$2 DIY Barn Toy

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

Our little guy loves playing with his little farm animals, and I’ve been wanting to find him a little barn for them. I saw a DIY barn on Pinterest recently and it inspired me to make one myself for him. I didn’t have a big tea box to use like in that tutorial, so I started brainstorming about what else I had on hand that I could use. I started picturing some of our favorite barns that we’ve seen at some of the homes nearby, and I had a perfect idea…an empty juice container.

Here are the supplies you will need to make this super simple toy for your own little one:
1. empty juice or milk container
2. sheet of red corrugated 12″x12″ scrapbook paper (I purchased mine at Joann’s)
3. sheet of brown felt
4. sheet of sticky back, stiff white felt
5. glue gun
6. razor blade
7. scissors
8. ruler
9. duct tape

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
1. I started by thoroughly cleaning and drying the juice box.
2. Then I measured the width of one of the sides (4 inches). I cut up the length of 4 inches along three of the sides of the juice container, starting from the bottom. This created a flap to be the new bottom of the barn. I also cut off the plastic pour spout and trimmed off the tab at the very top of the container that makes the top a bit more pointy.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
3. I used duct tape to close and secure the flap to make the new bottom.
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
4. My son actually picked out this red corrugated cardboard a long time ago when we were shopping for craft supplies, and I had no idea what we were going to use it for. Red is his favorite color, and the corrugated texture makes for a great sensory experience, so I was determined to find a use for it eventually. I realized that it would make the perfect “wood siding” for the barn. I measured the red paper to fit the sides of the carton, and glued on with the glue gun. $2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
5. Next I started with the roof. I used two sheets of felt, one sticky back white and one standard piece of brown felt. The white felt gives some much needed stiffness, and also gives the illusion of painted white trim around the roof. πŸ™‚
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
6. I measured out a piece of each felt for the roof, approximately 7″ x 5.5″. Then I stuck the brown felt to the sticky side of the white felt, and glued the whole thing on the roof with the glue gun.
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
7. Then I used more of the sticky white felt to create the barn doors. I sketched out my design on the back (paper covering the sticky side), and cut out with a razor blade (cut over a cutting board).

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
8. Here are the cut out doors. Next I put the doors on, using a tiny bit of glue from the glue gun.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
9. Last step was cutting out the doors with the razor blade.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog $2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
My little guy immediately took the barn out of the sensory bin, but he has had tons of fun playing with it. He keeps singing E-I-E-I-O when he plays with it. πŸ™‚

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One Lovely Blog Award – Alicia in Wonderland Blog

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Last week, the wonderfully sweet writer of Making it as a Mum nominated me for the “One Lovely Blog Award”. πŸ™‚ I am incredibly flattered to receive this honor! Be sure to check out her blog here…it is filled with tons of witty and wonderfully honest musings about motherhood.

The RulesΒ for accepting the Award(s):
  1. Thank and link back to the awesome person who nominated you.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on their blogs to let them know.Β 

It has been difficult trying to think of seven things about me that you may not already know if you read this blog often! I decided to start with some funny facts about my husband and I. πŸ™‚

1. I met my husband in a dark alley and tried to hit on him.
Yup, and I parked in that alley and ran over to him to introduce myself. Definitely not something I had ever done prior to that day, but I just had to meet him! I was driving one of my friends from work home one evening, and I saw this mysterious man pull up on his motorcycle. My friend told me that was his buddy and his neighbor. I parked my car illegally in the alley and ran over to him. I tried to introduce myself and make conversation (he was wearing my favorite motorcycle jacket made by the company I worked for at the time). He blew me off completely. That night, I had a dream where I saw myself getting married to this man who had so rudely blown me off. It made me pretty angry. We became good friends over the course of the following year though.

2. He later was going to be my pretend boyfriend.
When my high school reunion was getting close, I started talking with some of my girl friends about the fact that I did not want to go alone. I was embarrassed that I been focusing too much on my job and had no good date options at the moment. My friends and I made a list of all of the guys we knew collectively, and pros and cons for each one as a date and faux-beau as we called it. We decided that hands-down, my now husband was the best option for a faux-beau. I asked him if he wanted to pretend to be my boyfriend at my reunion (and on Facebook too prior to the reunion). He happily agreed. The reunion ended up getting canceled, and he was surprisingly really disappointed about it. At that point, I started thinking hey…he’s the best guy I’ve ever met and maybe he is starting to be more interested in me than he was when we first met. I tried dropping hints for months with no luck.

