Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Because We Don't Have a Video Camera

Since we are terrible parents that don't own a video camera here are some consecutive shots. I can't even really say they are rapid shots because our camera, while digital, is from the Dark Ages in terms of technology and it just doesn't do fast!

Just trying to catch how well Ben holds his head up and how strong his back is and all of that. He is basically sitting on his knees on the other side of Cla's legs.

The above picture is my favorite. It is one of the few pictures that really captures what Ben looks like.

LOL I just love his silly face!!

Hair is still nice and red!

Then we thought it would be funny and/or interesting to get some closeups.


Closer.... (he looks like he had a little too much something in his bottle!)

I should have a caption contest for this one above LOL

And now just a few extra random shots

Trying to get a shot of his t shirt. He got it at the hospital when he was born.

We started introducing Ben to the exersaucer. He is rather exersaucy isn't he!! The little spinning rattles in front of him is what he is most interested in. He is scared of them, but at the same time won't stop rolling them so he works himself up and gets frantic!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bumber meet Bumbo

Just a few pictures taken recently:

My sister in law very graciously let us borrow her Bumbo seat. I can't say that Ben loves it, but it is convenient when you need to put him down quick to do something. It might grow on him later...he is at the very bottom of the age requirement. *shrug*

Love that face! AND it looks like he is missing a finger doesn't it...weird.

Bumber loves being without pants....and so of course we had to have a little fun :)

He doesn't look amused does he? LOL

Good ole Daddy and Ben shot.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ad Silvam Rewind

I was just reading an old post and came across this hysterical comment by Claudio and thought it should be shared again:

"We hold these foods to be self-evident: that all men are created hungry, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liquor and the Prosciutt' of Sandwiches. — That to secure these rights, Wives are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the hunger of the husband, — That whenever any Form of Home Economics becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Hubby to incessantly complain about it."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Taralucci: An Epic in the Making!

Cla had a half day off from work today since we had an appointment in the early morning. Since there was plenty of time after the appointment Mr. Solar Energy decided to try his hand at another project (btw the fruit leather is back in the car to finish cooking...we ran out of sunshine yesterday). This one is far more sane, but twice as messy! He made Taralucci. The best way I can describe them is Italian fennel pretzels.

So let the epic begin: Making the dough.

rolling the dough (this is intriguing isn't it..)

Once you have the dough rolled into long strips the "creative" process begins LOL...

The right most taralucci is the "traditional" shape. Poo to that....I let the creative juices flow! I started out slow....a coil and a pretzel shape...
(and a nice shot of my fingertips at the bottom LOL Don't I have really short pinkies!)

After you make the shapes you boil and then bake the taralucci

Once I really hit my stride I made some of these wild and crazy shapes ;)

braids and twists...and all the way on the lower right....that is my cat!

And my piece de resistance: A cow!!!!!!!!!!! Does it get any better than that?!

And Cla (in need of a haircut) eating the finished product

And of course the obligatory picture of Benjamin who truly enjoyed the proceedings.

This picture came out blurry (I am still using the cell phone, but word has it the camera is functioning again!), but I wanted to add it since I seem to always take pics of ben sitting in the corner there and I always think someone is going to quote Dirty Dancing to me: "Nobody puts Baby in the corner!" or whatever it is...where is Patrick Swayze when we need him?

BTW for those who have commented on the blog recently (and I highly encourage comments) and they were never posted. I just realized that for some reason they aren't coming through my e mail and they were all waiting for me in blogger! So they are all approved and posted now and I will remember to check in blogger for the comments. Sorry about that!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why Husbands Need Babysitters!

So I came home from a walk with Benjamin and the first thing I hear when I open the door is, "Uh ohh....I'm in trouble!"

See I left for the walk at the beginning of Claudio's lunch at which time he informed me he would be puttering around in the shed. The shed being strictly HIS domain I thought nothing of it....

But when I came home this was the first thing I saw....a mess all over the kitchen....

What could Cla be up to? Well, I had heard little hints and tidbits of his plan, but decided to dismiss them....that was a mistake. He gets these hairbrained schemes every year at this time. I am beginning to think my husband runs on solar energy!

And there was Cla......frantically stirring, with a glimmer of mad scientist in his eye, and hopelessly trying to explain himself and his project...

This is what was going on in the pot. Look apetizing?

This book is to blame, one of his Country Skills/Live Self-Sufficient books! Of course in a book about self sufficient living there is a recipe for fruit leather....What a delicious way to perserve fruit and make a tasty snack......but what you don't know is that the recipe calls for cooking/drying the fruit IN YOUR CAR!!!! Yes that is right...the slimy blueish mess above is now on one of my cookie sheets and sitting in the rear window of our car. Since Cla also put the digital thermometer in there I can tell from the comfort of my home that it is 108 degrees in my car currently.....perfect temp to make fruit leather....duh!

