Wet Wednesday: Krause Springs

IMG_8720When S woke up this morning I asked her if she would like to go on an adventure with me. She seemed excited as we packed up, but just when we were about to leave she decided that she didn’t want to go. It started when she saw her Play-Do and games and then I couldn’t tell if she was just being stubborn or if she really wanted to stay home. Life with a toddler. After quite a bit of persuasion and allowing her to put random toys in my backpack, she finally agreed to go and we were off, headed to Krause Springs where I hoped to find a nice swimming hole to escape the Texas heat.

Krause Spring is a privately owned swimming hole and campground in Spicewood, Texas just northwest of Austin. Google said it would take me half an hour to get there, but it really was more like 45 minutes with construction and traffic. On the way S told me multiple times she wanted to go home and I almost pulled over and took her to a nearby splash pad instead, but I decided to continue on with our little adventure, promising her that if she didn’t like it when we got there we could go home. We pulled in the parking lot and she declared she didn’t like it; however, as soon as we walked down the steps and she saw the swimming pool she changed her mind.

Krause Springs has two swimming areas: a natural spring area and a concrete pool that is filled with spring water. We went to the natural spring area first and it was nice. My biggest word of caution is that the rocks are SLIPPERY. When we were walking I had a death grip on S’s hand and chose my steps carefully. S was not thrilled with me wanting to take her picture before we went swimming and I had to watch her like a hawk so she wouldn’t walk off by herself on the rocks, but I got at least one crazy “cheese” face out of her.

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There was also a bee by her that I think thought her shirt was a flower or something. As you can see, it wasn’t very crowded at 10:00 AM on a weekday morning. S pulled me into the water (literally, it was slippery) and we swam around a bit. Her favorite part was swimming under the little waterfall where cold water splashed around us.IMG_8719

While not clear, it was really nice and refreshing. I love crystal clear water, but I also like exposing S to things besides chlorinated pools with cement bottoms and predictable sidewalls. I think it is good for her to get out and swim in more natural environments.

Once S got cold and tired of watching the older kids on a rope swing, we made our way back up to the concrete pool. S wanted to go in, but she was shocked with how cold it was; so shocked that she jumped in a couple more times just to experience the shock of jumping into what we called “ice water”.

Krause Springs also has a nice little butterfly garden where we went and ate our snacks before heading home. S loved the butterflies, squirrels, and a hammock they had setup at the edge of the gardens.IMG_8722

That is her “I’m eating a carrot, I’m not going to look at you, and I just might flip out of this hammock any second” face. I loved that all you could hear while walking through the gardens was running water in multiple fountains as well as the peaceful sounds of wind chimes.IMG_8723

Overall we both had a good time discovering a great little swimming hole just outside of Austin. We had a rough start to our adventure and S was a little tired so the ending was a little rough as well (probably because I didn’t give her enough snacks for the car ride home), but we would definitely go again. For anyone who lives in Austin, here is a link to the Krause Springs website if you would like to get more information or see more pictures of the grounds.

A Year to Clear (Week 29 of 52)

Week 29 – Picture Frames

This week I found four pounds of picture frames and photo panels to get rid of. Unfortunately the majority ended up in the garbage because they were photo panels I ordered from Snapfish that were really poor quality (I did get a full refund). I had ordered them as Christmas gifts, but due to the poor quality I just couldn’t give them out. I kept them for a while thinking maybe I would find another use for them, but what do you do with blurry, color streaked, pictures of your family? So I decided it was best to just throw them away. The rest of the picture frames will go to Goodwill.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 29 of 52)

Week 29 – Hand Soap from Soap Chips

SoapChips1You know how annoying those little pieces of soap are when a soap bar is almost used up? You don’t want to throw them away, but they are a pain to use… well, instead of struggling with them or just throwing them in the garbage, I save them and turn them into liquid hand soap. Here is how:

First I collect about a quarter of a cup of soap “chips”. Usually they are from a mix of different soaps, the only ones I avoid are ones that have pieces of things in them (like herbs or oatmeal) since I don’t want them to clog up the soap dispenser. Next I put the chips in a pan on the stove and mix them with about a cup and a half of water. If you want to make more liquid hand soap you can use more soap chips and water, just staying with an approximately one part soap to six parts water (although I have found this really depends on the soap chips, sometimes it comes out a little thin, sometimes a little thick).SoapChips2With the burn set on a medium low, I heat up the mixture and let the soap melt, stirring and whisking occasionally until the soap completely dissolves in the water. Once the soap dissolves I pour the mixture into a soap dispenser, add more water to fill up the container if necessary, and it’s done.SoapChips3

It saves me the $2 or however much a bottle of liquid hand soap costs. This batch looks rather black because some of the soap chips were from an artisan black clay soap bar. At first the mixture is really thin and watery, but once it cools and sits overnight it is about the same consistency of regular liquid hand soap.

