Saturday, September 22, 2012

Photo Project Complete - Autumn

Today is the first day of autumn. It might be one of my favorite days of the year, because of its promise that cloudy weather, beautiful fall colors, rain, and the holidays are just around the corner. 'These are a few of my favorite things.' :)

Also today, I bring my nine-month-long photography project to a close. I have photographed these same spots now on the First Day of winter, spring, summer and fall, respectively. Always at the same time of day (so that any lighting differences are actually an indication of the earth's orbit).

There were quite a few different spots that I photographed, but for the sake of your time and attention, I'll only share the most interesting. (you can click on the photos to enlarge them if you want to)




I don't know if it's the preggy hormones running through my veins, or if I'm kinda sentimental anyway (probably both) but taking these last photos got me to thinking about the seasons changing, not just in the natural world, but in my personal life as well. I thought about where I was a year ago. Or even nine, six, and three months ago when I came back to the park to take these photos.




It was a year ago today actually that my mom passed away. At the time, although I knew it was coming sooner than later, it still pulled the rug out from under me and left me reeling. As Lemony Snicket writes... "It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one.... It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise..." That was definitely a hard season, but some might say as inevitable as the biting cold will arrive in January, the one that makes you ache to your bones. When you draw into your lungs the frigid air of long, dark winter nights like that, it imparts its stillness and loneliness to your heart...

It took a good long time to get over that one. I spent most of the winter wallowing in depression and self-pity. But I allowed myself those feelings so I could walk through my grief properly and come out to the other side, to the spring.

Also a year ago, we had been wanting another baby for quite awhile, and I was feeling discouraged that it was taking so long. But six months later, we found out we were finally pregnant and one week after that, I was shooting the spring photos... :) My belly has grown progressively bigger as I've shown up to the park in summer and fall. And now here we are, only about a month away from his arrival.





Another dream that we had for several years was to own a home. As of winter, we had been looking and making offers off and on for about 7 years. By spring, we had made an offer on a cute little fixer-upper, but I didn't have my hopes up too high. But by summer, our dream had finally become a reality and we had moved into our first home, deep in the throws of a major remodelling project.




So as I look at these photos and study the changing face of the seasons, how the same spot can look so different over such a short amount of time, I correspondingly marvel at the changes in my face. A little more weathered, a little older - a few more wrinkles from new projects and less sleep, a few more gray hairs of grief and worry, skin a little darker from working my land, a twinkle in my eye for a new little one to love, and the woman in the mirror seems more of a mother to me now and a little less of a daughter.
So much has happened this year, I can only imagine what the next season will bring...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reusable Snack Bag

In honor of my son's first week at preschool,
I just finished these reusable bags for him to take to school!

(Pattern can be found here).

He picked out the fabics himself. :) He loves dogs. And yes, he loves ladybugs! Although just to be funny, we call them "man-beetles" around here. And Winnie of course. I might make him some Lightening McQueen ones later if I can find that fabric in my stash. ;)

The inside is ripstop nylon. My first time working with it, and it was kinda fun. It is not waterproof, so these bags can't hold like... a cup of sliced peaches or anything without leaking a little probably. But the nylon does wipe up nicely and can handle all the dry snacks like little crackers, nuts or dried fruit. I have some BPA free little tupper-type things for wet stuff.
If you are interested, you can research different fabrics to line with. Some people used organic cotton. Some people used something called PUL, which I am not familiar with. But I am told that once you get into waterproof fabrics like PUL, you are using essentially plastic-lined fabrics. So I would look to be sure that the lining is BPA free or specifically states that it's food safe. The ripstop I used is 100% nylon, not waterproof, and seemed benign enough to use with food.
Hope everyone is enjoying the back-to-school season. Can you believe it's gonna be September in a couple of days?!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Pothole Gardener

Came across this last week:

Kind of reminds me of yarnbombing, but seems even less intrusive and more benign. What do you think about pothole street art? :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bring out the figgy... jam

