Thursday, September 29, 2011


*AND there's even an article on taking care of sheep and goats. Heeee.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Weekend Homesteading Project #1

So this weekend I engaged in my first documented homesteading project. 


Aren't you proud of me??

Homemade laundry soap. Yes, yes, I know--you are, at this moment, in awe of the sheer homestead-er-ness of this adventure. 

Fresh out of laundry detergent (a very, very, very bad thing in this household), I decided to begin the process of embarking on our first little baby steps away from utter Apple-Mango-Tango-Gain-Scented-Targ--ay-Dependency.

First I researched recipes.  I was disappointed to find that most were liquid, which I thought might not be as easy to store.  And then I happened upon a very simple powder recipe here.

Now, calm down (I know you are waiting with bated breath for me to divulge my laundry soap secrets; because it's not, like, it's in a gazillion places on the internet and stuff).

So, honestly, to confess, I did wind up at Target.  But only to purchase this...

And this...

Okay, y'all.

So here's the secret only your grandma and the rest of the blogosphere knows about part:

You take one bar of Ivory soap and grate it.  

Note--I've read many recommendations since, that using a food processor is actually speedier and safer--as (and we're not naming names or anything), but someone *may* have grated a bit of her thumb during this whole experience and although she *may* have gotten a kiss to make it better from her hubby, she also *may* have realized only too late that the use of a food processor would also have probably created more uniform-sized-dissolvable granules (which *may* definitely appeal to that person's control-freak sensibilities). 
Now, since we're on the subject of using an item primarily created for the everyday processing of food (as name indicates, duh), to pulsate something that probably shouldn't be ingested by human or beastie, herein lies a conundrum.  MarkaLee asked me, "So, is it still safe to put food in there afterward?." "Idunno," I said. "The other bloggers who have done so still appear to be alive and posting." To which he replied, in a Pirates-of-the-Carribean voice, "Deeeaaaad Bloggers telllll noooo talezzzzz."

Yes. I told you we are nerds. Please do not try to ignore this fact.

And hey, how many countless kids had their little pie-holes washed out with Ivory soap, and still grew to be strong, healthy, upstanding denizens of society?

But I digress.

One bar of Ivory soap (grated or pulsated, your choice).
One cup of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (and folks, be not confused by the little box you keep in your spice cabinet--this is WASHING SODA. Found in the LAUNDRY AISLE. Just sayin').
One cup of Borax.

Mix, pulsate or tie to a jack hammer (your choice).

And voila!  Homemade (almost) laundry soap.  
And it's thrifty, too, almost a full 20 cents less per load as you only use a Tablespoon for regular loads or 2 for really scrungy loads.


I couldn't stop there.

Oooohhhhh-ho-ho no.

Me being me, I need something cute to keep it in.

So I took two pickle jars I had been saving, and some chalkboard paint.
I squared off a label-sized patch using tape and aluminum foil, took the jars out on the porch with my trusty-dusty drop canvas, and spray painted the patches and the lids to the jars using the chalkboard paint.

MarkaLee comment upon seeing this conglomeration when he arrived home from a long afternoon of teaching lessons, "We're trying to get aliens to land on our porch?  Sweeeeeet."

I re-applied paint to ensure even coverage and about two hours and one stick of chalk later, I had these babies:

Oh pickle jars, how I love thee....

But be not envious of these marvels... you too can easily possess Pottery-Barn-esque laundry jars on a dollar-store budget.  All it takes is a little paint, a serious craving for pickles and fearlessness in the face of the cheese grater-thingy/food processor.

And did the soap work?  Yes.  Clothes were bright, stains were lessened, although I may try Zote soap in the future as a comparison.  Overall rating, 8.5 out of 10 pitchforks.

So let me know if you try this--I'd love to hear about your ideas and experiences...

