Spring Break!

In the middle of some Midwest snow, we jetted off to southern California for our spring break.  The thought of taking an almost two year old  on an airplane for 4 hours gave us hives, but the call of sunshine and grandparents was too much to overcome. 

In the end, the plane ride turned into 6 hours because of the airline computers completely crashing.  And he was a champ.  Whew. 

Things Carter loved about our vacation-

1) We discovered Carter’s love of picking fruit courtesy of my in-laws citrus trees.  He may have a future as a farmer.  Who picks things one at at time and then throws it at the recipient.Spring Break 13

Spring Break 13

2) Disneyland.  Specifically rides at Disneyland that had continuously moving lines.  Such as It’s a Small World.    Spring Break 13

The teacups were also amazing…but the pain and suffering of waiting in a line that stopped and did not move for an eternity, at least in toddler minutes, was almost not worth it. 

OK the video of the joy on his face while we spun would make anything worth it.  But at that moment, there may have been threatening of us leaving.Spring Break 13

And honestly he would have been happy riding the train all.day.long.

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3) The beach.  Spring Break 13

Oh the sand.  And the shells. 

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And the wine. 

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4)Travel Town.  Lots of trains-no further explanation needed. He takes his train riding very seriously.

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5) Swimming in his grandparents’ pool.  Oh the joy.

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6) Meeting Big Nonna.  And spending time with family. 

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That one is going on the mantel.

7)Goofing off and just playing.

Spring Break 13

Spring Break 13

Spring Break 13

Things Carter did not like about vacation:

1)IKEA. 

Spring Break 13Sigh.  His expression in this picture is deceptively pleasant.  The whining and throwing of every toy (and phone) we gave him for entertainment was not captured.  And we thought we were raising him right to respect IKEA time.

My favorite part about vacation?  The sun.  And toddler naptimes by the pool without any guilt about what I should be doing. 

I was accidentally unplugged all week by way of forgetting my phone on the bathroom counter at home and remembering it halfway to the airport. After a mini freak out, I decided it would be nice to be free of it all week. And it was.  Even though I missed posting pictures on Instagram of the fun in the sun.

We all had a great time in the sun and with family.  All of anxiety about time changes and lack of naps was for nothing as he rolled with it. Carter did get very sick right after we got home. While it was snowing and my sunburn was fading under sweaters. 

Natural consequences of licking carousel horses at Disneyland.

Spring Garden Clean Up

Our garden sucked last year.

My normal “red x’s on the calendar counting down until the last frost” self gave way to well…being busy and pregnant. 

That led to weeds.  A while lot of weeds and pretty much no vegetables.  Because that would require things like watering.  And actually going out to pick them when they are ripe.

I would go on kicks where I would try to get things back on track, but it was just too overwhelming.  And let’s be honest, no one wants to see a 8 month pregnant woman weeding in the middle of summer.

And that whole bending over thing proved to be problematic.

So this year is a do over, and with the gorgeous weather we decided like there was no time like the present.

Out came 11 bags of weeds, dead plants and miscellaneous crap that had been sitting there all winter.square foot gardening

Our raspberries got some fungal disease last year that in my expert plant google knowledge, was not treatable so they had to be dug up as well.  Which was sad, but they took up a lot of room so I am trying to look on the bright side of having a lot more space.

This year we are trying the popular square foot gardening method.  It sounds easy and I am especially loving the “no weeding” part.  Obviously.

In the book, he is adamant that you make grids.  I thought this was a little extreme and almost did not do it.  Or should I say almost did not ask Derek to do it.

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But after he made the grids, I can see why it is important.  I already see how much more stuff I can squeeze in.  We have had great results in the past (other than last year) and I am hoping to add to that.

Now we have 72 squares all ready to grow some goodies.

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Seeds  have arrived and will be planted this week.  Well at least the lettuce, radishes, potatoes and asparagus.  

The others will have to wait until we get a little closer to that last frost date. Since I am back to caring about that again.

So let’s hear all the awesomeness of square foot gardening.  Any other newbies like me? I am in my spring optimistic no weeds state of mind right now.

Lessons from the Garden

So I have been a bad blogger….again.  I am not going to bore everyone with details but May was probably the most stressful month for us in a long time.  Some of the stress was positive like seeing friends and family many times as a result of great baby showers.  And some of it not so positive.  But it all worked out in the end and we are ready for June and bringing the blog back to life as I have so many things to share.  Note to baby: you better stay put the next five weeks because I have a lot to catch up on.  Got it? Good.

