Summer’s Tail – Kicking and Screaming

It’s still hot like summer, but in many places kids have already gone back to school. Some as early as August 1. Summer is over for them. It’s the tail end for us, and I want to grab on to these last few weeks kicking and screaming as I lick the last bit of salt off my fingers before summer goes away again. My daughter can’t wait for school to start back up. She’s excited to experience her new classes and see more of her friends. I still have unfinished plans and goals and more tomatoes to grow!

We did some fun things this summer. We took a trip to Pittsburgh where I participated in Pinburgh, a pinball tournament. Pinburgh has been around a few years, but this year it was held at a huge new classic video game festival called Replay FX. I brought my daughter because, hello, video games and pinball! And they had other kids’ activities like a velcro wall, giant inflatable obstacle course, and slides. For a video game festival my daughter actually got a lot of exercise!

While Pittsburgh may not bring to mind the typical image of summer vacation paradise, there was much fun and our hotel room had extra niceties that kept us saying, “wow, cool!” This made for a fairly complete vacationy experience.

Our room had a motion sensor foot light (like a night light at the floor that turned on when we stepped out of bed), pull-down individual book lights on each headboard, and in the evening, when we returned exhausted from a full day of game play and activities, the hotel supplied milk and cookies (free of charge for kids 12 and under). It was great!

We had another very mini vacation this past Friday night when we slept over at the National Museum of American History as a Smithsonian Sleepover. Last summer we did this at the Natural History Museum and loved it. There are scads of activities and crafts centered around various exhibitions in the museum. Then folks get to roll out their sleeping bags and camp out under a whale or antique machinery as museum lights are dimmed. Continental breakfast is served in the morning. And it is all so way cool!

Next year my daughter will be too old to do either of these sleepovers (there’s an age limit), and we’re super glad to have done them. I’ve always loved the Natural History Museum with animals and minerals, but I forgot how much fun the American History Museum can be. I feel like we made the kind of memories that can last a lifetime, and I think (I hope) my daughter feels that way too.

Earlier this summer my daughter had camp, so most weeks I had to drop her off in the morning and then run out on my lunch hour to pick her up and drop her off either at home or somewhere else like another camp (from which I’d have to pick her up again later). Most of the camps have been wonderful! She’s learned more music and dance and even cooking.

For me, one or two days of driving at lunchtime isn’t a problem, but week after week gets tiring. Exhausting even. I need some down time, or I start to shut down. On top of it, I fell and injured my knee last March (for crying out loud) and it has been slowly healing. At the beginning of summer it was much better but still painful on a regular basis. Pain is exhausting. (I have much more empathy for folks who live with chronic pain.) I’ve been trying to fit physical therapy exercises into my daily schedule to help my knee heal. Here at the end of summer I finally feel like I can squat to take care of our balcony plants without groaning in pain at the same time.  Long and short of it, instead of writing and blogging more this summer I remained rather unproductive.

These last few morsels of summer I have no plans of driving anywhere at lunchtime — at least nothing major. I may still run occasional shopping errands or drop my daughter off at a friends house and such. But mainly I plan to eat lunch.  I plan to write.

I’ve set goals for myself.  I want more summer fun. Maybe a quick trip to the beach! Maybe tubing. Definitely more swimming. I want more tomatoes to grow! More peppers! I want to write regularly and am setting daily and weekly goals. Really, I want more summer!

I swore I wouldn’t: A Balcony Garden Journey Part 2

I absolutely did not go to Home Depot with the idea of purchasing plants or seeds and most definitely not tomato plants.

I went there to have a key made and to purchase a spray bottle so I could mix up some homemade cleaning spray. My old bottle stopped spraying.

The smell of the store was distinctly Home Depot — earth, chemicals, metal, and concrete. People milled in and out of the garden area, and, as it was almost spring, I could see greenery with each flash of the sliding door.

I had to go take a peek. It was the promise of sunshine and green life pushing through dark soil.

I resisted the urge to purchase plants right there and then. I wanted to think about what we might grow and use and liked the idea of sharing the experience with my daughter. She’s much older now than the last time I grew plants on our balcony.

I knew I would have to be very strict about how much we tried to grow. Several years ago I grew too much which made for a lot of work. There were some plants I hardly even used. Pineapple sage, for example, was beautiful and smelled great fresh. But it didn’t dry well or hold it’s flavor in cooking.  It really became more of a decorative plant. I don’t mind some strictly decorative plants, but I really like plants that look nice and offer something we can eat. It makes for space well-used.

A couple of hot peppers and strawberry plants in hanging baskets seemed to be about right in my mind. Maybe a couple of herbs too.

