Five wonderful adventures with Flat Stanleyette

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Yesterday my niece got my returned package with Flat Stanleyette. I know this because I had the pleasure of talking to my niece for nearly an hour about it! In this crazy, mixed up world we live in, it does an aunt good to know her niece was happy at school all day long.

I promised A. I would share more about our paper friend’s adventures. It was an honor to host both of the Flat Stanley’s we’ve had recently. We did our best to show them some southern hospitality.

Here are a few other things Flat Stanleyette experienced.

"I'm a Flat Stanley fan!"

“I’m a Flat Stanley fan!”

1. Flat Stanleyette went with me to the Raleigh/Durham INTERNATIONAL airport!  We picked up Aaron who is a college student at Moody Bible Institute. Christmas music filled the air even though it was a few days before Thanksgiving. A spirit of cheer and excitement was everywhere as many people waited to greet their loved ones. As I was waiting, I noticed a group of musicians playing Caribbean music by the luggage carousel. That’s when Flat Stanleyette and I looked at each other. Her big blue eyes met mine and I knew I had to do it. I approached the lead musician and asked, “Would you mind taking a picture with Flat Stanleyette?” Without a hint of embarrassment, he heartily agreed! He told me his daughter had also had a FS and she went around with him! How cool is that!

Aaron meets Guinea pig girl Wilma and Flat Stanleyette for the very first time. No words.

Aaron meets Guinea pig girl Wilma and Flat Stanleyette for the very first time. No words.

"Um, um, um, we thought Aunt Cindy was getting facial moles removed! YIKES!"

“Um, um, um, we thought Aunt Cindy was getting facial moles removed! YIKES!”

2. On another note, FS showed great bravery by accompanying me to the plastic surgeon’s office. I decided to get FOUR facial moles removed. There are three words to describe the event

1. ewww

2. ouch

3. scary

Flat Stanleyette and Guinea pig girl Cora kept me company and tried to distract me but it really didn’t work. I will spare you details but we all decided it was something we’d rather not do again.  Glad they’re off my face but not the most fun thing we’ve ever done. Understatement.

Look at this beautiful couple on their wedding day! Flat Stanleyette thought you two were sooooooo in <3!

Look at this beautiful couple on their wedding day! Flat Stanleyette thought you two were sooooooo in <3!

3. Uncle Mark and Grandpa Hugh piled Flat Stanleyette into the car and they drove to a wedding in the mountains. Hopefully she kept the two guys under control and they weren’t too crazy! The bride and groom were happy to get a picture of FS!

4. I also took Flat Stanleyette and bestie Erma to my weekly Bible Study. We are studying the book of Psalms in the Bible and FS even had her own seat. She told me afterward that she learned a lot and thought the ladies were all super duper nice and interesting. Flat Stanleyette has noticed how many people smile every time they see her. I noticed the same thing.

A few of the ladies in my Bible Study! They welcomed Flat Stanleyette with open arms and hearts! Such a pretty bunch of women!

A few of the ladies in my Bible Study! They welcomed Flat Stanleyette and Erma with open arms and hearts! Such a pretty bunch of women!

FS at the Farmers' Market. Maybe this is where she lost a few of her fingers. Oops!

FS at the Farmers’ Market. Maybe this is where she lost a few of her fingers. Oops!

5. Another highlight of her time with us was going to the Raleigh Farmers’ Market. Aunt Cindy knows about a special place at the farmers’ market where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables for less money. We bought potatoes, persimmons, sweet potatoes and other lovely, healthy foods. Aaron went with us and he’s always a bunch of fun! When they got home, Ike and FS noticed that I put the potatoes in the dishwasher. It was everyone’s first time to see potatoes cleaned that way! Not sure we’ll do it again but YOLO, right?

"Ok, so are we really going to put the potatoes in the dishwasher?" Ike and Flat Stanleyette wonder why.

“Ok, so are we really going to put the potatoes in the dishwasher?” Ike and Flat Stanleyette wonder why.

Being an aunt is a blessed thing.

Adventures with Flat Stanleyette, part two

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"I've never dehydrated anything before! This should be interesting!"

“I’ve never dehydrated anything before! This should be interesting!” Flat Stanleyette pictured with dehydrated cauliflower and an undehydrated butternut squash. Huh…

I certainly hope (and pray) that my niece, A., had a good day at school on Friday. Friday would have been a very important day to have a regular, wonderful time as an elementary school student.

These are soap nuts and this is the way Aunt Cindy and her family wash their clothes!

These are soap nuts and this is the way Aunt Cindy and her family wash their clothes!

