April Showers bring May Flowers

A small flower bed near the kid's playhouse.

Earth Day, a little late

My post for Earth Day is a little late this year. I must say that I am steamed, mad, and downright ready to rant. Over the past three months we worked on our Earth Day project. Our plan was to see how far we could reduce our water usage and in doing so, reduce our bill and prove how living green is better for your green (money).

We did our part with things like:

  • Using one cup a day per person

  • Saving water from cooking to give to the plants

  • Make sure nothing was leaking and toilets were running properly

  • Adding water bottles to the back of the toilet to reduce tank water

  • Flushing when needed

  • Reduced letting the water run during cleaning and teethbrushing

  • Heating water for cleaning, not letting it run to get hot

  • Cooling water in the fridge, not letting it run to get cold

  • Reducing the kids amount of clothing changes in a day, reducing our laundry

  • Cleaning stains right away and then only doing a full laundry load
We recently got our latest bill, and at first I was excited! We brought our water use down to 7 ccf for 3 months ( our highest use on record being 16 ccf), that translates to 5236 gallons for the quarter and 1745.33333 gallons a month.

Now, we are a homeschooling family, so 5 out of 6 of us are home full-time most days, which means our water use may be higher than some other families. Using these numbers, you can see that our use per person per day equals a little less than 10 gallons.The average home in the U.S. consumes about 69.3 gallons of water per person per day, according to a 1999 survey of 1,200 homes by the American Water Works Association. The average family of four consumes 6,300 gallons of water per month for indoor use.

So, knowing all these facts, I was ecstatic to see how far we had come. However, then I see that the bill amount was not reduced and at the bottom was a note, " ATTN: YOUR BILL INCLUDES A 40% WATER RATE INCREASE."It takes a lot to get me mad, and I am mad! This also came on the tail of our gas & electric being deregulated and therefore also increasing. I have a hard time enjoying the State and City I live in and this just makes it harder!

Family Work

This past weekend we enjoyed some official Family Work. It is a time when we work together, even the little ones to clean up or help improve our family in some way. This weekend we worked on our garden and planted strawberries.

Everbearing strawberries to be exact; they will produce from spring to fall and come back stronger each year! In the past we have always spent Mother's Day or what ever weekend they were ready, at a local pick-your-own farm. Last year they started charging a picking fee per person no mater what size the person. Well for a family of six those ended up being some very pricey berries. Now we will have our own strawberries all season long.

Next week we will put in our other seeds and look into container blueberry bushes. Each week we will add more stones and more items to the garden. I love the idea of Edible Landscaping!

Want to know more? Check out these links.


Landscaping with Fruits and Vegetables by Fred Hagy
Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg, Diana Balmori, Rosalind Creasy, and Michael Pollan

Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community by Heather Coburn

Simple Fruit Salad
This is a family favorite! I like to use a mix of canned and fresh fruits.

1 can of diced pineapple
1 can of pears in juice (dice if needed)
1 can of peaches in juice (dice if needed)
1 can of mandarin oranges
1 package of blueberries (washed)
1 package of strawberries (washed and diced or sliced)

Mix all together in a large bowl making sure to add juice. Enjoy!

Getting to Know You.....

This month we will be meeting Rob Sandall. He is creator of my wonderful product tags you see here. I love getting to know about the other crafters and suppliers on Etsy.

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

I'm a 42 year old kid who spent his entire life in a 3 square mile area of Portland, Oregon. I had a solid family upbringing, did pretty good in school, and failed miserably in college (long story). I am lucky today to have found my soul partner loving wife. We met just 4 1/2 years ago, and together with her daughter, my incredible stepkid, we have a humble, happy, cute little home. Our girl is on the 7th grade honor roll, my Wife has a great job that she loves, and I am pursuing my dream of working from home. I worked for 18 years in an engraving shop prior to starting Bullfrog Graphics in 2007.

My blog is about my life on Etsy but also about my family and living green, so what does GREEN mean to you and your family?

With our family, living GREEN is an ongoing goal. It starts with our recycling efforts - we have 3 recycling bins in our kitchen that are working out great. Other simple things include using eco-friendly weather sealer on our picnic table out back, washing laundry in cold water, and our latest project is replacing all of the windows in our home which should save quite a bit in wasted heating energy. I also hope to retrofit our backyard flower garden with rainwater supplied irrigation some day soon.

We are moving into spring and everyone is getting their seeds and gardens ready, What do you grow and/or raise on your property?

We have a perennial flower garden. I never dreamed I would be a "flower" guy, but now every day I look for our flowers to begin showing themselves in the springtime. It's so cool! I feel like a little kid waiting for the ice cream truck to come around the corner. This year we also want to grow some vegetables - at least some tomatoes and peppers. We have one blueberry bush in a large cedar pot that is amazingly productive. In August it's cool to walk outside in the morning with a bowl of Wheaties and pluck blueberries right off the bush to top it off.

How did you get started in woodworking?

I had some woodshop in school, and my Dad and I built a few bird houses and pinewood derby cars when I was in the Boy Scouts. I was never terribly interested in woodworking until we got our first laser engraver at my engraving job in 1994. Wow - the creative potential was unlimited! My boss, a very cool lady, would let me come in on weekends and tinker with ideas. I never dreamed I would own my own laser, but thanks to my Wife's support and encouragement - here I am, waking up every day with a goofy smile on my face as I head downstairs to my dungeon...er...workshop to burn things with my laser....

What do you wish you had known when you started out ?

I thought I would be the most organized guy to ever work from home. No lost paperwork, never forgetting things, never putting off answering questions for a blog ....... - but jeez! I do the family grocery shopping, household maintenance (this weeks job is a leaky shower), pick up and delivery to 7th grade soccer practice - all things I am grateful to be doing, but in the background there is always (fortunately) emails to reply to, engraving ideas to design, shipping, filing, paperwork, cleaning the laser optics and exhaust fans, keeping computer files backed up - oh, you all know how it goes - so many things! But again, I'm very blessed to be in this position. I wish I had known that I'm not superhuman.

