The Suburban Farmer

I love spring! The flowers are blooming, the grass is lush and green, and the leaves are popping out on the trees. The girls have been noticing all sorts of different birds that I didn’t even realize live here – robins, for one. They’re frantically looking for bird nests, but we haven’t seen one, yet.

We’ve started planting our vegetable garden and feeding all the plants in the yard, getting ready for warmer weather. I’ve given the girls their annual “bee” talk, about how we need to protect the bees and not hurt them because there aren’t as many as there should be anymore. We try to use products in the yard that are as natural as possible to help out our little pollinating friends.

With that in mind, I started a compost bin last fall. Compost bin, you ask?! Yes, I’m becoming a Suburban Farmer. I felt badly that I kept throwing away so many veggies and veggie by-products (like broccoli stems, kale stalks, carrot tops...) that I wanted to put to good use.

The soil in our backyard is virtually clay and doesn’t support life of any kind, even weeds. Every time we plant something there is a long process of mixing the clay with all sorts of additives like compost (from the store) and planting mix. And then we cross our fingers that we used enough! 

I’m hoping all the great nutrients in the compost we create will revitalize our drab soil and perk up the garden. At the very least, it won’t do it any harm. By the way, there are some pretty strict rules as to what you should and shouldn’t compost. Here’s a quick guide to follow. We kept kitchen scraps out of it (other than clean fruit and veggie waste) because the compost bin started smelling a bit funky. Not exactly what I had in mind for a nice backyard scent. Keeping bread, etc., out of there really fixed the smell.

After months of adding to the compost bin, churning it up and watering it, the time came to check out what we had created. Because we’re constantly adding to the pile, not all of it had decomposed to dirt, but the bottom third of the bin was definitely garden-ready. We put it on plants that were in need of help (two of our hydrangeas have seen better days and needed some extra nutrients) and added it to our raised vegetable bed. I thought we’d have so much more dirt, but we don’t live on a farm, so there’s a limit to how much compost we can create. Still, I am so excited about it! We’re reducing the amount of trash we send to the landfill and putting nutrients back into the soil, naturally. And the girls love finding worms after the rain to put into the bin. I love that they’re learning, in a very hand’s on way, what worms do for the earth and that we don’t need to throw everything away in the trash.

Here's a super easy tutorial that's more or less what we did. Compost bins can run into the hundreds of dollars, crazy. We bought a $10 trash bin at Lowes, drilled some holes, and secured the top with a strap so critters wouldn't pry it open. Quick and easy! Plus, once it gets too heavy, you can push it on its side and roll it around to mix up the contents.

I started a Compost Pinterest board so I would feel like I knew what I was doing. I’m ever the researcher/planner.

And, not surprisingly, there are a ton of counter-top bins to put your waste in before hauling it out to the yard. Now your compost can look pretty on the counter!

Here’s to creating compost bins and dirt of your very own!

Water-scapes

I've been obsessed with Williams Sonoma Home's Crashing Waves wall art. So, while we were away in Arizona and surrounded by gorgeous pools, I had to break out the camera and take a zillion pictures of the water. My husband must have thought I was insane when he went through the pictures we took.

Now I have an endless supply of options to choose from when I decide to switch out my art and inject a bit of blue water into the house. Here's a small sample...

I hope looking at these pictures is as relaxing for you as it is for me. I'm dreaming of sitting by the pool, soaking up the sun, and simply being. Enjoy your weekend!

Mid-Century Plant Stand DIY

I'm on a serious DIY kick. From birthday parties to artwork, and now plant stands. The number of Pins in my DIY projects Pinterest board is constantly growing. But I was recently able to check one more off the list - the Mid-Century Inspired Plant Stand.

While our living room is almost to the point where I'd call it complete, it's still lacking plants. A little greenery goes a long way to making a room feel more inviting. So says the woman who didn't have a single plant in her apartment forever! I decided that I wanted to make this room just a bit more plant-friendly. Enter the plant stand. 

Source: West Elm

I love the West Elm Modern Planter. And, with my recent state of mind of Super DIY, I felt like it was something my husband and I could tackle. He gets dragged into any project that involves wood-working. I'm convinced he loves it, especially the getting-new-tools part!

I found this tutorial ages ago and decided it was the one we'd follow. 

It was a little harder than expected. Key tip from my husband, turns out it works best if you actually have a drill press rather than a Forstner bit (don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about?!). But with a LOT of encouragement from me, my husband powered through and made it work.

