Thursday, April 10, 2014

DIY Mushroom Kingdom for Your Yard

As I may have mentioned a few times, J has a slight obsession with Super Mario right now. He has also noticed me Pinning cute pictures of Fairy Gardens and he immediately wanted one! So, I put the two together and came up with this.

I also thought it would be a great time killer project for Spring Break. And there was the fleeting hope that if he helped make it he would take care of it better.

We went to our local home improvement store and bought:
  • seven 4" clay pots
  • seven 6" clay saucers
  • one quart of "oops" glossy white paint
  • samples jars of red (Calypso Berry), green (Peacock Green) and brown (Rich Chocolate)
  • cheap sponge paint brushes (I already had small paint brushes for the details)

After conferring with the "paint guys" at the store we opted for the samples even though they were interior paint which were planning on using outside mainly because of the price. The cost of the samples was less than $4 each and exterior would have been much more. I splurged on the white because I wanted leftovers to touch up some baseboards in the house. I also knew I had a can of Glossy Clear Polyurethane that I was going to use to spray the pots inside an out.

You can choose exterior paint, or get acrylic paints at the craft store specifically for outdoor crafts. I wanted one stop shopping.

Cost for these supplies was about $40, $16 for the pots and saucers, $21 for the paint and poly, $3 for brushes. But, I have plenty of extra paint despite the big OOPS! details below.

The very first life lesson I mentioned in my post 5 Life Lessons Crafts Can Teach Children is "Life is messy, clean it up". But there is a very important codicil to this.
If you do some pre-planning and preparing you can avoid some of the bigger messes.
First, I set up to paint outside both for the smell and because paint spills outside are not going to upset me as much as they would inside. Then I covered EVERYTHING, the table as well as the ground underneath it, with an old drop cloth.

And I covered the kid!

look at that concentration!

And despite all of my precautions, we still managed to get green paint on the patio.

Did I forget to mention that you want to have wet rags on hand for quick cleanups?  Luckily I managed to dash into the house and get one before that dried. Learn from my mistake, have clean up materials ready before opening the paint cans.

And another little tip for those that want to work with children: always follow the "spill rule". Only give a child as much liquid (to drink or to paint with) as you are willing to clean up.

half a jar of red decorating the drop cloth
Ugh! Despite that OOPS, we still have plenty of red left over. Which is a good thing because less than 24 hours after showing it to him...

This is why I bought seven pots and saucers even though I only planned on using six: 3 for the Toad Houses and 3 for the Koopa Houses and 1 for the inevitable breakage. I know my kid.

I let him do the base coat for the houses and roofs and paint the white circles on the Toad Houses with a circular sponge paintbrush we have. I did the rest of the details: doors, windows and the pattern on the Koopa houses.

top view of the Toad Houses

top view of the Koopa Houses

Then I sprayed both the inside and out with the Polyurethane to protect it against the rain and sprinklers.

I used what we had around the house for the extras:
  • a piece of 2 x 4 for the road
  • a green bubble bottle with the top sawed off for the pipe (I still may get some PVC pipes to add a few more).
  • figurines from the toy store 
The Toad Town section of our garden

The Koopa Village section of our garden

I set it up while J was otherwise occupied. When I finally showed him he was thrilled with all of our hard work! Ten seconds later he announced we needed to make Shiver City and Bowser's Castle and... sigh! no rest for this weary Mama. ;)

For more fun ideas and recipes check out
Fabulously Frugal Thursdays
Wake Up Wednesdays
Wine'd Down Wednesday

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April Garden Update

I have been busy busy busy in the garden, hence there haven't been many blogs the last month. The pile of dead grass is gone and the space leveled. The freesias and plum tree are done blooming for the year, but there are so many beautiful and exciting things happening in the rest of the yard I don't mind too much. Since it is almost bed time here, I am just going to get right to the photos. 

Jerusalem Sage

Seeded Red Table Grapes
Thompson Seedless Grapes

Artichoke playing peek-a-boo!


