Monday, October 7, 2013

Best Little Museum in Chicago

If you love ancient history, archaeology, and anything to do with Mesopotamia, (and you happen to be in Chicago), this museum is well worth the sweat and blood to find a parking spot! Actual walls and ancient artifacts from as far as Egypt, Israel, and Babylon. A very impressive feat in transporting 40 ton sculptures across the ocean!

This is the museum I placed on my itinerary when I was planning another trip to the middle east and I saw a flight layover in Chicago. Fortunately, I ended up being in Chicago for a convention earlier this year and was able to sneak by.

I'm sharing this, because I know people who actually went to school here, or they have lived in Chicago their entire life and have never heard of the museum!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

We're HUMAN.

We had several hundred students tour the farm yesterday. While answering their questions, one boy said, "How did those pioneers do their dishes?"

I pointed out, "THOSE pioneers were OUR ancestors. We ALL had ancestors that lived without electricity and running water."

The boy shook his head and said, "not me. MY ancestors were animals."

I thought he was joking. He repeated himself, "my ancestors weren't people, they were animals."

Another boy piped up, "They EVOLVED!"...

A look must have crossed over my face, as the teacher wrapped her arms around him protectively and explained to the boy, "not everyone shares the same beliefs..."

I looked into the boy's eyes, wondering what I saw... Sadness? Emptiness? I couldn't figure it out.

Restoring the boy's dignity, I replied, "your ancestors were HUMAN."

Ignoring the look of the teacher, I said more firmly to the boy, "YOUR ANCESTORS WERE HUMAN!"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Doomsday Prepper?


I think the biggest question is: What is YOUR doomsday?

Whether you have survived 911, Hurricane Katrina, or lost family members in Oklahoma City, we've all experienced, or know of someone, who has endured their worst nightmare.

My goal is to be prepared for ANY type of emergency.

I also have to be realistic. Since I can't DO IT ALL, I have to focus on PRIORITY.

What may be my priority may not be someone else's. I live in Texas, and focusing on staying comfortable when it's 100 degrees outside is important to me.

What's NOT important to me is staying warm in Winter.

To me, prepping is no different than buying auto, home, or medical insurance. At the end of the year, we're either rotating our stash, or starting all over again on deductibles.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather pay insurance for a peace of mind than to have no back-up plan when that rainy day hits.

But I also think it's important to not to live our lives in fear. I'm reminded of the saying, I have lived a terrible life, most of which has never happened!

In order to keep a healthy balance, I plan for the worst, and hope for the best.

I still take vacations, splurge, and I still plan for a future.

I don't live to work, I work to live.

My favorite quote of all ---- Either get busy living, or get busy dying!  Shawshank Redemption

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather get busy with living.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pool Was Draining

It was a VERY difficult decision, but we have decided to take down our 28' swimming pool. In a way, nature helped us make up our mind. One morning after a severe thunderstorm, I walked outside to water the chickens and did a double take. The pool (winter cover still partially intact) was completely hollow looking. Sometime during the night, the weight of the rain had pushed down on the tarp, and somehow tugged at the liner underneath. It was just enough of an opening that the force of the water was able to slip through the side.

(My next door neighbor must of thought it rained A LOT that night!) :) With the pool completely empty, and the tarp ripped at the sides, it was just another example of how our pool was draining our patience and becoming a money trap.

With pool supplies going up in price, higher utilities from running the pump day and night, and with a leaky filter draining water around the pool, we were harvesting mosquitoes like crazy. Then we had the decision to either readjust the liner, fill up the pool again and order another winter cover, or just let it go...

I listed the pool on Craigslist for free and it was gone the next day! The guy kept thanking us profusely for his "treasure" and I said, "No, THANK YOU!"

My treasure is the PERLITE found underneath the plastic liner (The pool was already installed before we purchased our home.)  I went online and haven't seen too many people talk about recycling pool perlite, but upon research, I've read over and over it is non toxic. Perlite is a form of volcanic glass that is mined all over the world. In fact I purchased a bag several months ago to add to my potting soil mix. Now that I have an entire "beach" of perlite, I plan to add it to all my raised beds.

Not wanting to tear down our deck, I'm trying to figure out a creative way to use the space. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Moringa Oleifera - Miracle Plant!

Last year, I had been reading a lot about this miracle plant called Moringa Oleifera. This wonder plant packed more vitamins than anything I had ever heard of. I read reports of it helping hypertension, diabetes, anxiety, and even boosting energy!

