Bit by the gardening bug

I’ve been working on honing my gardening skills for the past four years. In 2005, I participated in a couple community garden plots with a group of friends. That’s where Ava and I got our first taste of gardening. We liked it and we wanted more. :)

How’s this for a blast to the past?

In 2006 and 2007, not yet ready to commit to my own garden plot either in a community garden or my own backyard, I did some container gardening on my patio.

By 2008, I could stand it no longer and had to put in a “real” garden, so Jody and I cleared out a patch of grass in the backyard and I got to plant my first real garden on my own. I grew strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and green beans, as well as feverfew, sunflowers and chamomile. I planted everything way too close together because I was working with a very limited amount of space and totally underestimated how big everything would get. Still I got quite a bit of produce and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

This year, once again feeling the next to expand, I was hoping to find another patch of space in my yard that gets a decent amount of sunlight to convert into another garden. (It’s both a blessing and a curse that most of our backyard is shaded by the large trees that grow back there. It’s great because I don’t have to worry about the kids getting sun burned, but it’s a pain because there’s very little space to grow anything that requires sunlight.) After much deliberation (and cursing as we kept running into large tree roots), Jody and I decided on putting in two raised garden beds. Jody built the beds for me using both new and used wood. It would’ve been nice and significantly cheaper to get all used wood, but we didn’t have time to search for it for that long.

As of tonight, I have three little gardens in my yard (woohoo!) – the one that was already in place, and two raised beds, as well as some potted plants. So far I have planted seven varieties of tomatoes and two varieties of eggplant (all started by my friend Julie), basil, strawberries, five raspberry plants (but only 2 are currently growing), as well as cucumbers, yellow crookneck squash and zucchini that I planted from seed. I’m still itching to plant more (like green beans, carrots, greens, and watermelon at the very least), but I’m not sure I’m going to find the space for them this year, though I may be able to figure something out to sneak of few of them in. ;)

Today while Jody and Ava wheeled dirt to fill up the second garden bed, Julian and I collected worms (as I had done with both kids earlier in the week) to add to the dirt. My kids love worms and had no qualms about retrieving them from the compost bin (where hundreds, if not thousands, live).

Digging out worms: Yes, the kids are saying “Ewwww,” but only because I told them to. ;)

And now, for those of you who are curious, here’s a little tour of my garden. :) (FYI – These pics were taken with my iPhone so they aren’t the best quality.)

A view of my first garden (that we made in 2008), as well as the clothes line and compost bin.

Inside the garden this year: strawberries and feverfew (and raspberry plants growing in the pots outside the garden)

Inside the garden this year: more strawberries and cucumbers

The new raised garden bed: tomatoes and basil

The second raised garden bed: eggplant, tomatoes and squash

More pots on the patio with raspberries, volunteer dill and a yellow pear tomato.

I’m quite pleased with all that we’ve managed to get in this year and am thankful to Jody for building my raised beds for me. All of this digging in the dirt has been really good for me. I remember having this feeling last spring/summer too – gardening is very therapeutic. Now that the gardens are in we can again focus on finishing up redoing the backyard – a project we started about a month ago and still have a fair bit of work to do. It will be wonderful when it’s completed and I can sit back and enjoy it, of course while still getting my hands dirty as I dig out weeds.

Gardening is one of those things that seems to be in my blood. My mom always had a garden when I was growing up and I remember helping her pick green beans and eating some of them right off the plant. I hope my kids have fond memories of gardening with me (and playing with worms) someday too and decide that gardening is something they want to pursue and share with their kids as well.

You take the good, you take the bad

Today Jody and I celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. Eight years ago, we said our vows and made promises to each other that have certainly been challenged at times. You know when you say your vows that at some point the honeymoon is going to end and that you will face challenges as a couple, but you never really know when those challenges will arise or how you and your partner will respond when they do.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen more than our fair share of “in sickness” rather than “in health” and, as a result, more “bad times” than “good.” Yet through it all, our love for each other has remained strong. I’m so thankful I have a husband who supports me even when I’m not at my best.

Today we celebrate our love and our commitment to each other and I am thankful for my husband for honoring his commitment to me, even though I don’t always make things easy.

Tomorrow we will face another challenge together as a couple – one no one can really prepare you for and one you hope you don’t ever have to experience. We’re putting the older of our two dogs, Ellie, to sleep tomorrow afternoon. It’s been a tough decision for us, but her health has been failing for a while now and we believe it is for the best. Jody and I are going with her for the process, while the kiddos will be staying at a friend’s house.

I explained to Ava that Ellie is going to the spirit world tomorrow and she asked if she is going to die and I said yes. She said, “we need to give her all of our kindness today.” And I agreed. She pet Ellie and said she will miss her and then went about playing. I think she will be OK. I hope the rest of us can be as accepting.

Please keep us, the kids, Ellie, and our other dog Maggie in your thoughts tomorrow. Thank you.

