Friday, October 31, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude; Request for Cards for Julie

Several months ago, in this post, I wrote about my daughter Julie, who was born with spina bifida. On August 25, 2008, she was admitted to the Carolinas Medical Center for a urinary diversion procedure. Medical complications arose and and led to a revision of her AV brain shunt , and an entirely different procedure of a nephrostomy, yet another medical complication. She is still under constant medical care at Hunter Woods Nursing and Rehab. in Charlotte, NC.

She has been hospitalized for eight weeks and is now in a nursing rehabilitation hospital. This is another in a long line of surgeries and hospital stays she has experienced throughout her life. Julie will likely go back into the acute care hospital for another surgery next week. There is not much to break up her long days in bed, and she enjoys mail.

Julie has given her permission that I write in this blog asking for cards or letters from people who might read of this request, and wanted me to be sure and say that she is one of the more fortunate people born with the birth defect of spina bifida.

I am asking you to please drop her a card. It would make her day to get something in the mail addressed to her, even if it were from a stranger. You may not know her personally, but this act of kindness on your part would be received by her with more than heartfelt thanks. I will send you her name and address if you would contact me at nmccarroll at mindspring dot com, or if you leave a comment asking for her address, I will immediately get back with you. For the next week, she may receive mail addressed to

Juliet Heniford, c/o Hunter Woods Nursing & Rehab Center,
Room 605, 620 Tom Hunter Road
Charlotte, NC 28213

In talking with her on the phone, I was struck, once again, by her positive attitude. Yes, she has been hospitalized and stuck in the nursing home for going on three months now, but what she said to me was amazingly wonderful:
"But, Mom, it could be so much worse. At least I hallucinated for only a week and was not in Intensive Care very long this time. Another guy had this same type procedure two and a half weeks after I did, and he is still in Intensive Care and intubated. I'm just in bed, but am awake and I can watch television."
Her attitude of gratitude was powerful, and led me to post this message.

From How to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude:
True gratefulness comes from a conscious decision to recognize your blessings, coupled with the emotional feelings that accompany a thankful heart. An ungrateful person can utter the words “thank you” in protest. A thankful person can hold their gratitude as a guarded secret, yearning to be shared.
“Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.” Phil. 4:6

While writing of gratitude, this prayer in the form of a benediction written in 1513 by Francesco Giovanni is most appropriate:
There is nothing I can give you which you do not have; But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within reach, is joy. There is a radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see,and to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look.
Again, please get in touch with me if you would be willing to mail Julie a card to her home address. Also feel free to use the Hunter Woods address above through November 7, 2008, prior to her next surgery.

Your prayers for God's Hand to be on her are so very much appreciated.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quick Halloween Costumes for Dogs

Want a fast, easy way to dress up that pup of yours? How about a simple scarf cut from a 1/4 yd. of Halloween or (insert appropriate holiday time here) seasonal fabric? Cut a triangle on the diagonal of the grain of fabric, put the fabric piece around the dog's neck and tie under his chin.

Or, go a bit fancier and make a double sided scarf with two coordinated fabrics, sewn together right sides facing one another, leaving a few inches gap for turning the fabric right side out. Attach a button or velcro for closing the scarf, and your furry dog friend will not be bothered by a heavily knotted piece of fabric under his chin.

A paper pattern is shown here and looks like a modified bell curve, with the length of the pattern at the longest end being about 20 inches for a small (10 lb.) dog.

Therapy International Dog Libby Sweetpea is shown sporting her Halloween scarf. This tie was made by cutting out two coordinating fabrics in the shape shown above, sewn together, turned, and a buttonhole and button added on each side of the rounded triangular shaped scarf.

Another idea for making dog clothes from the ever popular onesies for babies can be seen here at DIY Quick & Easy Dog Clothes. If you click on the link, a darling tiny Chihuahua will be shown sporting a pink onesie easily made with directions given at the same site.

My DH does not like animals in sporting outfits, and will not walk either of our pups with their pink leads, but once in a while he goes along with a themed scarf around their necks. What compromises we make for family harmony!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sage and Turkey Carving

From a blog on my reading list, I came across an item of interest: Sage Can Kill:

Yes, it has been proven, sage can kill... GERMS. Experts recently discovered that the herb can eliminate 65 types of common germs. It has a potent antioxidant that acts as a natural antibiotic to soothe the pain and inflammation of a sore throat.