The blog was not the only thing that was neglected….my garden was looking very…..well overgrown and unkempt.  And not planted.

I am normally the person that people are looking at funny because I am trying to buy plants before the last frost date.  And I am feeding and weeding and planting and giving all the plants tender loving care on a nightly basis.

This year I did not even step outside to look at the plants that were coming back until the end of May.  Major garden guilt.   Another thing I was sucking at this spring to add to the list.

When I finally got the nerve to wade through the weeds to see what I was working with however I was pleasantly surprised.  Here is my advanced visual representation of the state of the garden.  Green =weeds.  Very high and thick weeds.

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We had strawberries…without me doing anything.

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And roses with no pruning or feeding…

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And the beginnings of grapes and raspberries…

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A good lesson about things surviving in spite of you and a lack of control is sometimes a good thing. 

Another lesson in giving up control was that Derek planted the vegetable garden this year…while I was not home.  Gardening is not his thing at all and we agreed to scale it back this year with the upcoming arrival of the baby.  And I knew I needed his help lifting and tilling. But he surprised me with this….

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For a before picture, please refer to above.

Did he pick all the plants I would of?  No.  Or put them in the location determined by seasonally rotating varieties? No.  But it was weeded and composted and planted.  And done. And I learned another lesson about giving up control and things turning out OK. 

On a semi-related note of not doing things when I planned, I wanted to update you on my painted outdoor pots.  When I first posted the tutorial last year, someone wondered how they would last.

I had planned on moving them into the garage for the winter.  Really. But then the whole morning sickness thing happened and they sat outside all winter and I did nothing (see the theme of the post?) to prep them.

I think they held up incredibly well (the specks on the bottom are dirt).

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However in the interest of full disclosure we did have one crack/chip that I noticed.

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So if you are thinking or painting pots but are hesitant on their wear….don’t worry about it and you can even do nothing like me!

Has your garden taught any needed lessons this year?

Some Sun

We snuck off during spring break to California for some sun and family time.  Derek had a bad bout of H1N1 before we were supposed to leave that threatened our departure, but luckily he got well enough in time and I was able to leave the Lysol at home.  And the snow that fell the day we left.  Did I mention we were happy to leave?

Ahhhh San Diego…san diego trip

We were only there a short time but had lots of fun at the zoo.  And I set out on the mission of trying to snap some shots we could use in the nursery.  Now I just really need to sit down and figure out Photoshop.

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san diego trip

san diego trip

san diego trip

san diego trip

And we ate lots of great food.  Derek’s aunt and uncle drove down to take us to a restaurant on Coronado island with great city and bay views.san diego trip

Although I have to admit not being able to drink sucks a lot more when you are on vacation.  See a cool bar that normally you would’ve liked to try?  Or when the flight attendant gives you free drinks to make up kicking you out of your prime seat.  Or…..never mind.  Just trust me.

In spite of my pregnancy induced sober status, we still have a great time.  We then took the train to L.A. to see Derek’s mom, stepdad and brother. 

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The train was so much easier than renting a car and sitting in traffic. And for the first half of the trip we were literally right on the water.  The only negative was free wine, See above why that was considered a negative.

While we were in LA we of course had to make an IKEA trip.  I was hoping to find the perfect curtain fabric for the nursery.  While I did not see exactly what I wanted, we of course did not leave empty handed.

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A light fixture that is hopefully somehow going to fit in the closest once we figure out how to assemble it-san diego trip

And miscellaneous toys and dog butt hooks-san diego trip

Luckily we did pack an extra duffel bag for all the IKEA goodies.

We also were lucky enough to have a baby shower while we were there and see Derek’s extended family.  Sadly, my camera sat in bag throughout the evening.  I did manage to snap this one though-

san diego trip My brother-in-law cooking bacon on the patio that morning because my mother-in-law did not want the smell in house for the shower. 

Classic.

Note to self to not to leave the camera away next time.

War Has Officially Been Declared

Rabbits are no longer welcome in our yard.

It rained a lot last week.  Like a cold week of April rain in May.  It was weird but it was a good excuse to get things done inside and deal with the stress of the end of the school year.

But one afternoon I got home from work and noticed all the pink roses were laying on the ground at the back of the yard.  The roses that were among the plants that I had spent an entire weekend preparing a bed for and planting.

“Wow it must have rained really hard last night to knock all those petals off of the roses”

Then I walked out there and saw this.  I guess the stem right under the flower were the tastiest.

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And it made me very angry.  As in hoping the rabbits were bleeding internally from the thorns.  If we did not have a solid six foot fence around our yard, I would have thought that we had a deer problem.

