Backyard fun and fun with toys

I think the best thing about working like crazy out in the yard is when I get to enjoy it with friends! When I was in high school my best friend Carmen went to Japan for a year on an exchange, I was heartbroken! While she was gone a super sweet girl came to live with her parents. And this last week she came back to visit, so Carmen came to visit too – as her and Tomoko had never actually met!

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Look at all our cute girls! The big girls are all with in six months of each other, and the little ones all within a year of each other. Such sweetness.

Last night I had an all girl party of a different sort. My friend Tracy is a Discovery Toys consultant and since I’ve wanted to have a Discovery Toys party since I was a kid (really!) I asked to host her first party!

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It was awesome! I made my easy bean salad, cut up some veggies, got some fun vintage type sodas and we sat and ate and chit chatted and looked at toys for a few hours. With a few cute little babies.

Here is a link to my party in case you are interested in any toys. I love these things so much. When I was younger my mom had a Discovery Toys party and got a few things for us. She got us something they don’t sell any more, a Think it Through. Did any one else play with one of these? It’s a self correcting puzzle of sorts. There is something similar and I already have it for Tuesday, the It’s a Match. I picked up the level three set at my party. I love that she can play with this thing for hours by herself, and check herself to see if she is correct. It is fabulous for the car.

They have a bunch of other fun stuff, for older and younger kids, and family games, so fun! Tracy doesn’t know I’m doing this, but if you’re in my area and want to have a party she is really good and it was so fun. I’ve never done a “party” for anything else (candles, kitchen stuff, etc.), even though I worked for a (now defunct) consultant scrapbooking company out of college. I was the warehouse manager and purchaser so I didn’t actually do parties. This was super laid back, gabbing about kids and looking at toys. The only problem was that Tuesday was pretty jealous!

  • Julia - Those are some really cute little girls!! It sounds like you are having lots of fun with friends this summer!July 18, 2014 – 1:40 pmReplyCancel

  • mary m - It was lots of fun–your backyard is so versatile!July 22, 2014 – 8:14 amReplyCancel

  • carmen - Cute photo! We had so much fun with you guys! Actually Tomoko was with us our Sophomore year so I got a whole year with her before I went to Japan my Junior year!July 25, 2014 – 9:36 amReplyCancel

The garden – mid July 2014

Ah the garden, such goodness. BUT SO HOT! I’m having a trouble finding time to work out there. The girls are not able to spend long periods of time out in the heat and it makes it hard for me to weed and stuff, I don’t really want to go out in the heat of the day when they are resting. So a few things have gotten out of control, you’ve been warned.

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I think I know what is going on with some of my plants, like my super small beets. Turns out you have to fertilize stuff. I’ve never really done that before, just bits of organic stuff when I put in transplants. I went to a Master Gardener’s Mini Collage this last weekend and learned so much! Also I read my seed packets while organizing (I need to get my stuff together to plant the winter garden – hence the empty bed) and I planted over wintering 220 day carrots, oops. Well you live and learn. We’ve harvested lots of raspberries and marionberries. We ate a lot of snap peas before I pulled them, and the celery was an interesting experiment, I chopped most and saved for winter soups. The herbs in the back I’m letting go to seed (some) to see if they’ll re-seed themselves next year.

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The new bed to the left has five tomato plants, a butternut squash, four peppers and some basil crammed in it. So far it’s working. The cucumbers to the left are coming on, and very yummy.

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To the left scarlet runner beans are blooming, and so pretty. The little potato bin maybe has potatoes in it, we’ll see in a few weeks. The other new box Bj built is growing melons and peppers. I put too many in, and we’ll see what happens. Once the fruit set is a little better I think I’ll start pinching off new blossoms. Speaking of thinning fruit… I swear I did thin my apples! But I guess not as much as I was supposed to. So propping up these honey crisps is a must!

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Another view of the bed, so that you can see my pumpkin vines! I pulled out half my strawberry patch and I’m so glad I’m giving these things some room. My goal is three big Jarrandales pumpkins and some little pie pumpkins.

