Lucky YOU!

Hi, friends,

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been M.I.A. lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about you…  It’s just that the day job has me burning the candle at both ends and the middle at the moment.

However, despite my hectic schedule, I couldn’t resist sharing the coolest deal with you!  My friend (and yours), Craig Boyack, has done it again!  Yes, he’s published a collection of short stories and micro-fiction entitled The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack.”

The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack

(And not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but, yes, I did design the cover from scratch!  I’ll blog more about that as soon as I’m back to Bloggyville full time.)

Now, the really cool thing is not only that Craig’s stories are so awesome, but so is the price!  Just click that Amazon link above, and you’ll get a dozen or so stories for only 99¢!  Yes, you read right… Twelve different stories by a talented writer will cost less than one dollar!  That means that each story costs only 8¼¢!  And if it takes you sixteen and a half minutes to read each story, that means you’re paying only a half a cent per minute for pure entertainment pleasure!

If you have small children, you know that even a Little Golden Book can cost upward of $7 these days, and I promise every one of Craig’s stories are much better than The Little Engine That Could.

So what are you waiting for?  Hurry on over to Amazon and snag a copy of “The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack” before Craig realizes he’s priced these too low!  I’ll see ya soon!

~Rachel

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‘Tis the Season

I bet from my title, you can already guess the theme of today’s Throwback Thursday.  However, you might still be wondering how I plan on incorporating that into something currently happening in my life.

When I was a kid, the best Christmases were of course the ones where I got the best presents.  The year I turned two was a great Christmas.  Three days after my birthday, Santa came and left me a purple tricycle, a green desk that was a chalkboard on the top and a flip-open magnetic board inside, and my favorite Raggedy Ann doll that I carried everywhere until about three years later when my dog ate her head.

Three days after I turned eight was also terrific, because that year, I got two baby dolls instead of just one!  I wasn’t much of a Barbie girl, but I loved playing babies.  However, I never kept their names that came on the boxes.  I don’t know if you can read these dolls’ boxes or not, but the big one’s name was Fran, and the little one’s name was Agatha!  YIKES!  Those sounded more like grandmother dolls than baby dolls.  Their names were immediately changed to Heidi (from the book by the sane name), and – get this – Phronsie (from the book Five Little Peppers and How They Grew)!  Yes, really!  What was I thinking?

These days, the best Christmases are the ones where I can afford to get my kids tons of gifts, get my friends something nice, actually pull off all the surprises I have planned, and have the rest of the day to do something relaxing.

So why did I choose to talk about Christmas today?  Because today, I’m actually busy directing and producing six commercials that I wrote for my boss, and one of them is a Christmas ad.  That means that despite the 90° that feels like 113° (UGH!), last weekend, I spent both days actually shopping for Christmas items to use (Yes, Hobby Lobby actually has a lot of their Christmas stuff out already!) and putting up two Christmas trees.

We’re also filming a Thanksgiving commercial, so my sister Michelle has been doing tons of holiday baking this week.  And we’re filming Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day commercials, so I got to make a “Memory Wall” which I can’t wait to photograph and share with you.  And the two remaining commercials are not for holidays.

So, tell me, how are you spending your day?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever cooked a Thanksgiving meal or put up and decorated a Christmas tree?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever shopped for holiday decorations?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…  No, wait; that’s Star Wars.  For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m not going that far away… or that far back in time.

Back in January, I showed you the photos of my new couches.  Since then, my sister Michelle and I have been redecorating the entire house.  In the living room, we’re going for a late 1950s/early 1960s inspired theme, so we got a couple of funky rugs with wavy lines for the living room and foyer.

I’ve also been going through my Grandma’s old 50s/60s vases to sit around the room.  What’s so frustrating to me is that even though her favorite color was green, and my living room’s main color is green, she apparently had every other color vase but green!  This is so aggravating!

So, I’ve now amassed a nice collection of vases to store in my closet, and still have nothing for the living room.  Grrr!   I’ll keep you posted as we go along…

Time to talk:  Have you ever redecorated a whole house at once, or do you take it one room at a time?  How often do you redecorate?

Orange You Glad It’s Throwback Thursday?

Last year, I shared my very first poem with you that I wrote when I was four years old.  And at that time, I told you how my granddaddy who raised me was a citrus inspector after he retired from the Air Force.  Needless to say, because of his job, not to mention the numerous various types of citrus trees in our yard and the spacious orange grove next door, I grew up drinking lots of orange juice, eating lots of oranges, and even wearing lots of orange blossom perfume.

So, by the time I was in the fourth grade, it only stood to reason that I would write my report on — what else?  Oranges!  (Actually, we were each assigned a state, then we had to write about its most popular export.  How lucky that I happened to get chosen to write about the state where I lived.)