A naturally beautiful rainbow of colors

For the second year in a row, I made our Easter egg dyes out of foods and spices. This year’s dyes were made from the following ingredients:

Pink – canned beets
Orange – chili powder
Yellow – tumeric
Green – spinach with tumeric and purple cabbage mixed in
Blue – purple cabbage

I have to say I’m quite pleased with how they turned out. :) Yes, it was another year of mommy having more fun dyeing the eggs than the kids. But the kids had a great time finding the eggs (over and over again) in our Easter egg hunt, so it all evened out. ;)

Here’s my best shot for this week – a rainbow of eggs:
2009's batch of naturally-dyed Easter eggs

Want to know how I did it? Check out my tutorial on dyeing Easter eggs naturally.

I’m also fond of this picture, which isn’t my usual style, but I liked the motion blur of the kids off to find more Easter eggs while daddy paused to recall exactly where he hid them all. This so perfectly represents life in our home on most days.

The kids look for more eggs, while daddy ponders where he hid them all.

For more Best Shot Monday pics, visit Mother May I.

When it comes to germs, are you a pacifist or warmonger?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a live and let live kinda girl – a pacifist if you will. For the most part that philosophy carries over to germs too. I don’t obsessive-compulsively clean my house (ha! far from it.). I don’t carry around antibacterial hand sanitizer. I don’t worry about my kids washing their hands after playing outside. I don’t balk about them being around another kid with the sniffles. I don’t buy antibacterial soap (although it’s almost impossible to find one that’s not these days!), nor do I own a bottle of Lysol. I figure it’s good for their immune systems to be challenged (in moderation) on a regular basis so that they build up immunities and their bodies learn how to fight infection. Heck, even the New York Times agrees A Little Dirt is Good for You (a very interesting read by the way).

Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg
Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg

For the most part, we live pretty healthy lives. Sure we get a cold every now and then, but true knock-you-on-your-butt-kind-of-illnesses are pretty rare in this house. That is until a couple of weeks ago.

A little over two weeks ago Ava started out with a cough, congestion and runny nose and a few days later the rest of us followed suit. Runny, stuffy noses, coughs, and the phlegm, oh, the phlegm! I ended up having to go to the doctor because the mucus I was trying to cough up was so thick it was lodging in my throat and I was having serious difficulty breathing. (How’s that for anxiety producing?! Like I needed help in that regard.) I started taking a prescribed drug to help thin up my mucus and began drinking a whole lot more water. I also took some homeopathic and herbal remedies (Cold Care, Kick-Ass Immune Activator, and Lymph Mover, just to name a few), as well as gave some to the kids (Elderberry Syrup, Cough Control, Sinus Relief). Jody (who’s not as concerned about treating himself using natural remedies) started on his own regimen of OTC (over the counter) meds. We also cut dairy out of our diets, were taking our vitamins and probiotics, drinking tons of tea and water as well as some fruit and veggie smoothies and kombucha, and even trying hot toddies (Jody and I, not the kids). Nobody was showing signs of getting better. There’s nothing like waking up day after day expecting to feel some improvement, like you are finally on the road to recovery, and then realizing you feel just as crappy and worn down as the day before. It gets old.

Finally, after two weeks of coughing and a runny nose, Ava is mostly recovered. Jody, Julian and I however are still fighting it and, on top of the crud, Jody and Julian developed the stomach flu today. (!!!) Nothing like getting hit when you’re down, eh? Ugh. But Ava’s recovery gives me hope that the other three of us will, at some point, hopefully in the next few days (pretty please??), recover from it too (and also reassures me that it’s likely a viral infection – which is what my doctor suspected – and not bacterial so antibiotics would be useless at this point).

This is, by far, the worst and longest we’ve all been sick at the same time and, seeing how many of my friends and their kids, both locally and elsewhere in the country, are suffering from illnesses lately as well, makes me wonder what the heck is going on? Could these be some type of superbugs or at least new viruses unlike any we’ve seen before? Is my lackadaisical attitude towards germs now biting me in the butt? Should I be arming myself with Lysol and spraying my house into a toxic-smelling box of germ-killing goodness? Of course that goes against everything I just said and would definitely contribute to the whole superbug phenomenon. Is there a fine line – a balance between the two?

How do you handle germs in your house? Are you a pacifist or a warmonger? And when the ickies do infiltrate your home, what methods do you use to get them out and everyone healthy again? I’m not reaching for the Lysol yet, but the longer this goes on, the more tempted I get.

And suddenly I’m a soccer mom

It seems like just yesterday Ava was small enough to fit into my arms, but this weekend my baby girl had her first soccer game. And just like that – I’m a soccer mom (and wife to a soccer coach to boot!). ;)

I don’t know if I look like a soccer mom. What do soccer moms look like anyway? I’d take a pic of myself and let you make the call, but since we’ve all been sick with some nasty colds the past several days and I haven’t had a haircut in months and may now be sporting a mullet (gah!) and thus am hardly feeling photogenic at the moment, I think I’ll pass. ;oP

Anyway, Ava and daddy had their first soccer game this weekend. The kids were up against a much more experienced team and while they weren’t able to pull off even one goal (bummer), they had fun and I had a good time watching them and snapping pics (I even dusted off my SLR for the occasion) until a certain little someone pulled me away to the playground. ;)

This is how we’ll be spending our Saturdays for the next eight weeks and that brings a smile to my face.

