Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Last Frost: When Will It Be?


Every year I wonder when I should plant my garden. It always seems like such a gamble, knowing when the last frost will be. And it is, but here's a link that should put the gamble more in your favor. Just select your state and then view the .pdf to find the city with temperature data nearest you.

If your graph reading skills are subpar, it really helps to read the directions. The 90 column means that if you plant seeds during those dates, there is a 90% cent chance that temps will drop below the temperatures stated. The 50% column, a 50% percent chance that temps will drop after dates stated. And the 10% column, a 10% chance that temps will drop after the dates provided.

That said, I chose to go ahead and plant my peas, lettuce, and carrots during the 90% window, since these plants are hardy and can stand some cold temps. I am going to plant my other crops in the 50% range rather than the 10% because last year I did plant things in the 10% range and found that my harvest was much too late for my liking.

A Tool Set Every Parent Ought to Have

It is a known fact that far too many children's toys require batteries. It's also a known fact that far too many of these toys require smaller-than regular screwdrivers to remove the battery cover. For years, I improvised, using my pocketknife or the corner of a flat screwdriver that was too large, to get the battery covers opened.

Last year I took my children shopping for Christmas gifts at a dollar store. My daughter was trying to find a gift for me. Usually, I try keep out of it because I like the suprise, but I chanced across this small precision screwdriver set. I had to have it!!! So, I coaxed her into getting it for me. It came in very handy on Christmas morning! :)

It has also come in very hand since. My screwdriver set is a Dollar Tree set, but I have seen them at other dollar stores. Usually they are located by the eyeglasses and sold as an "eyeglass" repair set. It's pretty decent quality and it's only a buck... Worth much more than that in my book!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Olive Oil replacing Shave Gel/Cream?

I was looking into the virtues of Extra Virgin Olive Oil one day and was intrigued by one use in particular: a shaving lotion, rather than using a gel or a cream. I think I was interested in this because I really never have been 100% happy with any shaving gel/cream that I have used. Upon learning that olive oil is quite moisturizing and does not clog pores, I thought I'd give it a try.

I mixed a few drops of peppermint essential oil (to make is smell nice) in a squeeze bottle with olive oil. I used it the same way I have used a shave gel/cream. I found that it provided what felt like a thicker protective layer on my skin, yet, the shave was just as close. And, what I like the best the oil is moisturizing enough that I don't have to put lotion on afterward.

For more interesting uses of olive oil:
http://curbly.com/chrisjob/posts/1799-25-alternative-uses-for-olive-oil

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Astrid Lindgren, Children's Literature Author


My all time favorite children's author is Astrid Lindgren. My oldest sister first introduced me to Pippi Longstocking stories as a child and I have always loved them. It wasn't until I took a children's literature class in college that I really started to delve in to the Lindgren's other works. One of my favorite books I read during that class was Karlsson-on-the-Roof (there are three in a series, this being the first). I like to describe this book as the Pippi Longstocking for little boys. At the time I read it, I had checked it out from the university library. It was so entertaining I wanted to own my own copy so I could have it to read to my children. But, when I looked for it, I found that it was out of print. :(

Well, yesterday I decided to look for the book again and I am happy to say that it is back in print!!! And so are a lot of other Lindgren books! I'll be buying a load of them soon. Thank goodness for Amazon's free Super Saver shipping!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Do Unto Otters" and Email Etiquette From Laurie Keller


My husband checked out this funny book from our library last week: Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller. It's probably the best book I've read about manners. My kids loved it, and I enjoyed it too. It's silly and maybe a bit educational (don't tell).

Here's a sampling of Laurie Keller's talent from Amazon. Some Email Etiquette for us adults:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Visit to theDenver Mint


We kicked off Spring Break with a day trip to Denver. One attraction we included in our plans, was a tour of the Denver Mint. There are only two Mints (Denver & Philadelphia) that give public tours and since we live so close to this one, we figured we should take advantage of it. Plus, the tours are FREE.

I booked our tour a couple of months in advance through the Mint's website. While it's certainly advisable to reserve a ticket for the tour, it's not necessary. One could just show up at the Mint's tour entrance and wait for a standby ticket. Those who reserve tickets must show up within 15 minutes of the scheduled tour.

