Monday, November 1, 2010

Clark visits, Oct/Nov 2010

Hi, everybody!

I'm Clark, the traveling kid from Mr. Burleigh's first grade class in Winter Park, Florida. I arrived at the Smith's house to visit Arkansas and the Ozark Mountains about a week ago.  Kim, the Smith mom, is letting me use her blog to share about what I'm seeing and learning.

I'll write about fall in the Ozarks soon, but first, I want to share about this weekend... we got to travel about 300 miles north to Kansas City, Missouri!  The Dove family let us play and stay in their house, and we also got to drive downtown to visit the historic part of Kansas City.  Pictures below!

On the day we drove downtown, we stopped at the Plaza area for lunch.  Here I am with some of the kids (we had seven kids on this trip, counting me!):

This is (L to R) Adrey, Gracie and me, Quinton (in the back) and Eshen.  They're great friends!

Here's three amazing old buildings I liked near the Plaza in Kansas City.  They remind me of castles!

Our favorite part of Kansas City was Union Station.  It used to be (and still is) one of the busiest train stations in the United States!  Not as many people travel by train these days, so they use the extra space for museums, theaters, special events, and restaurants. 

On the way inside, we spotted a giant dinosaur!  There were big dinosaurs in several places inside Union Station- they have a dinosaur exhibit there right now.  Some of them even moved and roared!  (I'm in the stroller in the first picture.  See how big that dinosaur was??)

This is me in the main lobby of the station, which has been restored to look just like it did when it was opened in 1915.  The ceiling in this room is 95 feet high-- about 9 stories! 

Inside the station is a special kids' science center called Science City.  We spent a LOT of time looking at the exhibits in there.  It was amazing!  Here I am checking out a real helicopter there:

And here's a magnetic sign in the classroom area where my friends helped me spell my name.  (There was no R, so we had to get creative with a P and an upside-down V.)

 I really liked Kansas City-- and especially Union Station and Science City.  We learned a lot and had fun, too!

More later... It's fall in the Ozarks, and there are beautiful trees everywhere!

I miss you all, but I'm having a great time traveling.



Saturday, July 3, 2010

Scratch, scrape, rash, chafing, infection.... take that!

My little boy (2 1/2 years old, without the slightest sign of interest in pottytraining) is the most rash-prone fella I've ever seen.  If he LOOKS at something irritating, he breaks out in a rash.  Diarrhea is the worst-- his skin instantly erupts into a pink mess that quickly becomes extremely painful, even BLOODY, if allowed to continue without immediate and effective treatment.

In my hunt for products to stop the diabolical diaper rash in its tracks, I came across this- BFI, an antiseptic powder that's been around since at least 1902.  It's not as effective as I'd hoped for the diaper rash-- possibly because pee comes along and washes it off too often for it to really work its wonders.  But take a look at its reviews on  or on  People would walk miles to find this stuff!  It's amazingly effective for:
  • minor cuts
  • scrapes
  • burns
  • chafing
  • dogs' ear infections, skin wounds, and "hot spots"
  • athlete's foot
  • skin infections
  • bites (insect and animal)
  • belly button fungus (I am not making that up)
...the list goes on and on, once you start reading the reviews.

A quick look at the ingredients gives me three quick clues to its effectiveness:  menthol (mint), eucalyptol (eucalyptus), and thymol (thyme) are among its "inactive" ingredients.  (Here's a great post by Ozark herbalist Jim Long on Listerine and its use of the same ingredients.)  Now I'm not sure if these are natural or synthetic forms of those chemicals being included today, but I am sure that they were originally included in the formula because of the healing and germ-fighting properties those herbs contain.  Once again, a simple product with simple ingredients can blow away the doctor-prescribed drugs and chemicals that cost ten times as much.

Lucky for me, I found it easily (and cheaper than I could buy it online) at our fabulous local downtown pharmacy.  This is something every mom and pet owner ought  to have on hand.

