A Day in the Life 10: Chaos Central Revisited

Welcome to Chaos Central, please hold on to the railings lest you go sliding across the ice and land in the puddle under the computer desk. Also, please be wary of the mommy because she is rather uncomfortable and liable to bite your head off on the way out the door. Oh, and no sled riding because it is so icy you may slide into a tree.

Um yeah. Things are crazy around here. The roof is leaking immediately over Shamus’ office desk–where the huge tangle of wires can be found. It is also leaking over his chair, dripping on him as he tries to work.

Outside all is ice. Everything is covered in half an inch of ice with a puddle on top.

I am rather uncomfortable due to the “issues” I have been having and the doctor insists I go and get bloodwork done, today.

We need to move Shamus’ desk out from under the drips but can’t because it is old and falling apart, not to mention the issues I am having which mean carrying heavy things is bad.

So, we are off to get my blood-work and purchase Shamus a much needed new computer desk so we can put it up in a spot where there is no evidence of previous water falling from the ceiling plus put the check in the bank which, praise the Lord, came today.

The kids have been out helping spread ice melt while Shamus stood on a ladder with me holding it, pouring boiling water down our ice encrusted gutters and freezing his hands off trying to remove the slurry of leaves and slushy. When finished, Issac attempted to sled ride and ran into a tree doing it. The girls each fell at least three times each trying to walk across our ice encrusted yard. It was very educational.:)

How is that for an untraditional home?

Pictures to follow.

Wordless Wednesday (or Sludge Pie)

Sludge pie: in our house when a kid asks “Mom, can you make me some pie?” they don’t mean a regular pie with a nice neat pie crust, they mean throw together some biscuit-y ingredients, put fruit in it, and throw it in the microwave for 10 minutes. Sludge pie is more of a tart type thing, or maybe a shortcake. Whatever it is is sure is messy to eat and the kids adore it.

To make it you can use your favorite biscuit mix or pie crust–whatever you have on hand, it doesn’t matter because the kids don’t notice. 🙂 The point is to fill it with fruit with a little bit of sweetener and stick it in the microwave.For this particular one I mixed some about 5 parts flour, 1 part water, 1 part oil with a little bit of baking powder and sweetener. I used my fingers to shape it in the bowl then poured in frozen berries (or peaches and pears for Rachel) and a little bit of honey. The texture when microwaved is very similar to an apple dumpling. This is not a science–it is more of a fun project and mommy thing than a culinary delight (although it is “nummy.”)

WFMW: Leftover Cranberries

I meant to share this a while back, you know when it would be more useful, but for some reason it never happened.

After the holidays I snatch up all the cranberries I can find on sale and stick them in my deep freeze.  No we aren’t fans of homemade cranberry sauce or cranberry bread or muffins or whatever.  We are fans of cranberry juice and with 5 people in the house who don’t believe in juice glasses and several members who can’t have preservatives, corn syrup, or dyes–well the preservative free  plain old cranberry juice with no extra sweeteners is EXPENSIVE, plus you still have to sweeten it with stuff they can use (usually honey).

So, instead of spending $5 for a bottle of unsweetened cranberry juice I buy up cranberries and make my own.  

Before you panic and run the other direction–it is easy.  Really. 

First, fill a large soup pot up about 3/4 of the way with water.  Set it to boil.

Next, rinse two bags of cranberries then  pour them in (you don’t want to use a small pot because it will overflow and that is messy.)

Cover and once it is boiling, turn down the heat and let simmer until all the cranberries pop open. (kind of like popcorn only less dramatic).

Add whatever sweetener you like (my pot holds about 2 gallons and I add about a cup of honey or maple syrup at this point–we have also used Splenda in the past, this works pretty well too.)  You can add more sweetener later to taste.

