Thursday, August 12, 2010

Buzzin' About Bees

This past Saturday the boys and I went to a local nature center that we belong to for a special program all about honeybees. We were able to take a little hike in the prairie and one of the bee-keepers came out to show us a frame from one of the hives. It was covered with bees! I have long wanted to convince DH to let us get a hive for our property so we could harvest the honey. So far he has not given me the thumbs up. One cool thing is that the nature center has started a bee conservation program where people can call them up if they have honeybees in their wall or in a tree on their property and the bee conservation guy (like the guy fact it probably IS the guy below!) will come and rescue the bees. Then they are taken back to the hives at the nature center and (hopefully) they will start up a new hive. Isn't that cool? We learned a lot about honeybees and how important they are and how their numbers are declining. I do think our family is pretty busy this fall, but maybe I can learn more over the winter and talk DH into adding bees to the "farmstead" next summer. After all, they can't be more work than chickens and we added chickens last year.

Here's a close-up of the honey frame. The bees had been "smoked" before he took the frame out so they were calm and not being aggressive.

Here are some pretty black-eyed Susan flowers that were in the prairie.

If any of you reading this raise honeybees, I would LOVE to hear from you about your experience so leave me a comment, 'kay?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meet my new BFF........

.........the Eureka Enviro Steamer. I am officially in LOVE.

Let me tell you how this relationship began. A few weeks ago I was running on the treadmill and watching an infomercial (I know........) about the Shark Vac & Steam (or Steam & Vac). I was instantly intrigued by the idea of cleaning my hard-surface floors using only water and not chemicals. I have wood laminate floors over the majority of our main living space and vinyl tile in a large area downstairs. I had previously cleaned my hard surfaces using a Swiffer with an old washcloth and spraying all-purpose cleaner on the floor. While that system was working okay I never felt the floors were truly clean. So......after my little informercial incident I did a little steam experiment. I boiled some water in a glass measuring cup in my microwave. Then I poured it into a plastic spray bottle and squirted it onto my floor and wiped it up with my Swiffer and washcloth. It worked brilliantly.........even my youngest son commented that the floor felt very smooth under his cute little bare feet. There was a problem, however. I did not anticipate how beastly HOT a plastic spray bottle is with boiling water in it. I had to hold it with a hot pad to be able to squirt it and it eventually caused the spray bottle (which obviously was not designed to spray BOILING WATER) to malfunction. Still, this little experiment convinced me to take the plunge and buy a steam mop. I did quite a bit of research on Amazon before deciding on the Eureka Enviro Steam. I just got it today and immediately ripped the box open and cleaned my whole upstairs and, later, the downstairs. This baby even gets the gunk up. If you come to a sticky spot you just hold the mop over that spot less than 8 and no more than 15 seconds.....and the gunk pretty much comes right up. I can't say enough for this product. It is probably one of the best investments I've made in cleaning supplies. And now I don't have to buy floor cleaner anymore which will also save a ton of money.

Do you see how the camera flash reflected on the GLEAMING tile in the photo below?

Oh, I love you, Eureka Enviro Steamer!

This is what the pad looked like after cleaning the vinyl tile in my basement. Yuck! These can be tossed in the wash but have to be air-dried so they don't shrink. I would love to hear from you if you have had good luck with a steam mop.

Monday, August 2, 2010

County Fair 2010

This year the boys made some projects to take to our county fair. The fair, like most fairs, is a 4-H fair but also has an Open Class division where anyone can enter exhibits. I was a 4-Her from 8th grade through 12th grade and I can honestly say that of all the things I participated in as a young person, 4-H was the most life-changing and positive. I cannot say enough about how awesome 4-H is. And it's not just for kids on farms or kids who have livestock. There is SO much more. Anyway..........I definitely hope my two boys want to be involved in 4-H. You can't join until 4th grade and my oldest son is just starting third this fall. I wanted the boys to get a feel for what the fair is all about and entering projects in Open Class was a great introduction.

Both boys worked on an embroidery project which I turned into pillows. My youngest son embroidered a football on a square of burlap. I just drew a football shape with a pencil and he followed the line, going up and down with his needle and thread. He just turned 5 a few months ago and I didn't think he would be ready yet for a traditional backstitch. Below you can see two photos of his pillow.

Up close............he did a really good job considering I didn't help him at all and it was his first sewing project ever.

My older son embroidered a monkey. I showed him an Ed Emberly drawing book and had him choose an animal to draw on paper. I then transferred his drawing onto a piece of burlap and taught him to embroider on the lines. I helped a little bit on the corners and tight curves, but he did most of it independently. His pillow received a Purple Ribbon in its class which was a fun surprise.

He also did an art project...........a crayon drawing of a hen and chicks. I got the idea for this project from a blog I have grown to LOVE so much...........Art Projects for Kids. Be sure to go check out this blog. It is written by an art teacher and has great projects that you could do with your children at home. I am thinking about choosing a few projects to do with the boys for them to give as Christmas gifts. Truly great stuff over there.

In addition to these projects the boys entered their fireworks t-shirts that we made for Fourth of July. They also each entered a plate of 10 green beans from our garden and a marigold flower from our gardens. AND..........they each entered a dozen eggs from our ribbon eggs I might add. :0) They were so excited to see their ribbons and to bring them home on the last day of the fair. Each ribbon also has a premium associated with it so they each got a check to cash as well. We will definitely be doing this again next year. If you think your child would love doing this, consider saving some of their art projects from school this year and contact your local county extension office to find out about the Open Class division in your county. In our fair the Open Class division has classes for collections and even Lego constructions, something that my little guy was TOTALLY into looking at this year. He is already talking about what lego sculpture he wants to take next year. All good country fun!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fourth of July fun

To make up for the absence of any fun mommy-inspired creativity in June I tried to make up for it by pulling together a few projects for the Fourth of July. We invited a few friends over on Friday, July 2nd for a little swimming party. Before the kids swam they made firecracker crowns. I forgot to take a finished photo but below you can see how they are made. The directions and idea were from Family Fun. CLICK HERE. Basically you just need tape, straws and pipe-cleaners. They turned out so cute!

I also got creative in the kitchen and made red, white and blue cupcakes. I found the flag picks at my fave thrift store, of course! To do the cupcakes you just divide your white cake batter into 3 bowls and color one bowl blue and one red. Then you glop the batter into the cupcake liners, color on top of color. Once they are baked they are red, white and blue inside. Totally easy and also fun to bite into! Again, I forgot to take a picture of one cut apart, but in the photo below you can see the layers of color pretty well. We also had strawberries dipped in white candy melts on the bottom with the ends dipped in blue sugar. You can just barely see them in the bottom right corner of the photo.

The most visually stunning part of our feast, however, was the layered Jell-O I made. These turned out SO awesome. I didn't know if I could actually make something that looks this fancy but it was very easy. It takes several hours since you have to let the layers set before adding the next layer. But if you have time and plan ahead it's very easy to do. CLICK HERE for the recipe I used.

Each year for the past few years I have helped the boys make special Fourth of July t-shirts. This year we made fireworks shirts. The idea and directions can be found on the Family Fun website. CLICK HERE. easy with a great result.

Our friend, Bob, visited us for the Fourth of July. DH grilled out burgers and brats and my parents came over. Grandma brought a pump-action rocket set which was a real hit with everyone. It was especially exciting when Bob launched a rocket across our lawn with a lit sparkler stuck into the end of it! We won't forget that anytime soon. Luckily we did not have reason to call the fire department. We also had our annual baseball game on the front lawn. It was a good way to spend a special day.