Anyway...*sigh* Here is Ben and my CVS deals for the week....Typical type stuff...Got it all for "free". Meaning no money out of my pocket. The cashier has found the whole thing quite amusing :) I am going to go back later in the week because I missed a Colgate toothpaste deal.

And here is a random picture of Ben from the other day. Just thought it was funny...he is wearing a shirt that is a few months too big and pants a few months too small...throw in some yellow and white striped socks and you have a case for the fashion police!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

60 Gallons of Rain collection for under $40 #2

We didn't get rain for a couple of weeks there in April. But when we woke up one Sunday morning, the ground was wet and it was obvious it had rained a little the night before. I walked past the rain barrel on the way to church but resisted checking it until I got home.

I opened the first barrel: full.

Opened the second barrel: full.

Whatever rain we had gotten that night had completely filled both barrels, about 60 gallons' worth.

Rainy Days and Math Days

The standard equation is that 1 inch of rain on a 1000 square foot roof will be about 600 gallons. Our roof is about 480 square feet, so we can collect about 288 gallons per inch of rain. That's a lot of water! Obviously, the limiting factor here won't be how much there is to catch. The problem is how much can we store and use?

So I looked at what we could realistically get out of our rain barrel. First, you toss the winter months out, because you can't use a rain barrel in winter where it freezes...the ice will kill it. We get about 28.78 inches from April to October, or about 4.11 inches per month. Assuming you collect all of that that's 1184 gallons per month or 8288 gallons total.

That's the capacity anyway. Realistically, you'll never collect that much because you'd have to have tanks to store it. What's actually going to happen is that you'll collect the first 60 gallons and then the rest is overflow. If you then have a dry period, you'll gradually use your 60 gallons until it rains again and, hopefully, replenishes your supply.

Let's use this April as a model. April 1st we had .36 inches, which is easily enough to fill our 60 gallons. We had plenty more rain all that week, but we wouldn't have had any more room to store it, so none of that really counts. Plus as long as it was raining, we wouldn't need to water the plants anyway. The week of the 6-12 was quite a bit dryer. Here we could have gotten some good use out of the rain barrel, and the .13 inches on the 12th would have topped us off somewhat. Then, 2 weeks of 0 precipitation--a dry spell. Here's where the rain barrel would have gotten some serious use. I'm not sure, at this point, if the 60 gallons would have lasted all this time. I think so, but I'll have to see as I use my barrel more in our garden. At any rate, the very last weekend of the month was a soaker, with about 2 inches of rain.

A Little About Rainbarrels Saving Money

The sobering thing about all this for me is that you really have to use a lot of rain water to save money, at least where we live. I looked at our water bill and calculated that water was costing us .36 cents a gallon. Note the decimal point--that's not thirty-six cents, but 1/3 of a cent! Municipal water is extremely cheap here. The 60 gallons in my rainbarrel now would cost me 22 cents from the spicket. Not a heck of a lot. Assuming about two refills a month from April to October inclusive, that's a little over $3.00 saved a year. At that rate, it would take me about 13 years to recoup my rain barrel investment!

I could add barrels to collect even more, but I'd have to factor in that expense. Plus, how many gallons can I realistically use in a season? It reaches a point eventually where I just can't use the water anymore. The long and short of it is, using rainbarrels for a small garden in this particular area is not a great way to save lots of money. It might be more feasible if municipal water is very expensive where you live and if you get enough rain to add up to considerable savings.

60 Gallons of Rain Collection for Under $40

I thought some folks might be interested our rain barrel project, so even though I didn't take pictures while I was making it, here's a description of what we did so that you can make your own.

First the basics on the design that I went with:

* Two 32 gallon trash cans, so roughly 60 gallons total capacity.
* Top-opening model, rather than lower spout
* Extremely easy to make without any special tools (I used a Swiss Army knife)
* Easy to expand as needed
* Total project costs about $40. Further expansion costs $15 per additional 30 gallons.

The trash cans were two
32 gallon Rubbermaid Roughnecks from Home Depot ($13.98 each):

The pros about these trash cans are that they are dirt cheap and the color scheme is actually pretty nice for a trash can. I should note though, that these are not food grade containers. There is the possibility that plastics and other substances from the containers could leach into and contaminate the stored water. If this is a concern for you, obviously you don't want to use the Roughnecks. Another option is to use certain kinds of Rubbermaid Brutes, which are apparently safe for food contact, although they are much more expensive and not as nice looking. Or you could just buy a rain barrel and/or find someone who has food-grade barrels. Since we live in New Jersey just south of the Northeast industrial corridor, I figure these containers aren't giving my plants much worse than what they are faced with already.

As I discussed in a previous post, I liked the intake method used on the HGTV rain barrel. We have large sycamore, oak, and black walnut trees around our house, so we have all kinds of debris falling into our gutters. The HGTV intake allows all the debris to spill off the sides while the water flows down into the barrel. It doesn't hold debris in a trap that you have to clean out.

