Saturday, June 30, 2007

Did You Ever Just Want to Screen?

The Casita screen room that we inherited last year was not the utopia we thought it might be. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that many of the support poles were broken. It wasn't too much of a bummer since my in-laws rescued a screen house that their neighbor no longer wanted and gave it to us.

Before bringing the Casita screen room to the dump, Jim harvested all the screens because they were in beautiful condition. He used some of this screening to replace a broken screen in the girls' bedroom window and the screen in the screen door.

The girls' window was easy, Jim was even able to reuse the spline. The screen door was a bit of a challenge since the screen portion is not a standard one that used spline. Jim had to buy some thin molding to create a frame to hold the new screen to the wood frame. It came out great, even the 45 degree angled corners thanks to a hand me down miter box and saw. Both screens look great and we've got plenty of screening left over for the next time a child or dog wrecks a screen!

Jim tackled another project that thrilled us all after the 92 degree heat and humidity that we experienced earlier this week. He installed a practically new hand me down air conditioner that my brother and his family no longer needed. My complaint with window air conditioners has always been that they force you to use them by not allowing you to open the window they are installed in on days when you could get by without the ac. Jim came up with the perfect solution.

He installed the ac into a window that didn't open. That might sound odd but anyone familiar with houses that were once summer camps know that nothing is that odd after a while. To minimize loss of light, Jim used plexiglass to cover the space over the ac rather than closing in the space with wood. The only money spent on this project was a mounting bracket to support the ac (we had the plexiglass) and I think that is money well spent. The unit is powerful enough to cool the whole house. We only needed to use it one night but boy did it make a huge difference in the quality of our sleep. Thanks Lou and Melissa!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We're Here!

Yesterday was just as chaotic as I suspected it would be. We had the car packed and ready to go by 10:00am but it was really packed. Every time Biscuit moved he stuck his behind in a flowerpot full of Jerusalem Artichokes that I was bringing to plant upstate. Frank, the guinea pig, spent the ride nibbling on the leaves of the same bunch of Jersualem artichokes after the dog's behind shifted part of the plant through the bars of his cage. The parakeet spent most of the ride on his swing rocking like a madman and squawking along with songs much to all the kids delight. There was not a square inch of space left unfilled in the car.

We unpacked with lightening speed and were on the beach by 2:30. Its so wonderful to be back for the summer.

The garage fridge is loaded with enough soymilk and bread (I'm not baking my own for the summer, it just makes things too hot) to ensure that I won't need to head to the grocery store for at least two weeks. I don't know who's happier about this, me or the kids.

The girls have been allocated their very own snack shelf where they can put all the stuff they've bought themselves. They're teenagers, they want to snack when friends come over and as long as I don't have to pay for it or eat it I guess I'm okay with it. Actually, I'm not okay with it at all but part of being a good parent is letting them make their own choices sometimes and that includes food. They did tell me proudly that they read all the labels of what they bought and only one thing had hydrogentated oil. At least they knew to read the labels.

I'm off to make a quick no cook dinner because its just too hot to turn on the stove. We'll be having tofu salad sandwiches with green salad and some homemade ice cream for dessert.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Its Almost Time to Hit the Road

For the moment, it's really quiet at my house. Rob's awake but everyone else is still snoozing. We headed back to the Hudson Valley late Sunday and spent Monday getting the last of our commitments out of the way, namely a trip to the dentist for all four kids and the car inspected. As a bonus, we also got to see my niece, nephew and sister-in-law one more time. It's so cute to see the boys getting put into line by a 2 1/2 yr old.

In about 15 minutes I'll be waking the rest of the house up and things will kick into high gear. I've found that a list is an absolute necessity for us to get anything accomplished and to make sure very little is forgotten. I use an old notebook because the bigger the list, the less likely I am to lose track of it. We keep the notebook on the counter with a pen stuck into the page we're using. Anyone can add to the list and this time the boys got into the act.

They discovered that they had forgotten their scooters, jump ropes and yoga mats among other things. Whenever they thought of something they had missed, they wrote it in the book. This was especially useful for my youngest who needs to practice his penmanship but hates doing it. He had no complaints about sounding out and writing down the things he was missing. I think we've found a great learning opportunity for him.

In other news, I just finished up the bib for Jim's coworker. Here's the cross stitch pattern that I used. I'll try to take a picture of it but the digital camera got dropped and it doesn't seem to focus anymore.

