Dogs and Gardens

One of the disappointing parts of moving when we did, in the early fall, was that we weren’t able to see our garden through to the full season. We left green tomatoes and ripening peppers and a basil bush just waiting for pesto. We invested a lot of time and money into a project we weren’t able to see all the way through. Despite that it was still a good experience and we learned a lot. Mainly we learned there is a learning curve in gardening. A big one.

IMG_0027

Beware squirrels.

This year we’re approaching things a little differently. I refused to consider the possibility of an in-ground garden after the insane amount of weeding I did last year. Also, we thought our old yard had sandy soil but we might as well be at the beach in this house. In the end, after a lot of back and forth, we decided on two 8′ x 4′ garden beds. I was talked down from making them 24″ high like the ones we built at LINC last year for Work on Wilmington. Those were some awesome garden beds. When I actually saw how high 12″ is though, I was on board.

LINC-Urban-Farm-1

These are not the exact boxes we built but we did base ours off these. Photo Credit: K.J. Williams 

We lined the boxes with weed cloth and put a layer of leaves in before we piled in our compost/top soil. We bought it all mixed up already from Seaside Mulch. We bought it in bulk instead of bags which saved us a lot of money.

What we should have done differently: Our very next action after building the beds should have been to protect them from their number one enemy- our dog. Clara was delighted to leap through the bed on her way to the fence where she chats with other dogs and also to dig up my seeds and freshly planted baby broccoli plants. So much fun!

After SOMEONE insisted there was no way Clara was going to dig in the garden again after she’d gotten in trouble for it, she did it again many more times. I won, he built me a fence. It’s pretty basic, just plastic mesh zip-tied to rebar poles. We* used sod staples to secure the fence to the ground.

*Please note when I say “we” in the same sentence as “build” or something similar I typically mean Tyler. “We” built garden beds, “we” used sod staples, etc. On the flip side when I say “we” planted or “we” weeded, I just mean me. 

IMG_1509

Fence Day!

IMG_1511

Finally these plants can rest easy. Whew. 

IMG_1512

There’s the culprit now, eyeing her prey…

Now we’re down a few broccoli plants (but how much broccoli can you really eat anyways?) and I’ve planted new spinach and beet seeds, along with tomato, pepper and herb plants. We’re trying not to plant so many different things this year. Trying is very hard for me.

IMG_1501

Whoops. 

Domestic Goddess Over Here

At some point since I started blogging recipes and posting an insane amount of meals and food on Instagram some of my friends and family started acting like I know what I’m doing. It seems ridiculous I know, but it keeps happening! I don’t want to dissuade anyone from this incredible idea that I DIY well but… let’s be honest here. I just look to my trusty resources.

IMG_1993

This stawberry rhubarb pie is by far the most attractive pie I have ever made. 

Baking Go-Tos:

Minimalist Baker is vegan but I love her style. She does not post any recipe that has a lot of ingredients or can be remotely connected with the word complicated. Thank goodness!

IMG_1294

Girl versus Dough’s blog is an awesome resource for both staple recipes and more adventurous forays. Her sourdough recipe is my fave!

IMG_2062

The Kitchn is my number website for baking and cooking. Their recipes always provide a lot of instruction that’s aimed at the beginner. Whether I’ve made a similar recipe before or not, I appreciate the very plain-spoken, foundational steps.

IMG_2081

Canning Go-Tos:

With canning, you need to really trust your sources. For example, I’ve found a lot of recipes for canning pumpkin butter but if you go on USDA’s website, they state that it is unsafe to can pumpkin better. You see what I mean?

A Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking is a great website and book for canning (along with other domestic things). I was fortunate enough to take part in Kate’s fruit butter canning class in Austin which gave me the confidence to make our apple butter wedding favors last year.

BarrackWedding-18

Food in Jars is very reliable and has a great selection of recipes. Some may be too adventurous for you (me too!) but after making her peach jam, I totally trust her judgement.

IMG_0714

Ball Jars website has a good list of basic recipes. It may seem boring but for the beginner, it’s probably all you need.

IMG_0587

When in doubt you can always refer to USDA Canning Guide.

Pinterest: For me wanting to do a lot of DIY requires a lot of time on Pinterest (it’s research, not an addition). These are the Pinterest Boards I’ve created to sort my edible projects and adventures.

Eating is My Number One Hobby: It’s true.

Make Ahead Cooking: For your crockpot and freezer meal exploration

Breakfast is Best!: This is by far my favorite meal of the day.

Party Foods!: I love to host!

Boozin’: Clearly a very important board

Breads, Sweets and Treats: Sometimes the lines between breads, sweets and treats get blurred so let’s just mix them up.

Happy baking and creating!

 

Kiddo DIY Gifts

To wrap up my holiday homemade, handmade, local gift series, I’ll end up with little girl themed gifts. If you want to find out about local Wilmington gifts, holiday ornaments for friends and coworkers, or my annual Christmas panic you can read past posts.