I went online and found a supplier on Amazon for organic Moringa seeds and waited. And waited.
Finally, a month later, my pkg passed customs from India and arrived on my doorstep!

Unfortunately, I had forgotten to plant them until 2 weeks ago. I planted 3 seeds and placed the pot on my kitchen window. As you can see 2 have sprouted!

I'll keep you posted on how they like this part of Texas. I'm in zone 8, so they should do fairly well. This is one plant that's got me curious!

Have you grown these, or do you plan to?

Guadalupe State Park

Photo's from my second visit to Guadalupe State Park. Truly a beautiful place, but also a reminder of my camping trip back in 2005. Something strange happened to my family. You can read the story here: Bigfoot or Foe?

Our primitive camping site where the rocks were thrown. Have you camped out there? If so, would love to hear from you!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Worm Farm

Last year I started a worm farm by converting a plastic storage box. To ensure that the worms could breathe with a closed lid, I drilled holes at the top on each side, and another hole at the very bottom in the center.
I had been reading a lot about compost tea, and wanted to collect the drainage from the bin.

For worms, I ordered 1000 worms online from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm ( The reviews were excellent, and delivery was prompt. I added them to the bin and wondered within the first month or so, if many had possibly escaped. I couldn't find but a handful at first.  
I was also concerned that maybe the red wigglers didn't like the Texas heat very much. The worm farm was enduring sweltering 100 degree days, in the shade beside the house.
 Fortunately, over the winter, I noticed that the worm farm had doubled if not tripled in population.
 This spring, I'll be experimenting more with compost tea, and using the worm castings to boost my garden. If you are by any chance making your own compost tea, and have had success, please drop me a line!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Urban Homestead

This is where it's all happening. Currently we have 9 chickens, a garden, 1 cat, and 3 dogs. By next week, we're hoping to have the swimming pool removed. This will free up additional yard space for another garden.

We are also looking to purchase some land! I'd like at least 5 acres, and something near a river. We've been searching for property less than an hour drive from our home. Our goal is to sell our house, purchase a wooded lot, and build a cabin for our retirement --Ideally, with the ability to live off the grid.

What does that mean? I envision electricity from solar panels, a woodburning stove or fireplace, water from a well, huge garden, chickens, goats, a fish pond, with the ability to live on a modest income. Of course, we'll still have our modern conveniences like plumbing, computers, cellphones...

In the meantime, I'm learning about this lifestyle as much as I can.

Let's see what I can do with less than 1/4 of an acre in town.

Now I'm on Facebook!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pyramids and Boostraps coming soon on Amazon

My travel blog - trip to the Middle East, has been removed from the blog and will be available soon through Amazon. I'm in the final stages of editing and getting it formatted for ebook.

Here's an excerpt from the book:

My Pipe Dream  

My daughter and I were walking through Walmart when she glanced at the rows of pink and red pajama’s nearby and remarked, “Every time I see something about Valentines, I think of that girl!”

“What girl?” I asked.

“You know, THE GIRL.”

“I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The girl that died before our trip!”

“Ooohhh, THAT girl. But why does Valentines day reminds you of her?”

“Remember, when we would walk where she was hit and we’d see all those red stuffed bears and pink hearts?”

“Okay, now I understand.”

It was hard to believe that three years had flown by. Almost Three years ago when a 12-year-old girl, the same age as my daughter, was hit and killed by a car down our street.

As a parent too, I was devastated by the news.

Safety, fear, and death had been uppermost in my mind that day as I was continuously reminded by well meaning family and friends that I was about to take my daughter on a dangerous trip. It was very understandable that people would be concerned for our safety. Now when I think about it, I would have felt the same way. But fear has a way of dissolving once you surround yourself with knowledge.

In this situation, I surrounded myself with hours of research, talking to other backpackers, and mapping out our destinations. The more I delved into the actual planning stages, the more excited I became.

As I researched, asking myself over and over if I could do this, I remembered my former job. Years ago when I was in the Navy, I was a tour guide for the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Like all tour guides, we weren’t born with the knowledge. We had to learn our stuff in order to teach others about the area. Sure, if I were to pay extra for a travel guide, I could rely on someone more knowledgeable about the area, not to mention, there’s a safety factor in traveling with a group. But other people were backpacking this trip solo, and saying it was possible. The forums were full of world travelers all willing to share their success. The more I read, the more I learned and the more courageous I felt.

