Archive for the 'Growing stuff' Category

What I’ve been up to…

Monday, May 20th, 2013

We’ve got all sorts of projects going on at Chez Smiles. First, I have been searching for chairs to go in our eat in area for 2 years. I finally found 6 at a reasonable price. Now to paint them. I’ve been wanting to play with chalk paint so I bought a super ugly, super cheap end table (soon to be bedside table) to practice with it on. I love the way it turned out but I will admit it was way more work than I was anticipating. First comes paint, then sanding to distress it a bit, then clear wax, then some steel wool, then some more clear wax, then some dark wax to age it some more, then some more clear wax. The 6 chairs will likely take me six months. Here is the before and after of my $8 side table. For my first attempt, I am pretty pleased. Let’s hope the chairs turn out well.



Last year, I blogged a bit about our CSA experience. We loved it. It changed the way we eat and the way I cook. I found ways to incorporate vegetables that I never dreamed of – and I learned that a lot of things I thought I didn’t like just hadn’t been cooked well when I tried it. We were going to do it again because it was such a fun experience. But after some discussion, we decided to try something different this year. There was some waste with the CSA either because it was something we never learned to like (beets for me…some greens for all of us) or because of an over abundance of 1 item (can only eat so many kohlrabi  or because of just an overabundance (another box before we were done with the previous week’s box). This year we decided to set aside the same amount we spent on the CSA each week and spend it on local foods at local farmers markets. That way we can tailor it to what we want and need. We also decided to plant a garden. That means as the summer goes on, we can spend less on veggies and more on dairy and meat. We are doing square foot gardening and have planted two 4′ x 4′ raised beds. I am skeptical about growing so many things in such a small space but am excited to see how it turns out. We’ve planted tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs, pumpkins (the small pie variety), baby watermelon, cantaloupe, green beans, carrots, and lettuce. The gardening has made me think so much of my dad. First because he would be shocked to see me planning to eat so many veggies. Second because he gardened (which I hated as a kid – forced to weed in the heat and bugs but didn’t like anything that came out of it) and took pride in trying to have the first red tomatoes in the county every year.


The past month has been filled with birthday parties. Sabrina got to go to another horse riding party. Lucky kids! I never got to do cool stuff that like as a kid.



I’ve also been agonizing over some art pieces I was working on. A friend asked me to do 3 canvases her daughter’s nursery. She showed me her nursery and just said have at it. For whatever reason, this completely made my brain freeze. The canvases were bigger than I have done in the past. I had no idea what would make her happy. I wanted them to look nice together but not to be 1 connected scene. It took me months of starting and stopping to get these done. I learned that I either need to just do canvases and THEN let people buy them so that I know they like them or I need to just get out of my head and just do it. Because there was no reason for that to take so long and to paralyze me that way. Rather ridiculous. But, in the end, I was happy with what I did. And so was my friend.




Thursday, July 1st, 2010

I took the girls for a walk yesterday (yay! it wasn’t 90 again!).

Initially, Sabrina whined that she didn’t want to walk – she wanted to ride in the stroller. With a lollipop.  Momma informed her that I wasn’t pushing 85+ lbs of stroller and kids in the 85+ degree weather.  She decided walking might be okay after all.  The girls took off gallops, skipping, and hopping.  I had a feeling it might not end well (neither of my children is particularly graceful…I can’t imagine where they get that…ahem). But off they went.

Tessa wiped out first.  She let out a pissed off half grunt, half yell.  I picked her up and saw she had scraped both knees raw.  One was bleeding a bit.  I started to carry her and she immediately wiggled to get down.  This next photo was snapped after her injuries.

Basically, she rubbed some dirt on it and took a lap.  Then, just before we got home, Sabrina wiped out.  She screamed.  She cried. She demanded to be carried home.  She cried harder.  She limped and hobbled the last 40 feet to our driveway.  She demanded first aid and bandaidages (she has combined bandage and bandaid for her own word).

I cleaned the girls knees, applied neosporin, and Hello Kitty bandaids.  Tessa, the more egregiously injured of the 2,  looked at her bandaid and then went on with her day.  Sabrina proceeded to list everything she couldn’t do now that she was injured: swim, take a bath, pull up her pants, climb on the bed, sit on the floor, go potty, use covers during her nap, and on and on.  Sabrina then began lecturing me “I told you to get the stroller momma so we can’t skin our knees.”

