Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Gardening

I live in Under A Shady Tree - well, actually, lots of shady trees...


This makes it hard to grow grass...

 

 We have moss and some of this pretty stuff! 
(I wish I knew what it was called because I'd plant more)


 So I focus on the garden beds.
Last year, I worked on the back yard - I laid a brick border in part of the yard and transplanted liriope to edge this garden space. This is where we have the most grass so I had to put of a folding fence so we wouldn't mow the monkey grass!  Did I mention that we have a lot of trees? Ignore all the leaves - they work as cheap (free) fall mulch for the beds and keep the backyard from being a mud pit all winter. 


This year, I started on the front bed.  I have A LOT of liriope (monkey grass) that really is beautiful and it spreads quickly so I thin it out a bit before it really starts growing.


I transplanted it to the shade garden under the front yard trees.



It doesn't look like a lot right now but liriope is one of the easier plants to transplant and takes very easily. Next year, it will be as full as the backyard edgeing (which was thinner when I planted it).


I also updated the brick raised bed on the other side of the driveway.



The 3 layer brick was constantly collapsing so I tore it down and put up a taller paver that is only a single layer - far less chance of stray bricks. In order to do this, I did have to grade the area a little bit. The bed was mostly empty - it gets some sun so it's where I plant my bright flowery annuals - so I made it a little bit smaller. Unfortunately, the plastic edging material was cracked in several places and I was unable to reuse it but I got some nice composite material and I'll be reusing the bricks in the back yard for edging material on the other side of the yard! Or maybe on the far side of the front yard - I haven't done much there yet...

add brick here (backyard)? 
or here (other side of the front yard)?
I'm unsure of what I want to do in this garden bed at the top of my driveway. I was cleaning it out the first year we moved here and I accidentally picked up a small brown garter snake thinking it was a stick - that was the last time I did anything in here, as you can see. It's full of vinca vine which is really pretty this time of year with it's purple flowers (but that spreads like crazy), lined with liriope and has a host of daylilies that don't bloom b/c they don't actually get much sun here come summer (shady trees, remember).


EDIT: I made a decision on the bricks - I put them in the front yard and will put irish moss seed down next week. Here's a photo of the bricks:




Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Very Pinterest Holiday 2014, pt 3

One successful, healthy Pinterest Project - the Salad Fixin's Tree:


One not-so-successful, school treat that I went all "Semi-Homemade" on:

The cookies on the rack are snowmen, duh!

FYI - Pillsbury refrigerated cookie dough is not a roll-out cookie dough, even if you knead in more flour...


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Very Merry Pinterest Holiday 2014, pt 2

Saturday there is a bake sale for the school at 5 Below. I Pinterested up my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe (spicy molasses cookies) to sell. Whatcha think??




More ideas here: http://theorganisedhousewife.com.au/holiday-seasons/christmas/gingerbread-reindeer/

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Very Merry Pinterest Holiday 2014

What is it about the holidays that makes everyone - crafty or not - run to to Pinterest to craft or bake *SOMETHING*?  I'm no exception.

Last Friday, the first Friday of December, the Friday after Thanksgiving weekend, the Friday before the big PTA Holiday House that I help organize, I was feeling very Grinch-like. No holiday spirit whatsoever. I forced myself to go find my Santa baseball hat and work on my best Cindy Lou Who attitude and go decorate the school.

This is what I got:

Holiday House is a big festival complete with Breakfast with the Holiday Characters, Santa Photos, Silent Auction, Elf Shop, Mistletoe Market - that's my event, and free International Holiday Games. It went off beautifully even though I set my alarm for PM instead of AM and woke up 5 minutes before I was supposed to be there (good thing I only live 3 blocks away and had packed my stuff the night before - one of the vendors was there before me though). My introvert husband volunteered to help make the breakfast. My 13 year old daughter spent most of the day volunteering by either babysitting the children of adult volunteers or working at one of the game stations. My 10 year old ran around the school with the 7 year old and they had a blast!

all of the halls were decorated with this much glitter and pizzazz


Well, come Sunday, the Holiday House was over and cleaned up, I slept all night long and after a leisurely breakfast, we cleaned the house that's been ignored for 3 weeks while I worked on orders and Holiday House and PTA treasurer stuff and stressed about selling our townhouse which finally closed just before Thanksgiving (original closing date was Nov 4). I finally felt up to even addressing the tree.

