Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ralph's Beagle Adventures

Some days I just can't stand walking in the dog. It can be monotonous and time-consuming and he has made me late on a number of occasions. What I mean by late is that I am still early to wherever I am going but I am more flustered than normal because I am not there as early as I like to be.

I've tried to adopt a better attitude this year, and so far it's working. I'm trying to appreciate the time I spend with my little fur pie, especially on walks. Here are a few of my favorite photos from our recent walks:

Ralph walking into the mist.

Wild turkeys.

Into the green!

Smiling Ralphers!

Oh Dear! A Deer!

Beautiful deer looking pensively into the distance in our back yard.

Growing Pea Plants

Earlier I posted photos of the pea plants I started to grow inside the house. Now they are turning into really beautiful baby plants!
Glamor shot!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Baby Shower Gift Ideas

So your best friend/aunt/sister/co-worker is pregnant and you want to make her something meaningful. You may have already purchased some bottles or gone in on the office gift of a stroller together with your co-workers, but you want to give her something that is not only useful but that is made with love. Whether you will be attending a baby shower or not, it's always nice to receive something home made from a friend.

1) Crochet a baby blanket. Even if you don't have a baby I'm sure you know someone in the next 6 months who is about to give birth. Baby blankets are very satisfying to make because they go quickly and are adorable in general because of their size. Buy yarn that is washable since that thing is going to see regurgitated breast milk, drool, pee and poop within the hour of it's first use. If you are preparing in advance for a baby, neutral colors are always good. Whites, yellows, greens, and creams can be good for boys and girls. Most yarn makers carry a soft baby friendly type of yarn. You can also go for an organic cotton, but those tend to be more expensive and harder to maintain (you may have to hang dry).

2) Sew a fleece or flannel baby blanket with a hood. I know, I know. Another blanket? This is for the people who can sew but can't crochet, or have repetitive stress in their hands because all their friends are preggers! This is as simple as making a square or rectangle and sewing it together. For the fleece, you will probably only be able to add the hood and not double the fabric unless you have a really heavy duty sewing machine. You can edge the edges of the fleece with either a surge stitch or something cuter. At one of the corners, add a triangle of fabric and sew together to make the hood. For flannel fabric, you can double the fabric so that there is fleece on both sides and then add the hood. You can line the hood with fleece for an extra touch!

3) Burp Cloths. Inexpensive and highly needed, burp cloths are a great gift. You can make ones of various sizes (ones for over the shoulder that are larger and ones for cleaning up the baby's mouth that are smaller). Again, fleece and flannel are great fabric for this since they are soft and washable. They also come in a variety of fabric colors and designs. Mix and match so one side is flannel and one side is fleece. Pre-wash them for your pregnant friend so she has a whole stack of these ready to go!

4) Rattles. Babies and kids alike are bombarded with all kinds of toys. My nephew loved a rattle I made for him that was just a BPA free bottle filled with dried beans. You can fill any kind of bottle with dried beans, peas, rice, sand. Switch it up! The more creative you get with dried things, the more different sounds you will create for the baby to be amazed by.

5) Sock Puppets. I'm sure you have some ratty old socks somewhere in your house, the heel pilling and separating from the other threads. Perfect time to make that into a sock puppet! Use old yarn or ribbon as hair. Buttons can be used as eyeballs and a nose. Velvet ribbon is always nice for the kids. Maybe this sock puppet needs a tongue? Make sure all the buttons are sewn on tightly. This isn't a toy that the baby can play with by itself due to choking concerns.

Recycled Deer Netting

Recently I started planting some starters outside. Some animals found the peas that I planted quite tasty...and this is what happened:
Someone got their paw in the pea jar so to speak. After the fourth time of this happening after replanting I decided that I needed deer netting. But after 4 trips to home depot where I forgot to get it, I saw that I had a mesh bag of grapefruits on my counter. I figured I could make my own deer netting! And I would be reusing plastic.

You will need a mesh grocery bag...they usually have them for onions or avocados or citrus. You will also need large rubber bands and a scissor.
I cut the label off the top, and then cut the bag in half so it was one large piece of mesh. Then I placed it over the planter and secured it with rubber bands on either side.

It's been a few days now and our peas are growing just fine without any interruption from the animals!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I'm as free as my...fur!

I redid the yard today so that Ralph had more space to explore. He got to check out his newly planted sod.

Here he is contemplating jumping up on the ledge.

He also got to climb up the hill behind our home.
Beagle adventure!

How to Transplant a Tree

I decided to transplant my avocado trees today and I'm glad I did because the root systems on both of the trees looked like they were screaming out for more room. Transplanting a tree is definitely a project for the outdoor...unless you want dirt all over your carpet.