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This back bed, still hoping some of those beans will come on and a few poppies, but we’ll see, all were planted late and in partial shade.

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These little bush beans (planted only slight before and in full shade) are doing great. I’ll wait until I taste them but I love that I can stick these beans in anywhere. Cosmos are great, I love the pops of color, I’m going to try them from seed next year I think.

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More tomatoes tucked in above the rock wall, and the little ground cover I planted blooming (wish I could figure out what it is!).  Here you can see some of my clover problem. It. Is. EVERYWHERE. Not quite sure what to do about it.

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The front yard is looking better. I’m still so sad we only got these piddly little sunflowers after about a hundred seeds!

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Remember the trellis we had built a few years ago? Well the jasmine we planted (one of them a day after Bennie was born, thanks to my man), is loving it. Oh these smell so good.

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So good!

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And underfoot, besides these weeds, I have this sweet ground cover growing between the stepping stones.

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And in the, we can do better area, is this section. I have to chop my clematis down to the ground because of a persistent fungus. The willow is CA-RAZY! It’s on the chopping block this fall. If I learned one thing at the mini-college it’s “right plant, right place” and this is the wrong place for this gigantic thing.

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The big news is that our arbor is done! I LOVE it! I can’t wait until grapes are growing all over it!

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The Asian pears are growing, though scabby, but I think they’ll still be edible. My bean tee pee is growing and I love it.

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Yes the summer garden is a good place to be, especially with friends!

  • Amanda - What a great idea – I’d like to attend a gardening workshop! I’ll have to google that and see if anyone around here offers one. I love how colorful your garden is :) July 15, 2014 – 8:06 amReplyCancel

  • Julia - I can’t say enough about your lovely garden. Well, it’s just AMAZING!!! The new arbor is gorgeous! I can’t wait to see a photo with grapes growing all over it.July 15, 2014 – 10:20 amReplyCancel

  • karen - please don’t do anything to kill your clover. I read an article that said part of the reason bees are vanishing is because everyone is killing the clover.July 15, 2014 – 1:15 pmReplyCancel

    • Amber - Oh I should have been more clear. It looks like clover, but is actually oxalis, a type of wood sorrel. We have clover in our grass, the bees love it! But they don’t come to this stuff, it’s just a bad weed!
      AmberJuly 15, 2014 – 3:00 pmReplyCancel

      • karen - Oh sorry – I shouldn’t have assumed. I have loved your garden blog posts this summer. Based on some of your ideas I am planning on incorporating more veggies into my small gardens next year. Keep the great pictures and ideas coming!July 15, 2014 – 4:05 pmReplyCancel

Moda Splash Quilt

I found a picture of this quilt through a quilting newsletter and shared it with my friend Carmen. When she exclaimed over how much she liked it I knew I had to make her one. She had the idea of changing out some of the solids for prints, which I liked. So I bought the pre-cut set and switched out a few of the triangles for prints.

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The pictures are not the best, it was snowy as you can see! But I wanted to get it in the mail, so I just had Bj hold it up in the cloudy weather (obviously I finished this a while ago, but am just now getting around to blogging it).

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My mother in law had the idea to use this sweet ombre fabric for the anchor.

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It’s been a while since I did all over quilting on my home machine, so I was a little rusty. But I really like how it looks. I used a green binding, with this little bit of plaid thrown in.

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The back is all this material (sorry I don’t remember what it is).

All in all a fun easy quilt, that I was happy to gift to my friend. I have a goal of finishing up more quilts and randomly gifting them. Maybe with this hot weather I should just hid out in my basement and sew!


  • emily (justem) - AHHHH. This is incredible!!! Lucky friend! :) July 14, 2014 – 8:56 amReplyCancel

  • mary m - That’s really cute–I love the colorsJuly 14, 2014 – 9:50 amReplyCancel

  • Julia - So pretty! I know your friend is going to love it!!July 14, 2014 – 1:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Julie - Love the colors! The anchor is fabulous! Who is receiving this wonderful quilt?July 17, 2014 – 11:30 amReplyCancel

To hot! To the beach!

