Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Backyard Hangout

Doesn't this time of year just make you want to spend every moment outside? It does for me and now that we finally have our lives back from the wicked allergies this year threw at us, I intend to get some fresh are and sunshine.
Last winter we got rid of our kid's Little Tikes house in favor of my new garden.  They'd just outgrown it even though they still liked playing in it. But my garden really is cool and I'm obsessed with it and composting.

After pinteresting tons of ideas...
like the pallet playhouse
this is not my child so I felt she should remain anonymous 
or this great treeless tree house

I could just see a cracked skull from falling of the top or swinging into the house
I decided that maybe I needed something simpler, maybe less permanent and lets be honest, cheaper.
So I turned to Ana White and found the $20 tent. It literally took  $4 worth of screws, I already had enough 2x2x8 boards and a couple of old sheets. Score! 
I worked on it for about 3 hours this morning and here is what I came up with 

The tent "door" can be open 

or closed for a little more shade

you can see it closed a little better from this angle.

I gave it a few touches like a solar lantern, every camp needs a lantern right?

And pinwheels from their Easter baskets, which have had aprx. 10 homes since Easter. 

It really is a hit, he is one happy "camper!"

Ok for my mods off Ana White's plan...
I used 8ft pieces of lumber, its what I had and I wanted as few cuts as possible. You should just stick to her plan, those 2x2's were a beast to work with. 
As for the fabric, I used a king sheet and a twin sheet.  I sewed them together end to end and made the corners line up in the back. Does that make sense? 
then I just draped them over the top along my stitch and tucked them in at the bottom and around the sides. The king sheet allowed for a bit of a door.  I didn't want to attach it because I wanted it to be super easy to take off and on so that I didn't kill the grass leaving it covered all summer. 
Also I plan on using at as a greenhouse over my garden this winter and just wrapping it in plastic. We have a small yard, multi-functional is a plus.
Insert greenhouse tent over top and the perfect place for my hanging baskets to weather the winter. 
Ok so thats it, it really is simple guys. Make one and feel free to ask if you have any questions. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

My House got a Facelift

When we bought our house last year I had to work hard to get past its "elevation," our Realtor's word for the way the front looked.  It was over grown and had horrible stucco that  looked like a bad icing job. Not to mention, the color was pinkish in my eyes. Scroll to the bottom if you want to skip the whole process and just see the before and after

First things first I knew I had to paint that door and lose the rose bushes. They were pretty but I don't know how or like to deal with roses. Like everything else they were too big for the front door anyway. Unlike everything else, the porch lights were too small (and they were pineapples) they had to go too. 

So I went red, the only thing that seemed to make sense, and planted a couple hibiscus (the new porch lights were still too small.)

We spent a year here and I watched all the azaleas bloom across the front which helped ease the cringe I felt when I looked just past them, closely, at anything else. However, we had several people come take a look and inform me that there was no way to gracefully save the plants and get control of them at the same time. So out they went. We tore up a giant bed of weeds smack in the middle of the yard and re-sodded this spring, added some planters flanking the door, made a little seating area in front of the fire place, added 6 trees to the yard, and eventually put in some hedges under the big windows .
Next we decided to go ahead and replace the windows and get the stucco replaced before it became a problem. That's where the real face lift started.  I combined several windows in the front (the two on either side of the fireplace and the large picture window on the far right)  for a more updated feel.

Next the siding and paint. I decided to go with Sherwin William Texas Sage (green) for the siding, SW Creamy on the trim, and SW Naval on the door. I was so nervous to put color up on the house and drove around several times looking at other houses with similar brick color. In the end I'm glad I did. I think it looks beautiful. We still need a few flowers, a little sod, and some mulch, but I am sure happy not to have the ugliest house on the block anymore. 


For those of you who skipped to the bottom...

It looks so different we've had several neighbors stop while we're out front and tell us how much they like what we've done. I've even had people stop me while I was picking up Emma at school and tell me the pass the house everyday and like what we're doing. It makes me feel good to live in a neighborhood where people take notice and care about the way things look. Not to mention, are nice enough to stop and tell you. As for us, we love it!  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sick and Tired

That's the best way to put it, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.  My family has been fighting illness since November. That's 5 months y'all!
It started the week before Thanksgiving when Chris has a 3 week long battle with allergies that finally turned into a sinus infection and he was able to get antibiotics to knock it out. Next up was allergies that turned into a trip to the minor emergency clinic for Emma and her ruptured ear drum, antibiotics and ear drops for her. Somewhere overlapping that was Eli with a nose running like a broken sink, something like 7 boxes of tissues, and a swollen lymph node. That took two rounds of antibiotics, eye drops and nose drops then it finally went away about two weeks after Christmas. After that there was another earache for Emma and everyone was handed a sore throat and a couple bouts of coughs we controlled with OTC meds (until we didn't.) Chris' crud turned more serious and he was dosed with a Z-pac. Another serious double ear infection for Emma which she has antibiotics for, about two weeks ago. That brings us to now, we all have congestion and sore throats that we can't seem to kick.
I'm so over it!
I've decided that I'm taking a stand. I'm the type of parent that believes "take 'em to the Dr. and get the meds. Knock it out and be done." But, I've never fought this kinds of ongoing battle and all the meds just aren't doing the trick. To be honest, I'm starting to feel a little guilty about pumping my kids for of medicine all the time. My "get the antibiotics" approach was fine before because we were never a sick family and I was rarely giving them.
I've decided the offense isn't enough and its time for team defense to enter the game. I've been doing a ton of research and here is my plan of attack:
Added mattress protectors to all the beds
Wash all the pillows in hot water every two weeks
Vacuum at least twice a week
Claratin through April (its always been a rough month for them)
Vitamins, everyone!
I've chosen the men's multi for Chris, Flinstones Multi with immune support for the Kids, and B12 for myself. 

