Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Days

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I’ve taken quite a break from blogging this summer, and for no really good reason other than that it is summer and it’s busy (but aren’t we all??  not a very good excuse for me I’m afraid) and it is glorious outside in the summer here in the polar north.  We have to get our vitamin D somehow!!  We have actually been having quite a mild summer here which we have been loving, though I hope hope HOPE it doesn’t mean the polar vortex is awaiting us again right around the corner.  Yikes. 

Actually, I think the main reason I haven’t been blogging is because I have done basically nothing inside our house these past couple of months.  Nothing blog-worthy, anyway.  And I have been even worse about taking pictures of anything that might have been in the slightest bit blogworthy.  : )  I have been outside enjoying and gardening.  I’ll just touch upon a few things…

We are in the middle of doing the Whole 30!  What is that?  This site can tell you all about it, but basically you go off dairy, all grains, legumes (including peanuts and soy), sugar in any form (including honey and all those sneaky things that get added to foods that end in -ose), alcohol, and MSG/carrageenan/sulfites for 30 days and then slowly re-introduce them into your diet.  During re-introduction you try to notice if any foods seem to bother you to determine if you could be sensitive to those.  We are on day 17 today and I haven’t noticed much benefit yet (I started this hoping for more energy as it always seems to be low) and my husband says he felt great before we started this diet and feels great still, but it is still early so the jury is out.  I am missing my dairy and carbs for sure!  It definitely has opened my eyes to all the things they add to even the most basic of foods!  On a side note, we are all tired of eggs for breakfast.  : )  (My husband bought one of those 15 dozen boxes of eggs last week and we have already plowed through almost half of them!)

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I don’t think I shared this last year, but we will be starting our 2nd year of homeschooling so I am working on turning our music room into a “study” for the coming school year.  Last year I used part of the playroom in the basement for schooling, but this year I thought it might be nice to be on the main level because we don’t have carpeting up here and I would feel less nervous about glue, paint, play-doh, and other preschool/school mess that comes with the territory.  The music room looked kind of like this:

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And now as a study it looks like a hot mess:

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But never fear, stay tuned for more progress on that!! 

 

And our garden(s), ahhhh…they are doing great for the most part!!  We have been enjoying a lot of fresh veggies around here.

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Pea thief : )

Can you spy the three melons?

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Everything is growing wildly, including the marigolds I planted along the main path in the garden.  I intended them to be more like a hedge, but they obviously are more free-spirited souls who intend to take over the path instead! 

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And what do you think of my rebel pink-haired corn?

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Broccoli and beans haven’t done as well, but that doesn’t mean Butterscotch doesn’t enjoy resting in their shade

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I have another post in the works all about the state of the gardens and how that garden arch is working for us so far.  Hopefully I’ll get that up soon!

 

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer days!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gardens in June

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The weather has been absolutely beautiful around here for the past week or so…perfect for getting all my plants into the ground and lots of outdoor chores done!  Yay!  I took a few pictures of the gardens, mostly for my own reference for next year and to see the difference from one month to another. 

Here is one of the front gardens…a new garden I made early this spring, and finally finished planting about a week ago.

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The plants are all quite tiny since it is not an established bed, so hopefully they will fill in this year and be much larger for next year!

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I also planted window boxes that will hopefully also fill out in a few weeks.  They look rather sparse now but they are much better than when I planted them a couple weeks ago so there is hope for them!

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I used asparagus fern that I had overwintered and divided this past winter and then some geraniums that I grew from cuttings and also some kale I started from seed.  I have no idea how the kale will actually look with everything else, but it is fun to try something different!  I can always just pull them out if it looks awful.  : )  I bought a couple 4 packs of coleus and a 6 pack of wave petunias to put in there too so I did spend something but overall I am happy to have such inexpensive window boxes. 

Here is another front garden…this was new last fall.  I dug it  when my husband was out of town on a hunting trip and I was SO sore at the end of it.  I’m not quite sure why I feel that is an appropriate time to jump into a big new project but I always do…it must be some crazy coping mechanism.  : )   Earlier in the spring there were tulips blooming here but now the garden is in what I am calling its “purple phase”.  I didn’t exactly plan it this way, but all the blooms right now are shades of blue and purple and I am really liking it!

