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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Backyard Beautification: Part 4 (Let there be light!)

Most of our time spent in our backyard is on the patio after dark. My husband works evenings, so we eat dinner around 9:00 or later most weeknights. (not ideal eating habits, I know, but it's important to me that we still eat a meal together.) We have a porch light... but it doesn't really spread much light outside it's 3 ft radius, and also it attracts bugs. Other than that we had some sad, crumbling, bamboo tiki torches, but they didn't stand up very well, making us a little scared to light them, given how close they were to she saddest, oldest, driest wood fence EVAR.
It was sad. wanna remember how sad? It was this sad:
And I can't even show you haw sad it was at night-- the time in question right now-- because it was just dark darkness out there. Not really a warm and inviting place to talk, eat and enjoy summer evenings.
So we had to make some changes.
First the sad, leaning, tiki torches had to go. We replaced them with some slightly more expensive (but worth it because they are safer and handsomer) (Is handsomer a word?) copper torches. These puppies have a non-leany metal pole that screws securely into metal stakes in the ground. Also, they are slightly smaller than our previous bamboo torches, making the flame size safer for our small wood-surrounded space.
I think they look pretty slick:

 I know the back ones kind of blend into the fence, but there is one at each of the corners of the patio. Here's a shot from the other side of the patio:

I am quite happy with the new tiki torch situation. But it still wasn't a perfect solution to our lighting dilemma. Because there may be times when it's too wet for tiki torches, or we will be outside to briefly to light them all up... but we still need a little light out there.
Sooo... we headed off to the good ol' Home Depot to look for some lighting options. We have some specific needs, though. We have no power outside. So anything we put out there had to be solar. Which kind of eliminated my grand plan of stringing up our patio with lovely clear bulbs:

Source: houzz.com via Valerie on Pinterest

Z told me it would be too much, and interfere with the tiki torches anyway, but I thought it would be cute. Anyway, my function over form husband suggested we get some solar powered flood lights to mount on the fence... and I was all, meh, it's not real pretty, but it will be okay... I guess... sigh...
But then when we were at the depot we found a decent compromise. We got this little pack of smallish solar powered lights specifically meant for-- get this-- mounting on you fence. Awesome.
Oh, clever you! Had you already spotted them in the other pics? They were super simple to install... just two screws in the fence and pop them in place. They are made of metal, and aren't too cheesy looking, even though they were reasonably inexpensive (approx $20 for the two pack). You can see the little solar panel on the top, and since that is the sunny part of the yard, it works great. They come on by themselves after dark, so we don't even have to run out in the dark to flip a switch. The light the provide is a soft glow, enough to illuminate the dark side of our small space. I think the boys even appreciate it when they are doing their business at night.
They've been up for a week now, through a couple thunderstorms even, and seem to be holding up well, so I am quite pleased.
And now for your viewing pleasure... after a long weekend of backyard beautification, this is what Z came home to last Monday evening:
I think we nailed the warm, cozy, inviting vibe we were going for... because we ate our dinner out there then spent another hour or so just enjoying our well-lit patio. Ahhh... it just felt good.
I've got just one more project to show you... and this backyard transformation will be complete! Yay!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sam @ 4 months

I've been putting off writing this. I'm not really sure why... I just all of a sudden felt like you were growing up too quickly and I could stop it by ignoring it. That doesn't really happen... You are still growing! I can't believe how sweet and handsome... and BIG you are getting!

Sam @ 4 months


at birth: 9lbs 2.7 oz
four months: 14 lbs 8 oz


at birth: 19.5 inches
four months: 24.5 inches 


You still just want to do your own thing when it comes to food. You like to eat every 2-3 hours still. And you eat anywhere between 3-6 ounces every time-- depending on your mood. You are all on formula now. About 3 months you started getting really frustrated trying to nurse because mama's body REALLY couldn't keep up with your eating demands anymore. The boobs gave out and you were tickled to have a bottle shoved in your mouth instead which is much easier for you to suck on with your short little tongue. (You can thank your daddy for that.)


