Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Summer DIY Car Maintenance

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SummerCarCare #CollectiveBias

Despite what appears to be never-ending cold temperatures, I know summer is coming.  And since summer is coming, it is time to start getting our car ready for all of those spur of the moment road trips and other outings.

The first step in getting our car ready for Spring and Summer is to switch out the snow tires.  Honestly, we usually do this right at the end of March, but for some reason we left them on a bit later.  This ended up being a good thing since it was snowing last week…

Then we really love to get the kids involved and “detail” the car.  There were days when I was younger, pre-kids, pre-marriage, that I would bring my car to the dealer and have it detailed.  It always came out looking so nice and clean, and smelled new again!  Of course, that is a luxury.  Luckily, I have two little monkeys who really enjoy this sort of “work.”  Perhaps because they get to use the hose!

Letting the kids have a big bucket of soapy water, some sponges, and a hose, they can get the car surprisingly clean, burn off a ton of energy, and have a fun time doing it.

Living in Maine, throughout the winter, the roads are covered with salt and sand.  These can do a number on your car, so getting all the gunk off in the spring is something I always look forward to.

We also use this time to get the inside really cleaned out.  We have three kids, the older two definitely eat snacks in the car, there is trash that needs to be removed, everything needs to be vacuumed out.

Because of the aforementioned cold weather, we haven’t been able to get out for a car washing party yet.  But we have been able to go to the car wash, which is equally as fun in my children’s eyes.  They love to see us spray down the car while they are inside, bonus points if we go through the automatic car wash!

The last thing we like to do is change our air filter.  You know, until a few years ago, I didn’t even realize this was a thing that we should be checking on the car.  Not until I brought my car in for an oil change, and the mechanic explained to me that my air filter was black and no longer working.  Well, goodness, I hadn’t ever heard that before!

FRAM recommends that you change your air filter every 12,000 miles – *follow recommended change intervals as noted in your vehicle owner’s manual.

After paying an arm and a leg to get the filter changed at the mechanic that time, I realized that we should really figure out how to do it ourselves, and since then Matt has been taking care of it – an easy fix, he claimed.  It helps that we can easily purchase the FRAM Extra Guard Air Filter right at Walmart.  It is so much less to buy it and do it ourselves, rather than having a mechanic do it.

Air filters help protect the engine from dirt and end up being the first line of defense for your engine, and also helps engine performance – it can help increase acceleration and horsepower.

I love that you can easily type in your car make and model and figure out exactly which air filter you need.  It made this large aisle of air and oil filters a little less intimidating.

I decided that I wanted to see how easy it is. 

I want to preface this by saying that I know NOTHING about car maintenance.  I typically leave that up to Matt.  But, this year has been about learning new things and becoming a bit more proficient at tasks I usually let Matt take care of.  If an air filter is easy to change, I want to try it!  Plus, most air filters can be changed in less than 5 minutes – I wanted to test that theory!

First up – find out where the air filter is.  When I looked under the hood of our car, I may have gone completely blank.  Luckily, the owner’s manual actually tells you where it is if you don’t know!

Lift up the cover by unfastening the clasps.

Pull out the old filter.  I was surprised to find so many helicopter seed pods from a Maple tree.  I took this opportunity to scoop all that junk out and wiped down the edges of the cover with a cloth to get most of the dust off the cover.

The next step – place the new FRAM filter under the cover.  Then close the cover and call it a day. 

Honestly, I heard the five minute claim, and thought that with my *very* limited knowledge, I would not have a clue how to do it.  I surprised myself.  It was super easy to change, and now I know that I can do it myself!  

What Summer Car Maintenance tasks to you do on your car?

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Weekend Recap

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Despite the very cold temperatures (I’m convinced we are starting March and not May!), we had a very nice weekend.  Friday was Emma’s first dance.  What?  You may be asking yourself.  Isn’t she only 7 – yes, yes she is.  However, the elementary school in our area put on a Father-Daughter dance, and Matt took Emma.  It was the sweetest thing!

She was incredibly excited to get dressed up, have her hair and makeup done, and just have a good time.  She ended up dancing with all the little girls there, and came home very late Friday night.