Last year my nieces received scarves and jewelry boxes with earrings (jewelry was purchased). This year my youngest niece, Holland, asked for books, lip gloss, “world peace”, “nothing”, and “me” (meaning herself). She’s eight. The last three were hard to work with so I opted for books and lip gloss. I will do anything I can to encourage the girls’ reading so I bought three books off her list.

The ten year old, Georgia, also wanted lip gloss, which worked out as the recipe I found, made six little pots. I opted for a pink, shimmery, peppermint kind. This felt right up their alley.

aeriallips

Pros and cons of this craft-

Pros:

  • It was really easy and took no time. All I needed was a microwave, a bowl and a spoon in terms of equipment.
  • The hardest part was pouring into the pots quickly so it looked nice. Didn’t look nice? Put it back in the bowl and microwave again. Easy. Done.
  • The color looks really nice in the pots but is subtle (if noticeable at all) on your lips. Very appropriate for a young person. It also feels very smooth and soothing.

Cons:

  • I didn’t have most of the ingredients I needed to make this. I bought the peppermint oil (not cheap but I can use for other things), a box of little plastic containers (so…everyone’s getting lip gloss for next Christmas), beeswax pellets (I also want to make candles so not a big deal) and sweet almond oil. I already had the shea butter. If I end up not using these items for other things then this is an expensive gift. If I do, then it’s incredibly cheap.

I knew Georgia was getting a desk for Christmas so I wanted to make her things for her room. I painted a small wooden tray black (pink and black are her colors) which in retrospect I wish I done a bigger one or made it glittery. To go with it I took two heavy paper mache letters (her initials) from a craft store and painted the sides black. On the front I used a large sheet of pink glitter adhesive paper (basically a giant pink glitter sticker) to brighten it. On the functional side these could be book ends, otherwise they’re decorative. She was a fan.

GA

For some reason this picture won’t turn. I hope you ge the drift.

 

 

They worked well with the two inexpensive translucent pink glasses to be used for pencil holders. At Target I found a pack of mini desk items such as a mini-stapler, mini-scissors, mini-tape, etc (all in purple) and at World Market I picked up a cute notepad and mini clothespins in different colors. Perfect for the desk which is more fun than functional.

The best part of these gifts? I got a hug after the girls opened every single one.

hugs

I tried hard this year to simplify. No complicated crafts. No multi-month projects. This equals no tears or frustration! All in all I think it was a success! Hopefully I can keep this up every year…

DIY Christmas: Vintage Bell Jar Ornaments

As we’re previously discussed, the goal this Christmas is handmade, homemade or local. So far, I’ve only made one exception: books for my niece. No matter what the rule is, the exception can always be made for books.

The holiday season can be kind of a weird time when you’re the new person at work or your friends generally fit under the category of “recent”. When you haven’t gone through Christmas together you don’t know what the norm is for them. Do you plan to get them nothing but then they show up in your cubicle with a thoughtful gift? Were you going to throw a few cookies in a red and green bag only to find a gorgeous array of fudge on your doorstep? Best to come prepared. Plus these are all people you want to show affection to- you just don’t necessarily know how much!

This year’s remedy and featured homemade gift will be bell jar style ornaments. I found this idea at My So-Called Crafty Life, a blog I’ve used for guidance periodically. The number one thing you should know about this DIY craft- at no point did I want to give up. It was easy to assemble and fun to watch come together. The second thing you should know- it is not easy to find a lot of the little pieces you’ll want to put into your bell jars. If you’re going to do this project, it might be a good idea to start in November when stores seem inappropriately ready for Christmas. Once you hit December you’ll be very disappointed, staring at empty shelves. (Unless you use the Internet. Word on the street is the Internet has all sorts of fun things.

First things first. Take two-piece, plastic wine glass and shorten the ends. No, I don’t recommend using a hacksaw but that’s all I had. The stems you can just get rid of.

IMG_0882

For 5.5 oz wine glasses use a scalloped edge 3″ paper punch to cut out your bases. I took a red piece of thicker paper and used modge podge to glue it to a pretty winter wonderful design on lighter paper. The base needs to have a little heft to it.

Tacky glue did the trick to secure my little guys to the bases. The tallest trees you see here are 3″. Even 3″ was a little high for the wine glasses.

IMG_0897

Don’t worry about any glue peaking out from under your figurines. The glitter will cover it up.  I just love this little camper from Michael’s!

IMG_0898

Use a hot glue gun around the top of your wine glass to secure it to the base. A little homemade paper funnel will help you pour in your glitter. Be generous with the glitter!

IMG_0899

Aren’t the books underneath the tree perfect for my book club?!

 

IMG_0900

I hot glued a pearl bead (Joann’s) on top of each wine glass. It’s also how I secured the red twine around the top. So far all seems very sturdy!IMG_0901

I went to Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s, AC Moore, and Hobby Lobby to get all the pieces you see before you.

Michael’s: Better for the more expensive but very different pieces. I also saw a cute VW bug and a little fireplace.