Still sleeping through the night. 
I told your Daddy we can't have any more kids because you have spoiled us with your good sleeping. 
We have a bedtime routine now, diaper change and tickle monster with daddy, then jammies, and mama and daddy take turns reading you stories while you eat, then bedtime prayers and kisses and goodnight! Works like a charm.
Your daytime nap schedule is still erratic-- I blame it on daddy's work schedule, but you do love it when he gets to come home in the afternoons to play!


Still your hands. Always your hands. And just about anything else you can get in your mouth.

Tickle monster with Daddy. (usually when you are necked because daddy thinks you need time to 'air out' before your junk is tucked back in a diaper at bedtime.)

Bath time... and lotion massage immediately following.

Toys. Anything that is colorful, rattles, crinkles, or squeaks. Also anything you can get into your mouth. Everything goes in your mouth these days.


When other people are eating and you are not. 
The video cam. Well, you don't necessarily dislike it, but you know when it's been turned on and you get all sober and won't laugh anymore.


Ice cream cone. Grandpa Dale handed it to you, and you knew just what to do with it. You just barely got a taste before mama snatched it away, but you smacked your lips and looked very pleased.

Pretty sure we have begun teething. No fun. Mama got you an amber voodoo necklace and it seems to be helping for now. Lets hope things don't get much worse. 

Your first Easter! Mama had a crazy fit and made you a seersucker suit. You were absolutely dashing. You got some Hawkeyes and Cardinals sportswear from Grandma and grandpa P, Books from Grandma and Grandpa S, and a swimming suit and swimming lessons in your easter basket from mama and daddy. Good loot!
Also, right before Easter, Daddy and I started reading to you from the bible. We wanted you to know about Palm Sunday, about Jesus death, and the Resurrection! Reading from the bible is now mama's favorite family activity.

Special talents

We can't get you to roll over again, but you roll up on your side and scoot around the floor, the bed, your crib, anywhere we lay you down. Sometimes I go to wake you up in the mornings and you have flipped 180 degrees. And you squeal-- quite excited and proud to show me what you've done.

Smiling at ladies in the grocery store. Well... actually it's more like, lower your head and bat your ladykiller lashes all coy-like, then once you've got them in the palm of your hand, they get a huge gummy grin and then you start shrieking and kicking like their cooing is the most clever thing you have ever heard. Seriously, perfect strangers have chased me down in walmart to tell me how charming you are.

Things I don't want to forget

The way you grab on to your shirt and pull your fists in close, then laugh like it's an awesome game when we try to change your shirt.

The sound of your coos and giggles mixed with the sound of daddy's coos and giggles when the two of you play together.

The way you fight-fight-fight against sleepiness, then all of a sudden your head melts into the crook of my neck and you wrap your arm around the other side in this perfect little snuggle hug that makes mama indescribably happy, and desperately sad all at once-- please snuggle like that forever. Please?

And here's some footage of you at four months old.
I really feel like you are getting bigger when I watch these movies. I love you, my Sweetie Baby.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Backyard Beautification: Part 3 (Growing up!)

I mentioned in part 1 that I would really love an herb garden. And our spacious lot is just the place to fill with acres of fragrant herbacious-ness. Right?
Maybe not.
I was going to have to get creative, because non-concreted areas are in short supply around us. Container garden it is. However, containers can take up their fair share of space as well, particularly if they are large and/or numerous which mine would have to be to house the herbs I wanted to grow. So I was stumped.
And then one day on the front page of Pinterest, I saw this:

...and I said, EUREKA! We need to go vertical!
Why didn't I think of that sooner? And it was simple enough to make too... Iron rod, terra cotta pots that already have a hole in the bottom... this was so simple it was genius! So I got to work. I gathered my materials:
 and you can see in this picture I already have the metal rod in place (it's in the grass to the right of the table). My dad procured this for me (he's a machinist and has access to all kinds of wonders at his shop.) It is a very strong steel rod (probably stronger than it needs to be, really. My dad could tel you all about what type of metal it is and strength and all that... i just nodded, okay.) We guessed the size of the rod with a little trial and error. It goes down into the ground about 3 ft. I wanted to make sure this thing was nice and sturdy. My dad sharpened a point on one end so it would be easier to drive into the ground.
After pounding it into the ground, we stacked up the pots to make sure it was the right height-- didn't want it sticking out the top, but wanted all the pots secure. We had to take them off and pound it a few inches further into the ground. Here's what my naked pots look like:
I was worried about them being secure at their angle. So I dug a little hole under the corner of the bottom (largest) one to make it nice and stable even though it sits at an angle. The rest of them just rest on the upper edge of the one below, and once the soil is in it holds pretty secure.
So now I started with the bottom and filled the pots with soil then potted the plants as per the instructions on the side of each plant. And while I was doing all of this, Sam chilled in the kitchen, but kept an eye on me from his vantage point by the door.
It was pretty simple to put together. Herbs grow really well in containers, so this design for an herb garden worked well. And when it was all put together, it looked like this:
I planted (from bottom to top): Rosemary and oregano, thyme and chives, flat leaf parsley, basil, cilantro, and lavender. It fits well in that corner of our tiny yard, and it smells awesome too. Mmmm... herb-y goodness.
So we are slowly taking our sad, dead, smelly yard... and turning it into some place pretty, green, and fragrant (in a good way!).   It's becoming a place we would like to hang out and hopefully will be a place we can entertain. We still need to tackle some storage and some lighting, but we are well on our way.
Just in case you forgot... here's what it looked like last fall:
and here's what it looks like today... quite a difference.
We've got just a few more projects before our Backyard Beautification is complete... an exciting one this weekend! Can't wait to show you whats in the works! :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Backyard Beautifucation: Part 2 (Airing our dirty laundry)

In Part 1 of the Backyard Beautification I mentioned how I would love to have a clothes line. I have always thought this would be a lovely addition to our yard, but once cloth diapering came along, it kind of became a necessity. If you are into the cloth diapering scene, you know those things can get kinda stained and smelly-- but you can't just use any old detergent or stain removers on them... and the very best, most effective stain and odor eliminator is... THE SUN.
But as much as I desired and required a clothesline, our space presented issues in making this dream come true
1) Shade. Our south facing house gets little sunlight in the backyard, as you can see in this picture. I needed the sunlight to bleach the diapers, but I didn't even have enough space to lay them out on the ground. Just that little strip on the back fence was all I had to work with.
2) Space. Obviously, we have a small yard, so putting in a permanent clothesline anywhere in our yard would be inconveniently in the way. Frustrating.
I started talking to Z about my dilemma. I thought I could put one up along the back fence... get some large screw eyes that would hold the line out a couple inches, and that should work. But it would be in the way of the gate, so you would have to duck if you wanted to go in and out, and that was a problem.
 Z thought for a moment, then cleverly suggested tying the ends of the clothes line to carabiners, so it could be easily removed when not in use. AHA!
 Genius! No? I knew I kept that man around for something! ;) So I purchased $.98 eye screws, $1.50 clothes line, and $1.00 carabiners for a project grand total under $5. And... I put up a clothes line.
And then I hung up diapers.
It worked perfectly. These guys were able to soak up all the sunlight necessary to dry them and remove stains (yay!). They hung a couple inches from the fence, too... so no splinters in wee one's bum. And it sure beats dragging a load of diapers to my parents backyard! 
 Oh, yeah! We are in business now! And when I am done with my laundry... I can just put the line away...
Which is handy if you want to open the gate, or walk through it without being--literally-- clotheslined.
Ah! It just makes me happy. Sooo... our yard is well on it's way to being beautiful AND functional now. YAY!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Backyard Beautification: Part 1 (High on grass!)