I've decided to take the two baskets of craft "stuff" (yarn, fabric and heaven knows what else) up with me. I find the various crafting projects very relaxing and since I'm not certain what my next project will be, I want to have lots of options.

Its time to get the party started. Rob's gone down to wake up his sisters and Kyle's begun to stir. Oatmeal all around, load everything from the list into the car and away we go. By popular demand, we're going with an 80's music theme for the ride up.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Packing & Cleaning

Its a flurry of packing and cleaning around here. The kids last day of school was yesterday. They brought home tons of paper for me to wade through. Today was largely spent visiting and entertaining as we wrap up our Hudson Valley commitments. Tomorrow will pass in a whirlwind of painting and packing that will crescendo into a very crowded car ride up to the Adirondacks sometime in the late evening. Its hard to believe summer is finally here!!

My list of stuff to bring is almost as long as Santa's. Even so, I'm sure to forget a few things. Poor Jim gets stuck bringing up a little bit more stuff each week when he comes up.

I got the thumbs up on the teacher presents I made from my sister-in-law who's an elementary school teacher. That really made me feel good.

I've much to do! I don't anticipate posting again until Monday or Tuesday

Monday, June 18, 2007

New Handles for my Sewing Scissors

We've begun week two of Jim's night shifts. We're all delerious. House painting continues but its a slow go. At least the priming is all done. Since the primer is tinted the same as the house paint, the house doesn't look so horrid from the street anymore.

I had a minor personal triumph Friday when I was able to reconstruct the handle of my sewing scissors with duct tape. Biscuit used them as a chew toy leaving most of the plastic handle missing.

I started by figuring out how long of a piece I needed and rolling the duct tape into a thin strip. Then I taped the thin strip to the existing handle and just kept winding the duct tape around until I had made it the proper width. The result is amazingly functional. I was really shocked that it worked so well.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The CSA Begins and Edible Lanscape Updates

I experienced my first Adirondack CSA pickup yesterday. It was such a pleasure! Pickup for this CSA is at the Saratoga Farmer's Market. I love the energy of a farmer's market. There's something special about being surrounded by people with similar ideals (ie. fresh and local food is good).

With the help of my sister, Dot, I got the refrigerator out of the minivan and into the garage upstate. I can check that off my to do list now!

In upstate gardening news, the mint I planted last year did reappear but the basil did not. The strawberry plants have flowers. This past weekend I planted some tomato plants, basil, parsley. I used the newspaper mulch trick and look forward to no more weeds in these areas.

The lingonberries that we planted were doing well but I think its time to spring for another soaker hose. (I already have one running along the blueberry bushes and the results are wonderful.) The lingonberries are planted on an incline that is almost impossible to water any other way. Currently I'm using the bottom half of a gallon jug with hole punched in the bottom to irrigate these. Its tedious and time consuming.

In Hudson Valley gardening news, the Jerusalem Artichokes are back with a vengeance! I'm really thrilled, especially since I thought they were dead. I'm eventually planning on dividing some of these and planting them upstate. I'm still trying to figure out the best spot to put them since they can be a little on the invasive side. Its so exciting to watch my edible landscape grow.

Kyle was able to pick some red currants today and we enjoyed them after dinner. I love that he enjoys working in the garden. Rob does too but they both enjoy picking more than planting. I imagine its because its more tangible.

Leen used some of the purslane (yes its technically a weed) that I had growing in pots in a pesto recipe recently. I had heard about doing this but it was our first attempt. The results were excellent. This is another plant that I'd like to give a permanent spot upstate to. As with the Jerusalem Artichokes I need to choose wisely though because it can be a little too prolific.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Night Shifts Make me Nuts

Day two of Jim's night shift and already I'm all out of whack and exhausted. That didn't take very long. As promised, Jim spent the morning power washing the house to get the chipped paint and dirt off. It seems you have to make a house look truly hideous before you can make it look nice again.

We've made some great strides in our larger (read "more expensive")home repair projects in the last two weeks. The new roof is done and, after a minor additional fix, its leak free. I swear, I was starting to think our leaky chimney was cursed. Speaking of leaky chimneys, the chimney repair at the cabin was completed today. After years of trying to resolve these two problems, its been a pleasure to see them finally done.

I've begun to pin together the potholders. It's actually a fairly easy task once you get a little momentum behind you. I really love seeing projects begin to take shape. I can't wait for school to let out. I think I'm more anxious than the kids!