Padre Island National Seashore

IMG_8101You might remember one of my bucket list items was to take S to all the U.S. National Parks (you can read more about that goal here and  see more places on my bucket list here). I didn’t include all the national seashores, monuments, etc. because I think that would be a bit too much, but given the opportunity we will definitely take S to as many other sites that are managed by the National Park Service as possible. This summer we took a trip to the Texas Coast and we spent a morning at Padre Island National Seashore, it was the first time S had ever been to a sand beach and she had a great time.

When I was pregnant with S we took a trip to Padre Island National Seashore in the winter which is prime birding season. We went on a bird watching tour with a volunteer guide and saw a lot of different birds; it was a great experience and I would definitely recommend it, but this trip we went to just play in the waves at the sand. When we arrived our first stop was the gift shop where there were some educational displays about the sea turtles that come on shore to nest. In order to protect the eggs and the sea turtle population, the eggs are collected, hatched, and then the baby turtles are released to the Gulf of Mexico. I think I am going to add witnessing a sea turtle release to my bucket list of things to do with S. I think it would be so fun to watch tiny little turtles crawl across the beach and swim away for the first time.

Back to this trip: we stopped at the gift store to get S her very first stamp in her National Park Passport book. I think I was way more excited than she was, but she did enjoy pressing the stamps down. Hopefully this will be more exciting for her as she gets older and we visit more and more National Parks and other National Park Service sites.IMG_8337

The stickers for each location have to be purchased ($2), but the stamps are free and I think they will be a fun way to document our adventures with S.

After S’s book was stamped it was off to the beach! After getting her prerequisite sunscreen application, S was more than a little anxious to explore and ran into the water as fast as she could.IMG_8117

She was so thrilled even by the smallest of waves, but when the “big ones” would come she would go “oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!”IMG_8121

She didn’t want us to hold onto her and she had no fear of falling in the water or even having waves wash over her. The salt didn’t bother her either, she was just thrilled to be in the water at the beach.IMG_8128

S had a great time playing in the water with Matt and he even took her out deep a little bit, but while I’m not usually one to be  fearful of the ocean, I am cautious especially when I am not familiar with an area and there is a possibility of strong currents and rip tides. So this trip I kept everyone relatively close to shore, but we still had a lot of fun.IMG_8108Eventually S was shivering and cold. I actually had to bring her sand toys down to the edge of the water and coax her out because she wanted to stay in the water despite the fact that she was so cold. Luckily, once she started playing she was happy on the edge of the water and played in the sand at least long enough to warm up a bit.IMG_8137

The only thing with playing on the beach, and even swimming in the water, was that there were tar blobs washing up everywhere. The source of the tar blobs was unknown, but I guess it isn’t an unusual occurrence. Currents from the north and south meet near Padre Island National Seashore, bringing remnants of oil spills in the gulf from off-shore rigs, pipeline leaks, or spills when transferring oil to tankers. It is too bad because it is no fun trying to avoid tar blobs everywhere you go on the beach and cleaning them off your feet is a hassle too (luckily I was the only one who had to deal with that). Below is a picture of a tar blob so that you can see what I am talking about; before this trip I had heard that sometimes there was tar on the beach, but I really didn’t know what people were talking about.IMG_8146

I should have put my foot or something next to the tar blob for scale, but it was probably about a foot wide and two feet long. The ones I saw on the beach ranged in size from as small as pocket change up to a couple feet in diameter. Gross right. Such a shame at such a beautiful place. We still had fun though and didn’t let the presence of tar blobs stop us from playing in the sand. S loved a new dump truck I brought for her and when it got stuck in the sand she decided it was best just to bury it.IMG_8143

Being at the National Seashore is nice because they have a shower facility to rinse off in. They also have a small store to purchase any forgotten essentials as well as a place to rent beach umbrellas, chairs, etc. We didn’t take advantage of that service though; with a two year old there is no sitting under an umbrella and relaxing. I should also mention that there is a campground you can stay at and miles and miles of beach that you can drive on. In fact, Padre Island National Seashore has the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. Someday it would be fun to drive the length of the seashore, but not with a two year old. I don’t think a slow 120 mile drive (60 miles each way) even on the beach would be very enjoyable with a toddler.

