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We had to make a trip to the vet this morning. Foster has an infected anal gland (yeah, I know, it’s gross). Poor thing. The vet gave him antibiotics and pain medicine. He’s been sleeping ever since.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the antibiotics do the trick. If not, he’ll need surgery. My poor baby.

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Well, the office didn’t exactly get finished, and the curtain rods didn’t leave their boxes, but we did manage to accomplish a few other things that have been on our “to do” lists for a while, and sometimes it’s better to do things when the mood strikes rather than force yourself to something else. So J and I spent a lot of our time outdoors, doing yard stuff and soaking up the sunshine.

I’d been feeling a little guilty about the level of hospitality we were offering to our woodland creatures, so we did a few things to remedy the situation. I bought hummingbird feeders to hang on our screened-in porch. I already had the hooks, and after a trip to the grocery store this evening (for sugar to make the nectar), they should be ready to be hung. We also got a squirrel feeder. We’ve been watching some adorable little squirrels since we moved in last fall, and since they bring so much joy to my days I figured it was about time I gave them something back. If I’m lucky I might even be able to get a picture of the allusive little creatures now that they have a reason to stay in one place for more than two seconds – they’re fast little things.

We also did some lawn mowing and weeding, but most importantly, J was finally able to fix our little pond. It’s been in pretty poor shape for the last few months. Foster managed to rip a whole in the side of the plastic lining over the winter (trying to retrieve an errant ball, I believe), so it’s been only half full since then, and keeping the fountain flowing has been a consistent struggle since last fall. And since we have a couple frogs who like to call the place home, J and I both felt the whole thing needed an overhaul. So we bought a few inexpensive supplies and got to work draining, cleaning, and patching (well, J did anyway, while I took on the responsibility of making sure no frogs were hurt in the process…which basically means stood over him and yelled “look out for the frog” while he did all the work). Finally, we replaced the disturbing “naked boy” fountain that was there originally with a cute little spitting frog. We’ve filled it just enough to make sure the patch worked (which appears to be the case), so the only thing left to do is to finish filling it to the top. Now our froggies will have a happy, clean, little home for the summer.

Last year’s frogs enjoying the pond.

Eventually we’ll need to replace the crumbling rock and cement surround, but hopefully that can wait till another year. We’ve certainly got our hands full for this summer. I’m also a little worried that the lack of water in the pond during the last big freeze might have killed the waterlily plant. We took it out while cleaning, but neither of us could tell if it was still alive or not, so we put it back in and decided to adopt a “wait and see” attitude. Hopefully it will make a come-back, because I’d hate to think that we managed, in one winter, to kill something that has obviously been there for many, many years (the root ball is the size of a watermelon!). I should really learn how to take better care of our plants.

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Back inside the house, all that creature business inspired me to make something that would bring some of my love for the wildlife in our yard into our living room. I recently saw these pillows in the latest PB Teen catalog (yes, I get PB Teen and PB Kids catalogs, and no, there are no teens or kids in our house, but I love some of the ideas they have, and who says they have to be just for kids and teens?):

I love the one with the squirrel, so in true Monkey See, Monkey Do fashion, I copied the idea. Here is my version (still a WIP):

I used linen instead of white cotton and this Amy Butler print instead of a solid. I still have to stitch around the silhouette, cover the cording with the coordinating print, and decide how I want the back…and of course sew the whole thing together. But I think it’s shaping up to be a cute addition to an otherwise overly formal living room. I keep you posted on how it turns out.

The color in our yard is amazing! Every day I wake up to find something new. Yesterday I realized that the huge bush growing next to the screened-in porch is a lilac, which I can’t wait to see in full bloom! Here are a few pictures of the latest additions.

And I finally bought curtain rods for the living room. I found some at Linens-N-Things that met all my minimum requirements, and since they were on sale I ended up spending less than half of what I originally thought the project was going to cost us. I love it when that happens!

If we can get the office finished, we might even be able to get these hung this weekend…but I’m not holding my breath. We all seem to be moving at a snail’s pace this morning. 🙂

Hope you all have a great weekend!

I had a great earth day post in my head for yesterday, but I was in a crazy horrible funk that I just couldn’t shake, and I couldn’t motivate myself to sit down and type. Does this ever happen to you? I don’t know what my deal was, but the whole day was pretty much a waste. I spent a little time doing some low-impact crafting, spent a lot of time playing with the pups (who, by the way, don’t get nearly enough face time here…that has to change), and a little time reading sad blog stories (yeah, I know that only feeds a funk, but by that time I had given up on trying to reverse the situation and had resolved to hurry along the cycle as much as possible…and I did feel a little better after a good blog-story-induced cry). So I’ve decided to go with the “every day is earth day” mentality and do a truncated version of yesterday’s planned post today. Here goes…

It seems like everywhere I turn there’s another “10 Ways to Be Green” list: on television commercials, websites, even junk mail. If you’re looking for the how of being green, you don’t have to look far to find an overwhelming number of suggestions. The key is to start small; don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by everything that you’re doing “wrong,” and focus on one or two things at a time that you know you can do “right.” The first green move we made (after recycling) was to stop buying/using chemical cleaners and throw-away paper products (like paper plates and paper towels). A little later on we started buying organic food and local produce and began composting. Gradually we kept adding things to our personal “ways to be green” list, and although there are still plenty of things we could be doing or doing better, I’m happy with how far we’ve come. So, rather than add to the list of things we should all be doing, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite green finds – things that have made my life easier, healthier, and more enjoyable.