(Images of old BFI bottles located via Google hunting on Ebay and the Natural Museum of American History.  Fun to see those!)


Monday, May 10, 2010

Homemade laundry detergent is a breeze.

You, too, can wipe out 90% of your laundry detergent costs by making your own. It's not difficult and doesn't take long. I got the recipe from my cousin, and even my reluctant husband now admits that it works just as well as the storebought stuff; a quick Google search can teach you plenty about chemicals in commercial detergent that we'd be better off doing without.

Go shopping for:
Borax powder (usually near the laundry detergent; green "20 mule team" box is common)
Washing soda (usually near the laundry detergent too; "arm and hammer" brand is common)
Bar of soap (I use Kirk's Castille; my cousin uses Dove Sensitive Skin)
Essential oils to scent the detergent if you wish (I use lavender and orange together; yum)

Find a 2-gallon or larger container to hold your completed soap (I use a 5-gallon bucket and double the recipe).

Got five minutes? Then it's time to make it.
Put two pots on your stove. Put four cups of water in one pot, six cups of water in the other. Start them heating.

While they're heating, grate your bar of soap (using whatever you use to grate cheese). When it's grated, dump it into the six-cup pot and stir periodically until dissolved.

While that's dissolving, dump 1/2 cup each of washing soda and borax into the four cup pot and stir until it's dissolved, too. When both pots are dissolved, dump them into your big container and stir, then add one gallon plus six cups of tap water, the essential oils if desired, and stir again. All done!

Put the lid on the soap and leave it for 24 hours. It should set up into a funky gelatinous mass. (Don't be afraid of it!) Use 1/2 cup per load in a top loading machine; possibly half that in a frontloader. That's it!


Friday, May 7, 2010

Essential Oils and infections.

Here's yet another study that confirms the effectiveness of essential oils against bacteria and viruses... even ones that conventional medicine has a hard time fighting.

In this one, British researchers tested thyme oil's effectiveness against the deadly MRSA bacteria that's become so prevalent (and scary) in hospitals. (But you can read another one here. Or here. Or this well-referenced and thorough article here.

Just this week, we noticed that my four-year-old (who is apparently Mosquito Ambrosia) had received her first three bugbites of the season, up on her upper back. Unfortunately, by the time we noticed them, she had scratched them all raw and they were red with irritation and the beginnings of an infection. A day or two later, and the infection was spreading quickly away from the bites; we were out of town, and I was getting worried.

All I had with me oilwise was my little purse kit: lavender, tea tree, and a bit of an anti-infectious Four Robbers blend that is too strong to use directly on the skin. After some thought, I used a drop of lavender and a drop of tea tree oil, blended together on my palm, and applied to the bites and the red area around them with my fingertip.

We put her to bed in the hotel, and woke up the next morning with the redness and swelling significantly reduced. We're still treating it now that we're home; the infection's pulled itself into a boil, and the redness is all but gone, so I'm expecting to have this cleared up within a day or two. The only "medicine" I've used is the tea tree and lavender oils.

My sister's an RN and an oil skeptic (being thoroughly trained in conventional medicine makes one a bit suspicious toward natural cures, I think), and she was with us on the trip. I'm not going to rub it in, but I hope she noticed how quickly the oils handled our problem-- with no doctors' visits, no prescriptions, and no side effects.

I just LOVE my oils.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Planting Parties!

Two good local opportunities this week, both of which I hope to attend:

Over in Fayetteville at the public library, the king of Garden Efficiency, Mel Bartholemew, is speaking on Thursday, 4/27, at 6:30 pm.  The fact that he reinvented vegetable gardening (100% percent of the yield in 20% of the space, he says) is reason enough to go see him; but he's also done amazing things with his success, creating a foundation that helps impoverished people worldwide build "square foot" gardens to feed their families.  I am super excited to get a chance to hear him speak in person.