If there was any question about who the drama queen in the family might be, I think it has been resolved.

Everyone recovered sufficiently to survive the day.  Sabrina was trying to convince Tessa to make funny faces for the camera because she wanted mommy to take a photo of them with their bandaidages.

And in completely unrelated news, look at my little harvest of shallots!

I’m not sure they were fully mature but all of the sites I read said to harvest them when the green tops were 1/2 dead/brown so I did.  I used some in dinner last night.  Yummy!

It looks like I may have a couple of Roma tomatoes ready to pick this weekend.  Unfortunately, my other tomato plants aren’t so happy.  They each have 1 tomato and no other blooms.  I bought some tomato plant food yesterday so hopefully that perks them up.   The tomatillos I started from seed died completely in the heat of the past few weeks despite daily watering.  The cucumbers and hot peppers both have lots of babies on them.  The green peppers are looking pretty good but no flowers yet.

And finally, just because I am twisted.  I sat down at my computer this morning and found this.  I snorted.

This thumb might be turning green

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Because look at this baby tomato!  So exciting…our first tomato.  It is on the roma tomato plant for anyone curious.

And everything else is looking pretty good.  Lots of blooms on the cucumbers.

First Harvest

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Look what I got out of my little garden this morning.  Salad for everyone!

Watering the garden

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

I took Elle’s advice and scrapped my tomatoes from seed plan.  There was just no way they were going to yield fruit in the year 2010.  Yesterday, I planted a beefsteak, a Roma, and a 3rd type I can’t remember all of which were already a foot tall thanks to Home Depot.  In a completely illogical move, I kept the tomatillos…most because I couldn’t find them already started anywhere.  Maybe we’ll have salsa verde by New Years.  My little herbs (not the out of control oregano and parsley) out front look like they largely drowned this weekend in the 16 inches of rain we got so I may have to go buy some already started herbs too.   I’m taking a wait and see approach on that.

I think the girls might have gotten as much water as the tomatoes.

I can totally see 12 year old Sabrina in this shot:

A funny thing happened on the way to the Apocalypse

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

(Not my photo…taken from the AP.) I joked about apocalyptic rain on Saturday.  I had no idea how accurate it would prove to be.  I’m sure you’ve all read about the flooding in middle TN.  We are fine but what a horrific storm!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen it rain like that before.  It was a constant, heavy, torrential downpour.  It would lighten now and then but it didn’t stop for 40 hours.  We ended up getting 16 inches of rain.  Roads and yards flooded in my little town but I’m not aware of anyone with serious damage here.  Some roof leaks and some wet basements.  We were all trapped at home for the most part because the roads were closed.  But other areas around us had catastrophic flooding.  I’ve shared a lot of photos on Facebook.  Watching the news coverage drove home just how dangerous and horrific the situation was for so many near us.

(This one is from CBS News.) In the wee hours of Monday, the rain stopped.  Yesterday dawned sunny with clear blue skies.  Except for the humidity in the air, you wouldn’t know what the previous 2 days had been like.  Fortunately, my little town seems to be okay.  Many other areas can’t say the same.  The town we lived in when we initially moved south was devastated.  Downtown still had many flooded streets yesterday as the river crested at 12 feet above flood level.

(I pulled this one from a local news outlet.) If you’ve ever visited our area and stayed at the Opryland hotel, it is filled with water.  I can’t imagine the cost of fixing the damage on top of the lost revenue while repairs are made – not just to Opryland but to most tourist attractions in the area.  Aside from the business and tourist dollars lost, I would make bets that a large percentage of people whose homes sustained damage don’t have flood insurance.  They didn’t live in a flood plain and there likely didn’t seem to be a reason for it.  Many lost everything and will not have insurance payouts to replace the material items.

Shortly after I moved to Pittsburgh, I worked on a FEMA project leading a crisis counseling team in the community after flooding.  I enjoyed the work if not the project (as with many emergency grants it was thrown together without a clear vision or end goal).  I have this intense need to dust off my clip board and start going door to door to talk to people and see how they are coping once the water recedes.