A little jerry rigging, sanding and staining later, our plant stand is complete! All thanks to my sweet husband. I like it so much, we may have to make a larger one in the next few weeks, now that we know what we're doing.

And my plant is thriving in its new home! I should have moved it ages ago.

Here are a few more planter options from West Elm that are also Mid Century inspired and really attractive. Maybe we'll get into wire-working, or maybe not.

Super Hero Extravaganza

The holidays are always a crazy time, but in our house it is beyond. Both girls have their birthdays within the first two weeks of January, so before Christmas has even happened I’ve already moved on and started birthday planning. This year’s theme, Super Hero.

With the girls still little, they’re more than happy to share a birthday party, thank goodness! And because I only get to do it once a year I go all sorts of crazy. I was so excited when the girls decided they wanted the party at home instead of a jumpy house or trampoline park. Now I could have fun, too! I love party planning; from cake baking, to games, to decorating. I was Pinning up a storm and found too many fun ideas.

On Party Day almost 40 people crammed into our tiny California abode. Thank goodness the rain held out for a few days so we could overflow into the backyard. My Super Hero games-plan could have easily been dashed with all the storms that were blowing through.

Another perk of having the party at home is that Batgirl came and did a magic show for all the kids. One Batgirl = less $ than a jumpy house party. Her visit was a HUGE success! G is still telling everyone that Batgirl come to her party. So worth it.

In the endless search to get more bang for the buck, I found the greatest party supply site – Oriental Trading (hopefully I’m not the only one who hadn’t heard of it before!). That, along with the Dollar Store, Amazon and Target, made the party a great success for so much cheaper than it could have been. If you’re planning anything , definitely check it out and shop around. Prices vary so much for the exact same thing, and Amazon surprisingly wasn’t the cheapest.

Take a peek at my party-planning craziness, I had so much fun!!

The Food

I love to bake. If you've seen my Instagram account this won't be a big surprise. I've made the girls' birthday cakes every year (except one). This year was chocolate for G and a traditional yellow cake (dyed red inside) for M. And I couldn't let an event go by without getting a new cookie cutter, Batgirl cookies had to make an appearance.

The Games

Super Hero games are the best! I had The Flash Dash, Hulk Smash, Spider Web Practice and Super Breath. I found the best set of Hulk glove-hands to punch down empty boxes that we stacked like buildings. My husband was so happy to help me re-wrap all the empty Christmas boxes in black wrapping paper for the party. When I asked him I thought he was going to strangle me, ha! But he's an amazing dad and husband and relented.

The Dollar Store had silly string that we used to spray on black poster board with a face of the Joker for Spider Web Practice. I know, I know, mixing super hero villains, but it worked. We were cleaning up chunks of silly string from the grass for two weeks! The Dollar Store also had Avenger's bottles of bubbles for Super Breath. The littler kids loved this one. A great way to make the party work for ages 2-7.

Decorations

There is no end to the decorating possibilities! I always have too many ideas and have to reign myself back in. I replaced almost every framed picture in the house with a Super Hero themed one, finally hung my gallery wall to put up even more pictures, and generally went decorating-bonkers. All the pictures were free printables I found online, as well as the emblems for the party bags. My scissor-cutting skills were put to the test. Even our sea grass Sven got a mask!

The party was so much fun and tear-free! At this age there's always someone that inevitably breaks down from stimulus overload, but not this time. I'd call that a success.

I hope you enjoy checking out my party-craziness!

Is It Halloween Already?

Halloween is a big holiday in this house. We decorate everything - every picture with webs, almost every shelf with pumpkins, skulls, snakes, rats, you name it! G keeps asking to make our house look like a Haunted House, but I keep the decorations confined to inside and the porch. Maybe next year I'll venture out and decorate the lawn with skeletons. 

This year, I found two super easy crafts that we can put outside, much to G's excitement! Cue the Spider Wreath and Tombstones. When Pottery Barn came out with their Halloween decor a few months ago, I was inspired to make knock-offs of some of their pieces. PB always has the best Halloween stuff, there's just no end to the possible inspiration from their catalog!

Spider Wreath

This wreath is incredibly easy and cheap! All you need is a grapevine wreath from Michael's, some faux spiders and ribbon from the Dollar Store, a bag of spider web, low gauge wire for hanging, a hot glue gun and about 5 minutes.

