Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mr. Lion and His Friends Go to the Amusement Park

Alternate title:
How to get several years of dust off stuffed animals. 

Pearl, like me at her age, is unwilling to give up her stuffed animals.
They hold memories.
I brought several stuffed animals into my marriage.  
There, now I've admitted it.

After last weeks deep cleaning of the washing machine and dryer filters, I decided to stay on my Spring Cleaning roll.
I tackled the gameroom, Pearl and James' bedrooms and bathrooms.
Normally, this is theirs to keep clean.
I went in for the "under the sofa cushions, grout, baseboards, wooden blinds" cleaning.

Dust was the biggest challenge.
Lots of windows equals lots of dust.
It was clearly visible that Pearl's stuffies were holding onto their fair share of the gray stuff.
Since they hadn't been out of her room in years, I decided to take them to the amusement park, 
aka, the dryer.

All you need to take your stuffed animals (or any other thing that can't be washed) to the amusement park are two things:
1. A large, netted dryer bag.  Found in most laundry aisles.
2. A dryer with a "no heat" setting, or at the very least a "delicate" setting with low heat.

Pop a few stuffies at a time into the bag (make sure they have room to tumble around) and put them in the dryer.
Mine rode for 10 minutes and then sat quietly in a laundry basket while the other stuffies took their turn.
Since no one threw up after going round and round for 10 minutes, I took them all for cotton candy before I took them back to their cradle in Pearl's room.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Field Trip with My Hubby

Lee was out of town for 5 weeks straight. Home on the weekends, often having to leave on Sunday afternoon.
The weekends usually revolve around soccer, church and other child-centered activities.
The long and short of it is, we haven't been on a date in an age.
Last weekend was shaping up to be no different than the previous ones.
While we were unusually free of soccer, the free time quickly filled up with taking kids back and forth to our Founder's Day festival and a birthday party.
No time to squeeze in a movie or even lunch.
An ad in a magazine gave me an idea----how about doing something first thing in the morning? We're up early anyway.

And so, on a bright, breezy Saturday morning, we drove an hour and half to pick strawberries. Left the house at 7:30 am. I was the perfect date for an early morning getaway--I fell asleep in the car. Lee got to drive in peace.

Here is a picture of perfection. Small, perfectly ripe, sweet berries.

Lee modeling one of the four proper positions for picking strawberries.
1. Bending over
2. Squatting
3. Kneeling
4. Giving up and sitting down---skootching along on your backside.

They also had onions very nearly ripe.

Just a minuscule portion of their peach trees--their primary crop and money maker.

Still about a month away from being ripe.

Blackberry crop--should be ready in a couple weeks according to Mrs. Marburger.

This is Mrs. Marburger and Lee talking about the beautiful day and when peaches will be ready.

After picking 14lbs of strawberries, we headed into the town of Fredericksburg for some lunch.
No one was serving lunch yet, so we settled for pie.
Pretty good pie, I guess.
Way too high priced--$5.95 for 1/10th of a pie.
My pie is better, but someone else made this pie and someone else cleaned up.

We were home by 12:30.
I stayed awake on the way home, so Lee got to listen to me talk for an hour and a half.
He talked back though.
Lengthy conversation regarding small business owners and why we think they make it or go under. Our small town is opening a 5th (yes 5th!) pizza place. All within 1 square mile of one another.

Anyway, we had a lovely time. For some reason, we just never considered morning as a possible time for a date. Now we know better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How Cleaning Your Washing Machine Filter Can Be Fun and Profitable

Let me begin by saying there's not one fun thing about cleaning your washing machine filter (WMF).
I lied to lure you in. It can, however, be profitable.
Soon you will see how.

Before we get to that, let me explain how I ended up cleaning my WMF.
The morning chores began by cleaning the lint filter on the dryer. Then I remembered a post by Carson over at 7MSN regarding her dryer and lint buildup. I decided to pull the dryer out from the wall and get serious about cleaning the filter, and exhaust filter.

Here's what I found in the exhaust filter outlet.
It's the round thingy in the wall behind the dryer.

I decided since I was in the room anyway, and hadn't cleaned the WMF in over a year, I'd do that as well.

I learned several years ago, after a particularly bad run of luck with appliances, that these 3 tiny holes are NOT the only washing machine filter my machine has. That would be contrary to the "troubleshooting" guide the manufacturer provides. As far as they are concerned, this is the only way out for all the water and anything that might be left in a pocket.

