September 30, 2009
Posted by maxwellhouse under homemaking
It’s been winterizing time around here the last couple of weeks. Last weekend we took down the green house and after harvesting the last few tomatoes hubby hauled away the dying plants inside. All the random outdoor toys and lawn care items found their winter homes in the garage. This next weekend we’ll be finishing up the bulk of winterizing by dumping the last of the annuals, perhaps trimming the perennials, protecting the apple trees, and hanging Christmas lights. I’ll never forget the winter we were out one night in freezing December temperatures with Kevin on the extension ladder (barely tethered to the slick ice by a dusting of kitty litter) and pregnant Janeen at the foot of the ladder praying for safety. It might be cheeseball, but we’ve learned to get the lights hung early!
The Alaska Cooperative Extension Service has in the past published a Fall Gardener’s Checklist. I can’t find the publication on their website any more, but the Peninsula Clarion has a reprint in the Sunday, October 10, 2004 edition. The highlights:
- Remove crop residues from garden plots
- Remove and store poles, trellises and potable frames
- Mark perennials for spring
- Apply mulch. Anyone know where to get straw or hay??
- Till and turn heavy or compacted soil, then add organic material. This is the order of the day for my nutrient-starved raised veggie beds!
- Dig in a top dressing of compost for raised or deep beds.
- Build a compost pile
- Put away hoses and sprinklers
- Carry out garden expansion plans
- prune and mulch perennials
- prune berry bushes
- prepare materials for starting seedlings in the spring. Anyone tried a soil blocker? They look soooo cool…
Looking at getting into gardening? I am hardly a green thumbed horticulturist. My gardening motto is “the least effort for the greatest joy”. Sometimes joy means experimenting with varieties of veggies or perennials, sometimes it’s faithfully tending the greenhouse, and sometimes it means neglecting the garden for a summer in favor of playing with the family! Here are some links to help get you started on your own joyful gardening adventures:
- The Alaska Cooperative Extension Service – here you’ll find helpful publications and expert knowledge
- Alaska Master Gardeners webpage – past newsletters, a variety list, and tips for gardening in Alaska
- Direct Gardening – Cheap, cheap, cheap perennials. This mail-order plant source ships bare-root plants during the spring and summer. They offer a one year guarantee and it’s easy to get a replacement if plants don’t survive. This place is the cheapest of the cheap when it comes to plant prices, but you’ll have to work for it by carefully tending new transplants and diligently requesting a replacement if plants don’t survive. Some favorites are Fort Laramie strawberries (25 plants for $7), the Astilbe sampler (4 plants for $7), and Fern leaf Bleeding heart (3 plants for $6).
September 23, 2009
Posted by maxwellhouse under deals
Originally posted in September of 2008. Today Woot is having a “Woot-off”. Basically, a bunch of stuff gets sold throughout the day, some of it great and some not-so-great. Fun fun 🙂
A couple of years ago a friend of Kevin’s turned us on to a neat site for sale items, Woot.com. Woot offers one product each day, at a low price. That product is available for 24 hours, or until it sells out. The deal is usually great, sometimes amazing, and occasionally mediocre. Woot generally offers electronics, although that’s not set in stone. Past deals have included GPS units, cables, TVs, desktop computers, laptops, iPods, MP3 players, and telephones. Todays deal is a 37″ HDTV for $550. Shipping included. Of course, they don’t ship TVs to Alaska, but I can’t blame them for joining the ranks of 99% of other online retailers. WE’RE A PART OF THE UNITED STATES, PEOPLE!!!
Similar to Woot is the site 1saleaday.com. 1sale is more varied than woot, offering more than just electronics. We’ve ordered a couple of different products from 1sale. Just like Woot, the deal can run the gamut from amazing to mediocre (although you’re just about gauranteed that if you find a product on one of these sites, it’s the best price available). Shipping at 1sale is $5. Often they’ll advertise a product for free, but the total comes to $5 with Shipping and handling. Today you can buy a set of speakers that surround your iPod (or other MP3 player). With a “free” price, they’re around 5 bucks after shipping. We bought a set of these last time they went on sale, and we’ll be buying more this time.