My niece’s Flat Stanleyette hopefully arrived at school along with a box of surprises. Yesterday would have been a fitting day for happiness to fill a classroom…

Here are a few of the highlights –

1. Flat Stanleyette learned about soap nuts sold by Olive Shoot Institute. This is our family’s small business. This is the way we do laundry! At first FS thought we were crazy even though she appreciated the fact that soap nuts are 100% biodegradable, organic and natural. To think that there are trees in India that produce a berry which clean clothes blew her paper mind. However, when she noticed that our clothes smelled fresh and clean, our towels were fluffy and fresh, she became a true believer. Upon her insistence, I gave her some soap nuts to bring back home.

Flat Stanleyette noticed that sometimes Ike would like to eat a dorito.

Flat Stanleyette noticed that sometimes Ike would like to eat a dorito.

2. We kept her busy dehydrating and learning about preparing healthy food. She helped slice the fruit and vegetables, place it on our Excalibur dehydrator trays and spritz some lemon juice on things to keep it from turning gross colors. She helped make vegetable powders with our Vita-Mix and imagined all the ways they could be put into soups, etc.

3. Sometimes FS looked surprised when we told her we eat persimmons, kale, spinach and banana chips. We don’t always eat organic stuff or healthy things but we wanted her to try new things and expand her palate. When Flat Stanleyette returned home, she brought dehydrated banana chips, persimmons and apple slices. She was super excited to share them with the kids. Hope you guys liked them!

4. Our paper friend joined me in learning how to make fabric bowls. “Wow, this takes a lot of skill and patience!” she declared one afternoon. FS went to bed very tired that night with a slight headache.

A collage of fun!

A collage of fun!

5. It was her first time at a high school men’s basketball game and as expected, FS drew a lot of attention. Thankfully, her new best friend Erma helped her deal with all the looks and stares. Erma is a Guinea pig girl doll and proud of it! They both agreed everybody was probably jealous of their beauty. It was a fast-paced game and she is now the biggest fan of #21 whom she began calling “Lebron” even though he is an orange hair, freckle face teenager. The coach really wanted to get a picture with FS following their big win.

Flat Stanleyette and Erma became fast friends and cheered on the team!

Flat Stanleyette and Erma became fast friends and cheered on the team!

What color was your dinner?


“Hey everybody, this is important!”

Food is on the table

Getting ready to pray

When I look at the spread before us

And notice

Hey, this is a bi-color dinner!

Quick, grab the camera!

People need to know!

Edamame – green

Massaged kale salad – verdurous with splashes of bright yellow (mango) and sage green (pepitas)

Italian quinoa salad – social butterfly yellow, green pepper green, yellow corn

This is my unintentional bi-color dinner, everybody!)

Within arm’s reach, a shaker of homemade celery powder, made in my dehydrator

Over to the side

Popcorn – hints of soft yellow amidst the white explosions speckled with Fire Dancer seasoning

Then I realize, WHOA!


The plates are

Green plate swirls

Garden spot green

Witty green


Optimistic yellow!

The Pyrex bowl containing the roasted kale (brown green), you ask?

Cut the Mustard gold

I love all the beautiful colors in Pyrex!

I exclaim, “Hey, guys! This is really important!

But no one else noticed,

Neither, the Hubs nor the orange hair, freckle face OS cared.

They were just hungry. Phooey.

This blog post was brought to you by the colors yellow and green and by the word observant

Find your colors at Sherwin Williams and this amazing app on Sherwin Williams ColorSnap. I didn’t know about this app until I started writing this post. But you can use your smart phone to match real-world colors with paint colors. All for free! You can take a picture of your dinner (like I did) and it will tell you the names of the corresponding paint colors! How cool is that! 

Scrubbing Bubbles and the middle school maid


To make money for clothing and important things like makeup and Bonne Bell flavored lipgloss, I babysat and cleaned houses in middle school.

Stay away from me, Mr. Scrubbing Bubbles!

Scrubbing Bubbles was a new product and the commercials with cartooned, mustachioed scrubbing bubbles made me chuckle. Do you remember the birth of Scrubbing Bubbles or is that before your time?

Well one day, I was cleaning a shower stall. The shower door was closed and I began to coat the tile with a thick layer of Scrubbing Bubbles. As if I were attacking a blaze and holding a fire extinguisher, I doused that sucker. Every tile square received a foamy blast. I wanted to unlock all the cleaning power contained in the Scrubbing Bubbles. As an adolescent fashionista, I needed to keep my job; customer satisfaction, don’t you know.