Happy Homesteading, my friends!
Big Hugs,

Monday, September 26, 2011


The sexiest eggplant you ever did see...courtesy a gentleman-farmer and some kind folks at Saturday's Redlands Farmer's Market

Friday, September 23, 2011

Can Someone Tell me...

Okay, stupid question, but what is the DEAL with the spacing when inserting pictures and writing posts?

Plus, for your viewing pleasure: a random Smartass Squidley picture, complete with destroyed upholstery...

The sexy, "Come-hither & let me destroy your upholstery, Lounge Cat" look

Grape Expectations

Makes me want to channel Lucy

These grapes hang on our backyard arbor. How they've survived two prior careless tenants, broken sprinklers and my transitioning but still mostly black thumb is a mystery to us.  

The flavor of these grapes is really lovely--sweet and tangy all at once. I'm betting they would make a terrific homemade wine.  What do you think?  Should we endeavor to create our first bottle of Three Bags Full table wine?

Big Hugs,
P.S. -- Just for grins...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blank Canvas

Our Garden-to-be*
We are still waiting to hear whether we get to rent this home for another year.  Meanwhile, this little corner of the back yard remains fallow and deliciously full of possibilities! Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Big Hugs,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Steps Forward...One Back

Dear Autumn,

What happened?  We were at a lovely, crisp, 72 Southern California degrees just last weekend...

You gave me hope...I gleefully dug out my sweaters and tights...I put up my Fall wreathes...

we were planning to do s'mores on Saturday night. 
But...all of a sudden, 
the air conditioner kicked back on...


Don't you know I'm a cold weather beastie?!  Don't you know the thought of winding my burnt orange mohair scarf  'round my neck and trotting off into the crisp air and falling leaves fills me with utter-spine-shuddering-if-I-were-a-puppy-I'd-widdle-on-the-floor happiness?  Seriously.  (Just more proof this girl is in the wrong part of this crazy state.)

So, our s'mores party never happened.

 The fire-pit was primed,

 the comfy chairs placed

and wood gathered--and then...

Air Conditioning.

Really Autumn. You can be SUCH a tease.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Blue (but not suede) Shooz

Do you remember these baby blues?

These are my 'old skool' style New Balance 690s; the most comfortable running shoes I've owned in years. I've loved New Balance ever since I was training for marathons and logging double-digit weekly miles because of their comfort and durability. But I never thought I'd go 'retro' for running!

My husband recently started researching the benefits of 'barefoot running' and has been telling me about how the incidence of knee injuries attributed to running has skyrocketed over the last few decades, and that the latest studies hypothesize that this could be a direct result of mainstream shoe designs over the past 20-30 years forcing heel-strike rather than a more natural mid or fore-foot-fall.  When you look at the way animals run, and the way our legs are constructed, it kind of makes sense.  Anyhoo, since I didn't consider myself quite the Vibrams candidate yet, 

Vibrams--my husband has these--I just can't get past the toe thing yet...

 I decided to at least give the newer 'retro' flatter soles a go this time, and whoa, baby, what a difference!  Why did I ever switch in the first place?!

I have really high arches and laid off running much over three miles at a pop the past few years because my feet and knees typically creak and grind with every stride (well, that and I've become a little less athletically ambitious and my job, a little more demanding of my time and energies), but these puppies are so comfy, if my stamina and my muscles were still in shape enough to maintain it, I think I could probably trot along all day in them.  

And nothing (except maybe a little heavy bag work at the martial arts school) wipes away a tough day at work like a good long run...well, that and the nice glass of chardonnay after the hot shower.  

So, although I know runners all have different tootsies and preferences, I'm sharing mine today in hopes this post may help somebody find their next perfect pair!

Happy trotting friends!
Big Hugs,

Monday, September 19, 2011

Look, Ma! I'm knittin'!

Look what I learned to do this weekend, y'all...

My good friend, Jennifer, came to visit this weekend and we had an absolute blast.  
Jen and I went to high school together and were later roomies at the University of Maryland.  We share a love for, among many things, Fall, beautiful music, cozy, 'lived-in' homes and furry friends.  