Obviously with the rain, my number one rabbit repelling/killing team was not spending a lot of time outside.  Failures.

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When it finally stopped raining I went out to spray Liquid Fence to deter them.  And I found even more damage.  Which made me angrier.

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But, I have had success with this product in the past.   You have to reapply it every time it rains, which gets really old.  And it smells like a mixture of rotten eggs, puke, and toilets.  Two reasons why it is not a product that I look forward to using.

I was serious though so it applied it over all non-edible plats while muttering things like “die rabbits die.”  And even though the direction of the wind kept changing, dousing me in eau de rotten eggs that took two showers to get rid of, I was satisfied that I had foiled the mangy rabbits.  Victory!

The next day I walked over to the vegetable beds and witnessed this.

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I refuse to spray liquid fence on the spinach because even if it was suitable for human consumption, I really don’t want my salad smelling or tasting like a toilet.  So I spayed some on the dirt in between the rows of spinach in the hopes that it may work.  And I laid some chives from my previously overgrown plant around it randomly.  Because in my mind, rabbits don’t like the smell of onions.  Probably not true, but in my agitation I was not thinking that straight.  And it sounded good.

According to my scientific google search, cayenne pepper and human hair also are good repellents.  But call me crazy, I again hesitate to put that all over food I hope to eat.

Sigh. So I think we are going to have to make a chicken wire fence around the raised beds to keep them out.  As well as to keep out one of the rabbit repellers who has shown a recent affinity for strawberries fresh from the plant.

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Fence….Ugly? Yes….but probably will be necessary. 

Because I will win this war one way or another.

I hope.

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And So It Begins (Edible Edition)

I just may have the garden planted.  Took awhile and I still may add a couple of things here and there, but overall it is ready for the “before” picture.

Last year was a lot more labor intensive with building the raised beds and planting everything from scratch.  So compared to that fun, this year was pretty easy.  And I even had some of my plants come back.  And I strategically moved the others around to help combat disease and bugs.

I also stuck pretty closely to the original plan.  Except there was no room for cantaloupe and asparagus…and Derek threw another random pepper in the cart.

So I will stop babbling and share the beginning of the 2010 gardening season-

Bed #1: Raspberries

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Yeah this is the “before” picture.  They have really taken off and I am so excited that I will be able to get fruit of them this year (and that they are hiding ugly the electrical box per my plan).  Tying them up to the trellis was a long and thorny morning so if the birds get to the berries first I will be very peeved.

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Bed #2- jalapeño, other random pepper, beans, red onion, yellow onion, spinach, and leaf lettuce.

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I planted the beans from seed and they are just starting to sprout-IMG_0961

 

And the Bed #3- strawberries, tomato, bell pepper, more beans, green onion and snap peas

Let’s just say the strawberries cam back with a vengeance-IMG_0967

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As did the green onion.  The flowers look pretty….IMG_0964

But it needs some serious dividing as it is taking over other plants.  Supposedly the best time to so this is after flowering and I am counting the days.IMG_0966

Speaking of flowering edibles…who knew that sage could be so pretty?  Good thing looks good because I have no idea how to cook with it.IMG_0956

All the other herbs (cilantro, lavender, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and mint) are happily in their pots on the patio.   But already are so much larger than when I planted them.

We also added a grape trellis to the side of the patio….I am a little nervous because from what I read the pruning protocol is very specific to get fruit.   So this falls in the “experimental” section.  Hence the tags still on the plants….once I take them off I am committed in my mind.  I know….weird.  So they just might be on there all summer.

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And to go with the beginnings of the garden, I am happy to report that we have already eaten a small portion of this years bounty.  It rained  a l l  weekend here, but I sloshed through the yard to get this to add to dinner (and dessert).  Note to self-backyard drainage is probably another upcoming expensive yet unglamorous project.

First garden harvest 2010

First garden harvest 2010

First garden harvest 2010

I am so excited to start the almost daily trips out there to add to our meals.  And I can’t wait to see the “after” pictures.

Stay tuned for the spring pictures of the rest of the landscaping….I am happy to report that the perennial beds are looking a lot more full than last year.  Not that would take much.

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How-To: Outdoor Rolling Cart

In re-designing our outdoor space, I realized we were lacking some storage.  Sure there were tables, chairs and a sectional, but no place to just set stuff. And while the garage was just a few steps away through the interior of the house, I learned quickly that it was just too far in the summer and therefore I just plopped things on the ground.

So we needed a flat surface to set stuff.  And it as luck would have it, we had a perfect awkward space for this storage to fit into.