Along this same line is the site MamaBargains.com, which also offers a 24 hour deal. These deals are on trendy, yuppie kid and baby stuff. From clothes to car seats, they offer a wide variety of items. I’ve never purchased from them, but I check out the site occasionally to make sure I’m not missing out on some great deal.
These sites can be great for gift-giving ideas. Even if you don’t want a new ipod shuffle for $29.99 (a recent Woot deal), someone on your gift list could be begging for one! There are other, similar sites out there, but these seemed the best to me. Let me know if you discover any other favorites.
September 21, 2009
Posted by maxwellhouse under Uncategorized
We painted our living room three years ago when Jimmy was a baby. A color was carefully selected based on what would best compliment our deep blue furniture. We knew we wanted a green color, but as we surfed around the color wheel to a color with the same depth (hue?) of the furniture, we wound up at a green-blue color. I’ll admit, the furniture and the walls complement each other well. But, with such a large room (vaulted ceilings) I tend to sometimes feel like Ariel, stuck under the sea and longing for dry land. I really wanted to stick this color out for five years, but I think I’ve had enough. I feel restricted.
So today has been my “decor for dummies” day. Wow. I’ve realized I know nearly nothing about decorating! I know what rooms I like and which I hate, but that’s the bulk of my knowledge. Enter Google.
One of the most helpful pages has been How to Choose a Color Scheme by About.com. Their tips:
- Choose a style and a theme. What? Rooms are supposed to have themes?!!
- With this in mind, choose an anchor fabric or piece
- 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Decorate accordingly
I never realized before how important it is to actually pick a style and theme. I’ve never taken the time to actually look through some photos of living rooms to pick out my favorite attributes of a room. Yay. I’m happy.
The resulting “likes” of my search:
- spanish style (sconces, dark woods)
- I don’t care if it’s boring, I want my walls to be light brown sugar!
- jade and blue accents with the occasional splash of alternate color (yellow?)
- Time to start keep an eye out on craiglist for spanish-inspired pieces
- I think I want a tapestry. That makes me feel old. Or wierd. Not sure which.
Painting the room will be the biggest step, and one where the majority of the work falls on hubby’s shoulders. So, even though it seems out-of-order, I’d like to start decorating other aspects of the room now and leave the painting for some dreary early-winter afternoon when there’s nothing to do outside.
Some other links from my search:
September 14, 2009
Posted by maxwellhouse under travel
Condor fares are out for this next travel season. As I posted previously, Condor is a subsidiary of Lufthansa, and flies nonstop from Anchorage to Frankfurt from May through October. Nonstop, people! I salivate over the chance to take this trip myself someday (thanks to little bean #3 our 2010 European extravaganza has become 2012).
Right now, the cheapest tickets for the 2010 season are $1059 US (incl. fees). Prices go up from this amount beginning with the Tuesday, Jun 1 flight for the Anchorage to Frankfurt leg, and beginning with the Saturday, June 12th flight for the return flight. This is much more expensive than the $750 deal from 2008, but still a good price for low-hassle travel to Europe.
Condor’s site has been updated and it’s much easier to see with just a few clicks where the great bargains are for the season. Check it out and send me a post card if you take the leap.
September 10, 2009
Posted by maxwellhouse under finances
If you’re like me, at least once a year you make an attempt at organizing the house, and end up with several bags of items to donate to charity (clothing, electronics, books, toys, etc.) Before driving to the donation center and waving good-bye to that sweater you bought five years ago and haven’t worn since (been there, done that), make sure to jot down a list of the donated items, and ask one of the charity volunteers for a donation receipt. These receipts are for your personal records, and can prove to your donation later to the IRS if they ask.
