Saturday, January 29, 2011

Viterbo School of Nursing Class of 2013 - Commitment Ceremony

As the sophomore nursing class prepares to begin clinical work, they gathered today for a blessing and pinning ceremony, sent forth with the prayers of their instructors and families.

Lil Miss A took some pictures, too:

For OilclothAddict

This is a tin Blenback sign that would originally have been on one of those horizontal bolt racks in the dime stores, where you could pull oilcloth off the bolt and buy as much as you wanted. It's over the sink in my kitchen.

And then here's that oilcloth sign (as in, it's a sign FOR oilcloth, but also MADE OF oilcloth) that I told you about. It has a wood strip at top and bottom to hang it from. I still have not figured out where to put it.

Here is a detail shot of the cute little kitchen scene on that sign.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An update on my experience with netTALK

We switched to netTALK several months ago and our results have been mixed. We cannot afford a monthly fee so we're sticking with it, but we are not 100% thrilled. Maybe 75%. The sound quality is iffy; depends on the call. Sometimes calls do not complete and we have to call people back. Caller ID does not work as it is supposed to, and the voice mail is just awful. I do have a workaround for voice mail using our Google Voice account: I have the netTALK number set to ring our house phone first, and if nobody picks up, rather than going to voice mail, it rings our Google Voice number, which is currently set to go straight to voice mail. so effectively you get 4-5 rings, then voice mail, which is as it should be, in my opinion. netTALK's voice mail is not customizable. You get the default greeting no matter what you program in. It is improved from when we first signed up; it used to say something like "the number you called is unavailable." Now it says "The netTALK subscriber you have dialed is unavailable," or something. So at least it doesn't sound like a dead number. Google Voice voice mail is fully customizable.

We did have to tweak the router settings some so that the port that the netTALK is on bypasses the firewall. That improved the voice quality by quite a bit. Sometimes it's excellent. More often than not, though, it's frustrating.

The short version: A lot of downsides, but we're willing to put up with them because it's so cheap. Were we in a different financial situation, we might not be.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The week is off to an excellent start.

Unusually for a Monday, we all got up on time and in relatively good moods; I made homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast; I just packed up two Amazon sales from the weekend (one I'm really happy about) and I'm about to pack up two nice decal orders. It's above zero outside. I don't have to go anywhere today. I just finished up a pay period of work in which I think I set a personal production record since starting with Webmedx 5 years ago, and have a fresh start on a new pay period. (Just realized that most of what I'm thinking about this morning is food and money. So what else is new?)

Oh, and yesterday I realized that the Acme Juicerator my parents gave to me (or gave back to me, actually, as I had originally given it to THEM) will work this summer to process tomatoes. I had never even thought of it as a possibility. But I tested it last night with some of last year's tomatoes that had been in the freezer and it very quickly pulled all the seeds and skins out and left me with a nice, un-seedy, smooth sauce or juice that tasted wonderful. So I can stop trying to find a tomato strainer/squeezer. Of course if I find a good deal on one, I'd still like to have one, but I can easily make tomato sauce with just the Juicerator. My goal is to put up 300 quarts* of tomatoes this summer (not all sauce, but mostly). So that's another good thing to know to start the week. (Note: Also about food and money.)

* This is a really unrealistic goal, to be honest. Not only do I not have anywhere near 300 quart canning jars, I don't even have a place to put them if I did.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

District Group Speech

Today was the district speech competition, held conveniently close to home this year in Waukon. I love speech competition. I love the speech and drama kids. They're extravagant and exhibitionistic and don't care if they look a little foolish. They're a fun, energetic bunch of misfits. Of course when you put them all in an otherwise empty school building on a weekend, suddenly they are not misfits anymore, they're their own peer group, and they just get weirder. I love them.

Speech (it's really misnamed, it should be called small-group drama) is scored by one judge at the district level with a performance score of I, II, III or IV, with I being the best. Anyone with a I advances to State. (And state is also a misnomer and should be called Regionals, because there are 4 of them in the state of Iowa, by geographic regions, but nobody wants to listen to my opinion.)

Anyway, Kee High brought 9 groups to competition this year, in improv, mime, solo presentation, radio news, small group acting and probably something else that I'm not thinking of. And for only the second time in Kee High history, every single group scored top ratings - all I - and will be advancing to state competition! It was a sweep. I would have been proud of them even had they not all advanced, but this is even better.

Kieffer was in small group acting with a comedy called Finders Creepers, and then in an improv group with 3 other boys. Both were wonderful and hilarious.

Doing everything in a big way (because bigger is always better, of course)

It's been years since I made and used "homemade" laundry soap, which is basically a concoction of dilute basic soap with laundry boosters. I was thrilled with the cost, but less thrilled with the fact that, over time, my whites got dingey. Besides, I really love Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day laundry detergent in the lavender scent.  At $11.50 a bottle, it should come out to about 18 cents load, as a bottle is supposed to do 64 loads. But my family does not understand the meaning of "concentrate," and just won't use the capful per load that is suggested (and I don't want to complain, because I LIKE that the family helps with the laundry), so the price goes up to 40 or 50 cents a load really quickly.