This is how I spent last tuesday night. :)
Homemade fig jam
If it weren't for the fact that I now own a fig tree, I probably would've never thought to can figs. But the fig tree we have in the backyard has been producing lots and lots of fruit and it seemed such a pity to waste it and watch hundreds of figs rot. It's funny - when you own a fig tree, you learn pretty quickly which of your friends love figs! :) Even still, we couldn't give the whole fruit away fast enough so on the suggestion of a friend I decided to look into making fig jam.
Having never made or even eaten it before, I experimented with a few different recipes. And by experiment, I mean I took nerdy notes and saved samples to taste test against each other. 8) But since most recipes call to leave the skins on and chop them, they all seemed to result in a very lumpy jam. I wondered if lumpy jam was normal or if I was making it wrong, so I consulted a few friends to see what most people expect to see in a fig jam. In the meantime, I also experimented with making the jam with peeled figs. But cooking it without the skins really effected the taste - made it way sweeter. My favorite of the jam experiments was actually cooked with skins, then manually remove the skins after cooking/before processing. But that was pretty labor intensive, so I was looking for something simpler. And if most people expected lumpy jam anyway, it seemed unnecessary.
The results from my poll came back conclusive - most of my friends did expect lumpy jam. So I decided to keep the skins in after all. But also, just because I'm stubborn, I took an immersion blender to it before I processed it. :0) That smoothed it up nicely too.
Hope you are all having a great weekend. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

First Day

I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends by The White Stripes on Grooveshark

Today was my son's first day of Pre School...

He's SO excited. He's been looking forward to this for months. We even made a paper chain a few months ago so he could see how many days he had left before school starts, and he loved tearing a link off every morning and watching his first day of school get closer and closer.

Of course, my mommy heart thinks about how it wasn't that long ago he was just a newborn, cooing in his boppy. And look at him now, such a cool little dude, wearing his backpack. I can't believe what a big boy he is.

I spent the morning frantic, trying to get him ready and making sure I wasn't forgetting anything... Did he have his snack? Water bottle? Did he go potty before we leave? Why was his hair not staying combed? All his cowlicks were acting up again. Then, when we got there, it was finding a parking space... figuring out how to check him in and show him his cubby. I wanted to get that great First Day of School photo, but none of my them were turning out very well because of the morning light, so that was all frustrating.

Then all of the sudden, his teacher, very sweetly came over and welcomed him to class and asked if he ready for some school today and made him feel at ease. He was being whisked away to a half day of learning and fun and friends. Our time was up, so we made our way to leave. I kept looking back at him to see if he would smile or wave to me one more time, but he was already caught up, his eyes glittery with excitement as he listened to his teacher explain what fun things he could do today. Joel lead me out the door, and I peered in the window to check him one more time. And that was when I finally lost it. Do you think he'll be OK? Does he know we left? Should I go back for one more hug???

No, it was too late. I already had tears in my eyes and didn't want him to see me that way. Besides, it was clear to me that he was fine. I was the one having the hard time... :}

I am so excited for him, because I know he's gonna have SO much fun and he'll make lots of new friends... But this morning... my house is way too quiet and my arms feel kinda empty. Even though it's only a few hours, I miss him! :} Joel asked me what I was gonna do with all my free time (a rarity in my life). I said, "Well today my plan is: to cry" Haha. It's true though. I doubt I'll be able to get anything else done this morning.
Can't wait til he gets home and tells me all about his first day at school. ♥

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Helping Out - printable chore chart for toddlers

Sorry for the absence.

(To start with a tangent: why do bloggers always feel the need to apologize for not updating regularly. As if all of humanity wait with bated breath for us to write something. How presumptuous. ;))


We have been busy as usual with life, working, cleaning, cooking... chasing after my toddler who has more and more gumption every day it seems, working on the remodel a little here and there, working on the yard a little here and there, experimenting with my canner (more on that later) and being pregnant. That last one, while easily said, probably takes the most energy. :P

We took a vacation a few weeks ago, and I was gonna post some fun photos and even a printable for a car game we enjoyed. Maybe next time. For now, I wanted to share something else... printable. :}

I've talked before about our perspective on chores around the house (holy cow, I just realized that was over a year ago!). Well, with my toddler starting preschool this week (AHH!) and a bebe on the way... I've been thinking that I should reign in some of the... how shall I put this... lack of focus? I see in my little boy most mornings. Well, he's not really lacking focus. He's just not focusing on some of the things I need him to focus on. Hahaa. So I decided it might be a good idea to create *drumroll* a Chore Chart! (All the non type-A moms just rolled their eyes at me, I can feel it). :P But I think it will help our mornings run a little smoother, when I am trying to get us all ready to go and out the door by 7:45AM. I'm hoping it will keep us on the same page, and with an understanding of what is expected of him every day, along with some motivational tools in the form of recognition and reward. As I shared in that post a year ago, we decided that there are some things we expect to be done unpaid and some that I feel are "extra" chores that are opportunities for him to earn some money. That way, hopefully, he's learning responsibility as well as how to handle cash.

So... I looked around the good old inter-web and found some cute ideas. But in the end I decided to create my own. It's nothing fancy really, but I think it works. One thing I made sure to include were visual clues (pictures, not just words) for my toddler, since he can't read yet. This is to help him fulfill his duties as independently as possible, even though I do have to assist with a couple of them. I'll even give him the stickers so he can mark it off himself when he is done and I'll just check his work. Actually we might go with lamination/dry erase pen so it's reusable and I don't have to print a new one every week...