3. Then we became roommates for a little bit and I kept referring to him as my husband when I was asleep.
On the nights when he got home really late for work, I would occasionally sleep walk and ask our other roommates when my husband was going to be home (we had not even gone on our first date at that point and were completely just friends/roommates at the time). I realized that my subconscious mind was seriously trying to tell me something, so I pretty much forced him into our first date. πŸ™‚ At that dinner, he said he did not want to get married any time soon, and he did not like organized religion (he knew me very well at this point lol). A little over a year later, we were married and shortly after that, he got baptized. πŸ™‚

4. My grandma convinced me to keep dating him.
I was getting frustrated by how much my then-boyfriend-now-husband was against organized religion. It left me in tears on quite a few occasions that I felt like I knew this was the man I wanted to marry but I just did not want to end up with someone that was anti-religion. I told my grandma that I thought I was done with him, and she convinced me to be more patient. She and her friends from church had apparently been saying the rosary for his conversion. I never would have guessed in a million years that prayer would suddenly be answered not long after. One weekend, he took me on a ski trip (most of our mutual friends thought he was going to propose). Instead of proposing, he told me that he wanted to start taking classes so he could eventually become baptized. Even better than a ring. πŸ™‚

And a few things just about me:
5. I may come across as an extrovert, but I am really a very introverted person.
Back when I was a little tyke in preschool, I was a chatterbox at home, but very quiet at preschool. So much so that the school thought I was mute for a while. As I got older, I started noticing that the more outgoing girls in dance class got all of the best solo parts. I started watching them and trying to force myself to be more outgoing. That became a habit that stuck with me for most of my life. I have come to realize since I met my husband that I am most happy when I allow myself to be comfortable with my introverted self. I need time to relax at home, and meeting new people makes me a bit uncomfortable at first. I often ramble nervously with people I do not know well or people I do not completely feel comfortable around. I have come to the realization that my nervous rambling has been interpreted as self-centeredness. In reality, my chattering is really just my way to deal with that awkward feeling that haunts most introverts. Maybe it is better to just be the quiet one. πŸ™‚ I think there are a lot of artistic people who are very introverted by nature. I know that having alone time (or time just with my husband and son) always recharges my creative energy. My husband and I are both introverts, but we have a very extroverted, social son…we make the effort to meet new people just for him. πŸ™‚

6. When I was growing up, my life goal was to be a writer.
I wanted to write a fiction novel so bad. I even went to a Young Writer’s Camp one summer. Unfortunately, fiction is not an area where I have ever been extraordinarily creatively gifted. I tried for years to come up with the “big idea” for the novel I wanted to write, sketching out plot lines, but none of them were ever any good. I finally gave up on the idea and started focusing on writing non-fiction. I had so much fun for many years writing for online fashion magazines, attending runway shows and writing trend reports. I eventually gave up on that though since the pay was awful. I knew that writing was still something that I really enjoyed and something that enriched my spirit. For me, blogging is the perfect solution. I get to share stories about our life, but do not have to worry about getting writer’s block and having a lack of creative ideas! With sharing our real-life stories, I get the fun of writing without the stress of trying to come up with the details of a fictional story.

7. I don’t mind if someone thinks I am an over-sharer.
I share a lot of personal details about some our struggles here on my blog. Some people are not comfortable with that. Personally, I look at my blog as a way to document our memories, and hopefully help a few others in the process. If it gives someone else the inspiration to get out and garden, or find a way to find peace with their own personal struggles, I feel like that is worth all of the over-sharing. I only share really personal events when I think it may help someone else in their own emotional and spiritual journey. There are plenty of things from my past that I have not shared (things that make the trials that I have shared seem easy in comparison), and they are things that I probably never will (although who knows, some day I may feel otherwise). Journeys I have faced and personal battles I have won. I don’t like to hash out all of the ugly details here because I like to think of myself as a survivor, not a victim.