Jo-Ann Fabric: There I was able to buy a mixed bag of mini-trees in a reasonable size. Michael’s only sold them in large quantities. I also found the glitter deer and a couple old trucks I’m going to use for another project.

AC Moore: The first time I went by they had a wonderful selection of tiny deer, trees, snowmen, etc but they never replenished their shelves so I couldn’t buy anymore.

Hobby Lobby: Their Mayberry Street miniatures line didn’t offer many holiday items but I did find the books which I used under 4 of my trees for gifts for my book club members. I also bought the paper punch there which was considerably cheaper than at Michael’s and I couldn’t find it at all at AC Moore.

I really enjoyed this project although I cracked a couple wine glasses, spilled a ton of glitter and had to go back to the craft stores several times. Normally when I find a craft on Pinterest tears and frustration are a component of the end result but I enjoyed every moment of making these.

My Unreasonable Obsession With Gift Baskets

I don’t know many people my age who love gift baskets. I don’t think many people really think about gift baskets. I mean, why would you?

I do. Often. It’s my favorite kind of gift to give. One of the very best gifts we received for our wedding was a honeymoon basket from Tyler’s mother. It was a large beautiful rectangular basket filled with everything we could have wanted for our road trip honeymoon: a tablecloth, two cloth napkins, two candles, a bottle of champagne, olives, cheese, crackers, summer sausage, smoked salmon and a beautiful handmade card. It was incredible. (Forgive the lack of photo. I was a little distracted at the time. )When we received a small monogrammed cheeseboard and knife from a friend, we were completely set. We loved our gourmet driving snacks of salmon and cheese and upgrading our meals with candles and cloth napkins at night.

This basket was the catalyst for me. Since then I’ve given three wedding baskets and I won’t be stopping any time soon. I have no idea if the recipients enjoy receiving them as much as I enjoy making them but at least I’m having fun!

This summer two friends were planning a honeymoon road trip and I was inspired to make a similar basket to the one we received. My mother has an excess of baskets and she was kind enough to give me a few. I took a medium rectangular one and filled it with a mustard yellow polka dot picnic cloth (made from an old curtain I had), two navy cloth napkins, a bottle of bubbly, scones, homemade apple butter and a small pouch that contained plastic cutlery and wet wipes. Plastic cutlery and wet wipes are two items that I consider mandatory for a road trip. You need them if you’re going to avoid eating unhealthy gas stations snacks (or to wipe away the Cheetos). Unfortunately the photo of this basket was lost in a tragic I-forgot-the-passcode-to-my-iPhone-and-had-to-have-it-reset incident.

The next two baskets were for celebrations on the same weekend. So much love in such a short period of time!

IMG_0499

This basket was for a lovely couple that chose their wedding weekend hashtag as #keepingupwiththewoneses. Adorable. Don’t be concerned though. Their last name is not Wones. I don’t think I could handle that. To pad the basket (another gift from my mother) I used another curtain from my apartment in Austin. I didn’t line it to make a nice tablecloth. If I put more thought into it, I would made it into a table runner.

I’m all about gift baskets including something tasty, something to drink, something practical and something cute. Their go to alcohol is Tito’s vodka, so I had to include a bottle. I added a jar of my peach jam to give it a homemade tasty feature. For a while I had been wanting to support my friend and former coworker, Caroline Robe, by purchasing one of her beautiful handmade wooden kitchen items. This basket gave me the opportunity to purchase her salad spoons. Aren’t they beautiful? Then to make the basket fun I added a succulent in a jar by The Coastal Succulent (keep it local) and an embroidered hoop with their wedding hashtag. Unfortunately the embroidered portion took longer than I would have liked and the gift was late. It had vodka in it though, so who cares.

IMG_0373

This basket was for one of my oldest friends and her husband. Knowing her as I do I knew that a gift should be carefully chosen. She’s practical but likes her practical items to also be aesthetically pleasing. She’s recognizes thoughtless or impersonal gifts quickly. They are also moving and I did not want to add to the stress of their packing. Luckily my gift basket strategy would fit the bill.

You’ll recognize the fabric from the other basket. I had more than one window at my Austin apartment and therefore more than one curtain. The basket was one I had been gifted from my mom again.

Drinkable item: Brut Rose bubbly wine from Palate– I was told this was a safe and tasty wine

Homemade items: Tomato jam and Strawberry jam (I like to have both sweet and savory)

Tasty items: Pepperoni and Salami that needed to be kept cool but not refrigerated, perfect for a basket. The company is also based in Virginia!

Practical items: A small cutting board from Caroline Robe’s Blasfemme Designs, two cloth napkins and hidden behind the board were plastic cutlery so they could eat the treats on the way home if they wanted.

I think my dream job might be to make gift baskets. So if you know how I can get this going, let me know. In the meantime as you plan your holiday gifts, I highly recommend the often overlooked gift basket. It’s very handy when you’re giving to a group of people like a family or your office.

Happy crafting!