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Happy Holidays

EHN_5758It’s hard to believe the holidays are here, the end of 2015 is fast approaching and we are coming up on our 9 month anniversary of being home-owners. We’ve learned a lot this year like how somehow wasp spray is ineffective towards yellow jackets and by the way, yellow jacket stings REALLY hurt. We’ve learned that removing trees is very expensive and deciding to chop up a tree ourselves with a 19″ chainsaw is incredibly labor intensive and time consuming. In fact, everything we do to the house is labor intensive and time consuming. Our first major project was to remove the wallpaper and paint the dining room which I believe we started in June. It is now 6 months later and we still haven’t managed to put a coat of paint on, but I did learn that wall paper removal is the worst thing in the world and it will ruin a manicure.

I’ve learned a lot about gardening too. I tried to save myself some trouble by sectioning off a large part of the garden and planting a cover crop. But what I failed to realize is that you need to till the cover crop into the soil once it flowers in order for it to provide nutrients to the soil. I just let it flower, go to seed, die and then become over grown with weeds. Oops. I also learned that gardening really doesn’t take a lot of work if you’re consistent.It looked its best when I would check on it everyday after work and spend about 15 minutes weeding and harvesting. Once we went on vacation and the weeds got out of control, I was never really able to reclaim the garden from the weeds.

I’ve always been very goal-driven and like using the new year as a chance to reflect on the past year and choose a new goal to focus on. In the past I’ve focused on reading more or running more or focusing on my diet and health or getting more sleep or taking more pictures when in fact I want to do all of those things! When I start to think about the goals I want to accomplish in the new year I get as overwhelmed as I do when I think about all the work that needs to be done to the house. I want to do all those things plus add one more task on top of that list. It gets overwhelming. But I’ve decided to tackle this just as I would tackle the house. One step, one day, one project at a time.

I’ve been trying to think of what makes me happy and yes, the list is long but one thing I’ve been neglecting the fast few years is creating things. Whether it’s painting, crocheting, gardening, baking, etc. Anything involving creativity often gets pushed aside because I’m too tired or too busy. There always seems to be an excuse. My goal is to make time in the new year for some of these projects. I have 3 quilts started in my closet that haven’t seen daylight in a year, a folder of saved crochet patterns on my computer that I’ve had for years now, a bag of embroidery supplies I got from my mom last year that I never even opened, a half-completed afghan that’s been sitting under the coffee table for over a hear, a secret pinterest board full of watercolor inspiration… you get the idea. These projects have laid dormant for too long. And yes, there will always be something that’s probably more important that needs to be done but I really hope to set aside some time to work on these projects because creating things really does make me happy.

 

 

We bought a house!

Our New Home!

The house is great but the yard is AMAZING! It sits on 2.3 gently sloping acres. There’s a good mix of bright sunny yard and cool shady wood and the element I’m most thrilled about and what may have sold me on the house is the 1800 sq. ft. fenced off garden. We’ve been in the house for over a month now and practically threw our stuff down and ran outside to play in our amazing new yard. And what people call “yard work” has replaced the hours I used to spend logging miles in a tiny air conditioned gym on a treadmill with ‘Keeping up with the Kardashions’ blasting on the tv 5 feet from my face. I have no clue what the Kardashions are up to and I couldn’t be happier about it! I’d much rather spend my evenings soaking up the day’s last bit of sunshine with Palmer rustling around in the woods behind me and the birds chirping in the background. It’s hard and it’s only May but I love it! I love plants. I love to grow things and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have a giant blank canvas to play with.

This is the house about 2 weeks ago with the azaleas in full bloom. Enjoy them now because I really want to rip them out!

Azaleas in Bloom

They are really pretty this time of year…Azaleas

So the first project we did was till the garden! It looked like it had been a good 4-5 years since this garden has seen any action. This is the before picture.EHN_5277

I called around and found a local company that rents equipment and rented a garden tiller for the weekend.

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I also found a place nearly that sells truckloads of organic compost that we tilled into the garden.

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After about 10 hours and 3 truckloads later we had this:

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This is the top part of the garden and that weird looking soil was my desperate back-breaking attempt to “double dig” and get the snap peas, radishes and lettuces in the ground as soon as possible. This little section probably took me 3-4 hours of digging out rocks and carrying them in bucket-loads to dump in the woods. This is what convinced me to buy a wheelbarrow and rent a tiller. Also note the difference between the cheap Lowe’s compost and the local organic compost. I’m almost sorry I dug any compost in this section, I’m sure it would have been better if I just dug up and turned over the existing soil but live and learn! EHN_5289

At the last minute I decided to till up the soil near the fence and sow wildflowers along the fence line. As of now, I’m not too sure how this is going to look. The flowers are coming up slow and I can’t tell the difference between a flower and a weed so it may look like a giant weedy mess with hopefully some flowers on top but we’ll have to wait and see!EHN_5309

Palmer loves his new yard by the way!EHN_5310

So, once I got to this point I hadn’t really thought about what to do next so luckily I have a friend who’s a gardener who suggested I lay down some cardboard on the land I want to grow next season and sow some buckwheat as a cover crop on the bottom section.