Years ago the squirrels didn’t seem to be able to raid the strawberry plants when I had them in hanging baskets. The hot pepper plants they left alone after the first few bites. This seemed manageable. Fun. Pretty. Hopefully giving us a few things to eat for the trouble.

When I brought my daughter near the gardening section, it was the seeds that caught her eye. Well, dang, I hadn’t planned on trying to grow anything from seed. In fact, I already had a few packets of 5-or-more-year-old seeds collecting dust in a cabinet somewhere. I let her pick out two of something new.

She settled on cucumbers and a variety of marigold called Cottage Red.

I guided her to a variety of cucumber called Picklebush since they seemed like they would stay pretty small and produce cucumbers that look like deli pickles. Cottage Red marigold were not edible flowers like some (Lemon and Tangerine Marigold are edible), but they looked pretty on the packet and marigolds are usually good at keeping away garden pests. So there’s a usefulness there.

As far as plants, I quickly picked up a Tabasco Pepper plant and some jalapeño peppers (one mild variety and one standard). My daughter doesn’t like anything too spicy. I looked for a parsley plant but found none at the time, so I grabbed a packet of flat-leaf parsley seeds and a packet of Siam Queen Basil seeds. Plus we selected two strawberry plants — the only everbearing ones that looked good at the time — Ozark Beauty.

My daughter pleaded with me to get tomato plants, but after my somewhat bitter memories of squirrels that consumed every single tomato my plant grew the last time I tried. I told her, “no.” I said it several times. And we left with no tomatoes.

I didn’t know I would be back to Home Depot so soon. There were not only more strawberries in our future, but possibly tomatoes too.

(Part 2 of a series. Visit again later for more.)

Stain Remover Bottle Spray

I found something this past year that has been majorly helpful not just on laundry but also on carpeting for stains and especially those times our cats have “situations.” Our cats are getting old, and they have some issues.

Drum roll please …

Put hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle. Yep, H2O2. In a spray bottle. That’s it.

H2O2 in a bottle has been super helpful for cleaning cat vomit (and other things) from the carpet. These steps work with many stains: First take up the “mess” as best you can. Then spray the entire area with H2O2. Let sit for a few minutes. Then blot. Repeat as necessary.

The simple transfer of liquid to a spray bottle (or switch to a spray top on the bottle of peroxide if you can find one that fits) has proven extremely helpful and effective. It’s sooo much handier than trying to pour peroxide from the bottle or spot-treat with powdered color-safe oxygen bleach. Household hydrogen peroxide is quite safe and fairly non-toxic. (Still keep out of reach of children. Don’t drink it, etc. Because yeah.) And it doesn’t leave a sticky residue behind.

Bonus! It’s super economical. Hydrogen peroxide from your local pharmacy usually runs under two dollars for a big a bottle — sometimes under a $1.

If you want extra souped-up powerful (POWER, POWER, POWER) hydrogen peroxide then go to your local Sally Beauty supply, or similar, and buy the kind of peroxide used to bleach hair or mix hair coloring. Don’t buy hair dye, just the hydrogen peroxide activator that’s used with it. This is also fairly inexpensive. Try to find one with few ingredients — some are just a higher concentration of H2O2, some hydrogen peroxide with citric acid to help it work better on hair, and some have all kinds of stuff like conditioners and what not. For stain removal you don’t want conditioners added. Also, if using it in a spray bottle you’ll probably want a version that’s liquid rather than cream (it comes both ways). Cream will work in the spray bottle if it’s not too thick though. Put liquid in a spray bottle and voila!

You may want to do a test spot to make sure the stained item won’t fade or discolor from the peroxide. This is especially true if you’re using the stronger made-to-bleach-hair variety of peroxide. Don’t leave that on for too long. For household peroxide, most fabrics will be okay, but usually avoid using it on silk.

For best results use a spray bottle that blocks out light or store in dark place. You don’t want to activate the peroxide before you’re ready to use it. It needs to be able to foam up on the stain. Don’t add any soap to it — some added ingredients will activate the peroxide in the bottle and, again, you want it to do it’s thing ON THE STAIN.

Peroxide is great at getting rid of organic-based stains — blood, vomit, and less gross stains like wine, tomato, grape juice, etc.

For stains that have both oil and an organic stain, I first rub with bar soap, or use a dollop of liquid soap, and then top it off with some squirts of peroxide. Rub it in.

The peroxide foams up, breaking down, and releasing oxygen which cleans, disinfects, and deodorizes. What’s not to like?

Repeat as necessary.

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