Friday, May 31, 2013

Foodie Penpals May Reveal

Y'all, I signed up for something fun this past month: Foodie Penpals.  Instead of exchanging postcards, people from around the world mailed each other food goodies.

Natalie, from In Natalie's Shoes, sent me this lovely assortment of international goodies as well as a few recipes.

The fig spread is quite delicious, and something I've never tried before.  The kids ravaged the whole wheat crackers (calling them cookies), and soon we'll dig in to the polenta and the pesto.  Thanks so much, Natalie!

I had a great time putting together a package for a gal down in Oklahoma--Ryan and I had a ball finding local items to stuff in there.  Who knew Kansas City had so much home grown yumminess?

There's still time to sign up for June.  Bottom line: you send $15 worth of interesting foods to your penpal.  You don't have to have a blog to do it. Keep reading for more details.

If you're curious about Foodie Pen Pals and want to sign up, here's the information from Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean (link below):

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for June, please CLICK HERE ( to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 
You must submit your information by June 4th as pairings will be emailed on June 5th!

*If you're from Europe, please CLICK HERE ( to signup.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Budget Gardening: Wildflowers

Last year, I pointed out my hardy perennial wildflowers that took months to settle in.

October 2012

We had these lovely yellow and orange flowers along with some white, airy blossoms.

This year, though, we had a gorgeous surprise come up in the spring.

May 2013
We have lavender blossoms and tiny orange bundles that smell like heaven.

The plants from last year are slowly making their way up, so I'm sure they'll bloom later this summer.

Of course, the obligatory photo in front of the compost pile. Doesn't everyone do that?

Anyway, I got all these different flowers with a $10 bag of perennial wildflower seeds that I purchased at Home Depot.  I seeded them very close together, watered them a little last year, and then did absolutely nothing else.  

Never think you have to spend a fortune for a little garden beauty, especially if you go for the wilder, less fussy look that I prefer.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Boy's Montessori Inspired Bedroom

We've finally wrapped up Drew's room for now.  You'll remember I showed you what we started with a few months ago:


I had big plans: Move the crib out, get a great new (to us) dresser, highlight the awesome headboard.  It would be a lovely, subdued boy's room.

And then my son decided that jumping on his new bed was the best thing since sliced bread.  I was fine with that until he broke our engineered headboard to bed frame connection...and then enjoyed rolling the bed around the room, knocking paint off the walls...and then greeted me one day atop his dresser, saying he'd not only climbed it but also had slept on it all nap time.  This, along with him emptying his drawers *daily*, led me to completely re-think the plan.

Rather than fight his inclination to play and be a doofus, I'd embrace it.

The headboard went back into storage, the dresser moved to the living room, and the bed frame was banished to the basement.  Then the train table re-debuted along with a new storage thingamajiggie as well as some neato wall hangings.

Turns out that I'm not the only one who thinks sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do for a kid.  Disciples of the Montessori Method think so too.  While my kids are subjected to my own crazy hodgepodge parenting and educational philosophies that include just about everything but embrace nothing in general, I really liked the easily accessible, kid-friendly designs of some Montessori followers (just Google "Montessori Bedroom" for images--I'd rather not deal with copyright infringement by putting them on the blog).  Mattress on the floor, art closer to the ground, toys stored within reach, giving children the chance to interact with their surroundings rather than be inhibited by them.

Since I'm not really a Montessori expert or enthusiast, I didn't worry about being fully true to the method: there's no self-care area, for instance.  But I still think the room turned out great.

So without further ado:

Much more child friendly, right?

We kept the windows naked for the photos to show off the wood, which I think looks nice against the white trim.  Usually, cheap blinds cover up the light.

The play piano is a hilarious addition to the room.  All the kids enjoy that little instrument, but Drew really loves banging on it.  We get naptime serenades as well as morning wake-up calls.

My resident artist, Ryan, painted the V-8 symbol on the wall (aren't I lucky to have such a talented husband?  BTW, he just got into a competitive graduate program here in KS, too. Smart, good looking, and can draw!).  To add to the car corner, I installed a hubcap clock.  There's more to come there as we collect more car memorabilia.

I'm very pleased with how the room turned out.  Drew loves the freedom he enjoys in here, and I don't have to worry about him climbing tall furniture or falling out of the bed.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

In the Garden 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Remember: Everyone else is doing it better than you.

And yet you're doing it better than everyone else.

That should cover all the bases, right?

