Bugs, Butterflies, and a Greenhouse Update

Last year was the first year I had a cutting garden. I love having fresh bouquets around the house! Not only is it great to have fresh flowers around the house, but I’ve also been enjoying the little visitors that love the flowers. I snapped a few pictures today:    

           

And Tony is making progress on the recycled window greenhouse. It’s got a frame! 

   

And because no garden update would be complete without a vegetable update, here’s Cheesecake enjoying the green beans I haven’t picked yet.  Apparently it’s snack time whenever he’s in the garden. 

 

And the potatoes I pulled out a few days ago!

 
It’s the fun part of gardening now, when all the food is ready to pick! 

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Garden Expansion Is Beginning

This is a quick post.  I’m updating from my phone because I’m so excited to share. Tony finally has a ‘free’ moment to work on the garden. I say ‘free’ because any of you that personally know my husband, know he doesn’t ever have free time. But he’s finding time and has started mapping out the garden expansion. 

Here’s a quick look: 

Below is the pile of building materials he’s been collecting. We are trying to do this as cheap as possible and most of the supplies have been free. 

   

I’m most excited about my greenhouse that’s going to be made completely out of old windows! Below is the picture of where it’s going to go. It’ll be small, but it’ll be perfect for me. 

  
The blue spray paint is actually how far it’s going to come out. The base Tony found on Craigslist for free! 

Here’s our view from the garden:  

And just for fun, Cheesecake our bulldog, Bailey our Jack Russell, and in the background you can see T.J. our most well-behaved dog:

   
 

I’ll be updating the progress. I’m so happy we are finally beginning this project! 

Keeping a 4-year old busy

When I babysit, I have one rule. The TV must not be turned on. I know it may sound a little crazy (this may be the teacher in me) but I think if I’m babysitting them, we should be making memories, not viewing shows that really don’t matter.

So that’s just what we did yesterday- No TV and crafts only! She was a bit excited when I showed up with my craft bag! It was filled with stuff to make slime, thumbprint turkeys, and handprint turkeys. We also decorated Christmas ornaments, but that’s a bit too early to post on the blog. Let’s just enjoy Thanksgiving first. 🙂

Slime: Three ingredients- food coloring, glue, liquid starch. I used to do this with my 5th graders at least once a year and they loved it.

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She of course loved it too!

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Directions: 

1. Put glue- as much as you want- into a glass bowl. I used glass so it didn’t stain the plastic when we added the food coloring. I used 3/4 of the glue bottle you see in the picture.
2. Mix in food coloring to get the desired color.
3. Add liquid starch a little at a time while stirring. Keep adding little by little until the goo doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl and you have a clump.
4. Coat your hands in liquid starch so it doesn’t stick to you and mix it up with your hands. If it’s too sticky just add a little more liquid starch.

It’s that easy! And it occupies them for quite awhile!

The next crafts I found on Pinterest. The first one was from Close to Home where there are a quite a few crafts for kids. Ours did not turn out quite like the example, but here are our attempts at a thumbprint turkey:

Our turkeys-
I have to admit it was fun sticking our thumbs in paint and being so artistic! 🙂

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We also made another “Thankful Turkey.” I also got this from Pinterest, from Sortrature.

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Our finished product:

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I love that candy is first on her list!

Loving November for the first time, in a long time..

I have to say that this is the first November where I am actually enjoying the excitement of the approaching holiday season. I am not just trying to ‘get through’ the month. When I taught fifth grade, November was always a source of stress. It always meant tons of grading for report cards, then report cards, then conferences, and teaching on top of all of that.

November was always one of the most difficult months as a teacher because there was so much to do. It was plagued with worry and stress. How are you supposed to do all of this in the little amount of time you were given? You actually wonder how the hell you were going to make it to the end of the month!

It’s different for me now. I don’t have worries. I don’t have stress. I am not concerned with pleasing other people. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed meeting the parents. There are those parents out there that you wonder why they don’t have more children because they are amazing. But those report cards and conferences, the anticipation of the first ‘this is how your child is doing’ stresses you out a bit.

Since I quit teaching, I’ve actually been enjoying every moment of November.

My house is clean.
I’ve enjoyed mid-day reading at Panera with a hot chocolate in hand.
I walked my dogs several times last week.
I’ve been sewing, crafting, and decorating my house for Thanksgiving.
I’ve even been Christmas shopping already. I’m almost done with everyone.
I had a wonderful lunch last week with a friend.
I’ve been volunteering my time- seriously there is nothing more rewarding than that.
I cook and bake now too (and not just on weekends). This week I made chicken corn soup, baked ziti, and banana bread.
I’ve been spending time with my nieces and nephews, which has been so much fun.
Last week, when my nieces spent the night, we made a project for their dad (who ran the NY marathon) and I enjoyed photographing them too.

