Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dressing up the Front Porch

I've been dressing up the front porch lately. I can't go crazy with paint and completely new landscaping, but I can keep it clean and do little projects that give it some style. I started with finishing up a coffee filter wreath I started making at least two years ago. I got the itch to finish it when I realized I wanted it on my front door.

Next, I tossed an old potted plant and made this little arrangement for my garage sale spray painted chair. I used a satin Krylon (my favorite brand) white spray paint to turn this plain old terra cotta pot into something that matched my porch and was a bit more classy. Then I did my very favorite thing and went to the local nursery. I was planning on buying a simple green and white Hosta, but then I spotted a massive row of Caladiums in a dozen different colors. I was super excited when I found one in the perfect shades of white and green with a hint of red to match my chair. Then I bought this little green and white Glechoma to fill and spill over the bottom of the pot. Both are shade loving plants that are doing great on my porch.

My next goal was to yet again replant my two dollar store hanging baskets. They look so nice for the first couple weeks after I plant them, but they dry out so very quickly in the heat and are impossible to water thoroughly once the soil has dried out. I've been experimenting with different liners for the baskets that will hold more water and not let the water drain through so fast. The typical coir fiber liners are worthless and my experiment with a multilayered burlap liner wasn't much better. So, I settled on a duck cloth canvas liner that has a tight weave and doesn't allow water to drain off too quickly. I decided the water problem could also be too little soil with too much exposed surface area. To fix that, I combined my two baskets by inverting one and making the shape more like a ball. I planted the custom made liner with a basic Gold Child Ivy (hedera helix) on the top and bottom to make a hanging topiary ball.

It doesn't look amazing yet, but the Ivy is a fast growing variety that can reach 10ft long and will more than adequately cover the basket frames. I can't wait for it to really fill out! And if this one does as well as it should, I plan on making another for the other hook I have with a different type of vine that likes more sun.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Some Garden Harvest

We've enjoyed some delicious fresh veggies from the garden this week. So far, I've harvested about 20 oz of tasty Cherry Red tomatoes from the one plant. I've been really impressed with this plant and its little 1-2oz fruits and have already started some seeds from the harvested tomatoes. I planted them about three days ago and think I see a little seedling poking its head up already.

I picked two average size acorn squash from one of my two acorn squash plants this week. The other plant has one squash greening up right now.

I cut them open and they smelled just like sunshine! The flesh was more of a butter color than other acorn squash I've purchase, but I'm not sure if that was due to the variety or picking them a bit early. To prepare them I scooped out the seedy middle, put a tablespoon of butter in each half, tucked them all cut side up in a glass baking dish with about an inch of water in the bottom, covered the dish tightly with foil, and baked them at 350F for about an hour.

They came out soft and yummy. I fluffed mine with a fork and ate it with a bit of salt. It was so so good! Each half provided a nice serving size for one person. Redding ate his with cinnamon and sugar. In spite of how delicious these were, I don't think I'll grow this variety of acorn squash again because the 1-2 squash each plant provided doesn't justify the space required to grow them. I may try the Table Ace acorn variety as it has good reviews and higher expected yields per plant.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lambert's Birthday Party

Yesterday, we had a birthday party for a stuffed animal. His name is Lambert and Redding tells me he is one year old. We have a little calendar that we made where the boys can draw pictures of what we plan to do each day. Over the weekend, Redding drew a picture of balloons, Lambert and a cake to the 15th and informed us it would be Lambert's birthday this week. So, I decided it would be fun to throw a birthday party for Lambert and also a welcome distraction from the fact that the same day as the party marked the beginning of my 39th week of pregnancy.

We started the day by making simple party hats out of construction paper. I cut the hats and glued them while the boys colored them. Redding insisted on adding a number 1 to every hat in honor of Lambert's first birthday. Next, we made a run to Aldi to pick up a few ingredients for the cake and a frozen pizza for lunch. These boys would eat pizza darn near every day if I let them.

I enjoy letting the boys help me bake so long as I do prep work to make it go smoothly. Before I ask for their help, I measure out all the ingredients and put them in separate bowls so the boys can just dump them into the mixer without having to wait patiently for me to get things ready. It goes smoothly this way and no one gets frustrated.

I like to use Pioneer Woman's vanilla cupcake recipe as the starting point for most of my cakes and cupcakes. It tastes amazing and works well. Except for yesterday. For whatever reason, user error I'm sure, the cake came out stuck to the pans and so soft and fluffy it couldn't support its own weight. But it tasted good. So I went ahead and piped white butter/cream cheese icing around the cake then smoothed it a bit and topped it with sprinkles. It was the saddest looking cake I've ever made. We all had a good laugh over it.

