Friday, May 31, 2013

Apples & Lilacs

I was hoping to have the deck done in time to photograph it when our apple tree was in bloom. Obviously, that didn't happen. I did however run out to take a few pictures before all the blossoms were gone.


We've owned our house for 5 years now, and in that time our crab apple tree has bloomed 3 times. It only blooms once every two years, so lucky for us, the year we bought our house (and would have missed it blooming since we moved in in June) was one of the off years.


But that also meant we had no idea what to expect when the tree bloomed the next spring. 


Awesome, right? I think I love this tree more than any other tree I've encountered in my life...except maybe the giant oak in our backyard when I was a kid...and the gorgeous magnolia I used to walk under on my way to school when I lived in New Orleans. Ok, so I have a thing for trees. Maybe that's why The Giving Tree always makes me cry and The Lorax is one of my favorite books of all time. Apparently, I'm passing on my love of trees too. One of Abe's favorite books is called I Love Trees.


Abe was too little to appreciate our apple tree the last time it bloomed, but this time he enjoyed playing in the petals as they fell to the ground. He kept asking us if it was snowing. At least someone enjoyed our never-ending winter...and is eagerly awaiting the next one!


Our lilacs are blooming too! Normally they bloom at least a month before the apple trees, but they got a late start with the cold and snowy weather this year. 


With all the beautiful and fragrant flowers around here, we've been enjoying a very pleasant spring. Now if it would stop raining long enough for us to mow the lawn and do some gardening we'd be set!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dental Hygiene

He hates having his hair washed and won't go to bed at a decent hour, but Abe LOVES brushing his teeth.  


When I came across this project, while digging through a box of old art projects from my teaching days, Abe wanted to get started right away. 


To make the toothbrush, cut a handle from colored paper (I just did a long strip with rounded corners) and paste (or tape) a small, white rectangle to one end. Let your child cut the rectangle to make bristles on the toothbrush. Abe's been really focused on cutting lately, so this project was right up his alley.


For the mouth, cut "lips" from red construction paper and "teeth" from yellow paper. Draw teeth on the yellow paper and paste on top of the red mouth cut-out. Put some white paint on an old toothbrush and let your child brush them clean! 


Abe loved painting with a toothbrush, although he only used that first little dab of paint we put on his brush. I guess my constant replies of "no, you don't need more toothpaste," while brushing his own teeth have finally sunk in. 


Gotta love that smile!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hanging Planter Makeover

So I'm not done with the deck yet, but maybe I'll get on that this weekend. Maybe not. Anyways, here's a little project I had on my "to do" list...



I always buy a hanging plant to put in our apple tree over the deck. A good gardener could probably replant a hanging plant in a pretty container of their choosing, but I'm always afraid I'll kill the plant, so I just leave it in its ugly pot and live with it, water spots and all. This year though I had an idea. Why live with a boring planter when I could paint it a fun color instead!?



I found a large plastic bag and carefully stuffed the plant inside. Then I used some sticks to hold the bag in place and keep it from touching the planter. (Just stick them through the bag and into the soil around the rim of the planter.) I sprayed the whole planter (including the bottom and under the rim) with primer, and then went over it with a couple coats of spray paint. 



I used Krylon Indoor/Outdoor Gloss in Citrus Green because I had some at home. Technically this would work better with a spray paint made specifically for plastic (the stuff I used does scratch off), but since it's hanging from a tree and doesn't get touched much, it should be just fine.


I wasn't sure I liked it at first but, after living with it for awhile, the color has really grown on me. (I did grow up in the 80's after all. Neon is in my blood.) It's definitely more fun than the dark green I started with!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Deck : Before

So I haven't really started working on the deck, although I did buy some fabrics and accessories, and of course, painted the doormat.


I love our little deck. It really is tiny (just big enough for a table and a couple chairs), but there's a crab apple tree on one side and along the fence on the opposite side is a row of lilac bushes. It smells amazing out there when everything is in bloom!


The furniture on our deck, however, has been slowly collected over the years and that's what it looks like...but not in a good way. I'd like the deck to be a little more inviting...and attractive, so this is my plan for making the not-so-pretty pieces we already have work together to create a relaxing space that we can all enjoy.


I'll be using royal blue, aquas, chartreuse, white, and grey. The rug is just going to stay green or we'll flip it to the whiter side. I also plan to add a bit of pink if I can find some good flowers that will survive on our mostly shady deck. And here's what we have to work with: 


This creaky, wooden rocking chair we picked up at Ikea a few years back, but I'm working on a new cushion. 