Once all the berries have popped and the sweetener is combined with the liquid, grab a pitcher, a sieve, and a ladle.   Put the sieve in the pitcher and ladle the cranberries plus juice into the sieve, using the ladle to squish the berries into the sieve.  (If you don’t like seeds you will want to use some cheese cloth in the sieve as well.)

I then pour the contents of the pitcher into glass jars (jelly jars, honey jars, you name it–the kids LOVE to drink the juice right out of these and they work as well as bottled juices when you are on the go.)   These get stored in the back of the fridge until they are gone (it only takes a few days around here.)  They aren’t officially canned but I have found that usually they seal quite tight due to the heat of the juice.

When I can’t get cranberries I buy concentrated grape juice at the health food store (it comes in glass bottles with plastic lids. )  I make it up similarly, without the cooking, and store it the same way.   The bottles make several gallons and the juice is much better than the frozen concentrate from the grocery store, plus I can adapt the sweetener to suit and often add a bit of magnesium powder (from the health food store) to give it a bit of a fizz.

A record of our twice a year date

My mom and stepdad took the kids sledding (outside) and swimming (inside) today so that my husband and I could use the Christmas present they got us–a movie gift card and money for my stepdad’s friend’s new restaurant.  We didn’t really have a plan about what movie to see, instead we knew we needed to stop at the comic book store (because that is what we do).

We went to the store first then headed the complete other direction towards the movie theater, making it there just before the movie started (it is a 30 minute drive and snowing–we did good.)  We had decided on Juno even though we would both like Cloverfield (because we like that sort of thing).  I was nervous about poor camera work which always gives me motion sickness–Juno was a much safer choice.

It was lovely and sweet and sad and funny and hard and soft all at once.  We both loved it as well as the soundtrack.  (I adore indie music and this was perfect.)   Both of us teared up completely at one point and every one giggled out loud at more than a few places.

After the movie we headed to the restaurant which was very good except that it was a sports bar and grill which meant huge tv’s with varying degrees of sports (from football to bowling to skiing)–which is weird–remember we went to the comic book store, not the sporting goods store.  Not really sports fans here. 🙂  The bacon swiss burger was excellent and Shamus says my french fries and his fish sandwich were very good as well.

Of course what married couple date would be complete without a quick trip to the grocery store to get what we were out of and pick up stuff we didn’t know we wanted. 🙂

Now we wait for the kids to return home and tell us excitedly about how wonderful thewir time with the grandparents was. 🙂

IF: Tales and Legends

img_3648.jpg

This is from January last year . It was the first time in years that I had tried painting. I was stuck in bed with nothing to do (no tv and out of books) until a friend brought over a full set of tube watercolors, lap easel, and paper that she had bought for herself before she got into photography. It is based on the sketch below was from a month or so before–capturing my Essie engrossed in a book. I am still not happy with the dragon but oh well–it fits the theme well. 🙂

dreams.jpg

For more Illustration Fridays visit http://illustrationfriday.com . There are some brilliant artists over there.

11 years

Today my husband and I have been married for 11 years. It is amazing how quickly it has gone and how much closer we are now than we were then. God is good.

img_0228.jpg

Sunday we are going to attempt to see a movie and go out to eat (we got a gift card for each for Christmas and my mom and step-dad are taking the kids sled riding and feeding them.)

img_0483.jpg

BTW–if you click over to his site you will see our wedding picture (he is ever so much handsomer now than when I married him.  Actually he is just taking better care of himself.   He is an awesome guy and a super genius to boot. :))

IF: Plain

Thanks to Mike Leonen I am joining in on Illustration Friday this week. (I do feel a bit out of my league but decided to use this to push me beyond my usual style. In other words this is just for fun and maybe it will get me out of my rut. :)) So, this is not my usual more realistic style nor are these my normal materials—my mom got me these watercolor pencils and paper for Christmas (I usually use tube watercolor paints or oils and block watercolor paper.) It was fun and let me play a bit which is something I don’t normally do–I am too serious when painting. And so, without more ado, my interpretation of this week’s theme:

A plain apple in a plain tree with a plain sky on a plain hill.

