Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Random Images.

Random images from my day.



In the Kitchen.

Too Good to Wait.

Yummy snack after all that baking!


Bloop. Blurp.

Garden, Garden.

Can you believe it is almost May? With all of the work and volunteer projects this spring I feel so behind on the garden!!! Two weekends back we had some nice weather and I was able to dig out some more new beds and clean up a lot, but there is still much to do. The past week has been wet and cold so we have not spent much time outside, but today I worked on sketching the final plan for the summer. I'm a visual person so I need to see it - and drawings work well for me (esp. in color!).

One of the challenges of our yard is that it is basically a bowling lane. A house on each side, only 14-18 feet apart, with sun on one side in the morning, on the other side in the afternoon. The front leads directly into the street, the back into an alley with a steep hill. We also have electric and gas meters for two houses running right down the middle, and then also our AC and venting for the dryer and water heater along the side. There is also only a few inches of dirt before hitting large rocks of red sandstone. So for those of you who think you have a small or challenging yard and cannot garden - think again! :)

With the gas and electric running out from both sides and down the middle, I do have areas that I really don't want to plant food. Plants, yes, but do I want to eat something which grew in front of the neighbors hot water heater vent (and smells like gas) or right on top of the gas line? Nope. But I also don't want to look at the stuff. So, I have been digging beds out along the side to grow different segments of things such as a butterfly garden area, a bird feeder and bird garden area, and then a lot of herbs. The herbs we use for eating/drinking, I grow in other safe spots, but I also love to grow certain things which repel insects, like lemon balm and marigolds, which will be fine over the utilities and are easy to care for.

Last year we started with a few fruit bushes (blueberries & raspberries) and I plan to plant some additional fruit bushes along a garage this year. We are trying huckleberry, gooseberry, and ground cherry.

I love herbs. I use them for cooking, teas, soap, and healing - both fresh and dried. I try out different things each year in addition to my base kitchen favorites. I grow them throughout the garden as well as in pots on my front porch. This year we plan on growing thyme, basil, sage, cilantro, dill, chives, lemon balm, chamomile, anise hyssop, bee balm, fennel, oregano, marjoram, parsley, borage, summer savory, tarragon, mints, purslane, shisho, and feverfew. Whew. Sounds like a lot, but it doesn't seem like it in the garden.

I also grow different varieties of beans, snap peas, and other runners as well. This year I am going to try something different and run them up fishing line to our fabric covered gazebo - we'll see. Plant rotation is also a challenge in small spaces, but there are many creative ways to move things around. I also will grow squash up and over my arbor - looks cool and keeps the crazy spreading leaves in one spot. We almost decided to grow hops over the arbor, but I think that is for next year. I also grow cucumbers up a mini-trellis, but I usually do that in pots!

Other things I always grow and plan to have this year include several types of tomatoes, lots of different peppers, eggplant, carrots, beets, radishes, swiss chard, cabbage, etc. I think I am going to start a raised bed by the alley for additional veggies (I'm behind!). It has to be small enough to fit, but I need the extra space where it will get sun...not a lot of other options!

As I said, I grow a lot on my porch. I like pots in that I can move things close to the house for safety in big storms. We do get a lot of heavy rains, wind, hail and just crazy weather here - and pulling a lot of plants in tightly together against the building is a relief, I tell ya. So I will still be planting pots. Last year I had about 15 pots out front. 6-8 large, the rest smaller. In the front I will also be trying to grow tomatoes and strawberries from hanging baskets this year. Another "we'll see" thing.

I do have one small square bed in back by my deck which I rotate plantings on every year. Last year I grew sunflowers, beans, corn, and tomatoes along with various flowers and herbs in between. SO, this year the boys get to pick...they want melons and pumpkins. I usually tuck these space suckers under bushes in the mulch and the re-direct them around and around during the summer until we harvest them in the fall. I think having this space set aside for these will be good - the melons might want more heat and sunshine, but "we'll see"! In the middle of the kids area we will once again have a fort. Two years ago we had a sunflower house with morning glories climbing the sides. Last year we had a narrow aisle between the sunflowers and beans which the boys could sneak into. This year I am planning a bamboo teepee, which can be right in the middle of the other things, and be covered in vines, with a mulch floor.

