Wow, I haven’t posted a thing since November. Crazy life has been going on, though, so here’s what we’ve been up to…no blogging because I was honestly too freaked out to even make the effort. And below I will explain why!
Last September we moved my husband’s mother to an assisted living center closer to us and had to help clean and sort fifty years worth of stuff from her place. That wrapped up for the most part in November.
Our older son interviewed with a company from out of state right before Thanksgiving and accepted an offer right before Christmas! So his last semester at college was difficult and crazy but at least he had a great job lined up…
Spring break was spent apartment hunting for him in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We did find him a great apartment close to the mountains! Of course, all this meant my firstborn child was moving far far away!
Meanwhile, our younger boy was wrapping up HIS senior year with us and preparing to go off to college in the fall…he was working on a service project build for his Trail Life Freedom Project all during the spring and summer on top of concurrent enrollment at a nearby college. Because we homeschooled him, it was up to us to plan and execute his graduation ceremony. He has a great friend that was graduating at the same time so we had a ceremony for the Venture Coop Class of 2019…with two graduates. They were tied for valedictorian. They opted out of making speeches. I don’t blame them. So planning and prepping for this was quite time consuming but worth it.
We scheduled his graduation for the first Saturday in May so we could fit in all the OTHER stuff in May, like Son #1 graduating from college the second Saturday in May,
rolling off to Washington, DC for a senior trip, then coming back for a couple days. Then we packed up older boy’s stuff and drove out to Albuquerque to get him moved into his first apartment. Once we got him more or less settled, we came home briefly, got Boy #2 enrolled at OSU, then went off to Lake of the Ozarks with some friends for a lake weekend…up to St. Louis so my husband could work for a few days, then home to Oklahoma. Whew! Younger boy was so glad to be in his own bed again instead of air mattresses!
Going to brag on him for a bit, he scored well enough on the ACT to get VERY good scholarships and we are super proud of him. He is going to Oklahoma State University to study Computer (and possibly) Electrical Engineering. He moves in early as part of a Bridge Program they have for these amazing CEAT freshman to help them get a jump start on their first semester.
All spring Oklahoma was basically storming and flooding so that added another layer of fun and excitement to everything we were doing. Fortunately, our house escaped any damage.
We took a week to go to Branson with my mother near the end of June, then went back to Albuquerque for the Fourth of July. Can I say, visiting is much more fun when moving is not involved.
Crunch time for Boy #2 and his build project; he has until he is 18 but really wanted/needed to get the build done before he moved off to college the last Sunday of July. So we all spent time in the shop finishing up the table kits so his work team could assemble them at the church.
Build day was HOT (but breezy, and after all, it is the end of July) and I spent some time running after hardware needs, but it went very well and after about three hours the church had two gorgeous octagonal picnic tables.
And so during all this time I am squirreling away things Boy #2 will need for his dorm room. Having done this before I know you want to keep it to a useful minimum. We finally did a shopping trip to get most of the last bits and pieces and loaded things into boxes for easy transport.
We moved him into the dorm last Sunday and it went amazingly well. His dorm is traditional style. We got his stuff inside with two loaded dolly trips and a couple of people carrying stuff trips. Still more to do but in those little cracker box rooms, less is often more. Trust me, we have moved Boy #1’s stuff in and out four times now. And less. is. better. I was amazed at the stuff I saw other families taking up to the rooms, I have no idea where they put it all.
Are we official empty nesters with our last one in college? I suppose we are.
After the mandatory parent/kid program meeting (“this program is super hard, follow the rules!”) his dad and I hopped in the car and headed to Austin, Texas for a manufacturing automation conference my husband is attending. I spent the first day in the hotel mostly sleeping and watching Shark Week on Discovery Channel. Ahhhh. Today I am finally blogging again and this really helps me understand why I am so. freaking. tired. We head home tonight and I am ready to start our home decluttering/ painting/remodeling projects.
And that is why I haven’t blogged since November.
Here’s a fairly simple pumpkin painting tutorial. Last year I had a few friends over and we had a little painting party using this method. When I searched the internet for a pumpkin painting tutorial I ran across this from youtube. Thank you, Wild Beasts Productions! I modified it for our own use and here’s my version:
Pumpkin Painting Tutorial
You will need the following acrylic craft paints:
- Pumpkin orange
- Background color of your choice (I used cobalt blue)
- Barn Red
- Canvas or canvas board, this is 11 x 14.
I like to use paper plates for mixing colors. It’s a good idea to have several brushes on hand for different parts of the painting. Also, cover your work area, protect your clothing, and have some paper towels and a cup of water handy.
Hint: When you blend a color leave some extra for touch-ups.
Here’s the basic shape sketched out on canvas board:
Paint background color of your choice, leaving pumpkin, leaves, and vine white; this may take a couple of coats.
