Here I go...

Walking and Talking Across Spain - long distance walking chelates the chemicals that trigger my Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hayden's Doll

Yesterday was a special day because I was visited by a special girl!

I have two granddaughters, and both enjoy painting dolls with me. 

Hayden is 8 years old and she loves the arts! She can knit and is learning to play the piano. The lady next door to her has a kiln and has taught Hayden to slump glass. This summer she took a pottery class. She also loves to cook. 

Yesterday, Hayden visited for the day and she painted this beautiful doll! 
She asked me if she could sell it
and I thought, "Why not!?"

The doll is really as good as most dolls on Etsy, 
and so we will list it for $39. 
When it sells, Hayden will get $30 
and I'll keep $9 for materials and listing fees. 

The face was completely painted by Hayden.
The hair was braided by her.
She made the sweater - Grandma cut it out.
The pants and boots are regular Bratz pants/boots.
I embroidered the flower on the front of the sweater 
and tidied up her stitches a bit, 
but Hayden did most of the work herself.

The doll is really a beauty with gorgeous green eyes
and a soft, sweet expression.

Hayden has named the doll Makayla.

I strongly believe in teaching children to work and earn their own money.
Teaching a child to be self-sufficient, 
to me, 
is one of the greatest gifts a parent or grandparent can give.

I think Hayden is well on her way to a career in the Arts;
perhaps she will paint portraits,
or be the curator at a museum.
And that makes me very happy!

If you are interested in Hayden's doll, Makayla,
you can find it in my FreckleFarm Dolls shop:

Here are a few more photos of Hayden
so you can see her cute personality.
She's a kick!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Back to the Desert!

Well, life just has a way of throwing curve balls, doesn't it?

Just about the time I was settling in, my son got notice that the house next door they wanted to rent was $2750 per month!


How in the world do people pay that? That's 3 times my monthly income!

Anyway, I decided to move down to the desert for one year and let my son and his partner have my room. This way they can save $2000 each month and by the end of the year have a chunk of change for a down payment.

I had been toying with spending a full year in the desert, so I guess this should satisfy that whim!


my new art studio will become his office for a year 
and I'll be packing up and heading south the first of November.

I do love the desert. 
I love getting up at 4 am and watching the sun rise over the mountains. 
I love spending time with my new friend and evil twin, Vicki. 
And I love doing water aerobics each day.
I actually love being alone.
And I love having so many nice places to walk. 
And the weather. . . well, I can't complain.

The deal is in exchange for me moving, 
my son will pay my way back to Portland 
a few times during the year to visit. 
He'll also pay my storage fees up here, 
and my moving expenses.  
All that done, it will STILL be a hell of a lot cheaper 
than $2750 per month.

Good Lord!  
No wonder so many people are homeless!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Studio is Finished!

I'm all moved in!

And here is the first new doll I finished.
Her name is Sophia.

I'm happy!

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Bottling Laundry Soap

Here is a photo of the laundry soap I bottled up today.
I ended up with around 10 gallons.
There is still some left in the bucket.
Total cost was less than $3 for all this soap.

Materials were Fels Naptha Soap, Borax, and Washing Soda.

Each time I make the soap it takes one bar of Fels Naptha, so I just buy it by the case.  The boxes of borax and washing soda have lasted through three 10 gallon cycles and still are at least a third full.

I'm going to record the date in my bullet journal and see how long it lasts.
One capful per load is plenty.

Also, we put a dehumidifier in the basement yesterday to see if it would make a difference in the smell of the house. This old house was built in 1930 and when I returned from Spain, an "old person" smell hit me in the face when I walked in. I'm hoping the dehumidifier will make a difference.

I just checked it and there's already over half a gallon in the container and it's only been running 4 hours.

Getting the house back in order, minimizing, and working on the studio has been fun, but tiring. I'm looking forward to spending a few days at the beach next weekend with some friends.

Did I tell you we have a neighborhood turkey? She leaves eggs at the neighbors and we share them.  They're much larger than chicken eggs and really rich. We aren't sure where she came from but we're happy she has adopted us!

I love being home!
It's always such an adventure!


