Saturday, February 23, 2008


Yes, it has been a long winter. And Yes, we're all tired of the snow and cold and being stuck indoors. I'll even go so far as to say that it makes some of us excessively cranky. But, come on! Do we really need to label it as another disorder?

I'm talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, and I'm having a bit of trouble taking it seriously. I mean, they worked so hard to get the SAD acronym! Pathetic. We just called it Cabin Fever, and you went to the gym or the tanning salon or bought an Amarylis to grow in the house.

Have you ever wanted to invent an "ism" or an "itis? Well, here's your chance! If men can have PMS now, then I'm sure we can think of a way to legitimize whatever syndrome or deficit that you can come up with. I'll go first:
  • P.L.E.A.S.--or Post Laundry Emergence Avoidance Syndrome. In other words, when the laundry comes out of the dryer, I go and hide.

Your turn! Let me hear them! In the meantime, I'm going to go buy an Amarylis.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BeaverCreek Mini Surprise (and pizza recipe)

My brother and his wife had their first child on New Year's Eve and over this last weekend my Mom and I drove out so that Aunt Stacy could meet her new nephew. And he is a gem!

"Conveniently", our visit just happened to be the same weekend as the BeaverCreek Mini Meet in the Dayton area. So while the baby napped, and Grammy got her fix, I snuck off and surprised Hale s Angel at the meet.
I had actually signed up for the event under the alias profile of MumstheWord, so the RSVP would be accurate. How fun it was to introduce myself! Diana and I have been doing postals together for about a year and a half and it was wonderful to get to meet her in person! There were plenty of other people there that I got to exchange with and about a million other stamps to ink. I think I could have stamped until midnight and still missed some of the boxes.
I have a special LTC, called Incognitro, that I created just for the event. I have some extras, so if you want to see my sig "in disguise", email for a trade.

I'm spoiled though. I live near Chicago, and we have some of the nation's best pizza here. My brother warned me that I wouldn't like Marion's. It wasn't that bad, though. And who has time to eat at an event anyway? But for all you Ohio people, here is my recipe:

Nitrocat's Homemade Pizza
Crust (bread machine)
1 c. warm water
1 t. sugar
1 t. salt
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. Italian seasoning
2 1/2 c. flour (I use whole wheat)
2 1/4 t. dry yeast

1 1/2 T olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
28 oz. can tomatoes, drained
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 t. oregano
1/4 t. fresh cracked pepper
1/2 t. sea salt
1 /2 t. sugar
1 bay leaf

Saute onion in oil until tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 45-1 hour, or until desired thickness, stirring more frequently as sauce thickens to prevent sticking. If you want a smooth sauce, puree in blender. This recipe is enough for two 16" pizzas. *see note at bottom

Roll out crust on a floured surface and transfer to a greased and floured pan (I use olive oil spray and corn meal). Spread with half of tomato sauce. Top with favorite toppings. A big key is getting a good fresh Italian sausage. For the cheese, I use a mixture of 2 parts mozzarella to one part other cheeses. I combine colby, monterey jack, and munster. Sprinkle a few fennel seeds, some Italian seasoning and fresh Asiago or Parm on top. A light sprinkle of salt is optional.

Bake at 400-425 until golden.

This tomato sauce is a beautiful thing. After you blend it and remove half for the pizza, add some milk to the carafe and blend it again for a wonderful tomato soup. Or add a bit of garlic and basil as it's cooking and cut the simmer time down to about 15 minutes and it makes a great spaghetti sauce. I could go on.