The last plan is for a new tree in front, planted within a circle to contain additional edible flowers and herbs. We need a tree up there, and are still deciding what type of tree would work best...hmmm, maybe fruit.

OH! And how could I forget? We are expanding our composting plans to a larger piece out back. We really need something big with all the plants we have, but don't have the space for it - and with our HOA rules it has to be out of site. But we have a plan! We also hope to (finally) have rain barrels installed along the side of the house.

So as you can see, digging a few more beds and clearing out some stuff is not quite enough compared to our grand plans. We are pretty far north, so we actually are not doing horribly-our transplants won't go out until mid-May at the earliest, and many herbs and flowers do come back happily on their own along with the blooming fruit bushes and trees, so we are moving along even with freezing temps and flurries! The next month will be a big one in the garden, with a lot more to do. And of course some of the plans will change once we are planting in ground and seeing what is working (and what plants we actually have in hand at that point). Exciting! I can't wait to see how everything looks by summer!

Monday, April 28, 2008


The boys get over-done sometimes. Today my sister and my nephew came to visit (we haven't seen them in AGES) with my mom. The boys were so happy and played and talked and performed (oh yes, song and dance!) for the longest time. So when everyone left, the boys were done. Over done. When they are running in circles shrieking at each other I like to go to a corner and start on something quiet. Reading a book. Setting up a puzzle. Or drawing on the chalk board. Inevitably, within a minute or two, both boys will be with me, participating quietly, focused. All the tension released, both relaxed.

Tonight I went and quietly started drawing. A and G both came over immediately and started drawing with me. I did outlines and major shapes and shading, and they scribbled inside the forms to fill in color with me, and rubbed chalk on its side to create shading. It was fun to see them watching my hands and then trying to create shading with the use of line and color. When we were done, A ran a soaked dripping sponge over the whole piece, watching the color run off and disappear. Happy again!

Friday, April 25, 2008

And the Wind Blew.

Well, I think our warm weather teaser is over. Today the heavy winds started, followed by rain and cooler temperatures. The forecast for the next week is all cold rain during the day and rain or flurries at night. Sounds like April!

Today, despite the wind, we had a great time visiting a Biodynamic farm which is about one hour south of us. I have known about Angelic Organics for quite a while now - there is a film (great, by the way), a book, and a learning center with classes and events. So when my blogging friend Laura invited us to join her homeschooling group for their farm tour outing today, I was very excited!

The wind was a constant companion today - it roared every single moment. But that did not dampen the spirits of the kids in the group - they got to be outside at a farm all morning! They dug soil, compared hard pack mono crop corn soil to the rich compost fertilized living soil at the farm. They climbed trees. Washed hands under a pump. Used a composting toilet. Visited hens. Played and visited young kid goats and their goat mamas. Saw chicks. Toured a greenhouse full of young seedlings. Looked at plants growing in the earth and watched as tractors worked in the next field over. Played in the mud.

The wind was ever present - and it does wear you down with its relentless hammering of your senses, but after a few hours we retreated into the cozy learning center building to chat some more, bottle feed a few orphaned kids/goats, and then eat our lunches together and chat before heading back home. The boys were happy and tired - and so muddy that I changed them into new clothing before buckling them up and heading out. We made it home just as the rain started - perfect timing!

What a great place to visit - I definitely want to return!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Today we visited a water park for a few hours, which was a very special treat for the boys. We were kindly included on a guest list after organizing a giveaway for the resort, and both boys had SO much fun. The idea of me wearing a swimsuit at a busy tourist destination is not something I often look forward to - but it was fun! It was not crowded, the water park was very nice (and new) with lots for the kids to do, and the staff there was so friendly. Both boys loved the slides and lazy river. A is suddenly at the age where he is now a big kid (eek!) and LOVED the super fast tube slides. He could not get enough and went over and over (and over) with his dad as G and I floated happily along in the super warm lazy river on a double tube watching the world go by.

It is such a big difference as the kids get older - I am slowly adjusting to the idea that we can do things and go places without absolute chaos (those of you with two or more spunky under 5's know what I'm talking about). A is now old enough to be more independent and help out and G is big enough to do his thing while sticking close to me. They were great today and we had such a nice time together as a family. Ahhh.