Tomorrow, Leen's doing the cooking. My sister from Arizona arrives tonight and is coming over for dinner tomorrow. Since I'm heading upstate to drop off a fridge and get our CSA pickup, Leen's the kitchen magician. I'm glad to see she's finally getting a little creative in the kitchen. Up until very recently she was very much against learning to cook new things.

I went through last night and labeled all of my older posts that talk about our CSA experiences, including ones on how to store and use what you've picked up. You'll find these all under the CSA label.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Potholder Production

Jim's working nights so I'll be posting late in the evening this week and next. Our project a night has become a project per morning. Jim spent this morning taking down shutters and clearing things away from the sides of the house. Tomorrow he'll be power washing the house (and the deck too) in preparation for painting it later in the week.

I just started work on the potholders for the boy's teachers. Each one has a handprint on one side with my son's name. The back of the potholder says, "Thanks for giving me a hand!" It is beyond funny to hear a 6 & 8 year old walk around saying to anyone who would listen, "we're giving them a hand because they gave us a hand all year, get it?"

The only flaw with the potholder idea is the number of potholders I need to make. Rob has a teacher and three helpers that he needs to give something to. Kyle on the other hand has a teacher, three helpers, a reading teacher, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist who all deserve to be acknowledged. That's a total of 11 teachers! I usually hand sew my potholders but these babies are getting churned out on the sewing machine as soon as the fabric paint dries.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

What's Your Job?

Now that I'm around the house more, I've begun to more clearly define the kids roles and responsibilities. I know this would have been helpful when I was working more. It might have even made it possible for me to keep my job but its awfully hard to enforce things when you aren't around. I found it usually results in a last minute, quickie attempt as your car is pulling down the driveway.

The girls already know what they need to do. When dealing with them, its more about spot checking. Teenagers are slackers by nature and their definition of clean and put away is very different from the rest of the worlds. Jim's a fan of making the kids clean their rooms before they can sit down for dinner. This is especially useful with the girls who tend to spread their belongings out upon entering a room. When they say, "my room is clean" we have to actually run down the stairs to make sure our definitions match. However, since both of my daughters do their own laundry, the consequences of it not keeping up with it are built in. I never have to nag about laundry and they can change their outfits 250 times a day if they like.

The boys have always had to clean their room and make their beds but this week I've attached allowance to the process. I'm trying not using it as an incentive. Instead, I'm trying to use it as a natural consequence, ie. this is your job and if you do a good job you will be paid for it. I don't want it to turn into a question of "how much will I be paid" every time they are asked to do something. Yesterday was iffy but today they are doing a pretty good job. I think they were wondering if I was serious.

The PTA at my sons' school is doing a book swap program over the summer to encourage reading. I think its a great idea even though my sons won't be able to use it. Its provided us with a great excuse to go through the kids' book shelves since the PTA needs donations to get the program started. That will be today's afterschool project.

Yesterday's evening project was putting clean laundry away. Somehow it doesn't seem as noteworthy as repairing the towel bar in the bathroom or weeding but it still needed to be done. The boys laundry gets put into a basket for each of them and they are responsible for putting it away the next day. If time permits, I have them take clothes off the line with me and immediately put their clothes away. It becomes a silly game. They try to run and put things away before I have time to take more things off the line for them.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Beware the Retail Store

Sometimes you can't find what you're looking for at the thrift store. Some things you need to buy from a traditional store. In our house socks, undies, bras, bathing suits and Jim's jeans (in all my years of thrift store shopping I have seen only one pair of Jim's size.) Yesterday, after much dawdling, I went to the store with my daughters to get all of those things.

Bathing suit shopping with two teenage daughters is a nightmarish undertaking. Its not for the faint hearted. There is much bartering and negotiation. It's exhausting process. However, my time waiting for the them to find and try on suits allowed me to make a few observations.

First of all, it was a Tuesday evening and the store was busy. Surely after a day at work, people had something better to do than shop. I seemed to be the only one who was dragged kicking and screaming by her daughters. Most of the women my age seemed to be enjoying the shopping process.

Secondly, the store was open until 10pm (remember its a Tuesday). Who needs to shop for clothes or housewares that late?

Thirdly, the people who shopped in this particular store were slobs. The bathing suit section was strewn with suits. They were on the racks, under the racks, on the floor and laying across the racks. I pity the staff person who has to clean that mess up.