Now for the fun part! Typical donations such as clothing and household items can be claimed at their fair market value (FMV) which adds to your itemized deductions. These deductions are then subtracted from your Net Adjusted Income to calculate Taxable Income. As long as you itemize deductions (versus taking the standard deduction) you’ll benefit monetarily from each donation.
The IRS leaves it up to the taxpayer to determine the Fair Market Value of each item. If you use Turbo Tax to prepare your taxes, the program automatically gives FMV suggestions on hundreds of commonly donated items. You can either enter the items into the software come spring time, or utilize TT’s free online donation tracking service called It’s Deductible. It’s Deductible syncs with TT so you can record your donations throughout the year, and import the info when it’s tax time. Using this online program, you can choose from hundreds of items in order to narrow down an accurate FMV for your donated item. For example, I clicked on the men’s clothing category (searching for jeans) and the following information was listed:
A pair of jeans donated in medium quality have a market value of $7, and a low quality pair would fetch $1.50. I’d be lucky to sell a pair of hubby’s gently used jeans at a yard sale for $1.50! Donate a few pairs of jeans, a few shirts, some miscellaneous electronics, and soon you’re looking at a happier, healthier check come April.
Some things to remember:
- Get a receipt! A detailed receipt is preferred, but a general receipt is better than none. You have to be able to prove to the IRS that you did in fact make the donation (should they inquire).
- Take pictures of the donation (again, for proof), or at the very least, make a note of what items you’ve donated. Staple the list or pictures to the receipt.
- Donations of more than $200 at a time MAY be subject to more strict regulations than their lower-value counterparts. I say may because I remember reading about it somewhere, but then my sweet little 3 year old closed all my open browser windows and I wasn’t able to read further. If you’re planning on making a donation of a larger item, it’d be worth researching.
- Even if you don’t use Turbo Tax, you can use It’s Deductible for free, and just transfer the donation info by hand.
- Swapping “old stuff” with friends, or giving away items to people who will actually use them always beats dropping them off at a thrift shop and messing with all the paperwork 🙂
September 7, 2009
Posted by maxwellhouse under Uncategorized
Last week #1 and I had a great conversation about the coming baby. He has decided that the baby is sleeping in mommy’s tummy and will wake up in a few months. During our lovely chat, he determined that at some point, the baby would have to exit mommy’s tummy so that we could meet him/her. At this point he asks “Where’d the hole go?” Uh Oh. I know what he means, but I ask him to clarify. “What do you mean, sweetie?” He again replies, “Where’d the hole go?” Oh dear. I panicked. Luckily for me, in about 10 seconds he says, “Your belly button?” And, in my panicked state I reply “Ummmm, yeah…” Pre-kids I think I remember saying that I’d never tell my child that babies come out of belly buttons. Before kids there were a lot of things I said that I would never do 🙂
In other news I nearly had myself convinced this morning that I was leaking amniotic fluid. At 17 weeks that would be a big problem. After a few minutes of detective work (with my heart beating so hard I nearly got light-headed) I determined that no, it wasn’t amniotic fluid, but merely the work of an 18 month old with a soggy night-time diaper who had been sitting in my lap watching cartoons. Whew. Just toddler pee.
September 5, 2009
Posted by maxwellhouse under Uncategorized
In September of 2007 I wrote the post below. Last night, my dream involved bicycling through the wilderness with a former youth group student and not quite outrunning a crazy moose…
My crazy pregnancy/labor/baby dreams have officially begun. Last night I dreamed that I arrived at the hospital for delivery (just in time), delivered, and was then told that there weren’t any beds left in the hospital. I was then shown a piece of cardboard pulled to the side of the hallway and told that would be my temporary “room”. I was so angry! Also, there was a convention of seamstresses (complete with their machines) sewing right next to my “room”. The seamstresses kept distracting my midwife so that she couldn’t take care of me. I’m pretty sure I won’t have to worry about any of these things, but at least I’ll be prepared to fight for my rights should the need arise.