Since it's a government building, tourists should bring next to nothing on the tour. A wallet (that fits in your pocket) and keys are pretty much all you can take. No purses, cell phones, cameras, bags or strollers. It's a short tour, 20-30 minutes, so it's not too hard to take a baby, in your arms. The Mint has no public parking, but there is public parking (which you have to pay for, of course) a few blocks away from the Mint.

My kids' ages range from 17 months to just about 7 years old. My twins (17 month) obviously didn't have a lot of interest in the tour. Neither did my 4 year old, but my oldest was quite interested. We had a friendly tour guide who was knowledgeable enough to answer our questions. It was really quite interesting.

The biggest let down of the tour was that we didn't get a newly minted penny. :( I had read online that this was the common practice, but I guess things have changed. They do have a gift shop outside the Mint, though, for those interested in souvenirs.

All in all, a very nice use of time. If you ever have time to kill in Denver, the Mint is a great budget-friendly option.

And if you can't visit a Mint in person, you can always take a virtual tour.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Recovering from Trigger Thumb Surgery

Yesterday I took my daughter to see an occupational therapist to evaluate her recovery from the surgery she had on her thumbs in December (3.5 months ago). Normally, a visit to the an OT isn't necessary after this surgery, but because my daughter couldn't bend her left thumb at the joint, even a month after her casts were removed, I figured we should check on it. FYI, my daughter is right-handed and her right thumb is recovering just fine.

In some of my previous posts on this subject, I shared how I have tried to incorporate some exercises for her recovering thumbs into her routine. These have helped. I have really been pushing scissor skills as well. This is where I have seen the most dramatic improvement. A month ago my daughter couldn't open scissors; she could only close them. Now she can open them. Granted, it's still a bit of a challenge for her, but there is progress.

In consulting with the OT yesterday, I learned that my daughter has weak muscles in her wrists and thumbs. I asked if this was a result of her having locked trigger thumbs for the first few years of her life. OT responded in the positive and the negative. "Yes," in that having locked trigger thumbs my have hampered her from participating in activities that would have helped her strengthen her wrist and thumb muscles, but "no" in that weak muscles can be a side effect of having genetically loose ligaments (which is common in girls). The loose ligaments can hamper the strengthening of muscles around them. My daughter does have loose ligaments in her thumbs.

So, what can we do? The OT said I should continue doing all the things that I am doing with her at home (this means fewer appointments for us! Yippee!). She also encouraged me to massage my daughter's left thumb because she has a bit of scare tissue there. I will lead my daughter in exercising her left thumb by supporting the base of it with my fingers and helping her bend her thumb up and down. Not real fun for a four-year-old, but necessary. As far as what the OT can do, she went ahead and measured my daughter's thumbs for thumb splints. The splints will be soft (have to wait a couple of weeks to pick them up), removable, and washable. The splints will give my daughter's thumbs support, something that her loose ligaments weren't giving, so that she will have more opportunity to bend and use her thumbs, strengthening those muscles. She won't need to wear them all the time, just when she's doing fine motor sort of activities.

*If you are interested in reading other posts about my daughter's trigger thumb saga, the easiest way is to use my blog's search on the upper right-hand side. Use the search term: trigger thumb.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Microwave Popcorn: From Scratch


I'm pretty sure we all know that microwave popcorn we buy from the store isn't very healthy, but it is so nice to be able to pop it in the microwave and have popcorn in a matter of seconds. Plus, have you ever tried popping popcorn the old fashioned way, on the stove top? I have, and I like to do it, but hot oil and little kids running around makes me anxious. So I wondered, can I make microwave popcorn on my own? Why of course!

After a quick search at my favorite recipe website, allrecipes.com, I found what I was looking for. All you need is a brown lunch sack, some popcorn kernels, oil and salt. Here's the link to the recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Microwave-Popcorn/Detail.aspx
Here are some of my tips:

  • Stand the bag up in the microwave while it's cooking.
  • The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels. I cut the recipe in half and found that the bag was full enough just with half. I'm not sure I'd want to try to put too many more kernels in there.
  • After popping, transfer popcorn to a bowl and season more if necessary.