For the garden this year, we're beautifying. 2 years ago, we cleaned up, last year, we grew veggies and made everything functional, and in 2013, we want some prettiness as well.

Yeah, that trellis is gone. While we grew some vines on it, it just wasn't that awesome for our purposes. If you're in KC, it's on our curb in Roeland Park, just check Craigslist FREE section if you're interested.  My mother's day gift from Ryan is a dwarf tree, just have to pick it out. It'll be great right there because it won't shade the veggies (since it's on the north side of the garden).

The wildflowers came roaring back after taking an eternity to settle in last summer.  Remember, perennials tend to look a bit wilder and perhaps less showy than many annuals, but I didn't have to do a lick of work this year for pretty blooms--that's worth millions in my book.

I decided to plants some wave petunias in our dead tree trunk. There are two beautiful holes...why not?  I put compost into the holes, so I've added plenty of nutrients.

They'll spread out in the coming weeks and add some lovely color.

I had another large log and popped a petunia in there.  Annuals tend not to root deeply, putting their work into what's on top of the dirt, so the rather shallow hole is probably okay. And if it's not?  It was a very inexpensive plant.

And I've got a couple of "tips" for you that's aren't so pretty (only in scare quotes because I'm not sure if they're the best solution, but they seem to work for now).  If you have cats, you know that they looooove digging in the garden to do their business.  We had old fencing lying around and rolled it over the veggie beds.  Not gorgeous, but it's working like a charm.

Another thing we did was put old evergreen branch clumps between our tomato vines.  The cat really doesn't like them and won't dig in 'em.  We've had these cat barriers up a few weeks, and I'm happy to say Rufus has found another place to do the dirty deed, thankfully.  But he's brought me two dead birds in the past week (one, he brought into my house and put under the sofa), so maybe he's trying to teach me a lesson.

Anyway, I've got to plant my moonvine seeds, get started on the sunflowers on the side of the yard, and eventually figure out my master no-mow lawn plan.  Still plenty of work to be done.  Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Curb Appeal Part I

Y'all, it's been so cold here.  And wet.  Even snowy (in MAY!).  Wah-wah, yaddah yaddah, it's put everything on hold it seems.  A few seedlings have popped up, and that gives me hope, but otherwise, our house is a complete mess inside and out.

But change is a-coming.  Some of it will be quite dramatic.  You'll want to be sitting down when you see it (at least I hope it'll be that good).  And before it happens, I want to visit what our house looks like right now so that you may all be amazed by the makeover when it finally happens.

Yeah, Drew was in a bathing suit on one of the few warm days we've had.

From the street, our house isn't embarrassing, per se, but it looks a little tired, no?  The color combination is definitely, as overly polite people have described me for years, "different", and the yard is pretty bare.  The yard was gorgeous last year, but drought destroyed it (as did neighborhood dogs who decided some parts were perfect for daily toileting!).


Our wooden garage door is very old and rotting, although it sure is colorful!

While we have the buckets on the side of the house from the last paint job, it's possible they've been there since the 1st lunar landing.  You can see the older colors popping through, knocked off due to water flowing through the rotten gutters the house sported for so long.

The awnings are bent, chipped, and rusted.  

The wood shingle siding is broken in many places, even more so since we had insulation blown in.  And we have some shadow man haunting that part of the yard, too.

The woodpeckers have pecked. A lot.  And the roof is four layers deep in places, doing the wave when that whole deferred-maintenance-shabby-chic look went out of style ages ago.

Our wooden stoop has become very warped and wobbly.  All the wet snow this year didn't help, especially since during our vacation it snowed and the wood wasn't shoveled.  The railing has been ready to fall down since well before we bought the home.

Paint is flaking pretty badly into the side garden. Our plans for tomatoes there are suspended until we ensure it's all repaired and that there is no lead in the soil.

I don't have a photo, but we also have high radon levels in the house that should be mitigated.  Since we've already dealt with asbestos, it seems fitting to have the toxic trifecta complete now with her sisters radon and lead.  Since I'm not feeling charitable, perhaps I should re-gender the toxins as dudes.  So I meant asbestos and his stupid brothers.

At least this gorgeous lawn ornament needs no improvement.

Anywho, you can see that the house needs a lot of work.  And I hope to share something substantial with you soon.*  That said, if you could choose a new color for this house, what would it be? Please don't say beige.

*I'd like to apologize to my neighbors who have put up with the state of our exterior.  We know it's not looking too good these days and hope it's better very soon.  Forgive us, please!

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