Fall is almost here

Hard to believe, but it certainly looks like Fall is almost here.  “The boy” starts back to school next week, which honestly I can’t wait for and neither can he.   Don’t get me wrong, I love having him home during the summer, but he’s bored!

I love Fall, it’s my favorite time of the year.   I love the colors, halloween, and fall foods.  I also love the cool crisp temperatures.

One of things I’ve done almost every since since I was a little girl was visit either a mountain area to see the fall colors.  I’ve been to New England and the Rockies many times, and I’ve even been to Canada.  My parents would take us to Colorado almost every year.  My Dad had favorite cabin there he loved to rent for us, and we would stay there for week.  My Dad called it “roughing it”.   I have lots of very fond memories on those trips.   But, one place I haven’t ever been is the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee.

So this year, “the boy” and I are hoping in the car, and heading to Tennessee to the Blue Ridge Mountain Fall Colors.  I’ve heard they are gorgeous.  Fortunately Eastern TN isn’t too far from our new home.   Now the tricky part is planning, as being there at the right time for peak colors can be a little tough.  Searching online, I found this great website called Blue Ridge Mountain Life that has tons of articles, tips, and even a fall color guide with peak times.  Based on their current forecasts, it looks like we’ll want to be there mid October.

Tomorrow, I’ll make some calls and see if I can book us a hotel room for a few days during the peak times.   I think we’re going to stay in Gatlinburg, TN which I hear is a great place with lots to see and do.  Gatlinburg is also right next to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and close to the The Blue Ridge Parkway.   I’d love to rent a cabin there, but that’s just too far out of the budget for me right now.  Heck, even a hotel room might be.  I guess we’ll see.  Even if we can’t stay directly in Gatlinburg, I’m hoping we find someplace close to stay that I can afford.

Looking at some photos on that website and a few others today, I realized that not only do I want to visit the national park, but I also really want to drive along The Blue Ridge Parkway.  The photos just look GORGEOUS.   Can you tell I’m excited?

My son, well not so much.  But I think once we get there, he’ll be excited too.  Probably more excited about Gatlinburg than the mountains themselves.  In any case it will be nice for him and I just to get away for a few days and see some things we’ve never seen before.  I read it can even snow in mid October in the higher elevations.  That would be a real treat, as “the boy” hasn’t even seen real snow before.

Have you ever been?  Any tips or suggestions?  Any places we shouldn’t miss?


Raising Chickens?

I’ve been reading a lot on how to reduce my expenses.  One of the big tips I’m seeing is that many people are growing their own food, and even raising their own animals for milk and eggs.

My son and I were watching some show on Discovery the other night that went into some detail about “urban homesteading” that really caught my interest, and unfortunately his too.  I was more interested in starting a garden to grow fresh vegetables in.  But my son, well he decided having chickens would be “awesome mom”.

Of course I said no, but my curiosity was up, so I started reading about it.  I also started paying attention to people’s back yards while we were driving around town, and while I was on my way to and from work.  You know what?  I spotted a few chicken coops.  Not in town of course, but out of town a bit, where we live.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re not in the country, but in typical suburbia.

Why chickens?

But even in suburbia, I saw chicken coops … people really are raising chickens.  Not only is it fun, but you can use the manure for your vegetable garden and you  get fresh eggs.  Oh, and they eat bugs and weeds.  Less bugs, that’s a good thing.

Chicken Legal?

The first thing you have to find out if you’re considering raising chickens is: are they legal?  Each town, city, and county has it’s own laws, so you’ll need to make a few phone calls to find out.  Also, if you are in a home owners association, you’ll need to check the bylaws, as many prevent raising farm animals.  Fortunately for me, we’re allowed.

Where to find chickens

If you decide you want chickens, where is the best place to get them?   Turns out there are a lot of places (so do a google search) but I found a bunch listed in the  local paper and on Craigslist.   I’m not ready to buy them just yet but I wanted to know and understand the costs.

How to care for chickens

Now here’s where things get a little more complex.  Chickens aren’t terribly hard to care of, but for someone like me who’s always wondered, what do chickens eat anyway?, the process seemed a bit…uh…challenging.

To care for chickens, you need:

  1. A coop
  2. Flooring – pine shavings are recommended
  3. Food & Water
  4. Treats (yep, you read that right, chickens get treats too)
  5. FencingI don’t have a lot of land, and would not want them getting out into the road.

I’m still on the “chicken fence” about whether or not I want to take this leap, especially since I’m not home during the day.  But based on what I’ve been reading, it does seem kind of fun and has some really nice benefits.  Turns out too that chickens can be really pretty and very friendly.   Again, my son is all excited and keeps asking me nightly when we’re getting our chickens.

I still want to do a little more reading, and really understand all of this before I jump in.  Have you raised chickens?  Have any tips or advice for me?

Too many mosquitoes

I’m not a hater, I’m really not.  There are a few things I do hate though, and mosquitoes are at the top of my list.  That are dirty, disease carrying little pests that surge only to make you sick an itch.