Here's what you should do: Simmer 2 tbsp of dried sage in 8 oz of water for 10 minutes. Salt will help ease swelling so stir in 1/4 tsp and let cool. For 30 seconds, gargle with the solution three times daily at the first sign of infection.

I read mlizcochico frequently; she is a savvy mom and shares good tips. This is one I will keep handy.

My father grows prolific amounts of sage and shares it with me. After visiting with my parents in Dallas, I come home well stocked with several of his home grown herbs. Sage is one of my favorite spices and one that grows well in that southern climate with lots of hot sun shining on it in their side yard.

Infusion of Sage can used to treat depression, nervous anxiety and liver disorders; homeopathic preparations can be given for circulation and menopausal problems (from this reference.)

This time of year is a favorite for cooking with this earthy, good smelling herb. And back to sage and its use with turkey, have a look at wikihow for this great tip on turkey carving:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Citron Tea - Hot or Cold

When I first found out about Citron Tea and shared a cup with a friend, I was amazed that I had never come across it before. It is delicious hot, and chock full of vitamin C.

I love this stuff! I now have a couple of mugs full of citron tea each day, and it is especially warming and delicious on these cool autumn days.

Initially, a Google search brought up information only about citrus tea and various recipes. Then I realized I was putting in an incorrect search term of "citrus tea", whereas the real subject term should have been "citron" tea; a big difference, I found out.

From 2005, a post referenced at Jam Tea:
In the past few months I’ve discovered a weird new kind of tea. At first I thought the people drinking it were just freaks. I watched some people scooping out spoonfuls of what appeared to be jam, schlopping it into mugs, adding hot water, stirring it up real good, and drinking it. I was shocked by this behavior. Clearly, jam is meant for bread and crescent rolls and such, not hot water.

These people explained to me, however, that the stuff in the jar was not jam. It was, in fact, tea. This kind of tea comes from Korea, I understand. The most popular flavor is “citron tea.” It’s made with honey. I dunno… looks like jam to me.

So I tried this so-called “tea” and I found it really good! It’s sweet, like the “fruit tea” (I think it’s just Kool-aid) you get in teahouses. When you get to the bottom of your cup, there’s always these grapefruit shreds. They’re pretty tasty too.

Citron tea comes in a jar, and looks like orange marmalade, definitely like the dark tea we are used to seeing. The listing on the label does not even list tea as an ingredient.

It really does taste like something between a hot fruit drink and lemonade, but the bits of citrus fruit peeling at the bottom of the finished toddy give it added zing. It also has (supposedly) 3x the vitamin C equivalency of lemons.

Here is a picture of Citron Tea (courtesy of Flickr):

It is available at Korean and Chinese groceries, and also, amazingly, at the Oriental food aisles in many Costco stores. A yummy new taste treat!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Knitting an Easy Lace Scarf

Today is "Show and Tell Friday" over at Kelli's Place: Check out her website and see what others are talking about at Kelli's House.

Show and Tell

This is a new knitting project started this week. It will be a 62" long scarf from a pattern handout given by Knit One Chat Too.

The fiber is hand dyed by the Hand Maiden, a Vancouver dyer. It is 50% wool, 50% silk, with a nice hand to the fiber. It is a pleasure to hold and work with this yarn. The reddish and mauve colors are sweet and keep those stitches from getting monotonous!

This is my first attempt at knitting a simple lace pattern and is listed at the Ravelry web site and on the Flickr web site. The pattern consists of only four rows in a simple repeat, with three of the rows using only a straight knit row or straight purl row. Easy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hand Dyed Yarn and Canadian Knit Shops

My friend Darlene was kind enough to ferry me to several yarn stores in Calgary last week. We visited Knit One Chat Too where their motto is:

Stop by Knit One Chat Too to enjoy conversation, coffee or tea, and knitting! Come in for classes tailored to fit knitters of all ages and skill sets. Or just stop by and relax in the warm environment and view our latest products!

And it was so true that personal assistance was provided, along with encouragement for your knitting efforts, and a cup of coffee. It was a friendly shop with a comfy sofa and overstuffed chairs available in case you needed a sit down or a quick refresher lesson on a particular hand craft technique.

My purchases at Knit One Chat Too included three skeins of hand dyed wool/silk fiber hand dyed by the Hand Maiden. This company is located in Vancouver, BC.

(photo courtesy of the Hand Maiden)

When traveling away from home, I try to pick up something from the new area so that when I come across it again in my own territory, the object will remind me of the time and place visited.