Since Lambert is just a stuffed animal and he can't blow out his own candle, the only fair thing to do was to let Wyatt and Redding each blow out a candle on Lambert's behalf. So we sang Happy Birthday then they each took turns with their own candle.

And then we ate cake. It was the silliness.

And then I took a nap. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Do not worry about tomorrow, a garden update

The Lord has generously laid on my heart Matthew 6:19-34. In this passage Jesus tells us that we cannot love money and love Him. He explains that everything on earth will fade and our earthly "treasures" will be destroyed, but that our treasures in heaven will be protected forever. People are our heavenly treasures. The time and love I invest in people, my children, family, friends, and even complete strangers has eternal value. If we care about money, if having it, having all the things money can buy, is important to us, then we can't wholeheartedly serve God. So we are charged first to place all our treasures in heaven and not treasure our earthly possessions. Then Christ goes on to tell us not to worry about tomorrow He tells us not to worry about our food or drink, or our clothes because God generously provides all that we need. And to really round it out, He tells us in verse 34: "So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Verse 34 has become my motto for evaluating problems that arise during the day. I ask myself, "Is this today's problem, or tomorrow's?" Since I'm 36wks pregnant with  5 and 3yr old boys to chase after, it is very easy to start feeling overwhelmed. Thank Jesus for the gentle reminders to keep my priorities in order and my worries to the present and immediate only and to trust in God for all provision. 

I am also encouraged by the growth of my little garden and other small victories, like releasing our 2nd butterfly we raised from a caterpillar. 

My green beans have many pods that are the full length and just need another couple days to plump up to full size. I can't wait!

My Cherry Red tomato is still loaded with tomatoes, but they aren't turning red. I may pull a few and bring them inside to see if they turn. Even if I have to use them green, I love green tomato salsa!

And then there's the squash.

These are acorn squash. The large one in the first photo is about full size and starting to darken. The one on the right in the next photo is a little soft and weird shaped, so I'll probably cut it off so the plant doesn't waste energy on it, but the one on the left is lovely.

My spaghetti squash are going crazy. There are so many nice fruit growing, and they are HUGE! I haven't actually eaten a spaghetti squash before, so I hope I like them. Even if I don't, they should still puree and freeze well for baby food.

I have only seen these two variety, so I'm thinking that the Lakota and Butterbush aren't among my seven or so plants.

I love marigolds. They are always so hearty and rich in color.

 I think I mentioned starting over with my cucumbers. They are doing very well now and really taking off. There are seven little plants in there and I will let them all grow so long as they look healthy and not too crowded. 

The butterfly garden has a nice orange, red, and yellow vibe now that the lantanas and milkweed are flowering. It continues to attract bees and wasps and then the bees move over to my adjacent squash garden and go nuts in there. It's a win win. I found a wild patch of Maypop growing in the vacant lot next to Lowes and plan on moving some of that into the garden the next time I'm leaving the store. It smelled heavenly! And the Gulf Fritillaries were swarming it.

I should probably side dress my gardens with a rich compost or fertilize soon. I have also had some aphids, hornworms and cabbage loopers moving in on my plants so it's time to try out a homemade pesticide. Hopefully that takes care of things!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Growing, Growing, Growing

Nothing much going on around here lately. I've been making up lots of Etsy orders (yay for business!), and taking care of my kiddos. We've played outside and had fun in the garden, and I've tried to keep the house in some semblance of cleanliness, even if that means having everything clean only once a week. Small victories. Pregnancy soreness in my legs and back are really setting in and making moving around not fun. I'm 34wks now so only a little longer to go! I have some house bucket list stuff that I'd like to work on to hopefully simplify life once Baby 3 makes his appearance--some cleaning, some organizing, more getting rid of clutter and things we don't need.

But on the bright and pretty side, I'm happy with how my garden is coming along this year!

My red cherry tomato plant is only about 2ft tall , but it is LOADED with blossoms and green tomatoes. The largest are the size of a big walnut and seem to still be growing. I'm very impressed with this plant so far. It set down a good root system, bushied up and has started fruiting rather quickly. My collards are getting bigger and I can't wait to start plucking those leaves for steaming. They should be great in my green smoothies once I start trying to get rid of the baby weight in another month or so. My Super Sweet 100 tomato has gone from being a two leaf seedling to a quickly growing plant in the last month. I expect it will be another month before it starts fruiting.

 My chicken coop has sat dejected and lonely the last six months. I miss fresh eggs. But *hopefully* I'll be able to get them back next year once life with a new baby has settled down and I can build them a new movable run. No more backyard free ranging for them. It's just too hard to keep the poop off the patio and my tables. And they love digging and eating up my gardens too. So if I can get them back, I plan on making them a run similar to this one. The Williams-Sonoma coop was actually my inspiration for the coop design anyway. May as well make a run as well.