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It had to be pretty and look like furniture.  I was envisioning a simple slatted console-table like thingy.  That I could set stuff on. In a fun color. 

That was the very thorough description I gave to Derek.

He took it a couple of steps further and designed and made this-

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A double decker rolling cart.

Backing up……

After I explained my master vision we headed off to the hardware store for some lumber and outdoor stain.  After much debate and price comparison we decided to go with cedar because it was not that much more expensive than pressure treated wood and I could treat it with color right away.  And it smelled nice.

And by much debate, I mean we put wood on the cart and then exchanged it for a different kind three times.  The Home Depot guys would have thought we were crazy if they did not know us so well from our frequent visits.

Anyway, we spent about $60 on wood.

Now for the Jenny version of the how-to (with pictures of course):

We made the frames for the shelves-IMG_0926

Added the slats-IMG_0927

Screwed on the legs-IMG_0928

Assembled the layers and added the wheels-IMG_0929

Simple right?

Well for the more technically inclined here is the Derek version with fancy schmancy measurements-

The cart is three main pieces.

The upper shelf is made completely of 1 x 4 boards.  The slats are 1x4 of 16 ¾ in length.  There are 9 of them spaced approximately ½ inch apart.  The long sides are two 1x4 boards hooked together.  The outer board is 7 inches shorter than the inner board (29”).  The inner board is 36” long.  This allows 3 ½ inches on each end for the vertical 2x4.  The short sides are connected with a 1x4 that is 11 ¾ inches long.  When looking at it from the short side you would see the 1 ½ inch side of the 2x4, then the ¾ inch side of the inner 1x4, the 11 ¾ inch 1x4 and then a mirror of the other side.  This totals out to 16 ¾ (1 ½ + ¾ + 11 ¾ + ¾ +1 ½)

The lower shelf is made the same way except the two outer slats are cut shorter to fit within the vertical 2x4’s. 

The vertical 2x4’s are however tall you want to make them.  Our cart is 37” from the bottom of the vertical 2x4’s to the top of the upper shelf (not counting the wheels).

OK enough of that…back to the pictures.

After the cart was assembled, it was my turn to take over with filling the nail/screw holes and sanding-IMG_0933

But happily we were going for a rustic outdoor look so not that much sanding was required.

Which is good because sanding is not rated as one my favorite DIY tasks.

I then finished it in an opaque stain in Shipmate Blue.IMG_0935

Ultimately I would have loved to do a semi-transparent stain in blue, but I could not buy it in a quart.  And I did not feel so strongly about it to justify the extra cash.

After two coats of stain we got this-IMG_0947

Or should I say this-IMG_0949

On a typical day I plan on housing most of my gardening supplies here so they are not just scattered around the deck. 

But it also can be used for this purpose-

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Or for sangria...or a bucket of beer…..or lemonade.  Or setting the mint plant on there and whip up some mojitos.   Or a serving table for food.

Or a fiesta…

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Confession- I was tempted to set up all of these those little vignettes and take pictures to illustrate the many uses of the outdoor cart.  But a) it would have been obvious that I had a little too much free time and b) my neighbors were in their backyard….they probably would not look at me the same after seeing me rearrange beverages on the cart six times and then snap pictures.  Especially at 8 on a weeknight when it was just the two of us outside. 

But I did capture the cart in all of it’s wheeling glory without causing neighborly concern.  It makes a perfect BBQing accessory-IMG_0954

It was super easy to construct (or so I am told) and cost less than $70 for all the materials.  And I love the pop of blue. 

It looks perfect in the completed outdoor space and I love the functionality.

Outdoor space 8/10

Outdoor space 8/10

 
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Flower Power

I may of mentioned it before, but I loooove spring and summer. 

It may have something to do with the flowers.  Doing dishes or responding to emails is suddenly more fun when there are bits of prettiness from your garden next to you.   Bonus points if they smell like roses.

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I used to try to make these elaborate arrangements and only buy plants that would be perfect for cut flowers.  But that took too long and I had lots of plants that did not fit that mold.   And let’s be honest, floral designing is not one of my gifts.

Now I just keep a cabinet full of random vases ready for the flowers of the season.   And a pair of clippers right by the back door so every afternoon I can see what is inspiring me to come inside.

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Votive holders and any old glass jar work just as well.  I have found that I use my shallower ones the most often as they do not require a long stem so any bloom can float.  Like simple shrub roses and marigolds-

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But I have to admit that in my opinion nothing can beat a red long stemmed rose.  And now that I have my new camera I can bore you to death with pictures of them.