  1. Tie the wire around a sturdy piece of the wreath, in a shape that will go over your wreath hanger.
  2.  Place the spiders on the wreath wherever you like. Make sure to leave a space wide enough for the ribbon to wrap around without hiding any of your spiders
  3. Glue your spiders in place.
  4. Drape the ribbon around wreath, then over/under the hanger. Make sure there are a few inches of ribbon on the inside of the door to pin together. This will prevent the top flap of ribbon from falling down when you open the door.
  5. Stretch as much spider web around the wreath as you like.

Viola, your Spider Wreath is complete! We'll see how thrilled my husband is when he gets home today to find tarantulas crawling on the front door - he detests spiders more than anyone I've ever known. 

Tombstones

This one is a bit more time consuming than the wreath, but in the grande scheme of difficulty, they're easy, too. You'll need a few sheets of black poster board (one tombstone per sheet), 2 white paint pens (one thin for writing, one thick for the outline), a ruler/yardstick and scissors.

  1. Measure and cut out the shape you want for your tombstone. I'm OCD when it comes to making things symmetrical, so I had to measure each side very precisely. But if you're comfortable free-handing, go for it!
  2. Write the letters - I penciled two lines for each row of letters, 5 inches apart, and penciled in the letters for spacing before committing to the paint pens
  3. Use the thick paint pen to draw out the thick boarder pattern you prefer
  4. Place the tombstones outside - I used a white thumb tack to make sure they didn't fall over in the wind.

So cute and fun!

If you're looking for easy Halloween crafts, these are definitely winners. Try them out and let me know how you did!

Ready For School - Fabric Cork Boards

The second half of summer has been a whirlwind! I can't believe that school starts for BOTH girls in a week and a half. Two preschoolers in one house, life is going to be different.

To get ready for school and the impending amount of artwork that will be coming home, I wanted to get a bulletin board or two ready. The fridge was so overloaded with art after summer camp that I could barely open the door without something falling off! I saw fabric covered bulletin boards on Pinterest and decided I had to try to make one.

I started out at Walmart to find a super cheap bulletin board and walked out with one of those, plus a set of 4 cork square tiles. Then off to Joann's for fabric selection. This was by far the most time consuming part of the whole project (thank goodness I did it while the girls were in camp or it never would have happened). I had planned on the boards being in the kitchen, where I have a blue theme, so I settled on the fabrics below.

I used this tutorial to make the boards, following it for the larger brass thumbtack board and modifying it for the small cork tiles. Before starting I was a little apprehensive about using the spray adhesive, but it was so easy! I can't believe it scared me. A little fabric cutting, spray adhesive to keep the fabric in place, thumbtack pressing, and voila! Five cork boards complete and ready for art instillation.

The brass thumbtack board is now the home to the house Rules and the girls' Chore Charts. Two and four years seem old enough for them start pulling their own weight at home (some times). Plus, they're so excited to do most of the chores, it would be a shame to not have them help.

To hold up the charts and art, I hot glued Dollar Store gems to the left over thumbtacks to make them a little fancier. I also glued on mini-clothes pins that I had leftover from another project for those art pieces that I didn't want to poke holes in. 

I have to admit, I absolutely adore the cork boards! Don't mind the slight imperfections, but all in all they add a little something to an otherwise blank space. I probably love them so much because of what is hanging on them.

And if you don't have kids artwork to hang, the cork board squares are great as wall art on their own. Add a little pattern to your space in an incredibly cheap and easy way!

Stripes, Check!

I can't believe it happened, but the stripes are done!

My goal of painting this past weekend was more of a pipe dream, or so I thought. But my husband was actually on board and we got it done over Sat/Sun during M's naps. What do you think?! I'm really loving it. Much to my husbands dismay, I'm now thinking of wrapping it around onto the next wall. We'll see if I can convince him.

I used Benjamin Moore Whitestone to get a true gray. I didn't want brown/taupe undertones coming through since the drapes and area rug on the opposite side of the room are gray. TIP: It's always a great idea to look at the color fan-deck in order to see the lightest and darkest colors in a series so you can clearly see what the underlying tones are. Then you won't get stuck with a color that isn't exactly what you had in mind.

I'm completely OCD when it comes to painting stripes. My thought is, if they're not perfect, why even do it? So every time we paint stripes (this is the second room), I measure and mark, my husband breaks out the laser level, I use the yard stick and remeasure again before penciling them up and taping. Sometimes it feels like it takes a bit longer than necessary, but stripes are so prominent I would be kicking myself if it wasn't done right. If you haven't guessed, I'm a total perfectionist most of the time.

