changing and we didn't even know it

Months ago, Joe asked me to make him a special treat for his birthday: Coca-cola Cake. This cake is probably the richest, most delicious chocolate cake that I have ever tasted, but it's definitely a cake that you want to share with a crowd...a large crowd. That makes it perfect for birthdays.

With Joe's birthday almost here, I was looking over the recipe so I could pick up any ingredients we didn't have. As I went though the recipe, I realized I had almost NONE of the ingredients on hand. I called Joe to let him see if he still wanted the cake and he said, "You know, I've been thinking about that and I think I'd rather just have a fruit pizza." I had to laugh.

A few months ago I was so frustrated and felt like making positive changes to our eating habits was going to be impossible. If I cut out all of the "bad" stuff, then what were we going to eat? And if you know Joe, then you know that boy can eat! Today we're living without processed sugars, white flour, pre-made foods, and have limited dairy and meat, but I really don't even notice until I pull out a recipe I haven't made in a while and realize that we don't have the ingredients. It's so encouraging to see how much progress we've made in eating better, healthier foods and to realize that making the changes to our diet really wasn't so hard after all.


simple joys

Monday, today we are on good terms.  My wheat bread rose high and came out deliciously chewy. Our yogurt is thick and creamy (for the first time in 4 months of making it!). And the chickens laid three eggs this morning, two of which I'm pretty sure are double yolks. These are the things that make a day good.

So, thanks Monday, I'll see you next week :)


yardwork: the garden fence

Tomorrow we start tackling the wilderness that is our backyard. Joe has spent the last year working on getting the lawn back into shape. He started by clearing out all of the debris and trash that the former owners had left behind and then seeded the whole yard. When my parents visited last summer my dad and Joe fixed the old irrigation system so we no longer had to water by hand, but that was about as far as we got with the backyard that first season. This spring we've spent most of our time working on the front yard and now that that area is mostly in hand, we're starting in on the back again.

First things first, we needed a fence to divide the part of the yard where the chickens and dog run free from the part of the yard that we've devoted to growing our garden. I've always loved gardens circa 1776...you know what I mean, gravel pathways dividing beds of flowers, herbs, and veggies surrounded on all sides by a picket fence. They look a little something like the picture below. Give me a sunhat and I'd be in heaven.

Unfortunately, our yard won't accommodate this beauty...but we're making do. We have a large sideyard on the south side of our house that gets just the right amount of sun to grow the best fruits and veggies. We planted a small garden there last year that did very well and this year we're hoping to expand the area.

The first step is getting up a fence that will keep the chickens from eating all the new plants and the dog from digging up their roots (it doesn't hurt that it will be aesthetically pleasing also :D). So, tomorrow we head out to the hardware store for our supplies and hopefully by tomorrow night we'll have the fence up and ready to go.

After the fence is up, we'll have to decide how much we want to develop the garden this season. The area is about forty feet long and ten feet wide, so ideally we'd end up with two 4' wide garden beds on either side with a 2' wide gravel path running down the center, but these things take time and money to create so we'll see how far we get.


well, hello there...

Spring...the season where all kinds of dormant energy suddenly comes to life. We've been spending our energy on the following.

Landscaping the front yard...so far we've planted an herb garden and some pansies and salvia.

Dreaming about extending our backyard patio using this as a guide...maybe later on in the summer

Planting onions and carrots and making plans for the rest of our garden (hopefully, it will go in this weekend)

Killing potatoes. I don't like to speak of it. Let's just say, I'm not a potato farmer.

Seeding, fertilizing, and watering Trying to coax our lawn back to life, definitely a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race process

PAINTING! Our bedroom walls are done, but we still have to paint the trim and doors and nice bright white.

Refinishing a thrift store dresser for our room, I'm thinking of doing it ombre like this post.

Making yogurt from this recipe. I'm still tweaking it though. I let the yogurt "age" for a full 20 hours last time (oh hush, google says it's safe), but I might make it an even 24 on the next batch since it was still a little runny. We mix it with jam and oatmeal for breakfast and use it as sour cream on tacos, potatoes, etc. So far, it's all been delicious!

This weekend we had big plans to finish up our veggie garden, but with rain forecast for the greater part of tomorrow and Sunday, we might be out of luck. Plan B is to head out to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and do some perusing. I really want to make something out of a door (art, table, coat rack, who knows??) and pick up some new hardware for the dresser we're refinishing. Here's hoping we get lucky and find something amazing!


it's spring!

Today it really felt like spring.

Today I turned over dirt and watched the earthworms squirm away from my shovel. I pulled plants out of their little plastic prisons and set them free in the big wide world I call garden. I said a little prayer as I tucked their roots deep into the mud and smiled at the sun that was shining for what seemed like the first time in forever. Today it felt like spring.

I think it was fitting that today was also Easter Sunday, the celebration of life conquering death, and planting my spring garden seemed like the perfect way to celebrate.

