I’m Baaack! DIY $10 Christmas Wreath

Hi there, friends! I do apologize for my absence the last few months. Summer brought about a LOT of traveling and events, and also gave us some exciting news: we are expecting a little boy due to arrive sometime mid-February! Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of napping, and not so much blogging. BUT! I am hopeful that the next few months will be a little more successful in terms of blog posts (at least until the little man arrives).

To start off, I am going to share a super easy DIY with you all. And the best part about this DIY is that it is also cheap!

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This Christmas/winter wreath cost me a total of $9.23. Granted, I did use a coupon or two, and I found the supplies on sale, but it was all from Jo-Ann’s, so more than likely you can score the exact same wreath supplies for an equivalent cost.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A grapevine wreath
  • One “leafy” faux branch
  • Two “twiggy” faux branches
  • Two pinecone “branches”
  • One faux needle branch with red berries

First off, find a section of the grapevine wreath that has a horizontal vine or two; you’ll need this to hold the “branches” in. Take your “leafy” branch and slip it in snugly.

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Stick the branch with the berries in slightly below the leafy branch, making sure that the leafy branch is still visible.

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Your next step is to add in the twiggy branches. I really like these because they have little bells in them, so every time you open the door (in theory) it’ll jingle. How’s that for festive? Layer them on top of the leafy branch, but make sure they stay behind the berry branch.

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The final step is to stick those pinecones in. I ended up putting one on the bottom next to the berries, and the other tucked in behind the leafy branch, but do whatever makes the wreath feel balanced.

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And that’s it! Easy-peasy. You could also add a ribbon if you want to dress up the wreath more, but for myself I like the bareness of the vines. I think it feels more wintery that way.

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Enjoy!

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How to Make Your Own DIY Driftwood Mason Jar Candelabra

Whew! That’s quite a longwinded title! But trust me, this little how to is far from difficult.

The dog days of Summer are fast approaching, and I’m sure you’re dreaming of long evenings outdoors as much as I am. Long evenings outside demand some dreamy lighting, so I’m here today with this fun craft:

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Cute, right? I have to confess, I didn’t come up with this entirely on my own, as the inspiration came from Pinterest (hello, fellow Pinterest addicts!), but the design is completely my own.

So, with that out of the way, here’s the how-to.

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What you’ll need for this project:

  • A piece of driftwood (at least 2.5-3ft long, longer if using larger Mason jars)
  • 3-5 small Mason jars (need not be actual Mason jars, as you can see)
  • Twine
  • Screw-on hooks
  • Picture hanging wire
  • Wire cutter
  • Scissors
  • Pliers
  • Tea light candles  (preferably no-flame, battery powered ones; these ones from Amazon are nice, since they come with a  remote)
  • Ceiling mounted hook (not pictured)

All right, let’s get started.

Step one will be to cut down the twine. You’ll want a 2ft segment for each jar. More than likely you’ll end up cutting off some extra, but this length makes it easier to work with.

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Once your twine is all cut, you’ll need to tie one end to the jar. Wrap it under the bottom of the lid lines, so that it doesn’t slip off.

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Next, you’ll take the rest of the twine and wrap it a couple of times around the driftwood. Knot it if you wish, but that isn’t necessary. Leave about a foot of twine between the driftwood and the jar, so that it hangs down. You can make it longer or shorter depending on your preference. Also make sure to leave several inches free at the end, so you can screw the hooks in.

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After that, take the other end of the twine and tie it around the jar again, making sure that the knots are on opposite ends of each other. This ensures that the jar hangs evenly. You should be able to adjust this fairly easily, especially if your jars are tapered.

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Repeat the last three steps with all of the jars. You can leave the hanging lengths even so that your jars hang in a straight row, or stagger them like I did to make a pyramid shape. Also remember to leave some space in between the jars so that they don’t bump into each other; 2 inches or so should be enough.

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Your next step is to screw those hooks in. Leave an inch or two off the end.

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Then, tie the picture hanging wire onto the hooks. You can make the wire long or short, depending on how far down you want the driftwood to be from the ceiling.