1. Vinegar and Baking Soda

When I first made the decision to stop using cleaners that are harmful to us and our environment, there weren’t a lot (if any) environmentally friendly alternatives available at the local supermarket. Instead, I turned to the things I already had in my kitchen, and vinegar and baking soda are definitely the powerhouses of kitchen cleaners. Got a clogged drain? Use baking soda and vinegar to make it flow like new. Dirty windows and mirror? Nothing leaves a streak-free shine like diluted vinegar. Cooked-on, baked-on greasy mess? Baking soda and vinegar make the perfect no-scratch scrub for stoves, ovens, pots, and pans. I could go on and on, but the best part is the price – you can’t find a cleaner cheaper than these two kitchen staples. Which is why vinegar and baking soda top my list of green faves.

2. Murphy’s Oil Soap

Remember the commercials that showed the ladies cleaning church pews with this stuff? Well they obviously knew the incredible cleaning power of this vegetable oil soap long before I did. I use it for all the wood surfaces in my home, and it cleans them better than anything else I’ve tried (including Method‘s Wood for Good – sorry Method). I even used it on the laminate floors at our last house after realizing that other cleaners left a streaky, filmy mess – but not Murphy’s. It’s replaced the need for a Pledge-type dusting product too. I just dilute some Murphy’s, put it in a spray bottle, and watch out dust. (You can even buy an orange-scented version of Murphy’s in a spray bottle for this purpose, I believe, but it’s more expensive than the regular Murphy’s bottle.)

3. Method Flushable Bathroom Wipes

J and I have an agreement: he takes out the trash and I clean the toilets. Since finding these wipes, I have to admit that I have the easier end of the bargain. I use to feel like I was only spreading the nasty germs from one part of the toilet to the other with a rag, and I hated the idea of having a toilet-tainted rag lying around the house until laundry day, but as much as I was tempted, I couldn’t bring myself to use the wipes that were on the market (like Clorox brand). Then I found the Method version, and not only is the cleaner biodegradable and non-toxic, the wipes are as well; you just flush them down the toilet (septic friendly too). Yay for a cleaner toity!

4. Bi-O-Kleen Soy Toilet Scrub

Let’s not forget the inside of the toilet. Biokleen’s toilet scrub was one of the first green cleaning products I purchased, and I’ve used it ever since. I works amazingly well, and leaves the whole bathroom smelling minty-fresh.

5. Bi-O-Kleen Bac-Out

Another Biokleen product I couldn’t live without is their Bac-Out stain remover. Many a rug at our house has been saved from pet-stained doom by this product. Not to mention the stains I’ve removed from upholstery and laundry with this stuff. If you have a pet or a kid, this product is a must. And even if you don’t, the uses are so varied that I’m sure you could find a reason to keep it on hand.

6. Earth Friendly Products Dander-Out

Speaking of pets, another product we always have on hand is Dander-Out. It seems like no matter how often we bathe the dogs they manage to get into something stinky between baths. That’s where this stuff becomes a necessity. It works as the perfect between-bath stink remover and leaves the pups smelling as though they were just professionally laundered. It’s even helped with Foster’s flaky skin. Now, don’t get me wrong, the dogs don’t like to get sprayed with this stuff any more than they like to get baths (the first sign of either one will send Abi under the bed to hide), but at least a good spray down takes way less time than a thorough bath.

7. Kirks Castile Soap

We’ve tried several other natural bar soaps, but none of them compare to Kirk’s. There’s no “crazy” smell (you know, like vanilla or patchouli) which makes J happy, and it doesn’t dry out my sensitive skin. It rinses well, and gets us squeaky clean. What more could you ask for?

8. Neuton Electric Mower

I have to admit that after moving to our current home, we felt it necessary to get a lawn tractor, not only because of the huge amount of lawn that needs mowed, but also for towing and lugging heavy landscaping things around the yard. And if there was an electric version of a riding mower, we would have gladly purchased one, but there isn’t (at least not that we could find). However, at the other house (which had a much more manageable lawn) we used a Neuton, and I loved it. We still use the Neuton for part of our current lawn, and I’m still amazed at how quiet the thing is. It does an excellent job, and is fully capable of mowing the average sized lawn in one charge of the battery. And if your lawn is a little bigger than one battery can handle, you can get an additional battery as part of an accessories kit. It’s worth the price, every bit of it.