Here is the real filter. The one a repairman comes out (at $95 just to walk in the door) and checks.
Where is it located, you ask? The owners manual doesn't even hint where it might be. In fact, they never hint that it exists at all.
Luckily, the repairman from Sears (ssshhh, he didn't really tell me) took pity on me and showed me. He'd been out to the house several times that summer. I guess he figured I was about to run out of money.
That filter is under the machine. The white panel is removable. The hole you see in the lower right area, is where real filter lives.

When I pulled it out, out came about a quart of terribly stinky water and miscellaneous stuff.
Ah, but what is that sitting so pretty in my "doesn't exist" filter?
A $10 bill!
That's where the profitability of this exercise come in. Since there was no one nearby to claim it, the Finders-Keepers rule comes into play.
In other words, I am now the proud owner of an icky $10 bill!

Technically, I'm the owner of $10, a nickel, a paper clip, a bobby pin, a bandaid, several gum wrappers and a pile of pocket lint.

All silliness aside.
I'm sure I will be saving money on the fact that my washing machine can now work at its best. The barrel cannot function properly if it's sloshing around a quart of extra water that it can't get rid of. Also, my clothes will be able to get clean again. Since that water has nowhere to go, it just sits and sloshes around with each new load of laundry.
Can you say "EEeewww"?

PS...If you do this, don't forget a large towel. A quart of stinky water on your laundry room floor takes all the fun out of finding ten bucks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Now I Can Get On With My Life

Several days ago, I blogged about plants in my pasture that 'bite'. One, I simply could not identify.
It drove me crazy.
I looked for what seemed like hours online, trying to find out what it was.
I only did mental summersaults because the weed is everywhere.
In total, I probably have a half acre of the stuff.
I consider myself pretty adept at finding "hard to find" stuff on the internet.
This crazy, awful, mean plant eluded me until today.
In fact, it wasn't even me that found it.
Someone on GardenWeb, "Name That Plant" figured it out for me. Hooray, now I can move on. Check it off my list of things I wonder about.

Introducing, the wildly invasive Malta Star Thistle!
Aka, the Centauria Melitensis.
It is listed as a "Federal Noxious Weed", "Texas Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed", " Texas Parks and Wildlife Prohibited Species" and lastly, "USDA Invasive Plant".

In other words, it doesn't belong here and you sure as shootin' better not bring any in from another country.

Not that it would matter much. It's already here.

The only sure fire way to be rid of this plant without poisoning/killing every living thing around the plant, is to get some goats.
Not gonna happen.
No fence.
No protection from coyotes.
No "Okay" from my HOA.
The End.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Plants That Bite

I'd forgotten what green looked like until I went to Wisconsin to visit Sarah last fall.
Returning home to the drought ridden, brown landscape was hard.
I think there's something that God put in all of us to know that green is good and brown is bad.
The weather guessers were talking about at least another year of drought.
Brown became the color of depression and sadness.

Then it rained!
And it rained some more.
The weather guessers were changing their tune.
Over the winter, we had six straight weekends in a row when it rained.
No one complained.

With the return of the rain came the return of green.
Green grass, green trees, green everything!
The wildflowers put on a show they haven't had in many years.
Green allowed folks to have hope again.

I am even happy to see the green things in my pasture that bite.
Technically, they don't bite, but they sting, poke, scratch and otherwise cause distress when they make contact with bare skin.

The pretty spiky, yellow flower is hiding a favorite of mine. A tiny Barrel cactus.

I honestly don't know what this is. It looks related to the dandelion family.
ID'd--Spiny Sow Thistle

Can't see the danger here, can you? Looks like a bunch of grass.

The seed from that grass is the evil one. It's Spear grass. The tips, though you can't see closely, are barbed like a fishing hook. This is especially harmful to pets and wildlife. Once it's stuck, it works into the flesh of the animal and can cause serious infections.

This one is easily chopped down. It's actually a pretty cool plant and has a beautiful flower. Unfortunately, the flower has hundreds and hundreds of seeds to disperse on the wind like a dandelion. It doesn't take long to have a pasture overrun with thistle.

I've spent half the morning trying to figure out what this bush is. If you know, please share with me.
It's leaves are scented almost like a lime.
Ha, found it! It's a Prickle Ash aka Headache tree.
A member of the Citrus family. So I wasn't crazy when I thought the leaves smell like limes.

Don't know what this one is either.
This one, I'm not glad to see.
It gets about knee high and is very painful. I thought cutting it would make the problem go away. Nope, it just grows more "flowers" lower to the ground. Right now, I have this plant growing rampant in my pasture.