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Bored yet? I will try to restrain myself in the future and keep the pictures to myself.

And for those in my neck of the woods that are wondering how I have a rose in full bloom already, I will admit that I cheated….slightly.  You see when I cut the flower the plant was firmly planted along side our deck.   However, it was bought from the store yesterday and that is why it is blooming.  We lost one rose last year and this is it’s replacement.   With the insanely cold winter we had, I am pleasantly surprised that a single rose was the only plant we lost. 

But I will just pretend that it all had to do with my amazing gardening skills and not the fact that I actually killed the plant. 

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Project Plume

It is official….without a deadline I am no good at actually completing a quilt. 

Case in point- in all the posts that I talk about a completed quilt I always mention that I wanted better pictures but because of _____ I had to hurry and get it done and therefore all my pictures stink. 

And the fact that I have two half done quilts hanging in the craft room that may never see the light of this blog because they do not have a deadline. 

No surprise that my newest quilt was not any different in the “completing at the last possible moment” category.

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But the good/bad news for everyone else is that I have no one to give it to as of right now…so I had a lot more time to take pictures.

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If it was not a gift, what was the deadline?

So glad you asked.

I have mentioned the Kansas City Modern Quilting Guild before….but I have forgotten to mention that we are already on our fourth meeting and we have had over 70 people attend the last three and we have already outgrown our original space and Tula Pink is a member of our guild. (she is a fabric designer for you non-quilt people out there).  She and Moda were kind enough to donate 35 charm packs of her latest line Plume to our guild with the following challenge- Make a quilt with just the charm pack and 1/2 yard of any other single fabric of your choosing.  Backing and binding were up to us.  That is not a lot of fabric ……but hence the word “challenge.”

I spent a lot of time thinking about all the creative things I could do with my fabric.  And I had a lot of great ideas.  At least I thought so. 

But I was realistic about my beginning quilting skills and limited time.  And in the end came up with this which I think will make a cute baby girl blanket-

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And here is what everyone else came up with (thanks to Shea for the pictures).  Obviously not everyone is a beginner like me because there were some amazing quilts on the Project Plume stage.  And obviously I need to get some blond highlights for spring.

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On another quilty note….April is National Quilt month.  And because of this Sew, Mama, Sew is hosting tons of how-tos on their blog (like here).  If would like to get you feet wet with quilting, this would be a perfect place to start.  Our president, Jacquie, has done a lot of the tutorials featured there and I have learned so much just from reading them. So go check it out!

And finally…on my quest for a spring picnic I just had to purchase this-

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I thought it just screamed picnic and I am planning on making an incredibly simple picnicing quilt (maybe backed with a laminated cotton??). 

But maybe I need to put a picnic on the calendar so there is a deadline….

Herbs on the Move

Know what my favorite thing about winter is?  How much it makes me appreciate spring. 

Because who can appreciate the absolutely gorgeous weather we have been having without going through the cold and incredibly long winter?

That is what I tell myself at least during the winter.  Sometimes it actually works.

Since spring is in the air, gardening is on my mind.  We are still in the iffy part of planting in good ole Zone 5 because we have been known to still have a random freeze this late.  But being the rebel I am, I decided that I could start planting my pots last week.  I know I am living on the wild side, but I figure that in the unlikely event we have a freeze, I can always pull them inside at night.

Since I am freeing up garden real estate this year, I decided all the the herbs were going to planted in pots on the deck.  There are two added bonuses to this.  First, most of them smell heavenly which brings a nice ambience to the deck space.  Also, all the flowers I planted in pots last year did not do very well so hopefully the herbs will succeed  much better.  And flowers can start to add up in terms of $$$.  So by replacing most of them with herbs I would be buying anyway, we are saving some money.

But then I stumbled onto a problem- pretty pots are expensive, especially when I plan on planting tons of herbs and some random flowers. 

I did have a stack of old terra cotta ones  in the garage and they are inexpensive for new ones as well…..but orange rust does not mesh with the color scheme of the outdoor decor I am going for. 

So I turned to my favorite thing for sprucing something up…..I bet you can guess what that is…..

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But terra cotta is not a material that you can just slap some paint onto and call it good.  It took some prep work and specific materials.  So of course I am sharing the how-to so that you can also score some cheap and springy pots.

The How -To

1. First, gather all your posts and scrub them with soap and water.  I used a combination of new and old pots and definitely spent a lot more time scrubbing the mineral deposits and grime off of the old ones.

