My backyard mini-farm

Our backyard “mini-farm” is thriving again in the warm weather.  Last year we put in above-ground garden beds to house our mini-farm, and it didn’t take long before it paid off big time.  Last summer we had a steady supply of tomatoes, strawberries, beans, red and green bell peppers, and more cucumbers than we could handle!  And, it turns out that making pickles really isn’t all that difficult. 

The fall/winter plants were a little bit slower, but we did enjoy a nice supply of peas and broccoli.  Being a San Diego native, I’m not too familiar with the idea of having to grow in “seasons” given that there are really only two seasons there: really awesome, and “oh man, it’s 60 out…better grab a sweater!”

The garden seems to have really taken notice that the weather is warming up nicely.  The strawberry plants are already full of berries ready to ripen, the tomatoes have yellow flowers ready to give us tomatoes, the jalapeno is thriving, the watermelon has already sprung up from last year, and the cucumbers are threatening to overwhelm us again.

Once we have finished the last of the broccoli, we will be combining that bed with the strawberry bed to give them a little more room.

Backyard farming really isn’t that hard to do.  Because we are in a house where we can’t really mess with the backyard too much, we opted for above ground wooden beds that are easily assembled/disassembled for when we move.  We ordered them from a company in Oregon that gave us a major discount for getting the “unattractive” wood (the kind with knots, and natural discoloration), and an additional discount for my husband’s active duty service.   Anyway, we grow everything from organic seeds, used organic soil, and then we routinely feed them from our compost bin.   Our herbs stay indoors most of the time, but I set them outside every few days for some extra sunshine, which has proven to have worked well considering we had basil, cilantro, and parsley all year long.

I think the best part of it all is that my kids get to see science in action.  They help germinate the seeds, plant them outside, pick the weeds, and then they get to enjoy their work when we go out to pick what’s ready.  They are also learning about the “natural order” of bugs too.  When our flowers were being taken over by aphids, we learned that by planting marigolds near the flowers in need, the marigolds would attract bugs that love to eat the aphids…and it worked!  My squirmy girly girl is also learning to be more tolerant of the bugs, knowing that they are “good bugs” that eat the “bad bugs” that try to eat our plants.  It’s slow coming, but she’s learning to shriek less at the bugs.

Waffles & Karate

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Okay, so here we are tootin’ down the LA 55 on our way back from the kids’ karate tournament in Baton Rouge.  The kids did exceptionally well, and the big surprise was our five year old bringing in two medals his first time up as a Junior white belt, and a fresh Tiger Cub grad.  He took third in sparring, and first in form!  I’m obviously a very proud mom.

It’s been a good weekend.  We stayed at the La Quinta in Walker, LA, Friday and Saturday night.  Free of course because we cashed in our La Quinta points (that my husband racks up on work trips…work foots the bill, we collect the points….muahahahaha!) 

Anywhoozit, the hotel was such a pleasant stay. Super clean, great staff, nice pool, good breakfast (fresh waffles are the kids’ favorite second to the swimming pool) and our favorite is that Albert (our 7 lb guard dog) is always free and welcome.  
I’m beginning to feel like we travel enough that I’m becoming a bit of a good v. bad hotel expert. 

You want to know about bad?  Ask me about our stay last year in Jackson, MS…

So that was our weekend. It’s always fun to do something as a family when our weeks are so crazy, especially in support of the kids.

We started taking the kids to karate on a whim to break the cabin fever when we first got to NOLA in January ’10…we had no idea they would end up doing so well!

My thrifty closet

There is this belief out there that thrift store shopping is sketchy, dirty, or unfashionable.  Well I guess it could be, but when done correctly you can find some real sweet pieces to hang in your closet.

Most of my favorite items in my closet have come from thrift stores.  I have a serious cashmere sweater collection, all of which were purchased second hand (including a brand spankin’ new Banana Republic sweater that STILL had the tags on for $3!)

So here are my secrets to success…just don’t go telling every Tom, Dick, and Harry, or there won’t be any good stuff left for us!

1.) Hit up the second hand stores in or around “nicer” neighborhoods.  People with higher incomes with the corresponding wardrobes are most likely going to be donating to their local stores.

2.)  For the best selection, visit on a Monday or the next day after a long weekend.  Most people are going to wait until the weekend to clean our their closets and garages, which means newly donated items will be made available shortlyafter.

3.) Find out what days certain items are on sale.  The store I frequent offers discounts based on the color tag on the item.  Some days red tags are 50%, yellow 25%, etc.  The sale is constantly changing, so I like to plan ahead if I need certain items (sweaters, kids clothes, pants).

Last year before my son was born, I cleaned out my favorite store’s collection of baby boy clothes of sizes 0-9 months.  I went on a day when the baby clothes were on sale, so most of the items I paid cost me between .46-$1.00!  Oh, I did buy one really cute outfit that included overalls and a shirt with the tags still attached for a whopping $3.  I made it out of there with an entire baby wardrobe for the first 9 months of his life for less than $20. 

As for our 4 year old Princess-Fashionista?  She loves to dress up and will wear her outfits to the library, store, doctor’s appointments, the park, bike riding, you name it.  If she is awake, she wants to look her personal best.  So in that spirit, we let her pick out the fanciest, poofiest, dresses her little heart desires when we go to the thrift stores. 

Why?  If I were to spend $24.99 on a new foofy dress-up outfit at the store, I would probably cringe at the idea of her wearing it and getting it dirty.  But what’s the point of not letting her play in her favorite dresses?  If I only spent $3 on it, I don’t mind letting her wear it anywhere and everywhere because I didn’t break the bank for it.  And when it does get worn out, I will sew it up until it either doesn’t fit her anymore, or mending it is no longer practical.  It’s less stress on me to let her dress the way she wants and not having to worry about the cost of replacing it. 

And oh man, did we have some fun when my mom helped us move here last year!  We went to check out the thrift stores around our new neighborhood and we had a blast with each of us finding the most ridiculous outfits we could put together!  I have some awesome photographic evidence of our fun in the hat & sunglass section,  but I’m not sure my mom wants them blasted all over the internet ; )

Ahhhh, good times…

So go forth, brave the thrift stores, and see what awesome finds you can bring home without busting the bank!