The ever friendly Prickly Pear cactus. It's pretty easy to see, and therefore to avoid. Its paddles are eaten by some. Jelly is made from the fruit it bears.

A blessing and a curse. It grows in a viney mass along the ground. You can be walking along, minding your own business, and find yourself tangled in its thorny tendrils. On the other hand, the berries (similar to blackberries) make yummy pies!

photo credit: TAMU
I believe I've successfully gotten rid of this plant on my property--Stinging Nettle.
It is used medicinally by some folks, but my skin's reaction to coming into contact with it is profound. Stinging Nettle should be called Fire Nettle. Once you accidentally brush up against it, it instantly feels like your skin has been set on fire.

This is the "impossible to get rid of" Sand Bur.
It's also one that I'd be okay if I never saw again.
It grows close to the ground, puts on very painful seeds, and loves drought and poor soil.
photo credit: Jack Keller

Lastly, there is the Buffalo Bur. I've also gotten rid of it in my pasture, but my neighbor hasn't. I expect to see some pop up again this year on my property. It grows burs as big as the first joint on a man's thumb. I used to tell my kids they were porcupine eggs.
Luckily, this plant has shallow roots and is easily pulled up with a shovel.

Despite the rains making all things green again, I still have to enjoy my land in blue jeans and boots.
Shorts and flip flops are just asking for trouble.
The plants bite.

Friday, April 6, 2012

It Was Graceland Before Elvis was Born

This weekend, Lee and Pearl are participating in a college visit to Lee's Alma Mater, Graceland University. His parents are also former students. As are his brother and sister-in-love.

Just as an aside, because I'm nerdy this way, Alma Mater means "Nourishing Mother".
Graceland was established in 1895. For those that are math nerds (not me, but I'll do simple subtraction for the sake of discussion), Elvis was born in 1935. A full 40 years after the opening of Graceland.
Unfortunately, when students from Graceland University tell folks where they go, they have to phrase it this way, "I go to Graceland University. NonotthatgracelandithasnothingtodowithElvis."
This beautiful edifice was the first building. It still stands today and houses the administration offices.
It's tiny college, with a big academic profile.
In addition to the quick facts below that I borrowed from their webpage, Graceland also participates in SIFE. In world competition in 2006, they placed 2nd. Huge, ginormous, colossal, gargantuan, accomplishment for a school that has just over 2,000 students.

Fast Facts:

Graceland University, founded in 1895, is a private, four-year liberal arts university.

Recognized by the Princeton Review as a top school in the Midwest.

Academic Programs: Over 50 academic programs, including 9 pre-professional programs, 35 undergraduate majors, 3 master degrees with 8 majors and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Online Programs: Graceland offers online degree programs to 900 students in education, nursing and religion.

Student to faculty ratio: 15:1

Faculty: 79 full-time faculty, 70% with a Ph.D. or other terminal degree.

Students: 1,710 full-time students and 561 part-time students.

Student Profile (2011 New Freshman class - Lamoni campus):

Average ACT:23Average GPA:3.3562%
Representing 42 states and 34 countries
Student Organizations: 54

Notable Alumni:

Dr. David Carmichael, MD, Cardiologist
Jeff Criswell, retired offensive lineman, Kansas City Chiefs
Dr. Fred Hausheer, Owner, BioNumerik Pharmaceutical
Bruce Jenner, Olympic Gold Medalist, Decathlon
Teresa Carpenter, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author

Graduate Schools Most attended by Graceland Graduates:

Drake University
Iowa State University
Princeton University
Rockhurst University
Seton Hall University
University of Kansas
University of Kansas Medical Center

Wired: Each room has internet and cable TV hookups. Wireless is available in all campus housing and all public buildings on campus. In addition, 249 computers are available to students throughout the campus.

Athletics: Member of the NAIA, Graceland's men and women athletes compete in 19 varsity sports in the Heart of America Conference.

SkillPath: More than 500,000 people annually attend SkillPath and CompuMaster seminars provided by the Graceland Center for Professional Development and Lifelong Learning.

Sponsored by the Community of Christ.

So, where is this little college? The students will tell you it's "in the middle of freakin' nowhere" in Iowa.
It's most definitely not in a big city like UT here in Austin.
It is 1 hour and 28 minutes to Des Moines.
It's 1 hour and 58 minutes to Kansas City.
I'm sure if a student is driving, you can cut at least a half hour off both those times (Wear your seatbelt kids!).