Tuscan Kale

One of the six tomato plants

Lettuce going to seed.


Pomegranate flower

The one remaining green bean plant out of 9!!! Planted 8 more today, fingers crossed.

Native Plants

The new plants haven't died yet! And looking back at the photos in February when I planted them, the Goldenrod and Aster are growing well.
Zauschneria cana - "Hollywood Flame" California Fuchsia

Solidago californica- Goldenrod

Corethrogyne filaginifolia Silver carpet - California aster

Galvezia speciosa - Island snapdragon

Fallugia paradoxa - Apache plume - starting to open up
Fallugia paradoxa - Apache plume - starting to open up

Fallugia paradoxa - Apache plume - here come the petals and pollen - the plumes will follow in a few months

Ceanothus - California lilac - pollen for the bees and berries for the birds

Salvia Bees Bliss

Coming soon
more vegetables once I cover the bottom with something to prevent roots from the neighbors tree from creeping in

An above ground pool is going where the pile of dead grass was.
And in this corner...
well you'll just have to come back to find out.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

5 Life Lessons Crafts Can Teach Children

Once again Huffpost is telling me I am doing everything wrong. First, I was an idiot for not opening Chinese takeout containers into plates, now I am ruining my child's life by looking on Pinterest for crafts and activities to do with my child.

Well, if crafting is wrong, I don't want to be right.

I know the author was actually talking about the pressure we parents put on ourselves to make everything perfect for our child. It isn't the crafting or theme park trips or parties in and of themselves that are the issue. It is the pressure we feel to make everything "magical" by getting too far out of our comfort zone either with money or activities we don't enjoy.

Every parent needs to define his or her own comfort zone:
  • For people that don't live in theme park central, going to a theme park is a big vacation. For us, it is an hour drive to the nearest one. We have passes, go for an hour or two during off peak season and come home.
  • Elf on a Shelf? Not in this house, if he (or his friends) ask me I will  inform them the Santa Surveillance Squad installed mini video cameras throughout the house and school.
  • We threw a party of J's 1st birthday and haven't done one since. I doubt we will do one this year. He doesn't care right now so why should we spend a mortgage payment or more on something that he won't miss?
Searching Pinterest and other sources for crafts and activities to do with my child is out of the author's comfort zone. Apparently, she did not grow up with a crafter.

I sure did. When I lost my first tooth the Tooth Fairy left my coin in a pile of shiny clear glitter. My response? "Mommy, the Tooth Fairy uses Diamond Dust too!" We were always making "something" and being a young girl I probably had a penchant for sparkly stuff like glitter.

Mom sent me a text the other day asking if I had popsicle sticks because she needed one for something she was working on for J. Crafters always have a project or two going, plus a few more in the planning stages.

A few lessons I hope my son learns from crafting:
  1. life is messy, clean it up. I know that line is from a commercial, but crafting, like life, can be messy and you need to clean up your own messes.
  2. life doesn't always turn out like the picture on the box (or on Pinterest). Life isn't easy and never goes exactly as you planned. You just make the best of it and enjoy the experience. 
  3. it's okay to try something and find out you don't like it. Carving, painting, sewing, knitting are not for me. I don't have the talent or interest in them. I have tried, they weren't for me. I am not great at quilting either, but I enjoy it as long as I don't EVER use knit again!
  4. sometimes you have to figure out what doesn't work to find out what does. Sometimes you need to step back and rethink how best to accomplish your goal (creative problem solving). Scraps of knit = nightmare for me: use the whole t-shirt if I am insane enough to try again.
  5. you don't have to buy everything!  His grandparents naturally love all of their homemade cards and gifts, because they are his grandparents. But, I want him to understand that there is a pleasure and an internal sense of accomplishment by making things yourself - be it crafting, gardening or cooking or any other interest he may take up in the future. I could have bought him a bed spread, but making one with cut up pieces of his baby clothes meant a lot to me and hopefully to him someday too.
A few of the things we have made this Spring Break, with links to Pins where applicable:

Froot Loop Launcher, from the back of the box. Frustrated him like crazy!
Combination of developing fine motor skills and physics comprehension. He could not get that loop into the car. We finally did it one time and then we could move on to something else.