I am not sure you can even call it a yard. It's more like... a small concrete patio with a strip of *grass around the outside. *Or what should be grass, but was not because it was all dead and tore up from the dogs.
This is a multi-part project that's been a long time coming. But lets just start it off with a picture of everything our backyard is, before I tell you everything I dream it could be...
This was our yard last fall. This picture was taken from inside the house, because it was the only way to get the entire immense space all in one picture. Note the luxiriously patchy brown 'lawn', the rickety grey fence about to fall over, and the dog poo on the concrete (ew, I totally posted a picture of poo on my blog. Things are getting a little too real here.) The smell was also pretty amazing. I mean two little dogs in that little space pooping on concrete and dead grass? Awesome.
The only pretty part of this picture is the grill. AH! I love that grill. But I was getting to the point where I hated using it, because it's in the smelly gross backyard. SIGH.
I wanted a pretty backyard. Green grass, a small herb garden, maybe some potted plants, a clothes line where our unmentionables could flutter in the wind, a fence that didn't threaten to topple over on me if I got too close on a breezy day. Oh, and lighting, so we can use our patio in the evenings. Must have lighting... er-- better lighting than the shady, crusty tiki torches we are currently using. Sigh. A girl can dream?
Unfortunately landscaping is not an instant gratification kind of thing and we spent a long (still pregnant!) afternoon outside raking and tearing out dead stuff, tilling and seeding our 'lawn' for a grand result of....
 Ooooh... ahhhh...
I know, right? So much better! Or... not. Sigh.
But do you like how I put a red potted plant on the table to try and brighten things up a tiny bit? Much to my dismay, just a few days later the wind blew the pot off the table and it broke. Stupid wind. 
I was deflated. I know that landscaping is a slow, laborious process, but this was just disheartening to look at. At least it didn't smell anymore. And good things were coming in the near future.
Good things like... a new fence.
Well, at least on 2 sides. Actually the only part of our fence that belongs to us is the very back portion. The right side is a neighbor, and the left side is a neighbor. The left side, though still ugly, is at least sturdy, where the right side was about to fall over. So when our neighbor saw us working in the yard that day, she mentioned she was going to be replacing her fence that weekend, and we kinda wanted to hop the fence and hug her! Then we immediately made plans to do the same the following weekend.
My Dad and Husband got to work and spent a saturday afternoon putting in the fence and doing the male bonding thing. :)
I don't have pictures of the fencing process... I didn't even take an 'after' shot. I must have been too pregnant and bitter that day, but that means you get to fast forward to a spring shot of a fence and a grown-in(ish) yard:
 Oooh... ahhhh... yard! Same little white dog too. So the grass is still patchy, but it's about 300 times better than it was, and we are working on that. The fence is sturdy, and ain't too shabby to look at either. My boys did a good job. 
We are well on our way to a more beautiful, functional backyard. Yay.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easter Suit

Hopefully you assumed from the silence on the blog that i was working on a big project-- and not that I am just a bum. (Although both assumptions would be correct in their own right).
I was working on a big project all last month. Easter was coming and I wanted a special outfit for my little man's first Easter... but I couldn't find any appropriate clothing for infant boys at the stores. Note to children's clothing retailers: please start carrying occasion appropriate boy clothes that aren't stupid looking. Thanks.
I gave up my search and decided it was up to me to create the look I wanted. I quickly determined I wanted a seer sucker suit for Sam. It's just the perfect Easter attire, is it not? I knew I wanted to do this up the right way, though, but after coming up empty handed after a search for infant formal wear patterns... I knew I also had to do this from scratch.
It was my first time drafting a pattern... (more on that later) but it came out pretty well. I only made 3 muslin mock-ups before going with the 4th draft for the jacket. The pants I had a pattern I altered (for a trimmer fit, flat front, and lining). And the yellow shirt I also drafted a pattern for after not being able to find exactly what I wanted. I did everything 'by the book'. I finished all my seams as professionally as I could, fully lined the jacket and pants, sewed in lovely invisible hems, and added fun little details like a button hole on the lapel, and a monogram on his shirt
.I am really proud of how it turned out, and I just beamed every time I looked at my little boy on Easter Sunday. He looked so charming I couldn't help it.

I love this little man! Hope your Easter was awesome, that you got to wear fancy things, and enjoy celebrations with family!