Just in case it might be useful to you, I thought I'd share it. Downloadable here. :)
{if you have trouble viewing it, you can still click File, Download and you should be able to open it on your computer if you have publisher}

OR here is a jpeg version

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Almost Wordless Weekend

We were on vacation last week and I am slowly coming back to reality. So this morning, I will just share something fun I found in my newsfeed.

I see 36 squares in this puzzle, but I'm sure there could be more... How many do you see? :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Weekend

          Sneak peek at our bedroom colors                          Made laundry detergent last night

Cut mat as a floor plan. This room is a real puzzle. :/       Other roses may tire, but old Yeller is going strong!

Thanks for visiting! :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yes we CAN!

Just finished my first batch of Strawberry Jam! :)

I went to a canning class about a week ago. It's something I've always wanted to learn but was intimated by. But the class was very hands-on and confidence-building, so I was excited to get home and do it myself. This was my first attempt and I think it went pretty smoothly. I tried to do it without a canning pot or a rack, which was challenging but not impossible.

I started with Strawberry Jam because it seemed like the easiest and most universal recipe. I just used the Ball Recipe here because I figured they have it figured out by now and the recipe is one of the most popular ones on their website. I halved it. And, being warned that most traditional canning recipes are really sweet, I reduced the sugar in the recipe, but it still turned out a little too sweet for my taste. I might try even less next time or try to find an alternative. Besides honey. I kinda can't stand honey. Trust me, I wish I could.

Oh look! Here's a light version made with grape juice. I might try that next time. :)

A cool idea I had that I would recommend (if you are a canner and haven't tried it already) is to use an immersion hand mixer to mash the strawberries after starting them a little with a fork. I was sitting there trying to get a smoother consistency and it was taking forever. So I pulled out the immersion and it worked great! It was already on the stove by then, making the berries softer, so that might have helped too.

Have you ever canned before? If so, what are your favorite things to preserve?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Home Improvement: Vinyl Floors

Gonna keep this one short and sweet. For the both of us. :)

Most of the work was actually done about a month ago but we finally added some finishing touches to it, so I feel better sharing.  ;)

This is the kitchen floor BEFORE.
A little scary, yes? The tile was so old and bad, it was literally falling off. You could kick the tiles up. Joel wasn't even sure what they were. Not ceramic.

Unfortunately I don't have a Before of the bathroom. Don't know how I missed that one. But that is still very much a work in progress anyway, so we'll skip it for now. Sufficed to say - the process I'm showing you here was repeated in the bathroom and laundry room as well.

First, Joel tore up all the layers of flooring until he got to the very bottom. I'm not even sure what you call this layer, but it's basically part of the frame of the house.

Then he laid down underlayment in all three rooms: kitchen, laundry, and bath. It's basically a thin board.

I will spare you all the details of how I went about choosing color and type of flooring. I will say this - we decided on a vinyl tile because (a) Joel could install it himself easily enough and (b) it allowed for flexibility during later renovations. For example, later on when we are tearing out old cabinets in the bathroom, if the new cabinets take up less floor space, we can just add tiles here and there as we need to and not have to re-cut/ re-install a whole sheet of linoleum flooring!

They were self adhesive, and seemed very easy to use. I should talk - I didn't do anything! :) So, you just line them up press them down or roll them on. Of course there is cutting involved once you get to the edges and corners.

Joel found a little helper to hand him tiles as needed.

                                       Before                                                           After

                                                                          Wide shot

Done in the kitchen: installed flooring, fridge, oven, microwave, painted cabinets/new pulls.

Still to do in kitchen: New cabinets, sink and counter tops. And, since we don't have a dishwasher right now, we'll also add one (and the townspeople will rejoice).

And after we're done tearing things off the walls and putting things on the walls, only then can I justify painting the walls. :) Can't wait!

Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Home Improvement: The Boy's Room

It's really late and I'm really tired, but I wanted to share a few photos with you before I collapse into bed. I'm just excited because I've been waiting for a few weeks now to be able to finish this project and then share it with you. We've been living here for over a month now and we finally have one room almost done! :)

Here's a photo of my son's room before we moved in. (And my son posing in it. Hehe)

The floors look alright from far away - but they really needed refinishing. And, while were were at it, I wanted them darker, since they were kind of a honey brown. The walls were very dingy and dirty and needed paint. The windows are newer, which is good (probably one of the few things in this house that's less than 10 years old!), but the casings were unfinished.