Because Emma went out for a daddy date, Jack, Lucy and I stayed home and it was Jack’s choice for our time together.

We started off with some ice cream, and then moved onto the video games.  The kid loves his video games, although he doesn’t play them very much at all.  We played Mario Kart – he easily beat me.  We played two player Super Mario Bros. – with the direction to not warp (who plays those other levels?!), and ended with some Super Mario World. 

None of the kids were in bed before 10pm, and I was expecting a nice time of sleeping in on Saturday morning.  But, of course everyone was up at 6am, because no one likes to sleep in at our house (except for Matt, he really enjoys sleeping in!). 

We took a trip to run errands in the morning, and stopped off at Target where the kids were able to spend some money that they had been saving.

Jack has wanted this Minecraft Stop-Motion Movie set for a while, so he bought that, and Emma bought a couple new miniature My Little Ponies.  The rest of the afternoon was spent making movies.  The box says 8+, but Jack really has a vision for making these movies at the age of 5.  He is very good about setting everything up how he wants it, and never needs any help from Matt or me – which is good, because I don’t think I would be helpful even if he asked.

Sunday was a lovely day of church, rest time, and then a long bit of walking for me. 

We live close to a playground, and the football field of our high school which has a track.  The kids play at the playground while I have the opportunity to walk around the track.  It works out well!

And here we are, Monday again, with 40 degree temperatures and rain.  I don’t like this space to be gloomy, so I am going to stop here, otherwise I might go on a bit of a tirade about the weather, how it is May, and how it should not be this cold. 

How was your weekend?  Did you do anything fun?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

vlogging and blogging

Last year I decided to take the plunge and start a YouTube channel.  I think I am very late to the whole YouTube phenomenon, but I started watching some family vlogs, and thought, wow, what a great way to document our lives and have it for memories.

It is part of why I want to blog as well - to have a record of life, to know what we are doing, what struggles we have had, what struggles I have had.  What works, what doesn't - all of it.  It is a huge fun and wonderful thing, blogging.  I thought vlogging could be the same way.

But, vlogging is a lot different, it isn't just a stream of consciousness like a blog can be - well it is, but it also has to be edited down to a nice little package that doesn't take 3 days to upload onto YouTube!

I would love to meet other blogger/vloggers - so if you have a channel, please let me know in the comments below!  

As I have watched more vlogging videos, it seems like they are in two separate camps - one bloggers and one vloggers.  But, I think that combining the two is so much fun!

Who is your favorite vlogger?  Do you watch YouTube channels, or stick to Netflix?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

knitting and reading

This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

Before I get on with my knitting and reading, I wanted to let you know that there is an amazing resource available today, The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle.  If you have ever struggled with keeping your house clean and organized, or making sure that you have healthy meals and snacks for your kids, this bundle is for you.  The categories are vast - everything from budgeting to in the kitchen, to marriage and motherhood, organizing and DIY - so much great information!  I can't wait to get my bundle this morning, and wanted to pass along such a great deal.  If you buy the bundle, I would love to hear what you think of it in the comments below!

Now, onto the knitting!

I finished Emma's one sock.  I actually sat down to do it last night while the kids were taking a bath because I knew I wouldn't finish it otherwise.  I really messed up the toe, but at least it is finished!

When I showed Emma she said "Is this for me?!  I love it!"  And then proceeded to wear the one sock around for the rest of the night, and was mad when I asked her for it back.  In my book, that is success!

I'm almost done with the second wristlet as well, so that is making me happy.  Getting these couple of little projects finished in April was a goal of mine.  I was tired of seeing them unfinished.  Now, of course, I still need to knit the second sock...but we will get there!

As far as reading goes, I plan to go through all The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Books today to see which ones I want to look at first.  It can be a bit overwhelming with so many resources, but I like that they are separated by category - that makes life a little easier for me.