Now, our tree is tiny. It's 18 inches wide. We bought it b/c we lived in a 12 ft wide townhouse with 3 kids; anything bigger just takes up too much space. I love our tree and I don't want to clean up anything bigger!  My husband set up the tree and we decorated it together.

Now, back to Pinterest. Today, I'm in an even more holiday mood! I decided to tackle a pinterest project that I had bookmarked months ago - Peppermint Ornaments.  I don't really like peppermint (love the smell, eh the flavor) so I can take or leave candy canes but there's always a few that don't get eaten when I take the tree down and I end up using them to make peppermint ice cream in the summer. I wanted something fun and I came across this pinterest photo when I was looking for ideas for our summer art camp and bookmarked it.



It looks easy, I said! Cookie Cutters, Peppermint Candy, cooking spray (??), a toothpick! No problem! I even bought some more non-painted metal cookie cutters this fall. Okay, so it took a while to find the peppermint candies. I like a particular brand and no one carries them anymore. Oh well!

So I follow the directions:
pre-heat oven to 350 - check
spray metal cookie cutters with cooking spray for easy release - check
fill metal cookie cutters with peppermint candies - check
put into oven until candies melt - huh, no time listed...

I picked 5 minutes arbitrarily since cookies bake in about 7 minutes.

The first batch turned out ok but there were a few mishaps - a missing mitten thumb, an armless snow man, a curvy light bulb.



No problem - I'll just add a couple extra candies to those ornaments for the next batch. But the layered one weren't melted so I put them back in WITHOUT SETTING A NEW TIMER! oops! When I pulled the tray out, the sugar was boiling... well, the back looks kind of fun!




I watched the next 2 sets and they turned out great!  The hardest part is putting the hole in them. Even with cooking spray, the toothpick stuck to the candy a lot.


I put them on the tree - they are WAY cuter than the candy cane crook!




What's this year's holiday best seller at Hamburke's? Coffee Cup Cozies - specifically, this guy!



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Busy Autumn, Best Advice

Most of my lovely listeners know that we moved just over 2 years ago and house prices being what they were, our townhouse was not breaking even and was not approved for a short sale (boo!). We got some good renters in there and were biding our time until the market turned. It did late this summer - the DC Metro (subway) came through almost all the way to our house driving the home values up. The house went on the market, went under contract in 5 days and we're closing very soon!

On top of that, the autumn has been extremely busy - I took a volunteer job as PTA treasurer not realizing the sheer volume of hours that it involves to do a good job without prior bookkeeping skills and Hamburke's has been very busy with mostly local orders (yay for local!) and the kids have activities that overlap. I've neglected to write, well, for a while, so today, I'm going to pass on my very favorite crochet tips.

Get a GRIP! If you have the regular Boye or Bates hooks that are just a thin piece of metal, you may have noticed that your hand hurts after a while. I've been switching over to Clover over the course of the last year and I can go for so much longer! After I found the Soft Touch, I stumbled upon the Amour hooks and love them! Crochet Dude has some great ones as well. I'm faster and can crochet much longer without a break for my hands to uncramp or stop tingling.




More than anything else, sizing crochet is a challenge without the wearer right there! I've spent more time taking out hats than getting them right in one go after adjusting a pattern. Last spring, I came across a blogger, Anne Granger, that had made a chart to help - "size/age", head circumference, hat circumference, crown circle diameter and top of hat to bottom of ear - and it's EXCELLENT! I haven't had to pull a single hat out for sizing problems since I measure the crown circle!  I printed out just the size chart, put it in a sleeve and tucked it into the front of my patterns binder.

Speaking of my patterns binder, ORGANIZING my patterns is huge. I buy or acquire most of my patterns online rather than from books or magazines and for portability, I print them out. Reading patterns on my phone just gives me a headache! That's a lot of paper, folks, and I'm kind of a reuse-reduce-recycle nut so I try very hard to only print them once. So I take care of that paper - I have multi-page capacity sheet protectors that I slip the patterns in and have them in a 3" 3-ring binder organized (with tabs) for hats, booties, sweaters/cocoons, blankets and "other" (this tab has the viking hat with attached beard my husband wants me to make).  I also write the name that I sell the product under as I often rename an item to sell it. Listen, folks, I have 3 very different hat patterns called "The Elizabeth Hat" and 2 "Everyday Soaker/Diaper Cover" - if I went with the pattern name, I'd be even more confused and confusing!