Okay, so now on to the 15 blogs that I nominate! Be sure to check them out…they are some of my favorite blogs!

First up is the set of blogs that I have been scouring recently in planning our new tot school homeschooling curriculum, that I mentioned in this post. These are some seriously amazing mamas!
1. http://wildflowerramblings.com/
2. http://teachingmama.org/
3. http://www.andnextcomesl.com/
4. http://www.1plus1plus1equals1.com/

And some more of my favorites!
5. http://8kidsandabusiness.wordpress.com/
6. http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/
7. http://wellnessmama.com/
8. http://timewarpwife.com/
9. http://www.keeperofthehome.org/
10. http://biblicalhomemaking.blogspot.se/
11. http://leaciceraro.com/blog/
12. http://www.abowlfulloflemons.net/
13. http://catholicmom.com/
14. http://www.simplyjune.org/
15. http://www.heynataliejean.com/

 

Future Little Chef

This little wooden kitchen is one of my favorite things that we have gotten for E. My husband kind of thought I was losing my mind when I said I wanted to get a mini kitchen for E to put in our kitchen. For one thing, our kitchen is small. A tiny galley kitchen. It is definitely a one-chef only kind of kitchen, but there was a tiny bit of space near the doors to the patio that could be used. This little kitchen (made by Melissa & Doug) is the perfect size to fit in our tiny little space. E loves watching me cook, and having his own space to “make lunch”. He is so funny with his little fake food, and whatever sensory activity I have given him (he had cloud dough made out of flour and vegetable oil in these pictures). I often see him adding things to a pan, stirring, smelling, then adding more of something else…pretty much the exact way I cook since I rarely cook with a recipe. πŸ™‚ The mini kitchen has been wonderful for both E and myself. It keeps him occupied and out of my way, allowing me to cook and do dishes without a tiny little guy constantly ending up in my way. πŸ™‚

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Letting Go of Worrying What Others Think About Us

Friends and loyal readers, I have a confession to make. I have failed my family in one crucial area ever since our son started walking. I have let what others say get the best of me, usually preventing us from enjoying mass on Sunday, and a few times when our son was having a particularly wild day, we did not even go for fear that we were going to annoy everyone else. As moms, we tend to be the spiritual backbone of our family. As my husband’s Godparent, I feel that responsibility even more so. Yet we temporarily got into a rut where we were just so overwhelmed and I felt like I was failing as a mom, wife, Godparent, and Catholic and Christian in general.

Our son is a very active, chatty, social little guy. He loves talking to strangers, and running up to see new people. He was very easy to keep contained in church before he started walking, and was usually on my chest in the baby carrier. However, once he started walking, he mostly lost interest in being in the baby carrier. He likes to explore, be free, and hates feeling constrained. Our normal parish does not have a crying room, which is nice since it encourages families with young children to sit with the rest of the parish. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys having a toddler near them in church. After a few weeks with some unfortunately discouraging comments, I was too embarrassed to keep going, so we tried other parishes.

I wanted to go to a church with a crying room, so that I could relax a bit. We tried a church with a very full crying room, but after one week there, my husband and I both agreed that was not how we wanted to raise our son. We could see that the kids (even the older, school-aged kids) in there were just getting into a habit of not paying attention to the mass at all, and were just busy playing with toys and all of the other kids. We tried another church where the crying room was usually empty. That worked for a few weeks, but then our son started to catch onto the fact that we were separated from everyone else. He started beating on the glass walls like he was trying to escape from a cage. All of the normal recommendations that people give about keeping your kids occupied during church were not working for us. Normally, at home or at the library, our son is a little bookworm. He loves looking at books and “reading”, but for some reason had no interest in books at all when we were at church. He also loved his sensory box when we were at home, but would not even glance at it when we were in church. I tried making a few pages for a quiet book for him to use during church, but he had absolutely no interest in it during mass (even though he loved those pages when we were at home). I tried setting aside the special books and quiet book pages so he was only looking at them when we were at church and they would be fun and new to him, but that still did not work.