Paint pumpkin body orange. Follow the direction of the curves if possible. You will probably need two coats. A sponge brush might make this go faster.
Mix yellow, some orange and a little white to get a lighter yellow-orange and paint tops and edges of the pumpkin ribs, blending in as needed.
Mix barn red and some orange to get a maroon color and paint the bottom part of pumpkin to indicate shadows. Also the dark part of ribs (use fine brush here). Blend as needed.
Mix yellow, white and some orange to make a very light yellow-orange and apply to edges of ribs and top. Blend as needed. Streaks are ok, they look impressionistic and “arty”. Like Van Gough.
On a new plate since you are probably out of room on the old one: for stem, some brown paint mixed with a drop of green. Paint stem and vines.
Take some white and equal part brown. Mix and do some highlights along the stem.
Take some of the last light brown you just made and add more white. Do smaller highlights along the stem.
Paint leaves green; if you got orange paint where the leaf is, paint the area white first and let dry. You can mix a little white with the green for better coverage.
Mix a very dark green (add a little brown or maroon to the green you have) and widely trace the left side of each leaf.
Use the last color mixed and add a little black to make it very dark, then lightly trace the left side of the leaves or wherever you think they would be in shadow.
Use a little bit of yellow and highlight the curve of leaves, and use a very fine brush to run a line down the middle for veins.
Step by step photos:
Here are some of my friends’ results:
I hope you have fun with this tutorial!
Everybody needs one for a good night’s sleep…and a neck that isn’t stiff and sore in the morning.
It was time to get a new pillow for my husband. We considered a My Pillow (you know, you’ve seen those ads on TV) and I was just about to order one on Amazon…but while I was looking another pillow came up as an alternative and it has 15,284 reviews with an average of 4.3 stars. That’s rather impressive.
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The pillow in question is the Coop Home Goods – PREMIUM Adjustable Loft – Shredded Hypoallergenic Certipur Memory Foam Pillow with washable removable cover – 20 x 30 – Queen size. It’s $59.99 and has a 100-day money back guarantee. So we thought why not give it a whirl? I ordered it and it arrived at my door two days later. Thank you Amazon Prime!
This pillow is made in the USA with brand new memory foam. The pillowcase is breathable to help keep you cool. In addition to the 100 day trial period, it has a five-year warranty.
Some of the reviews did mention a chemical smell from the memory foam when the pillow is brand new, and yes, there is a smell. Don’t go sleeping on it without running it through the dryer with a dryer sheet a couple of times to help the smell dissipate (as mentioned in the instructions that come with the pillow).
You can also adjust the fullness of the pillow by adding foam (they include a bag to add if you want) or removing foam if you want it softer/flatter. The pillow cover is very nice. It is a thick, quilted cover with a zipper. And it’s luxuriously soft, made of bamboo-derived rayon. This outer cover is washable, and there is an inner stretch liner to hold the shredded foam. There is a nice little video on Amazon that shows you how to customize your pillow to your specific needs. How cool is that?
So how does my husband like his new pillow? After running it through the dryer on two 20-minute cycles on low heat with dryer sheets he tried the pillow out. And slept like a LOG. Except for when our Ring doorbell’s motion alert went off at 2:00 am that night…bugs set it off.
Every night since then he has gone to sleep quickly and slept all night long. Last night some bugs set off the Ring again and I woke up, but he never budged. So that’s how I know this is an amazing pillow and I am so glad we got it for him.
Our son at college has been having trouble sleeping as well and we got him a pillow to try. I will update this to let you know what his experience is. I am considering one for myself too. Nifty pillows for everyone!!! And oh my, I just noticed they have a knee pillow too…this might be my new favorite company.
Here are some pictures of what you will see when you get a Coop Pillow delivered to you.
It comes in a box that certainly doesn’t look like a pillow would fit inside…
When you open it you see a bag of shredded foam.
Then you find the actual pillow tightly compressed in a plastic bag.
Carefully open the plastic…
And the pillow starts to inflate.
The directions tell you to put it in the dryer for 10 minutes with 2 dryer sheets to help it inflate and dissipate the smell. I did twenty minutes on low heat.
Then you can stuff it into your favorite pillowcase—this may be a challenge because it puffs up a LOT.
Adjust as needed over the next few days to make it your perfect pillow.
Disclaimer: this post reflects our personal experience with this product and does not guarantee you will be as happy as we are… however, the company that sells these pillows offers a 100-day return.
My older son has this hat he got in Boston several years ago. It got pretty grungy/stinky so he asked me to see if I could clean it. You don’t want to put hats in the washing machine or the dishwasher, they can be damaged. So a hand wash was in order.
First, fill a clean dishpan with warm (not hot) water and put in half a scoop of OxiClean. Make sure it is dissolved.