One of the skeins I purchases was dyed in gorgeous shaded of pinks, oranges, light crimson and burgundies. I began knitting on a lace scarf yesterday and am looking forward to seeing how it turns out. The fiber is a pleasure to hold since it is 50% preshrunk wool and 50% silk.

Another shop we visited, Gina Brown's, provided additional sock yarn for my stash. And look what I picked up there as a knitting toy: a whimsical monkey tape measure.

The nose of the monkey is the retractable gadget that reels in the tape.

You can purchase one of many similar tapes at Create For Less. It is a handy accessory, and one that makes me smile when reaching for it.

Thanks, Darlene, for a fun shopping experience.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Scrabble Tournament Pictures and Chinatown

Here are a few pictures from the Western Canadian Championship Scrabble Tournament in Calgary last weekend:

On the left is player Gloriosa Agdeppa (California) and on the right is Eric Tran from the Calgary Scrabble Club. He executed an amazing game against me in the tournament and won that game with an impressive total game score of 597.

Eric racked up four bingos (using all seven letters on your rack in one play, resulting in an additional 50 points for the bingo) in our game. Four bingos played in one game was just super, and I was so proud that he beat me so thoroughly, that I took his picture with his score sheet just to prove what an awesome player he is! He is 21 years old and a student at the university in Calgary. Needless to say, I believe he won the overall game plays in the tournament and received a fairly large monetary prize.

The picture above is an interior shot of a spice and tea store in the downtown area of Chinatown in Calgary.

This picture is the dome of the Chinese Cultural Center in downtown Calgary. It is patterned from the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The cultural center had a well stocked gift shop, and a few toonies were spent there.

We shopped at several lovely yarn stores in Calgary, and tomorrow the posting will be about the hand dyed yarns purchased from independent Vancouver, BC fiber dyers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Integrity in the Game of Life and the Board Game Scrabble

Over 110 participants from throughout Canada and the US met in Calgary for the Western Canadian Scrabble Championship held from October 15-19, 2008. It was a marvelous time of competition and camaraderie. One incident discussed later in this post was the only unsavory incident.

More information about the National Scrabble Association (NSA) can be found here. Schools are getting in the swing of hosting Scrabble clubs, so younger people are finding satisfaction in the game at earlier ages.

There is even internet Scrabble(c) on line in case you would like to play on the computer with another person at a separate terminal, sometimes several thousands of miles from your home port. Online internet Scrabble (c) can be found through this link: Internet Scrabble Club (ISC). It is free of charge to join this computer site. ISC and WordBiz (c) is free and easy to download to your computer. Just read through the help section, and you will be ready to play anyone from all over the world, and in many languages. If you would like to play WordBiz (c)...Scrabble (c) and need help, just leave a comment and I will get back with you.

Scrabble tournaments are held every week, sometimes two or three a weekend, almost anywhere in the States and Canada. Countries outside North American also have Scrabble active clubs and tournament. Newsletters are sent to the participating NSA members at a cost of $20 a year. Again, check out the website here for further details.

Above is a picture of players awaiting a game to start after a short break. Chess clocks (an updated version used in tournament play is the Sam Timer) are used to count the allowed time of 25 minutes per person to complete a game. Point penalties are assessed for any portion of a minute over the allowed time.

I took a few pictures from the game room and at the fun dinner party which Calgary Director Siri Tillekeratne and many others in Alberta both directed and hosted over the past weekend. The tournament was excellent overall, with a total of 8 games in each of two early bird tournaments, and 21 games played in the main tournament. Our tournament hosts were friendly, efficient and professional. They put a lot of effort into running this meet. Thank you!

Calgary was beautiful, the weather was nice, and the fall colors were still in force. My hostess and friend, Darlene, even took me to Chinatown!

My second day of tournament play was slightly marred by a spoil sport whose main focus was to win at games, no matter the cost. Sadly, there are cheaters out there; amidst the intellectual realms of science, medicine, industry, spirituality and even in the board game of Scrabble, people sometimes perform unsavory actions in order to win at the game.

Cheating is an ugly thing. It demeans everyone involved in the act; the perpetrator may or may not have a conscience or concern about the act of cheating, which is maddeningly aggravating. But the ramifications on others is even more profound. Being duplicitous creates heartache not only for the people involved in the hoax, but also has effects long term effects on others. Stress and other debilitating resulting ramifications of leading a double life and lying can be damaging even on future generations. I speak from experience on this topic.

Integrity, keeping promises, being faithful to vows and being a decent human being are all too often not the main focus of our daily lives. We have to constantly keep our humility, seek the higher ground, and do what is right, even if it is costly in unimaginable ways.