Then one day something occurred to me. Our son is very sensitive to my emotions. I have spent months being tense on Sundays, worrying that his chattering, whining and squirming was disturbing everyone. I have not allowed myself to relax for fear of bothering everyone around us. Then I read this blog post and this one, and the words of these wonderful, experienced Catholic moms assured me that what we were going through was not unusual. I let go of my anxiety that we were disturbing everyone around us. I started making an effort to stop caring what others say or think about us, both in life and in church. I worked on getting myself into a calm, peaceful place before we went to mass. Guess what happened. Our son’s behavior suddenly changed.

The past few weeks have been wonderful. Our son E has been peaceful during mass, has sat quietly with his quiet book, his sensory box, and his big children’s Bible. He has cuddled in my lap and listened to the priest speak. He has loved singing along with the music during mass since he was about five months old, but then a few weeks ago he said “Amen” after everyone else did, and he even reached out to shake my hand during the Sign of Peace. I realized then that maybe I was not doing such a bad job after all.

For some reason, his original sensory box disappeared. I spent days looking everywhere for it, and it was just gone. I figured it was time to upgrade to a toddler model anyway, so I made a new one. I have a little plastic statue of Jesus that someone gave me for my First Communion that E loves. He loves saying “Hi Gee!” when he sees it, so I made sure to include that in the new box. πŸ™‚ I also added some latches and other items that were not in the original box.

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I have gone a bit Pinterest crazy lately researching quiet book templates and planning our tot school homeschool room and curriculum (more on that coming soon). I found some great templates for quiet book pages, especially at this blog. I put together a Pinterest board with a lot of great resources that have inspired me with various pages. Some of the pages I designed on my own and cut out freehand, and others I followed a template, or modified a template to my own design. I plan to do a page for each letter of the alphabet, plus some other pages as well, so it is far from finished but it has plenty to keep our son occupied for now. I do not like cutting out letters, so I found some foam alphabet stickers that I hot glued on where I wanted to spell out words.

This first page is a modified version of the felt board that I made for our son’s room (updated room tour coming soon too). I purchased the felt stickers at Joann’s for the ladybugs, bees, and fish, and added Velcro to the back. The rest I cut out freehand. I also did the same for the page with the owls later in the book.

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Around Town: Day Trip to Downtown L.A.

β™«Β β™ͺβ™© “Downtown” by Petula Clark β™©β™ͺβ™«

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown
When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything’s waiting for youI love that song. It always cheers me up when I hear it. I lived and/or worked in downtown L.A. for many years and downtown is definitely one of my places I go when I need some cheering up. The past couple of weeks have been particularly rough for all of us, so yesterday I decided that my son and I needed a day downtown to cheer us up.One night last week, my husband, son and I were out running errands. E had been cranky from getting his molars poking through, but seemed otherwise fine. I had him on my chest in the babycarrier while we were running errands, hoping he would take a nap. The teething pain had been pretty extreme so he had gone almost an entire week without a nap longer than five minutes. When we got home, he looked flushed and dazed. I felt his forehead and he was suddenly burning up. We took his temperature and it was 103.5 degrees F. My husband and I went into panic mode. We quickly gave E some infant acetaminophen and got into the car to head to the emergency room. The E.R. doctor said that it looked like he had roseola, and the fever should be better in a few days. I was so scared that the doctor was wrong and perhaps something more serious was wrong, like perhaps he had somehow gotten meningitis like I had last year. Sure enough, a few days after our E.R. trip, the fever broke and E broke out in a rash, just as predicted. I was incredibly relieved.The teething situation was unfortunately still not getting better though. It seemed like the poor little guy was just miserable, and getting all of the molars cutting through at once seemed to be just way more than he could handle. We had a few nights where none of us got any sleep because E was screaming in pain all night, no matter what my husband and I tried. I knew it was his teeth bothering him since months ago, we started the “point at what is bothering you” game every time he starts crying. I started to get concerned that perhaps he had an infection in his gums or something. Yesterday, I took him in to see a pediatric dentist who assured me that he was okay, just in an extreme amount of pain (apparently it is not that common to get all of the molars all at the same time).After we left the dentist’s office, I wanted to take E to do something fun. We had both been cooped up in the house for days and were going stir crazy. He still has a bit left of his roseola rash, and although he should not be contagious anymore, I did not want to bring him anywhere with other kids (roseola is primarily only contagious to people ages three and under). Downtown Los Angeles seemed like the perfect adventure. He could sit back and people watch, be entertained, and stay occupied without exerting himself. I was hoping the day trip would keep him distracted enough to keep the screaming at bay. Thankfully, it did the trick. I am grateful that we are only a half hour’s drive from downtown (during non-rush hour times). It is always fun to spend a day there.I apologize in advance for all of the cell phone pictures. I wanted to take pictures of our adventure, but I did not want to juggle a cranky toddler and my big camera. E and I started out going to Grand Central Market. I have actually never been inside of Grand Central Market, but decided to check it out since I have seen a lot of pictures posted lately about it on social media.Β  I could not find any organic produce like I would have hoped to find, but there were a lot of cute little places that would make some nice lunch/dinner options. I love the new little street parkettes in downtown, like the one in front of Grand Central in the photo below. The city carved out sections of the asphalt, replaced it with outdoor flooring, and put in adorable little cafe tables and chairs with umbrellas and big planters of succulents. They are in various areas of downtown, and free for use for the public. Such a great update for the city!