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2. Let them dry for at least 24 hours.  Learn from my mistakes and do not set them on a cement garage floor if there is any moisture at all in the ground.  The terra cotta will suck it right up and they will never dry.  Which is not fun to discover when you are ready to start painting them.

3. Spray with a water proofer.   Terra Cotta is porous and when holding plants will suck all the moisture in from the dirt into the clay.  Which is bad news for your paint if you are expecting it to stick.  There are a lot of water proofers out there and some people suggest painting them with oil-based polyurethane to do the trick.  But we had cans of Thompsons spray water sealer laying around from some past project that I now have no memory of.  The terra cotta absorbed it right away and did not appear any different after spraying.  Spray every surface with this stuff- both inside and outside.  We went though a can and a half for all the pots pictured after applying one heavy coat.

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4. Paint with Patio Paint in your desired color on both the outside and the inside.  All terra cotta surfaces must be covered so that no water permeates any part and causes your paint to peel.  This includes the inside of the water hole.  I found my patio paint at a local craft store next to the terra cotta pots and not next to the acrylic paint which caused me a little bit of confusion.

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I covered everything with two coats of paint using a foam brush.  The yellow and the white did not cover as well, so I added an extra coat.  This paint dries really fast so the process did no ttake very long.   I also used the green on the lower inside part of most of the pots because I knew you would not see it but it covered very well.  And I had a big bottle of it.

5.  Let dry for at least 48 hours per the paint’s instructions.

6.  Fill with plants!

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We put a coffee filter at the bottom the pots so that water could seep through but the dirt would stay put.

7. Color coordinate where you want particular herbs and enjoy!

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Budget Breakdown:

$37 for pots (I already owned some)

$16 for paint

$0 for water sealer (already owned)

=$53 total…..which I think is great for 11 pots and some of them being large ones at that.

And I love what the color brings to the deck….I am so excited about how it is coming together.   Now I just need to figure out what I can cook with that monstrous sage that came back with a vengeance this year…..

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Spring Steals

So I am taking a big step and taking a personal day today.  I have never taken one before, but I am so proud of myself for taking a day to myself and all the projects waiting to be completed. 

Well let’s be honest…..half a personal day.  I have things scheduled at work in the morning but I will get out of there by noon.  Promise. 

Small steps.

While I use my extra couple of hours to work on the ten different spring projects that are partially done, I wanted to share all my great spring buys that I have found recently.

First, has anyone else noticed how expensive outdoor furniture is?  Ouch….especially when you are looking at comfortable outdoor sectionals.  Even at all of our favorite cheap places were were looking at least $1000.  Sigh. I will admit I was frustrated and thought that our outdoor space would be bland and not as functional for another year.  And what fun is that?

But then Wal-Mart.com came to the rescue with this-

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Any guesses on how much?  Under $500.  Yeah, so it probably won’t last a million years and become a family heirloom but oh well.  A couple of summers of enjoyment is all we are asking for.  It was also free to ship to the store. 

The box barely wedged into my small SUV.  And by barely I mean we had to take out the carpet in the back for that last centimeter and actually take the sectional out of the box piece by piece while it was in the car because it was so snug in order to extract it.

I am in the process of buying fun fabric for pillows to make it more summery and bright.  Because the throw pillows it came with were pretty ugly. Add that to the project list.

And did anyone spy the other thrifty find I scored this past week?  I will give you a second to scroll up in case you missed it. 

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Yep a garden stool for 20 bucks at Homegoods.  I am thinking to use it as a little side table right now but as the outdoor space comes together we will see where it ends up.  Anyway I love it.  And the color.  And the price.

I can’t wait to put together all the details and make our deck an extension of our house.

But in the meantime I will pretend that I am going to spend my afternoon of freedom stopping and smelling these-

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(and because of my spring fever I not able to resist at least one flower pic in every post….it will pass soon I promise)

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A-Tisket A-Tasket…

What is the best thing about winter?   It makes you appreciate spring so much more.  Even going to the grocery store after a long day of work is enjoyable when it is 80 degrees and sunny.  Especially when a month ago you were wearing 6 layers and cursing the snow.

So in honor my newly found good mood, I decided to make a spring resolution.  And since I am putting it on the blog it makes it all official, we actually have to do it. 

When we were organizing the basement I stumbled on this odd shaped object all wrapped up in trash bags.  Hmmm what was that?

Picnic Basket

Our picnic basket!

Picnic Basket

This was my most favorite wedding present.  I was so excited when we opened it and had all these visions of packing it every weekend and lounging in the park together ….eating and drinking wine of course.

Now want to hear the sad and pathetic part?