This gorgeous little cedar table made by Noah and his mom. It needs a fresh coat of stain, and the legs need to be trimmed a bit. It feels really tall, although I think the real problem is the chairs. They're about 4 inches shorter than our dining room chairs. I suppose they're made for relaxing... 


I'm not in love with the "look at me" blue of the chairs. We bought them on sale at Target last summer and I remember wishing at the time that they had some better colors available. They're still a huge improvement over the hand-me-down plastic chairs we used to have out there.


We've been eating out there a lot since the snow melted, but during the day the table is where my tomato plants live. I started them from seed and planted the first few in my herb garden the other day. The rest will go in my raised beds soon!


We bought this indoor/outdoor recycled plastic rug when Abe was a baby. It's not my favorite thing ever but it is easy to clean and provides a soft spot to play with a baby. 


I love this old crab apple tree for the one week every two years when it's in bloom, and hate the rest of the summer when it's dropping tiny crab apples all over the deck. Well, I don't hate it. It does provide a nice amount of shade and a place to hang my cafe lights. Those however are going to be coming down. I'm not sure what it is with the squirrels in our yard, but they've had a problem with my lights ever since I put them up. They chewed through the cord once, so I fixed it and left them up. Then they chewed through it again, and again I fixed it. This spring, they chewed off the end of the cord (that plugs into the outlet) and later I found a single bulb, still in its socket, sitting by the base of one of the big ash trees in our backyard. I'm thinking maybe the squirrels like the lights so much they are trying to steal them, thinking "this light fixture will look great in my nest made of dead leaves and garbage." I suppose if I kept the lights plugged in this problem would have solved itself years ago...

So there you have it. An official "before" post of our little deck, which I'm hoping will look a bit more pulled together the next time I take pictures of it! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Terrarium

I like to imagine that I'm a pretty good gardener. I'm not, but it doesn't hurt to pretend. Well...it sort of hurts when all the plants I buy die off or refuse to come back the next spring. That's why, even though I started this terrarium last July, I didn't write a post about it until now. I was just waiting for all the plants to die. Since they've survived this long, I figured I must have done something right, so here's what I did...


I found this huge glass vessel at a garage sale last spring and picked it up for $6. The minute I saw it I knew it would be perfect for a terrarium, the only problem is, it's so big I still haven't quite figured out where to put it. For now it's taking up too much space on the table in our sunroom.


I picked out a few succulents from the huge selection at Tangletown Gardens, a bag of cactus soil, and a bucket full of rocks.


As always, Abe was excited to put on his "glubs" and help me. First, we put a thick layer of rocks on the bottom of the vessel and covered that with a few inches of fast-draining cactus soil. 


Then we added the plants. I'm not sure what this one was called but it did die off shortly after we planted it. Oh well...I like the one I replaced it with better anyway.


I wish I had a picture from when we finished planting it (to see how much everything's grown if nothing else), but I forgot to take one. (Although I did take this picture a few months later.) 


I keep it in a sunny window and give it about 3 cups of water once a month. I've been thinking about adding a layer of pebbles on top of the soil to prevent soil from splashing up on the glass when I water it, but so far I've just added a couple interesting rocks from my childhood rock collection...


...and a butterfly that Abe and I found in my garden last summer. It was dying when we found it, and when we went back to check on it a couple days later, it was still in the same spot but no longer moving. His wings are torn in a couple places but he still looks as vibrant and beautiful as a living Tiger Swallowtail. I just attached him to a short piece of floral wire that pretty much disappears against the greenery in the terrarium.


For the plants, I picked up this cute little guy to replace the groundcover plant that died. It's called a Crassula Mesembryanthemoides, and I found it with the cactuses and succulents in the gardening section at Home Depot. 


This one is a Variegated Jade. Surprisingly, I've noticed new plants sprouting from a couple leaves I accidentally knocked off and just left laying on the soil. I love free plants!


And this beauty is a Manfreda X Bloodspot. It looks like a small agave with sharp spins on the tip of each leaf.


So far it's been really easy to maintain, and considering how easy it is to propagate succulents from fallen leaves, I may just a make a few more.

Anyone else have terrarium tips? A homemade terrarium you'd like to show off? (Leave a link in the comments!) Any other wannabe green thumbs out there? I'm not a black thumb, because I don't kill every plant I touch...just the ones I really love.