In the shower stall with the Scrubbing Bubbles can, I prepared to remove all the goo and grime off the tile but then I began having trouble breathing. I didn’t collapse but I began to choke. Since I was a boy crazy, junior high girl, I doubt I had the wits to know to open the door. If Michael Jackson, Keith Partridge or Bobby Sherman would have come to rescue me that would have been a different story but that didn’t happen. I had an epiphany though, something in those Scrubbing Bubbles was rockin’ my world/body. With the door closed, I surely inhaled a fury of aerosol and chemicals.

Screen shot of Scrubbing Bubbles info on the Environmental Working Group

The more I read about chemicals and toxins in cleaning products, the more I wonder exactly what I breathed in that afternoon. When I use soap nuts, I don’t have anything to worry about. I use Extreme 18X (which is a super concentrated version of soap nuts that goes a long way) or make some soap nut “tea” and I don’t need rubber gloves. I’m never concerned about adaquate ventilation either. Did you know that according to the Environmental Working Group, many of the Scrubbing Bubbles products are rated D or F? In my extended family, we have asthma, COPD, migraines and allergies – my loved ones don’t need to be breathing toxins any more than I did as a middle school “maid.”

Obviously I don’t have the original bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles. But this is what the label says now CAUTION: EYE IRRITANT. READ BACK PANEL CAREFULLY. / CAUTION: EYE IRRITANT. Contains lactic acid, solvents and surfactants. Avoid contact with eyes, skin and clothing. Wash thoroughly after handling. May cause respiratory irritation if used with inadequate ventilation. FIRST AID: EYES AND SKIN: Immediately rinse eyes and skin with plenty of water. If irritation persists, seek medical advice. INHALATION: If breathing is affected, get fresh air. CHEMICAL HAZARD: Never use or mix with bleach-containing products or other household cleaners as hazardous fumes may be released. KEEP OUR OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND PETS.

“One day, gf, you’re gonna write about that weird time when Scrubbing Bubbles nearly jacked you up.”

Funny, isn’t it, the weird memories our minds retain? For me it was this strange encounter with a cleaning product. There are greener, safer alternatives for cleaning our bodies, homes and clothes. Soap nuts work. They are 100% organic, biodegradable and effective. Your family deserves someone to be an advocate and a savvy consumer and that’s probably you. Take a look at the products under your sink, read the labels. Look beyond what the brand name company websites tell you about the chemicals they are using. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts. I welcome them, this is a journey. Here are two other independent reviews of soap nuts also. Check out spoonfulatatime and naturallifemom. I highly recommend these websites for their wealth of information in general.

What makes you buy certain cleaning products?


laundromat in France. Thanks to Paul Filleau for supplying this cool pic! Merci bien!

I never really considered the chemicals used in everyday cleaning supplies and laundry until January 27, 2012. That’s when I became a half-century old and my first order of soap nuts arrived.

Now I pay attention. I read labels, get angry and frankly, feel kinda duped about all the crud I have unknowingly put into my body and offered to my family without any concern.

I don’t appreciate people overwhelming me with scary facts if I’m not ready for them. Maybe you’re the same way and I totally respect that. But here’s what I want to do and I hope to be consistent.

I want to occasionally offer blog posts about cleaner, greener living and help you as my friends become more savvy, questioning consumers.

Here is the ingredient used in soap nuts…SOAP NUTS! That’s it!

The soap nuts thing intrigued me because I thought they sounded funny. Soap “nuts,” really? I’m the mama of three boys so yes, I did chuckle and you probably know why… I had never heard of such a thing. How could some soap nuts, berries from a tree in the Himalayas clean my family’s clothes? When they arrived, I was skeptical but eager to try them. Even though it was my birthday, I sacrificially scrounged up some dirties and put them to their first challenge. I’ve been a soap nut nut ever since. The concept of cleaning my clothes more naturally appeals to me as a wife, mother and consumer.

How’s this for vague product labeling? Hrmph

One thing led to another and in August, I began my own business, Olive Shoot Institute selling soap nuts and related products. It’s a weird compilation of olive shoot stuff but yeah, somehow it works.

All I wanted to do was clean some clothes but this has unleashed a passion. Armed with knowledge, maybe I can help you make informed decisions. I don’t think we should be bamboozled or especially trusting of the cleaning/beauty/personal care industry.

Here’s something to look at the next time you are getting ready to do a load of wash or clean your house. Read the list of ingredients in the product you are using. It’s pretty sad because I guarantee you, it won’t take long at all.

A quick perusal of left-over cleaning supplies still around my house led me to see this. I gathered all the products together. I turned the bottles over and over trying to find a list of chemicals/ingredients used and guess what?