For some reason, this year, it seems that the population of mosquitos around my home has tripled.  They are everywhere at night.  So much so, I feel like I’m breathing them.

The other night I had some friends over.  We were sitting out on the deck trying to enjoy some cocktails while the kids played indoors, an the mosquitoes were so bad, we had to come inside.  I said enough is enough.

Getting rid of mosquitoes

I called an exterminator, who of course wanted to charge me so large amount of money to treat my home and yard on an ongoing basis.   They said it wouldn’t completely get rid of them, but it would help.

I’m a single mom, on a budget, so the exterminator wasn’t a good option for me.  So I hit the internet the other night and found a number of good options:

Citronella Torches - There are a number of attractive yard torches that you can place in your yard to put a border around your deck and keep the mosquitoes at bay.  These are often called Tiki torches.  I purchased about 5 of them the other night, and they actually seem to worked pretty well.  We still had mosquitoes, but not near as many.

Citronella Candles – While I was there, I also picked up a few candles to put on my outdoor tables.   They seemed to help as well.  The best part?  Not only did they prevent mosquitoes, they also made the deck attractive at night with the flickering flames.

Body Spray – As a kid, I remember my mother spraying us down with his horrendous smelling stuff that burned my nose for days.  That was then, and this is now.  Today’s mosquito repelling sprays aren’t harmful, smell much better, and actually work!  I prefer Cutter Skinsensations.

Mosquito Netting - Not an option I’ve used yet, Mosquito netting can be hung over your deck to help prevent mosquitoes from getting to you.  The netting is a bit expensive, but it does work and looks attractive if down right.  I would not use the netting with the torches and candles though.  Can you saw bonfire?

Change Clothes – This one is kind of simple really, but if you wear longer clothing, you won’t attract the little buggers as much AND it will help prevent them from biting you.  I hear it, but it will hot.  Turns out you can buy some long but breathable clothing, that will not only protect you from being bit, but will also keep you cool.  You can also spray the clothing with mosquito repellent, and it really works well.

Plants – Another solution that I learned about was to surround your deck with plants that repel mosquitoes.    These plants give off natural odors and chemicals that naturally repel and keep mosquitos away.  While not as effective as some of the other options, it can and does help.   This is an option Ill be exploring next year as I begin working on the yard and garden in the spring.

How about you, have any tips for handling mosquitos?


My son wants a quadcopter

A couple of weeks ago, my son and I were just messing around the house, and CNN was on the TV.  I was in the other room and heard “Mom, come here quick, you gotta see this!”.   That usually means he wants something, and I’m going to spend the money.

CNN was running a feature on Drones, and specifically these 4 bladed helicopters called quadcopters.  You’ve probably seen them on the news yourself or maybe even read about them.  They’re becoming incredibly popular, if not somewhat controversial.   I had to laugh, as they even mentioned some teen age kid that was flying his along the beach, and filmed some male nudist.  Some lady got all upset about it and called the kid a pervert.  The poor kid, he didn’t even know the guy was there, let alone knew it was a nudist beach.

Most of these remote controlled quadcopters are expensive, as in $500.00 or more.  Remember, Single Mom here!

I explained to my son that I just could afford one of those, but that I would look into it.  Turns out, they’re not all expensive, just the really nice ones.  I found a number of these toy “quadcopters” available for sale online and at the local Frys.  These are more “toy” versions, but still really sophisticated.  I wanted to find the best quadcopter for the money, and didn’t want to spend more than about $50.00 or so.  I ran across a site called DroneBuff while searching around, that shows all of the available drones for sale and offered reviews for many of them.

Hubsan_X4I found a few models that were in my price range, and ended up buying him a “Hubsan X4 quadcopter” as a surprise.  It came the other day.   I bought the Hubsan as the reviewers said it was very durable, easy to fly, and had lots of replacement parts available.  I looked out on Amazon as well, and the thing had over 500 reviews, and almost all of them positive.  That was enough for me, so I ordered it.

We opened the box together, charged it up and read the manual.  Then he took is first flight!  It lasted all of about 5 seconds and crashed.  Turns out, these little quadcopters take a bit of practice to learn to fly.  I still can’t do it, but he’s getting really good at it.

I think I made a really good purchase decision.  He’s crashed that little bugger more times than I can count and it’s still flying like the first day we bought it.  We did have to replace one of the propellers, as it broke running into the kitchen cabinets.  But fortunately it came with a few replacements, and replacing them was easy to do.

I think we’ve set a new trend, as now all of his friends want one too.  It really is a neat little toy, and keeps him busy.  He’s already asking to get one of the other models available.  Who knows, maybe this will turn out to be a really good hobby for him.


Annual Physical and a Surprise

I went to the doctor today to get my annual physical.  I’ve been a bit lax about taking care of myself over the past few years, and vowed that this year would be different.  I’ve made plans to go the dentist and get a physical.