First I tipped the tree over on it's side and started stomping around the base of the pot in a circle to loosen the dirt.
Shimmy the tree out by holding the rim of the pot and pulling on the base of the tree. If you can't easily tug it out don't force it and rip the roots. If you're afraid of hurting the plant you can also run a knife around the edge of the pot in a circle and that should do the trick. You may also have to extricate roots that have seeped out the bottom of the pot. Try not to break those roots when transplanting the tree.
These roots are insane!
You can clearly see the shape of the pot. I'm so sorry avocado trees! I promise you will be in the ground soon!

I didn't break apart the roots because they were so compacted. Generally if the roots are looser than this you can break the roots apart to help with the transplant transition. (Don't break the roots or cut the roots, just massage them apart from each other).

Next you want to measure your dirt so you don't under fill or over fill the container.
Fill the container with dirt:
And put the tree in the new container and fill it with dirt.
Here are my avocado trees post transplant in much bigger containers. Hopefully the next time I transplant a tree it will be into the garden in my new home.

Winter Storm

We just had our first big rain storm of the season and of the new year! The rain was pelting and the wind was howling. So much so that our "fence" blew over. Here's what happened.
Poor little avocado! She got knocked over into the HVAC!
The bamboo fence was great for the summer but when the wind came up it was obviously too flimsy to be held up with plastic chairs and beagle statues. My mother in law bought us that little ceramic beagle. At first I was sort of horrified by it...like "you want ME to put THAT in MY house?" but I think it looks cute in the garden.
This is a picture of about 7:30am. It's soooooooooooo dark! You can't really see the rain but the hillside was entirely saturated. I had to dig out a ton of leaves and mud from the french drains.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Backyard Chicken Farming Minus the Chickens

I've been wanting chickens in my yard ever since my dear friend Kara started her own backyard flock. Then my brother and his family built a coop and bought baby chickens. I feel like I'm missing out!

Here's a picture of my niece and her chickens:

The next best thing, if you love farm fresh eggs, and don't have the space for chickens, is a site called Eggzy. If you have chickens and have excess eggs, you can make your eggs available for purchase on this site. If you don't have chickens you can buy eggs from local egg farmers in your area! They could be backyard farmers or ones with a significant hen house! Just type in your zip code, or zero in on the map to find some eggs in your neighborhood!

Avocado Trees: From Guacamole to Tree

I planted the seeds from my guacamole about 3 years ago. I soaked the seed and it started to sprout and looked like this:

And then she grew to look like this:

And now that bad boy (yes I know I'm switching genders---it's a plant and I haven't named it yet) looks like this:

I'm purposefully stunting it's growth by keeping it in that container. Since we don't own a house yet, I can't really plant in the ground, and I want to keep the avocado tree transportable easily for our next move. We haven't seen any avocados from the tree yet which isn't uncommon since it takes avocado trees about 5 to 13 years before they really start to bear fruit. Hopefully we will have a house by then! Until that happens, I will be buying avocados from the market. Can't wait to post photos of my harvest...in 2 to 11 years....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Growing Basil in the Kitchen

Ready to get transplanted!

Soaking Peas

I'm on a gardening kick. I would love to grow all my own food and be totally sustainable. But I have a job and I'm lazy and I don't have a lot of land to farm with. I've thought about buying a plot of land and farming it but I don't think the cost would cover what I would spend on food for a year. It's one of those things were you have to plant stuff and then wait for it to grow...so maybe I would lose a ton of weight if I had to wait 6 months before harvest?

In the mean time I'm growing stuff on my windowsill. One part of my harvest will be peas. Pea plants grow really well. They're hardy and produce a lot in a small space. And the seeds are cheap! I spent $1.25 on the seeds and purchased them from Home Depot. There must be 100 seeds inside. That's a lot of peas!

Here's what they look like straight out of the package:
Wrinkled and shriveled! I started some in a bowl of water to help them sprout. I also planted some outside without the water start and some animals got to them (we have wild turkeys, raccoons the size of St. Bernards, quail, and coyotes here). So starting the seeds indoors seemed more prudent.

After 24 hours of soaking the peas absorbed the water:
After a few more days, the peas started to sprout:

You can see the little tails on the peas starting to form and either turn into a plant or root. Today I had my first offshoot from the ones I planted in dirt and covered in coffee grounds.

It's in the upper-middle-left. I know...it looks like dirt! Give it a week :)

How to Grow a Grapefruit Tree from Seed

I've been a little obsessed lately with growing things from seed. It all started about four years ago with a batch of guacamole and saved avocado pits. I now have two beautiful trees that need to be planted in the ground soon!

So I started experimenting with pears and citrus. So far the only success I've had is with grapefruit seeds.

Step 1: Eat a grapefruit and pull out the seeds.
Step 2: Carefully remove the outer seed coating so that the brown interior seed is exposed. Some blogs and seed preparers will say to also take off that brown covering, but none of my seeds sprouted that I did that with. I would leave it on.
Step 3: Wet a paper towel and place it inside a ziploc bag. Place the seeds inside the bag and set on a window sill that gets a lot of sun.
Step 4: Wait! It took about a week before I started to see any change in the seeds and about 12 days before I planted them in dirt. Here's what they looked like when they started to sprout:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bachelorette Party Favor Ideas

When one of my dear friends got married, I made some goodies for her bachelorette party. I did the obvious and got some dirty stuff from the local adult store, but I customized the bags, make different colored veils, and garters! You can make a bach/ette party super fun just by adding a little extra flair for not a lot of money.