I could read instructions in English, Spanish and sometimes in French, but in many instances, no details about the chemicals/ingredients were found. Why is that? It’s a $14 billion annual business for goodness’ sake! Don’t these corporations have enough money to type what is in these products? Shouldn’t consumers know? Specifically, shouldn’t YOU?

New York Times article reported that in January 2009, manufacturers of detergents and household cleaners voluntarily started to disclose much of what is in its cleaning products. But just this morning, I went to the grocery store to do my own “research.” And here’s what I noticed. In many cases, the actual ingredients aren’t really listed. Some have an 800 number and I guess you can inquire but they don’t list the chemicals specifically. That is stupid. Check out this popular laundry detergent and see why it got an “F” from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

So many families have loved ones suffering with childhood asthma, cancer, lung conditions, multiple chemical syndrome, auto-immune diseases, don’t we deserve to know what we are using in our homes? It’s taken me 50 years to care about this, I wish I would have started sooner.

I’d really love to hear from you. If you want soap nuts stuff, I’m your girl but I am truly curious. Why do you purchase the laundry and cleaning supplies you use? Is it price? Brand? Coupons? Smell? Effectiveness?

I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any specific subject you’d like covered or have a question, please tell me, I’ve got a million ideas but would welcome yours.

3, 2, 1 = the day I wished I was a statistician


Over Christmas break, I asked the middle OS to run to the store to get me some canned tomatoes. By the time Aaron came home, he had accumulated MUCH more than 32 ounces of canned tomatoes. Read on for details…

Not just a pretty face! 

We live close to several grocery stores and therefore I assumed Aaron would perform this task lickety-split. My middle bairn has a good track record as my errand boy. If I may brag a moment, Aaron will be a fine husband one day. He not only puts the toilet seat down after using it, this guy can find common food staples and less traditional food items such as hoisin sauce and kefir in several nationally known grocery chains!

However, this recent grocery trip was taking longer than expected and I wondered to myself, “Where is Aaron? Where did he go? I need my canned tomatoes!”

And that’s when the phone rang. 
Aaron: “Hey, Mom.”
Me: “Hey…where are you?”
Aaron: “Um, I just got a ticket.”
Me: “WHAT? What were YOU doing and where are my canned tomatoes?!!!”

The middle OS proceeded to explain where and how he got a speeding ticket. The simple trip to the grocery store had morphed into a jaunt to the used bookstore which somehow led to a pricey speeding fine.

Upon Aaron’s return, the cheerful mood in our otherwise festive home had soured. The Hubs was miffed, Aaron was embarrassed and I was annoyed that I had waited so long for my canned tomatoes.

But it gets better (or worse depending on your perspective)…

“I may be a ginger but I can apparently
read road signs better than my West Point brother!”

We then asked our oldest OS to drop the orange hair, freckle face OS off at basketball practice. He agreed and scuttled his brother into the car. He was gone for no more than 10 minutes-

And that’s when the phone rang.
Nate: “Hey.”
Me: “Hey…what’s up?”

Nate: “I just got a ticket.”
Me: “WHAT? What were YOU doing and where is Isaac?!!!”

The oldest OS then proceeded to explain where and how he got an even heftier speeding ticket. The simple trip to school had morphed into a second W-H encounter with law enforcement. Despite the verbal warnings of the younger brother, Nate had overlooked obvious road signs and in the span of less than one hour, two of our three OS had about $600 in associated ticket costs.

Three oliveshoots, two speeding tickets,
one day = let’s try to not repeat that, guys!
I’ve never heard of such a thing! What are the chances of having three oliveshoots who drive (Ike has his learner’s permit) and two of them getting speeding tickets on the same day in less than an hour? I’m no statistician but I’d say it’s highly unlikely.

The OS are handling these issues responsibly and financially independently. They are reaping the consequences of their actions and although I do not find it amusing that they did something wrong, I do think it’s funny in a quirky sort of way. According to my calculations, for the price of two speeding tickets, these two guys could have bought me over 400 cans of canned tomatoes!

We embrace our weirdness!
I’d love to hear about your unusual holiday experiences too. 

PS. Here are a few links of our other unusual grocery store encounters (one involving an innocent assault with salt!) if you’re interested. 



I’m feeling old today. Old and dumb. 

I went to the doctor and got a steroid/lidocaine shot in my knee because of arthritis pain. 

Plus my face looks old and weary. I need to go back to the gym. 

And my poor son has been trying for TWO days to help me install AIM via cell phone conversations and we are having no luck! Praise the Lord, Nate has been patient with me but it has been a VERY frustrating experience with very little progress. 

It’s times like this that I feel pretty badly about myself.