Fork Flowers

Picture with shells and sand from the beach.

Sun Catchers - plastic lid, glue, food coloring, toothpicks

Egg Lantern - paper mache with watered down glue, tissue paper and glue.
Once dry, pop the balloon and insert a battery powered tea light.

String Egg - same watered down glue as above and some yarn.
He got bored and frustrated at the yarn falling off so this was as much as we did.
Maybe we will add more, maybe we won't.

If you don't enjoy crafting, don't do it. I never said you had to and anyone that did is full of themselves. I enjoy crafting, and gardening and cooking. So, I do those activities with J. My husband does not enjoy any of those things, so he and J do other things together. And we do activities as a family that are different too.

Every family is different and that is okay. Maybe that should be life lesson number 6.

This blog shared on Wine'd Down Wednesday and Lovely Ladies Linky

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why the gods created iPad

5:30 Sunday morning in a hotel in San Diego. Shh, Mommy and Daddy are napping.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Easy way to remove under arm stains

I tried a little experiment with one of my t-shirts the other day. The under arm stains were pretty bad.


A quick search brought me a lot of ideas, but the easiest, and the one I had on hand, was dish washing liquid. Most sites specified Dawn, which I had, as well as a generic brand. So I tried one on each sleeve.

I wet the shirt added a few drops of the dish washing liquid and gently rubbed the stain. Then I washed it as usual.

I can't remember which was which, but it doesn't really matter. Now that I know it works I will tackle my husband's dress shirts.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nominee for Worst Mommy of the Year

J does not like his hair cut. The noise and touch around his ears, eyes and neck drive him batty. So, I do it myself instead of trying to subject someone else to the torture. And it has to be done with scissors, clippers are out of the question. He won't even be in the same room as them.

I had avoided doing it for quite some time, and it was getting long. A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do. So, I put him on the computer and started snipping. Less than halfway through, he squirmed and I did this.

Did you ever notice how many blood vessels there are in the top of the ear? It bleeds almost as much as the mouth does.  And that's what annoyed him, the blood that dripped on his chest. Once I cleaned it up and put a Cars band-aid on it he forgot all about it. At least I thought he did.

The story he picked for bedtime? Llama Llama Mad at Mama. Thanks, Champ. Just twist that knife in a little deeper.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day! and a request for blogging tips

Well, if we ignore the hours between 3:30 and 5:30 when a certain naughty little leprechaun, who shall remain nameless, decided he was going to be up and play and scream instead of sleep, today has been a happy day.

First the FMS Photo a Day prompt was "your weather today", so we headed outside for a few minutes before school to snap some shots and show off our green.

Forgot to set it to backlight, but I thought it was a good picture for the prompt.

This was my second choice for the prompt.
watching a plane fly overhead while he sits in front of my Ponzo Blue Ceanothus
 Then off to school for a little party and to see if we caught any leprechauns:

No he didn't touch the broccoli or grapes.
All of that hard work on our leprechaun trap and the little sneak just left us a taunting note:
"Ha ha ha. He he he. I am a leprechaun and you can't catch me."
He left footprints and other mischief throughout the classroom.

Then back home for more fun:

Because of the sleep issues I did not make green pancakes for breakfast.
I told him if he was good all day at school I would make them for lunch.
He ate two of these shamrocks (the equivalent of 6+ pancakes).
Baked Corned Beef -
I made Baked Corned Beef and Colcannon the other night for the blog so I won't be making it tonight.
But I might make some Irish Soda Bread.

A friend is starting a winery and was thinking of having a blog to help promote the wine. She is new to the blogging world and looking for tips, so I thought I'd throw it out there to the bloggers and marketing gurus reading this. She'd also like to fine some small wineries with blogs that are actually active (i.e. posts more recent than 2 years ago!!) so she can follow along.

So, do you know of any winery blogs and what tips would you give a newbie blogger?