This weekend (Sunday and Monday), Baker Creek Seed's Spring Planting Festival propels sleepy Mansfield, MO into a hotbed of plantlovin' activity.  I've never been, but the combination of attendees (Amish.  Homeschoolers.  Hippies.  Gardeners.  Slow food types) is just too intruiging to pass up.  I'm bringing the family, staying the night in Mansfield, and touring Laura Ingalls Wilder's home as well.  CANNOT WAIT.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1-30: Noah the Musical, $10 each for local residents

This one's just for locals.  If you live near Branson, Missouri (including in Harrison), one of the benefits for the bargain-aware is that many of the shows offer "local appreciation" specials during the offseason.  This gives them a chance to build local goodwill and word-of-mouth and gives their performances an audience as they prepare their shows for the hordes of visitors that descend during traditional vacation seasons.

It gives my family a rare chance to see Branson entertainment, as we would never- and I mean never- pay what most vacationers do to see these shows. 

Anyway, it's local appreciation season for the Sight and Sound Theatre in Branson.  Noah the Musical can be seen for just $10 a ticket through April 30.

You'll need to bring a utility bill or something that will prove your resident status, but once you do you can purchase up to 15 (!) of the tickets.  Since seeing the show usually costs $47 per adult ticket, this is a significant savings and a chance to see what's supposed to be quite a spectacle of a show.

Questions or to make reservations?  Give them a call at (800) 377-1277.


Friday, March 26, 2010

One Pizza Sauce to rule them all.

The best I've ever had.  The original recipe came from a popular one on, but I tweaked it a bit, as is my wont.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp dried minced garlic (or 1 clove minced)
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion (or 1/2 c chopped)
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce (or 2 6 oz cans tomato paste + some water, or some combination thereof)
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
1.  If you have a fussy toddler like me, break up fennel seeds in a blender or mortar and pestle so that she can't pick them out and wrinkle her nose at them.
2.  Heat olive oil, onions, and garlic on low in a saucepan until they've rehydrated a bit.  (If using fresh, saute onions on medium heat until cooked, then add garlic for about 30 seconds.  Garlic burns easy.)
3.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low for up to an hour to help flavors blend, stirring periodicaly.  (If you're like me, heat through and immediately smear it on the pizza because you didn't think to make it ahead.  Works great that way too.)

It freezes well, so double or triple the recipe and freeze if you'd like.  I'm thinking about making up small jars of all the dried items (onions, garlic, cheese, herbs, spices, sugar, etc) so that I can just dump it into 16 oz of tomato sauce when I need a quick sauce-- or to give as gifts.

Seriously.  It is THAT good.  The only thing I can imagine improving it is the onset of fresh basil and oregano when the summer garden gets rolling.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fences. Gardens. (Bloody) Financial Food for Thought.

I need a fence.  I want to garden, but I need to contain my two children safely to be able to spend more than a few minutes at a time with them in the yard.  (Somehow, they just seem unwilling to stay quietly by my side while I schlep around with mulch and compost.)

My dog needs containment too.  She's been visiting the neighbors and coming back with mysterious bones and then barfing all over my carpet-- which makes me feel a little rabid.  (I know.  "Don't let your dog go make friends with the neighbors."  But if I don't let her out when she needs to go, she'll pee upstairs in secret.  And I can't see how I can leash and walk the dog on demand several times a day with a two- and four-year-old in the house with me.  Dogpee in the house, walking the lurchy antileash dog with two toddlers several times a day, dogvomit on the carpet, or a fence.  Which do you pick?)

But this isn't really about the fence idea.  (It's late.  I'm tired.  I'm sorry I can't stick to one topic.)

Tonight I've been hunting down pictures of fenced front yards (on older houses) tonight, which led to cottage gardens in the front yard, which led to potager gardens, which led to this amazing enormous public potager just an hour and a half from me (must visit!), which led to its newsletter, which led to this quote, which seems very much worth recording tonight:

"Money is like blood," says NEF researcher David Boyle. "Local purchases recirculate it, but patronize mega-chains or online retailers," he says, and "it flows out like a wound."
Ouch.  Wounding my community with each uber-convenient purchase.