Jen and her husband, Charlie

Our weekend included going to a fun restaurant in Riverside and listening to some terrific jazz, walking around the beautiful Mission Inn, visiting downtown Redlands and buying treats from the wonderful Martha Green's Bakery, and heading up to Los Rios Rancho in Oak Glen for some delicious apple cider, beautiful scenery and of course, apple pie!
Mark and I had a great time with Jen (and Mika, of course, has added her to the list of "All-time-favorite belly scratchers...EVER").
Soon after Jen arrived, she pulled two beautiful skeins of kettle-dyed Merino wool from Uruguay out of her bag and told me she was going to teach me to knit.  I was giddy.  We purchased some lovely bamboo knitting needles for me and she patiently taught me the garter stitch. Two rows later, I was hooked.

Before she left to return home, Jen gave me another gift; she helped me to find a wonderful knitting shop nearby where I could go to ask questions, continue to learn and purchase beautiful yarns and patterns to feed my new creative outlet.  We looked on the internet and found the Redlands Yarn Company.  When we walked in, I was immediately at home.  The store is full of beautiful fibers--alpaca and sheep's wool--pretty felted and knitted items--and friendly folks.  The owner, Becky, and her lovely parents are really fun, helpful and down-to-earth.  I can definitely see myself spending some cold winter afternoons in this cozy shop.   
I confess that I always felt more interested in learning just how to care for sheep and spin and dye wool prior to this weekend. But now that I'm sitting here in the soft evening light, the dog at my feet, I find the repetition, the smooth wood and soft yarn in my hands comforting and strangely... right.
Thank you Jen, for a great weekend and for the creative inspiration.

 Big Hugs,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bacchus, CKG, GOTW...

Hi all.  I apologize for the light posting.  As I said before, I've been nose to grindstone perhaps a little too much lately and my body is starting to let me know things are a little too far out of balance and off-kilter.  Time to slow down a little in my work life, take a little more time away from computers, and have a little more fun!

In the meantime, I'd like to introduce you to an important member of our family (I'm afraid I neglected to add him in my second post).  He is Bacchus, Chief Kitchen Gnome and Guardian of The Wine.

My grandpa painted him for me and gave him to me back in my early 20's and today, he sits on our kitchen counter by the wine rack (a place of homage in our household) and serves as our little Guardian of Wine. My hope is that as we move toward our homesteading dreams, perhaps one day he will be guarding our own bottles of Three Bags Full wine--and maybe even our own grandkids' favorite vintages. But until then, Bogle, Barefoot, 'Two-Buck Chuck' and treats from our Sunset Wine Club (which totally rocks, by the way) constitute his "flock".

Little Bacchus serves as more than just our CKG, though; he a constant reminder of my wonderful, creative, peaceful and lovely hearted Grandpa.  I do miss him and my wacky, fun Grandmother so much, but I smile and think fondly of them whenever I look at Bacchus' cute, worn, little visage.

I hope he makes you smile too...

Have a peaceful and happy evening everyone--

Big Hugs,

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Touch of Autumn

Well, howdy my friends!  How is your little corner of the universe doing?
I must ask you to pardon the daily re-combobulation of this lil' ol' blog while I figure things out a bit and decide how I really would like things to look.  It's a lot like re-arranging the living room furniture--maybe with a few less random poofs of dog hair...

This weekend was short, but definitely sweet here at the House on the Hill.  I've been racking up too many hours "at harness" lately and not spending enough time out in the rolling green grass kicking up my heels. So after some much appreciated sleep, I tied up my new running shoes 

(more to come on these in a later post) and went out for a 5 mile run(ish) and WOW--despite creaky knees and a little more jiggle than there used to be--it felt great!

Sunday brought a bit of a nip (okay, so 78 degrees constitutes a Southern California "nip" this time of year) in the air.  

