Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to...

...make mostly useful stuff from things you might normally throw out.

This week we are talking about fire starters. We enjoy pausing on our journey down the purple brick road to enjoy family camping trips and hunting seasons. One of the most important parts of camping is the camp fire, but sometimes its the most difficult part to get going. This is especially true when kindling is scarce or the wood is damp.

There are lots of different ways to make fire starters, and this one uses something that you normally throw in the trash:

That's right! It's your dryer lint!!! (And in our case a bit of dog hair. Sorry about that.) It's largely made up of cotton fibers. If you're a mom, it probably also includes shredded tissues, Legos, silly putty, paper clips, bugs and playground pea gravel. That's okay. Just do your best to pick the big stuff out.

Now, I should tell you that this project requires a stove, and involves the pouring of hot wax. Like, really hot, melted wax. In these situations, I find that a little common sense goes a long way, so please be very careful and keep kids at a safe distance for the more dangerous parts.

We used a cardboard egg carton, dryer lint and some candle wax. This wax was given to me (read: it was free), but you could also use the stuff that's left over from burnt up candles. Just scrape it out and save it.

I melted the wax in a soup can, using the redneck hoosier do-it-yourself double boiler method.

Meanwhile, the boys rolled pieces of lint into little balls. They placed these in each space of the egg carton.

I placed the linted egg carton onto a foil-covered cookie sheet, then poured the hot wax over the lint and into each little cup. (The wax is really hot, so the boys did not get to help with this step.)

I set them aside to let them cool for a good, long while.
All that's left to do is cut the sections apart and pack them away for our next several camping trips. If you are a super-prepared-for-anything type of person, you could also put a couple of these in a water tight bag with some matches in your 72 hour pack.

When it comes time to light the campfire, you just put one under your pile of kindling and light the cardboard. the lint acts like a wick and the wax gives you a flame that burns long enough to get a fire going.

Please always use caution around fires. You should only light a camp fire outdoors inside a cleared and ringed area with sand/water nearby. Never allow children to run or play around fires, and never, ever leave kids unattended around a fire. Especially if they are creative and adventurous boys with a unique curiosity and ability to challenge the laws of physics. 

Remember the old commercial: "Smokey the Bear says only YOU can prevent forest fires."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Visitor!

We have a visitor currently residing in our kitchen!

 Can you tell what it is?
It looks like a little stick or piece of wood. It used to be a greenish-brown caterpillar. And soon it will (hopefully) be a beautiful butterfly!

The boys named it Mrs. Magnificent. Although its been 10 days of waiting. and waiting. and waiting.

It's very hard to wait. I thought this type of caterpillar would pupate in a week, but now I'm thinking maybe its the variety that pupates for a month. So we could have more waiting in our near future. and waiting.
and waiting...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to...

...make useful items out of ordinary household byproducts.

I am all about saving money. I clip coupons; I shop sales; I insist that my family eat leftovers before they spoil; I enjoy garage sales and consignment shops; and I am all about reusing/re-purposing stuff. To me, one of the most important steps to saving money is to make use of what you already have, and to avoid waste whenever possible.

We here on the Purple Brick Road have been looking for new and interesting ways to reuse household byproducts that might normally be thrown out. Now, I'm not talking about going so far as to compost using human waste, or to stuff my sagging couch cushions with crinkly newspaper. But, I think I've got enough to make an interesting series, so this will be the first of several.

Today I'm talking air fresheners.

A couple of weeks ago, I cleaned out my spice cabinet. I ended up with a depressing amount of expired spices. And I don't mean "This expired last month," either. I'm talking about, "Ohmygosh, this container of cloves is older than my firstborn child!"

I absolutely hated the idea of just tossing all of those little plastic spice containers. So, I decided to re-purpose the them. (Confession time: I might have a totally freakish and very serious problem slight obsession with containers.) These are great little containers with different kinds of lids, perfect for bathtub and sandbox play, as well as sprinkling/containing glitter, small stickers, etc.

In order to make the emptying process faster, I got out my trusty trash bowl (read: a re-purposed margarine container) and started dumping. By the end of the project, I had lots of little containers for the boys... and a big bowl of yummy smelling spices that I couldn't cook with.

Coincidentally, I also recently cleaned out the boys' sock drawers, and I had a pile of mismatched and too-small socks.

So, I combined the two items and made sachets. I simply put a couple of large spoonfuls of the spices into each sock, then sewed the top closed just below the cuff. Then just to make them pretty, I tied the top of each with some ribbon remnants that I've been collecting pretty much forever.

I got a good number of sachets, and all it cost me was 45 minutes at my sewing machine.

These sachets were pretty potent, so I put one in each of my plastic shoe boxes, which I store in the garage, and which tend to acquire a certain aroma during summer months. I also dropped about four of them into Hubby's hockey bag, which wreaks so badly that it could probably be weaponized by the military and used as a weapon of mass destruction.

Not a bad use of items I almost threw in the trash. Stay tuned for some other money saving, re-purposing projects!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bye-Bye Tonsils!

Well, Riley is short two tonsils & some adenoids now. But he gained two tubes in his ears. His procedure was this morning at 10:00, and we are now hanging out in his room. His tonsils were HUGEMONGOUS and he has sleep apnea, so we'll be staying overnight.

So far, he is taking this like a champ! He's been munching all day and so far he's had two slushees, most of a PB&J, some trail mix, apple juice, a little macaroni & cheese, a couple of chocolate covered pretzels, and some of his dad's chips. He's now scarfing down some pudding and fruit (with a couple more chocolate pretzels). He has watched Batman Begins and an entire DVD of vintage Tom & Jerry cartoons, and he's now watching Scooby Doo. Oh, and he took a nice, long nap earlier.

He wants his IV out and wants to go home now; his throat is a little sore; and his voice sounds funny. But he's doing really well.

I have to say a HUGE thank you to all of our family and friends, both near and far. All day I've received phone calls, tweets and Facebook comments expressing support and love, and telling us that the people we love have been praying for us. Thank you all for your prayers.
We love you!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Things I Never Thought I'd Hear Myself Say

Have you ever heard yourself say something at the same time that everyone else in the room heard you say it? And have you ever been surprised to hear the words that came out of your mouth?

The most popular example I can think  of is that moment when you say something and then realize that you sound exactly like your mother/father/grandparent/caretaker. Sometimes that moment comes with an inner groan of, "Oh dear. I really have become my mother/father/grandparent/caretaker. I'm talking about that moment when you realize that you just gave the old, "I will turn this car around if you do not stop touching your brother," or "Because I said so," or, "Don't make me come up there!"

I do that often, as I'm sure anyone who is a parent, step-parent, foster-parent, guardian, etc. does.

And then sometimes there are those things I say that come flying in from left field. I have no idea where they come from, but they are often dictated by whatever is going on with the people around me (the usual suspects include my husband and kids, of course).

Over the last week, I've said some amazing things. Things I never thought I would say in a million years. Here are some of my most shining moments from the week:

  • "Dude. We do not put our penises on other people. It's rude." (This was followed by, "Yeah! And really weird," from my other son.)
  • "Please stop flogging my refrigerator with a rubber snake." 
  • "Did you seriously just bonk my kid in the head with a butter bottle?"
  • "Why did you pee in the middle of your bedroom floor? Batman does not pee in the middle of his bedroom floor."
  • "Please do not lick the caterpillar. No, he does not like to be licked. It makes him sad."
  • "Oh, it's okay, Sweet Pea. Everyone falls into the toilet every now and then."

Is it me, or is there a running theme of private parts and bathroom-related comments? Such has my life become... just a string of bathroom-related comments.