It's something I want to keep in mind.  I'd heard of this concept before, of course, but something about the idea of the currency as lifeblood makes it a more potent image.

(Yes, I do get that distracted when I sit down to look something up on the internet, especially late  at night when the house is quiet.  I'm an ADD magpie of shiny pictures and information.)


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pondering kidbeds.

I have a recurring fascination with creating an unusual bedroom for my kids... something cozy and unique.  My own childhood was filled with requests for bunk beds, hammocks, and other bizarre beds; my parents never relented, and I spent my childhood sleeping on one very unremarkable twin bed (dressed in various comforters over the years).

I'm sure I'm living out my own childhood fantasies, but here's my latest find:

Suspended loft beds! 

Screwed into the wall studs on two sides, the mattress frame has just one unsupported corner that is held up by heavy-duty cable that extends into the attic to loop over pipe straddling two attic joists.  It's reportedly amazingly stable, and much cheaper to build than traditional loft or bunk beds because of the reduced amount of lumber used.

Someday, when they're a bit older, I want to do this for them.  Fantastic.

(Pictures all snagged from this discussion thread on


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Baaaaaaa. (mmm.)

This winter, my husband picked up a new client (he works with Medicare Advantage insurance) and learned that she raises sheep for a living.  Because we have an increasing interest in buying our produce and meat locally, and because he loves to do business with his clients wherever possible, he immediately placed an order for a lamb.

I've never really cooked lamb.  I'll admit to being a bit intimidated about taking on a whole carcass worth of unfamiliar meat.  But no more!  The wonders of the modern (online) recipe hunt have vaporized my trepidation.

Our Lamb Lady brought the sacrifice to death's door; once the deed was done and neatly packaged, I was dispatched to pick up the results.  (FYI- if you're looking for a slaughterhouse-- our lamb lady prefers this establishment because they don't kill the animals in front of one another.  This is much more humane, and also keeps their adrenaline levels down, which improves the meat flavor.)

Thus far, we've enjoyed three different dishes.

My foodie friend Faith's crockpot Lamb Ragu was our first adventure.  She's right-- the longer you can leave it in the crockpot, the more meltingly delicious it is.  (The browning phase made a massive mess on my stovetop, though.  I'll use a dutch oven instead of a frying pan next time to try to cut down on the splatter.)

Next, my husband prepared and grilled Alton Brown's amazing Silence of the Leg O' Lamb, which wowed our pastor and his wife (and us too).  YUM.

And finally, tonight I whipped up a quick stovetop version of this Rustic Lamb Stew from Recipezaar.  Again, very tasty, although I think the prescribed 8 hours in the slow cooker might have made it even better.

I'm still adjusting to the gamier taste of lamb, but it's not unpleasant-- just different.  The fun of hunting down these new recipes, though, has made our introduction to preparing lamb an adventure.

Hooray for new, healthier food habits!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Reaching my frozen fingers out toward spring...

Fuzzy's been quiet lately, hasn't she?  What's up?  It's 1 a.m. and my latenight Earl Grey's keeping me awake, so there's time to answer that question a bit.

Nothing specific is "up"-- just the holidays and then the post-holidays and then the January lungmuck that attacked us all, although only the two-year-old ended up with steroids and antibiotics to help him fight it off.  Stuff's a-brewing inside my head and home, though.

We're thinking of adding a storefront to my husband's business, which is exciting and terrifying and financially serious.  Painting and reception room furniture and decorating and GETTING ALL THE BUSINESS STUFF OUT OF MY HOUSE, oh my.

