Taking Care of Yourself (When You Have Kids to Take Care of)

Being a mommy can feel like it’s the only thing in your life. Even if you work outside the home you’re the person primarily responsible for the care of your children. Fathers often say things like, “I’ll babysit” as if the kids aren’t his and he’s just helping you out. After a while moms can suffer total burnout. But taking care of yourself when you have kids to take care of is important! Without you the household would pretty much fall apart.

My sons were born 18 months apart. In many ways it was wonderful having the boys so close. They were ready made playmates for each other and, for me, things like diaper changes ended very close together. But taking care of two babies at the same time was exhausting. Add in my older son’s kidney problems and I felt as if I never had a second for myself. I had to learn to take care of myself so I could be better at taking care of the kids.

Taking-Care-of-Yourself

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself:

  • First remember you’re important too. Being Supermom isn’t as important as being a relaxed, happy mom. If you’re not in good physical and mental health you’re not the best mom for your kids. Taking time for yourself is just as important as taking time for the kids.
  • Take little chunks of time in the day to take care of yourself. Put off a chore that can wait to read a magazine, listen to music (not Teddy Bear Picnic) or just close your eyes and take some deep breaths. It can be as little as 10 – 15 minutes while the baby is napping but use it for yourself and not housework.
  • Have people who will listen to you complain. Everyone needs to vent from time to time and having at least a few people who will listen to you and not assume it means you don’t love your kids is crucial. These people don’t need to try to fix things. They’re just there to listen. This is especially important if you have a child with special needs or a chronic illness.
  • Don’t demand perfection of yourself. Things will go wrong and that’s okay. I remember seeing an episode of “Roseanne” back in the ‘80’s. She told her son to drink his milk and he complained it had lumps. She responded, “Then chew it!” Okay, you’re not going to make your kids eat the expired milk but you get the idea. Roll with the punches. No one is perfect!
  • Don’t refuse help because the helper is imperfect too. Sometimes moms pretend they don’t need help because the person offering lets the kids eat some junk food or stay up past bedtime. You wouldn’t want this to happen all the time but once in a while, in order to give yourself a break, let someone, no matter how imperfect help you.
  • Don’t multi-task! You may try helping with homework while cooking dinner and soothing a crying baby but you won’t do any of these well. Prioritize and focus. You shouldn’t expect flawless days where everything gets done and everyone is happy every moment. Do the things that absolutely must be done and let other things slide. Making lists can be very helpful. Plan the next day and write down the things you want to do in order of importance. Have things that can be put off for a day or two just in case.
  • Learn to say no. Women are conditioned to accepting every request. You may not have time to bake 30 cupcakes for your child’s class party. You may not even want to play the 10th game of Chutes and Ladders® with your child. You can refuse requests and be kind at the same time. Practice saying no and it will get easier
  • Learn to say yes. Time out with your husband or friends is important to your well-being. It’s important to connect with people other than the kids. Giving someone a ride to an important appointment or making a meal for a family in need can provide a rewarding distraction.
  • Make taking care of yourself part of the routine. Just as you have a routine for mornings and for bedtimes, make your self-care time part of the daily routine. Your kids will adapt more quickly than you think. Remember, kids thrive on routines.
  • Ignore those who criticize you for taking time for yourself. There are always people who want to throw a monkey wrench into the lives of others. Don’t pay attention to them. They’re really more uncomfortable with themselves than with what you’re doing. And any outsider’s disapproval is unimportant when it comes to doing what’s right for you and your family!

 

 

Inexpensive and REALLY Inexpensive Meals

There are times when we need to save a little money on groceries and times we need to save a lot! Here are a few inexpensive and REALLY inexpensive meals.

We live about 3 1 /2 miles outside a village with one traffic light. I love that tiny village and so this casserole is named in its honor. This isn’t the least expensive dinner but you’ll probably have some leftovers.

Chicken in the ‘ville Casserole

Ingredients:

o          1 whole chicken (about 3 lbs.)

o          1/2 cup water

o          1 cup apple cider vinegar

o          1celery stalks

o          1/2 onion, quartered

o          3/4 teaspoons salt

o          1/2 teaspoon spice mix (recipe below)

o          1/4 teaspoon pepper

o          1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning

o          1package long-grain and wild rice mix (6 oz.)

o          1/4 cup butter or margarine

o          8 oz. sliced mushrooms

o          1/2 cup green onions, chopped bunch green onions, chopped

o          8 oz. sour cream

o          1 can cream of mushroom soup (10 1/4 oz. can)

o          1 1 /2 cups buttery crackers, crushed

o          1 can French-fried onions (6 oz.), crushed

o          2 tablespoons butter, melted

o          1/8 teaspoon paprika

o          Pinch garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Combine chicken, water, vinegar, celery, onion, salt, spice mix, pepper, and poultry seasoning in a large Dutch oven.
  2. Bring to a boil then reduce heat.
  3. Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about an hour.
  4. Carefully remove chicken and allow it to cool.
  5. Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer reserving liquid and discarding solids.
  6. Cook the rice according to package directions substituting the chicken broth for water (adding water if necessary to reach the correct amount of liquid) and omitting butter.
  7. Discard the skin from the cooled chicken and shred. Be careful to remove all bones.
  8. Preheat oven to 350°
  9. Melt the butter in the Dutch oven over medium heat.
  10. Add the mushrooms and green onions, sautéing until tender.
  11. Add rice, chicken, sour cream, and soup.
  12. Lightly spray a 3 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and spoon in chicken mixture.
  13. Mix crushed crackers, French fried onions, paprika, and garlic powder together to combine.
  14. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and mix until dry ingredients are coated with butter.
  15. Sprinkle the chicken mixture with the cracker mixture.
  16. Cover and bake for 30 minutes then uncover and bake 5 – 10 minutes more until crumb topping is browned and casserole is bubbly.

Spice Mix: 1/4 teaspoon each of the following: turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ground cloves, and fenugreek. Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Inexpensive-Meals

The day before payday is usually pretty tight so this vegetable soup is a good go-to meal. If you’ve got some leftover chicken or beef just toss it in!

Day Before Payday Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 10 baby Yukon gold potatoes, cut in half
  • 4 or 5 large carrots, chopped
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 3/4 cup whole kernel corn
  • 3/4 cup fresh green beans, broken into bite size pieces

Directions:

  1. Pour soup into large pot.
  2. Add milk and whisk until blended.
  3. Add potatoes and carrots.
  4. Simmer until potatoes and carrots are still tender crisp.
  5. Add peas, corn, and green beans and simmer until heated through.

Serve with a tossed salad

 

This soup was served after services at the (nearly) Mennonite church we attended decades ago. This is the family size recipe.

After Church Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 cups cooked white beans (I use Great White Northern as they hold their shape well but any white bean will work)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Baguette or other crusty bread, cut into bite sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large pot brown chopped onion in butter.
  2. Add beans, tomatoes, garlic, and milk.
  3. Bring just to the boiling point.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Top with bread chunks and serve immediately.

If you have a little leftover chicken, turkey, or other cooked meat you can add it to the soup.

Chicken is still relatively inexpensive and this is a great make-ahead meal. Assemble the chicken and freeze. When you want to serve it just allow it to thaw completely and bake as directed in recipe.

Saucy Crispy Cheddar Chicken

Ingredients:

The chicken:

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 2 sleeves buttery crackers
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced

The sauce:

  • 5 ounce can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions:

  1. Cut each chicken breast into large chunks.
  2. Crush the crackers in a zipper bag or in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
  3. Pour the milk, cheese and cracker crumbs into 3 separate pans.
  4. Toss the 1/4 t salt and 1/8 t pepper into the cracker crumbs and stir the mixture around to combine.
  5. Dip each piece of chicken into the milk
  6. Press the chicken into the cheese
  7. Press the cheesy chicken into the cracker crumbs and press it in.
  8. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and lay the chicken inside the pan.
  9. Sprinkle the dried parsley over the chicken.
  10. Cover the pan with tin foil and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.
  11. Remove the tin foil, bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the edges of the chicken are golden brown and crispy.
  12. Combine the soup, sour cream, and butter in a medium pan, whisking to combine.
  13. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until the sauce hot.

Serve over the chicken.

 

My Aunt Penny always added shrimp to this pasta dish but for an inexpensive version you can serve the pasta and vegetables without the shrimp.

Aunt Penny’s Penne Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 12 ounces penne, cooked al dente
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet with a lid, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
  2. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic begins to soften. Do not burn garlic!
  3. Add in mushrooms, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to soften.
  4. Add in spinach and cover skillet.
  5. Let spinach wilt for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove lid, and stir in the pasta sauce.
  7. Remove the skillet from the heat, and let rest for 5 minutes. This is critical so yogurt doesn’t curdle during the next step!
  8. Stir in the Greek yogurt, and then add the cooked penne. Vegetables are coated.
  9. Heat until just warmed through.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Serve with a salad and crusty Italian bread.

Common Health Problems for Older People

None of us love to admit that we’re getting older. Our youth obsessed society seems to want to shove seniors out on an ice floe never to be seen again. But there are amazing benefits to getting older. You have time to do the things you love. You get to have grandchildren who think you’re the best thing since ice cream. You can be unapologetically cranky. We get away with things when we’re older because young people think we just can’t help ourselves.

But along with the freedom that growing older brings there are downsides. Among them are the common health problems for older people.

Common-Health-Problems1

 

  1. Arthritis – The deputy director of the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Maryland, Marie Bernard, MD states “Arthritis is probably the number one condition that people 65 or older contend with.” The condition affects nearly 50% of adults over 65. It leads to pain and can lower the quality of life for many seniors. Work with your doctor to develop your personal activity plan that, along with other treatments, can help you remain active and feel better.
  1. Heart Disease – Heart disease remains the leading killer of people over 65 according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 37% of men and 26% of women 65 and older suffer heart disease as a chronic condition. Increased age means increased risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol that increase the chances of having a stroke or developing heart disease. “Exercise, eat well, get a good night’s rest. Eating well means eating in a fashion that will allow you to keep a healthy weight with a well-balanced and healthy diet,” says Dr. Bernard. You’ll improve not only your risk of heart disease but your overall health.
  1. Cancer – According to the CDC, 28 percent of men and 21 percent of women over age 65 are living with cancer. It is the second leading cause of death for people over 65. Screenings like mammograms, colonoscopies, and skin checks can help catch cancer early while it is treatable. If you do get cancer work with your medical team and maintain healthy living practices, even during treatment.
  1. Respiratory Diseases – COPD and other chronic lower respiratory disease are the third most common cause of death for older folks. Approximately 127,000 people die from these diseases yearly. 10% of men and 13% of women (approximately) are living with asthma. According to the CDC an additional 10% of men and 11% of women have chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Having a chronic respiratory disease increases your health risks for diseases like pneumonia there are steps you can take to preserve your health and quality of life. Get lung function tests and take the medications your doctor prescribes and use oxygen if instructed.
  1. Alzheimer’s Disease – The Alzheimer’s Association reports that one in nine people age 65 and older live with this disease. That’s about 11% of seniors. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s is challenging so it’s difficult to know exactly how many people are living with this disease. And the cognitive impairment significantly impacts senior health care from safety and self-care issues to the cost of care in home or in a residential facility.
  1. Osteoporosis – The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 54 million Americans over the age 50 are affected by low bone mass or osteoporosis. This puts those people at risk for a fracture or break that could lead to poor putting them at risk for a fracture or break that could lead to a lower quality of life and increase other health risks.
  1. Diabetes – This disease is a significant health risk for people over 65. About 24% of men and 18% of women over 65 are living with the disease. With simple blood test for blood sugar levels the disease can be identified and treated early. Lifestyle changes can help control diabetes and improve your long term health prospects.
  1. Influenza and Pneumonia – These are not chronic conditions but they are among the top seven causes of death in people over 65. They fall just behind diabetes. Because seniors are more vulnerable and less able to fight them off it’s recommended that seniors get an annual flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine if your doctor recommends it.
  1. Falls – As we age the risk for falls requiring emergency room treatment increases. And one-third of people who are treated in the emergency room for a fall will be back there in a year. Most falls happen in your own home so be aware of the hazards; slippery floors, bathtubs, and area rugs are common causes of falls.
  1. Substance Abuse – The National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions data suggests that one in five people over 65 have an alcohol or substance abuse problem at some point. The most common nonmedical substances abused by seniors are alcohol and tobacco. Possible interactions with prescription medications
  1. Obesity – Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are all chronic conditions that affect quality of life and can cause death. Obesity is a health risk for developing any one of these diseases. And obesity causes people to be less active, increasing the risk for other conditions such as osteoporosis. In adults between the ages of 65 and 74 almost 75% are overweight.
  1. Depression – Depression can lower immunity and compromise the ability to fight infections. Increasing physical activity can improve mood and social interactions are very important to fighting depression. Seniors, on average, report spending only 8 to 11% of their free time with family and friends. Medications and therapy can also be helpful in overcoming depression.
  1. Oral Health – As you age your mouth becomes dryer and cavities are more difficult to avoid. According to the CDC 25% of people over 65 have no natural teeth. Healthy teeth and gums are important for your overall health. Regular checkups and proper oral health care is imperative for older people.
  1. Poverty – Older women are slightly more likely to live in poverty than men. In 2013, half of all people on Medicare had incomes less than $23,500, which is equivalent to 200 percent of poverty in 2015 according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This means seniors are foregoing doctor visits, medications, and other essential health care.
  1. Shingles – The National Institutes of Health says that 50% of all Americans will experience shingles before they are 80 years old. One out of every three people over 60 will get it. This incredibly painful condition usually affects only one side of your body. It starts with tingling or severe pain then develops into an itchy rash and may blister. There is a shingles vaccine available so talk to your doctor.

 

Taking care of your health is important at every stage of life but, as you age, it is even more important to know the risk factors and take steps to prevent disease. You can live a long, healthy life if you take care of yourself.

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Don't Get Rid of These Garden Bugs!

When I was younger bugs freaked me out. As I got older I’ve found I can handle things like ladybugs and fireflies but most bugs still kind of give me a little chill down my spine. They’re so darned fast and they have all those legs! When I first started gardening I either ran away from or killed every bug that I saw. Now, decades later, I’ve come to appreciate some of those critters. Not all bugs are good but if you want your garden to thrive don’t get rid of these bugs!

Dont'-Get-Rid

 

 

Bigeyed Bugs

bigeyed bug

This is an actual bug not just a description. They are small (1/4 inch long), grayish-beige, oval shaped) bugs with large eyes that feed on many small insects such as leaf hoppers, spider mites), insect eggs, and mites, as both nymphs and adults. Eggs are football shaped, whitish-gray with red spots.

Braconid Wasps

braconid-adult

Unless you abuse them braconid wasps are harmless to you but deadly to many garden pests! The adult female of this species injects its eggs into host insects, including caterpillars, moths, beetle larvae, and aphids. The larvae feed inside the host and it dies once the larvae have completed development. Nectar plants with small flowers, such as dill, parsley, wild carrot, and yarrow will attract these beneficial wasps to your garden. If you see a caterpillar or other harmful insect with little white things attached don’t kill the host.

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Drop it in a jar with some holes poked in the lid and feed it. They larvae will mature and fly out of the holes giving you even more braconid wasps!

Damsel Bugs

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Damsel bugs are more commonly found in field crops such as alfalfa and soybean than in row crops or orchards. Grassy fields tend to have more damsel bugs than do broadleaf weed or weed-free fields.  Collect them for your garden by using a sweep net. Damsel bugs feed on aphids, small caterpillars, leafhoppers, thrips, and other pesky pests.

Ground Beetles

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The ground beetle is a nocturnal predator of slugs, snails, cutworms, cabbage maggots, and other pests that live in your garden’s soil. A single beetle larva can eat more than 50 caterpillars. White clover or perennial plantings provide a stable home for these beetles.

Hoverflies

hoverfly

Adult hoverflies look like little bees that hover and dart around very quickly. They don’t sting so don’t be afraid of these helpful flies! They are also known as syrphid fly, predatory aphid fly or flower fly. They lay white, oval eggs either singly or in groups on leaves. These eggs hatch into green, yellow, brown, orange or white maggots that look like little caterpillars. They rise up on their hind legs to catch and feed on aphids, mealybugs and others. Dill, coriander, and parsley attract these flies.

Lacewings

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Both adult lacewings and their larvae eat aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, scales, thrips, and whiteflies. They are sometimes called aphid lions for their habit of dining on aphids. They also feed on mites, other small insects and insect eggs. On spring and summer evenings, lacewings can sometimes be seen clinging to porch lights and screens or windows. Tolerate light aphid outbreaks, because they are an important food source for lacewing larvae.

Lady Beetles

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Adult lady beetles eat aphids, mites, and mealybugs, and their hungry larvae do even more damage to garden pests. The young larvae are black with orange markings and they eat more pests than the adults, and they can’t fly. Planting dill, fennel, and yarrow will attract these beetles. Lady beetle larvae also need aphids for food so don’t immediately wipe out a light outbreak.

Minute Pirate Bugs

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The quick-moving, black-and-white minute pirate bugs will attack almost any insect. These are tiny insects about 1/20 of an inch long. Attract these bugs with Goldenrods, daisies, alfalfa, and yarrow will attract these helpful bugs. These tiny fellows can deliver a bite and the reaction can be anything from nothing at all to a mosquito bite type of irritation to a hard, red bump. Fortunately, they do not inject any kind of venom nor feed on your blood. The good they do in the garden is worth a minor bite.

Soldier Beetles

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The soldier beetle feeds on aphids and caterpillars, as well as other insects—including harmless and beneficial species. Attract this flying insect by allowing some herbs to flower and by planting brightly colored flowers. These insects resemble fireflies but lack the glowing bottom!

Spined Soldier Bug

spined_soldier_bugSpined soldier bug

The spined soldier bug’s pointed “shoulders” distinguish it from stink bugs.

brown_stink_bug_adultStink bug

These bugs attack over 90 species of harmful insects including gypsy moths, Mexican bean beetles, European corn borers, and Colorado potato beetles, all of which can take a hefty toll on crops.  Attract the spined soldier bug by planting permanent beds of perennials to provide shelter or by purchasing spined soldier bug pheromones to lure this predator of hairless caterpillars and beetle larvae.

Tachinid Fly

 tachinidfly_brucemacqueen_102522

Tachinid fly larvae burrow their way into many caterpillars, destroying these garden pests from the inside. Herbs including dill, parsley, sweet clover, attract adult flies.

 

 

 

Pictures courtesy of Rodale’s Organic Life

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Creating Curb Appeal

As ashamed as I am to admit it I’ve neglected the front of my house for several years. And before my husband got cancer he helped by “weeding” the flower beds at the front of the house. I lost most of the plants I’d so lovingly chosen and also almost all the ones my sons had given me for several Mother’s Days. The hill that is beside our driveway near the road had been carefully cleared and flowers and plants had taken up residence. Now it’s overgrown again and I don’t even know if anything I planted has survived. In short, my home has absolutely no curb appeal.

There are ways to increase the curb appeal of any home without breaking the bank. If your home could use a makeover to improve its curb appeal try these ideas.

creating-curb-appeal

Prune and weed – No home looks good when shrubs are overgrown and weeds have taken over flower beds. These two things can give the impression you don’t care about your home. If you have a shrub that looks like it’s going to swallow your home cut back the branches that are obscuring windows and walkways. Make sure your flower beds are weeded and fill in large empty spots with some colorful annuals or perennials.

Bring out the dead – If you have shrubs that have died or are dying it’s better to remove them than hope they make a comeback. Dead shrubbery can kill your curb appeal. Also check flower beds, window boxes, and planters. An empty spot in the landscaping is still better than a dead plant.

Hide the faults – If you have an unattractive but immovable item like a well-head or utility box your best bet is to hide it. Avoid using plants that actually draw the eye to the unwanted feature. Roses surrounding a gas line head will only call attention to it. Try plants like fine textured evergreens or ferns. These plants will conceal without standing out.  Stand across the street and look at your landscape. If you see something you’d rather hide, choose something that will cover it.

Accentuate the positive – Curb appeal means drawing the eye to the front door and the beauty of the exterior of the home. Be sure to keep plants and shrubs lower than the windowsill. This may mean you have to do some serious pruning. You also may need to remove the lower limbs of trees that are blocking the view from both inside and outside your home. Seasonal flowers add color and appeal and those placed near the front door draws visitors eyes to the front door (the focal point) and make your home seem welcoming. Sweeping curves created by walkways to the front door are a strong visual element. And, if you can, you may want to add a patio area to the front of the home. A fountain is another feature you may consider placing near the front door.

Keep it clean – Remove any clutter that detracts from the first impression of your home. Having too many plants and flowers of different types can create a distraction. Group plants of the same species in odd numbers (3, 5, 7). Choose a small number of plants and flowers then plant them where they give you the most bang for the buck. And remember, you’re drawing attention to the door so arrange plants so the eye moves along the landscape to the most vibrant colors and interesting plants which should be closest to the door.

New is good – Choose both perennials and annuals so that you have bursts of colors from early spring to fall. And don’t forget evergreens. You don’t want to crowd the home with them or block the view but they do improve the look of your home in winter. And don’t neglect the lawn. Fill in any dead spots and keep it neatly mowed.

Your home, no matter how grand or how modest, can be truly fetching with a little work.

Colored Rice Art for Little Kids

When my boys were toddlers I used to love watching them create. I bought gallons of non-toxic paints, truckloads of paper of various types, and brushes of every size and description. But it was my neighbor, Nanny Jean, who taught me about colored rice art for little kids. She’d used this when her kids were little ones and my boys loved it! Since the grand kids are coming very soon I thought I’d whip up some colored rice for them to create their own works of art. I think even the 14 year old may enjoy this method of artistic expression!

I admit it took some digging around in boxes in the basement to find Nanny’s instructions for making the colored rice, it’s been over 25 years, but I finally found it! It’s as easy as I remembered

Here’s how you can make your own colored rice for art for your little ones.

Colored-Rice-Art-for-Little

Put a cup of rice in a sealable plastic baggie (one cup of rice in a separate baggie for each color you want to make).

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Add three tablespoons of white vinegar to each bag of rice.

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Add drops of food coloring to each bag until you get the desired shade. I start with about 9 drops.

food-coloring

Seal the baggie tightly and roll the rice around inside the bags so each grain gets coated with the food coloring. You’ll have to really mush it around but be sure not to be too vigorous so the baggie doesn’t tear or open up.

colored-rice-in-bags

Once the color is mixed well let the bag sit for several minutes then turn it over so the liquid redistributes and the color spreads evenly.

Let the rice stand in the bags for about 20 minutes then pour on baking sheets to dry overnight. You can also use individual trays (the cardboard kind French fries are served in some restaurants) or bowls to dry overnight.

rice-spread-on-trays

Cut pieces of heavy duty cardboard to use as canvasses. This holds up better than paper when little ones are creating.

When you’re ready to let the kids begin making art just give them some non-toxic white glue, the colored rice, and cardboard and let them have at it!

I always helped with the glue a little when the boys were really tiny and I imagine I’ll be inclined to do so with my 2 1/2 year old grandson but I may just let him go wild! After all, art is very personal!

 

 

 

Cabbage Worms

This afternoon I found something awful in my garden; a cabbage leaf, the underside of which had an infestation of cabbage looper eggs!

This is intolerable! These eggs will hatch into voracious green caterpillars that have the potential to destroy my already meager early cabbage crop. And grow up to be cabbage looper moths that will continue the cycle next year. The control of cabbage worms and cabbage loopers is the same. To combat these little munchers I’m taking several steps.

Cabbage-Loopers-&-Cabbage-W

First let me give you a little background on these destructive insects. The cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni) is a common and destructive insect that is most often found on cabbage-family crops of the Brassica oleracea family. These crops include: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, and kohlrabi. You may know cabbage loopers by the name “inch worm.”  They are large larvae 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. They are a pale green color with a narrow white stripe along each side and several narrow lines down the back. The adult cabbage looper moth is a nocturnal gray moth with about a 1 1/2 inch wingspan. The moth lays pale green eggs on the underside of leaves. The eggs hatch into the worms and eat and grow and eat more. The more cabbage looper larvae grow, the more they eat, devouring three-times their body weight in plant material a day. They do the most harm during the last few days of their development.

cabbage looper larvae

Cabbage looper larvae

cabbage looper moth

Adult cabbage looper moth

The imported cabbage worms (Pieris rapae) are the larval form of the Cabbage White butterfly which have white wings with one or two black spots per wing). The worms are velvety green with a narrow, light yellow stripe down the middle of its back and sport many short, fine hairs. These worms tend to feed closer to the center of the plant. The adults are white or pale yellow butterflies with a 1 – 2 inch wingspan and three or four black spots on their wings. From early spring to late fall you’ll see these butterflies fluttering around your garden.

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Cabbage moth

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In my garden I’ll transplant some established parsley and, when my coriander (cilantro) seedlings are strong enough they’ll also go in my cabbage and broccoli beds. I’m also going to start some dill seeds to move to the cabbage and broccoli beds when the seedlings are big enough.

I’m not going to use any chemicals because they’ll also kill the beneficial insects like predatory wasps that eat the eggs of these worms. I’ve encouraged birds to come to the garden by planting flowers that they find attractive and they’ll eat the worms.

Another way to control these pests is to allow chickens and/or ducks into the garden to gobble up the worms. Unfortunately chickens especially, can do a lot of damage themselves. Both ducks and chickens will eat the worms but also tender young plants. Chickens may scratch up seedlings. If you let them into the garden it’s best to wait until plants are mature and less likely to be destroyed accidentally.

If you see worms you may want to apply Bt-kurstaki to the leaves where you’ve seen them. This is a naturally occurring soil bacteria and it will kill the worms as they feed on the leaves. Another option is spinosad which doesn’t persist in the environment the way the Bt-kurstaki will.  You can harvest crops one day after applying to your vegetables. Tansy tea has also been reported to be effective in preventing moths from laying eggs on leaves sprayed with the brew. Planting tansy near your cabbage crop may also be helpful. Cabbage helps tansy thrive and tansy deters the moths.

To help keep any moth pupae from overwintering in my garden and emerging next spring I’ll remove and either bury or throw out any cabbage family debris. I’ll also make sure the edges of my garden are cleaned and any grass is cut short. This will eliminate another spot the pupae can hide out over the winter.

Whether it’s for soups, coleslaw, casseroles or other recipes I’m going to do everything I can to ensure I have a large crop for both summer use and for my root cellar.

How do you fight vegetable eating worms in your garden?

 

Save Money on Entertainment

Summer is a great time to spend time with the family. There are so many entertainment options in the warm weather. But the cost of entertaining your brood may seem too high to really enjoy some events or places. These tips on how to save money on entertainment may help you have more fun this summer for less!

 

  • Matinee and discount theaters offer lower prices on movies. Matinees are priced lower than the more popular evening showings and discount theaters film less-than-new movies at great prices.
  • Check if your local theater offers lower prices as show times draw near. Some theaters discount tickets if you purchase right before the movie begins.

Save-Money-on-Entertainment

  • http://drive-ins.com/theaters lets you find drive-ins near you. These venues often offer free admission to kids. You may have to drive a bit (so many drive-ins are now closed) but it can be worth it!
  • Avoid paying online ticket buying surcharges by purchasing tickets on site. Theaters, museums, aquariums and other venues often have lower-priced tickets if you buy them when you arrive.
  • Free concerts are offered in many cities. Just search online for “free concert” and plug in your zip code or city.
  • Throw a game night party. Board games are fun and hosting a party where both kids and adults can play a variety of board games is a great way to save money.
  • Invite friends to a potluck dinner. Have each guest bring a dish to pass and save on the cost of food. Combine the potluck with the game night and you have an evening of food and entertainment for very little money!
  • Go to a park. Parks are great places for families to picnic, play on the playground, and investigate nature. Most are free and even state parks can be affordable.
  • Attend street fairs and art shows. You can spend the day viewing the creations and spend nothing if you don’t buy. Pack a lunch for the family and enjoy people watching while you eat.
  • Camp in the backyard. Kids love camping and you don’t have to go anywhere to sleep out. Make S’mores and catch fireflies. Tell ghost stories and sing songs.
  • Invest in outdoor games. There are a lot of games meant to be played outdoors. Badminton, croquet, and bean bag toss games are fun options.
  • Go fishing. Many lakes and streams are open to the public for fishing and there’s no cost to use them. Just buy the necessary fishing licenses (usually only adults need them) and a couple of dozen worms and you can catch fish all day. Cheaper still, dig up your own worms.
  • Make crafts. There are craft ideas for nearly every age. Most are cheap and many are free. See my upcoming post on crafts for kids for ideas.

Mulch the Right Way

If you want a high-yield vegetable garden you need to use mulch. Mulching not only helps your plants but saves you work. But you should mulch the right way to get all the benefits.

Here are the ways that mulch helps in the garden:

  1. Mulch insulates plants in extreme weather. In summer it keeps the soil cool and moist which can save your plants in very dry weather. Vegetables that have their roots in cool soil are more vigorous and don’t suffer as much stress in heat as plants that are unprotected. If you live in an extremely cold climate you may prefer to mulch with black landscape fabric or plastic to keep in the heat or forego mulching altogether.
  1. Mulch keeps the soil moist longer and that means plants get more water. It also means less watering for you.

Mulch-the-Right-Way

  1. Mulch keeps weeds down. The soil beneath mulch is shaded and moist. If weed seeds do manage to germinate in the dark and get above the mulch they are uprooted easily with just a slight pull. Just be sure you’re not using a type of mulch that can introduce seeds in the garden.
  1. Mulch helps prevent diseases. Water splashing on to leaves can carry diseased soil. Blight is an example of a fungal disease that spreads quickly when water splashed dirt on to leaves.
  1. Mulch decays and increases the organic matter in the soil. Over time it increases hummus which is like the holy grail of organic matter. Hummus is the point where mulch material can no longer decay and instead acts like a sponge holding in moisture and nutrients. It is the ideal growing medium for most plant roots.

The types of mulch vary and the choice is up to you. Some mulch material is even free because it occurs naturally.

  • Black landscape fabric or plastic is great for heat loving crops like peppers, tomatoes, melons, and eggplants. Be careful that you don’t use this if you live in an area that experiences extreme heat. Also be sure that your plants are starved of water if you use plastic that is non-permeable.
  • Burlap bags make great mulch if you can get them cheaply enough. Check with local farmers who will often give you their empty burlap feed sacks or at least sell them cheaply.
  • Compost is excellent mulch and you can make it at home with garden debris and kitchen items. Just don’t use any meat or dairy in your homemade compost. Homemade compost is higher in nutrition that the commercially produced compost like manure but the bagged types will give you a jump start on improving soil until you get your own compost pile going.
  • Newspaper seems like unlikely mulch but carefully placed newspaper, overlapping and three sheets thick is a remarkably effective weed barrier. Either tack the newspaper down with garden staples or cover it with mulch like straw to keep it from blowing around. By the following growing season the newspaper will have broken down and can be turned into the soil like and other mulch. Be sure not to use any glossy print paper. They may contain metal-based ink.
  • Pine bark is a byproduct of the milling of trees for lumber. Very finely ground bark is called soil conditioner and is the choice for vegetable gardens. The finer particles of soil conditioner will turn to compost more quickly than regular pine bark and therefore benefit your soil faster.
  • Pine needle mulch (pine straw) is sold by the bale and is also available for free wherever there are pine trees. This mulch is a favorite in the southeast, where it’s abundant. This mulch adds acidity to the soil so it’s perfect for blueberries and gardens with neutral or alkaline soil.
  • Wheat straw is sold by the bale. It’s a light, fluffy mulch to use around vegetable plants. It breaks down relatively quickly and so it can be turned back into the soil each season. It won’t influence the pH of the soil. Cool weather crops like broccoli and greens prefer this to black mulch. It keeps the soil up to 25°F cooler. Be careful to purchase straw and not hay. Hay contains seeds that could have you fighting a wheat crop all season long!

Tips for mulching:

  • To avoid rot and fungus problems keep mulch away from plant stems by about 1 inch. This can be a bit closer for tomatoes and peppers that are subject to blight.
  • If you use grass clippings let them sun dry for a couple of days. And don’t use clippings from lawns treated with herbicides or toxic pesticides.
  • Using leaves is fine but they must be aged at least 9 months. Phenols which inhibit growth will have leached out in that time.

And don’t forget that you should use a weed barrier in your flower gardens!

 

Photo courtesy Sergei S. Scurfield  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AStraw_bale.JPG