It’s Back-to-School, yay! It’s great to get that school-year rhythm back. Genevieve’s back at college, no longer a Freshman, but a wiser Sophomore. Tristan’s beginning his Senior Year of high school with all the excitement that goes with that, and Rich is back teaching this semester. Alas, my schedule has changed too, because I don’t have much contract work at the moment. On the plus side this means I have lots of time to catch up on housework/yardwork and try some of those life experiments I’ve been wanting to do.
Yesterday I tried out making beeswax cloths as replacements for Saran Wrap. I’d been preparing for this little experiment for a while. I found some cute cupcake cotton cloth at Jo-Ann Fabrics earlier this summer and it had been set aside for this purpose. The ingredients are quite simple. Basically you need some thin cotton fabric, beeswax, pine gum rosin, jojoba oil, a baking sheet and parchment paper for lining the baking sheet. I followed these directions from Mommypotamus.
I already had beeswax (purchased on Amazon) and jojoba oil (from the grocery store) for making cosmetics so I just needed to get the pine gum rosin. It was much cheaper buying from here than Amazon. I have parchment paper in the kitchen, so the last tool I needed was a pastry brush for smoothing the wax/rosin/oil mixture after it has started to melt.
So basically after mixing up a mixture of the wax, rosin and oil you melt it onto the fabric in the oven and spread it around with a brush. It’s a little bit of a sticky job, but quick. This morning after I made one of my favorite new breakfast recipes (Breakfast Pumpkin Custard) I put my first wrap to use and it performed great!
I’ll see how these perform over the longer term. They have to be hand washed in cold water, but can be re-waxed as needed. These could make fun gifts!
The summer is winding down finally and I’m looking forward to back-to-school. July was a tough slog. We started out the month taking Le Grand College Tour, visiting 3 schools with Tristan. First stop was Davidson College near Charlotte, NC, where we also got to visit with my sister Holly and her family. Then we drove through the Smoky Mountains to Sewanee, TN where we visited The University of the South. Finally we drove 11 hours up to Ohio, spent a day with my dad in Geneva, OH and toured Oberlin College. It was a good trip, but it left me playing catch up with work and so my pay for July was quite a bit short. The rest of the month was ho hum, coupled with car trouble and unexpected expenses.
The thing about July in Texas is that it is miserable. The rains stopped in May and it has been pretty much unrelentingly hot and dry ever since, except for two blessedly wet days. July is the month I always wish we lived in Vermont.
I was hoping that August would be my month to finally get working on this blog, but my work situation has changed enough to affect my plans. From here on out I don’t have steady work lined up, except for one day a week. I temporarily have some hours this month, so once again the blog will probably not get much attention. At a minimum, however, I wanted to give a few updates on previous posts.
The day after I posted my last update on the babies (here) they were gone! Genevieve went out to check the nest and it was empty. There wasn’t any sign of trauma and all 4 birds were gone, so I optimistically take that to mean they fledged. I did some internet research and confirmed that that seemed plausible. They were 11 days old and weren’t fully feathered out yet, but apparently they often aren’t when they fledge. They’ll spend a few days in low bushes learning how to feed themselves and then it’s out in the cruel, cruel world.
Goodbye babies! We sure loved watching you.
We left the nest intact for a couple of weeks to see if mama would lay another brood, but nothing happened so the mailbox went back to its intended use by the USPS.
Following up on this post about giving up my car.
Well…I had (have) good intentions and all, but we ended up buying a 3rd car in June. Genevieve wasn’t having any luck finding a job within walking distance and her old job wanted her back. With Tristan having the minivan out at camp all week we needed another vehicle. We ended up getting a new Mazda3 which is intended to be my vehicle (for the next 12 years maybe). It is very zippy and fuel efficient. I’m loving it.
Meanwhile the minivan needed thousands of dollars of repairs and after all the repairs were done it was still given a terminal diagnosis. Apparently it can’t maintain high enough oil pressure anymore because the engine is worn. So, Tristan is trying to eek out his final week at camp with it and then we’ll see what happens. At the moment we’re not intending to replace the minivan.