Spring Clean Your House in 10 Minutes a Day - Living Room

Here is my list for my living room. 
Remember, your house could be bigger or smaller or have different jobs:

  1. Clean street-facing window #1 inside and clean windowsill top and bottom
  2. Clean street-facing window #2 inside and clean windowsill top and bottom
  3. Clean street facing window #1 outside
  4. Clean street facing window #2 outside
  5. Clean side window #1 as above
  6. Clean side window #2 as above
  7. Clean side window #1 outside
  8. Clean side window #2 outside
  9. Clean baseboards streetside
  10. Clean baseboards house side
  11. Clean baseboards side #1
  12. Clean baseboards side #2
  13. Clean front door inside and out and wipe off top of door
  14. Clean door FRAME - use magic eraser sponges
  15. Clean door frame going into hall
  16. Cobwebs - get them off the ceiling and out of corners
  17. Window Air Conditioner - wipe it down and clean filter
  18. Clean heat register on floor - take off cover and vacuum it out
  19. Clean television 
  20. Clean fireplace mantel and sweep down brick
  21. Clean recliner #1 - vacuum under cushions
  22. Clean recliner #2 - wipe down leather
  23. Clean chair #3 - wipe down leather
  24. Polish dining table 
  25. Polish dining chair #1 and #2
  26. Polish dining chair #3 and #4
  27. Clean light fixture and put bulb covers in dishwasher
  28. Polish piano and bench
  29. Vacuum fireplace screen 
  30. Clean ash out of fireplace
  31. Clean and polish shoe rack
  32. Wash and/or replace front door rug

Friday, July 08, 2016

Spring Clean Your House in 10 Minutes a Day - Kitchen List

Here is my list for the Kitchen  - I'll work on this in July

Remember, just do at least ONE job each day.


  1. Clean under sink
  2. Window above sink
  3. Drawer 1 - Take everything out, wash drawer, sort and replace items
  4. Drawer 2 - "
  5. Drawer 3 - "
  6. Drawer 4 - "
  7. Cabinet 1
    1. Shelf 1
    2. Shelf 2
    3. Shelf 3
    4. Shelf 4
  8. Cabinet 2
    1. Shelf 1
    2. Shelf 2
    3. Shelf 3
    4. Shelf 4
  9. Cabinet above stove
    1. Shelf 1
    2. Shelf 2
    3. Shelf 3
  10. Clean stove top - take out burner and clean drip pans - make this 4 jobs if necessary
  11. Clean UNDER stove top
  12. Clean knobs on stove
  13. Clean drawer under oven
  14. Clean oven - weekend job
  15. Wash garbage can
  16. Wash recycle bin
  17. Refrigerator
    1. Shelf 1
    2. Shelf 2
    3. Shelf 3
    4. Shelf 4
  18. Refrigerator Door
    1. Shelf 1
    2. Shelf 2
    3. Shelf 3
    4. Veggie Bin
    5. Veggie Bin
  19. Freezer 
    1. Shelf 1
    2. Shelf 2
    3. Shelf 3
    4. Shelf 4
  20. Clean Refrigerator door outside and polish it
  21. Wash off top of Refrigerator
  22. Clean outside of dishwasher
  23. Wipe out inside of dishwasher - any bits in the bottom?
  24. Clean broom closet
  25. Clean all switch plates
  26. Clean doors and TOPS of doors
  27. Clean greasy fan
  28. Clean light fixture
  29. Sweet and scrub floor (weekend job)

Thursday, July 07, 2016

A New Studio

Life has been a whirlwind since I got home from Spain.

I'm in the process of getting my life organized - trying to minimize is always a priority when I return from the Camino.

Today I made 10 gallons of laundry soap. Here is the recipe I use, in case you didn't read the post:

I've also been watching Joe as he completely rebuilds my new Art Studio.  When we moved into this house, there was a hot tub in a glass-sided building out on the back patio.  We used it for storage for a couple of years, and this year, I decided I'd like to use it as a studio where I can read, do watercolor, and just be outdoors.

When he began tearing into the building, he found much more of it was rotten than we'd thought.  There were rat holes everywhere. In fact, he pretty much had to tear it down to the bones.

The inside was rotten and full of rat holes.
Off comes the old front

When he got the old facing off, all the wood had to be replaced.

Nice new front.

New braces

From the inside

The roof had some damaged and rotten wood
that needed to be cut out and replaced.
There were shingles missing.

Nice new wood

New window
I had him cut a window in the yard side. 
I think we'll need to cut one on the other side for 
cross ventilation, as well.

All the old insulation had to be replaced.