For the bags, I used plain white bags and bought a bride and groom stamp and stamped all the bags.

For the veils, I bought all different colors of cheap tulle. I used about one yard of tulle for each veil and doubled them in half long ways, sewed the middle by ruching and then attaching the veils with a glue gun to a hair clip. You can be as creative as you want to be with colors and thickness.

Here I am in a pink veil from the back:

I also sewed some custom garters with cheap silk and satin like you would a scrunchy with elastic inside, and then added lace where needed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wedding Seating Chart Idea

I got married in October and did a lot of the planning and preparation myself and with the amazing help of my friends. One group effort was the wedding seating chart.

I used regular foam board which I covered with a beautiful silk fabric. Check out the upholstery fabric sale section at JoAnn fabrics for some good deals on fabric. You can find something to match your wedding color scheme or can use a neutral like we did. I attached the fabric with a glue gun in the back. Don't glue gun the front because you will be able to see the glue lines.

I bought cheap table seating name tags from a party store...100 for $5 or something like that. Then my wonderful sister hand wrote out all the names on the tags! Thank you Laura!

I used pieces of card stock for the table names. I wrote them in glue and covered them in fancy gold glitter. I then attached the table names and the name tags in columns with regular circular thumb tacks.

Here's an up close shot:

And what they looked like when finished:
And here is Ralph looking for his name on the board:
And yes that is the back of a trampoline on the left had side of the photo. We were in the process of packing during our wedding (never move four days after your wedding).

The whole project cost less than $30 and everyone loved it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

House Hunting and Gathering

We have been looking for a house for about a year now. It's a much more complicated process than I had initially anticipated. I thought you looked at 5 to 10 houses, picked the one you wanted and then got it. NOPE! It's more like looking at 5 to 10 houses a week for an entire year, getting outbid by all cash buyers, having to increase your price range triple to what you had originally budgeted for because you don't want to live in a mold-filled hovel that is sliding down a hill and with a collapsing chimney. Oh and roof rats! Don't forget those charming roof rats!

Most homes in Marin are very old and have either been updated (and therefore out of our price range), or have been neglected (in our price range but need $200K in foundational work). It's frustrating and time-consuming, and makes you feel poor. I keep imagining the amazing garden I could grow, or the kids I don't have playing in the sprinklers in the summer while the dog rolls his back all over the lawn, cooking my family and friends dinner, and having my husband barbeque on the deck overlooking something beautiful (if I can get over my fear of barbeques).

Our realtor, John Skinner, has been the most patient font of real estate expertise we have encountered. He is easy to work with and doesn't force any property on you. His website is: www.jskinner-realty.com. He has kept me calm. He has comforted me when I cried (multiple times) over lost opportunities, sump pumps, vapor barriers, financing, etc. He hasn't pressured us to buy the wrong property. John is eternally optimistic and I thank God he is helping us through this process! Thank you John Skinner of the Madison Company Realtors in Kentfield and Mill Valley.

Monday, January 9, 2012

All You Need is....Sod!

We have recently moved and I'm trying to make my garden grow and my apartment feel like a home. I'm in the process of planting seeds and constructing raised beds. I have also wanted to add sod to the yard. How much sod you ask? 16 square feet! I KNOW! It's the biggest lawn you've ever heard of!

Here is what the "yard" looked like before:

I KNOW! So much space! And that beautiful air conditioner! Look at those avocado trees! And those amazingly lined bricks! As you can see, that corner needs a little help. It's too shady to plant a garden so I thought grass would be perfect. We need grass because someone in our house likes to get sick and eat grass and vomit (Ralph the beagle). And I thought it would be convenient if this happened in the middle of the night I could just sit outside with him instead of having to go to the real outdoors and put pants on. So much effort.

So I went to Home Depot. And a little tip. If you're going to put in sod, bring a dolly, gloves, and plastic to line your car. Sod is so heavy and disgusting. I was covered in mud and so was my car. Sod is basically just a roll of WET dirt with some grass stuck to it. Here was my haul:

Those brown poo logs are the sod. I brought those bad boys home after quite a haul up the stairs (thank you husband), and a lot of grunting and groaning. I dug up the weird molding tanbark that was in the area and rolled the sod out. Here are the after photos:

Wouldn't you think 16 square feet would look more impressive? Here is Ralph checking out his new digs:
I'm trying to enjoy this new temporary home as much as I can. I know Ralph hasn't been totally sold on the change, but I'm hoping this is a good, grassy step toward loving it here. Happy New Year and happy planting!