Next, find a very soft toothbrush and grab some Dawn. You need to spot treat the worst parts of the dirty hat. Squirt some Dawn on the worst areas and GENTLY GENTLY tap/rub with the soft wetted toothbrush to work the detergent into the fiber. Embroidery must be treated with extra care. You can rub in with fingers if you are afraid the brush is too much. Get all around the hat band, which is where they usually get most sweat stains. This hat was grungy on the bill as well.
Now, drop the hat into the OxiClean solution and swish it around then leave to soak…
After just a few minutes, the water turned rather brown, so I drained it, refilled with fresh OxiClean and water, and resubmerged the hat.
I weighted it with a dinner plate to keep it down. NOW, let it soak for a few hours. I went for about 3 but you could go much longer if needed.
Rinse well with slightly warm water, being careful of embroidery. Hopefully, the hat looks and smells much better. If not, repeat from step one.
Blot the hat dry with towels, then stuff with a towel and set it to dry, under a fan is ideal. After a while, you can remove the inner towel and let it finish drying.
BOOM, you have a fresh clean hat!
I hope this is helpful! Do you have any hat-cleaning hacks? Drop them in the comment section!
It’s fall, and the monarch migration has been ongoing for several weeks. The butterflies that cruise through my area of Oklahoma are headed to Mexico. These butterflies are probably the fourth generation removed from butterflies that went north last spring, yet they know exactly where to go and how to get there.
Monarch butterflies are the only insect known to migrate in this way. They head south to overwinter, then in spring head north again. They lay eggs, die, and the next generation goes a bit further north and repeats the cycle. Come fall, the fourth generation is the one that gets to head back south–some travel over 2,500 miles!
The butterflies have been using our yard as a rest stop every year in the fall, and beyond going outside and taking a few pictures of them filling the trees, I didn’t really pay much attention. This year I found out about the website Journey North, which tracks monarch butterflies and maps them. You can add your observations to the website and boom! you have just become a citizen scientist. How cool is that? Registration is easy and free. Journey North tracks several migrations, including hummingbirds and gray whales.
I take lots of pictures of the butterflies roosting in my yard, very few turn out well. It’s hard to get close enough for a good picture without startling them, and they are always moving a little bit. And there’s the wind… but here are some pictures anyway.
The video above gets you a better idea of just how many butterflies are clinging to the tree branches and how amazing it is to see them flying around you. (If you do happen to listen to the sound, my older son is referring to a trip to the Butterfly House in Key West, where he and his brother were terrorized by the ginormous Blue Morpho butterflies many years ago. Good times.)
Unless you have been living under a rock (not that there’s anything wrong with that), you have probably heard about the alarming loss of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. There are many reasons for this, including mowing, spraying, and even raking and bagging leaves.
There are some easy ways to help support pollinators: Don’t spray your yard with pesticides. They kill ALL the bugs, good and bad. Let some flowering weeds grow in a part of your yard. Our whole yard is basically (short) flowering weeds… If you are in an addition where you are required to have a pristine lawn, at least put some native plants in your landscape. Don’t rake and bag your leaves. They are chock full of caterpillars and other future pollinators. They will break down and help renew your soil. Again, if you are required to have a clean yard, maybe there’s a patch in a back corner you can leave alone.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation, in
Some people participate in butterfly tagging and some raise monarch butterflies in their yards to release. One might wonder, do
You can find out what type of milkweed (or butterfly weed) is native to your area by looking here. Butterflies also need nectar plants, so consider adding a few of those as well. Native plants have other benefits too; they provide shelter and forage for wildlife, and they are better adapted to the local climate. Here’s a link to National Wildlife Federation’s native plant finder.
Here are just a few of the many monarch related websites:
Several of these websites will send you free or very inexpensive milkweed seeds, and fall is a good time to direct sow milkweed. You can also plant in spring from seed, start indoors in late winter, or buy plants from a reputable source.
I hope you have been able to enjoy some butterflies in your own area this fall and plan to help them out next year.
One morning I was cruising through our strange little “breakfast nook” area and saw something out of the corner of my eye…I thought there was a good-sized bat hanging outside our window! On closer inspection, it proved to be a really big moth. Really big, like seven inches across, and it was sideways so it really did look like a bat at first glance. Well of course first thing I do is start snapping pictures of it, thinking I could identify it.
There are 6,935 species of moths and butterflies documented in North America. Uh huh. There are 5726 verified species of moths in the United States. Hmmm. Well…
As it happens, moth and butterfly identification can be quite difficult sometimes, so after a fruitless search of several websites, I happened across Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA). Lucky me, they have a huge database. Best part, you can submit your sighting and if you send them a picture they have a regional expert who will identify your mystery Lepidoptera and email you back! So I registered for free, sent in my picture with the location and time, and within 30 minutes I had an ID for our moth. It is an Ascalapha odorata… the common name is Black Witch! Of course, if you read about it on the species page they make sure to tell you that it is “easily identified by its large size and pointed forewing”…ok so in future I will be able to identify one!