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I am hoping the vanilla marigolds I planted in front of the bare legs of the baptisia (blue flowers near center) will grow quickly so it won’t look quite so top-heavy!

Heading in the backyard to the garden I affectionately refer to as the weed garden:

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The iris are blooming right now which is just lovely!  I call it the weed garden because this is one of the gardens that was here when we bought the place last year and it is filled with grass and lots of weeds as well.  Next year I plan to either get rid of this garden altogether and make a much larger bed extending from the garden shed to the garden, or re-work it so I can get rid of the weeds. 

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Moving on to the shade garden:

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It is home to mostly hostas with a few other shade-loving perennials, though I added some impatiens so it should be more colorful in a few weeks.  The chickens have decided they like to scratch around in this garden so I have to be careful to protect any new young plants I have planted or they will die an untimely death (the plants, not the chickens—we are very fond of Mrs. Bertha and friends!). 

Last but not least, the veggie garden. 

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We have come up with an elaborate fencing system to keep the deer out, which has been working for deer but less so for rabbits, so I feel a bit like Mr. McGregor  whenever I find another cabbage plant has been eaten off.  Grrrr!! 

The arch is for cucumbers, though this is the first year I am attempting to grow them vertically so we’ll see how it goes! 

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Swiss chard is coming along nicely, as are the radishes.  The beans are getting bigger too!

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The other side of the garden:

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I’m excited to see what it will all look like next month!

I am joining Cari over at Clan Donalson for the June garden link-up…so fun to look at everyone’s gardens and see the progress from month to month! 

Monday, June 2, 2014

How to get spray paint off skin

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With the warmer weather we’ve been having it is finally time to break out the spray paint!  I’ve been so busy with landscaping/gardening related projects that I only finally got around to doing a spray paint project a few days ago, and in the process accidentally stumbled upon a really great way to get spray paint off skin!  My spray paint bottle/nozzle was spluttering and finally it just started oozing black paint out all over my hand, under my fingernails, and up my arm.  Ugh!  It was especially bad because it was the enamel kind, which seems to be extra fumey and sticks really well to—anything!  I didn’t take a picture because…I had no idea I was going to figure this out and I don’t randomly take pictures of paint on my hands.  : )  I really didn’t want to go to all the events we had planned for last weekend with a hand/arm that looks like some horrible disease has taken its toll, so I went in and proceeded to scrub and scrub and even tried the hand sanitizer trick I heard about to no avail.  It just wasn’t coming off!

I ended up taking a shower to freshen up from the hot day outside, using a little scrub recipe I occasionally use to exfoliate my face.  On a whim I started rubbing it on my hand and lo and behold, the paint started to come off!!  Within moments of scrubbing it was SO much better and almost all off, even under my fingernails!  I was really excited to not have to explain my awful-looking hand.  : )

So, want to know how you can erase that spray paint fast??  It only takes two ingredients, and I bet most people have them in their kitchen. 

Take a couple tablespoons of coffee grounds (used or unused), add a tablespoon or so of olive oil (any old one will do!);

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mix them together,

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and voila!  Magic spray-paint remover!! 

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Easy easy!  Just use like any scrub with warm water, and follow up with some soap to remove the olive oil grease if that’s not your thing.  Hope my accidental discovery helps someone!

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Linking up with Remodelaholic’s Anonymous Party, Tatertots and Jello’s Link Party Palooza, The DIY Showoff’s That DIY Party, Home Coming’s The DIYers,  Upcycled Treasures’ The Makers

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How I save money on gardening—part 2 of a series—sharing plants

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Starting plants from seed can work great for lots of flowers and vegetables, but today I’m sharing my absolute favorite ways to garden cheaply…plant sharing and taking cuttings!  Very easy, nearly free, and you have big plants all that more quickly. 

