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!

Snowy Cabins to Covet

Winter vacation is upon us! I feel like the girls are in school for a max of two weeks before there’s another day off or holiday or vacation. When do they learn?! Well, I guess it is only preschool.

With all the rain and snow we’ve gotten in California lately, it seems like everyone and their mother is going skiing for the break. Except us. We’re going to hit the sun in two weeks, so I’m OK with skipping the snow this time around.

To get in the mood of the season, I wanted to find some great snowy scenes and over the top cabins. It’s the closest thing I’m going to get to the snow any time soon. I can visualize myself freezing in the powdery white, having a drink by one of the cozy fireplaces, and snuggling up in a fabulous faux fur throw. Who wouldn't want to visit the snow in one of these places? Enjoy!

Nestled in the Mountains

And now for the interior...

I'd visit any one of these places any day of the week. I'm waiting on my invite...

It's September? What?!

When did September creep up on me? I thought I had a blog post or two left before the school year started, but August decided to disappear before I was ready.

Seeing as summer ended without me, I've got a quick round-up of what we were up to during the month of August, both personally and design-wise.

August was supposed to be our calm, stay-at-home month to catch up on things after a crazy beginning of summer. That didn't happen. We ended up not having a single weekend free all month! Between helping my oldest friend move, visiting family and having my mom visit, that was just the beginning!

We spent a weekend visiting my amazing cousin in Napa. A few years ago, on another trip up there, I found the best book for the girls, "Maggie and Maddy: Adventures in Napa Valley." Ever since, we try to do a few of the things the girls do in the story on each of our trips. So of course, we had to go to Butter Cream Bakery for their crazy good pink donuts, some music in Downtown by the river, lunch at Oxbow Market and a trip wouldn't be complete without a quick stop to Domaine Chandon and a walk through Yountville. Trips are decidedly different now that they're kid-centered, so we had to play at the park instead of jumping on the Wine Train. 

The following weekend I had my first trip away from the girls (don't say it, I know it's taken way too long for me to do this). My best friend from college got married in Andrews, North Carolina, at Hawkesdene. It was a beautiful, love-filled weekend, and ridiculously relaxing. It was the perfect way to disconnect and enjoy being with friends that I hadn't seen in way too long. A country wedding doesn't get any better than this.

That left the last weekend before school and I decided I needed to paint three of the walls in the girls' room. I think I'm turning into my mom, I just can't sit still anymore! So the Frozen In Time color from my Stripes, Stripes, Stripes (Part 2) post now covers the bottom third of each of the other three walls. I love it! Now the white crib and bed pop. Simple, but makes the room feel more cozy. And getting a 3 year old's stamp of approval is all I need!

Wish me luck getting my blog-act together for the month of September!

Decluttering My Life

While putting away laundry a few weeks ago, I could barely close the linen closet door, it was just that full. I stood there, looking at the sheets, towels, blankets, extra pillows... There were even a few Space Bags suctioned full of unused blankets, old drapes, shower curtains. How did it get this bad?

I was completely embarrassed of what I had become! I typically pride myself with not holding on to things that I don't need or want, being super organized and knowing what I have and where it all goes. But over the last few years of moving across the country, getting married, having two kids, my organized nature has apparently gone down the drain.

And so I stood there, looking into the closet, in complete shock that I couldn't even close the door without breaking a sweat. And to say that this is just the tip of the iceberg is an understatement. Have you seen our garage??!! I like to blame that one on my husband, but I know the accumulation of "stuff" and disorganization lies on my shoulders, too.

I decided that something needed to be done. As it just so happened, I had heard of a little "miracle" book on a few different websites and thought I should get it. 

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese Art of Deculttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo, is amazing! It's the shortest, quickest read and breaks down all of your accumulated stuff into two categories, 1. Does it bring me joy? Yes! Keep it, or 2. Nope, get rid of it. It really is as simple as that. The major shift in why Kondo's method works while others don't is in the process. She has a very strict order in which you should go through each category of "stuff" (see the above picture, I'm not kidding!), not the typical room-by-room approach.

The KonMari method has a particular way to fold shirts, socks, how to hang clothes in your closet, the list goes on. All of it is to make sure that you can see and know everything you have.

This is my first foray into folding socks the KonMari way. I've been folding my socks into a ball for years, thinking it was the best space-saving way to store them. But, of course, I can't see or access all of the balled socks and never wear half of them. Time to clean up and out! The above socks met the "sweet spot" standard of standing up on their end, meaning they're folded appropriately. Yea!