The thing I remember most about writing this report was also the thing I loved best.  (No, it wasn’t oranges.)  Using my creativity to make that cover was so much fun!  (The actual report, not so much.)

Back then, we didn’t have computers.  Heck, we didn’t even have colored ink jet paper!  So, I had to first cut a sheet of green construction paper down to the size of a sheet of notebook paper.  (As you can see, I also didn’t own a paper cutter other than scissors and my little hands!)

How funny that I made the F in Florida be the state flag, and I made the O be a sun (because it’s The Sunshine State).  Looking back, it’s too bad that no one made me use a ruler as a guide to get my letters even!

I have no idea why I thought it was acceptable to make the E in “flower” extend into an arrow to point to the orange blossom.  I’d shoot myself in the foot before I’d ever do that now!

The map was the tricky part.  As I said, we didn’t have computers back then, and we also didn’t just have a disposable atlas that I could have cut up.  So, I used a sheet of carbon paper (What’s that?!), and put the brown construction paper and carbon paper behind a page in a book, then I put a sheet of tracing paper (What’s that, too?!) over the page in the book, and I traced my state (including a couple of key waterways and Lake Okeechobee).  Then I cut it out, added the state capital, and voila!  How fun!  Not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but as you can see, my teacher thought I did a great job, too, as I got a 100 A+ for the cover.

The report (which I cited as having done my research in The World Book, volume N-O) reads as follows:

“The orange is the most important of all citrus fruit.  We have two kinds of oranges.  One is the sweet orange which is thought to be grown in Southern China.  The other is the Seville orange, grown in America.  The orange tree has dark green leaves which do not fall off with the seasons.  Its flowers are white and wax like.  For hundreds of years, the orange blossom has been a symbol or marriage.  The orange tree can grow to be thirty feet tall, and can resist moderate cold and extreme hot temperatures.  The average size orange is 3½ inches in diameter.  There are almost one million acres of oranges grown in Florida, the largest orange producing state.  Each tree produces between 3,000 and 4,000 oranges per season.  They are a source of vitamin C and are used in foods and drinks, and in perfumes.  The peel can be candied and also used as food for cattle.”

Isn’t that hilarious that this report was fewer than 160 words, yet it took me three pages to write (and it felt like it took an eternity!).  I only got a 97 A on the report because I didn’t use paragraphs.

At any rate, no, Grandma didn’t save all of my reports and school work, but I think she saved this because it was about Granddaddy’s beloved oranges.  (Oddly, with all the bags of citrus he used to bring home, I don’t think I can recall a time that I ever saw him actually eat an orange!)

So let’s talk:  Do you ever look back on any of your old work and wonder what you were thinking?  Do you know your state’s biggest export or source of income?  Did you ever use tracing paper or carbon paper, or a combination thereof? 

Rub-a-Dub

As I’ve shared with you before, I’m allergic and/or sensitive to just about everything under the sun.  (Sigh.)  For example, when it comes to laundry, I absolutely adore the scent of Gain… for about three minutes.  After that, my lungs and sinuses burn like hell, my throat gets tight, and I want to throw up.  (Sigh.)

In fact, this happens with many laundry soaps.  And when the smell doesn’t try to kill me, I usually get an itchy rash after washing my clothes in the stuff.  (Sigh.)  So what’s a girl to do?

I make my own laundry soap, of course!  Not only do I get to bypass the nasty allergy stuff, but I get to save tons of money as well.  It literally costs less than $2 to make enough laundry soap for a two month’s supply of detergent, and today I’m going to share with you how to make your own.

I used to make the liquid soap, which I liked very much.  However, when I make laundry soap, I typically make enough to last six months or a year, and that many liquid containers took up way too much room.  I had some friends who also made their own soap because they have a lot of small children, and they wanted to save money.  When I told them my dilemma, they turned me onto something called “Mom’s Super Laundry Sauce.”  (If you haven’t seen it yet, you can Google it and find it everywhere.)

The people who invented Mom’s did an excellent job as far as making a soap that saved money, but the basis for their soap is Fels Naptha, a strong bar soap made for laundry, and you might be surprised to learn that I was, in fact, allergic to it.  (Sigh.)

So, I used the basics of their recipe and created my own, which I will share with you now.

For every two – one quart sized jars (which hold one month’s worth of detergent each!), I use the following:

1½  bars of  Kirk’s Castile Soap
1¼  cup of 20 Mule Team Borax
1¼  cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (This is not the same as baking soda!)
5 cups of hot tap water
2 1-quart sized Mason jars (NOT the wide mouth type)
canning funnel
wooden spoon
large saucepan

(If you can’t find Kirk’s, you can use any other coconut oil based soap.  Because I also make my own body/hand soap from scratch, I know that coconut oil soap is a very hard soap, and it’s an excellent cleanser.  It’s actually quite harsh on skin in that it cleans so well, it strips the skin of its own natural oils, which is why if you use it on your body, you want it to be mixed with other oils… But for laundry, we want the body’s oils to be removed from the clothing, so this is a good thing.)