Tomorrow we switch gears for an organic farm tour - can't wait!

Happy Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day!

We have a busy few days with some fun outings coming up here and the boys are excited - I will have my camera in hand. Ready, set...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


What glorious warm, sunny days. Days of raking, shoveling, digging, clipping, mulching, creating new plant beds, cleaning up the old ones. I love yard work, and I like the familiar ache of working in the garden - sore feet, knees, back, neck, shoulders, arms.

For the boys, the warmth means hours outside each day - playing and digging and and hauling rocks and looking for bugs and just being kids. Things have been dragged out into the yard that haven't seen the sun in months. Trucks, balls, tables, scooters, shovels. The days of sun have dried up the squishy muck and created a nice dry yard with some patches of green, so by today we all ended up barefooted again - which, after a long winter, is a decadent feeling.

The hours of running and climbing and playing mean extra tired boys. Well, tired boys AND tired mom. We are active in the cold months, but it is never quite like the first burst into spring. Tomorrow, it rains. While I love the yard work and the play in the warm sun, I also look forward to a day inside with books, baking, and a great craft project!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What a Day!

Today we walked inside a double helix, pet sharks, traversed ALL of the Great Lakes, climbed into a ship (hanging from the ceiling), operated a robotic dinosaur, appeared on a tv, stood in the middle of a lightning storm, ran a remote submersible, and even walked on water. Quite the day for two little boys!

Where were we? We visited a science museum - Discovery World in Milwaukee. One portion of the museum is science, robotics, design, and technology - very cool things to see and do. The other side is an aquarium which included an area with some great lakes history. The aquarium, of course, was big for the boys and we spent hours there.

They also have a very cool large scale model of the Great Lakes which shows each lake, all of the large cities on the shores, major landmarks, and then fish and animals which inhabit each of the lakes. Very cool. There was even a rainstorm over Lake Ontario, mist over Lake Superior, and locks to open/close to allow ships through.

We walked through the entire museum more than once - so much to see and do there.

What a great day!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earth Day Bags.

We tried making freezer paper stencils recently, and it was one of those active involved small child crafting disasters. You know - we all have them - realizing that it was not working, but unable to stop the little fingers in the midst of happily creating...something...blob-like. SO, when the bag idea came up as one of our leading up to Earth Day projects, well, I decided to keep it simple (I'll save the freezer paper projects for me!).

The boys both have handmade bags for carrying things and use them all the time. But in talking and reading our Earth Day themed books, they asked why they didn't also have their own shopping bags. They know we carry ours along to the store, but they shop too (A said for things like toothbrushes and snacks!), and they need bags! So, we found plain canvas bags - small enough for kids, but yet big enough to carry a few things. We also picked up a few iron on patches.

I first sewed a border on the bags to make them look a little nicer. The boys then chose their sayings. We went over and over all of the possibilities of what the bags could say. It was important that they chose their OWN sayings, so my suggestions such as "Go Green" and "Earth Day Every Day" were enthusiastically rejected! :) They started with ideas such as "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Take Care of the Planet", and "I have to live here when I grow up so take care of it and be responsible!" - and we streamlined those down into words that fit on the bags (and for which we had the letters). They ended up with "Take Care" and "It's My Future". Perfect!

We then ironed on the letters and earth and we have bags! The boys loved peeling off those transfers to see the images underneath. They are very proud of their bags and are sleeping with them next to their beds tonight. Sweet boys.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One Year Ago.

I was looking at a photo I took today (above), and thought it looked like a picture from last spring. I looked through my iPhoto folders and sure enough, 1 year ago today:

So much of him looks the same - but he sure has grown. What a sweet boy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Journal Cover.

I am a notebook person. I usually have a few going at a time - at least one for idea sketches, one for garden notes, and one for writing. I wanted a way to tell them apart quickly, protect the pages from kid spills a bit, and give me a place to put pencils or notes. So, today I sewed my first rough draft of a journal cover.

I like how it turned out, and I got the general size right - not bad for a rough template. I plan to make a few more with multiple pockets, some appliqué or embroidery on the outside, and perhaps a tie to close it now that I know how it pieces together. I just need to decide on the fabric!