9. Frigidaire Front Load Washer and Dryer set

We purchased these when we bought our first house, and I still couldn’t be happier with the pair. We use a fraction of the detergent we used to in the old rental-house supplied washers, and it uses way less water too. And they’re pretty cheap for Energy Star appliances. We’ve had ours for four years and haven’t had a problem yet; they should last us a long time to come.

10. Mother Earth News Coffee

Hello, my name is Krystal, and I’m a coffee addict. I don’t have a problem admitting it. And although I wouldn’t consider myself a coffee snob (my mom would disagree), I will say that I’m somewhat particular about the coffee I drink. I like it dark. I like it fresh. And I like it organic. Until we moved to the “big city,” the only organic coffee that was available at our local store was Newman’s Own Organic (actually Green Mountain coffee), and though I adore many other Newman’s Own products (have you tried their Champion Chip Cookies? talk about addictive), I’m not crazy about their coffee. So I had to get my fix some other way. I’ve subscribed to Mother Earth News Magazine for some time, and about the time I was looking for coffee, they introduced their own line. It’s fair trade, organic, shade grown, and delicious! Since we’ve moved closer to other organic coffee sources, I’ve tried several in an effort to save on shipping (both the cost and the environmental ramifications), but none are as good as MEN Coffee. My favorite is the Sumatra Gayoland.

Just in case all that’s not enough for you, here’s the short-list version of some other products we use:

laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, all-purpose cleaner, and dish soap = Seventh Generation

shower cleaner, hand soap, and all-purpose wipes = Method

Febreze-like product = Pure Ayre Odor Eliminator

shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products = Aveda

facial cleanser, shave cream, moisturizer, and makeup = Origins

If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned (or forgot to mention) feel free to ask – I’d be happy to share any information I have on making the wisest green purchases possible.

*Just so everyone’s clear, I have not received any kind of compensation from any of these companies and my endorsement of these products is based solely on my personal experience with them.

So I quickly snapped a few pics of the new blooms:

the baby, purple-leaved maple in our front yard

some kind of Bleeding Heart

cherry blossoms?

some type of flowering tree that I see everywhere around here – I have no idea what it’s called

Looks like Monday’s definitely turning around. Hope you all have a great one!

So, it’s about 7:30 on Monday morning and I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee and a low-fat, whole wheat, wild blueberry muffin from Whole Foods (turns out it wasn’t the muffins that gave me the allergic reaction I mentioned before, which has made me so happy cuz I love those damn things, but it was a very cute little 3/4 sleeved red sweater that I recently purchased without reading the tag to see the 15% rabbit hair label – stupid me)…anyway, I’m sitting here and I’m feeling a little frustrated with the amount of work we were able to accomplish this weekend. I feel like I spent all of my free time working on the office, and we still have a long way to go before it’s functional. Everything still needs to be painted, including the ceiling, the plugs and switches still need to be updated, the doors need to be replaced, and the new light fixture has to be installed – and that’s not counting the cabinetry and furniture that will eventually have to be purchased. So what the hell have I been doing? Well, let’s see…This weekend we ran cable (for internet) and a phone line to the room, then we primed all the walls and the trim, and before that we ripped out the hideous wallpaper, the rickety half-assed shelves, and the chair rail, patched and sanded the walls, and caulked the trim. It still doesn’t seem like we’ve done all that much for the time we’ve spent in that room. Oh well, whatever…I just want it done.

J also managed to get started on some oh-so-exciting lawn maintenance. He seeded the parts of the lawn that the dogs had destroyed and actually mowed the front (though it doesn’t look a whole lot different now than it did before he mowed). And more and more things are blooming all over the place. I was hoping to take some pictures yesterday or today, but it’s been too overcast and gloomy – Where the hell is the sun that the forecast promised me?  Good flower pictures need sunlight.

On an entirely unrelated note, did you know that this week is TV Turnoff Week? J and I have already agreed to try to participate. I have a feeling it might be harder for me than for him…not because I don’t have as many other things to do as he does, but because after a while the silence of this house starts to get to me and I usually turn to the TV just for the sound of other human voices (and this is the week Grey’s Anatomy returns to TV) but I’m going to do my best. J even made a trip to Barnes & Noble to get a couple books he’s been wanting to read. So I encourage all of you to give it a try – afterall, it’s only a week.

I have a feeling we’re going to make beautiful things together.

A little birthday shopping,…

pre-dinner drinks at the bar,…

an amazing seafood dinner,…

and a sinfully decadent, mocha birthday-cake-in-a-cup.

I’d say it was a pretty good day for the birthday boy…and it didn’t suck for me either. 🙂

Whose could it be? 🙂

I have a feeling this could be addictive.

I’ve spent the afternoon decoupaging binder clips with little bits of repurposed papers. I have no idea what I’m going to do with all of them when I’m done, but for now I’m having fun…though I’m almost out of clips…I think a Staples run is in order.

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