Anyway, I was in Waukon today and stopped by Fareway Foods, which is a great little chain of groceries. Great service, good prices, an awesome meat department. And they had all the ingredients to make homemade laundry soap. So I decided to give it another try.

I had to do it my own way, of course. I grated up 4 bars of Fels Naphtha soap (99 cents each, plus tax, equals $4.24), melted it in a gallon of hot water, and meanwhile I filled 4 of my nifty tall rectangular 4-1/2-gallon buckets about 2/3 full of hot tap water. I divided one box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda ($2.59 plus tax = $2.77) between the 4 buckets, about 1-1/2 cups each. Then I added a cup of 20 Mule Team Borax powder (about $6 a box, only I used less than a quarter of the box, so let's say $1.50) to each bucket. And then here's the kicker: I divided one full bottle of Mrs. Meyer's detergent between the 4 buckets. And then once the fels naphtha was melted, I divided that solution between the four buckets. And topped each one off with more hot tap water. They are not completely full, so let's call it 4 gallons of laundry soap per bucket, times 4 buckets, equals 16 gallons. And they smell like lavender! Only not so strong and overwhelming. Just a gentle scent. And they have a little bit of the detergents in the Mrs. Meyer's, too, which I am hoping will help with the not-whitening-my-whites problem. A half cup should wash a load of laundry.

So, as a wrapup, I spent a total of $20.01 on all the ingredients. At half a cup per load, or 512 total loads, that's a year's worth of laundry for about twenty bucks. My per load cost is about 4 cents. And, as I said, it smells like lavender!

I'll let you know how I feel about it in a few weeks, after I get a chance to see how it handles my whites.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

eBay Store Levels Calculator

And on a related note: If you're considering an upgraded eBay store, here's a calculator for you, to see where the break-even points are on the various Stores levels - Basic, Premium and the rarified air of an Anchor store. Again, these are just for the insertion fees. Final Value Fees are a whole other ballgame.

eBay Store or no eBay Store?

I go back and forth on having an eBay Store. I open one, have it for a few months, get sick of it, and close it, then a few months later I open it up again. For anyone who is interested, this is a little chart showing the cost comparison for insertion fees for basic level Store versus just listing Good till Canceled listings without a store at all. The final value fees are the same.

As you can see, unless you have 55 or more listings at all times, you are better off to just list Good till Canceled listings without a Store. Beyond that, you start to save money with a Store. Added advantages to having a Store are the fact that you get 12 photos with each listing at no extra charge, which can be nice; and the big advantage of being able to put your Store in vacation mode any time you need a break, so sales cannot go through while you are unable to fill orders. One more advantage is the ability to run special sales in your Store, for dollars off, percentage off, free shipping, et cetera.

At present I don't have enough stuff listed to make it worthwhile, but I should list more anyway. I may reopen here one of these days.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gripe gripe gripe.

Everyone! Please! Attention!

When you write about homemade laundry soap, the kinds (there are many variations) based on a mixture of borax, washing soda and old-fashioned soap, please stop calling it "homemade laundry detergent." It's not detergent. Detergent is not a synonym for soap. Detergent is a petroleum byproduct that is great for breaking up stains, especially oily stains. None of those basic laundry soap ingredients contain detergents.

So please.... Homemade laundry soap. Soap. SOAP!

I step off my detergent box - I mean my soap box - now.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kinda funny story

In thinking about that article I linked to on how to move to the country, I'm also thinking about "how to move to a small town." We did (and probably continue to do) many things wrong. Some of them were the result of being just generally clueless and not knowing how things work in a tiny town -- not realizing how interlinked everyone is in a tiny town, how one's actions have ripple effects through the other families and how one should ask before making a decision if it's likely to cause trouble for somebody else. Others were from being used to bigger city life, where things are more impersonal.

And some are unavoidable unless you are psychic. Here's an example:

Our house came with a lovely patch of very healthy rhubarb. I was overjoyed, as I love rhubarb. The first year, it came up and started putting out enthusiastic leaves and stalks and I was in rhubarb heaven. There was plenty to share, and I would have had no problem with anyone helping themselves.

I heard within a couple of weeks of Rhubarb Time that there was a lady in the neighborhood who was mad at me. Why on earth? I wasn't even sure who she was at the time. Turns out the lady who had owned our house before us had always let her come over and pick rhubarb, and we had not done so. Okayyyyy... I had not stopped anyone from picking my rhubarb, I had not turned anyone away who had asked. But I had not called this lady up and asked her to come over and pick my rhubarb.

So I picked her a big bag, took it to her house (once I figured out which house it was) and gave it to her, with the assurance that she was quite welcome to come over and get rhubarb any time it was growing. She graciously accepted the invitation and all was well.

