Well, It’s been several months since I blogged here. As life happens, it is time for me to move on. I am closing down the online store tonight – I will no longer be selling diaper covers, sewing kits, nor bulk ingredients. I will continue to sell digital products which I hope to have back online within a few weeks. The blog will continue to exist although it, too, will have a new look. Thank you for all the supporters out there and especially the Austin mamas!
Over the past decade, I have seen an explosion of roses in suburban and commercial landscapes here in Central Texas. Yet, it is really just an explosion of one kind in particular – Knock Out®. I personally think that its popularity is a result of great marketing and not anything special about the rose. But I’m glad it exists everywhere and has changed the way people view roses as being difficult to grow. However, its claim of being easy to grow, disease resistant, drought tolerant, and well-suited in any landscape can also be said of many antique roses. If you find a rose suited to your area, it will have all of the above traits PLUS fragrance. Yes, the Knock Out® rose has no scent! Fragrance is such a trademark of a rose. Also, while Knock Out® give nice splashes of color in your landscape, they make horrible cut flowers.
So what is a good one for Central Texas? All of my Tea roses have done extremely well. They are easy to maintain, shape/trim, and they all survived last year’s extreme drought better than Knock Out® which barely survived. Mind you, I don’t have a landscaper and my Knock Out® never looks like the ones I see in commercial landscapes. Also, the Tea roses come in a rich variety of pastel colors, scent, form, and most of them make great cut flowers. Among my favorites (all scented) are:
- Mrs. B. R. Cant – beautiful crimson to pink flowers; heavy bloomer in the Spring and Fall
- Madame Joseph Schwartz (the white sport of Duchesse the Brabant) – delicate cupped flowers, very southern
- Baronne Henriette the Snoy – my all-time favorite pink rose with big, fat blooms
- Monsieur Tillier – nice upright bush with many shades of vibrant colors (for a Tea rose as most are pastels)- salmon, coral, and pink
- Mrs. Dudley Cross – nearly thornless, small bush; flowers with cream center and pink edges; excellent cut flower with longer stem than the average Tea
Not picky on fabric prints? Good for you and save BIG! The Surprise Me! Prints diaper covers are on sale for under $10! All our durable diaper covers are made of two layers of fabric: a beautiful 100% cotton print on the outside and a flexi waterproof layer on the inside.
Sale ends on Monday, November 28, 2011.
As I mentioned before, Fall is the best time for gardening and to get your garden ready for the Spring. That is, if you live in Central Texas. And with the recent extreme drought and hot weather, I was finally able to witness once and for all which of our plants were truly drought-tolerant. Here is a list of my favorites and how much water I gave them – none (0), a deep watering once a week per city watering schedule (1x), or twice a week where I spot-watered a few chosen plants in the mix (2x).
- herbs (1x) – rosemary, thyme, sage, Mexican mint marigold, chives, Mexican oregano, mint, lavender, basil (2x)
- roses (2x) – the antique rose varieties and a few modern roses are hardier than they’re given credit for. I have a lot to say on them so I’ll defer that to a later post.
- salvias (1x) – (Autumn sage or salvia greggii) tough perennial that provides year-round color. Its flowers come in a variety of shades. These are my favorites of the sage family.
- Fall aster (1x) – the plants themselves aren’t very pretty but it provides great soil cover and the Fall bloom is spectacular, attracting lots of bees.
- Texas native trees or large shrubs (0) – Before we moved here, the previous tenants had cleared the area of all trees except the oaks. Leaving only oak trees is a very common practice around here. While they’re wonderful trees, such mono-culture makes them more vulnerable to disease as we’ve seen from all the oak wilt cases around town. This is just my opinion though. There have been no research that I know of that link the two, but there are plenty of research in other areas (farming, grasses) that show that a diversity of plants is more disease-resistant and healthier for the soil/environment.
- cenizo sage – These are most often seen as bushes as they are easy to trim and shape. But left alone, they can grow to a nice, sizeable height. After our only heavy rain in early October, these bushes burst forth with beautiful lavender colored flowers.
- mountain laurel – I’ve seen these as hedges and small trees. Evergreen, extremely drought-tolerant once established, beautiful frangrant flowers in the Spring. About 8 years ago, my husband decided to grow them from seed. Several of these seedlings are now bushes that range in height from about 2 to 5 feet. Aside from the first few months after they sprouted, we have not watered any of them. It is one tough plant. Its only drawback is how slow they grow but you can always speed that up by giving them extra water.
- Texas remote pinyon – you don’t see a lot of these around here but you can find clusters of them at the Kickapoo Caverns State Park (though I’ve never been). We bought ours in San Antonio about 6 years ago. This one is an even slower grower than the mountain laurels. Another drawback is that we have to keep a fence around them or else will rub their antlers on them. I only hope to see the day when these pine trees reach 25 feet
I will be restocking inventory and will be back online Thursday. Downloadable products will still be available.
Only three classes left! Plus, I changed the last class to a hands-on session. This session is free but only open to those who have signed up for any of the paid classes.
- Updated schedule:
- This Wednesday, 7/13/11 – Last class for the Outdoor Summer Survival Kit. 10:15am – 11am. $15.
- Next Wednesday, 7/20/11 – Last class for the Lotion Making 101. 10:15am – 11am. $15.
- Wednesday, 7/27/11 – FREE hands-on session, only open to those who have signed up for the above classes. Come make a free batch of any of the skin care products I demonstrated in class. I will provide the essential ingredients and tools. Please bring your own containers. 10am – 10:30am.