Stay vigilant with filters (a/c and vacuum)
Purify the indoor air with plants
I had no idea until I started researching just how much the right house plants, and the right amount can do for you. One thing I read is that organic pollutants can be 2 to 5x higher indoors than outdoors -EPA website. Thats crazy to me, but I never knew. So we would go about our business, say mow the grass. Emma's eyes get itchy, so I send her inside (to my more polluted house) to fight her allergies. How does that work? Obviously, its not, well not yet.
Plants can zap 90% of VOC's from your home. 90%!  Isn't that crazy. Once I started reading more on it I decided this was a serious defense barrier for our family. Some common household VOC's. I linked up what I have read about them in case you want to know more (be fairly warned it's kind of scary to read about.)

 Like I said, reading about these pollutants can be kind of scary. I'm not all into scare tactics and it is my belief that exposure to these as a VOC is probably in very small amounts.  I doubt that I'm going to go into cardiac arrest at any given moment due to the air pollutants in my house but I am certain they aren't playing nice so I'm giving them the boot.
Earlier I told you the right house plants will fight your battles for you. Remember they will eliminate a whopping 90% of all that nasty stuff listed? OK so there are tons of lists and I picked my first four based on my green thumb and their location.
I picked lavender for my kitchen, I have failed at every attempt to grow it outdoors so why not the kitchen window. I love lavender and if I can grow it I will be so happy. Try French Lavender, it grows best indoors. Here is a list of air purifying herbs and another with more specific details.
I bought an aloe plant for Chris' office. It filters benzene and formaldehyde, but my main purpose is that it needs very little water. Im hoping I can remember to remind him to water it once a week or so.
I bought ferns for the kids bedrooms. I know I can grow these well and the lighting is good for them in there. Plus I read really great things about them filtering a lot of air more quickly.
I have yet to buy for the rest of my house, I need a little more research. Im looking into smaller plants to be kept in darker places...bathrooms and such. I really love the Peace Lily and it seems to be a super plant, also highly poisonous to people and pets. So there is a lot to find out before I reach my goal of plants in every room but we're on the way!

Are you fighting these same battles or have you fought them in the past? Please comment here with tips and tricks to share with other sufferers... thanks

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Grocery Shopping

I know for many of you grocery shopping and menu planning are the bane of your existence. While I never really mind the shopping, I always hate the planning. Honestly it took a ridiculously long time each trip.
We used to shop on Sunday's once a week and I would spend and hour or so scouring the internet for recipes and making a coordinating shopping list. Recently, it all changed.
We decided to get on a family budget and try to just be better organized. I made up a menu spreadsheet for the whole month.I just printed it and stuck it to the fridge. I also printed all the recipes I would need for the month and had those in order (coordinated with the menu) and kept them on top of the microwave. Last month was our first month to try and it was amazing.
Now each Sunday I can quickly and easily look at the menu, check what we already have, and simply add our menu items to the list (we usually keep a constant list going, milk, eggs, laundry soap...) There was never any confusion over dinner, our grocery bill was smaller, it saved a lot of time, and we even wasted less food.
This week we came to the last week I had planned and I was sure I was going to do it again. I could have just started the menu over but I enjoy mixing it up a little. I do actually like to cook and try different things
Obviously, when you look at my menu there are a few family friendly staples that get repeated. Those are just easy go to things for my family that everybody likes, so why not?
last few helpful hints...
-This is just what I use personally please don't take it for any more than that. Its what works for my family and may not work for yours
-To read the menu: The date (starting Mondays) and meal are down the left and you just move across (to the right)  it that week
-Some recipes I have not tried and they may not be that great
- Anything with ** in front of it has a coordinating recipe
- LO is "leftover"
-"Frozen" in the veggie section is just there so I can decide that week by seeing whats available at the store or if I need to sub frozen. I often change out my sides too just depending on what we have
- Drumsticks are on the menu several times, we bake a basic dumstick recipe and mix it up with different sauces...sweet chili, bbq, wing sauce, the kids just eat them plain with the skin removed and sometimes dip in ranch. A lot of versatility... the recipe is the last one on the recipe list
-We cook large portions so that leftovers can be had for either lunch the next day or another dinner that week, sometimes even frozen for a later date
- I always keep salad, onions, and fresh fruit on hand so they can be added to any meal
-The "extras" row is to help me remember anything else I may need for the meal
-In my menu I have a kids section under the lunch- I like to compare with the school menu and decide when the will bring and buy. It helps me plan what and how much I need for making lunches that week and I know in advance which days I need to build that into the morning routine. Same goes for the other part of lunch, when to pack leftovers and when to make sandwiches (this is where waste was really reduced)

Menu -you will have to print it and take the 1st and 2nd page side by side. Don't print the third page you don't need it. Goes to show I am not very technology savvy.

I guess that covers most of it. Feel free to leave any questions or comments