For some kids, the distance from home is a problem.
Frontier Airlines runs a non-stop from Kansas City to Austin. One hour and 50 minutes.
So doing some more simple math, and rounding up:
Two hours from Lamoni to Kansas City, plus 2 Hours in an airplane from Kansas City to Austin, equals 4 hours.

2 hours + 2 hours = 4 hours.

If she's feeling like she wants to spend Thanksgiving with her aunt and uncle in Denver, she can get a non-stop from Kansas City to Denver as well. Exact same time, too. Four hours!
Lastly, if she's feeling like having a blast, but taking more time to get home, she can road trip with friends from Texas. Mapquest has that trip taking 13 hours and 4 minutes. I'm sure the kids cut time off that total (Wear your seatbelts kids!).

The fact that it's in the middle of nowhere is either a draw or a drawback for students considering colleges.
Campus life is friendly and inclusive.
You get to know each other.
You take care of each other.
You entertain each other.
Activities on campus are planned and well attended.
If you have problems in a class, you actually have access to the professors.
Getting "lost in the crowd" is virtually impossible.

For some people, that thought is comforting.
It is for Pearl.
She already knows kids on campus from her years at church camp.
She's planning on attending there for her freshman year, possibly her sophomore year.
Then she wants to transfer to a larger university to finish her degree in Biology.

It's exciting to see yet another bird from my nest be trying her wings.
Luckily, I have another year with her at home.
I am thankful that we can afford her this possibility in life.
Graceland offers so many great opportunities academically, personally and spiritually.

Update: My dearest niece, Sarah, pointed out that I failed to mention distance between Graceland and where she lives.
Also, Sarah is an alum from Graceland's school of Nursing--based in the Kansas City area.
Geez, how did I forget these items?!!

Pearl can get a non-stop from Des Moines to Milwaukee!
Simple math again:
1.5 hours from Lamoni to Des Moines.
1 hour from Des Moines to Milwaukee.

1.5 + 1 = 2.5 hours
Looks like Sarah gets to see Pearl as often as she'd like!
She will just have to bum a ride to Des Moines.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Two Things Herald Spring

This is a test.
Which two of these pictures are true harbingers of Spring at my house?

A. Baby Rat snake

B. Baby Mockingbirds

C. James playing soccer

D. Bluebirds catching caterpillars to feed to their babies

E. Honeybees on Milkweed flowers

F. Bluebird eggs

G. Thunderstorms

H. Garden growing

I. Does bringing their fawns out of hiding

J. Tarantulas on the move, looking for love

Believe it or not, I consider A. and J. to be the correct answers.
Snakes and Tarantulas are never ever on the move before daytime temperatures reach 80+ degrees outside.

I know baby birds are cute, and so are fawns.
Flowers are beautiful and the bees are just like sprinkles on flowery cupcakes.
Soccer and thunderstorms happen all most all year long.

I know, I'm weird.
I get just as excited about snakes and spiders as I do about flowers and baby animals.
Hey! The snake is a baby!
Does that count as cute?
I think it does.

What makes you sure Springtime is here to stay at your house?

Monday, April 2, 2012

I'll Watch With Eyes Closed

James is running hurdles in the District Finals today.
The 300m hurdles.
That's 328 yards for us non-metric folk.
It's really almost all the way around the track---which is 1/4 of a mile.
My dear hubby will tell me that 300m is equal to .17 miles.
It's a long way to be running full bore and be jumping hurdles.
Eight hurdles.
The boys run "high" hurdles. They are 30 inches.
James is 62 inches tall.
If you're capable of simple math like me, you can see that the hurdles are almost half his height.
Why the coach thought "James" and "hurdles" in the same thought, I don't know.
It doesn't matter.
The coach knows something about hurdles that I didn't---you don't have to be a very tall person to do well.
James is fast and can jump at the same time.
At the qualifying meet, he placed 5th overall.
The picture below is just an example of a track and hurdle placement.

iPhone Screenshot 1

So why the bizarre title?
Well, I tend to watch hurdles from between my fingers. The wipeouts are so spectacular, in an awful sort of way.
Sports go against every bone in my mommy body. Moms are not allowed to run out on the field in any sporting event and take care of a wounded child. No bandaids are allowed in soccer or track---at least not if they are distributed by a mom.

I know James will do great! I'm looking forward to this meet.
Maybe I can sit on my hands during his race and just squint gently instead.