Anyway - Joel refinished the floors before we moved in and then this is what the bedroom walls looked like for the first few weeks.

About a month ago, we finally found the time to start painting! My son was very invested in the project - he picked the color out himself, and had been looking forward to helping with painting for a long time, so we went ahead and gave him a brush. And then I realized he doesn't have any "work clothes" like mommy and daddy... so we let him paint in his chonies! He only helped for a couple of minutes. ;)

 That's the most adorable house painter I've ever seen...


 Taking his work very seriously.

 Oh yeah, and Joel helped a little too. :0)


Here's what the old door casing looked like before Joel tore it all out. And there was no baseboard at all. So, after we painted, we waited a few more weeks to acquire the tools needed for Joel to install baseboards and new door casings. And I got to be helpful and paint those myself while Joel was at work (I was pretty proud of me). :P Anyway, here's detail of the new casings and baseboards. 


So today we finally unpacked all his toys! When we got to his boxes of books, he ended up spending a few hours looking at all the books he forgot he had and 'reading' to himself.  ^_^

And here, my friends, is our somewhat finished product! Tada!

What I'm not gonna tell you is how big the mountain of his toys is that stands behind me as I take this photo. ;) Funny side note: I told him maybe it was time to sort through his things and see if there was anything he wanted to give away to kids less fortunate. We do that from time to time when he has gotten to a point where he's accumulated a lot. After sorting through a few hundred guys and cars are other little toys with him, there were exactly three items in his giveaway bag: a broken plastic Easter egg, a sticker dispenser with no more stickers and a pair of 'disguise' glasses. It was so pathetic, I just stood there laughing at the sad little bag. Ha. Oh well! Guess he wasn't in a very giving mood. Maybe we'll try again later.
So I say it's 'almost' done because the only thing we have left to do in this room is to install a new light fixture (the one in there now is blah... and broken actually, so he just has a lamp right now) and we'd also like new blinds eventually. Maybe some window treatments... but for a little boy's room sometimes I think that's over the top. We'll probably hang some of my son's art work on the walls. That will really make it homey :) Then I think we'll be finished here!

Anyway... no sooner are we done with it than I am left wondering how we will rearrange it in a few months, when it goes from being a boy's room to a boys' room!! ;) That will be interesting.

Tomorrow we hope to paint our room and maybe I'll blog about our new vinyl flooring.
Thanks for visiting. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Humble beginnings

These are the cheery faces I greeted as I went to water my veggies today.


Bell Pepper

Let's not discuss what number 'attempt' this is for me. Haha. These ones were doing great until we moved and the day after we moved, I found them crusty and mostly dead. I assume I made the mistake of taking the flats outside too early for the little guys, since it was about 1000° that day. Anyway, I picked these up during one of our many recent trips to the home improvement store. They were about 12" when I got them a couple weeks ago and I made sure to enrich they're soil and find a good sun spot for them. They've grown really well (about twice as big as they were) and I am so pleased to see flowers on them. ^_^

"Energy and persistence conquer all things." ~ Ben Franklin

Although  I'm not sure I've conquered anything just yet. I suppose I shouldn't count my tomatoes before they... hatch.

Since I was taking photos of our hap-hazard "garden" - or the beginnings thereof - anyway...

This is Joel's baby. It's a Satsuma Mandarin tree. He has a thing for citrus and we have already talked about wanting to get fruit trees in the future. But this is our first one. If you look closely, there is one fruit on the top! But it's still really young so I don't expect too much this year.

Satsuma Mandarin

The fig tree was here when we moved in (obviously - it's huge!) For some reason it has been trimmed very lopsidedly. That bushy area to the lower right is actually the main trunk with a bunch of new suckers on it and then the huge branches reach way out to the left. Weird! We will let it give fruit this year before we take all those left-side branches down. And at that point we'll decide whether to keep the tree and just cultivate the new growth on the trunk or take the whole thing down as well. It's not a bad tree, but I'm not a huge fig fan. I guess it's fun to give them away though. Anyway - this is the meat bees' favorite place to hang out! I think they like the sweet fruit.

Fig Tree

And here are just some little annuals I planted in front of the house, just to have something cheerful to greet our visitors. The dirt here is VERY hard and has lots of clay in it. I mixed in a little compost blend but I'm not sure how some of the petunias (purple) are fairing. We'll see. I just have to remember to water! Water water water.

Being busy with the move and remodel right now, and expecting the Little One in a few months, I've decided to mostly wait until next spring to start a serious garden (raised beds and irrigation and all). So for now we just have some potted things here and there.

Thanks for visiting!
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