1plainapple.jpg

A Day in the Life 6: The Snow Fort

It is still a work in progress. The kids have been working on it over the last few, very cold days. Today it was warmer but we got lots of snow–now Rachel is out there building it up more so she can add a sled roof.

The hobbit-like door was pretty cute and now everything is covered in a carpet of white. (These pictures were taken yesterday when it was 7 degrees outside. Brr.)

Pagerank, SEO , and other bits of Geekiness

Since I just spent the past week setting up this new site I figured I would make sure I optimized it in the process. This meant a little research. I go in spurts when it comes to what interests me and this week I was on a technology spur–updating my understanding of Page Rank, Sitemaps, and SEO. Things have changed a bit since I started doing this and sometimes it is hard to keep up. I found some information that will not only benefit those who have websites through me but anyone who has heard these terms being thrown around. (For those who have websites through Elasah.com–in the next week I will be optimizing your sites for search engines–yeah!)

First, I am sure most of you have read here and there about page rank and SEO, and while some are all on top of this stuff and already get it others are scratching their heads.

First, what is Page Rank?

Page Rank is Google’s way of determining how important a website is on the internet. (You can check yours here.)

I found a very detailed, mathematical explanation of how Google’s page rank works here. Very cool but a bit too much explanation. Basically it is a way for Google’s spiders, without having to actually understand the page, to look at all the links in and out and in between and decide its importance based on this information.

This is important to you (if you care about such things), much more important than those cute little movie rating or getting a great vote on Homeschool bloggers because it determines how easy you are to find by someone looking for you. It affects whether you get on the front page for different searches. This isn’t that important if you are running a small family website for fun or a personal journal type blog, it is VERY important if you are trying to make money from ads on your site, if you are trying to be a big blog/website, or if you have something to sell.

That said, getting a Sitemap and keeping it updated helps Google better index your site. Sitmaps used to be a big deal when I first started designing web pages (about 10 years ago), then they weren’t for a while, and now they are BIG. So what is a sitemap and how do you get one and submit it?

The simplest explanation of a Sitemap is here. It is a page on your website that shows the organization of your site, listing vital information like when it was last updated, it’s importance, and other useful (for search engines) information. This page has a special format that the spiders from search engines can navigate and recognize. (In order to make it accessible to humans you have to make a copy of the page in .html.)

You can create one by hand using the protocol (I wouldn’t recommend this if you are uncomfortable around code) but you can create one for free using http://www.freesitemapgenerator.com. It still takes some technical knowledge and the ability to access your ftp server but once you get it going it works pretty well. (As I said, those on my server will soon have this occur automatically since I am in the process of doing all my sites and those I serve.)

While you are waiting for it to generate you should be setting yourself up on both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster control. Once you have submitted your site to Google Webmaster control and have your sitemap finished you can submit the sitemap in the same location you submitted your website.

Another thing you can do while you are waiting is read up on what Google has to say about SEO (Search Engine Optimization. Very good advice, especially good since it is right from the source.) There is a brief and easy to comprehend overview here and the full document can be found here. If you follow these guidelines you are more likely to have a decent Pagerank which means more readers will find your page.

Finally, once you have done all that you will have time to explore the wonderful stuff available at Google Webmaster Control and Google Analytics. There are some interesting and helpful bits of information there, and enough fun bits to keep you busy for hours–for instance: Google Analytics shows you where everyone who visits your page is from, in fact–if you click on the map it will show you the states and then the cities. You will also learn what your most popular articles are, which outgoing links get the most clicks and all kinds of other fascinating things. Have fun.

Business

For those who are interested, I have a new button for my art site–as I mentioned I am pulling back from doing the web design work due to health issues and wanting to focus on my artwork, this button reflects that:

If you are interested in putting it in your sidebar let me know and I will send you the code.