Remember this?:


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, c.1920 (from this reference)

We are about as content as we choose to be. My happiness is outside the boundaries of being wronged. Fortunately, the unpleasantness over a board game is neither critical to either my ego or self worth.

This being stated, cheating perpetrated by one of my opponents was still an unpleasant experience.

Dharma says it all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blog on Hold - @ Scrabble Tournament in Calgary, CA

Beginning today, I will be away from the computer for a week while participating in a Scrabble Tournament in Calgary, CA. Upon my return, please look for an update and information about the National Scrabble Association.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In Memoriam to Terry Fine and Flo Gallagher

Yesterday, a tragedy happened in our community, and to my friend Linda. (see Daily Sentinel)

In times of grief, Corrie Ten Boom, survivor of the Holocost, quoted this poem:

Life is But a Weaving

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ‘til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

Anonymous (as quoted by Corrie Ten Boom)
(Painting: The Weaver, by Vincent Van Gogh)
Corrie ten Boom used an illustration about a tapestry weaving . She had a tapestry sample that she insisted always be presented wrong side up. On the back, the weaving was all a jangled, discordant, ugly mess. But the result on the right side was beauty. Sometimes, we see too much or only the back side in our time/space dimension. God the weaver arranges each thread to His standards . . . often seemingly insensitive to how jangled or even pained we are by a given thread placement. But the result is our being conformed more to the image of His Son--that we might bear a greater weight of glory in eternity--ruling and reigning with Him.(found in freerepublic postings)
Trusting God is our only hope in many of life's situations. My deepest condolences for these losses to all friends and family of the Fines and Gallaghers.

My love and prayers are with you, Linda.

(This is a photographic representation of the embroidered illustration that Corrie Ten Boom used in her often quoted poem.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Olive Oil and Oleocanthol: Helpful Link for Inflammation

Olive oil contains oleocanthol; this compound helps in damage and/or inflammation to cells (arthritis, cancer, lupus, any inflammatory disease) . Properties of this ingredient have been linked to those similar to that found in ibuprofen.

Now we have more proof that olive oil is good for us!

Oleocanthol was brought to my attention by listening to the latest podcast (October 3, 2008) of the Splendid Table, found at Splendid Table. Food scientist Harold McGee was interviewed by host Lynne Rosetto Kasper. If you would like to listen to that interview, it is a good 15 minutes of chat.

McGee's best suggestion was to look for newly processed olive oils and to buy olive oils at your local farmers’ market since the oleocanthol would be more beneficial in its fresher state.

From The Olive Source:

Gary Beauchamp and other chemists published a September 1, 2005 article in Nature which links the compound in olive oil which causes throat irritation with anti-inflammatory compounds such as ibuprofen. Anti-inflammatory medications inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes in the prostaglandin pathway. Oleocanthol, the pungent compound in some oils which creates a stinging sensation in the throat seems to work on the same pathway.Gary noticed the similar effect of ibuprofen, which he had been studying, and olive oil while on an olive oil and wine tasting vacation. Studies later showed that oleocanthol has anti-inflammatory properties.

The amount of oleocanthol in different olive oils varies. Eating an oil with much oleocanthol would not amount to as much prevention of inflammation as taking an aspirin. Many studies have shown that aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs prevent recurrent stroke, heart attacks and maybe even some cancers. The fact that olive oil has these same anti-inflammatory properties may be one contributor to the salubrious effect of the "Mediterranean Diet".

What's For Dinner says that substituting olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, for saturated fats or polyunsaturated fats can: reduce blood pressure; inhibit the growth of some cancers; benefit people at risk for or with diabetes; lessen the severity of asthma and arthritis and actually help your body maintain a lower weight.

Luckily, our resident chef (DH) agrees with all this research, and uses virgin olive oil liberally in his kitchen. Here is a picture of the fish he caught up on the Grand Mesa, and which he will cook in sweet virgin olive oil.
Enteric coated aspirin is still stockpiled in the larder.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Orientation at Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado

The last three days of my life were spent in twenty-six hours of volunteer orientation for Hospice. They were intense hours investigating hospice, from the origin of the concept right down to the brass tacks of our local community-wide effort to help people manage …“physical, psychosocial and spiritual symptoms resulting in optimal comfort and quality of life for persons impacted by a serious illness.” In essence, that is the explanation of Palliative Care and Hospice, according to a handout given during the learning session (from Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado, 2008).