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And this is the project they did for their dad including everything “New York.” Sorry it’s a bit blurry.

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I’ve been wishing on ‘Wishies’. You blow them in the air and make a wish and they carry your wish. I haven’t done that since I was a child. 🙂

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Let’s not forget the silly faces during lunch with my niece.

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Or Tuesday when we went to the playground. I can honestly say I was the only adult actually climbing and going down the slide too.

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I’ve been exercising too and I’m doing well on my weight-loss team. Oh yeah, I’m “Sandra” on the actual challenge chart, but as you can see I’m doing well for the Red Team.

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I’m not exhausted on Friday nights.
I went to the grocery store this week during the day.
I even had time to cut coupons!
I don’t stress out on Sunday nights.
I love sleeping in.

I have  nothing exactly new to post… Other than it has been very nice to stop and enjoy life for once. It’s so easy to go through the motions and get ‘caught up’ in life. I can honestly say it’s nice to enjoy November.

Why Do I Garden?

I was down in the garden yesterday for almost 2 hours harvesting and pruning. I got quite the collection of tomatoes and decided yesterday was a good time to make sauce. I will be blogging about that later. 🙂

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Anyway, when I was in the garden for such a long time yesterday I started thinking about why I have a garden if it is so much work. I mean really? Why? Besides vegetables why put in all that work? There is really one reason, the beauty of the garden. There is just something about being surrounded by flowers that is so wonderful. Some people run to clear their minds, which I do sometimes, but gardening gives me a chance to think. I don’t think I’m alone here either. I know most gardeners can relate. The fact that I get so many vegetables is an added bonus.

imageedit_16_8333711944It was really neat watching the butterflies who didn’t seem to mind me snapping away with my camera. I must have taken at least 20-30 pictures of this little guy.

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I also love the Butterfly Bush in my garden that attracts so many butterflies. I think next year I’ll get another one for the other side of my garden.

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I don’t think you can argue with the beauty here either.

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T.J. also enjoyed the garden, as he just sits to watch everything around him. 🙂 He’s my gardening buddy.

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So there’s really nothing special about today’s post, but I wanted to share the beauty of my garden with you. If you garden, why do you garden?

Finally! I Won’t Kill my Garden!

What am I most excited about? Not killing my entire garden next month. Last year, July ended and August began and I killed my entire garden. Nothing was picked, watered, or weeded. It completely died (except for a few peppers which needed little care).  Why? I began setting up my classroom for a new school year. I started putting in endless hours copying, organizing, planning, and getting ready for my fifth graders.  Yes…in the beginning of August.  I do wish others could see how much time and energy actually goes into preparing a classroom and maybe, just maybe, all the “but teachers have summers off” would stop.

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Many teachers will be in their classrooms this week and I will not be one of them.  Although I didn’t get out of setting up a classroom completely, as I did help a friend, it was a completely different (enjoyable) experience.

Along with not killing my garden, I am enjoying some other firsts:

  • Not freaking out about seeing school supplies in stores. BTW, supplies started showing up in the beginning of July and I smiled instead.
  • Not spending money on school supplies (I would be embarrassed to tell you how much I actually spent last year, besides I’m not sure you’d believe it).
  • Saving some serious money on gas (I had an hour commute each way). Final savings: About $200-$250 a month!
  • Finally, NO school nightmares! There is nothing worse than waking up to some bizarre dream about how you messed something up that was expected of you!

I am still trying to figure out what I miss about teaching this time of year.. So far, I am almost sad to say, there is not too much. The biggest thing would be seeing my colleagues and hearing about their summer. I guess that’s what Facebook is for. 😉 And I am absolutely sure, I will miss the newness of the school year when the students arrive.  I loved seeing their little, excited faces.

So, I’m actually taking care of my garden. Imagine that, I will actually have time to do that.  And I’m happy to say the garden is kind of out of control. Well, the watermelon and cantaloupe are out of control (even with the trellis built). Can you see the two watermelon?

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And a closer look:

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My peppers in one bed are in fantastic shape and are growing well. However, in the other bed,  the bugs are having a feast. I think I have it under control now though 😦

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And my bug-eaten peppers:

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My Roma tomatoes are growing, but seem smaller than usual. Any suggestions?

Overall the garden is in terrific shape along with my stress-level 🙂

We went on a Cruise!

We actually went on vacation. For any of you that know my husband, this was a huge feat. I mean an actual vacation. This was actually our 10-year anniversary trip. We went on a cruise through Norwegian Cruise Line.