So anyway, what I learned from this story was, be as generous as you can be, and stay humble. It's not easy to apologize for stuff you didn't think you did wrong in the first place, but it helps smooth things over, for sure.

Milk update

Remember I said the kids were drinking a lot more milk now out of glass bottles? - We are going through at least a gallon a day right now! That's for 5 of us (the college student is still home till Sunday). Our bones are getting stronger by the moment. :)

From Teaching Tuck and Ty: The Wall of Blue

Tricia Willford lost her dear husband just before Christmas. She shared a remembrance of the wonderful EMS people who tried their best to save him, while simultaneously saving her and their sons from as much pain as they could spare them. That remembrance is here.

Our firefighters, our police, our EMS people... They bring tears to my eyes and pride to my heart.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From Rural Revolution: How to Move to the Country

I just started following Patrice's Rural Revolution blog. I do not agree with many of her opinions, but I agree with quite a bit too, and am enjoying the information I'm gleaning.

Today she published a piece on How to Move to the Country. I recommend it.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Church story

The offering plate was passing, but it stopped with my son. He held it in one hand while digging furiously around in his clothes with the other, trying to find his offering which I knew he had brought. We waited. We all waited. Finally, he dropped some cash in the plate and passed it on.

Turns out that he was WEARING HIS PAJAMAS under his slacks, and his offering was in the pajama pocket. Inside his slacks. In church.

I'm still not sure how he got it out of there without disrobing right there in the pew.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

8 Pounds Plus of Red Sweet Peppers

Marathon shopping trip this morning, starting with taking Bo for his annual shots, so he got to come with me all morning. We went to 3 stores in Onalaska for groceries and a few other odds and ends. I bought a 50-pound sack of baking potatoes for $7.99, and it will last us till probably May. I bought a half bushel crate of sweet red bell peppers off the almost-wilted rack at Woodman's for less than five bucks, and after I sliced and chopped most of them (saving back 6 for eating fresh), I froze 8 pounds. They are all ready to use whenever. Peppers freeze really well that way.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Milk Bottles

We bought organic, raw milk from a nearby farm for a year or so, then could no longer afford the wonderful stuff. We went back to milk from Kwik Trip (a local chain of gas stations with a really nice setup for their convenience stores as well). I bought it in gallon plastic jugs for a long time. Then I got sick of dumping all those big jugs in our recycling, and switched over to their milk in a bag.

The advantage is that these bags have a lot less plastic in them. They are LDPE 4, and I put them in our recycling, though I'm not certain that anything ever comes of it. This picture shows two half-gallon bags.

But you have to either put the whole bag in a pitcher (Kwik Trip has free pitchers that are made especially for their bags) or pour the milk out of the bag into some kind of container.

I'm using half-gallon sized glass milk bottles. I bought one at The Way Station first, imprinted with the logo of a dairy in Missouri somewhere. Then I bought 3 more blank ones from Local Amish Farms by mail order.
Three of them will fit neatly on my fridge door.

The greatest thing is that all of a sudden my kids are drinking just a ton of milk. I'm not sure why, and I'm afraid to show that I noticed by asking. Barry thinks it's because those bottles are so easy to grip, even for small hands. Myself, I think there's something delicious about milk in a glass bottle, but then I'm abysmally old-fashioned and love low-tech solutions, so it's probably not that. Anyway, I'm glad with the result. Their bones will thank them later.

Plastic haters say that milk should always be stored in glass, and I imagine that's so. Our solution does not deal with this issue, really, as who knows how long the milk was in those plastic bags. On the plus side, LDPE 4 is one plastic that does not include bPA. I'm not trying too hard to get that out of my house (yet) but I am trying to be more aware of when we are using it, at least, and I'm using the bPA free canning lids more and more.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Barry on ice!

Monday late afternoon Barry slipped and fell on some sheet ice, of which we have a lot here in New Albin, and landed hard on his back, hitting his head. He has a concussion, a pretty good one, but nothing is broken. Nearly 2 days later, he can see improvement, but he is still having dizziness, memory issues, and a lot of sore and spasming muscles. He'll be okay, but it was not how he wanted to spend his winter break.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Upholstery swatch windfall, post #1

Recently I scored a huge pile of decorator fabric samples at The Way Station. Most of them were 17-18" squares, some were smaller and/or oblong. I pieced a quilt out of a bunch of them, and I'll post about it later, when I figure out what to back it with. In the meantime, here's what I did with some of my less favorite prints, the more frou-frou, chintzy ones, especially.

I made shopping bags. Grocery sacks.

I paired up two samples that sort of looked okay together, then cut strips from other samples and made them into handles.

Some of the samples had big riveted holes at the top edge, so I just made drawstrings for them to serve as handles.

I made 9 grocery sacks in all. It's not that we needed grocery sacks, particularly; I just got excited and made a bunch of them. They're sturdy and eye-catching. Now if I can just remember them when I shop!

Make a Grocery Sack Using Decorator Fabric Swatches