(See previous post about Cups, the coffee house owned and operated by Hospice of Western Colorado.)

Briefly highlighted in this orientation were teaching lessons and interactive activities including:
Hospice Pioneers and its History, Missions and Vision; Serving our Communities, Living our Values, Critical Thinking, Self Care, Therapeutic Communication, Safety Issues, Ethics and Boundaries, Advanced Concepts of Grief, Interdisciplinary Care Planning, Spiritual Care, Communication Activities, Introduction to Grief, Organizational Ethics, HIPAA and Information Technology
As you might think, much information was covered in three days.

To obtain a more complete view of our local hospice, visit Hospice of Western Colorado. The website is extensive and gives lots of information.

One exercise I thought was most valuable during the orientation session concerned "loss". The result of the teaching and completion of the questionnaire helped portray just an inkling of what true loss might mean when facing the end of life.

Here is the exercise: a five square by five square grid was filled out by each participant. The squares were to be filled (left to right) with five items or concepts regarded as ...

Most Prized or Useful Material Possession;
Most Important Activities;
Favorite Places, e.g., nature ;
Most Valued Body Parts;
5 Beloved Relationships in Your Life
With the toss of a die, and each player enabled to toss the die, grids were X’d out as the numbers fell. One by one, a prized possession, a life activity, a favorite place, a body part or a beloved relationship was lost to the roll of the die. You see where this is going?

After thirty minutes of dice rolling, half of the valued concepts were gone. Actually, more than half were gone, by implication. If one of your valued body parts such as your eyes were lost to the toss of the dice, then your car (a prized possession) would also be lost, since you would no longer be able to drive. One loss compounds other losses.

Here is my grid.
I found this an exercise which made me even more grateful for those privileges that I am currently allowed.

Why not complete this same mental exercise, fill in the squares, and think about your own gifts and mercies? I guarantee it is an eye opener.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

From StoreFront:
Cool picture showing see-through, clear clogs. Now this is for the person who has gone to all that work knitting socks and wants to show them off! The clogs can be purchased at the site referenced above.

My current pair of socks on the pointy sticks has way too many little slubs to show them off with clear clogs, but maybe the next pair will be more impressive!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Halloween Luminaries and Black Mice

You, too, can make a Mouse Motel just like Martha Stewart's. Her zine gives good directions at Good Things.

When I saw this photo in the latest issure of Martha Stewart, it delighted me to the point of actually trying to find some realistic mice to use in decorations this fall.

(You can read about how to make Martha's Mouse Motel here at Good Things, and directions are given also.)

Look what I found at WalMart for One US Dollar per mouse!

These mice are black, felted, and just the size of a well fed rodent.
I put one in the cupboard next to the spices and got a chuckle when DH opened the cabinet; yeh, it does not take much to amuse me.

(ghost picture jars courtesy of Family Corner)

And I even tried making Craft Style luminaries with paper lunch bags discussed here at Halloween crafts. Target was my shopper's paradise for lunch bags at a reasonable price of less than two dollars for 40 red paper sacks.

A picture of luminary supplies:

The first attempt at spraying acrylics on the paper bags was not successful because I thinned the paint with too much water. Starting over the next day with a clean spray bottle (be sure to soap out the acrylic from the spray nozzle or it will never spray again!), the second try turned out better. Instead of votive candles, I used battery powered tea lights.

But for Halloween Night, because there were so many bags in the package, I will go ahead and use all 40 sacks and put votive candles in glass holders inside them.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Spade Foot Toads - Wee!

We have tiny toads in our backyard. A Google search came up with this picture from Yahoo showing this tree frog sitting on the finger of a German zookeeper:

This site says
Tree frogs are very interesting creatures that can be found throughout the world. The most distinguishing characteristic of this frog is the tiny suction cups on the tip of each toe. In the family of tree frogs there are hundreds of species with over thirty genera. While most prefer to make their homes in trees there are two known species, chorus frogs and cricket frogs, that have evolved to a ground living life-style. These somewhat small frogs tend to have a rather contorted appearance that is caused by the fusion of the skin on the head to their skulls.

One of the amazing facts about the tree frog is the wide variety of habitats they are often found in. These small creatures are known to be very developed in the manner used to raise their young with some even building nests and other species carrying the young with them on their backs.

Here are two pictures snapped yesterday of a little frog from our garden:

It might not be a tree frog, but it surely was cute!