It completely made affordable sense to do my own tours into each country. I could teach myself everything I needed to know. The more I learned about hostels, the more I liked the idea of being around other backpackers, sharing our experiences, and learning from one another.

Earlier, I had broke the news to my husband about this crazy dream of mine to backpack the Middle East. And on top of that, I wanted to bring our home schooled 12-year-old daughter with me.

As a supplement to her home school geography lessons, we had been reading a book that month called, Material World: A Global Family Portrait. It was a fascinating book that gave us a glimpse into families from around the world, sharing their demographics, and worldly possessions. As we studied each continent, we’d sit for over an hour discussing these countries and how their lives were so different from our life here in America. The book caused such wanderlust in us both, that it resurrected my lifelong dream of traveling to Egypt, Israel, and Jordan.

I explained to my husband that this was a trip of a lifetime and that the more I researched, the more I knew I could do this. And to my shock, my husband said he believed me. In fact, I wasn’t sure if he was just humoring me, thinking it was just a pipe dream. So I literally ran with the plans before he could change his mind. I sent off for my birth certificate that I hadn’t seen since my enlistment into the Navy.

Now my plans were becoming more official. Each step I took, I glanced at my husband, waiting to see if he’d change his mind.

In fact, my own daughter only half believed me. While I discussed the trip, she’d get this little smile and make comments that it wasn’t “real” yet.

I learned many months later that my family was very worried about us going, and here I was taking my young daughter alone, two females, on a backpacking trip through the Middle East. A Muslim country, where all you hear on the news lately is stuff about the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, and abductions of tourists.

What I didn’t tell my family is that I had earlier read about the suicide bombs that had happened in downtown Cairo or that several years earlier, over 62 Egyptians and tourists were butchered by machetes at Luxor.

So, when I think about it, I can’t blame them for being worried. At the time, I was too caught up to think about what others may be feeling, but as I look back now, I can honestly understand their concerns. In fact, as I write about my experience, I sometimes marvel that I actually did this. It was a leap of faith, and unless a person is actively involved in researching and being reassured by experienced backpackers, the trip can appear to be very dangerous to our loved ones. I wouldn’t even advise this trip unless a person did their homework first.

I will say that there were pivotal events that happened before our trip that reaffirmed, or I should say, made me determined that I wouldn’t allow fear to change my mind. The first incident happened when my daughter and I were scheduled to go on a field trip to tour helicopters at Ft. Hood. Right before our field trip, a gunman shot and killed 13 people on base. As we sadly watched the news develop on TV, I pondered over what had just happened. What if my daughter and I had been there at the wrong time? Of all places, you would think that we’d be safest on a military base. Never would we have been issued a word of caution from well-meaning family and friends before driving to Ft. Hood.

The other event that made me think about our safety, versus taking chances in life, was that devastating report about the young girl in our neighborhood being hit by a car. Each day that my daughter and I would do our daily walk, we’d pass by the spot where she had died. Someone had placed her photo on a pole beside the sidewalk, and it was surrounded by flowers, stuffed animals, and personal letters. My heart broke as we’d walked by, and I’d think about her parents. I also knew deep in my heart that this type of tragedy could have happened to my own daughter, whether we were in our neighborhood walking or traveling abroad.

That incident also reminded me about a book I had read, about a woman who had bicycled around the world with her husband. She was writing a book about their amazing experiences, but she never finished. As soon as they arrived home, she was hit and killed by a car. Her husband finished writing her book, Miles from Nowhere. Many times I wondered how many people told them they were crazy for riding their bikes through all those countries, and the potential danger they faced. But never did anyone caution them about the dangers that can happen on their own street at home.

The trip started to become more real for me when my daughter and I stood in line at the post office applying for our passports.

I’ll never forget the morning I logged onto my computer. My heart was racing and I was online looking up plane tickets. It wasn’t quite six in the morning yet and I was about to buy the deal of the century. For a mere $640 apiece, I was going to get two round trip tickets on Continental airlines from Houston to Cairo. I clicked SEND, and the tickets were purchased through A few moments later, I stood at my daughter’s beside.

“Pam, I just bought our plane tickets. We’re going to Egypt!”

My husband, who was already up and drinking his coffee congratulated us.

I had called his bluff.

It was no longer a pipe dream and I was excited, and scared.