We drove to Miami leaving on a Saturday 7/6. Got to Miami on Sunday and we stayed the night. We eagerly got on The Norwegian Sky Monday morning and each day we were on a new Bahama island.  Tuesday-Freeport, Wednesday-Nassau, and Thursday-Great Stirrup Cay (the cruise line’s private island). We arrived back in Miami on Friday and we spent two days with my grandmother in Florida (she lives near Delray Beach). My mom and stepfather were down there too, so we spent the mornings in the water.

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Although it’s nearly impossible to describe over a week’s vacation in a blog post without boring you, but I’ll try. I picked 10 things I loved about my vacation since it was our ten year anniversary vacation.

10.  The ship- It was a wonderful place to stay for a few days. There were 12 floors and the ship held (I think) over 2,000 passengers, but it didn’t feel crowded at all. This was actually one of their older ships, but they were updating everything. Also, if your thinking about going on a cruise, I didn’t get sea sick. I couldn’t even really feel the ship move. DSCN0474

9. Freestyle Dining: We could eat whenever we wanted and where ever we wanted. We didn’t have to get dressed up either. I loved the dinner where we celebrated our 10-year anniversary. Some crew members sang us a romantic song and even encouraged Tony to sing to me too. 🙂 It was so neat, although I was a little embarrassed with all that attention.

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8. The towels: I know. I know. It might sound strange, but we were looking forward to how they folded the towels each day. We teased that our room steward was like a ninja. We never saw him, but we always had a perfect room. I kind of messed this little guy up when I decided to hold it for the picture. See our complementary bottle of wine in the background too?!

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7. The views from the ship: They were absolutely beautiful. I wish I would have taken more pictures because the picture below really doesn’t do it justice. There is just something amazing about being with my best friend taking in breathtaking views.

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6. Activities on the ship: We loved all the activities on the ship. We won $120 on Bingo, $100 on the ship’s casino, and nothing on Deal or No Deal. Ironically, Deal or No Deal was my favorite because you could play along with the contestant chosen randomly from the audience. Tony and I had a good time! We also loved the comedian.

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5. Romantic Dinner Night- Tony and I chose to eat in one of the ship’s ‘special’ restaurants the second night on the cruise ship. This is where you get a beautiful meal, a gorgeous view, and amazing service. Our dinner consisted of shrimp cocktail, filet mignon, mashed potatoes, and a toffee brownie with homemade chocolate ice cream. This was our best dinner on the ship. Besides, the company was great too! Doesn’t he look so handsome?!

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4. Morning coffee on the deck– We spent our mornings drinking coffee with the beautiful views. As simple as this is, it was one of my favorite parts. I enjoyed the time with Tony talking about the day before and what our next adventure was going to be.

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3.Snorkeling- We chose to snorkel at Great Stirrup Cay. We didn’t see much, but we still had fun. Besides, Tony couldn’t really sit still, so this was a perfect adventure for both of us. 🙂 We did the same thing 10 years ago on our honeymoon at the same island. I loved it.

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2. Atlantis– We spent the day at the Aquaventure at Atlantis in Nassau. It was really amazing. My favorite part was going on their rapid river ride (I’m not really sure what it was called). We thought it was going to be a lazy river… ummm.. no. It wasn’t at all. We loved the built in water slides and waves! Although the double tube made it a bit scary.  🙂 We also got to go through aquariums with sharks, which was awesome!

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1. The best part about the cruise was spending time with the man that I love. 🙂 He is truly amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. It was perfect. IMG_0441

Garden Accents 20013

It does seem a bit strange to ‘decorate’ the garden when my purpose of the garden is to grow food for a healthier lifestyle. However, I figure if  I am spending endless hours weeding, watering, and harvesting, the garden better be beautiful.  Reclaiming items is one way I add much needed comfort and character to the space and still stay within budget. Here’s how I added some style:

A watering can in the flower trough (the trough was on a previous post): There is really nothing special about this. It does fill with rain and I just use that to water the flowers next to it. Function and beauty!

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I found the next piece at a yard sale for a few bucks (I’ve had it for years).  It fits a citronella candle, which I use to help protect me from bugs while I’m working- especially at dusk. There is even a level and a rusty garden tool that I still sometimes use.

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A thermometer:  I found this at an auction and it is great “art.” Yes, it doesn’t work, it’s rusted, and it really serves no purpose, but I love it anyway.

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Old tools make great accents too! They are great for empty spaces and accessible at just about any auction for a reasonable price. Wouldn’t it make a neat trellis? Maybe next year I’ll have time for that.

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Speaking of a trellis- I had to do something about my watermelon/cantaloupe bed.  You can see we (by we, I mean my husband’s handy work and my idea) cut up an old ladder, added wire, and now we have “controlled” chaotic vines. Since it is a bit vertical now, when the melons become large, I may have to add a support. I found a few things on Pinterest, like this website.  You do have to scroll down a bit to find the support using mesh bags.