My friend Tracy sent me a text yesterday that said, “call as soon as you get up.” so I did. A friend of hers reserved a yurt at the beach but wasn’t going to use it. Did we want to get away from 90 degree temps and join her? Oh yes we did!

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Ah so chilly! So fun! The girls played in the world’s shortest river until they were chattering (our ocean is really too cold to go into much – 50s). It only got up to about 63 and got down to low 50s, so we had a fire, snuggled up in the yurt with our friends and set out to play today as well. We played slightly past rest time.

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As you can see Bennet was about ready to sleep right in the sand! She did not want to leave!

I didn’t really either, I have been trying to shake a nasty summer cold and it was nice to be in cool air. Alas, my girls and I did still come home with runny noses and coughs. Hopefully they’ll be gone by next week… it’s set to hit 100! NOooooo!!!!! We might just have to head back to the beach again!

The Garden – end of June 2014

End of June! That’s when I always realize I’ve planted things too close together! Ha! I make it work though.

june late garden-3The biggest news this week is that our grape trellis is finally going in! I’ve been on our handy man’s list for a while, but he’s been really busy. And then he wimped out on supposedly “rainy” days this week (it barely sprinkled!). Still I’m hoping to have this finished soon. My grapes have been in pots since I bought them in early May. There will be a high trellis that should give us a little shade on the table during high points of the day, and a smaller one that the girls will have an easier time picking from (I chose table style seedless grapes).

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Here you can see the base of the tree. I’m trying my best to attract lots of bees. Especially since ass hats in our state keep spraying blooming Linden trees and killing thousands at a time. Grr. Any way I’ve tucked in tons more flowers than I usually do in my veggie heavy garden. And I love it! Here you can see one of my olive trees (I think I need to un-stake it), some small cabbages, and one that got a few weeks start (what a difference, huh?).

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More brassica (broccoli and brussel sprouts – my favorite!!!). Expect lots of pictures of these, since I have to hand pick bugs off them and am very proud that they are this big.

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Further down this same side are some yummy fruits. Blueberries that we’ve been picking for a week, and Asian pear trees behind. The twine hanging off of them is from rocks I had dangling from the branches to train some of the branches. Now that I’ve done this and the fruit has grown a little more I’m unsure if this was the right thing to do. The books say yes, but the heavier fruit seems to do a good enough job anyway. We’ll see.

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Speaking of fruit: On the other side of the garden I have an honeycrisp apple tree that looks like it’s going to be VERY productive. if only I can keep the bugs away! In that vein:

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I’m taking my Home Orchard Society’s advice and covering the apples with little panty hose type Fruit Sox. I doubt I’ll get to every apple, but at least I know I’ll have a good amount to eat in the fall. The Asian pears will get the same treatment, but I do believe I was too late on those and a lot show signs of insect activity already (Sox are typically applied in early May here, just after thinning the fruit).

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The bed behind this tree gets sun ALL DAY. That combined with careful cloching when the plants were little means I have peppers already! To be honest the melons in this bed could have used additional cover at night. But after nearly baking them one hot day I decided to air on the side of caution and remove it all together. It was a bit of a chore to sneak back there every morning and night and deal with a big piece of plastic. I’m happy to say it held up well and I think I’ll be able to use it for many years.

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Next to this bed my beans have leapt up (along with many weeds!).

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Some bush beans are coming in with the little poppies that I probably planted too late. sorry for the over exposure on this pic. It was about to rain and I was hustling!

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Plants that got removed for the arbor project, along with other pots that are not on drip and keep my on my toes! Tons of raspberries, but we’ve hardly got any to the kitchen the girls eat them like crazy.

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These are my original two beds. Check out those snap peas! They have gotten way over my head and I’ve had to add stakes to the top, as wind was toppling them over. I did it using this green velcro (Amazon links are affiliate links) that I am loving for tomatoes also. We harvested some celery for a salad to take to our Girl Scout potluck. It was tasty, but perfectly round, I’m not sure why. I saved all the leaves and little side stems for stock.