How to Make a Jigsaw Puzzle (ltc spoiler)

*If you are getting the 50's Billboard Jigsaw LTC, be warned that there are spoiler pictures at the bottom.
For some time I have had several people "bugging" me to make trading cards with certain stamps of mine. I don't mind, but the only problem is that said stamps are bigger than a trading card is supposed to be. So here is my solution to the problem: create jigsaw puzzles of the trading cards and send them in trading card sized pockets. Whatcha think? As is usual for me, the logistics of this project ended up being trickier than I originally thought. And the process that I ended up using was probably way more difficult than it needed to be. But I'm pleased with the results. So here's how it goes:
  1. Take one of your daughter's 100 piece puzzles and put it together.
  2. Cover the puzzle with a piece of typing or tracing paper and then use the crayon rubbing technique you learned in grade school to get the shapes of the interlocked pieces onto the paper.
  3. Now take the crayon rubbing and cover it with another piece of typing paper. Using a light table or other backlit source, trace the puzzle onto the clean sheet of paper.
  4. Determine which part of the puzzle you want to use for your finished size, making sure there will be straight edges all the way around the outside.
  5. Scan and copy the puzzle pattern onto the card stock that you intend to use for the puzzles.
  6. Trim off any extra paper and then stamp your image on the front.
  7. Cut puzzle apart. The 6"x7" with 42 pieces took me an average of 32 minutes to cut.
  8. Put them in the LTC pockets that you created. me for the pattern now that I've done all the hard work. :)

Now, before you tell me, "But Nitrocat, you could have....", let me tell you that I tried. I called all the scrapbooking places around here and no one had a die cut. I also called all of the photo places that take pictures and make puzzles for you and they wouldn't do it. So raspberries on them. This was cheaper anyway.

End results: Take one 6" x 7" stamped jigsaw puzzle...

and turn it into one 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" trading card, complete with matching versamarked images on the pocket.

Oh, by the way, I have a couple left for trading!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

NitroClean, Part 2

In a futile attempt at being more "domestic", I tried that FlyLady thing for several weeks. I wore my shoes, shined, swished and flung with the best of them. But that is all I did. I did not create one single thing. I didn't have time to putter around with the girls or sit down with my husband in the evening. The house was clean, but none of us felt like we were allowed to live there. I made dinner, but it was extremely stressful, because I didn't feel like I could mess up the kitchen. I could have invited Kim and Aggie over for tea, but we were all miserable.

So we are now attempting a balance between clean and comfortable. We have a place for everthing, and when we need to, it all goes in it's place. There is a separate table for crafts so that we always have a place to eat with minimal fuss. You can take your drink into our living room and if it spills, no one has a coronary. There is hair on the back of the rocking chair, and sometimes it even swirls in the corner by the stairs, but the flip side is that we have fuzzies to cuddle and play with. The dishwasher always need to be run, but my family gets a home cooked meal most nights and loves it. So do I. The clean clothes are more likely to be in a laundry basket than in the drawer, but we're reading through Wind in the Willows together. I think the trade off is worth it.

Now, all that being said, there are some things that I think are worth going the extra mile for. Especially if it saves money. To that end, I started making most of my own cleaning products about 2 years ago. Before you think, "Whoa! That doesn't sound like someone who is a domestic slacker to me!", let me explain.
I live 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store and have two children who hate to go shopping. They get that from me. If I can pull a couple of simple products off my shelf and mix up my own all purpose cleaner, or brew up a batch of laundry soap, and save myself money and a trip to the store (where I'm likely to buy a whole lot more than soap) then I'm ahead of the game in my book. On top of that, the homemade products work at least as well, are healthier for us and easier on our septic system.

I learned how to make almost all of these from Crystal Miller on her website, The Family Homestead. I was spending about $700 a year on laundry products alone. Now it's about $20 a year.

Here is a link to the laundry soap. I use Fels Naptha, which I order from Soaps Gone Buy. You can purchase 7 bars for the lowest shipping cost. That's enough to make 21 recipes of laundry soap, or 42 gallons. I use a little more than 1/2 cup per load because my washer is large. I use ammonia for a laundry booster (for really stinky or dirty clothes) and vinegar for the fabric softener. Your clothes do not smell like ammonia or vinegar when they're done! (The same goes for the other cleaners. Once the surface is dry, you don't smell ammonia or vinegar.) The only thing that we have noticed is that the laundry soap and dishwasher soap work much better for people with soft water. Our water here in the country is off-the-charts-hard, but we have a really good softener (not a WaterBoss from Menards).
Here is a link to the basic cleaners. I use the window cleaner #2. In the all purpose cleaner, I use Pine Needle oil for the essential oil. Then it always smells like Christmas when I clean! I don't know if the dishwasher soap is on there, but I mix one part borax to one part washing soda and then use about 1 1/2 tablespoons per load.