This week I’m heading out to Pennsylvania to visit my mom, sister Sally and hopefully sister Becky too. Tristan has 1 week left working at camp and then he starts theatre practice and college applications and his final year of high school. Genevieve will be moving back to college August 20, while my husband’s stint as interim chairman of his department ends August 15th. It will be great to have everyone back to a standard routine.
I’m preparing for Fall in the garden. I’ve pulled out all the plants so I don’t have to worry about watering for a while and I’ve gotten rid of most of the weeds. It’s siesta time for Texas gardeners. I’ll be planting the winter crops in late-September.
I’m slowly working on some transformations around the house – getting rid of more plastics and using fewer disposables. This week I replaced two plastic hand soap bottles with repurposed glass bottles (beautiful cobalt blue one here). I’m filling them with hand soap that I make myself. I also bought 3 sets of new cloth napkins from a thrift store ($5/6 napkins) so that we will always have enough napkins available to use in place of paper. And, I’m looking into making beeswax cloth wraps to replace plastic wrap See post at mommypotomus.com.
Genevieve is giggling away in the other room, so life must be good.
Part of my intention in downshifting is to take better care of what we have. That means I need to have a schedule of daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks that will help organize and maintain our home life.
One of the challenges that I face by working from home is creating a daily rhythm that allows me to fulfill my responsibilities to my employers and still have time for these household tasks. For example, I expect to put in about 6 hours of work daily. I know that if I don’t get started on my paid work by 9 or 10 every morning I’m not going to be able to fulfill my work obligations. So in general my daily rhythm includes working from approximately 9:30-4:30, but there are so many additional to-do’s, appointments, and activities to fit in that I need an easy way to manage these.
Some tasks have been slipping through the cracks for quite some time. Pet meds are given late every month; the kitty litter doesn’t get changed regularly; the compost isn’t getting turned. My house plants are pathetically ill-cared for. Case in point, I recently re-potted a rubber tree plant that hadn’t been transplanted since my daughter was one (she’s 19 now)!
Each one of these failures is like a little paper-cut. It is more annoying than painful because it is a small failure and the cure is simple. I just need a way to make the tasks a natural part of life, with a very small dedication of time.
To this end, I adopted a weekly rhythm worksheet from Brooke McAlary, author of the blog Slow Your Home. Her post on creating a rhythm is available here and really inspired me. I took a printout of her worksheet, put it in a plastic sleeve, used a dry erase maker to create a weekly rhythm, and hung it on a bulletin board near my desk.
Unfortunately, I have not successfully followed it. I think the main problem is that the worksheet is “analog” and I am “digital”. I am much more likely to follow and pay attention to something that is available to me on all of my laptops and devices. In particular, I have found that on weekends I use my iphone/ipad and don’t spend much time in my home “office”. If the rhythm isn’t in front of me I forget about it.
So I did some research and decided to try out the app 2Do (2Doapp.com). I’ve just finished a trial period of 2Do on my Mac and now I need to decide if I will buy it. Overall I like it, but I am bummed that I have to buy it twice, once for Mac, once for iOS. I almost never buy apps, preferring free ones, but I think I’m making an exception in this case because it is a really great productivity tool.
There are still some things I failed to do, even using the 2Do app. The main one is weekly menu planning – maybe I am just never going to get to the point where I do this. One of my least favorite things to do is pick out meals, so picking out a week’s worth of meals at once just seems too daunting. I also added a daily task called “decluttering”. That one needs to go too. It is too vague to be helpful.
I have been much more attentive to the following things: kitty litter (Mickey says ‘Thank you’), the compost (both emptying my kitchen bin and turning the piles), vacuuming (gah! 2 fur-shedding beasts), and laundry. I’ve added monthly tasks, such as washing the dog bed and administering pet meds, and quarterly tasks such as paying my self-employment taxes.