Today was physical day. No, not a “female physical” but a regular family doctor physical.  The gyno physical is in a few weeks.  Can’t wait …

I dropped the kiddo off at a friends house, and headed to the doctors.

I forgot how much I hate going to the doctor.   The smell, the waiting, the people hacking and coughing around you.  Not fun.  The waiting was particularly bad this time.  I ended up waiting about 30 minutes past my appointment before they even called me back.  Then another 20 minutes waiting on the doctor.

The nurse had taken some information before the doctor came in, and took all my vitals.  She didn’t say anything about my blood pressure, so I assumed everything was ok.

The doctor walks in, and after some initial pleasantries says “Have you had high blood pressure readings before?”  Not a good way to start.   I have had high blood pressure readings before, too many times.

She began the physical.  Fairly routine stuff, except for the blood work she wanted to run.  Its been a while since I’ve had blood work done, so I was certainly due for it.  Not that it makes it any more fun.  I don’t like needles much.  Fortunately the lab tech was good at her job.

The doctor felt pretty confident that it was ‘”white coat syndrome” but wanted me to monitor my blood pressure at home for a month, and then come back.  She also mentioned I could use to lose a few pounds, as I was a little over my “ideal weight”.  Of course that was her nice way of saying that I’m way over my ideal weight.  She’s right of course.  Not something you like to hear, but the truth is the truth.

I would love to get some time to exercise, but frankly it’s just not an option right now.  I barely have anytime to do much as it is.  Guess I’ll need to start watching what I eat a little more.

Finding a blood pressure monitor

When I got home, I went online to find a blood pressure monitor, per the doctor’s orders.  To my surprise, there are actually a bunch of different home blood pressure monitors on the market.  My doctor recommended the Omron brand, which I looked at first.  I read a ton of blood pressure monitor reviews and ran across this new blood pressure monitor that works with my iPhone by Withings.  Here it is on Amazon.

After reading the reviews on Amazon, and doing a little more Google searching on it, I ended up buying it.  Should be here in a few days.  I’m really hoping this is all for nothing, and that my blood pressure at home is normal.

The last thing I need on top of everything else that’s on my plate is high blood pressure.  Although, with all of the stress, and lack of sleep I’ve been under for the past 2 years, it wouldn’t surprise me if I had high blood pressure.  I seem to recall it runs in my family as well.  I’ll have to ask my Mom about it.

I’ll keep you posted…

Bed Bugs vs Single Mom

bed-bug-communityAs if being a single mom isn’t enough.  I have to work a full-time job, run my son back and forth to sports, keep the house clean, deal with home maintenance issues and do the finances.   Oh, and I almost forgot, I do have to sleep sometime in between all of that.   But now, I have a big ugly problem.

We have bed bugs!

It started with my son complaining of bites on his arms, then his legs, and then his back.   Being a boy, he likes to play outside I just assumed it was mosquito bites.  I was ready to go buy some of those plants that repel mosquitos.  Then I started having bites on my legs, and then my back.  That’s when I began to suspect something else was up.

I went online and found photos of bed bug bites, and realized ours looked awful similar.  See, bed bugs bite you as the move around on your body, so the bites are in lines, like stepping stones.  Both his and mine looked like that.   I ran across a site (http://bedbugtreatmentsite.com) that has lots of photos, and even tips for bed but detection and treatment.

I followed the detection steps, and found bed bugs in my bed and his.  Not a lot, but enough to alarm me.

I called a few local pest removal companies, who wanted to charge me anywhere from $500 – $1000.00 for an initial assessment and treatment!   I’m a single mom, I don’t have that kind of money!

Single Mom becomes an exterminator!

I went back to the bed bug treatment site, and read over there treatment steps.  I decided to try getting rid of them myself using a combination of available sprays they recommended, and using a bed bug steamer that I bought from Amazon.com.  Fortunately it worked, at least so far.

I had to do the treatment 3-4 times.  I haven’t seen any bed bugs in two weeks, and my son and I are bite free.  Here’s what I did:

  1. I completely cleaned out both rooms.  I took everything except the furniture and mattresses outside, and inspected everything closely for bed bugs.  I sprayed everything sprayable with a bed bug spray.
  2. I washed all of our linens, curtains, and clothes in hot water.
  3. I used the bed bug steamer on all of the furniture, walls bed and mattresses.  I even steamed the carpet and moldings.  This took a long time.
  4. I then sprayed the furniture, carpet and mattresses with bed bug spray.  Make sure you follow the directions.

Important note: Always steam first, then spray.  If you spray first, the steam can cause the spray to go airborne and be very dangerous.

I ended up doing the steaming and spraying about 3-4 times over the course of about 2 weeks.  My son and I slept in the living room.  I also purchased bed bu mattress covers and pillow covers for both of us.

Bed Bug Free!

It’s been almost 4 weeks since the last treatment, and so far no bed bugs that I can see.   I’ve moved everything back into the rooms as well.

I’m not really sure where they came from or how we got them.  I wish I knew.  BUT, I feel great that I was able to treat the problem myself, and save myself thousands of dollars.