We're doing a lot of growing around here lately. The chickens have quadrupled in size and live outside full time now (a welcome change, since the spare bedroom was starting to smell like a barnyard). We built their coop using these plans and the girls seem to really like it. We technically have too many chickens for the coop, but they're still small enough that is doesn't matter. However, once they reach full size we'll have to build a second coop or sell a few of the chickens. Time will tell if I can part with one or two of them (we have a buff orpington who's on my hit list currently; I truly believe that she is the reason chickens have a reputation for being unintelligent). For now, the girls spend most of their days roosting in the coop or wandering around the yard taking care of our weed problems. I love free labor.
Forgive the iphone pic
River is also huge these days. She's almost a year old and probably full-grown at around 35 pounds. We're still not sure what "breed" she is (not even the vets can tell us), but we've heard rumors that the groomers might be able to help out and since her winter coat is a shaggy mess, we'll probably take her down there this month and see if they can shed some light on her origins.

I'd go on, but the final thing we're growing is bacteria (i.e. yogurt) which is a finicky process requiring my full attention at this very moment. If you'd like to grow your own, check out this recipe.

Happy Easter!


backyard chickens

Fowl are food, not friends.

This is what I keep telling myself every time I go in to feed or water our chicks. And to be honest, it's not all that hard for me to differentiate between our adorable cuddly puppy and these little balls of fluff. They may look sweet and innocent now, but feathers and scaly feet have never really been my thing. We're in this strictly for the knowing-where-my-food-comes-from benefits, and if I get free garden manure and my own personal composters as a by-product I'm not complaining.

We ended up with six little gals, two Buff Orpingtons, two Barred Rocks, a Rhode Island Red, and a Black Sex Link (cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Barred Rock). We were originally going to get four or MAYBE five, but when we arrived at the feed store they were giving away Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds for free with the purchase of feed and it seemed silly to turn down free chickens only to end up having to buy more if one or two chicks died before they hit maturity. I don't mean to be morbid and we aren't planning for any of the chicks to die. However, in our house it's just a practical consideration since we have a cat who frequently snatches birds out of the air and a dog who has been practicing the waterfowl shake on every toy she's ever had. I've been told that once the chickens reach full size they will keep the cat in line by chasing her en masse across the yard, so as long as we keep them safe and sequestered in a guest room until they're big enough for the outdoors everyone should come through this transition alive.

Now the hunt is on for a coop.  We're definitely going with a chicken ark, probably similar to this one. The only question is whether to build it ourselves or buy it from a local business that specializes in them. The chicks should be inside until they are about two or three months old depending on how fast the weather warms up here, so we have a little time to think about it.

Here's to new adventures and fresh eggs...and I'm not joking about the fresh eggs. Find yourself some and scramble them up, you'll never go back to storebought again. Or better yet, just come over in six or seven months...with six chickens I'm sure I'll have some to share.   


diy embroidery hoop art

Squares and right angles. It seemed like the only shapes I could find for wall art involved squares and right angles. And, while I love a good frame collage as much as the next girl, you can only make things so interesting when everything on the wall is shaped basically the same. I had seen some ideas floating around Pinterest for using vintage circular frames, but after a few months of searching (aka casually browsing my local thrift stores on the weekend) I still hadn't found anything but squares and rectangles. What I did find though were lots and lots of embroidery hoops.

I was originally looking for a big embroidery hoop, about 12-15" across, to make a hamper for our kitchen towels/dishcloths based on this tutorial (which is super useful, btw. I love the one I made.) Well, there were loads of little dinky hoops in the 6-8" range, but nothing big. About my third weekend at the thrift store, sifting through the piles of cast off hoops, I did score a nice big one that was perfect for my hamper project. I took it home, but before it was transformed into the wonderfully functional piece that graces my laundry room today, I noticed something: it had no corners. Not a right angle in sight! Thank you, Captain Obvious for telling us that a circle is, in fact, a circle, but that was pretty much my thought process. Back I went to the thrift store and about $3.50 later, I was the proud owner of seven embroidery hoops of various sizes.

Now if you've ever seen a wooden embroidery hoop, they're a sort of yellowish wood. This project was for one of the living room walls and yellow-toned wood is not allowed in the living room (it makes the paint read really orange). So, the first order of business was to stain the hoops a nice deep walnut. We had leftover Minwax walnut stain from our frame ledges that hang over the couch, so I just used a 1" foam brush and followed the instructions on the can. As you can see from the picture above, I didn't bother with cleaning up before starting this project. I have to get things done when the mood strikes, or else I never will. Needless to say, the mood to be tidy rarely strikes me.

Once the hoops had dried, I put them back together and started laying them out on the floor to find an arrangement that I liked. Joe actually came in at this point, took one look at my floor arrangement, moved two hoops around and made it perfect. Then he nailed them to the wall for me. He has latent decorating talent that only comes out when I'm planning to block the tv for an hour scooting things "a little to the left..."

I really like the way it turned out, which only proves that Joe should help me decorate more often (ha. unlikely). My favorite part is that the art is interesting, but not distracting, which was important since it sits directly behind our tv (God forbid, embroidery hoops should try to compete with NFL playoffs). I think I will probably add a few more hoops to the top to create more height since the ceilings are vaulted, but other than that I'm really enjoying the returns on this $3.50 investment.