All classes are located at the UMC in Cedar Park, TX: 1101 W. Park St. The road is under construction and partially closed so it is best to come from Lakeline Blvd to Park St.
This summer, I joined the Ultimate Mom’s Club in Cedar Park, TX. It has been a great place to start my pilot classes on homemade skin care. I have met some remarkable families, many of whom are doing what I’m doing – getting things done for themselves AND giving their kids a wonderful place to hang out. I like the constant flurry of activities and that the kids always have other kids to interact with and lots of space to safely run around and be kids!
For the past three years since I’ve been blogging, my articles on homemade skin care constantly receive the most traffic and trackbacks. This is one of my favorite and most useful hobby and I love to share and show people just how easy it is to do at home! This summer, I will be launching classes on the most popular topics. The classes will be held at the Ultimate Mom’s Club (UMC). The UMC is a Work, Learn & Play cooperative of home-based mothers, hosted in a private home on 5 beautiful acres in Cedar Park, TX.
Homemade Lotion 101:
In this class, I will go over the basic ingredients and equipment needed, explain and demonstrate how to make a very simple lotion, and talk about how to store, package, and clean up. Each person will get to take home a 3oz sample lotion scented with their essential oil(s) of choice. Class time is 10:15am – 11am. Choose from one of the following dates: Wednesday 7/6/11 or 7/20/11. Please arrive by 10am to sign in and/or register. Max 25 people, first come basis. However, if you would like to reserve your spot, you may register up to 24-hours in advance and pay through Paypal:
Outdoor Summer Survival Kit:
In this class, I will describe the components for effective insect repellent, bug bite itch relief, sun protection, and after-sun care so that you know what to look for whether you choose to buy or make your own product. I will provide easy instructions and recipes and will demonstrate how to make a simple, natural insect repellent spray for you to take home. Each person will also receive a sample of pre-made anti-itch ointment and sunscreen. Class time is 10:15am – 11am. Choose from one of the following dates: Wednesday 6/29/11 or 7/13/11. Please arrive by 10am to sign in and/or register. Max 25 people, first come basis. However, if you would like to reserve your spot, you may register up to 24-hours in advance and pay through Paypal:
Considering how much granola costs, it is well worth the time to make it yourself. The main ingredient is good ole fashioned rolled oats – super cheap! It is also super easy to make and the most time consuming part is the baking time. I make a large batch of basic granola from which I can turn into different flavors of cereals, snacks, and power bars just by adding a few additional ingredients.
- 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
- 2 cups puffed grains (rice, wheat, millet, and/or kamut)
- 1 cup sliced almonds (optional; if not using, substitute with 1 cup oats or puffed grains)
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Blend together oats, puffs, and almonds in a large bowl.
- Melt butter in a saucepan on medium-low.
- Add sugar and honey. Continue to heat until bubbly.
- Pour butter mixture over dry mixture and toss to coat with a spatula.
- Spread mixture on parchment or Silpat lined jelly roll pan.
- Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
Bees and wasps are beneficial insects that should be welcoming guests of every healthy garden. Having stingers make them not-so welcome to humans. Our family’s foremost solution to coexist tolerably with these helpful insects is PREVENTION – prevent them from building nests/hives in and around your home. It’s just now warming up in Austin and we can see them flying around and looking for new spots to build a home. For wasps, my husband goes out and knocks down any nests he sees, especially under the roof eaves, with a long stick or broom and then runs away. When they’re just getting started, the nests are small enough that he can do this easily. Key is to not let the nests get too big and out of hand. Also keep the garage door shut while they’re scouting and fix holes on the outside of your house, especially around plug outlets and fixtures. Inspect regularly. With these simple preventative steps, we have never had to seek the help of a professional. We want these insects around, just not so close to our dwellings!
Years ago, we discovered a bee colony that has settled in one of our trees. Every year around Spring time, we’ve had the privilege of witnessing a bee swarm. Half the colony of bees leave and rest on another tree for a day or so, then move on to find a permanent home. It is quite a sight to see! While the bees are scouting for a new home is when we’re most attentive to keeping our structures beeproof, keeping all doors and windows closed at all times and maintaining a clutter-free patio. See Beeproof Your Property for more info.
There is a lot of media hype and dramatic stories on the ‘killer bees’. (Conversely, there’s also a lot of media coverage on the shortage of bees). Naturally, I was very concerned when we first discovered the hive. But the more I learned about bees, the better I felt about having them around. Knowing where our hive is located is better than being surprised. Next to preventing bees from taking residence in our structures in the first place is to have a getaway plan. Drill into your family members to keep doors shut and if swarmed, run! Cover your eyes and face as much as possible. Get indoors and shut the door if you can. If away from home, just keep running but watch out for cars! Eventually, the bees will stop following when they get too far from their hive. Run first, then call for help or to report; local beekeepers can safely remove/displace bees and most local fire departments are already equipped to handle bee extermination. Finally, have a healthy respect for bees; don’t bother them and they won’t generally bother you. They’re everywhere and there’s no getting rid of them in your area so learn to coexist. Here are a few good and entertaining online references:
- Columbia U’s summary on Africanized honey bees – did you know that ALL honey bees are non-native in the Western Hemisphere?
- TAMU honey bee information and guide
- Silence of the Bees
- Tales from the Hive – transcript
Because of these beneficial insects, we’ve always enjoyed a floriferous garden. Here are a few pics of some of our wildflowers, our first Spring colors. I love this time of year and I can’t wait until the garden takes off!