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I did actually buy ‘new’ things to add style to my garden. Although all the items are bought, I did buy them at garage sales, auctions, craft shows, or on clearance. The first pop of color is my orange bird bath among my Apple Mint Tea.

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And my “Bloom” sign I got at the Colorfest craft show:

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Finally, this garden stake I got at the Mud Sale I attended last Saturday for $5:

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Slowly I have been collecting accents for my garden. It’s definitely a process to collect all of this stuff, but it makes me love being in the garden. 🙂 What garden accents have you created?

Creative Planter Ideas

What makes a good planter? For years, I would just buy a few potted plants, throw them in different (more decorative pots) and call it a day. However, since I started my garden, I am a little more interested in actually adding a bit of depth to the planters. Instead of using new pots purchased at a store, I’ve been reclaiming a few old ones. The payoff is huge! In most of my planters I try to make sure there is a tall plant (grass or tall flowers), a spark of mid-level color and something that drapes down from the basket, like vines. Nothing fancy, but they do look great! There are a few planters I wasn’t able to layer.

Planters with Some Character: 

1. Old Wash Buckets/Cans: I love these! I swear sometimes I was born in the wrong time period. While others see junk, I see potential!

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2. Watering Trough: I am most excited about this because it’s so large and I can just plant in it like a flowerbed. To save some soil and help with drainage, I did layer plastic bottles on the bottom.

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3. Watering Can: I didn’t do anything creative here with plants (I just stuck a plant in the container).

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4. Old Egg Basket with Burlap- I wish the Geraniums were actually in this picture, but I cut off the dead part. They will regrow, but for now there is a wide open space in the middle.

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3 Other Ideas for Plants: 

1. This is how I added a little color to our plain old fence. I used petunias and ornamental sweet potato vines (these are my favorite for planters, but they do require regular watering). The vines do not actually grow potoatoes, but they will keep growing to hang off the basket.

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2. The next picture is the window outside my garden shed. I love these window boxes! I used old burlap instead of those expensive baskets at craft stores. It holds up great and adds character to the boxes.

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3. You’ve seen this on a previous post before, but I used old shutters for all of my raised beds. They worked great! The best part is they are meant for outside, so they hold up in the weather.  I sanded/repainted and lined the inside (I was afraid of lead paint in my veggies!)

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I have other ideas, but there are just not enough hours in a day to complete all of them. Already working on “Part 2”

Cherry Picking June 2013

I decided to cross one thing off my summer bucket list this morning. Our local orchard opened for cherry picking on Monday. I picked up my niece and off we went!  There is always an abundance of cherries year after year and I didn’t think we’d have a problem finding edible cherries. I actually used to work at that orchard during college, so I am well aware of how rain impacts the cherry picking season. When cherries are ripe and it rains (a lot of rain), all the cherries split and they mold very quickly. With all of the recent rains, that was the case today. My niece was a trooper though and didn’t let those cherries discourage her picking! 🙂

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We did find some great cherries though! One tree didn’t seem impacted like the rest. We were so excited! We thought we hit the ‘cherry jackpot.’

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My niece absolutely LOVED picking cherries! She didn’t want to stop picking them. My intention was to only fill 3 buckets (which was already ambitious), but it turns out they had extra bags on hand. We had to fill two more bags.

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She couldn’t get enough! She even accidently picked a stink bug and that didn’t stop her either. I HATE stink bugs! It’s a good thing I didn’t find it or we might have stopped sooner. I know, I know, I should not be scared of bugs because I work in the garden so much, but for some reason I cannot stand stink bugs. I despise everything about them and see no purpose for them.

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We ended up picking 28 lbs of cherries and we gave most of them to family and neighbors. It was a good lesson on giving to others without expecting anything in return too! Before we could give them away though, we had to do something about the potential mold.  We washed them in vinegar/water solution.

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Vinegar Solution:  About 1/8-1/4 cup of vinegar in a gallon of water.  It WILL smell like vinegar at first (my niece claimed she couldn’t eat the cherries anymore because they smelled bad). But don’t worry, once the cherries dry the smell goes away or you can just rinse them if you’d like. My niece had no problem eating them once they dried. The vinegar stops the spread of mold spores that may be on the fruit. In this case, the cherries would have become moldy rather quickly with the surrounding rotten cherries on the trees.  The wash will work with any berry. I often use it for raspberries because they mold really quickly.

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We had a great day! Now I have to figure out what to do with the cherries I still have. I’m thinking about freezing them and hopefully I can make some smoothies. Any other ideas?  🙂 It was a wonderful day!