After a weekend of cold, rain, and snow, we (finally) had a warm-up today - it was in the 50's and sunny! The boys were out on the deck much of the day soaking up the warm sunshine. Ahhhh.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Chickens and the Eggs.

Today we visited the farm of a friend to see the new chicks and visit the hens. The boys were in heaven - fresh air, animals, and room to roam!

A was the first to wander into the hen house and look in to discover that there were fresh eggs just sitting there ready to collect!

Once G saw them too he was soooo excited. They gathered the eggs and placed them in a bucket...

A was so excited about the fresh eggs, in fact, that he kept checking to see if the hens who were busy laying were done yet...and was so interested and excited that even the clucking of the hen that he was petting (while busily laying) didn't phase him. He said he "didn't know they needed privacy!"

Both boys were so happy - both loved stomping in the mud, seeing the new chicks, visiting the hen house, and being outside with the animals. A said he wanted to stay...forever. :) What a fun time (thanks J!).

A wants to look up the different breeds of laying hens again, so he can compare our photos to see who was what. So many beautifully feathered chickens of every color!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Flowers.

The Flowers
Robert Louis Stevenson

All the names I know from nurse:
Gardener's garters, Shepherd's purse,
Bachelor's buttons, Lady's smock,
And the Lady Hollyhock.

Fairy places, fairy things,
Fairy woods where the wild bee wings,
Tiny trees for tiny dames--
These must all be fairy names!

Tiny woods below whose boughs
Shady fairies weave a house;
Tiny tree-tops, rose or thyme,
Where the braver fairies climb!

Fair are grown-up people's trees,
But the fairest woods are these;
Where, if I were not so tall,
I should live for good and all

April is National Poetry Month.

doughy creativity.

The boys love making dough, and we haven't made any in awhile. Another cold rainy day and super spunky boys -- play dough here we come!

Play Dough

1 c flour
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 c water
1/2 c salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
Food coloring

Stir all ingredients in a saucepan and heat, stirring the whole time until a ball forms, and then remove from heat. When it is cool enough to handle, knead until smooth.

My boys really really wanted green - so we used a colorant that I had in the cabinet. You can also use juiced veggies for color - replace the water with fresh beet or carrot juice (freshly juiced - not sugary bottled stuff or you will get gunk) for a natural color. I also like to add a few drops of essential oils - green was perfect for peppermint!

With the cold and rain over the past few days, we have been inside reading, playing games, making up plays and stories, and painting. I have been less than motivated to work on any of my sewing or embroidery projects - so while the boys read or paint I have been doodling with watercolors too. My painting medium has always been acrylic, so watercolor is all experimentation for me. I also had a tendency to paint darker things, usually people. So even doodling vegetables, flowers, fish, or hands is enough to help my mind slow down a bit and just paint and mess around with it and not worry about results or realism or composition. I need a lot more practice. I also think I need to stick to people. It has helped me jump start my creative juices this week, though, which was the plan!

G has become very very interested in my watercolors. We have good quality puck watercolor paints for the boys, but he knows that my little case of super pigmented colors are special, so whenever I have opened my notebook to dabble, he has asked to paint too. He quietly sits next to me, swishing, dipping, and then stroking big blobs of color. I think he likes red as much as I do!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Texture Stones.

I saw this interesting looking project over at the Crafty Crow last week, so we made some for our craft today.

Instead of using sculpey (fumes make me sick), we used a no bake Lyra Keramiplast Modeling Clay, which worked great. The boys love modeling clay and did it all themselves - cutting off a piece, rolling and molding the base shape, rolling and imprinting the texture, stamping, painting...a few times G got overly enthusiastic and rolled his into a paper thin wafer, but he easily scooped it up and started over. We used collected herb leaves, shells, twigs, acorn caps, feathers, pine cones and some letter stamps.

We added an extra step, and after they had a little time to dry, the boys painted the pieces with some watercolor paint, and then rubbed it off with a damp cloth, leaving behind some color in the deeper spots. A wants to attach them to something to make a sculpture, so we will be on the lookout for a piece of wood or bark to mount them on. Fun!