Thursday, March 28, 2013

eggs, eggs, eggs

It's the season for eggs!  We're waiting until the last minute to color our real eggs this year.  Jeff is crazy at work and we can't have all the fun without him, so we'll do it Saturday morning.  We may go the traditional route to get brightly colored eggs (seems appropriate since we're teaching Carson his colors). 

Here's our go to egg dye recipe:
10 drops food coloring (I love these)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 cup boiling water

I tried the all natural method a couple of years ago, we had a great time, but our colors came out pretty light.   However, my sister in law went this route this season and her eggs look lovely!  You can check them out here or read this great article, from Better Homes & Gardens, on all natural egg dye (complete with recipes).
Better Homes & Gardens
I'd definitely go this route again if we were planning to eat the eggs, but they're just for fun!

Here's another bright idea.  Sounds a little messy, but I'm not one to shy away from a mess.  No dipping required for these beauties, just paper towels and food coloring.  Here are the directions.
Tie-Dyed Easter Eggs
Better Homes & Gardens
We'll see how crazy we're feeling on Saturday.

In the meantime, Carson and I did create some eggs that will last a lot longer than the real ones.

I had some wooden eggs just waiting to be transformed.  Lately, Carson has been really into drawing with sidewalk chalk so...
we painted them with homemade chalkboard paint.  They're sure providing for lots of entertainment!

We've been drawing on them (of course),
practicing our egg hunting skills (gotta get prepared for the big community egg hunt on Saturday!),
and doing a little holiday decorating.

Chalkboard paint is super easy to make.  My mom taught me how to do this WAY before chalkboards were chic.
We had all the ingredients in the garage (what don't we have in the garage?) so this project was a snap.

Here's what you need to make your own chalkboard paint:
latex paint (ANY color - I used a satin finish, but anything works)
UNsanded grout (if you live near me I have enough to last a lifetime - help yourself!)

I use about a Tablespoon of grout for each 1/2 cup of paint (you don't need to be exact).  You simply mix the ingredients together until the big lumps are gone and get painting.  Two coats should work just fine.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

adding a little curb appeal!

We've finally finished our new front porch (and front yard too)!  I've still got a few finishing touches to add, but it's pretty enjoyable the way it is right now.  We enjoyed a blueberry pancake breakfast on the porch over the weekend.  It was just lovely.

Our goal was to create a kind of Southern style, sit on the front porch and watch the world go by, atmosphere.  It took a while since we DIY'd it during naptimes, but I think we succeeded.

Here it is...



More to come later this week.  My next post will be all about how I painted the concrete to look like bricks (those aren't real bricks on the porch)!

Monday, March 25, 2013

the magic of spring

Me and my little gardening buddy are just loving the beautiful spring weather.  It feels extra great now that it's REALLY spring! 

I meant to do this fun little activity on the eve of the spring equinox, but life (actually, a super early work morning) got in the way.  Plus, everything is a little more fun when daddy is home to play with us!  Anyway, this activity is too fun to pass up so we celebrated the beginning of spring this weekend.  The season is pretty full of magic without any help from me, but I just couldn't resist adding a little magic of our own.

I gave Carson a handful of "magic beans".  They may look like jelly beans to you, but they're definitely magic beans because... 
He planted them...
 and woke up the next morning to...


Happy Spring Everyone!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Playin' with dirt

We've been doing a lot of playing in the dirt lately!  The front porch/yard is almost finished (seriously can't wait to share - give me one more weekend) and it sure looks like spring around here!  I love, love, love this time of year.  Carson and I go to our little neighborhood nursery so often that they know us both by name.  It's just a short walk from our house, Carson loves the place and they have so many new unique and heirloom plant varieties arriving every day.  They work with a great California grower called Annie's Annuals.  They specialize in rare and unusual annuals and perrenials and the nursery will order any of them for me!  I really have to remind myself that we have a small yard and we don't have room for everything...