So I’ll try and concentrate on my morning. After taking the guys to school, I went grocery shopping. This time my experience at the grocery store did not involve projectile salt or on a foot scooter! Thank goodness! While there I had an encounter with the lady at the deli counter which ended much better than it began. I don’t seem to have a lot of luck at the deli counter. At the risk of sounding very prejudice, I find that people who work with lunch meat to generally have very lousy attitudes. 

I fearfully approached the deli counter having noticed that its normal hours of operation are 9am-9pm. I was an hour early. The lady looked up and half-heartedly asked me if I needed something. Trepedaciously (ew, big word!), I asked her if she wouldn’t mind helping me even though I was an hour early. Her curt reply was, “what do you want?” Allrighty then, I said to myself and cautiously ordered a half pound of ham off the bone.

But something inside of me wasn’t content to leave our connection in such a miserable way and so I persisted in engaging her in conversation. It was risky but we pressed on discussing the chilly weather, the terrible economy, etc. 

As I placed another order, this time for a half-pound of provolone cheese, I offered her a word of encouragement. “Even though the economy is bad and it seems like a lot of scary things are happening, let me tell you what our pastor preached on yesterday. Our preacher told us that in spite of all this uncertainty, God is.”

Her whole attitude changed and as then I ordered a quarter pound of pancetta. Pancetta for minestrone tonight!  Two semi-thick slices. By the end of our conversation, I had invited her to our church and I asked for her name and she moved her apron to show me. Her name was Mary. She wanted to exchange phone numbers! Although we probably have a lot of differences on a host of issues, I was blessed to leave Mary with a smile on her face. Her entire attitude had changed.

So I need to concentrate on my encounter with Mary and NOT my wrinkles, my pain, my concerns and troubles. I need to keep my eyes on the Lord, He will fail me not. 

Trouble at Trader Joe’s


My next post was supposed to be about beds or boxing…

That is until I went to Trader Joe’s and accidentally dropped 26.5 ounces of salt on a lady’s head.

All I wanted to do was pick up fresh basil and a few other ingredients. I had no intention of hurting anyone, especially in front of my children, that’s for sure.

But that’s what happened. 

A petite lady in her mid 50’s wearing a brownish outfit was bent over looking at the dry active yeast packets. I wanted sea salt. Sea salt is good for you and we were running low. We were in the home stretch of our errand when I reached over to grab the salt. I could have waited for her to finish selecting her active dry yeast packets but I didn’t. Suddenly, inexplicably the cylinder of sea salt slipped from my hands and landed right on the corner of the lady’s head.

I was dumbstruck and embarrassed beyond mention. My boys were silent. No giggles, no nothing. I started rubbing her head, asking her if she was ok, apologizing, offering to get some ice, apologizing again and feeling horrible. It was 26.5 ounces aka 1 lb. 10.5 ounces of Baleine’s Sea Salt that clipped the side of her head. 

Isaac reminded me that it wasn’t just 26.5 ounces that landed on her head. If you account for velocity, it was more than that…um, thanks, Ike.

I apologized again, asked if there was anything I could do. She said she would probably be ok. It was awkward and I was clueless what else was there was to do?? Should I give her my phone number? Insurance card? Money? If my car had run into hers, I would easily have known that to do but I have never dropped sea salt on someone’s head before. 

But this was 26.5 ounces of sea salt. What’s the right thing to do in this case? So I stood there, looking at my two sons, 14 and almost 12 years old and mouthed to them, “What else should I do?”, like they would know! We couldn’t think of anything and time was passing so slowly, I pitifully went up to the check out and spoke to the cashier

I told her of my misfortune and tried not to cry. I asked her if it would be possible for her to help me. “I dropped salt on a lady’s head and wanted to know if I paid for it, could you give her some flowers from me when she’s in the check-out line?” 

She went to get the manager and I had to tell her what I did. I’ve never felt more guilt-laden at a grocery store in my life! I felt like a really bad person as I tried to discern the manager’s facial expressions. Was she mad at me? Did she think I was a horrible person? I described the woman and the manager took the bouquet and offered to locate the lady. She might have also wanted to write an “accident report.” Ugh!

The cashier told me it was going to be ok and said she thought it was nice of me to try and do something. I wiped a few tears away from my eyes. I felt powerless and useless. On the way home, we prayed for the lady. I’m sure she is going to be ok. This was in no way a life-threatening injury but I still feel badly. Like most of us when we come to the grocery store, she left with more than she was planning on getting; however, in this case, it was a lump on the side of her head and a bouquet of sunflowers.

Drats! Have you ever done something regretful like this? How did you handle it?