Now that the stripes are done, I'm planning on DIY-ing a gallery wall from some artwork I saw in the William Sonoma Home catalog. If I can fit it above the couch, I'll go 3 across 2 down. I don't think I could handle a randomly organized gallery wall in my house, no matter how cool it looks in a magazine. There's something so calming about a grid of art or photography. Check out my Pinterest board to see all of my DIY Art ideas.

I'm so excited to get this phase going. It won't be done this weekend, but hopefully soon! Wish me luck.

I Lava You (and Frozen)

The girls have been addicted to watching Inside Out, the cutest movie I've seen since Frozen. But only in the last week did we discover the Bonus movie, Lava. It is the PERFECT pre-Valentine's Day video. Only 5 1/2 minutes, but such a great volcano love story. Watch it here. I hope it brings a smile to your face :-)


It's been about a month since the girls' Frozen birthday party, how did that happen?! I've been meaning to share my pictures of the party, but life gets in the way. I have to admit, I went a bit crazy with all the little details, I went Pinterest happy. Oh, and thank you to my sister for taking the pictures. Of course on party day I was bustling around trying to get things ready and didn't have time to take them, so THANKS K.M.!

I started two weeks ahead of time, as soon as I de-Christmas-ed the house. I found hanging lanterns and snowflakes for a great deal on Zulily, and we were living with those hanging from the ceiling for over a week. I always forget to check out Zulily's Home section, but got lucky the day I did. And other than a handful of other items, I was able to grab most everything from the Dollar Store - thank you, girls, for wanting a birthday theme that's no longer the it theme and perfectly timed with their Winter/Christmas decor!

My little experiment with Royal Icing at Christmas was so fun that I had to make cookies for the party. I was ridiculously impressed with myself - thanks to my husband's help! The sugar cookie recipe is here. And I had to make Rice Krispie Snow Balls (minus the coconut and powdered sugar), delicious!

I also got into the cake-making business. The 5 layer snowflake cake was by far my favorite. I dyed the cake mix blue, then frosted it with a very simple butter cream frosting and piped the top snowflake with a ziplock baggie, one corner cut off. Great things can come from the unexpected! The big cake was supposed to be blue ombre, but didn't quite make it. Oh well, it wasn't a complete disaster. Oh! My mother, who can do absolutely everything, made the great blue and purple cake pops. She is amazing!

It was such a fun party! I had a Snowflake Necklace station, Decorating Snowflakes station, Pin-the-Nose on Olaf (free hand turned out pretty good!), Frozen bowling and a Snowball Toss, and the party favorite Color Frozen Scenes. There are so many free Frozen printables on Pinterest, all you need is a good color printer. Check out my Pinterest board for all the different ones I used/looked into.

I definitely got Frozen Fever, it was just too much fun! Looking back, I think I had more fun than the girls. Yes, I've gone insane :-)

If there are any little girls in your world, hopefully this can give you some fun birthday ideas.

February Full of Love

Before getting started, I wanted to thank everyone for their heartfelt notes of encouragement after my last post about Toddler G's head. Your support made me feel so much better. Thank you! It's wonderful to know that you all are out there rooting for me, and that I'm not the worst mother in the world.


Now that it's February, let's celebrate Valentine's Month! I'm not the biggest fan of the idea of celebrating your love only one day a year. Every day should be Valentine's Day in my book. But since there is a designated day, why not enjoy it, right?! 

I brought out the XO "wreath" that I made last year and have a Valentine's craft from Target for the girls to conquer at their leisure. Cookies are in the works, of course, and the scrapbook paper transition for my kitchen frames will soon be underway. Side note, I realize I'm a serious cookie-aholic. There is never a time when I don't have cookies in the freezer (homemade), I eat them almost every day with my afternoon coffee... Is that a problem? I need to re-evaluate their importance in my life - incredibly high! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

First shared in my I Heart You post

After reviewing last year's VDay post, I realized that one of my personal "Craft Challenges" didn't get done, the XO garland. I've got to get that one done this year. It's fun, cute, and super easy looking. I also found a handful of other Valentine's Day projects that would be fun, maybe a little late to start now, but I'll try!

AND, here's a little round-up of fun Valentine-inspired home accessories I found in my searches:

Enjoy Valentine's Month. Make sure it's full of love!

Oh! I almost forgot, I just chopped off my hair. It was completely spur of the moment and I didn't even think about doing it until I got to the salon. Don't mind my end-of-day tired look, and the girls' bathroom. What do you think???