Fourthly, every store has its own credit card now and they offer them to you like after dinner mints at the diner. Am I the only one who understands that the extra 15% off today and the future special offers are all designed to make you want to purchase more not to save you money?

We stuck to our list, didn't apply for the credit card and made it out of the store with our sanity and budget intact. I'm glad that it will probably be another year before I have to set foot in the store again.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Project a Night

Today's the day, raise a glass with me. The summer manager is back on the schedule as of today! Today our hours will overlap and beginning tomorrow, I'm barely on the schedule. Meanwhile, my to do list at home is growing by the minute but I'm really excited that I'll have the opportunity to attack it.

Jim and I have both begun doing a project a night to make sure the things that need to be done before I leave for the summer actually get done. Jim's focusing on home repairs, like fixing a sagging towel bar and trimming the trees that were growing into my clothesline. I've been focusing on going through cabinets & closets (keep, donate or chuck is the game I've been playing) as well as sneaking in a bit of bulk cooking here to make the summer go smoother.

I envy Jim since his projects tend to be more clearly defined and therefore its easier to see his progress. My progress is measured in more subtle ways like a drawer or closet closing more easily or dinner being on the table at 6:00 instead of 7:30.

Monday, June 04, 2007


We got together yesterday with my parents and most of my siblings. Sometimes its hard to tell if its a family visit or a swap meet. My brother is looking for some exercise equipment that I have lying around, my sister is taking a different piece of fitness equipment that my mother no longer wants, my daughters are taking some of my youngest sisters clothing cast offs, my niece is getting a toddler basketball hoop that my sons have outgrown, my aunts gave me some extra tomato plants, my brother is giving us an a/c for the cabin and on and on it goes.

I like the comfortable way things have evolved. We've reached the point where no one is offended if you ask or offer something. Its undertstood that if you take something, you have the right to dispose of it at a later date as you see fit. This prevents crap piling up in your basement because you feel someone might get angry if you get rid of it.

Another plus is by mentioning things we are activley looking for, we extend our search area. My sibs and I all work and live in different areas and you'd be amazed what we can come up with as a result. I'm currently on a quest for a twin jogging stroller for my brother and sister-in-law.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Few Updates

I'm still adjusting to the decrease in work hours and the decreased pay that goes with it. Next week, I'll have even more time away from the gym. After mulling things over for a week and a half I still have no regrets. It feels like I'm being paroled. Things about the job that would have stressed me out, like our cash register getting stolen on Monday and the fact that our a/c is on the fritz, amuse me.

It feels good to be more hands on with the kids, especially with my son who's going through some pretty serious issues right now. Even though he's having more trouble, I feel better able to handle it. Besides, as bad as the behaviors are, they're pretty normal adoption related adjustment/self esteem issues. If we deal with them now, we'll laugh about them when he's older. (The thing about being an adoptive parent is, you get really calm about dealing with somewhat extreme behaviors. All kids test you but kids from fost/adopt situations have the ability to test you a little differently. After a while, nothing fazes you. You're going to have to do a lot more than bedwetting, hoarding, lying and stealing to freak me out.)

I'm delighted to report that our CSA pickups begin on Wednesday! This means no more weekly trips to the natural food store. Let the money saving begin. This is our first year with a new CSA in the Adirondacks. I'm so curious/excited to see how this CSA compares with our Hudson Valley CSA, which we will return to in the fall. Since 3 pickups fall in the weeks beforeI actually reside up there, I'm using the trips to take supplies up to the cabin. This Wednesday the fridge will go up with me. I hope my sister feels like taking a ride so I have someone to help me get it out of the minivan!

The fall will be a busy time for us because we'll have 2 shares from the Adirondack CSA that continue through the end of October, plus 3 shares from our Hudson Valley CSA which begins in Sept and ends in early November. I'm committed to canning this year. Its one of the frugal things that I lacked the time and energy to do this past fall. I really want to get through most of the winter with food that I've preserved myself.

This is a great time of year to hit the thrift stores. It seems everyone is cleaning out their houses and there are great finds to be found. Yesterday, I found a barely used Magefesa Super Rapid 2 Pressure Cooker for $4!! This was a great find considering I've still been using my pressure cooker with the cracked handle despite the obvious dangers. This time I really am tossing the one with the cracked handle. Today I'm off to the bakery outlet to load up on some bread for the summer. I'm hoping to have a freezer stash for times when its too hot to bake my own.