I read that the cardboard suppresses the weeds and the earthworms will eat cardboard and turn it into the soil. Steve had no idea why I was doing this and just thought I was going insane. It doesn’t look very pretty but we just moved and I had to do something with all these boxes. Hopefully it will work. This is how it looked just after I laid the cardboard down and sowed the buckwheat. Somehow I thought I’d be able to do all this in an afternoon but it ended up taking about a week because I wanted to get as many weeds out as possible before I sowed the buckwheat and man those things grow fast!

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This is how the garden looks today! I drew up a garden plan (finally) and decided to create little pathways so I could actually access the plants without stomping all over them. The top bed there is the “nightshade” bed with a couple tomatoes and a pepper plant to get things started. You can see the buckwheat starting to come in.EHN_5407

Look at it doing its thang!EHN_5417

I also decided to make the top bed the perennial bed and planted some strawberries and I plan to get some blueberry and blackberry plants in there and hopefully some flowers.EHN_5410

So this is it! This is my garden I’ve been dreaming about for months, or years really. I’ve sort of abandoned all other projects to focus on this. There’s a ton of other things going on. It’s been awesome to move in when things were still cold and dormant and watch the yard wake up. Every day when I come home from work I throw on my play clothes and just walk around to see what has changed and there’s always something to see. My purple beans germinated and became giant leaves within the last 24 hours, I discovered a wild strawberry plant by the back stairs and all sorts of new flowers popping up. I love it here and I’m really looking forward to sharing it.

Going Granola

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Since all my bragging about not getting sick at all this entire winter inevitably backlashed and I’ve been somewhat bedridden the past few days and have almost exhausted my Netflix queue, I thought it might be good to post some of these pictures I took a few weeks ago. 

Despite my lack of blog posts, I’ve had good intentions. I worked a solid first two seasons of the Jersey Shore on my first knit hat (most of the time was spent re-learning how to knit) which I was super excited about and already developed serious plans for a photo shoot with myself wearing my cool new beanie posing with my snowboard with a fresh blanket of snow in the background. However, the finished hat resembled more of a yamaka than the cool slouchy beanie I envisioned and it never snowed again so the “beanie” is now sitting in an unfinished heap on my coffee table.

I also experimented with a juice cleanse. Although it was a lot of fun concocting bizarre fruit and vegetable combination, by day 2.5 I was exhausted and felt like a walking zombie. I had a pounding headache that started at the end of day 1 that was preventing me from focusing at work so I decided to come home and have a salad for lunch and felt instantly better. I’m pretty sure the reason for the headache and grogginess was due to my lack of research and any sort of protein or fat in my diet. I have a tendency to throw away instructions and learn as I go, and then go back and realize I would have saved a lot of time (and headache) if I just read the instructions to begin with. Oh well. I lost 3 lbs and can say that I at least tried it. 

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So, in an attempt to be healthier and save money (as I sit here eating raw, store-bought cookie dough), I thought it might be fun to make my own granola! Not as exciting or dramatic as a juice cleanse but it was delicious and relatively easy.

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I used a recipe I found here and headed over to Eats to gather the ingredients.

 

 

 

I also used the opportunity to play around with my tripod and remote control to take some pictures of myself. It was kind of fun and a lot easier than I thought it would be.Image

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While I was gathering the ingredients I realized I didn’t have enough dried fruit but I did have some fresh grapes in the fridge so for the second time in 4 months I whipped out the dehydrator and made my own raisons! How’s that for home made? 

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Secret Santa

Every one should do secret Santa. Seriously. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Christmas traditions even though I have a tendency to get totally carried away. Last year I went absolutely bonkers. I completely ignored the $25 limit rule and ran bat sh*t (this edit’s for you, Mom) crazy all over town buying every single adorable Holiday mug, candy, cookie, candle, etc…I crossed. Plus, last year it began right after I discovered Pinterest (!!!!) so my brain was exploding with ideas and I ended up spending all my free time pinning ideas rather than actually doing them. So this year, I decided to reign it in a little bit and use it as an opportunity to try out some new ideas and recipes. I thought it’d be fun to share even though it’s technically not over until Thursday, I’m pretty sure my Mom is the only one who reads my blog so I should be fine.