Picnic Basket

Ummm that was almost five years ago and it has never been used.  Yep never.  Told you it was sad.  I swear it was because we have been too busy with house projects.

So in the spirit of spring I decided to bust it out of the trash bag and keep it out so we would be more likely to use it. 

Because who can resist this picnic-i-ness?

Picnic Basket

Picnic Basket

I am not usually a red gingham type of girl, but in this basket, I think it is perfect.

And to up the ante, I also want to make a picnic quilt.  I have a couple more baby quilts that are 75% done. And after they are finished, I swore to myself that the next one would be for us.  Since we have a big fat zero quilts in our house as I repeatedly give them all away.  The picnic one can be incredibly simple since it will be hopefully thrown in the dirt and eaten off of and washed many many times (you know with all the picnics we will be having).  But it will be ours. ….and I can save the more difficult patterns for a throw in the family room.

So will you guys hold us to it?  Any other fun spring ideas to add to my list?

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Knock Knock….Spring is That You?

All around blogland I have been seeing beautiful and inspiring pictures of spring.  I love seeing all sorts of flowers and green re-making its appearance. 

So I thought I would share what good ole Zone 5 looks like this time of year.   Not as springy as the warm places are sporting but I am taking what we can get.

Especially considering that last weekend we started with this….mother nature did not get the memo that it was the middle of March. 

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But…..

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Unfortunately the rabbits (and weeds) are also making their spring appearance-IMG_0803

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ahhhh spring…..

I just may have gone to Home Depot yesterday to buy some potting soil and pansies for the front porch.  And while I was there, the vegetable vendor just might have been there delivering all his goodies.  And I might have browsed them to see if lettuce and spinach were there.  You know because they can withstand a freeze and all.  And it does not hurt to check.  And to stare at the mini tomatoes and herbs.  Sigh.  But I sad happy to report that I restrained myself by repeating over and over “It is too early….they will freeze and die…and then you will be very very angry.”  So for the next couple of weeks I will just have to take solace in the green beginning to poke up and knowing that they are waiting for me to take home and be part of our garden this year.

Now if I can just figure out just how to get rid of the bunnies and weeds and figure out how to have the beds add compost to themselves I would be set.  Hmmmm….

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Garden Report Card

Last year at this time, I was a gardening newbie.  Other than a couple of strawberries in a pot that were rather unsuccessful, I had never grown anything edible.

But I had grand visions and we built three raised beds.  And largely it was a success.  If I can do it with no background knowledge, so can you.

We started with three empty raised beds and a lot of gravel….

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And planted some little sprouts in the them (wow my old camera was pretty crappy)…MOV02216

And by July we had this…DSC02382

Since it is now officially spring and am now a “seasoned” veteran, it is time to  plan for this year’s selections.

Should I have done this earlier?  Yeah probably.  Especially if I was going to start seeds indoors.

And this would be the case if that did not miserably fail at this task last year.  I blame the sunny window that was not sunny enough.

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So this year we are sticking with plants that I buy and direct sowing seeds in the garden.  Once it thaws out I mean.

So here is what I planted last year -

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Strawberries- A  We did not get a lot of fruit last year, but according to my sources that it normal and we should get a lot more this year.   Our lack of fruit also could be a result of a furry friend named Jack hijacking the fruit.  The entire summer, I was cursing the birds thinking they were the culprits.  Until Jack was caught not once, but four times with a perfect red wipe berry in between his paws.  Which he promptly ate as soon as saw him.  So even though this crop will not need to be replanted, a dog deterrent/fence will be in order.

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Radishes- C  They grew very quickly and easily.  But I do not think we will replant this because Derek does not like radishes.  And other than an occasional one on my salad I am not huge on them.  So we decided that the garden real estate will be better served for something else.  But if you are new to gardening, this is a quick and easy crop to start with.

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Red Leaf Lettuce- B  I really learned last year that lettuce is a cold season crop.  Once it it gets too hot, it starts to bolt and then tastes nasty.  So this will definitely be repeated this year but I will not be afraid to harvest some of it early and will replant a second crop for late summer/fall when in cools off.

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White Onions- A  These were easy and we used them a lot.  I started these from an onion set which was easier than seed.  And they stored well.  Will be a repeat this year and I may add some purple onions. 

Chives-B These would get an A except we did not use them as much as I thought I would.  But they are a perennial and are already looking very robust in the snow.  Even if they did not I would be replanting.