I am also still reading Unstuffed and Faith Unraveled, although I have not made much progress in either the past week because a new book was magically delivered to my kindle Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.  It is no secret that I love Pride and Prejudice, so when there was a modern retelling coming out, I obviously wanted to read it.  I'm about 12 chapters in (it is quite long, over 500 pages) and I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.  It is definitely different than the original, set in Cincinnati and Jane and Elizabeth are much older, 40.  I'm not sure why that sticks out to me except that I feel like a lot of the innocence of all the girls is lost because they are so much older in this book, and instead of silly and fun, it seems a little depressing...but I'm only a little ways into the book, and I am interested to see where it goes (which is obviously a happy ending with Mr. Darcy).

What is one challenge you have with homemaking?  Me, I can't seem to get a handle on all the stuff no matter how much I declutter!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Favorite Green Living Memoirs

This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

I am a book person – if you are new around here, you may not realize that, but you will soon if you stick around!  One thing that is a little different about me is that I really enjoy re-reading books.  Not every book, mind you, but I have several favorites that I read on an annual basis, depending on the season.

Now that we are much warmer here in Maine, I am thinking about homesteading and green living books.  My favorites are memoirs about a person’s journey back to the land, and the changes that have happened in their lives because of those changes, whether it be for a short period of time, or a complete life change.  However, I also have a lot of reference books that I refer to this time of year as well – hoping that I will somehow be able to read myself into having a better garden!

Because I have been at a loss recently as to what books to read for my knitting and reading posts I decided it was probably time to revisit some of my old favorites.  And I figured I would share them with you (in no particular order)!

Top 4 Memoir/Journey/Back to the Land type books

The first book I absolutely love is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  This is an amazing book of a family that moved to a farm and decided to eat only what they could grow or get locally for a year.  It is sprinkled with essays from Kingsolver’s husband and daughter, and it is incredibly inspiring to see the work they do on their farm.  There are recipes, and anecdotes, and it is an amazing book, definitely read it!

Next up is The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball.  It is the journey of a city girl who follows the man she loves to a farm, and gives up her life in the city to become a farmer.  It is a great story of trials and local food. 

Then we have No Impact Man by Colin Beavan.  There is a documentary to go with this book, which I also highly recommend.  It is the story of a family in New York City who tries to have a net zero impact on the environment over the course of a year.  This includes shutting off electricity, washing clothes by hand, getting rid of chemical cleaners, only using a bike or walking to get around, only buying food that is grown locally.  It is a really interesting experiment, very thought provoking, and fun to experience through reading the book and watching the documentary.

The last book on my list is Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. McKinnon.  This is a book about a couple who decided to eat only what was grown locally to them – the 100 mile diet.  I believed they coined the 100 mile diet, actually.  Anything they could get within 100 miles of their home, they could eat, but anything farther than that they could not have.  It was interesting to see what was available to them, and what wasn’t, and how they made do without foods they were used to eating whenever they wanted.

It was my love of local food blogs that led me to these books about 8 years ago, and reading them annually continues my desire to eat as locally as possible.  To me, they are motivating.  We do not eat 100% local, it would be incredibly challenging to do so, but these books have encouraged me to try to do as much as I can with our small garden and seeking out local farms and stores.

Have you read any of these books?  Do you have a favorite book that you visit year after year?  

Monday, April 25, 2016

2016 Garden Progress

The past two weekends in Maine have been gorgeous.  Warmer weather, a nice breeze, perfect for working in the garden.  And because of that, we have made significant progress in our garden for 2016.

Honestly, it is too early to plant anything out there, but I am taking this time to really prepare the garden beds, and hopefully get rid of every single weed before we start.

Last year we did not garden at all, and instead let the garden beds grow in with weeds and be completely fallow, which I think is probably a good thing after gardening in the same beds every year for 7 years.  It is good for the land to have a rest, and it was good for me to have a rest too!

But, this year, we are back at it.  And, as with every other year, I hope to expand just a bit. 

In the back of our garden, I have three rhubarb plants – as an aside it always amazes me how fast they come up when the weather turns nice – and next to that is a bunch of grass.  I want to dig up that grass this year and plant potatoes.

Several years ago I grew potatoes as a bit of an experiment.  I think every plant I grow at first is an experiment.  Can I actually grow it?  Will some new bug or pest come and eat it all before I can actually get it out of the ground?  Or is it something that may not grow well around here?

