Monday, March 30, 2015

Garden Prep: Early Planting Projects

It's been warm and sunny here and we are itching to plant our garden, but alas we need to wait about six more weeks. In the mean time we are doing our garden prep. Phase One looks like this for us this year:

Seed Starting
We started some things indoors, using the mini greenhouse box method we used--and loved-- last year (see how here). This year we started tomatoes and peppers the last week of Feb., so it's been about a month.  The third week of March I started some 4 packs of marigolds and zinnias. Marigolds are know to deter bugs, so I interplant them in all the gardens, and zinnias add some color and attract bees. Our tomatoes are about 6" tall and looking good! We have planted poblano pepper seeds twice, with no luck. I think we just had old seeds. : ( It looks like we'll be buying some poblano plants come May. 

Rooting Plants
This year we are trying to root some plants. We love basil and grow a lot of it, so this year instead of planting all our basil from seed, we bought one basil plant and are rooting small cuttings of it to start lots of little plants. You can buy a basil plant anywhere, we got this one at Trader Joe's. : )

We cut lots of 3-4" pieces. Cut it right above a set of new leaf buds. This way the plant will just grow new branches from those leaves. We pinched off the largest leaves, leaving only a couple medium leaves per cutting. They seem kind of scraggly, but those little leaves will soon be big and healthy.

We put the cuttings in a jar of water for about two weeks, and just make sure the stems stay submerged. 

After a couple of weeks each stem will grow little roots out the bottom.

Once there's a good amount of roots, we transplanted each stem into a small pot of dirt. Now they are continuing to grow and they will be nice sized plants when we transplant them right into the garden in May. We will be able to harvest leaves off of any of them almost right away. Be sure to pinch off any buds at the top before they flower to keep your plants producing leaves. I'm really excited to see how big our plants get through the season, with this great head start. This method is really cost effective as well, because we now have ten healthy plants for the price of one.

We are experimenting with a few other rooting veggies as well. The green below is celery, you just cut off the bottom two inches of a bunch of celery, and instead of throwing it away you put it in a bowl of water. Within just a few days it started to grow little green stalks right out of the middle. The rest of the bin is white and orange sweet potatoes (yams). The jury is still out on this one. I had read about how to start sweet potato slips (on this website), but so far--a month later--they look almost exactly like the day I put them in, except the water keeps getting weird so I've been changing that out. One potato has a few tiny buds, so I'm holding out a little hope, but this might be a pinterest fail. I'll let you know if we have any success. 

Plant Cold Hardy Stuff
We have planted lettuce, chard, peas and beets outside already. It's supposed to snow on Friday, so we will cover these with some plastic sheeting just to be safe, but overall these are fairly cold hardy and seem to tolerate temperature swings well. It's a little bit of a gamble, but these usually work out.

We've finally learned from experience that some things just can't be started early. Squash, cucumbers, green beans, carrots, cilantro, and giant sunflowers will all go right into the ground as soon as it's officially safe (mid May). That's when we will transplant the tomatoes and peppers as well. 

That's what we're working on in the garden. Any one else getting excited to grow? Any potato tips for me?

Enjoy the sunshine!

Friday, March 20, 2015

World Water Day 2015

Hi there! Happy first day of spring!  While spring holds the promise of new life, the earth turning green again, and start of gardening (yay!), there's another definition of spring that the world will be thinking about this weekend as well: 

an issue of water from the earth, taking the form, on the surface, of a 
small stream or standing as apool or small lake.

: a source of supply; especially  :  a source of water issuing from the ground
Sunday, March 22 is World Water Day. The international community started celebrating this day to draw attention to the fact that 783 million people don't have access to clean water, and more importantly, WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Friends, would you take just a few minutes today to look at this need with me? Let's see what we can do together to 
decrease illness (through proper filtration), 
increase productivity (by greatly decreasing the amount of time spent retrieving water), 
keep kids in school (instead of traveling all day to get water), and
put an end to the 6,000 deaths per day caused by dirty water.

Check out this short little video, to see one of the amazing projects Samaritan's Purse is working on in South Sudan to help solve these problems:

"More people die because of lack of access to clean, safe drinking water than die from AIDS, measles, and malaria combined."

I love this story of one community in Kenya that was transformed by a new (solar!) water pump and filtration system put in place by Samaritan's Purse. Here's a little excerpt: 
"Five hundred families—an estimated 4,000 people—benefit, and the effects on the community have been transformative. Nearly every aspect of society has been positively affected, starting with the economy. Everyone can be more productive thanks to the hours regained not having to go in search of water." 

For some families, access to water is not the issue, it's filtering it so that it's safe to drink. A household water filtration system will give an entire family clean drinking water for decades. Listen to this you guys: for $100 we can provide a lifetime of clean water for a family. When I think about spending $100 on anything, I can say with some certainty there is almost nothing I can buy that will be as vital or valuable in 20 or 30 years as it is the day I bought it. This is investment with endless returns. Click here to donate a household water filtration system.

Samaritan's Purse has a goal of raising enough this weekend to help 5,000 families secure access to clean sustainable water. We are jumping in! Can you help?

Go here to donate and be part of this vital solution!

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Book Review: If You Find This Letter

When I heard about a story of a girl who left love letters for strangers, I was instantly intrigued. Hannah Brencher's new book, If You Find This Letter is the story of a fresh college grad trying to find her place and her purpose in this life.  