Overall, S had a great time on her first trip to the beach. She also loved the pool at the rental condo we stayed at and is becoming a little swimming fish this summer. When she got tired and cranky she was happy to cuddle on my back and I was happy to have her there; it isn’t very often that she rides on my back anymore. This trip was a great start and I can’t wait to take her on many more adventures exploring the parks and natural lands maintained by the National Park Service.IMG_8154

A Year to Clear (Week 28 of 52)

Week 28 – Yarn

There was a post on a Facebook group that I am part of last week about a woman looking for craft supplies including yarn. She was an Etsy seller and was looking to teach crafting classes, but she had lost everything in the flood events we had this spring. I went through my yarn and put together a big bag for her, contacted her, she wrote back, I put together a bag of yarn for her, but now I haven’ from her in over a week. I’m not sure if she doesn’t want the yarn or if maybe she hasn’t seen my messages so I might leave the yarn in our donate pile in the garage a little longer. If I don’t hear back from the woman I am still going to get rid of it/give it away. I kept a lot of my wool and natural fiber yarns, but decided that I didn’t need any of my synthetic yarn anymore. Not to mention, I haven’t had time to knit anything in a while. The yarn weighed five pounds total so there goes another five pounds of “stuff” out of my life.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 28 of 52)

Week 28 – Plenti Rewards Program

The other day I saw an advertisement for a new rewards program at the gas station. It is free and easy to sign up for so I decided to go ahead and give it a try. It is called Plenti and is through American Express, but you don’t have to be a card holder to sign up nor does it appear that you have to be an American Express card holder to use your points. I haven’t received my Plenti card yet so I can’t really comment on how easy it is to use or if the points add up fast enough to make it worth the extra effort, but I’m hoping it will eventually save me a little money at the gas pump.

It isn’t just for gas though. You can link your Plenti account  to your grocery store’s reward program, but there aren’t any eligible grocery stores here in Austin I guess; you can also earn points at RiteAid, but I don’t usually shop there; and there are some other offers through companies such as rental car agencies, cell phone companies, and hulu.

There are so many reward programs out there now that I find I really have to choose a couple and stick to them instead of trying to use everyone that is available. None the less, when I see a new one I usually try it out just to see if it is better than the current reward programs I am using.

A Year to Clear (Week 27 of 52)

Week 27 – Random Stuff

That is right, I got rid of 23 pounds of random stuff this week. We are switching S’s room and the room we currently use as an office which includes the closet I use for storage. In the process of clearing out the closet I found 23 pounds of random papers and items that I was ready to part with. It was a mix of papers that went in the recycle bin, a few things that went in the garbage, and then a few items that will go to Goodwill. Not too impressive, but that was without even going through all of the storage totes, I’ll have to open them another time. For an idea of what kind of project it was, here is a picture of everything after I took it out of one closet and before I put it in the other:ClosetProject

S loved going through all my stuff, her favorite thing was walking around with my cords from my college graduation draped around her neck. I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture though. She also destroyed a couple of maps that increased the size of the recycling pile just a little bit.

52 Weeks of Saving (Week 27 of 52)

Week 27 – Reducing AC Use 

ThermostatTexas in the summer is hot. People lived here before air conditioning units existed, but unless they were submerged in water 75% of the time I’m not quite sure how they handled the heat. I know a lot of people keep their AC set in the low 70s (F) and I am aware that 68-72° F is supposed to be optimum for comfort, but we don’t keep our house that cold. Typically I have the AC set to 76° F at night, 77° F during the day, and 78° F if we are out of the house.

For some reason I have never been a big fan of ceiling fans, I think it is the constant hum that I don’t like, but this summer I am going to try to use them a little bit more in hopes of reducing our energy consumption. To start, I am thinking 77° F at night if we can get the ceiling fan in the bedroom to stop making a ticking/rubbing noise; 78° F when we are home (at least during the week, Matt is usually hotter than me so he might want to change it when he is around); and maybe 80° F when we are going to be gone for more than an hour or two. S spends half of her day wearing only a diaper so I typically don’t worry about her being too hot inside the house.

Thanks to a handy new web-based app created by our energy company, I can now track daily energy use. I’m hoping to see a reduction in our energy consumption if we reduce our AC use slightly, but so far the only pattern I have noticed is that our energy consumption goes up on diaper laundry days.

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