Your last step is to put the candles in, and you’re done!

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Hook it onto a hook wherever your heart desires (I put ours on our porch).

Let the porch parties begin!

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Special Feature – The Gotter House

Hi there! I have a special treat to kick off your weekend today. I get to share with you a special feature on a home that I love so much: the Gotter house. I love the Gotter house for many, many reasons, but one reason is that is just so darn cute!

Elizabeth (Liza) Gotter is my sister-in-love, and happens to be one VERY talented (and believe me when I say VERY) woman. I kid you not when I say that anything she touches turns to gold, and her home is no exception.

I’ve admired her home decorating skills for quite some time now, and the thought/desire to blog about her home has been in my head for quite a while. I finally worked up the courage to ask her if she’d be willing, and the sweet girl said yes! You will know that she is such a generous person when I tell you that she cleaned house for me while she was pregnant so I could do this feature. Talk about love.

All right, without further ado, here is the Gotter house: 20160424-DSC_0146

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Don’t you feel welcome already?

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One of Liza’s talented creations. Can I buy this please?

Entry

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Downstairs bath

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Another creation of Liza’s; she crocheted each swirl, then stitched them together into a rug for her downstairs bathroom.

Dining room

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Liza’s also a very talented cook and baker (there is seriously nothing this woman can’t do).

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Her own arrangement of branches. An inspiration that you can have bouquets in the middle of winter.

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Liza has a very fun style in her dishes, ranging from eclectic to classic.

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Liza’s cat, Murphy. He’ll make an appearance again later.

Kitchen

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Living room

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Liza also does pottery, and here, she displays some of her creations.

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She and her husband, Steve, are avid book readers; you’ll find books throughout the house.

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Master bedroom

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This garland was handmade too. It’s called talent, folks.

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Upstairs hallway

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Liza also loves to paint, and has several of her paintings displayed through her home.

Guest bedroom

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Laundry room window

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Murphy was quite perplexed by what I was doing.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour through the Gotter house. Maybe someday you can even visit it! You won’t be disappointed.

Weekly Dishes – Steak with Rice and Beans

Anybody else loving the ability to go outside and enjoy your backyard? Some of you are probably still looking at patches of snow, so I apologize in advance, but here in the PNW, we are enjoying SPRING!! My roses are blooming like crazy, and I am loving the times spent on our patio, enjoying the sun, warm breezes, and lawn. Today, I even picked my first strawberry of the season.

But back to the point of this post: FOOD. Spring and Summer are such a fun time to cook, don’t you think? I feel like our imagination and appetite in regards to food and drink come to life in these seasons.

Today, I’m sharing with you an adaptation of a recipe from Real Simple: Rice and Beans with Steak and Fresh Tomatillo Salsa. This recipe is very tasty, and very easily put together; the whole process takes just over 30 minutes.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 1/4 lb. Steak (Real Simple’s recipe calls for skirt steak, but I used hanger steak)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Rice
  • 1 can Black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups Chicken broth
  • Cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons Lime juice
  • 1/2 lb. Tomatillos
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

Your first step is to get the rice and beans going. Get a large stock pot, and add broth, rice, and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper.

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Cover and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. It should look like this when it’s done:

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While your rice is simmering, put the salsa together. To start with, dehusk and wash your tomatillos, as well as your cilantro and lime (if you’re using fresh).

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Cut up the tomatillos into quarters, the lime in half, and chop the cilantro.

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Then, add all the veggies, squeeze the lime, and also add a 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper into a blender.

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Blend away! You can make the salsa more chunky or more smooth, depending on your preference.

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Doesn’t that look delicious?

Now that your salsa’s done, let’s get that steak going. Your rice should be still cooking.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet, and once it’s hot, stick that steak in there. Season it with salt and pepper.

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Cook it to the doneness you prefer (Real Simple’s recipe calls for medium rare, but I like mine medium well).

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There she is. All ready to sit. 🙂 Let the steak rest a few minutes to let the juices set.