Hannah is open and brutally honest about herself and the struggles she faces. Throughout the book she learns to see her actions and feelings in a new light. When she starts her year of volunteer work she is naive, ambitious, lonely and self-pitying.  As she moves through the difficulty of what it means to grow up and to know who you are, she starts to discover that sometimes it's little actions that make the bigger impact, and that loneliness may be the tie that binds us all. She is surprised to discover that people all over her city, and the world are aching for the same things she is: Love--Worth--Purpose. I love that she serendipitously learns as much from her volunteer time at a preschool (which she never even planned to do) as she does working at the UN building. Life is so like that. The lessons are never in the place we expect to learn them. 

This was such an interesting book. Some details were a little dramatic for my taste (but it's not her fault I loathe drama). In spite of that, I found myself anxious to read on and see how her story turned out. I think this would be a great book club book, because there's so much I want to hash out about all of it. Loving on strangers by leaving letters (random acts of kindness!), wanting what I do to matter--figuring out what it is that really matters, and finding God in all of it.  Throughout the story Hannah's torn between wanting God so badly, and making Him fit the role in her life she's prepared to offer Him.  It's a struggle we all face: How do we be love in this world until we know, truly know, the depths of God's love for us? 

This book is a great reminder to look up from our glowing screens, to make eye-contact, and see people. To see their pain, and to be love. I think a letter could just be the beginning for many of us...

If You Find This Letter comes out tomorrow, March 11, 2015. Find it here!

Happy Reading!


**Just so you know: I received a free copy of If You Find This Letter from Howard books for my honest review. The opinions here are my own, because it's my blog.**

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Drop Box

Every life matters. Every single life. If you believe this you will not want to miss the movie The Drop Box. My husband and I saw it this week, and it is so good, and so powerful. This documentary is worth dropping whatever you are doing tonight--because Thursday March 5,  is the final night it will be in theaters.

Click below to find a theater near you and buy tickets for tonight.

If you're reading this and it's already past 3/5/15, check out The Drop Box website to learn more about how this amazing family, and other organizations, are working with orphans and bringing orphans and families together through adoption. Pastor Lee's story is proof that nothing is wasted, and the love they show will remind you that every life is precious.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wild Kratts: DIY Field Case

Thing One is a big Wild Kratts fan.  For his birthday he got a couple of toy sets that came with animal action figures, the brothers, and creature power discs. I love that these sets are small and don't take up much space, but since they are so small they are easily lost! So, when we were taking apart the box the toys came in, I had an idea: we could use the box to make a Wild Kratts suit case to keep everyone safe.  It seems like lots of toys are packaged this way, so I'm sharing our toy-packaging-turned-suit-case so that maybe you too will be able to wrangle small toys by simply repurposing the box they came in. 

On the right is the original box (we had two of these sets), inside was the clear plastic tray in front, which was lined with the blue cardboard on the case. So we had two plastic trays and two pieces of blue cardboard that fit exactly over them. To make the case you just need one of the plastic trays and both pieces of blue cardboard. Flip one plastic tray over and fold one cardboard over it hot gluing it to all the edges. This makes the bottom of the case.

To make the handle, I used an Exacto knife to slice two slits into the plastic. I slid some ribbon through and hot glued the ends to the inside. 

Then we just glued the bottom of the other piece of cardboard into the inside of the box to be the top that will open. I had to trim a little cardboard off of the top of each side flap so that it closes easily. 

Then you can tuck the side flaps in and fold the top piece over the bottom. To keep the case closed we hot glued small velcro tabs to the top.

On the inside of the case I hot glued a plastic pencil bag that I had saved from an old planner. You can cut these to any size, just make sure to make a hot glue "stopper"at the end so the zipper doesn't zip right off. Then I hot glued around three sides and covered up my messy glue with wash tape. You could probably make this out of even a zip-top sandwich bag, or a cheap pencil case. This pouch is perfect for the small creature power discs. We also cut out a few Wild Kratts logos and such from the toy package and glued them in there.

I made Thing One and Thing Two their own creature power suits about a year ago (you can buy them also of course, here) and Thing One has been making his own power discs ever since. I cut out a bunch of white circles that fit in his suit so he can make a disc whenever he wants (and it's not an emergency for me to cut one out during the first two minutes of the show). Sometimes he wants me to draw the animal. I will not claim which of these are mine, except to say that his artwork is far better than mine. He knows it now too. He doesn't even ask anymore. : )

We also cut out some power discs from a cereal box once (below right). The new field case will be great for storing the many homemade power discs as well. 

It's fun to have a few "real" Wild Kratts toys, but I also love that he can be imaginative and make up his own stuff to go with the show. Wild Kratt lovers can also print out some things for free at the PBS website (printable are available at the parents site, here). We printed this  adventure passport and these bookmarks, which would be great for a Wild Kratts party.

I both teach and volunteer in our public schools, and when I hear about some of the stuff the young(!) kids are watching, it makes me so thankful for PBS kids. This is the only station we let our kids watch, and I'm really thankful for the educational and age appropriate programing they provide.

To find free PBS kids activities visit the kids site for online games, etc., here
and visit the PBS kids for parents site here, for printable and hands on activities you can do with your kids. Just click on the show you want for more activities to go with that show.

WHAT IF! watching TV could be a great connecting point because we did it with our kids and talked about what they are watching and then took it further into real life activities, problem solving, and research? I think it can be.

Here's to imagination, favorite shows and repurposing! Let me know if you are able to reusing packing creatively like this, I'd love to see what you made!

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