I found a video by Lavendaire on YouTube that is absolutely perfect for a shirt-folding demo.It put me into a trance it was so awesome!

And since I haven't tackled my closet yet, I thought I'd share a great picture of how it should end up. I'll have to let you know when mine eventually gets like this!

Beautifully organized, right?!  Source

Beautifully organized, right?! Source

While I haven't used this method outside of the linen closet as yet (right there I broke the rules by not starting with clothing), I am so excited to get it going! I do have to remind myself that the process won't be completed overnight, it takes time to go through every item you own. I'm super impatient when I want to get something done, but at least I've started.

Succulent Update

And now for a quick update on my succulents. They're doing great! I couldn't be happier with their happiness, so to speak. They're loving being re-potted into bigger pots and there is tons of new growth. I only water them about once every week and a half - just the kind of watering schedule I love! Hopefully this isn't just luck and they keep hanging in there.

My Current Obsession

My Obsession du Jour is succulents.

It must be the drought on my brain, but I've let a bunch of my potted plants die and now I'm replacing them with all sorts of succulents. Ever since I killed my Fiddle Leaf Fern (it was a truly depressing day when the last leaf fell and I realized there was absolutely no way I could save it) the house has been sadly plant-free. I've been trying to find the perfect replacement plant forever. They're all too palm-like, too stalk-like, too hanging, too "not right for me." Then I realized it was staring me straight in the face, since our backyard is full of them! What plants can take the heat, no water, and my penchant for killing plants? SUCCULENTS! 

I've been pouring over pictures of succulent arrangements, how-to-plant guides, lists of various types... And I must admit, I have developed a relationship with them that I just don't want to quit.

Last week I decided to replace the row of pots by our front door as my first "test" into seeing how hard (or easy) it would be to plant succulents. Low and behold, it was crazy easy!
Here's the how-to-plant guide I used.
I bought river pebbles and cactus soil at Lowes and everything is still alive - granted its only been one week, but I'm hopeful!

Since then, I've re-potted my snake plant and put together another pot by the front door with a string of pearls plant from the local Farmers' Market, aloe from Lowes, and one that I can't remember the name of for the life of me! I'm also in the midst of planning another pot, I'll share pics as soon as its done. Seriously, I'm obsessed!

I love this string of pearls plant! I may have to fill the pot with a few more succulents, its looking a bit empty

Apparently I'm not the only one. Not only did I find a great hanging pot of succulents at Disneyland, but the hillside by the Casey Jr. Train was amazingly landscaped with a sea of succulents. Who knew Disney was into succulents, too!

La Arquitectura Española

As I was writing up the annual notes for my high school's class bulletin, I started feeling nostalgic for days gone by, particularly those spent at my alma mater, Santa Catalina. I not only spent 4 years of high school there, but I went to the elementary and middle schools, too. 12 years of my life in one place! It's hard not to love a place that is so ingrained in my memories.
And it's one of the most beautiful campuses on earth! Spanish colonial architecture, the rose gardens...

Being surrounded by all of this beauty growing up most definitely influenced my love of Spanish architecture. I still dream of having a hacienda someday with a courtyard, bougainvillea... Ahh, dreams.

With all this on my brain, I just had to share some great images I found, enjoy!

Not quite like Disneyland, which is where we were last week, enjoying the blazing heat,  Mickey-love and marathon-like walking everyday. It was so much fun to see Toddler G and Baby M be in total awe for three days straight!

Baby M loving Minnie Mouse - the child had to hug every character she saw!

Baby M loving Minnie Mouse - the child had to hug every character she saw!

Ahh, Summer

My girls, husband, and I spent the last week visiting family in the North East. And I have to admit, there is nothing like an East Coast summer with its lush greenery, the summery "glow" that only a bit of humidity can bring, and fireworks displays to die for. 

It's amazing how alive the landscape is there, as compared to our arid California landscape this summer. Oh how the drought has taught us to value every drop of water! It was a sad day when we decided to stop watering the front lawn in an effort to conserve. With the crazy measures we've taken to save water, I never thought a blue bucket would become a dear friend ;-)

Above are a few pictures my mother-in-law took of her yard, where we spent our vacation, so lush and green, ahhhh. The girls were in heaven!

I took a short video of the wind blowing through a hydrangea bush, birds chirping, it was amazingly peaceful! As it's my first video for the blog, I hope it does my mother-in-law's slice of heaven justice. If not, I'll do better next time! 

With the inspiration of lush greenery in my head, I thought I'd share some landscapes that I'm wishing were in my own backyard.

Enjoy your summer!