Here are some pics of my little soccer player (in the purple pants) and coach hubby (with the shaved head and the green shirt). Mouse over the pics for captions or click to enlarge.

I know I haven’t participated in a while (photography just hasn’t been in the cards for me lately), but I’m counting this as my Best Shot Monday post and choosing the last pic as my BSM for this week. For more Best Shot Monday pics, visit Mother May I.

Wii had a Merry Old iTime

The last five days have been pretty spectacular. For starters, Jody had them all off of work so we got a lot of family Slaving away in the kitchen making apple crisp 12/25/08time in and then a lot of productive house cleaning/fixing up in as well. My parents (who were here from MI) and sister were here for Christmas day. I cooked another turkey (nearly 20 lb.’er – but this time got all of the giblets out BEFORE I cooked it – Woot!) and they supplied all of the side dishes. I also made a chocolate cream pie and an apple crisp for dessert. Everything was quite tasty.

For a year when the economy has been in the crapper and talk of recession, recession, depression(?) is everywhere, we enjoyed a very plentiful Christmas present-wise and I’m very thankful for all that we have been blessed with – health, family, friends, job security, a home, etc. We might not be in our dream home, but we have a roof over our head (and although it doesn’t look that way from the pic below, clothes on our backs) and, despite my whining, that really does mean a lot.

Playin’ w/ new toys in the buff 12/25/08 Ava says, “I did,” to Grandma’s question, “Who painted this bird house?” 12/25/08 Aunt Carrie reads a new Fancy Nancy book to Ava 12/25/08

Bed head, a zit, and my sexy new iPhone!I had suspicions that Jody was getting me an iPhone for Christmas, but when I unwrapped the box and saw Google on it, I thought he was either giving me his new G1 phone that he’d just been given by Google for his Christmas bonus or he’d bought me my own. I opened the box and there was the G1. I tried to act not totally crushed happy, but I was bummed it wasn’t an iPhone. Jody told me the battery was underneath it in the box, but when I went to get it out I saw … a sexy, sleek, shiny new iPhone underneath! Squeeee!!! :) Then he asked me for the iPhone and when gave it back to me and there was Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” He rick-rolled me – twice, but I got my Precious iPhone so who cares! ;P

Ava and I running with the Wii Fit 12/28/08Jody also got us a family Christmas present of the Wii Fit and I have to say I am really digging it. I’ve been on it for the past three days and, while that’s not much, I haven’t tired of it yet. There’s quite a bit to it to keep it interesting and I’m looking forward to getting a regular exercise routine into my life. My body has been hinting at me that I should get in better shape so hopefully this will help me take better care of myself.

The kids and the kitchen 12/25/08The kids got a ton of books this year, a handmade wooden farm set, as well as a wooden retro play kitchen (from Costco Santa) that Jody Santa was up until 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve assembling. As for me Mrs. Claus, I she was only up until 2 a.m. wrapping presents on Christmas Eve. Whew! I also dyed about 10 new play silks that we used for wrapping “paper.” They turned out beautifully and make great toys in and of themselves.

They also got a slew of stuff from both sets of grandparents which were opened on Christmas eve – mostly books, clothes, art supplies and a few large (ahem) plastic toys – a firetruck and Easy Bake Oven.

Two days after Christmas and a full month after it had been put up, the Christmas tree and all of it’s decorations were taken down. I needed my living room back and to get the new toys into new homes. The disorganization was weighing heavily on me (AKA stressing me out!).

Two little helpers ate some of the tree decorations before they made their way outside for the birds. The cranberries I’d strung up went out for the birds but haven’t been touched yet. What the heck, birds? Not good enough for ya? :P

Christmas tree popcorn eater AKA Ava 12/27/08 Julian, the big fish at the end of the popcorn string 12/27/08

After much cleaning (thank you, Jody) and some rearranging, I was very happy with the results of the livingroom overhaul.

Clean living room Another angle of clean living room

My plan for the next week (Jody has another several days off for New Year’s) is to continue cleaning, rearranging and organizing the house – one room at a time. I’ve been overwhelmed with clutter and disorganization for so long, but holding out with the hope that we’ll move into a bigger house and it would all magically disappear then. I’ve realized, however, that we will likely be in this house a while longer and, in an effort to make our time here more pleasant and manageable (and to save my waning sanity), it would behoove me to do whatever I need to do to make organization a priority.

I worked on the dining room a bit today and little by little, it will all get done. :) I can do this!

Hope you and yours had a happy, healthy holiday and a happy return to normalcy too – as normal as life gets.

Note: If the quality of some of the pictures posted here seems lacking, that’s because it is but only because they were taken with my iPhone. ;)