couldn't pass up. It was only published 32 years ago, in 1977. But the content of the book is a color facsimile of an English woman's nature journal from 1906.

The book, entitled "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady", chronicles one year's worth of nature observations, seasonal quotations, and drawings by Edith Holden. Her journal was passed down through her family, and eventually published.

Her handwriting is beautiful, and her water-colored drawings are absolutely amazing. Take a look.

(a winter bird feeder)

(the artist and author, Edith Holden)

I sure wish I could draw like that. And I wish I had that much of a variety of nature within a close proximity to my house to observe daily . . . Beautiful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Five Wild and Wonderful Days

I haven't posted in well over a week. We've been a bit busy!

Last Tuesday through Saturday, my parents and three nieces came up from Illinois for a visit. The girls are almost-11, 9, and 6. Their mom was my identical twin sister, Cathy, who sadly passed away from cancer 3 1/2 years ago. So genetically, my boys and her girls are half brothers and sisters, and they always have a great time together.

I wish we all lived closer, so we could see each other more often, without the crazy, marathon, stuff-in-as-much-fun-as-possible visits when we do get together. But still, I'm thankful for family, and for cousins that enjoy each others' company.

playing with balloons on the trampoline

creating masterpieces with Sculpey clay

the two youngest ones, exploring at the park

the older four, busy building a damn on the creek

launching little water balloons with the super-duper sling shot

jumping with more little water balloons

playing Life

Uncle Rashed's tractor rides around the yard

Kissing Cousins! Aaron kissing his "girlfriend" (as he called her!) good-bye

It was pretty much a 5-day Party. I had fun doing most of the cooking - since I already cook for 5, why not cook for 10?! I must admit to a 3 hour nap, though, after they left on Saturday!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


We've been enjoying our first week of summer break.

And it really feels like summer now that we've gone to Festival. Officially named "The Festival of the Arts", but known to locals as just "Festival", it's the largest all-volunteer arts festival in the US. This year is it's 40th anniversary.

Festival takes over the streets of downtown Grand Rapids for 3 days the first weekend in June. There's 5 stages for musical and dance entertainment of all kinds, 25+ food booths operated by non-profit organizations, creative activity areas for children and adults (like Paint-In, Glue-In, Chalk the Walk, and others), 2 huge tents for Arts & Crafts sales, a Film competition, and an Art Exhibition.

Before we had kids, we used to go down there with friends for hours at a time, often 2 days in a row. With young children, we haven't made it for longer than probably 2 hours in several years. Yesterday we actually enjoyed 4 hours before the kids started saying they wanted to go home!

Here's a peek at some of the fun we enjoyed:

(Calder Plaza - main stage, and blue & white striped Art Sales Tents)

(Isaac's friend tap-dancing on Calder Stage)

(Noah's friend playing violin in a really cool, non-classical orchestra)

(out on the street, looking toward the back of Calder Plaza)

(looking down the street at just a few of the food booths)

(one example of the various types of yummy food available at the food booths)

(Noah, proud of his goofy masterpiece at the Chalk the Walk area)

(Isaac chalking Kirby)

(Aaron's rocket)

(Rashed's 11 by 11 Magic Square -where all the rows and columns add up to the same sum. There's a pattern for it; he didn't have to figure it all out row by row! He was a math major, and is obsessed with magic squares!)

(I attempted to draw a cute little bird, but it was far from cute and didn't look like a bird, so then I just made up some sort of design. It ended up looking like a quilt square!)

(a crown that Aaron made at one of the craft stations)

(one more view of families enjoying Festival)