It was gorgeous outside and while my husband and his brother went for a hike, 
I shut Squidley in the bedroom, 

 aired out the rest of the house, and gave everything a good scrubbing.  

Moo was beside herself with doggy glee. 

With the sliding glass door wide open, she could come and go as she pleased and (finally!) was exercising unadulterated control over her inside-outside domain.

Later in the evening, with pumpkin bread baked,

*No, this is not the one I baked--we cut into it before I could get to the camera...nom nom nom

Fall wreathes hung on the door,
and the scent of pumpkin candles hanging in the air, I felt the first excited and happy twinges of Autumn's arrival in my heart.

Autumn is my favorite season--pumpkins, sweaters, harvest goodies, beautiful colors in nature, hay rides, falling leaves, sitting around campfires with friends and family--it's all magical for me. 

And tonight, as I sit here typing out this post, a bountiful, great, orange, Harvest Moon hangs in the eastern sky.  

 We may still be using the air conditioner, but with impending autumn settling into my soul, I feel all is once again right with the world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rememberance, Hope and Compassion

"There is a saying in Tibetan, 'Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.'
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster."
--The Dalai Lama

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Homesteading 101

Awesome chicken picture from here

So, how does one begin homesteading? I mean, does it start with a desire to grow things and turning off the lights when you're out of the room and blossom to livestock and canning and beekeeping and so on?  The ways to begin are seemingly endless! Have you ever been so eager to learn or know something that the sheer opportunity and choice paralyzes you? 
So, if anyone's out there, I'd love to hear your thoughts. How did or would you start?  What is the first step that you would take?  What have you learned?

Somethin' to put a smile on your face...



Tuesday, September 6, 2011



What a day. 

Meet the Family...

Just a quick little intro to our little household:

This is my husband, Mark. He likes teaching martial arts, camping and hiking, playing the drums, multiple adrenaline-charged activities, giving his wife heart-attacks, giving his younger brother a hard time and various and sundry forms of geekery (see photo)--especially if it involves bunsen-burners and test tubes.


 And this is me.  I love my husband and furkids, camping, hiking, working hard and getting "the cookie at the end", farms, learning in general, coffee (see photo), homesteading projects, reading, organizing, baking (and eating), random acts of goofiness and kindness, campfires with smores, traveling, wine and a plethora of other entertaining nonsense. 


This is us at our wedding at a bed and breakfast up in the mountains last October.
If you don't have a good feel for our general level of wackiness yet, you may now consider yourself forewarned... 

This is Sid (left) and Mika (right); aka, the Brain Trust. 

Sid likes teasing Mika (Moo), drinking from Mark's or my water glasses (he really is rather determined about this), cuddles, chewing on, loving on and dozing on shoes, destroying the upholstery (see photo) and sleeping (he snores). 

Moo likes chewing on Sid, belly rubs, letting us know when her Kong is "broken", running along the fence with the neighbor dogs, trolling for crumbs, rough-housing with Mark, attacking the vacuum cleaner and cuddles. 

Aside from the (poor) houseplants and the spiders in the garage, this comprises
the membership of our strange and wonderful little family here in the House on the Hill.
I feel so very fortunate to have found my own flock of other goofballs willing to put up with my shenanigans.  Welcome to our mayhem, y'all!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Congratulations, Mrs. Houston, it's a bouncing baby Blog!

Ta-dahhhhh!  Hi folks and welcome to the birth of my new blog! Inspired by a handful of amazing women--both in the blog-world and in my life, I've decided to stop waiting in the wings (ahem...'information gathering') and start taking steps toward making dreams happen!  
This little blog is to chronicle my journey toward story-writing, arts and crafting, debt-free living, shepherd-crook weilding, wine and cheese-making, treat baking, high-school-jeans fitting, farm-owning, homesteading diva-ness. 
Hang on to your straw hats, folks! It promises to be a bumpy but breathtaking ride!