From KCTV 5 News in Florida:

-- There has been a whole lot of hopping going on in a Jacksonville, Fla., subdivision -- it was recently invaded by throngs of tiny toads. While one toad is kind of cute, when thousands started hoping around in the Hampton Glenn subdivision, residents told WJCT News 4 that they began to wonder what's going on. "There was probably -- at least -- 100-plus covering my driveway," said one resident. "Probably hundreds in one square yard," said another.Some neighbors said it seems like the toad population tripled overnight. "(They're) just covering my driveway, my garage, my front door. I couldn't get into my house without them getting in," said one neighbor.

University of North Florida biology professor Dr. Joe Butler said what residents are likely seeing are spade foot toads. He said the adults live underground, and the amphibians came out to lay their eggs in the puddles and standing water left behind after Tropical Storm Fay. The eggs have since hatched, and apparent increased toad population is the result. "The strategy being to avoid having to lay their eggs in areas where fish are going to eat them," Butler said. He said if the toads survive the birds and other small animals that will try to eat them, they will grow to be full size toads. "People should very happy to have them," said Butler. "It's great for the mosquito control -- the more the better ."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Oxi Clean: Go Green and Make it Yourself

Searching for an alternative to remove stains (aside from commercial products), I looked into the ingredients contained in Oxyclean, one of man's best friends for removing stains stains. According to Household Products formulation, OxiClean consists of hydrogen peroxide and citric acid. It is a product readily available, and on on-line search found it on sale at WalMart for $4.39 for the regular size spray bottle.

At Health To Home, you can make it yourself by using the following recipe to make a pet stain remover that works wonders:

1 bottle of hydrogen peroxide
2 tbsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. laundry soap

Mix all the ingredients together in a spray bottle and shake. Spray stain (even old ones!) and let sit for a few minutes. Use a shop vac, or a towel to sop it up. The hydrogen peroxide bubbles and brings the stain to the surface. When dry, vacuum thoroughly.

You could even add a bit of white vinegar to help battle the smell.

Price to Go Green and Make it Yourself: about 50 cents, according to this price breakdown:

Bottle of hydrogen peroxide: under $1 for a LARGE bottle which will make two full spray bottles of the purchased cleaner
Baking soda and laundry soap $.10 (approximation)
Recycled spray bottle: no cost because one is probably in your trash recycling

And I did make up this formula, and it did work.

So why do we spend 10 times the amount for the brand name? Because they do a heck of a marketing job to us through the media!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Does This Surprise Me?

You Belong in 1957

You're fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!

Free Backgrounds for Blogs: "Cutest Blog on the Block"

Wow! I got a facelift for my blog and it was FREE, PAINLESS, and actually quite a fun experience.

This site, called The Cutest Blog On The Block, has so much variety and choices that it will be hard to keep one blog style for long.

If you visit this site and decide to use one of the backgrounds, be sure and change your template to "Minima" so that your posts will go in the center of the formatting. Otherwise, the words shift to the far right and are difficult to read.

Kudos to this site for my new facelift!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How To Grow Garlic: Sow in Fall for Next Summer's Harvest

This household LOVES garlic. We cook with it daily. And we are always buying garlic from the supermarket. So why not grow this herb ourselves so we will have it fresh and available in the garden next season?

I figured it could not be too difficult to grow, but was surprised to learn that if I simply put garlic cloves into an area of the garden which receives good sun exposure, it could be planted in September or October.

Most people have never tasted freshly dug garlic -- the difference is as dramatic as a freshly picked vine-ripened tomato compared to a tasteless commercial tomato. The papery garlic in the supermarket was harvested last July and kept in storage. Fresh garlic is juicy, not dry. Use fresh garlic the same as you normally do: eat it raw, cooked, roasted, minced, or whole-- fresh garlic is delicious any way it is prepared. But do know that yes, a little fresh garlic goes a long way.
The fall is the right time to plan garlic, says this article:

Garlic is a member of the allium family which also includes leeks, shallots and onions. Individual cloves act as seeds. The bulbs grow underground and the leaves shoot in to the air. Although garlic is traditionally thought of as a Mediterranean ingredient garlic is also grown successfully in colder more Northern climates.

At home says:

To grow your own garlic, plant cloves in the fall. Cut off the scapes when they appear in the spring. A month or more later, pull a test garlic out of the dirt to see if it's ready for harvest. If it is, carefully dig up the heads. Wipe clean the heads with a paper towel (a very thin papery layer will come off), cut off the roots, store in a dry dark spot. Cook/eat as normal but use less until you understand its potency.

Here is my little corner of the world planted with garlic cloves.

We'll see what happens next July!