To make enough for just 2 jars, it takes less than 30 minutes total time.  To make 12 jars which should last you a year, it will take under two hours total time.

Step 1: Grate 1½ bars of soap.  The easiest way is in a food processor.

Step 2: Mix the borax and washing soda together in a bowl.

Step 3: Put 5 cups of water in a large saucepan on high.

Step 4: When the water starts to slightly boil, add the soap and reduce heat to low.  Stir constantly until the soap has dissolved, but don’t let it boil over.

Step 5: Keep the pan on the hot burner, but turn off the heat.  Add the Borax/Soda powder, a little at a time, stirring constantly.  You want the powder to dissolve completely so you can’t feel any graininess on the bottom of the pan.

Step 6: Use a ladle and spoon the liquid equally into two Mason jars.  The canning funnel will help you not to spill.

Step 7: Add warm tap water to each jar until the liquid is exactly 2 inches from the bottom thread where the lid screws on.

Step 8: Screw on the lids and turn the jars upside down for 4 hours exactly.  (Use oven mitts to avoid burning yourself!)

During this time, do not move the jars.  The liquid and soap will separate into two layers, with the hard layer at the bottom (which is the top of the jar when it’s right side up).

At this point, I usually make enough soap to fill 12 jars which lasts at my house approximately one year.  Additionally, I usually have friends that ask me to make some for them, and I make some as gifts, so I repeat the process several more times, keeping the upside down jars in order so I’ll know when their time is up.

Step 9: At the 4 hour mark, open a jar, and use a butter knife to cut deep down through the solid soap.   Cut a tic-tac-toe, then run the knife around the mouth of the jar so that the hard stuff falls into the liquid.

Note:  If you have kids, you’ll want them here for the next step… That’s the fun part!

Step 10:  Unscrew the blade and bottom from your blender and screw them onto the jar.  Then place the jar on the blender and blend for approximately 40 to 50 seconds.  If you see that the mixture just isn’t blending, add a couple of teaspoons of warm tap water and try again.  After about 20 seconds, you’ll see the mixture turn white and “work its way up” to the top (which is really the bottom of the jar).  Mix for an additional 15 to 20 seconds after that.

Step 11:  Remove the blender attachment.  The laundry sauce should be warm and creamy, and it will look like sour cream or marshmallow fluff.

Step 12: To use, spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of sauce into an empty jar, and add a little water.  Fill your washing machine with clothes and water.  Shake the sauce/water mixture well and pour it over the clothes.

This detergent does not produce a lot of suds, but it gets your clothes very clean.  (My son works outdoors in the Florida heat screening pool cages, and he gets extremely dirty and sweaty.  His clothes always look and smell awesome after they’re washed in this.)

Note: We do use fabric softener with this detergent.

Time to talk:  Do you think you’ll ever try making this?  How much do you spend each month on laundry detergent?  Do you have any allergies?

Gone Fishin’

It’s been a crazy hectic week, and today, I’m suffering from blogger’s block.  So I apologize in advance, because all I have to offer on this Throwback Thursday is this little fish I made in kindergarten.  (Mrs. Cook sure kept us busy with fun projects, didn’t she?)

The photo doesn’t depict it well, but this fish is actually stuffed with newspaper to give it a 3-D effect.  (I think it’s hilarious how many bubbles I had to draw to keep the little guy alive.)

Let’s talk:  What do you do when you suffer from blogger’s block?  Have you ever made a 3-D fish before?

 

 

As the end of spring draws near…

…so do the numerous sightings of beautiful butterflies.  I don’t know why it’s so much fun for little kids to trace their hands or feet, but for today’s Throwback Thursday, I want to share a two-part art project that I made in kindergarten:  Feet Butterflies.

I still remember when Mrs. Cook traced my little feet to make this project.  I have no idea why we were only allowed to use four construction paper dots on the toes instead of five.  But I loved using glitter and glue, and I especially loved getting to use sequins as eyes!

I wonder if anyone else that was in my kindergarten class still has any of their Mrs. Cook projects?  I wonder if Mrs. Cook had any idea that decades later, the fun projects she helped create would not only still be preserved, but then posted on a forum where the entire world could see them?

Let this be a lesson to you teachers out there in Blogland…  You make more of a difference to the kids you teach than you may realize.  And also, thirty or forty years from now, there’s no telling what kind of advances in technology there may be…  For all you know, one of your students just might be showcasing a project you helped them with… on the moon!

Time to talk:  What’s the oldest school paper or project you or your parents have saved?  What grade were you in when you had your favorite teacher?  Are there butterflies still prevalent in your neck of the woods?