I thought potatoes would work, since all of Northern Maine grows potatoes quite well, and they are definitely colder than where I am in Maine.  But, you never know.  I tried growing the potatoes in pots and in the ground, and surprisingly both worked really well.  And the potatoes…oh my goodness they were delicious! 

I believe everything is better fresh from the garden, but eating freshly dug potatoes, it was amazing to taste the flavors.  Instead of a bland potato, it was delicious.  Now, some of that is because of the work that goes into the potato, finally eating the fruits of your labor, but also, food from the garden is more flavorful.

The other plant I think I am going to finally get into the ground is asparagus.  I have never grown asparagus before, and I’m not sure why.  My mom had it in her garden when I was growing up, and I have always loved it.  The main thing with asparagus is that it takes three years before you can actually eat the asparagus.  You need to let it grow for three years before you can actually eat it. 

Because I have never really felt settled in our home (funny since we have been here for almost 9 years), I didn’t plant perennials besides the rhubarb.  I should have, and then I would also have delicious asparagus to look forward to this spring!

I’m not entirely sure how much longer we will stay in our house, but I think it is safe to say planting the asparagus is not going to hurt me in the long run – unless of course we end up moving the first year we can cut that asparagus!

I am looking forward to finishing the cleanup of the garden, and also the paths between the garden beds.  It is hard work, but it is incredibly rewarding when it is done.

The other big thing we have to do before planting time begins – get new fencing.  If you have been reading here very long, you will remember we had quite the woodchuck problem a couple years ago.  I didn’t get my fence up before my seedlings went in, and the lovely woodchuck family decided it would eat most of my lettuce.  I felt a bit like Mr. McGregor running after Peter when I went after them in my pajamas with a stick…I’m sure it was fun for the neighbors to watch though!

We still have about a month before most of our vegetables go in the garden, but there is a lot of work to be done before then!  I’m glad the weather is turning much nicer so we can all be outside enjoying the sun on our backs while we dig in the ground.

Have you started planting anything yet?  Do you have space that you could dig up for a small garden?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

I am a blog ambassador with U.S. Cellular, and this post is sponsored on their behalf.  All opinions, as always, are my own!

Did you know it was Distracted Driving Awareness Month?  Distracted driving has become a relevant issue over the past several years, and deserves some awareness and also education.

It seems like everyone uses their phones while driving.  I know that I do.  Whether looking up directions on my iPhone or taking a call, or calling someone telling we are running late (again, we have kids, what can I say?), the cell phone always seems to be needed.  Distracted driving does not just mean using your cell phone though, it can include eating, putting on makeup, even reading! 

I remember driving into Boston one day with my mom, and I looked out my window at the car next to me, and the guy was reading the newspaper…hmmm…

According to a recent U.S. Cellular survey, 43% of smartphone owners use their phones while driving, while the same survey revealed that 34% of smartphone users get annoyed when they see someone else using their smartphone while driving.

So what are some ways that we can take away distractions for when we are driving?

If you are a parent with kids starting to drive, or using a phone while driving, you should definitely download the free parent-child agreement to start a conversation, and make a plan, as to what is acceptable while driving.

One of the best ways to hedge distracted driving is to actually take away the distractions.  Switch to do-not disturb mode so you don’t hear your phone constantly dinging with alerts or calls.  Or, if you don’t need your phone for directions, stick it in the glove box until you get to your destination. 

If you do need the GPS, enter all the information beforehand, and place your phone where it can easily be understood what the next step in the directions is.

Use accessories such as the Plantronics Voyager LegendBluetooth Headset.  Carrying on a conversation during your commute is easy and safe.  A recent U.S. Cellular survey showed that 74% of people who use their phones while driving use a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth headset or in-car Bluetooth system.

Whatever you think you need to see on your phone while you are driving, you don’t.  If it seems like an emergency, and you feel like you must use your phone, pull over.  It may feel like a hassle, but if that text is so important, pulling over shouldn’t be a hassle.  We live in such a connected society now, and it may seem uncomfortable to be “out of the loop” for the 30 minute commute, or however long your drive is, but getting to your destination safely should remain the goal. 

What tip would you include in this list?