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Pole Beans-B  This grew after the bunnies decimated them twice (note to self to install dog and rabbit deterrent).  But the trellis I installed was not tall enough and I waited a little too long to harvest them.  So they were, well, stringy.  But I have learned from my mistakes and they should be spectacular this year.  At least I hope.

Sugar Snap Peas-F  One of the lowest grades in the garden because…well they never grew.  I replanted them twice and really thought that I had been successful.  But my “success” turned out to be giant weeds that I spent the summer fighting and no peas in sight.  But I will not be beaten by these peas and will be triumphant this year.  Hopefully.

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Tomato-A  We bought this plant on a whim and ended up with so.many.tomatoes.  We are not huge tomato people, but the sauce and salsa and brushetta is already being planned for this year.

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Jalapeño- A A random purchase and we ended up with tons of them.  Way too many for our Mexican nights.  So I gave a lot away and made jelly with them.  I was happy how that turned out and  a single plant does not take up too much space, so it is on the shopping list for this year..

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Mint-A  We bought it for the mojitos.  And it did not disappoint.  Enough said.

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Basil- A+ Probably the most used plant in the garden.  So easy to grow and so easy to use.

Parsley-C Looks pretty and was easy to grow but I did not find a whole lot of uses for it.  But it is a perennial so it is back.

Cilantro-F The only other F in the bunch.  I killed it planting it.  But let’s try it again.

Sage- C-See parsley.  Exactly.

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Raspberries- Since they fruit during the second year, I can’t comment on that yet.  But they grew really well and I have high hopes for this summer

Carrots-D Since Derek is allergic to uncooked carrots (i know weird) and I hate cooked carrots these did not used that much.  Not to mention I really struggled with unearthing them.  As in hours digging struggled.  So these will not be repeated.

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Pomegranate- B  I bought a dwarf pomegranate online last year.  And I had to plant it in a pot because it cannot survive the winter outdoors. So it is growing in my kitchen right now.  There is tons of fruit on it but I am a little unsure how big they will grow.  I can’t wait to see what it does this summer, especially now that it is in a bigger and prettier pot.

I am also planning on moving all the herbs out of the raised beds and into pots on the deck.  Why?  First of all I want to free up some space in the beds for some new things. And my hope is that if they are closer to the kitchen that they will be used more often.  And last but not least, the more pots I fill with herbs , the less I will have to fill with flowers.  There will be flowers of course, just not every pot.

So with all the new space what is going in there?

Here is what I am thinking, but I am open to suggestions and to my whims when I am staring at plants and I decide something looks good.

-Cantaloupe-  I love this fruit and they are not cheap at the store.  From what I read they take a lot of room but I am up for the challenge.  Maybe.

-Spinach- This will like lettuce in that we will not be munching on it in July, but we have been trying to eat more of it.

-Grapes-I really want a grape arbor.  Just need to figure out a place for it that will not look dumb.  We will see….

-Red Pepper- We use this a lot in cooking and hopefully it will as easy as the jalapeño

-Potato-  I am considering this but am still unsure.  They are cheap at the store and we really should not be eating them that much.  But I really like them.

-Asparagus-I think I might give this one a whirl because we should be eating more of it and it a perennial

So what do you think?  Anything I need to be adding or subtracting off my list?

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Delayed Gratification

This weekend it looked like a small animal had started to make small, systematic burrows all throughout the garden. So should we start setting traps? Or set the dogs out on a hunt?


Actually we were the the culprits. Why? To plant bulbs of course. Tulips are on my top five favorite things about spring and you have to plant them in the fall in order to get the enjoyment in the spring.

I fell in love with tulips while we were in college. They planted millions of tulip bulbs every winter and the campus was covered with them in the spring. It made me so happy to walk around campus and know spring was coming.

Bulb planting used to be one of Derek's least favorite activities because honestly digging hundreds of tiny holes in heavy clay soil took forever. But this weekend we planted over 150 bulbs in less than a half hour. How? With these two tools-



The specifically designed drill bit for bulb was a life saver. Derek drilled the holes and I followed behind him throwing in the bulbs. Then we just covered it back up with dirt and start the countdown until spring to see all the pretty flowers pop up.


When we did it the old way, we used this thing. The soil just got stuck in it and we had to pry out with a stick.

After a particularly frustrating bulb planting session two years ago, Derek asked why we did not drill like the landscaping guys at college did when they were covering hills with hundreds of them. I assumed that the drill was a specialized piece of landscaping equipment not available to mere homeowners. But luckily for us we found it at our local hardware store for a couple of bucks. So this year, after just a half hour, our backyard beds were prepped to hopefully look like our front ones did last spring.




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