All new insulation

From the inside

Yesterday the building got a new plywood floor. 
Joe will seal it for me with a low VOC sealer.
He also started the drywall.

Today he is putting in the new door.

Stay tuned to see the results!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

WTF Portland, Oregon???!!!

So I got up early this morning
and went to Fred Meyers 
to buy supplies for my remodeling project.

I needed some white spray paint
to finish the underside of the roof.

I asked the lady to open the cabinet
where the spray paint was locked up
like it was in Fort Knox.

She handed me my paint can and then
asked to see my I.D.

I'm 63 years old - see this grey hair?
See these wrinkles?
WHY do you need my I.D.?"

"Portland City Ordinance requires it."


"To control graffiti."

Holy shit... really?
Oregon has become the Soviet Union.
I had to sign my name to buy a can of spray paint.

WTF Oregon!?
PAINT is a controlled substance?

Do you REALLY think if a graffiti artist wants spray paint, 
they're not going to be able to find it?

Do you REALLY think if a kid wants to smoke,
they won't find a way to buy cigarettes?

Do you REALLY think if a drug addict wants illegal drugs,
they won't find a way to buy them?

Trying to control people like that is a waste of energy, time, and money.

And it's a lot like herding cats.

Give it up.

I'm glad I grew up in the United States
when it was still a free country...


The Perfect Gift From Spain

Once I reach Santiago, 
I often find myself shopping 
for friends and family.

As a minimalist, 
I am looking for a "needful thing,"
not something that will end up 
in next year's yard sale
or in the landfill.

For me, 
the perfect gift
is Spanish saffron!

Saffron is the stigma of the Crocus sativus,
a pretty little flower known as the saffron crocus.
It takes approximately 70,000 flowers
to make up one pound of saffron.
At $2,000 to $10,000 per pound,
it is one of the most expensive and most sought after spices
in the world.

Saffron is the spice used 
to make paella that beautiful golden color.
It's also used in other soups, stews,
and often in East Indian dishes.

I found Spanish Saffron in Santiago!
These little boxes carry 2 grams of the whole spice,
and are only €6.
This amount of excellent quality Saffron would cost you
many times more in the USA.

These larger boxes carry 50 packets (sobres)
of the ground spice
and they are under €20 per box.

Inside are two rows of packets,
each filled with 0.12 grams of ground spice,
enough for most dishes.

Where to buy saffron:

I'm sure you can find it in many shops in Santiago.
My favorite place is JUST as you come into 
the Plaza Cervantes in Santiago.
To your left ,
at Number 9,
you will find a tiny store
called Cepeda.

Ask him to show you his Azafran.
There are other nice gifts in the window.

I've gone through customs with 
as many as 10 boxes,
no problem.
So stock up!
It keeps forever in the freezer.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How My Grandparents Saved the Earth

One of the lessons of the Camino Santiago is that you really CAN live quite happily with nothing but what you can carry on your back. My maternal grandparents learned this lesson when they traveled out to California during the Dust Bowl days. My paternal grandparents immigrated from the Azores during wartime.  All of my grandparents were quite self sufficient and very skilled at living a frugal but happy life.  They also were environmentalists without even knowing it. Some of the skills I learned from them came in quite handy during my two-week stint as hospitalera at San Anton Albergue, where there was no hot water, no electricity, and no wi-fi.

Here are some of the things they taught me:

Use the SUN to dry your clothes!  
At San Anton, there were no clothes dryers. In fact, 10 years ago along the Camino you were VERY lucky to find a washing machine or clothes dryer. Instead, clothes were hung on the line or on a rack like the one below.  I bought my clothes rack on for $27. Worth it's weight in gold, it sits on my back patio, ready to be unfolded when I need it.  At San Anton, we used these, and we also used a plain old rope, strung between two buildings. Nothing fancy. And you know what? The clothes dried in no time with no electricity, no stinky fabric softener sheets, and a lot of sunny satisfaction!

Grow Your Own Food!
I'm lucky to live in SE Portland, Oregon, where the neighbors support gardening!  We have taken out the grass in the sunny front yard, and put in a raised bed garden. We also have fruit bushes and trees all over the front and back yard. We grow 75% of our own vegetables in this garden. Not only is it satisfying, but we know where the food is coming from and we save a LOT of cash!  We grow carrots, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, lettuce, kale, squash, watermelon, cabbage, broccoli, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, figs, and a variety of herbs.  I also have a hen house and we are allowed up to 3 hens so we have fresh eggs.