Hooks - I don't have a special crochet hook organizer with slots for the different sizes. Instead, I have a smaller, zippered makeup bag that I got for 50 cents on clearance at Target. I think a zippered pencil pouch would also work well and might be prettier (yeah, there's a reason it, and all of it's twins, were on clearance). I also keep stitch markers, a pen, nail clippers for cutting yarn, tapestry needles and a small retractable tape measure in this case.

Projects - I keep the plastic bags that my yarn comes in inside the box to use for organizing projects. They're just simple clear 2mil open-top bags (think ziplock sandwich bag quality plastic but produce bag size and shape) but I use them to store unfinished projects. I put all of my yet-to-be-used yarn in them along with the pattern and if it's an order, the printed packing slip. I reuse them until things fall out of them.

Yarn - this is something that I need to work on. There are a zillion-trillion ideas out there for organizing yarn. I keep mine in clear plastic file boxes organized mostly by yarn weight and use (sport weight cottons are in one, worsted weight cottons are in another and kitchen cottons are in a third. All else is in my ottoman) and scraps (anything less than 10g) go in a plastic shoe box to be used for embellishments. I found out today, though, that I'm not as organized as I wish I was as I pulled out a worsted weight cotton from the sport weight bin... oops! and that's the one that's over flowing so I'll have to clean it out again and track my inventory better.

Finally, I know that I don't know it all - there are very few people who do. My first go-to when I don't understand a stitch is YouTube and I look for well known crochet v-loggers who tend to be concise and not overly chatty (it's distracting when I'm learning something new). Sometimes a stitch sounds complicated on paper or is poorly worded or mis-named by the designer. Last week, I was working on a pattern that called for a V-stitch - no problem - that's a dc-ch1-dc in the same stitch, skip the next stitch but the pattern wasn't working out like I expected it would. The designer had put in her own definitions of a V-stitch - dc2 in the same stitch - in the notes and I hadn't noticed it b/c I just skimmed that part (even worse - I was working with black yarn so it was hard to see what I had done). This is a simple example but there are a bunch like it - Crochet Street blog just published the difference between a bobble, popcorn and puff stitch using Moogly blogger Tamara Kelly's videos - you'll see how words and video are so excellently paired! I watched Tamera's 3 videos yesterday and I cannot tell you today which one is which (wrong side, right side or drop and pick up). My second go-to resource is my mother-in-law when she's in town - she's been doing this longer than I have and can sometimes sort out what the designer is saying better than I can.


So - review of pro-tips: find a comfortable hook (don't be saddled with grandma's arthritic handmedowns), learn or reference sizing, find ways to organize your crazy crafter space and don't be afraid to search out help!

So - review of pro-tips: find a comfortable hook (don't be saddled with grandma's arthritic handmedowns), learn sizing, and find ways to organize your crazy crafter!

I'm leaving you to gaze upon this cutie patootie in a custom request knit-look crochet hat that will very soon be on my Etsy page!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Vacation: DIY Art Day Camp

I love arts and crafts (obviously) and this summer, I wanted to share with my kids. I came up with the idea for Art Week after visiting the VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) downtown with out-of-town friends (hey - who knew that it was free?). I brought up taking the kids to the museum over the summer to a couple local friends and when they were receptive, I sprung the week-long DIY Art Day Camp idea on them! We picked 2 or 3 activities for each day that we anticipated would take 2-3 hours for the kids to complete (we underestimated how long kids take on some projects - most were done in 20 minutes).

Day 1
Monday, Aug 18
Drawing

We got a late start after a sleepless night but our resident artist let us in on the secret to drawing (psst - it's finding the simple shapes in an image)


Day 2
Tuesday, Aug 19
VMFA Day

We made it downtown without getting lost and over an hour in the museum before the younger kids started melting down.


Day 3
Wednesday, Aug 20
Painting

I think this was the most fun! I taught them a little bit about watercolors (I set out a still life but mostly, they painted minions) and we did a Michelangelo style painting (they painted the papered-over underside of my dining room table).











The little kids had fun too with Paint With Water books!


Day 4
Thursday, Aug 21
Tie Dye

BYO Shirt! It's so humid here though that these are still hanging in my shed (it rained last night and this afternoon).






Day 5
Friday, Aug 22
Kid Craft

This one kind of fell apart. I had a couple things that had to be done in the morning and my friends have kids who nap but I did one of the activities anyway!
This is ribbon embroidery done on paper


I also finished this lovely Christening/Baptism/Dedication baby gown and booties (both will be listed soon!)