I've been mulling over the combination of my children's rooms into one (I'd like them to share a room together while they're little), and thinking of a loft bed and wondering whether someone will get damaged if we use one.  I'm also eyeing the sickly pale yellow living room that is destined to become burnt orange, and wondering if that shouldn't start happening soon, since the last time we painted a room was April 2009.  (This house is a black hole of painting tasks... )

I've been slowly, stealthily purchasing the oils and supplies I need to make cold-process soap.  (Did you know, if you buy things for a crazy homemade project slowly, one at a time, you don't really have to add up in your head how much it this little obsession is costing?  Great technique.)  I was going to have a go at that tonight, but now it's too late to start something that huge.  Also, maybe the Mediquick clinic should be open when I do it, just in case a burn a hole in myself with the lye somehow.  I'm a bit scared about that.  I've also been playing with making body butter with the shea butter (works great, smells a bit funky) and collecting a great many recipes for other things (lip balm, homemade deodorant, hot oil hair treatments, etc). 

Slowly and surely, I'm becoming one of those freaky people who reads labels and watches documentaries and freaks out about how the industrial revolution has turned on us and started to destroy us all while we're not looking.  Pass the local non-ammonia'd burgers and the non-GMO corn, please, and I'll pass you some homemade HFCS-free chocolate syrup.  (What a weirdo I'm becoming, almost against my will.)

I just potted and trimmed some lavender cuttings that have been growing leggy and waterlogged in a vase since last September; hopefully they'll become four new lavender bushes to join our two overenthusiastic rosemarys in the front walkway.  The hostas that have been reigning there look lovely in May and cruddy by July, so I'm thinking they need to be transplanted to some more out-of-the-way nook.  (Which means I'll dig them up, try to dig a hole or two somewhere in our rockfield of a yard, and then probably let most of die a terrible root-exposed death because I refuse to use a pickaxe to PLANT A STINKIN' HOSTA.)

Obviously, spring's on my mind tonight; the mums and hyacinths are trying to wake up already, which is stupid, but that's all it takes for me to get all seed-happy and start thinking about fresh lettuce and snap peas.  This year, by gum, I WILL plant my early garden early enough to enjoy its harvest.  Our little garden plot didn't flourish last year, but perhaps it just needs some mulch, a little more attention, and a summer with less rain and more heat.  There's always hope in spring garden thoughts... such a pleasant season for mediocre gardeners like myself.

Garden Resolutions of 2010, Completely Off the Top of my Head:
1)  Find a way to garden with the kids and no fence.  Or win the lottery and build a fence.
2)  Plant the early garden early this year, for pete's sake.  (See above.)
3)  Make the 2nd wire fencing circle to hold the fallen leaves.
4)  Find out how much it would cost to get some stone to build a raised bed on the sunny slope.
5)  Many, many snap peas.  Freeze some.
6)  Many, many tomatoes.  Can (?) or freeze some.
7)  Sunflowers along the bottom wall.
8)  Try a few strawberries in the stone circle bed and see if there's enough light for them there.
9)  Make use of the herbs you planted, stupid.  Mint tea, and lots of it.
10) Buy the Rocky Top salad mix from Baker Seeds, and also experience their Spring Planting Festival.

That's enough rambling tonight.  G'night, all!  May you be enjoying this delightful season of garden-dreaming, and may you and yours avoid all loft bed and lye accidents...


Friday, January 15, 2010

Anti-inflammatory Carvacrol in Essential Oils

This article at science daily reports that Japanese scientists have discovered that some essential oils have anti-inflammatory action similar to that of red wine.  There were several statements I found interesting...
One, this statement:  "Of course, the exact way they work is not completely understood."  So interesting that a scientific source like Science Daily would admit that! 
Two, that the research on this is coming from Japan, where I've read that aromatherapy (ie use of essential oils) is surging in popularity.
Three, that carvacrol is the anti-inflammatory component in these oils.  Carvacrol is present in other oils as well-- most notably and strongly in oregano, I think-- and is strongly anti-viral as well.  (This Italian study on oregano oil's effect on a form of staph virus give you an example of how powerful it is.  Sorry it's so hard to read!)
Hope you all are doing well... I'm assuming interest in continuing the blog is pretty low at this point, so I'm not posting much here.  Had a great time doing this while it lasted, everybody!

Posted via email from the Oil Crowd