Tell use about your laser woodworking and how it works and the other materials you use?

Here's the technical description of the laser system I have: "55 watt co2 air cooled laser engraver with 24x18 inch vector cutting table, air assist, and heated leather seats" Well...Most of that is accurate. The graphics and text used for engraving are generated with CorelDraw, a graphics program that works with both vector and bitmap images. Mastery of CorelDraw makes operating this laser system amazingly flexible. The machine itself is about as big as the bottom half of a refrigerator. Inside are 3 axis - XYZ - an arm with a mirror that travels the Y, a mirror and lens that travel the X, and the engraving surface raises up and down for the Z. When focused on the wood, the laser beam literally vaporizes the area the beam comes in contact with. But this little beam is 3/1000 of an inch in diameter - really tiny! So it gives amazing detail, but has to travel really fast to get any work done efficiently. To simplify the description of the process, think of it as a huge inkjet printer that fires a laser beam instead of ink, and only through one tiny little hole. Wow - I'm getting wordy here.... Besides wood, I can cut and engrave acrylic, leather - almost anything porous. Metal, on the other hand - no can do.

What are some of you favorite projects that you have done?

I love everything I make for my Etsy store. I really do! If I have to pick a favorite, it's the 4 and 6 pack beverage racks. I think it's because people have been so incredibly creative with their engraving ideas! I've engraved famous quotes, robots, dinosaurs, trees - so many things! People really enjoy giving these as gifts with their personal, thoughtful ideas engraved. I've had some very rewarding feedback! I make things for myself once in a while that turn out pretty cool. I made an acrylic charm for my wife that I had cast into pure silver (thanks do my Dad who works with precious metals). She wears it all the time! I also make little boxes and tools that I use every day in my workshop - it's so handy to see a need for a specific storage box, and be able to fabricate it on the spot. Lucky me!

When did you start on Etsy?

I started in....July 2008? I think that's it. It was my Sister's suggestion - bless her! She buys from Etsy often, and thought I could fin a niche.
What would be your best tip for someone starting out?
Be honest with your customers, and always do what you say you are going to do. Stay in communication with them - if you see you might not meet a deadline, let them know right away. Offer to pay extra shipping if needed - throw in something extra if there's been a snag. Always see the transaction from the customer's view, and you will be generously rewarded with their esteem. Be a good person! Don't get greedy, but keep in check with the fact that you (if this applies) are doing this in part to support yourself or your family.
What tips do you have for parents trying to run an at home business while raising a family?
This one was hard for me, but I've learned to do it. Force yourself to quit at dinner time! Don't work weekends! There will always be exceptions - occasionally I will underestimate how long a project will take, and I'm committed to a shipping deadline. I try to do my catching up in the early AM when the girls are sleeping, but once in a while (like before Christmas......holy cow) I have to go back to the dungeon after dinner for a few hours.

Where do you see or hope to see you company in the future?

I hope to make enough income to pay the house off early, take my family on a few vacations (nothing fancy - maybe Disneyland or Yellowstone), and have a secure "golden years" plan for my wife and I. I can't imagine not working - I really like this job! If I can cut to part time when I'm over 55 years old, that might be ok. I want this company to have a solid, dependable reputation that maybe some day I can pass on to my Daughter, Niece, Nephews - who knows!

Last but not least, if granted super power what would you pick?

I'd like the power to be able to pick out clothes that my wife agrees "match" That would be impressive. ;)

To find out more about this Etsy seller go to:

The Magic of Homeschooling

This particular morning the children decided to look for fairies. The wonder of this moment was that 4 kids of different ages ( 8, 6, 4, 1) all together, plus the dog, decided to do a group activity all on their own. They used one of the books form The Spiderwick Chronicles series to do their research. Now some might say that fairies are not, or should not be part of school core curriculum, but I say anything that gets your kids to read and to find a joy of reading should be indulged. Wonderful moments like this would be lost if they were stuck in a classroom with only kids of their same age.

Something you need to know...

April Giveaway

With yet another Holiday coming, that in our modern times centers around candy, we try to find "healthy alternatives". One of our favorites is from a company named Yummy Earth. Three of our kids can't handle traditional RED #40 food coloring, so hard candy was out for them until we found Yummy Earth. They use vegetable dyes and natural flavorings.

Here you see my daughter enjoying her first lollipop!

So to celebrate our love for healthy, yummy CANDY, we are giving away 1 yummy dozen of Yummy Earth Lollipops.


To enter this giveaway you must become a follower of this blog, then go visit Yummy Earth website, pick out a flavor you would like to try, and post it in the comment you leave here. Make sure you give contact information.
Giveaway ends April 30, 2009

Green Homeschooling

Using energy and making waste is what humans of the 21st century are known best for. Well, being home with a family of 6 for a good part of the day everyday can make you see that truth.
We have worked hard as a family to reduce our energy use. We bought GREEN light bulbs. We have reduced our phantom electrical use, and we are tracking what we use each month so we can make improvements. Now for the waste--that's a hard one with a large family. We precycle, buy items with less or recyclable packaging, use less when we can, recycle what is allowed, and reuse what we can. Homeschooling is sadly adding to our waste and so this year we have started taking these steps to reduce.
We start by using recycled paper and recycling our paper and art work. We have a bin in the dinning room, also our homeschooling room, to "file" old art work and busy school work. We also looked for items to reduce our need for paper. We do work on Magna-doodles, chalk mats, and wipe off practice sheets.

Here are some great Etsy finds to help you reduce:



PDF Pattern