I'm not too concerned about using antibacterial products. I think they have done more harm than good in many cases. But that's another post.
About the only commercial cleaning product that I do buy is toilet bowl cleaner. But only because I haven't gotten around to making a replacement.

I have a real mop, not a Swiffer. I mopped for several years at a hospital in high school and during college summers. The mops we used there weighed 15 pounds when they were wet and I liked that. You only had to go over the floor once and it was clean. There was very little scrubbing involved and you threw the mop heads in the wash to clean them.
I can't quite bring myself to mop my kitchen floor with something that looks like a menstrual pad.

That's about all there is to my cleaning repertoire. Told ya it wasnt' much!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


As promised, here follows my philosophy of cleaning. Stop snickering.
  • Spring is Not for Cleaning!--whoever invented spring cleaning was definately selling something. Here in northern Illinois (and on a farm to boot!) we have two phenomenon in the Spring that make cleaning a more pointless exercise than usual--Mud and Wind. The dog with the paintbrush attached to his rump and the hubby with the boots bring the mud and the 30+ mile an hour winds bring the dirt and dust off the surrounding fields. Go plant something instead. This applies to Autumn as well.

  • If you can get the kids to do it, it's good enough. They might not vacuum and wash windows as good as I can, but then again, it's one less thing I have to do, right?

  • "Give a portion to your maidens" (Prov. 31:15) Quick Bible lesson--the virtuous woman in Proverbs rose early in the morning, fed her household and gave a portion to her maidens. This is quite often mistaken as meaning that she gave food to her servants. In reality, it likely means that she delegated tasks to her servants for the day so that she could concentrate on her own work. I don't happen to have servants (I also am not equating myself with the virtuous woman here!), but I do have machines that take the place of hired hands. One of the first things that I do early in the morning is get them started--washer, dryer, dishwasher, bread machine....

  • The List and the Mantra--I live by lists. My to do list always starts "laundry, dishes, garbage, fridge, fixtures, floors". That covers most of the cleaning that needs to be done. With that mantra in my head, I don't really need a list for much of the day. Laundry is regularly sorted, washed and ignored. The dishes and gargage are dealt with. The fridge is regularly attended to, not only because unintentional science experiments trigger the gag reflex, but it helps me keep track of meal planning and groceries much more efficiently. "Fixtures" includes sink, showers, etc. Vacuuming and mopping falls under Floors, but so does finding the floor when it disappears. I don't do all of these things everyday by any means though!

  • What is the point of making the bed? I'm just getting back in it later tonight anyway! I only make the bed when I'm going to fold laundry and need a flat surface. So you know how often that happens!

  • I'm organized because I'm lazy. It's less work. When the snow clothes are in the right place, it takes alot less effort to leave the house than when they are scattered all over the place and you spend 27 minutes looking for the other boot and end up being late for the dentist appointment and get a speeding ticket on the way because you are late.....

  • Don't look where the lights aren't on.

That about does it. Just remember that a philosophy is system of thinking, a set of values, or a discipline. All of which are intangibles and require a bit of work to actually implement.

Next post, I'm going to save you some money!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Next to godliness?

So, there is this show on BBC called How Clean is Your House? in which Kim and Aggie help people turn their horrifically disgusting houses into clean, livable dwellings. The show is a hoot for several reasons:
  • I consider myself a slacker when it comes to housework, but these people make me look really good by comparison. (the lab results--Aieeee!)
  • I love how Kim and Aggie don't let them get away with any excuses and tell it to them like it is.
  • You get some really good, and usually cheap, tips for cleaning.