By this time your timer for your rice ought to have gone off. Remove the lid, and once you’ve confirmed that the water is all gone, add in the black beans.

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(Once again, this is what it should look like.)

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Cover again, and let rest for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes, your rice and beans should look like this:

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Lastly, cut up the steak into bite-sized slices.

Now you’re all done!

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As you can see, I served this dish with quesadillas, but you could absolutely eat it by itself, or with plain tortillas.

Enjoy!

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Weekly Dishes – Pepper Beef

Hi folks! Hasn’t the weather lately been lovely? At least it has been here in the PNW. I’m going to blame the sunshine for keeping me from posting this last week. ‘Cause who wants to be inside when it’s sunny out?

This week’s dish has a somewhat long ingredient list, but is actually fairly simple, and is a great choice for when you’re craving Chinese takeout. It’s another family favorite, and was one of my top choices as a child. Even with the pepper in it. My own kids love it too.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • 1 lb. Thin cut beef (or breakfast steak cut thinly)
  • 3 Green bell peppers, sliced
  • 1-2 Onions, thinly sliced
  • Vegetable oil for cooking (about 2 tablespoons)

Sauce A – Meat marinade

  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch (flour works too)
  • 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Mirin (a Japanese sweet rice wine; sherry is a good substitute, just add 1-2 tablespoons sugar to sweeten it)
  • Sesame oil, to taste (I usually put about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon in)
  • Ginger (fresh or powdered), to taste
  • 1 clove Garlic (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable oil

Sauce B – Broth

  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 3/4 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Soy sauce

All right, now if that list of ingredients scared you, put those fears aside. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds.

Step one is going to be assembling your sauces. Get a larger bowl for sauce mixture A, because you’ll be marinating your beef in it. The second mixture will fit in a smaller bowl (I use a cereal bowl). To minimize on utensils, start with all the dry ingredients first, then add in the wet. If you’re substituting sherry for the mirin, don’t forget the extra tablespoon or two of sugar when you’re doing this step.

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Next, set mixture B (that’s the little bowl) aside and grab your beef and mixture A (the big bowl). Mix in the beef so that it’s thoroughly coated in the mixture, and let stand for 15 min.

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While the meat is marinating, cut up your green bell pepper and the onion. Try and slice the onion as thinly as you can.

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Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok on high (you can use a regular frying pan, but I’d advise sticking with a non-stick, no pun intended). Once the oil is hot, add in the peppers and onion, and fry for about 2 minutes.

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When the vegetables have just started to soften, remove to serving bowl.

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Wipe out the pan with a paper towel if needed. Add more oil to the pan, and once it’s heated, add the beef. Fry on high for about 3 minutes.

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Before the meat is completely cooked (aka while it’s still a bit pink), add sauce mixture B and cook until it starts to thicken slightly (about 1 minute).

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Add in the pre-cooked vegetables, and cook until heated through.

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And you’re done!

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I serve this with white rice and sometimes make some store-bought spring rolls in the oven.

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Enjoy!

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Weekly Dishes – Honey Baked Chicken

Remember a few weeks ago I shared with you that I had something new in the works? Well, it’s finally time to launch my new series: my Weekly Dishes.

One of the things that several people said when I asked for feedback on what they wanted to see was “more recipes!” Apparently all the posting and sharing of different meals was too enticing, and I needed to follow it up with something they could go with.

So, because you asked, here is your new series, where I will pick one dish a week (it may be an entrée, a dessert, or something in between), and share the recipe with you. I will endeavor to also share the complete meal plan with you too, because one of my pet peeves about recipes is that they often leave you at a loss for what to serve with it! So, whenever I share an entrée, and if applicable, I will also share what else I cook with it.

Without further ado, here is my first recipe: Honey Baked Chicken.

This recipe is a family heirloom (sort of). It’s a meal I grew up with, and honestly I don’t know where my Mom got it (she may not be sure either). It’s a staple in my household, and while it takes time to cook, the recipe itself is VERY easy. A great choice for busy moms.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Serves 2 adults and 2 children.