Preserve Your Own Food.
We do this. I can and freeze vegetables, and I have a dehydrator. I plan on doing more this year.

Re-Use, Recycle, Mend
I rarely buy anything new. Once a year I buy new underwear, socks, and shoes if I need them. Everything else is second hand. Portland is an awesome place for yard sales and second hand shops. Rich people buy a new toaster every year, and I'm happy to use their old one. If my clothes need a button, I sew one on. If something breaks, I fix it. Last year, I fixed my blender, saving me hundreds of dollars on a new one. It was a simple fix and I found the instructions online. We recycle plastic containers and glass, using what we can. Freezer bags are washed and dried and reused. I remake old wool sweaters into arm warmers and hats. We compost our vegetable trash and chicken manure. Just about anything can be recycled.  When I was a child, we bought milk in glass containers that were returnable. You can still do this!

Cultivate Community
This is something I'd like to work on. I remember visitors coming over often. My grandmothers would always have a pie or cake and a pot of coffee on hand.  Folks would sit and visit an hour or two. It was wonderful! I miss having my friends over. My MCS has impacted my social life dramatically, but the friends I have left are precious to me, as is my family. I would like to have more dinner parties, more barbecues, more family get-togethers. That is a goal for this year. 

Cook at Home
I am on the Eat For Life program and that means lots of salads and beans. Cooking at home doesn't have to be super time consuming. A pot of soup or beans can last several days. Prepping salad ingredients ahead of time and keeping them in glass containers is a great time saver. Just pop some greens in a bowl and choose your toppings.  You can save a LOT of money by eating at home, instead of fast-fooding it!

Sit and Eat Together
Family dinners seem to be a thing of the past, and I'd love to see them come back. In our house, we have "roommate appreciation day" some weekends, where we cook a big breakfast and eat together. It's nice to sit around a table and talk, instead of having people on their iPhones or watching television. My eldest son's family sits around the table for dinner, and I'm so proud they do this! Eating together, sharing food and drink and conversation, is a great way to bond.

Drink Tap Water
Portland has some of the best tap water in the country. Check out your own city tap water and if it's clean and safe, stop using those plastic bottles. They are horrible for the environment - and not very good for your health either!  Save yourself some cash and your health, and save the Earth by drinking tap water!

Buy Less - Make Gifts
Christmas has become a holiday of excess. This year, try drawing names in your family and put a limit on the amount spent for each gift.  Many of the expensive gifts you give to people end up in the next yard sale. Do they really NEED that thing? Instead, give coupons for services like babysitting, yard mowing, house cleaning. Or make gifts of food or drink.  Think hard before you spend on people, including yourself. Where will that item be in 12 months? The land fill?

Get Outdoors More
We used to pack a picnic for every 4th of July. We took camping trips each summer. Evenings were spent on the front porch visiting with passing neighbors. Morning coffee in the back garden.  Make a vow to do more walking, more sitting outside listening to birds and bees and enjoying trees and flowers. It's healing for your soul as well as for your body. WALK or BIKE the few kilometers to the market, using your backpack to carry groceries. Stop jumping into the car every time you need to go 2 miles.  

Make Your Own Products
This is a big one for me. We are so brainwashed into believing we need to buy expensive products to clean our house and bodies.  

When I first was diagnosed with MCS, I went many months without using soap or shampoo. I used plain hot water to rinse my body and hair. I mixed a tablespoon of baking soda in a glass of water, poured it through my hair, rubbed, and rinsed. Then I mixed a tablespoon of vinegar in a glass of water and poured it through my hair, then rinsed. My hair was shining clean and oil free. No shampoo needed.  

My go-to products for cleaning house are lemon-ammonia and dishwashing liquid. Those two products, mixed together with hot water, will clean anything. Baking soda scrubs sinks and tub. 

I make my own laundry soap using the Dugger recipe. I can make 10 GALLONS of laundry soap for under $3 and it only takes about 20 minutes.  You can find the recipe online.

My mother is 82 years old and every Thursday night she gets together with 4 friends she went to school with since kindergarten. They eat together, watch old movies, and play cards. My sons and our roommates play table games every now and then and it's a lot of fun.  The grandchildren really enjoy table games and even very young children can be a part. 

Better yet, teach your grandkids to play hopscotch, jacks or jumprope. 
Go for it!
I double dare you!