My Fortex Pole Beans are looking great and are staying pretty pest free. I had to pluck a handful of leaves off the bottom of plants a few weeks ago when I found colonies of black aphids starting to move in. Since then though, they've stayed away and the plants have been healthy. They are filled with little buds and will probably start blooming soon.

And would you look at those squash plants! Man have they taken off. It's currently looking like I have mostly bush variety, but it's hard to say. I had to put the trellis up for one ambitious plant who has plenty of flower buds and one yellow flower about to open. I ended up culling out all but 7 of the plants, just over half of the sprouted plants because of how large they were getting. I just picked the smallest or closest together and clipped them at the dirt line. It's better than pulling them out because cutting them won't disturb the roots of the plants I intend to keep. The squash have overtaken the row of marigold and calendula. You can just see them peeking out under the leaves as well as my parsley plant. 

These are my three little eggplant seedlings that are finally putting out some real leaves. I've read that eggplant are slow starting from seed, but then take off later in their life.

And my three cubanelle peppers are looking great and getting leafy. Peppers can also be a bit slow growing. But all the hot weather we've been having should get them moving.

My two blackberry plants have decided to set out some flowers and berries. And my grape vines have a few green leaves on the growing tips. I must say though, if my black berries and grapes don't give me something edible this year, they will be tossed. I could use their trellis (the two 4x4's with wire strung between) for more Fortex beans or any number of vining plants. I've had the grapes and black berries a few years now and the plants were a year or two old when I bought them. But I've had no edible grapes or berries to date. So they are on probation.

And here is the ugly butterfly garden. It has definitely filled out some and the plants are doing well, just growing slowly. But that's ok. The Porter Weed has attracted some honeybees and beneficial wasps to the garden. The lantanas are just coming into bloom and my hibiscus has had a few flowers.

I'm looking forward to playing with the overall design of the yard and garden in the coming months, but for right now, I'm really enjoying my little bit of "urban homesteading."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mary Jane Slippers

Look! I made Mary Jane Slippers!

Oh wait...

There they are!

As I was saying... These are my new slippers! {Wyatt calls them "sweppers". Sometimes he sings it..."Sweeeeeeeeeeepers!" Very dramatic that one :)} I used the Simplicity pattern 2278 for mommy and me shoes. The pattern comes in Sm, Med, and Lg for misses MJ's. I held my foot up to the sole pattern and took my best guess as to which size since there wasn't a breakdown. I made the Lg size and wear an 8.5W in women's shoes and this pattern size seemed to fit well. I would guess the Lg size to be a 9.

I used a piece of Happy-Go-Lucky by Bonnie & Camille for the outer fabric and a bit of somewhat stretchy, thinnish, white minky fur fabric for the inside. I've used the white minky to back three quilts recently and love everything about it! I'll be sad when it's gone. I used a lightweight pellon fusible interfacing to steady the shoe a bit and fused it to the minky fabric which made the minky easier to work with and not so stretchy.

I used a grippy dot utility fabric from JoAnn's for the sole, and I'm so glad I did! My very largo preggo state has made me clumsy and the grippy dots really GRIP the floor and keep me from falling. I decorated the strap by sewing mustard yellow plastic buttons to the outside of the shoe through all the layers as finishing touch.

 I'm really pleased with the fit of the shoes and only made a few minor adjustments during construction to get the fit I wanted. I sewed the outer fabrics, the flowers and grippy sole together and then tried it on and decided it was a tad bigger than I wanted. The pattern calls for a 1/4" seam allowance which I changed to a scant 1/2" around the toes/sole and at the vertical flower heel seam and then repeated this for the minky too. I changed the construction of the shoe a bit so it made more sense and went together easier. Instead of following the directions, I made the outer and lining of the shoe separately, matched right sides together and then sewed the two together around the top edge of the shoe, leaving a 3" gap for turning. Then I turned it rightside out, straightened it, and edgestitched the top edge to close the opening and keep things neat. I think edgestitching is a great professional touch for most projects. I constructed the strap differently too because I hate making a casing and then trying to turn the skinny thing right side out. I pressed all the edges in a 1/4" and then pressed it in half. Next I sandwiched a piece of interfacing in the middle, then edgestitched around the whole strap to close it up. The shoe fit nicely and stayed on well without adding the strap, so instead of making it velcro on like the directions called for, I attached it by stitching a line along both the skinny edges of the strap right next to the sole.

The shoes slip on and off easily and are very comfy. They will make great hospital slippers when I need them in a couple weeks. I may use the pattern to make some leather Mary Jane's to putz around town in soon. Oh, gotta run, the mailman just got here and is dropping of my cloth diaper prefolds! Have a great day!