  • Two Chicken breasts
  • 1/3 cup Unsalted butter (can use salted if it’s all you have on hand)
  • 1/3 cup Honey (sorry, I forgot to put this in the picture)
  • 2 tablespoons Mustard (any kind works, but I typically prefer Dijon. I used Spicy brown mustard this time)
  • 1 teaspoon Curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt (less if using salted butter)
  • a small saucepan
  • large casserole/baking dish (does not need to be glass)
  • meat cutting board
  • knife
  • wooden spoon
Oven temp: 350; cooking time: 1 hour 15 min. Prep time: 10-15 min
Step one is to preheat the oven to 350. While you’re waiting for the oven to heat up, cut up your chicken into smaller portion sizes (I typically cut them into 4 or 5 pieces, depending on the size). If your chicken breast is thick, butterfly cut it so that it will cook more evenly (I’ve put a link in for you in case you don’t know what butterflying is, but basically, you cut it lengthwise most of the way through, but not all the way). Go ahead and put those chickens into the baking dish.
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When you’re done with that, heat the saucepan on medium, and melt the butter. Watch it closely to ensure that you don’t burn the butter.
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Once it’s completely melted, remove it from the heat, and add in remaining ingredients (honey, mustard, curry powder, and salt). Mix it all together. You’ll end up with a sauce that looks like this:
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Pour the sauce over the chicken, making sure to coat the chicken as much as you can.
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Then stick it in the oven! Cook for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes (depending on how golden you want it), basting every 15 minutes.
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This is what it’ll look like about halfway through.

And then you’re done!
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I typically serve this with white rice, salad, and some other simple vegetable (like corn or peas). You could certainly eat it with bread, but eating the rice with the sauce poured over is simply amazing. I think I like it better than the chicken.
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Enjoy!

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DIY Garden Sign

Hi friends! I have another fun little project to share with all of you today.

I recently found this old 2×4 cutting in our shed. I think I’d set it aside at some point thinking it would make a good swing seat. Of course, without the right tree branch or power tools to turn it into one, it ended up just sitting there.

But when I rediscovered it, I realized it would make a perfect sign. Then it proceeded to sit in the dark again for a couple weeks more (please tell me I’m not the only one who does that).

So this afternoon, I finally went upstairs, got my can of spray paint, and decided to go for it. The result?

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Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

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  • a piece of 2×4 (preferably at least 1 foot long, and up to however long you want it)
  • a can of spray paint (I used red, since it was what I had, but a pink or blue would be fun too)
  • a marker (I have a silver pen in the photo, but ended up going with gold; you’ll forgive me, won’t you?)
  • a hook and nails (you should be able to find a picture hanger kit with these pretty easily at any craft or hardware store; not pictured)
  • a hammer (not pictured)
  • a towel (not pictured)
  • newspaper

Step one is to make sure that your board is clean. Wipe off any dirt or dust (or cobwebs), and make sure it’s dry.

Take that board, the spray paint, and your newspaper on outside. Lay the newspaper down, and if you happen to struggle with slight winds, you can use masking tape to hold the newspaper down (don’t do it on a super windy day, otherwise you’ll get paint all over you).

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Now shake up that can and get spraying.

Let the paint dry completely (the drying time will vary depending on your paint variety, and how much you put on). If you feel it needs another coat, go ahead and put on a second coat.

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Once it’s completely dry, take it back inside, and grab your marker. Now I did a terrible job at centering my letters, but a quick rule of thumb is to start with the middle letter (or letters if your word has an even number of words), and write those first, making sure to center them. Then write the remaining letters. If you feel that you have terrible handwriting, you could always use letter stickers, but bear in mind that they may not last as long.

Draw the arrow last.

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Once you’ve written the word(s) down, take the board off the table, and lay the towel down. This will keep your table and your board from getting scratched up while you hammer the hook on, as well as soften the sound (should you have sleeping babies or sensitive neighbors).

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Place your hook on the board as close to the center as you can.