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Plant Sharing

This encompasses a lot of territory.  Know someone who gardens?  Maybe your mom, friend, neighbor, or someone on the Craigslist free section?  More often than not they will be cleaning out their gardens this spring and have a little extra of something…let them know you would give their extra plants a good home (and perhaps offer them a plant in return if you have some extras too).  You’d be amazed how often just the mention that you want to have a garden or are interested in gardening will encourage a flurry of perennial donations to your flowerbed.  Gardeners tend to be very generous and willing to share their hobby with others!  Many perennial plants do best if they are divided every few years, so it can actually be a win-win situation for both you and the other gardener.  If you don’t have a yard, you can plant many perennials in containers as if they were annuals. 

One word of warning though…sometimes weeds or weed roots can be in the dirt you get with the plants, so be careful to remove those if you find them.  Also, some plants can be a bit aggressive in taking over an area, so ask the person you’re getting them from if that is a problem in their garden.  Once my mom got a plant from a friend which reseeded very vigorously and literally took over her entire garden…I can remember weeding and weeding as a teenager to try to get rid of it (she eventually did, it just took a little while). 

I have found plants with free signs on them on the side of the street, plants at garage sales (this is a great way to get plants!!  There are some awesome garage/plant sales out there!), plants from my husband’s coworkers, and of course from family and friends.  It is fun to share plants, and even better when there is a story attached! 

Taking Cuttings

I used to think that you had to know a lot about plants to get them to grow from a cut stem or branch—I think I had it confused with grafting for some reason????—but I have found out in the last couple of years how fun and easy it can be (for some plants, at least) to take cuttings from a plant you already have, stick it in dirt or water, and let it grow roots to form another plant! 

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When we lived in our previous house our next door neighbor was an older lady named Goldie (isn’t that an awesome old lady name?!?) and Goldie has a big bay picture window which looked out on our backyard.  I noticed some colorful plants in the window and later found out they were coleus.  She told me she just cut them off a big plant that she had outside, stuck the stems in water, and they grew roots!!  I started growing them myself after that, and it really is just that simple.  I overwintered a King coleus in the house this winter(well, I actually started with two, but one didn’t make it…I don’t always have successes!) and starting in February I began to cut little bits off the plants and put them in water in little egg cups and set them on a window sill.

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Lo and behold, this happened!!  Little roots started to form!

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As soon as they grew roots I put them in potting soil and repeated the process with new stems from the parent plant.  They are growing really well and some of the first cuttings I took are getting pretty big by now!!  I gave a few of them away as Mother’s Day presents this past weekend. 

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Another plant that is super easy to take cuttings from is sweet potato vine.  I’m not talking about the kind you eat, but the ornamental kind that trails out of pots and hanging baskets.  My overwintered vines also died this winter but my sister was able to overwinter some so I got some cuttings from her.  I do the same things with those as I do with coleus…cut off a stem with a couple small leaves on it, stick it in water, and let it grow roots!  It is really SO easy…the hardest thing is remembering to make sure there is water in the cup or vase or whatever you are rooting it in.  I lost a couple because I forgot to check.  : (

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I also have had some luck with cutting and rooting annual geraniums.  I always overwinter two or three of them in the house so I just cut off some stems with small leaves on them and instead of sticking them in water, I dip them in rooting hormone (this helps them to root faster—you can buy it at gardening centers or places like Menards or Home Depot) and put the stems in moist potting soil and let them grow.  I don’t have as much success with those as I do with coleus or sweet potato but I usually manage to grow a few that make it. 

This year I became more adventurous and took stem cuttings from my sister’s boxwood shrub.  I have them all potted up in little mini-makeshift greenhouses (made from sticks and bags) and I am hoping I get a few that actually grow roots as I would love to start a hedge, but don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for those bushes from a nursery.  I’ll let you know how they do!  So far so good. 

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If you’re interested in learning more about taking cuttings here are some good resources:

Better Homes and Gardens

How to take Geranium cuttings (Gardeners’ World)

Propagating Herbaceous Plants from Cuttings

Needless to say, our sunroom/3 season porch is looking more like a plant halfway house than a proper room these days! 

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Here in Zone 4 we are SO close to being frost danger free for the spring!!  Yay!

How is your gardening going?