During one of my visits to the nursery this week I picked up an interesting tip from one of my favorite plant experts.

Yes, that is a diaper.

She recommended I put a diaper in the bottom of my potted plants.  It's especially helpful in small/hanging pots.  It retains moisture and keeps my hanging pots from dripping.  Genius!  I'm not sure if I'll really see a difference, but I'll keep you posted.  My little hangers did get really dry every day so maybe the diaper trick will work a little magic.  If anything, the hanging pots aren't dripping like they used to, and that's certainly worth a diaper or two.

a little lavendar bacopa and dark blue lobelia (soon they'll be trailing down the sides)

Speaking of diapers...
I feel pretty lucky that Carson seems to like gardening as much as do.  Give my guy a shovel, some dirt and a bucket of water and he's a happy camper.  I had quite the proud mom moment this week when he walked into the backyard, picked up his mini rake, started raking the lawn and said "MAMA".  Yep, buddy, you're a gardener just like mama, and nothing could make me happier.

If you're interested in gardening, here are a couple of books that I've been really loving.
Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
(I'm getting ready to plant my raised bed again and I love his method)
52 Weeks in the California Garden by Robert Smaus
(Obviously only good for Californians, but if you live here, read it)

If anyone has any other great gardening reads, I would love to hear about them!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

May the luck o' the IRISH be with you...

Happy St. Patrick's day!  I love this holiday, it always reminds me of my very Irish grandfather. 
Our Irish roots must be the reason that the leprechauns come to visit us each year! 
Their dirty green feet left prints all over the house, they played with all of Carson's green toys and didn't pick up a thing! 
 They didn't even flush the toilets!
I guess we can put up with the messy little guests one day a year!  Carson thought they were pretty silly!

Friday, March 15, 2013

lemons + lemons + lemon bars

We're still spring cleaning big time around our place!  I can't wait to share the new front yard.  Unfortunately, it's taking a little longer than expected, but I guess that's usually the way it works (at least at our house).  Anyway, I'm looking forward to summer days spent in our new grass, but for now we're settling for one of our favorite springtime recipes.  The lemon trees are filled with ripe lemons so that means lemon bars!

I do love the Barefoot Contessa recipe, but it's a little too much butter for me.  Here's how we make ours a little healthier and we think they're even better (I think the original recipe came from Gourmet magazine, but we've adapted it a bit over the years).  The best part...only 8 ingredients!


3/4 cup butter (at room temperature)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sugar
zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350.  Combine the shortbread toppings in a the bowl of an electric mixer (use the paddle attachment).  Press the crust into a buttered 9x13 pan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until slightly golden.
While baking crust, prepare topping.  Whisk together the eggs and gradually add sugar until combined.  Add lemon juice, zest and flour.  Pour lemon mixture over HOT shortbread base.  Reduce oven temperature to 300 and bake 30-35 minutes until set.  Let cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar!

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

a home for our books!

I'm a total bookworm and I couldn't be happier that Carson seems to love his books just as much as I do.   He's already accumulated quite the literary collection (which was creating a constant mess in his bedroom) so we really needed somewhere to store all the stories.  Here's where his new bookcase comes in.  He's even learning to put the books back on the shelf all by himself!

This bookcase was so simple to make.   I already had a couple of Michael's wooden crates in the garage so I bought a couple more. 
I gave them a quick sanding and stained them with Minwax Classic Gray stain. 
Once the gray stain was dry, I screwed the four crates together to create the bookcase.  I wanted a slightly darker color so I rubbed on a little English Chestnut stain to darken the color.
Here's the plain gray next to the gray with chestnut.

Here's the finished product all filled with books and keeping his room just a little more organized!  He's picking out his favorite book, "Little Blue Truck" (it's one of my favorites too).  If you have/know a little one and you haven't read this one, buy it and treat yourself to a good read (or in our case, hundreds of good reads).

The new bookshelf matches quite nicely with the book display shelves that I made from an old pallet.
 Happy reading!