I decided to redeem myself from last year and finally get around to baking some cookies. My person prefers Macadamia Nut Cookies and I already had this recipe bookmarked on foodgawker so I decided to give it a whirl.

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Pretty right? They actually look a lot better than they tasted. Actually, that’s not true. They tasted good, if you like your cookies dry and cakey with a cement-like texture. I prefer my cookies a little gooier and bendable but they were still edible so I went with it.

The next thing I decided to try was inspired by my friend, Tess. She’s done some incredible stuff lately and the snowflake looked so pretty so I thought I’d take a break from my crochet hiatus and give it a shot. After Tess gave some pointers and explained that the “h” should have been “ch”…I stumbled my way through the pattern and eventually came up with this

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It’s not perfect but it looked more like a snowflake than not so I was pretty excited about it and made myself one too. Those speckles were my attempt to cover it in glitter but it turns out spray starch doesn’t act like an adhesive like I somehow assumed it would. Anyways, I hope she likes it!

The last thing I wanted to share was an idea I saw on apartment therapy. I’ve been gifting lots of edibles so I wanted to stray away from those, especially since she just had a root canal and couldn’t chew any food for 2 weeks (Oops on those rock hard cookies!) I just thought this idea was so cute and I had everything on hand except for the lemon. I even have a food dehydrator that rarely gets used so I busted that thing out this weekend and dehydrated an orange, apple and lemon and badda bing badda boom:

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I made Steve put on a flannel and stand on a chair for this shot….totally worth it.

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So there you have it. Now I’m over Christmas. I haven’t even thought about gifts for family yet. I guess I should get on that.

Blacksburg finally saw some snow!

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 It actually snowed about 6 inches yesterday! Of course everything is melting now and I’m too sick to go play in it but it makes me happy to look out the window and see a fresh blanket of snow and gives me hope that our snowboarding trip next weekend won’t be filled with ice pebbles, rocks and twigs.

I’ve been bogged down lately trying to make my New Years Resolutions come true. I gave myself two very time-consuming and ambitious goals this year:

1. Run a half marathon

2. Read 40 books

This on top of a full time job, and maintaining my wifely duties (i.e. making huge messes in the kitchen, leaving laundry in the dryer for a week, assisting my husband in playing online board games, spending hours on food gawker and pinterest thinking I’m being creative by bookmarking recipes I’ll never actually make, watching clips of Real Housewives of BH/ Orange County/NJ on hulu, searching for the perfect house and then planning how to decorate it, accompanying Steve on various beer-filled outings with friends….exhausting work!) I don’t have much time left for crafting but I do manage to squeeze in a bit on the weekends. I’ve actually managed to make a blazing star block and have gotten pretty excited about continuing the vision I had over the summer. As a self-taught crafter/quilter, it’s very interesting the obvious things you learn along the way. For example, for my first patchwork quilt, I traced a square pattern for every square and cut a half an inch trim around each one. I don’t even want to think about the amount of time and back pain I could have saved if I just used some rulers and got a bigger mat board. I’m learning the importance of measuring twice (or 3 or 4 times) and cutting once. At first I thought diamonds were impossible until I watched a tutorial on you tube and realized I had to measure more carefully. Duh! Anyways here is the start of my next quilt:

 

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I also learned a valuable lesson while working on this block. Don’t drink and quilt! I only had one glass of wine when I decided to finish one of the corners. After many attempts and only managing to create even more caddywompus corners I decided the risks of the razor sharp rotary cutter, the scolding hot iron and the needle that can pierce through several thick layers of fabric was a little too dangerous for me a my slightly impaired motor skills. Image

I’ve also learned the importance of ironing. When I finished my “Valentine’s Day” block, there was a pit of puckering in the center until I busted out the iron and pressed that pucker flat! It’s amazing what some steam and some heat can do! I’ve gotten a little better with each block. I finished the yellow one yesterday and it was almost perfect.

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I often find myself wondering why I enjoy quilting so much. I guess I enjoy playing with colors and fabrics and guessing what something will look like and seeing it come to life. I like measuring and geometry and watching the pieces fit together perfectly. At the end of a long stressful day I like to make some hot tea, put on some music blast the hear and disappear in my craft room. The other day I couldn’t help but wonder if there were any other 20-somethings out there working on their pastel star burst quilt while listening to Deadmau5 and Skrillex. Anybody? Oh well. To each his own!

I’ve also completed two more Harry Potter squares:

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I’m starting to think I feel the same way about winter (i.e. snow) that some feel about summer and now that there’s a thick blanket of white snow over everything my heart feels a little lighter and I’m a little more chipper so I’m going to bundle up in my snow gear and head out to the craft store so I can get cracking on some of my non-quilt related projects. Hopefully this inspiration will keep up and more posts will coming up soon.