One big task yet to put into my rhythm is writing time for this blog. I have so many ideas started – with photos taken, resources gathered, just no words “put to paper” yet. Some changes are coming in August and with them I am hoping to really devote a lot of time to this blog and getting connected to a broader community. Meanwhile I intend to continue to fine-tune my rhythm and find more time for creating!
We’re having fun watching the babies grow. They have a lot more feathers now on their heads and wings, but still kind of naked on the backside. There are usually 3 poking their heads out of the nest. I’m really hoping the 4th one is still alive and just really shy. They still don’t make any peeps or cheeps, which is probably a good thing so that predators don’t know where they are.
The eggs have hatched. We have 4 naked little babies in the nest. I couldn’t get a great photo because I didn’t want Mama to get mad at me, but you can see one in front with beak and right leg. They aren’t making any peeps yet. Genevieve says they are always napping. I’m surprised at how big they are compared to the egg. Imagine being all curled up on yourself inside an egg! I have to be extra careful now to make sure the cat doesn’t get out. She knows something is going on… 👿
…sort of. Early this year when my son Tristan got his Driver’s License I gave him my car to use for school. In many ways this was a great relief for me, no longer needing to drive him to his magnet school every morning; not needing to pick him up from theater practice 5 nights a week.
Of course I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments.
Well, while the weather was still cold I really enjoyed walking. We were blessed with a very mild winter and a beautiful spring and I was able to take advantage of that. I found that by walking I noticed many little things that I would have missed. It felt good and I felt more connected to my surroundings. I didn’t break out my bike unless I needed to head to the grocery store.
Now, however, the temperature has turned downright unpleasant. We’re hitting the 90’s and “Hot & Steamy” is the forecast. Walking is going to be out-of-the-question quite soon, so I guess I’ll be biking more.
Not having a third car has proved to be a bit of a problem now that my daughter Genevieve is home from college for the summer. Tristan needs “my car” for his summer camp job Sunday through Friday. This means that Genevieve can’t go back to the job she had last summer because we don’t have a car for her to use (last summer she used mine). She’s been restricted to applying for jobs that she can walk to, which I thought would be great, but so far she hasn’t gotten a job offer.
I am really hoping to avoid buying another car for a number of reasons:
I believe it was sometime in mid 2012 when a co-worker introduced me to Leo Babauta and his blog Zen Habits. I was a big iGoogle user and had my Firefox homepage set to my iGoogle portal with all of my widgets, including the RSS feed reader Google Reader. I think Zen Habits was the first blog I ever subscribed to and Leo really influenced a lot of the directions my life has taken since then. My favorite post is still Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life.
I now use Feedly and have quite a few blogs I love to follow:
For Green Cleaning and Other DIY Recipes:
For Blogging Encouragement:
A Mama Birdie has moved into our mailbox. I noticed Monday evening that our mail was perched precariously atop the mailbox instead of in it. Apparently, unobserved over the weekend, mama built a very nice nest inside our rather unique mailbox. We’ve had nests in it before, but they were all abandoned. Rich thought I should clean it out, thinking it was a terrible place for a bird to put her nest, but I didn’t and then there was an egg! Then two! And now three!
Mama has flown out of the nest a few times when I poke my head in. She’s “a little brown jobbie” as my mother-in-law would say. I have to say the size of her eggs in proportion to her body is quite large! Ouch.
I hope the babies survive to hatch. Meanwhile I will be inconveniencing the USPS for awhile.
I’m back from a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, a birthday gift from me to my husband for his 50th birthday. Rich and I loved Hawaii – particularly the Kona region on my part, although Kohala comes in a close second. Aloha! Unfortunately, we’re not ready to retire and relocate there, so it’s back to the grind for us.
Today I am working at home in my “garage” office and finally couldn’t stand it any more. I had to write this post about the downsides to working at home. Why? Because my neighbor’s yard crew was here using every imaginable piece of landscaping machinery, seemingly right outside my door. It was driving me crazy!
So here are my challenges to working from home: