Saturday, October 30, 2010

Duct Tape Dress

As a girl scout activity, K's troop decided to make duct tape dresses. It's been a long and arduous task, but we finished it tonight. K was invited to a halloween party tonight, and she wanted to wear the duct tape dress.

We followed the instructions based on THIS website. I think it turned out pretty cute! As much as I dislike sewing, I've gotta say that I prefer sewing to duct taping dresses.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What happens when you die, by S

This evening I was at my parents' house with my kids. We got talking about death. I'm not sure if it was because we have been going to a lot of halloween parties and seeing skeletons, or because my sister in law's dad just died. Anyway, S asked what happened when you die. I told her that you leave your body behind and go to heaven. She had this slightly confused look on her face, and then started to giggle.

My mom and I looked at each other, befuddled. We weren't sure what I'd said that was so funny. Then S said, "So your head floats up to heaven, and you leave your body behind without a head?!"

My mom and I couldn't help it. We collapsed into fits of laughter, understanding why S was so confused and amused by what I said. I tried to do the sock/foot hand/glove analogy and said that the head stayed with the body.

I think at this point, she must have remembered her Grandma Jorgensen's funeral, and said, "Oh, so your whole body goes in a box for people to look at and then they bury it, right?"

Yep. That's right.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Homes with "Character"

I rarely post about the unusual homes I see in my professional life. After a really interesting day of showings, I am breaking that rule, and hoping that it doesn't come back to bite me. I hope that I don't come off as mean; the houses I'm talking about were all lovely houses, and we liked all of them.

I took clients out to look at homes last week, and we saw some of the most unusual features I have ever seen in homes. After the fourth home with amazing quirks, I started bringing my camera so that I could capture it. Unfortunately, some of the best was not captured on film (memory card?).

House #1: pretty typical multi level, except that the master had bright pink carpet and pink walls. Then, we walked down to look at the garage. When walking from the garage into the house, the first room we encountered was a room with nothing in it except for an enormous jetted tub. Not a hot tub, a bathtub.

House #3 was mostly vacant. They hadn't quite finished moving everything out yet, but what was left was unusual. There was everything from VHS tapes to a CB radio to MREs to a false leg.

House #4 was almost immediately dubbed "Frankenhouse". It started as a tiny bungalow, and slowly has had more and more added on. It also had a very large, very unusually shaped lot. Horse and goat negotiable in the sale. Some inventive owner had seen the toilets they have in Japan where there's a sink on the back of the toilet, so that the gray water from washing your hands drains into the toilet tank, thereby reducing water usage. A very clever idea, and difficult, if not impossible to find in the US. The owner didn't let that stop him. He used an American sink and toilet and plumbing supplies, and made it work for himself. Another bathroom was painted blood red. They also had a pet cemetery in the back yard, complete with headstones. It was by far the most unusual house I've ever seen. Having said that, my clients and I really loved it. It was very different, but a LOT of fun.

Houses #5-6 were normal, more or less. One had painted the entire interior of the house an unfortunate seafoam green.

At this point, we stopped for lunch. We saw a BBQ restaurant that looked interesting, and started to go in. We saw a sign that said their bathrooms weren't functioning. Well, that wouldn't work. Next door was a bar, and the bartender was outside smoking. She offered their bathrooms for our use, so we took advantage. It was right around noon, and there was only one patron in the bar. We walk back to the bathroom and realized that it was a strip bar! There was a poor girl halfheartedly dancing for no audience (single patron had his back to the stage). Awkward!

After lunch we went to house #7. They had tried to maximize the space as best they could. They added a bar to their minuscule kitchen so that there was room for a dishwasher. Unfortunately, it made it impossible to open the fridge all the way, and difficult to access one of the drawers. I didn't try to open the dishwasher, but I wouldn't have been surprised if there had been issues there. They created a master sweet in the basement. Normally, I think it'd be a suite, but to be a suite, shouldn't there be more than one room? They put a bathroom in the corner of the master bedroom, but there was NO separation between the two. Not even a room divider. The one spouse could easily watch the other do all bedtime routine, including restroom, brushing teeth, shower, etc. The house was really nicely staged, so I was a little surprised that hadn't thought to use one of those cute room dividers to at least give the illusion of privacy.

House #8 was yet another house where the owners didn't seem to demand the same bathroom privacy issues that I've come to expect:You hear stories all the time about people leaving pets behind when they move. I'd assumed that was primarily cats and dogs. Add fish to that list:The last house we went to was another amazing old bungalow with some great history. They actually had an old boiler in their basement, which was pretty amazing to see.
They also had the largest water collection I have ever seen. Insert "Signs" movie joke here.Not enough water? How about more?Still not convinced? How about this:

Monday, October 25, 2010

The end of an era

As you probably know, I've been a cub scout dean leader for nearly 10 years now. I took a year off when we were living in Japan, but otherwise, it's been a pretty constant thing in my life. When I was first asked to do it, M was a year old, and he was the first boy born into my mom's side of the family in 40 years. My knowledge of cub scouts was that the boys wore the shirts to school on certain days of the week.

I quickly caught on, and absolutely adored the job. It kept my inner 10 year old very happy.

The last six months or so have been very difficult though. Our group only had 1-2 cub scouts, and neither were really great about coming. My co-leader had a lot of things going on in her life that made attendance difficult for her.

I really wanted S to join girl scouts as a Daisy, but there were no openings in existing troops, and they were forming a new troop. A couple of the would-be leaders flaked out, so I decided to make a change.

I told the ward that I wanted to be released from cub scouts, and I filled out all of the paperwork to be co-leader of S's Daisy Troop. The ward officially released me yesterday.

It's kind of a bittersweet moment. I loved my cubs, I really did. I was ready to move on and do something different. Now that I'm officially out though, I'm mourning the loss.

I have to admit I'm a little overwhelmed at just how much work there is to start a new troop. I'm sitting here staring a pile of money that needs to be deposited in the bank, but first I have to select a bank and set up an account. We were assigned our troop number, which is good. My co-leader is an amazingly motivated and creative person, and I think she's going to make it a lot of fun. We have a mentor leader who meets at the same time who is willing to help, as well as have her Cadettes help. Our service unit leader is also helping out, both with set up AND being willing to be our cookie mom this year. Amazing.

Our next meeting is going to be a birthday party. We're celebrating the birth of our troop, as well as the birth of Juliette Low, the founder of Girl Scouts. We've asked the girls to each bring a small gift (like crayons, glue sticks, tapes, etc) to give to the troop.

I figure once I get organized, the whole thing will go well. I'm not worried about meetings, it's just the administrative side of things. I've agreed to be in charge of money, and need to find a good spreadsheet to keep track. I may have to give in and buy Excel; I've been using OpenOffice and/or Google Documents.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bountiful Baskets Oct 23

I know I haven't done a Bountiful Basket in forever, but this week they were offering pomegranates and tortillas as add ons, so I simply had to do it. We got a 24 lb box of pomegranates for $18.50, which is an amazing bargain. I also got a MEEELION tortillas for $10. I love these tortillas.
So, here's what my $15 basket was for this week:
I still have tomatoes and pears coming out my ears, so those parts were less than enthusiastically received, but I'm really happy with the rest. I've never cooked parsnips before, so that'll be a fun new thing to try.
In other news, I have confirmation that two of my Easter Egger chickens have begun to lay. I got both of these eggs today:

The interesting thing about the speckled egg is that when it's dry, the brown spots are more beige, and almost unnoticeable. The egg was a little dirty, so I washed it off, and it went speckled. Too cool!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The cat with commitment issues

My younger sister J bought a kitten this past spring to be a "cold blooded killer". She found a litter of rats in her back yard. She loves rodents almost as much as my mom, which is to say that she has a full blooded phobia. She scoured KSL ads until she found the perfect cat. Mom and dad were barn cats in the country somewhere in Wyoming. She actually drove several hours to get one of their free kittens.

She then paid big bucks to get the cat spayed, vaccinated and microchipped. She bought her fancy toys. Installed a cat door in the garage. Named her Oren Ishii. Things went well until about a month ago.

Oren didn't come home for a few days. Oren loves to wander, so it is normal for my sister to not see her for a day or two. But, she realized she hadn't seen the cat for a while, so she started watching. No sign of her anywhere. She started calling and visiting various animal shelters. Posted an ad on KSL. Nothing. After 3-4 weeks, she accepted that Oren was probably gone.

This morning, she was surprised by a phone call from a vet's office. Oren had been found! As it turns out, a neighbor who lived behind her and down a few houses had been seeing Oren around for quite a while. She'd turn up all the time and beg for food. She assumed Oren was a stray when she started spending the night. She eventually adopted the cat, and kept her indoors at night. Bought her a kitty condo, food, and toys. Apparently there's quite the facebook following on this cat's adventures. Today, Christine (the OTHER WOMAN) decided to bite the bullet and officially claim the cat as hers. She took her to a vet to get her spayed and vaccinated. The vet decided to scan the cat for a chip, and Christine was surprised to discover that Oren did have a chip.

Christine nicely offered the cat and all of her goodies back. Within a couple hours, Oren was back at her house. I suggested that maybe Christine had better food, which insulted my sister. Jill bought this super expensive food and Christine had Meow Mix. I remember that my old cat growing up hated fancy stuff, and loved the cheapest, driest stuff you could find.

I told Jill that at least the "Other Woman" is a nice person, and happy to accept that she's not the real owner. I said it may end up being a shared custody situation.

Another cool egg

Today I got another two eggs! One of them is obviously Clover's. I'm not sure if the other one is from the same chicken from yesterday's chicken. It's also green, but a distinctly different shade of green.
The egg from yesterday is in the middle, the egg from today is on the left.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

First Easter Egger Egg!!!

It finally happened!!!

This afternoon, I went out to collect Clover's egg. I noticed that she and Mabel weren't with the other chickens, and figured they were probably in the hen house. I opened up the left door, and sure enough, Clover is sitting in her favorite nest box. I can see she's already laid her egg, so I was a little surprised she was still there. Mabel was standing up, but watching her pretty intently. After a minute or two, Clover began singing the egg song, stood up, and left the hen house. I grabbed my egg and went inside.

I decided to go back outside to see if *maybe*, just MAYBE one of the other chickens had laid. In the last week or so, four of the five younger chickens have been willing to "squat", and they've all recently become much friendlier, even allowing me to pet them. I'm told those are signs that a pullet is about ready to start laying eggs.

I was disappointed to see the favored box empty, but decided to check the other side, just in case. I found the most beautiful olive green egg there. I am so tickled!

Here it is:
I am thrilled to get an olive egger- you don't find them too often, and it's the next hot thing. People are cross breeding blue laying hens with dark brown laying hens to get them. To get one from my EE is very exciting for me. J just rolled his eyes when I came up looking like Christmas had come early. M is the only one who has even a fraction of my enthusiasm for the eggs (well, maybe S can muster some, sometimes). When he got home, I showed him. He thought it looked like the same color as Lucy's eggs, but smaller. -sigh- Being color blind just is no fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tour of the Coop

I've had a couple people ask to see pictures of my chicken coop, so I am going to give you a grand tour.J designed the setup himself after looking at a lot of peoples' designs.

Here's the back of the coop with our brand new roof.Across the back, you'll notice some doors, which latch shut for safety, but open up for easy access to the nesting boxes, where the chickens would hypothetically lay.
Here's the inside of one side of the nesting boxes. We have a total of 6, though only one is used. You can see that Clover has laid an egg for me here. I am using a fairly fine hardware cloth to keep the bedding in the boxes when I open the door to collect eggs.This is the back side of the coop, the side the chickens have access to. You'll see that there's a large door so that I can access the inside, as well as provide good ventilation during the summer months. There's a smaller hole for me to stick a light in so that as the weather cools off, I can supplement their light so that they continue (START?!) to lay all winter. I close the door at night and latch it shut. This coop is not really designed to keep out a determined predator, but I figure latching that door shut will help protect the chickens from large dogs, which would be the most likely culprit.This is the access for the chickens to access the coop.

Here is the back side of the coop with the enclosed run. There's chicken wire on top and all sides. It's held in place by boards. A determined critter could burrow beneath the boards, so the coop isn't particularly ideal if you have skunks, raccoons, dogs, wolves, coyotes around. We generally don't, so I haven't worried about it too much.

Now we have the inside of the coop. You can see the nest boxes below. Paula is in the popular box, showing us what it would look like if she were to ever lay an egg. The chickens generally either roost on top of the boxes or on the branches I've put in place. The floor also has hardware cloth. In the summer, we leave it exposed, but as it's gotten colder, we put OSB board in, and covered it with shavings. I've also bought some 1/2" styrofoam insulation that I've cut to fit the back and side walls of the chicken coop. However, I put it out there, and the next morning found they'd been pecking at it. I'm going to have J cut some very thin boards to the same shape and sandwich the insulation between the boards so the chickens will leave it alone.

Why the golf balls, you ask? Supposedly, they show the chickens that it's acceptable to lay eggs in nesting boxes other than the popular one. Clover is the only one laying, and thus far, she's only laid in that second box in.
This is how we shut the door to the run.

Here's a close up of our chicken feeder. It's nice to be able to put a large amount of food out at a time so that if we go out overnight, we don't have to worry about feeding and watering our flock. The water is set up the same, except that we had to seal the lid on, and cut a small hole in the top and plug with a drain plug to create a suction situation.
The chickens do get to go foraging around outside of the run/coop, but I only let them do that when they can be supervised, so it's usually only for an hour or so at a time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Topaz Mountain 2010

We got to go to Topaz Mountain again. This time, my parents were unable to make it due to back problems for my mom. My ILs came, as well as J's Aunt Sue. It was really emotional seeing her again, as last time we saw her was last Christmas, just after a stage 3 cancer diagnosis. She is a real fighter, and has come out to visit this week with a CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH!!! We also had J's sister's family come; some of our favorite camping companions.
We got the same spot as last time. The kids were like little mountain goats the entire time, climbing around the big rock.We spent several hours looking for Topaz near the south slopes. We split into two groups- one group was up on the hill, chiseling topaz out of stones. I was with the other group, looking for loose stones in the wash. I found quite a bit, but I gave almost all of them to my kids or my nieces.

Here's most of the topaz the kids collected:Some detail on M's topaz:
On Friday, J's brother and his family family joined us for the day. We had talked to EVEN MORE people, and had gotten EVEN MORE instructions on finding the geode beds, which I had started to privately refer to as "El Dorado" (the city of gold that spanish explorers looked in vain for). We loaded into 3 side by sides and two vehicles. I think I surprised my husband by opting to drive the rhino instead of the truck. I knew it would be dusty, but it would be a smoother ride, and it was going to be around 25 miles each way. On the way, we saw a herd of antelope, which was pretty neat. We found the turn off for the geode beds. Instead of stopping within five minutes, as we have in the past, we actually drove for a good 15 minutes past where the sign was.It was as described. You couldn't walk more than a couple steps without tripping over geodes or fragments of geodes. We collected about a 5 gallon bucket's worth. Some need to be cracked open; some are just fragments.

M found a tarantula around camp on Friday evening, which we thought was amazing. We knew they were out there in the desert in Utah, but had never seen one before.
We ended up finding another one on Saturday morning and it was even bigger than the one pictured. We are fairly certain that this is a male Aphonopelma iodius.The first spider we found was in the evening. The second spider was in the morning. We also caught and released many lizards. M really wanted to keep that tarantula, but I'm not a fan of taking healthy wildlife home as pets, so I told him NO.

All in all, we had a wonderful time. Tentative plans are being made to go next spring. We're hoping that winter runoff will expose some more topaz for us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Want to have a REAL LIVE Author come to your school?

I have a friend, Michael Young, who is a real live PUBLISHED author. You can see his book for sale at amazon HERE. It's a really interesting work of fiction that is a fun fantasy.

He is really great with kids, and wants to share his gift. He's appeared at a few schools, doing assemblies with the whole school, and workshops with individual classes. He recently did a workshop at Roy Elementary that sounded so interesting. He talked about it on HIS BLOG.

He is looking to do more workshops. Can you believe it? It seems like a really amazing opportunity for kids to learn about what goes into writing a book and how to write effectively.

If you think your school (or your kids' school) would be interested in having him, and you are within 60 or so miles of Salt Lake City, UT, you should contact him to set something up. Michael's email address is:

Monday, October 11, 2010

I hate fundraisers

I hate most school fundraisers.

I really, really hate them. Passionately.

I hate how they have an assembly getting the kids all excited about the crap they can "earn" if they sell enough stuff. I hate how the stuff is overpriced, and only a small percentage actually goes to the school. I hate how the kids are desperate to sell stuff, utterly convinced that the success of the school, indeed, the very FUTURE of the school relies on them selling a bunch of wrapping paper. Or greeting cards. Or overpriced candy.

I've become spoiled because M's elementary school does the "no one comes a knockin'" fundraiser. Basically, they've figured out that if every child brings in $10, they make as much or more money than if they were to hold several traditional fundraisers. I've donated $20 per kid in the past, just to be safe, and so far, this is the third year I haven't heard from M's school.

S's school, on the other hand, LOVES fundraisers. We've already had two. The first one was Happenings Books (which, admittedly, M's school does too). Today, she came home with a new folder with order forms and booklet. I think they must've had a big assembly about it too, because she knew about allllll the wonderful prizes she could earn. Fabulous.

There's also a big decal on the folder telling me not to throw it away.S may be 5, but she knows what that says. It doesn't say to not burn it though....

Oh, and before you accuse me of not supporting S's school, I've donated more than $20 to them. I've joined their PTA. I bought a tshirt for S. I made sure to contribute enough that I can be righteously indignant and refuse to participate and not feel an ounce of guilt.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pink Eggs?

Clover has been laying eggs for three weeks now. In those three weeks, she's only skipped three days. Pretty amazing!

I've put her eggs in my egg carton. I noticed that her eggs aren't the bright white that my store bought eggs were.
As you can see, it's not a dramatic difference, but it's a definite difference.

I got thinking about it, and looking at Clover. I knew she wasn't a purebred bird because her lines aren't quite right, plus, she has a few black feathers. Not a lot, but a few. I conferred with my chicken bulletin board, and they all agreed that she must be some mix that makes the slight variation in color.

The eggs are almost pink. The last egg she laid was a definite pale pink, and had white speckles. Unfortunately S was so excited when she saw it that she grabbed it and dropped it on the tile floor, shattering it. I was very sad.

The Easter Eggers and the Silver Laced Wyandotte are still not laying. My Black Copper Marans is still molting. I think that can last a couple months. We're at one month since last egg.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dear Kindergarten Teacher

Dear Kindergarten Teacher,

As you know, today was the day that S was assigned to bring a show and tell. We chose to have her bring in a hand painted handkerchief from Japan. She and I talked about how it was handpainted, came from Japan, and how my friend gave it to me while we were living there.

I want to clear up a couple of misunderstandings. Yes, we did live there. It was, however, for more than a couple days. Yes, it was when S was a baby, and before she was born. However, when we moved back to the US, we did NOT row the canoe from Japan to Mexico, and then carry the canoe from Mexico into the United States. We flew commercially.