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Then, hammer in one nail, just enough to hold it in place. Realign the hook to make sure it’s level. Hammer in the second nail, and then hammer in the first all the way.

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And you’re done!

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Yay! You could literally write whatever you want, but I love the invitation that a “garden” sign indoors makes, even if you don’t have a garden.

Now go have fun!

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P.S. If you’d like to know how I lined my shelf with fabric (like you can see in two photos above), you can find that tutorial here.

How to Plant Potatoes, and Other Things Like That

How is it April already? Seriously, didn’t 2016 just start? Spring is already here, and I am just now starting to think about our garden. So here’s my first garden update for 2016.

I was enjoying the lovely sunshine outside yesterday, when I realized that my blueberry plants were starting to get flower buds.

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Then I noticed that my pie cherry tree was starting to bloom.

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And then I saw strawberry blossoms…

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And so I promptly realized, it was high time I started working on my garden. When all the plants around you are acting like it’s Spring, then it’s probably time for me to start acting like it too.

So, today, I dug up my garden.

Digging up a garden that has sat dormant all winter is work. Not necessarily HARD work (I can think of things that are harder), but it is work regardless. But thinking ahead to the rewards that I hope to enjoy this Summer makes it all worth it.

So to help fuel that dream, before I picked up my shovel and hoe, I picked up my trowel, and started some seeds.

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Good potting soil is a must for seedlings. Certainly you can use soil from your garden box, but if you really want to help your starts along, go ahead and get the potting soil. I like using these starter pots because you can plant them right into the soil! That’s right, these pots are biodegradable.

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I started 4 pots each of beefsteak tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, and watermelon. (I’ll share more about the asparagus next time) YUM! Let’s see if I actually succeed in getting any watermelon this year; last year the bugs munched mine (insert sad face here). Anybody have any tips on keeping pests away from watermelon and cantaloupe?

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Once I was done with that, I put them all on a cookie sheet (#repurpose, anyone?) and brought them in. If you’re planting along with me, don’t forget to water them. Go ahead and soak them; a good initial watering is essential.

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And don’t forget to label them. If your seed packets are empty, you can certainly use them. However, if you are intending to keep the seeds for future planting, then you’ll need to put them in a dark, dry place to store. An easy way to label is with masking tape and a bright, colorful marker.

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Ta-da! Now set them next to a sunny window.

Then it was time to go back out to those garden boxes.

This is what they looked like to start with:

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I had already gone out a couple weeks ago to turn the box on the right, but the one on the left was virtually untouched since last fall (I had weeded it a few days ago, but nothing else).

During the process of shoveling the dirt, I discovered a few goodies:

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I wonder who put those there?… ; )

I also discovered that I had neglected to dig up my potato crop enough last year. A FEW (*cough* 6 *cough*) apparently had remained in the ground (oops), and were starting to produce shoots. So, rather than toss them, I decided I’d replant them. We’ll get back to them.

After giving it a good turning with my shovel, I took my hoe and chopped up those big pieces.

Now back to those potatoes. Planting potatoes really is quite simple. You need potato starts (with eyes on them), soil, a shovel, and patience.

Start with a trench about 6in deep. Potatoes will need a double covering (initial covering at planting, and a second covering several weeks in when they have decent foliage), so you need to give a little extra room for the soil.

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Drop in those potatoes, making sure the eyes are on top, and that they are at least 2 in apart from one another.

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Then, cover them with about 4in of soil.

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Don’t forget to water them! (I did, but thankfully remembered and went back out)

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Once that was done, I moved on to the second box and dug it up. I didn’t hoe it out today, since I want to give it a second turning (turning the soil allows the nutrients to blend together, and also helps kill off weeds).

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So that was all for today. My next garden update will probably be in a few weeks, when I get my compost. I may even have some first plantings to share! What fun!

What are you growing in your garden this year?

Just for fun, here are a couple more pictures from our backyard:

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Make Your Own DIY Spring Wreath

Spring is here! Spring is here! Spring is here! (Can you tell I’m excited?)