************** Silver lining(s)

My dorky couponing is coming in handy. I have a decent amount of stockpiled stuff to donate to the relief cause.

My little garden didn’t complain about all of the rain – glad we took the time to make sure the drainage was sufficient.  These shallots were not over the top of this container before the rain started.  They grew several inches this weekend.  The rest of my garden is pretty happy too.

Brown thumb be damned

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I mentioned that I decided to try container gardening this year since we can’t dig up the yard in our rental house.  I started everything from seeds…I’ve never started anything from seeds before except herbs so this should be interesting.

It isn’t pretty and it is unintentionally very orange.  We bought inexpensive Sterlite containers from the store which shall not be named (oh the shame) and 5 gallon paint buckets from Home Depot.  We drilled lots of holes in the bottoms for drainage then put an inch or so of rocks and then dirt.

We found out after starting this project that our home owners association doesn’t allow vegetable gardens.  WTF?  We have a privacy fence and decided to take our chances.

I have no real idea what I am doing.  My dad gardened some while using us kids as slave labor but beyond his pride at having the first ripe tomatoes in the county I didn’t pay much attention.  And I can guarantee he didn’t start his tomatoes from seeds.  At this point, it looks like we might have plants big enough to bear fruit next July but we shall see what happens.  The cucumbers and hot peppers and radishes are very happy.  The lettuce is finally starting to look like it might live and might provide us with 1 salad some day for our efforts.

My herbs are out front where I had them last year.  The parsley and oregano both came back like gangbusters.  I’ve also put in thyme, basil, cilantro and chives.  I have a rosemary plant but I am going to put it in a pot and hopefully keep it alive so it can move with us next year.

And so that everyone will forgive this dull post, I’ll throw in a little cute.  Tessa loves to sit on my lap and watch what I am doing on the laptop.  But she insists that she sit in such a way that she can prop her feet on the table.  We’ll work on manners once she can talk.  I promise, Mom.

Lo Hice!

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

p1020666I did it! I found a way to make my blog even more dull.  We are going to watch the grass grow together.  Okay, not grass but probably something just about as interesting…our attempt at a garden.  We’ve been talking about wanting one for the past couple of years – mostly likely because we can’t plant one. Stupid lease.

To make a short story long, our lease is up April 30th.  We looked at houses and thought very seriously about building or buying one…then chickened out.  We decided to stay put for 1 more year to further reduce our debt before we take on another mortgage.  (Being a grown up sucks sometimes.)  But right after we made the decision, we saw an interesting house go up on the MLS.  We live in an area where 95% of the homes were built in the past 20 years.  It is subdivision city where you are guaranteed a cookie cutter house and a home owner’s association.  We dislike those 2 things immensely but there are enough things about this area that we like that we are willing to put up with them. But this house wasn’t in a subdivision and it was over 100 years old.  Guaranteed plumbing and electrical issues character – instant lust from us.

p1020547We went to see it.  The yard was wonderful.  Large but not too much mowing, mature trees (even a swing hanging from one which Sabrina liked), a garden all fenced off, and around the house itself an actual picket fence (no longer white but it could be).  But alas, the house itself wasn’t the dream.  Without adding on at least 1 room, it wouldn’t work for our family so we had to pass on it.

That night we went to bed with visions of gardens dancing in our heads.  I couldn’t let it go.  I started thinking about a container garden but some quick pricing on large planters proved that for 1 year (next year we hope to have our own yard so that we can plant in the actual ground) it was too much of an investment.  It would be cheaper just to make our weekly trips to the farmers market.  Then I had ‘another one of my brilliant ideas’ (80’s sitcom reference – anyone?) for a rather inexpensive (but not pretty) way to do a container garden.  Today we bought seeds and planted them.  We’ll move them outside when they are ready.  The ultimate hope is that this year we learn a little something about gardening while reaping a few veggies for our efforts so that we can have a nice garden next year.  We also hope that involved Sabrina in the process will get her excited about vegetables and she might actually allow a few to pass through her lips without an argument.

Aside from my herbs, we are trying tomatoes, green peppers, jalapenos, green onions, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and 2 kinds of lettuce.  I know nothing about gardening except I hated it when my dad used to make up get up really early on the weekends to work in the garden – especially we didn’t want to eat most of what he was growing.

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