All of this got me thinking, how clean is my house? What if we created a rating system for cleanliness--something that goes beyond the old "is next to godliness" bit? So here goes, on a scale of 1-5, how do you rate?

  1. The Model Home--in this house, nothing is ever out of place and there is never a speck of dirt anywhere to be seen. You could lick any surface in this house, including under the refrigerator, at any given time and not worry about it. There are no pets, no children, in fact, to all appearances, no one at all lives in this home.
  2. The Cleaning Professional's Home--the person who lives here makes a career out of cleaning their own home (unlike the person who cleans other people's homes for a living and then is too tired to take care of their own). There is a routine that is strictly followed. Dishes are immediately washed, dried and put away. The same goes for laundry. The cupboards are organized and there are containers and baskets for everything. There may be a pet, but the only sign is the water dish on a little rug in the corner. If you were really nosy, you might find a small "junk drawer" somewhere.
  3. The Average Home--A family of 4 lives here with one cat and one dog. It is clean but comfortable. There might be stacks of mail or magazines sitting out. The beds aren't always made. Sometimes it needs dusting or windows washed. There may be unfolded or even dirty laundry and there are dishes in the sink waiting to go in the dishwasher. The office or work room appears to be a disaster, but the owner could tell you where everything necessary is located. You would still feel safe eating in this home.
  4. The Slacker's Home--this home could use some help. You can't sit down without getting hair on your clothes and wouldn't dare prepare food without cleaning the counter first. The laundry is more likely to be found on the floor of the closet than in a basket or drawer. The vacuum hasn't been used since the last time "company" came over and there are as many dishes in by the TV as in the sink. The top of the piano hasn't seen daylight in months.
  5. The Pestifilent Slough--Enter at your own risk. Don't sit down. Don't eat or drink anything. Don't breathe. Call the Health Department. The sheets can't remember when they were washed last (yes, they have become sentient) and you can't tell if those are tomatoes or apples in the fridge. The fact that the closet is nailed shut is a bad sign.

Confession time. I think I spend most of the time at 3 with driftings into 4--but I'm not admitting how frequently. The Fly Lady I am not.

Now get ready for the nitty-gritty. Over the next several days I am going to share some if not all of my cleaning tips. Don't worry. It won't take long.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Mews

Very seldom do I ever work alone. I have a 9 and a 5 year old that can't seem to go more than 2 1/2 minutes without an urgent need to know why rats don't have hair on their tails or requiring someone to fix the pencil sharpener again. But that comes with the territory and in order to save your sanity, you quickly learn to ignore it until it reaches a certain decibel level or there is blood involved. You also learn to allow the creativity to flow in spite of being surrounded by plastic sharks from the bathtub, broken strings of Mardi Gras beads that need your magic fixing, and the stickers from the bank and doctor's office that now adorn your work chair.

On the rare, blessed occasions when the littles are both absent at the same time, I can enjoy a quiet, uninteruppted carving session. I don't have to answer the same question six times in a row or tell anyone to stop shaking the table. There are no Goldfish on the craft table either.

Through all of this, the quiet and the not-so-quiet, I have two other constant companions. My children think that Caper and Moppett are their cats, but they haven't noticed yet that both cats follow Mom all over the house-however nonchalantly, and settle wherever I happen to be at. Both of them take turns holding down my important papers and sunning themselves under my lamp. Moppett sits so close as to get pieces of PZ Kut on her fur. If I have lap space available, even for a minute, one of them is there.
They are calming and inspiring at the same time. And that is pretty much the definition of a Muse.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mr. Boffo goes letterboxing

This Sunday Funny isn't necessarily a snap shot from my personal life, but I did think it was comical. Especially as it relates to letterboxing and some of the not-so-well-written box directions. You know which ones I'm talking about.
Select 6/19/07 from the archive drop down menu at the top of the page.