 

 

Linking up with The DIYers (Home Coming)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

a quick and easy hall update

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As you may have noticed, I have not been doing much indoor work (or writing posts, obviously!) for a while now ever since the weather warmed up.  But today, while cleaning out the sunroom, I happened upon a frame I had revamped and put chicken wire in a while ago and a hallway refresh was born!

We have a little hallway that leads from our kitchen area to our half bath and then on to our laundry room and garage.  Here it was, looking sad and forlorn…

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There is a window in the laundry room that creates the shadows and glare on this wall…it looks really weird in this picture but that is just the light, I promise!  The lone calendar may have been practical but it was certainly lacking in the “pretty” department. 

After playing around with some things that I already had from the rest of the house and hanging the big frame, the hallway now looks like this!

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Certainly not a big reveal, but a fun way to bring in a little more personality (and a bit of spring) to this area!

We even have famous paintings, behold “Going to the Circus” on top and “Sock in the Water” below (yes, that is exactly what my 3 year old told me it was!!):

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I love my kids’ art!!!! 

The best part is that this took me about 15 minutes to put together, and I didn’t have to spend any money on it!

Those kinds of projects are rare around here.  : )

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This is from the other side.  The canvas is not a child's…it is my feeble attempt to join in on the painting session my kids were having.  : )  I’m not quite sure what we will use the wire bin for yet, but I’m sure we will find a use. 

Now I don’t know why I waited so long to do something with this hall!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yard Sale List

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Oh my, I am SOOOOOOO excited!!  This weekend is our local town’s citywide garage sales!!!!  The nice spring days have been few and far between this year so there haven’t been very many garage sales yet around here.  I am planning to be out bright and early come Thursday morning!!!  (So if you live around here, sleep in that day, mmmkay??  ; )

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To get ready for the garage sale season, I usually make a yard sale list.  What is that, you say? 

It is the list of things I am going to look for more deliberately at garage/yard sales this year (or thrifting, though I do less of that). 

I started making a list a couple of years ago because I found myself forgetting that I needed such and such a thing or kids pants in this size, etc. and then I passed them by only to be bitten by garage sale regret later!  Sometimes I put old stand-by’s on the list--such as painting supplies (I have discovered garage sales are a great place to get new paint rollers and brushes), frames, storage bins, kids crafting supplies, and so on.  Mostly, however, I just put things on that I wouldn’t normally scan for or sizes of kids’ clothes so I have a handy reference of what exactly I need.  I haven’t in the past, but this year I am going to keep the list on the car dashboard so I can easily access it. 

To give you even more of an idea, here is a start to my list this year:

BIG frames

boxy baskets

pruning shears

chop/miter saw

bunk bed

chicken nesting boxes

chicken waterer

new boards

white cardstock

large white mugs

nightstand with shelves and drawer, 26” or taller

king sheets in white, gray, or blue

air compresser

 

And the list goes on!  I have found that it is really helpful to write down the dimensions of things you may be looking for, such as the size of window blinds, cabinets, rugs, etc.  It is pretty frustrating to be at a garage sale eyeing an awesome deal and thinking, hmmmm….is that the right size??  Will that fit?  It is even more frustrating if you buy it and then it doesn’t work out…no returns at garage sales!! 

I buy most of my kids’ clothes from garage sales and I this year I plan to do that differently too.  In the past when I go to a garage sale with clothes in the right sizes, in good condition, and at a good price, I would tend to snatch up anything I thought they would wear.  This worked pretty well for boys’ clothes, but I noticed that it didn’t work so well for girl clothes.  Boy clothes all seem to mix and match easily, for the most part.  But with girl clothes it is a different story…you need to have a plan in mind so the random tops and pants you get look good together.  So this year, I am being very specific with my list.  I will still stock up on the random play clothes that I find because she is just going to get them dirty and worn out anyway, but for other clothes I am going to be on the lookout for exactly what is on my list, for example—a black cardigan, size 7.  If I don’t find it, I don’t find it and I will have to supplement either at a thrift or a regular store. 

So, do you make lists for garage saling?  Maybe you’ve got it together and you have a mental list.  : )