I used a black 4 Inch Corrugated Polyethylene Adapter Hub for sewers and drain pipes:

Note that the HGTV folks used a much sturdier adapter of thick white PVC. I was going to use that as well, until I saw the black one which was quite a bit cheaper and did the trick very nicely. Plus, the small part of the black adapter is tapered and ribbed, which has some definite advantages we'll get into in a second.


The first thing you want to do is figure out where you want to put the intake hole. It probably doesn't matter much...I chose the indented section of the lid just because it looked nice.

Place the adapter hub at an appropriate spot on the lid, and then trace around it with a marker. Then take a sharp knife and cut out the hole.

The adapter hub now gets pushed into the hole. The hole is somewhat bigger than the end of the adapter, but since the adapter is tapered, pressing it farther in will give you a nice tight seal. Also, the ribbing will lock it in place and prevent it from working back out again.

Now cut out a piece of screening material (the kind used for screen doors and windows--I didn't buy this because I had plenty lying around) a few inches larger than the top hole of the adapter. Lay it on top, then secure it in place with a round screw-type clamp.

That's it! The first "intake" rain barrel is done.

The next step is to join the intake barrel to an auxiliary barrel which will start to fill when the first one overflows.

First, decide where the connectors will go. Remember to take into account the handles of the trash can--I put my connectors slightly offset because I didn't want the handles of the trash cans to come between the two barrels. Also, make sure that the hole for the intake barrel is slightly higher than, or at the same level of, that of the auxiliary barrel. The reason for this is that gravity will be helping draw water from the intake to the auxiliary barrel. To be honest, I think it would work even if you made it run slightly "uphill", given the amount of water that's going to be pouring from the intake barrel, but why make it do that if it doesn't have to?

Once you've picked your spots, take the connector and trace around the intake barrel with a marker. Now do the same for the auxiliary barrel. Cut out the holes with a knife as before and put in your connectors. One the connectors are in, take a small piece of PVC and cut it to size to bridge the gap. I wouldn't even bother with PVC cement for this. The pipe should fit snugly enough to hold without any cement, and we really don't need a waterproof joint here anyway. There will only be water in the pipe when the rain is falling. Plus, if you don't cement the joint, then you can disconnect the barrels on the fly whenever you need to.

The rain barrels are now ready to be installed.

To do that, I had to make a slight modification on my downspouts. I removed the elbow joint, cut the downspouts to a point above the barrel, and then replaced the elbow joint so that it would empty onto the rain barrel intake rather than the ground.

And that was it. To test it out I sprayed the hose up onto the roof and sure enough, the water flowed into the gutters, down the spout, and right into the rain barrel. Worked like a charm. I then partially filled the barrels with the hose just to wash them out of any residual junk that they still had on them from the factory....and while I did that, I checked to see how the connector between the barrels would work. Also worked.

So the only thing left to do was to wait for the rain.

Next post: our first storm with the rain barrel, and how this all worked.

Some Pics From Last Night

It was hot in the house last night. So since Ben loves to be without clothes we thought this was a good opportunity to let him be unfettered. He has the cutest little body!

He almost always has his hands together like in the picture below. And he is starting to discover his feet! We went for a walk last night and met our neighbors who have a 1 month old little girl and I couldn't believe how tiny she was!! I can't believe how much Ben has grown!!

Here is Ben a couple moments later in his summer pajamas (thanks gma/gpa) and fast asleep. This baby is like a clock! That dorky little lion rattle is his favorite toy.

I hope Aunt Robyn, Grandma, and Jess all find these pictures satisfactory with no fodder for criticism :P

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

My CVS Deals This Week

Well we hadn't gone to CVS for a few weeks because none of the deals appealed to me and/or we were sick. So I finally went back today because my ECBs were about to expire. I had 15 ECBs a $3 off $15 purchase and a $5 off $25 purchase and you can see my meager deals above. Doesn't look like anything too exciting (which it isn't really), but I came home with 19 ECBs and another $5/25 coupon (and I have plenty of the $3 off coupons..and if you want some 3 off coupons let me know I will send you the link). And I paid no money out of pocket. So overall a successful trip for us today :)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Walk a Mile in My Shoes...

Sorry for the lack of posts. It has been a long week! First Cla and I had really bad colds...the barely functional type. Then Ben seemed to get it...although we still aren't sure. Then our camera broke (I used my cell phone for these pics). And Ben has been pretty cranky and we are pretty sure he is teething. He is drooling drooling drooling and he is just so unhappy and cranky. So unlike him. We miss our sweet happy little baby.

This pic basically gives you an idea of how our week was LOL....we have all been a little miserable! Poor little Benjamin!!

Just wanted to show off Ben's adorable little sneakers. They just about fit. They stay on his feet, but they look like he must have monsterously huge feet LOL. The sneakers were a gift from John and Eileen. And check out his cool striped socks under his pants!

A moment of levity......Ben's mini-mohawk!

Here's to hoping for a happier and healthier week to come!