The screenshot above is the bottom of the species page, and my photo is on the far left.
I am truly a major nerd, but this just tickles me to death. Anyone with a decent picture of a moth, butterfly, caterpillar, egg, or pupa can submit it and get it identified, plus it helps BAMONA track species all over the continent.
Citizen science is a method of data collection using crowdsourcing- regular people make observations and report to scientists who compile and analyze it. This method is a great way to get a lot more data than trained scientists could ever get working alone.
This would be a great nature lesson for any student and is an excellent resource for insect study; well, moths and butterflies at least.
Other citizen science projects that are very easy and fun to participate in are the Great Backyard Bird Count, Project Feederwatch, and WeatherUnderground (you can connect your personal weather station to their network to monitor the weather). There are a bunch of ongoing projects listed on this Wikipedia page.
I hope this is helpful and encourages you to send in your butterfly and moth pictures to BAMONA!
Cape Girardeau is a town on the Mississipi River in southeast Missouri. It has a colorful history and has preserved it in a unique way, by painting huge detailed murals depicting scenes from the area’s past on the floodwall built to keep the town from being regularly inundated by high river water. If you have to have a giant concrete wall between you and the river, this is the best way to do it!
The murals are located in the old downtown district, which is full of nifty old buildings. There are restaurants, antique shops, and bars to visit and when we were there, lots of free parking. There is a pathway along the murals on the town side of the wall with descriptive signs in front of each panel. There is also a pathway on the river side you can walk along.
I am in awe of the artistic skill needed for this, and the sheer scale of this project. The 24 panel Mississippi River Tales murals and the Missouri Wall of Fame are the ones we saw on this visit. There are other murals in the area by other artists as well. My photos don’t really do it justice, but I will put them here anyway.
Each mural in the Mississippi River Tales has a little sign in front explaining the story depicted. I only took a picture of one, because it was such a crazy story…
Missouri ingenuity. And the railroad track runs right in front of the mural today.
Nine of thirteen groups of Cherokees crossed the Mississippi River at Cape during the harsh winter of 1838-39. Thousands died during this forced relocation and dozens are buried in the area. There is a state park at the crossing location now.
Keep in mind, this is a smooth concrete wall…all the “stonework” is painted on. The one above fascinates me. It’s a painting of a painter painting the painting…
Here’s some of the downtown area…
I hope you enjoyed the photo tour!
Another garden I visited at Oklahoma State University was next to the Engineering Building. It is composed entirely of native plants. There is a nifty garden directory sign so you can identify every plant if you feel like it. It was getting pretty hot, so I did a quick walk through and got back into the shade of the Student Union.
I love the Redshift Tickseed (Coreopsis); I could make an entire bed of various coreopsis cultivars. Our side yard is filled with Plains Coreopsis and we let it bloom for about a month every summer.
Once it goes to seed and looks really raggedy we mow.
Since these are Oklahoma natives, they are well suited to our, shall we say, extreme weather conditions. Once established they are fairly drought tolerant and attract our native pollinators.
It was nice to see an entire garden of Oklahoma plants to get an idea of just how many there really are. I’m especially intrigued by the Tiger Eye Sumac and am thinking about adding one to our landscape someday. It reminds me of a Japanese maple, but one that might actually survive in my yard.
Do you have a favorite native plant?
Last week my younger son attended a one-day engineering camp at OSU in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I hung out on campus all day and took lots of pictures of the gardens and flower beds. After a day of breathing the “O State ozone”, I’m ready to pack up and move to Stillwater. (Just kidding.) Our family has a running joke about being on the OSU campus. Something in the air makes us really happy to be there so we think they must be pumping ozone. Or is it the Eskimo Joe’s cheese fries? (According to my older son, the ozone effect does wear off after you have been there for a while.)
Anyway, I had a full day to hang around and wander through the plantings on campus, read, and people watch.
The Price Family Garden is outside the Rancher’s Club, a steakhouse on the OSU campus. It combines edibles and ornamentals and is just gorgeous. They list descriptions of the plants along with planting diagrams on the internet. Here’s a link to the summer 2018 plan. They have a sign with a QR code you can scan and download this PDF with the plant descriptions.
I can’t tell which variety of eggplant this is. There are two listed on their PDF. One is ‘Barbarella’ and the other is ‘Galine’. If I had to pick, I’d say this was Barbarella based on the leaf shape.
If you are in Stillwater, take some time to visit the Price Family Garden and get some ideas. My plant list is super long already!