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Next we went to The Last Bookstore. I love this place, and books always cheer up my little guy. This is seriously the coolest bookstore I have ever seen. The last time I was there, somehow I did not notice this little vault room filled with vintage books. It is tucked behind the children’s book area. I suppose since I was pre-baby the last time I went there, I was not paying too much attention to the children’s book department. πŸ™‚

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My little bookworm always loves looking at new books! Poor little guy is extra skinny right now from being sick. 😦 His head appears to have had another growth spurt though, despite being sick. πŸ™‚ aliciainwonderlandblog
Then we happened to find a nice little park in the middle of downtown, even with a nice little play area for kids!
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Since E had his first trip to the dentist, I thought it would be fun to show him where his great-great-grandfather had his dentist’s office. E is a fifth generation Angeleno…my family (on both my mom’s and dad’s sides) has been here since the late 1800’s! I love our family history in this city. πŸ™‚ The Bradbury Building is one of those amazing places that everyone needs to go check out. The last time I went in there was a really fun day, when my mom and my grandma came to visit me downtown after I got out of work. My grandma showed us around some of the historic buildings, and reminisced about visiting her dad at work in the Bradbury Building, ditching school by taking a red car to go see a movie in one of the old theaters, lunch at Cliftons, and more. My grandma was the best.

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I used to joke that Urban Outfitters should rename themselves Suburban Outfitters since all of their SoCal stores were initially only in the suburbs (that used to drive me nuts when I was in college and wanted to shop there more often). Look at them, proving me wrong! I get so happy every time I see one of the old historic theaters being put to use. It would have made my grandma happy to see them being used again.
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Many memories of working here, running across that bridge on my lunch break to check out some Friday sample sales. πŸ™‚
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This Zara used to be the Ann Taylor where I worked for years while in college. Nothing against Ann Taylor (I loved working there and it was great shopping for the women who work in the financial district), but this newly revamped 7th & Fig shopping mall is such a great use of space. When I was in fashion school, I actually did a project about how the space could be redesigned to improve traffic (the mall was nearly vacant for a while). Given the proximity to USC, FIDM, LA Trade Tech College, and a few others, the area was in high need for a shopping center that catered to college students. I was really surprised when I walked past the mall and saw a sign that said “Welcome back USC students”, as well as the new H&M and Zara. It looks like the mall executives finally caught on and livened the place up a bit. πŸ™‚aliciainwonderlandblog
This is just one of my favorite buildings downtown. If you had asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself in 10 years, I would have said living in a cool building like this with my cat Fluffy. πŸ™‚ aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog

Every time I go downtown, I am excited about all of the improvements continuously being made. It is finally starting to feel like a “real” city. In my mind, based on all of the major cities I have been to, a vibrant city center should have the following things:
1. Excellent public transportation.
2. Ample shopping, including grocery stores, a variety of clothing stores, a big box store like Target, and more.
3. Coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars.
4. Movie theaters and other forms of entertainment.
5. Areas to sit an enjoy a cup coffee or just relax for a minute and people watch.
6. Accessible public restrooms.
7. Handicapped accessibility.