And now that Spring is officially here, I can share this post with you guilt free. If you’re anything like me, if you can stretch the use of your seasonal décor longer, you do. So my Christmas wreath hung around for quite a while. I won’t tell you when exactly it came down, but let’s just say that my door has been wreathless for only a few weeks. That Christmas wreath was going to be used for as long as I could.

But now it’s time to move onto better, brighter things, so yesterday, I sat down and made my Spring wreath, which I must confess, was easier and funner (that’s a word, right?) than I thought.

Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

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  • A metal wreath frame (I actually saved this one from my Christmas wreath)
  • 8+ faux flower bouquets (Mine were from the dollar tree)
  • 2ft length of wide ribbon (not pictured)

One word about your choice for the flowers: try and stick with a one or two color scheme. My flowers were all white and yellow. If you want to go more for a wildflower feel, then you’re welcome to mix colors, but pay attention to the type of flowers you pick. The cohesiveness of this wreath really depends on the colors (or type) you go with.

This really doesn’t take much work. All you need to do is stick the stems into the prongs of the wreath frame. Start from the top of your wreath, and work your way down each side. Try and weave your stems into the prongs as much as you can, so that they end up either covered by the other flowers, or come to the bottom of the wreath (which you’ll wrap with the ribbon).

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At this point, if you have extra flowers, you can continue to put them in and make it flowers all around, or you can do what I did, and add in the ribbon.

Your last step is to wrap the exposed stems and wreath frame with the ribbon. If you choose a silkier ribbon, it will feel more formal; burlap will make it feel more rustic. Choose whichever you prefer.

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Tie a pretty bow, and you’re done!

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This project probably took me 20 min max, and that was with photo-taking and dinner prep happening at the same time! Super easy.

Hope you’re enjoying Spring where you live too!

Make a Seasonal Scrapbook Frame in 3 Easy Steps

Yay! Spring is finally here! Well, ok, technically it’s not for another few days, but here in the PNW, you need only look outside to know that it has arrived. Daffodils and cherry blossoms are EVERYWHERE (and that’s an awfully good thing).

To celebrate this momentous occasion (that happens every year, but hey, it’s still exciting!), I am going to share a fun little project with you, just in time for the weekend (again, I’m celebrating a bit early).

These scrapbook pages are the result of several years, mostly because I didn’t have always have time at the beginning of a season to put on together. The actual creation of one of these pages really only takes 5-10 min, but somehow, Spring was the last one that got made (Spring cleaning, anyone?).

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • A 12×12 picture frame
  • 12×12 Cardstock/scrapbook paper
  • Clippings of fun photos or illustrations
  • Double-sided tape (a glue stick works fine too)

A few words of advice on picking your cardstock and photo clippings: you can pick a patterned backdrop or one without for your cardstock, but if you choose a patterned one, try and pick one that will “frame” your work, like the one I picked. A patterned one will create movement and add color and life to your overall composition, but with the movement comes busyness. Keep that in mind when you’re picking out your photo clippings too; you don’t want your backdrop to clash with the images that are supposed to be the main event. As for the clippings themselves, pick photos or illustrations that speak to the season you’re going with (for example: fireworks are a perfect choice for Summer, but not so much for Winter. Unless you celebrate Chinese New Year).

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Your first step is to figure out which photo/illustration you want to have in the center. It should be one of the biggest ones that you have, to maintain a balanced look over all. Go ahead and adhere it to the paper.

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Next, arrange the remaining cuttings around the big one (but don’t adhere them yet – you may want to rearrange them). Play around with the layout until it looks balanced and feels right. Go ahead and layer your clippings on top of each other, but remember to only overlap slightly; you want to be able to still see the majority of the image.

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Once you’re happy with the layout, go ahead and adhere the remaining cuttings to the cardstock.

And you’re done! Stick that paper into the frame, and hang her up!

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Just for fun, I’ll share some of my other seasons with you:

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I really can’t decide which one is my favorite… it might be Summer. But I’ll have to wait a little longer for that one.