But, there!- An alternative to processed microwave popcorn!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stinky Drain Prevention


You'd think that a sink wouldn't get so dirty since water (a pretty clean thing) goes down it a lot. Sure you can treat the problem once it surfaces: baking soda, vinegar, bleach, lemon juice, to name few .... (be careful not to mix chemicals in a sink drain. Yipes!) But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...

Here's how you can slow the stink from forming in your sink. It's really quite simple. When finished using a sink/drain, just flush it with good, old, inexpensive cold water. Normally we wash our hands, dishes, and take showers in warm/hot water. Since, bacteria needs a warm, moist environment to grow, all this warm/hot water is great for stink!

This same idea works well for keeping dish clothes odor-free. Rinse with cold water and then wring out. Note: Dish clothes should be changed frequently (like every day or two) to prevent bacteria too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Recipe Template for 4X6 Card

I've been meaning to post this for some time now. I decided to give my little sister a collection of my tried and true recipes as a wedding gift- an inexpensive, yet thoughtful gift. I tried to find a decent recipe template online through Microsoft Word, but I didn't like any of them. I wanted columns for the ingredients and a paragraph at the bottom for the directions. With the help of my husband, we created a template that I'm happy with. I thought I'd share.

This template is for a 4X6 recipe card. You can download it from my drop.io. There are two recipes on the template for fun. The first recipe is formatted for regular recipes without a lot of ingredients. The second recipe is formatted for those recipes with a lot of ingredients. You can add more pages to the file simply by adding another page (ctrl + enter) and then copying and pasting the text on the new page.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Visit From the Tooth Fairy

Last week I got the chance to be a tooth fairy. Even though my son knows that I'm the one that does it, it's still fun. This was his first tooth that he pulled. Earlier in the month I had asked our dentist what the going rate for a tooth was these days. He said some people give 10-40 dollars, but that he thinks a dollar a tooth is decent. I got nickels, pennies, dimes and sometimes quarters for my teeth. So, it's generous enough from where I'm coming from. Plus, you can fold a dollar! I'm an origami nut. Since it was his first tooth, I threw in a quarter.

Here's a link with easy instructions for folding a dollar into a heart like the one above. (A crisp dollar bill is the most obedient.)

Musings: Folded bills make great gifts too. I received a $50 dollar bill folded in two hearts as a wedding gift from a good friend. I'm so sentimental, I've kept it and don't intend to spend it. And my non-sentimental son immediately unfolded his tooth fair gift and promptly put it in his wallet.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yodlee, More than Mint


I wrote about Mint just a little while ago. It is great for someone who does nearly all of their banking and transactions electronically, but it doesn't have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to adapting to different circumstances. I used Mint for a bit and then decided I needed to have more control over budgets and upcoming transactions. So, I decided to try Yodlee.

I like Yodlee much better. I like the way it looks, I like the many options I have for budgeting and analyzing trends and transactions. I really like the calendar feature in which you can view when upcoming bills are due. In Yodlee I could set up recurring payments and bills manually, something I couldn't do in Mint. Through Yodlee, one can also authorize the payment of bills. I don't do this because I happen to live in a state where that is not available. No biggie, since bill pay isn't a feature I was looking for. One thing that I wish Yodlee could do, is a projected balance. Say you want to look in the the future a month or two, viewing your future balance, which would take into account your budget, bills, etc. I can't find a free online service that will do this. :(

*** Yipee! I was wrong about this. You can view projected balances! See comments below.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Whiter Whites With Dishwasher Detergent

I don't think there is any way around soaking your whites to keep them white. What sort of solution a person soaks them in varies, but it always includes soaking. I had been soaking my whites over night about every other time I washed them in Clorox 2. Then I had twin babies and I never could think far enough ahead to get laundry in the washer at night.

About a year and a half later I feel like I have my head back. I also have a lot of dingy whites. Out of Clorox 2, I decided to see what sort of things I could use that I probably already had. A Google search later and I decided to try soaking my whites in hot water over night using 1/4 cup of dishwasher detergent and the regular amount of laundry detergent. I was pleased with the results. My whites looked whiter. And hopefully if I continue to soak them every couple of washes, they'll be the way I like them: white.

Other whitening options:
Oxyclean
Bluing
Washing soda
Borax
Baking soda, Vinegar, Hydrogen Peroxide