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Now my real obsession the past few weeks has been compost. I’ve never made my own before. Our city gives out free bins to put by the curb and take to municipal composting. I felt good enough that most of our food and yard waste was staying out of the landfill, but recently had an ah ha moment when I bought my 1,000th bag of compost. Um, can I make that? Turns out yes! I bought a fancy tumbler, that is just not doing it for me. I do like that it’s closed to keep out pests, but it is S.L.O.W. And relatively small. Because of the size it can’t get hot enough to kill weed seeds so I have to be careful what I put in there.  Then I found this geobin. I LOVE it. After 24 hours (with a little help from a friend’s rabbit poo) I got it up to 120 degrees!!! It comes apart easily for turning (note: haven’t tried this yet, and not sure if I’m going to. I might take the slow road to compost, we’ll see), is flexible in size, goes together in a minute max, and very well aerates the compost. The gray bin you see on top of the toy bin is my homemade worm bin. I think I’ll save my worm composting trials for another day. Let’s just say, man those things can eat!

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Another thing I’m doing besides composting to keep the soil quality in my yard up is using free tree trimming wood chips (it’s a mix of wood chips, pine needles, leaves, and anything else that went into the chipper that day). I was warned that it wouldn’t be a “good look” but I quite like it. They should weather and grey, and depending on how they do in the garden I’ll reapply them year after year to build deep fertile soil. I did underestimate how much a “truckload” was and am glad I bought a second geobin, as I can put some extra in there.

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The rain has been conspiring against me to get this all spread out. And I need to because I can’t plug in my car until it’s moved! Here you can see my (pitiful) sunflower area in our front yard. I hope you can notice how I don’t put the mulch right up to the plant stems, that would choke them. I semi weeded before I put the mulch down. Tiny weeds no, big giant weeds yes. In areas where there were no plants I am laying the mulch very thick, at least four inches. I’ll report back on this.

Here are some books I’m reading right now about gardening and composting:

Our Life in Gardens (you don’t have to be a gardener to appreciate this. A lovely couples 30 year relationship told through plants. The kind of book you pick up and read a chapter of – as it’s organized by plant type – here and there. I got this for my mom for her birthday)

Let it Rot (out of all the compost books I’ve checked out – and it was a lot – this is the one I ended up buying)

Worms Eat My Garbage (I remember reading this in the forth grade and wanting worms. Finally I have them… and they are eating my garbage!)

Quarter Acre Farm (love the writing. Reminds me of Farm City, but not so hard core, at least not yet, I’m only half way through)

Mini-Farming: Self Sufficiency on a 1/4 Acre (I seriously can not stand the thickness of the pages, but I think that’s a personal problem)

So how grows your garden?

(My garden in early May, mid May, late May, beginning of June)



  • Karen - I have loved your garden posts…they have encouraged me to try and plant more edible plants in my regular flower beds to take advantage of my small yard in next year’s garden.June 28, 2014 – 1:42 pmReplyCancel

  • Nora - Okay, now am I not only jealous of the super cute garden shed…but the beautiful hydrangeas flourishing next to it.June 28, 2014 – 9:21 pmReplyCancel

  • Julia - It all looks amazing! I also love the blue hydrangeas! I bet your house is filled with gorgeous flowers from your garden. What are the pretty plants in the white planters by your deck?June 29, 2014 – 5:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Your garden looks fantastic! So much good stuff growing :) Yep, I can see what I planted too close now as well . . I have tomatoes and cucumber vines growing all intertwined. Haven’t decided what to do with them yet! Thank you for the book list, I’m going to add them to my library queue.June 29, 2014 – 6:00 pmReplyCancel

  • emily (justem) - I’m contemplating flying you here to be my garden expert. ;) This is just so incredible!!!July 14, 2014 – 8:57 amReplyCancel