For many years, downtown L.A. was lacking in most of the categories on my list except for the public transportation category. DTLA’s public transportation is highly underrated, and I am speaking from experience. If you live and work near downtown, or the surrounding areas (as far away as Hollywood), you can easily exist without a car in Los Angeles. I did for about 10 years. The subway is so fast and clean, and the LADOT Dash buses were my favorite, with a variety of routes downtown.

In the past few years, DTLA has made some amazing improvements in items number 2 through 5 on my list. I am so happy with the changes! There are just two more areas that I feel could still use a bit of improvement: restrooms and handicapped accessibility. Most of the businesses downtown do not have public restrooms, so if you are visiting the area and need to go, you are usually out of luck. A major goal of any city should be to increase spending (especially from visitors and tourists). It is difficult to spend any decent amount of time downtown when you can’t find a restroom. The first time I was in London 16 years ago, there were permanent public restroom booths on the street that were self-cleaning. They were pay per use and it is such a brilliant concept. If the Brits could implement such innovative technology to improve their city (almost two decades ago!), surely we are capable of doing the same now, right L.A.? Furthermore, if the restroom booths were big enough for a mom and a stroller, you would encourage a whole new demographic to come shop downtown! I saw one public restroom booth at Pershing Square, so at least that is a step in the right direction!

Which brings me to the other area needing serious improvement: handicapped accessibility. I haven’t spent much time downtown with my stroller before yesterday, but it brought some issues to my attention. The handicapped ramps on the curb are so infrequent and sporadic. There is a ramp often on one side of the street but not the other. Seriously, how is this even acceptable? How are disabled people in wheelchairs navigating these sidewalks of downtown? I honestly do not get it.

If the city could just make those two more changes, it would be darn near perfect. Thank you to our city leaders and planners for working so hard on making downtown better and more beautiful. The new improved downtown makes me proud to be a 4th generation Angeleno! I even noticed a significant change in the attitude of people downtown now. In previous years, any time anyone said much of anything to me downtown, I got nervous that I was about to get mugged again (it happened a couple of times unfortunately). I grew anxious and worried all the time. However, yesterday, it felt like the whole attitude of the city had changed with the revitalization. Strangers smiled and said hello, and opened doors for each other. I was initially afraid to go downtown with my son, my nice stroller, sparkly wedding rings, etc. Since I had a few scary experiences when I didn’t have any of those, I was a bit nervous to go spend much time downtown now. I am so happy to say that for the first time, downtown felt like a safe, warm, welcoming place. I encourage other moms to bring their kids out for a visit downtown too! Thank you to all of the LAPD officers that I saw all around the streets, keeping our city safe! I don’t know what kind of changes you have made lately, but I definitely noticed a difference.

One last funny story in closing…last year when I got sick with meningitis, my husband took me to urgent care initially. The only urgent care open at that time of night was in DTLA. He assumed he would not need to use GPS since I usually know the grid of downtown streets like the back of my hand. When we pulled off the freeway, our conversation went something like this:

Husband: Where do I turn? Which way is Olympic?
Me: I don’t know! You just exited the freeway into the Twilight Zone!
Husband: What are you talking about?!
Me: I have no idea where we are! Nothing looks familiar! Why don’t you use the darn GPS?
Husband: I assumed I wouldn’t need it since you used to know the area so well!
Me: I don’t know what to tell you. Downtown was not pretty and sparkly when I was here all the time so as far as I’m concerned, we may have just driven to a foreign country. πŸ™‚

For the record, I had a viral infection in my brain making me loopy, but downtown really has undergone quite an amazing transformation in the past few years. πŸ™‚

Why I Blog + Keeping Poisonous Plants Out of Our Garden

Sometimes I wonder why I bother blogging at all. Some days it seems like many people view bloggers as just someone to contradict, like the internet is one big arena of the high school debate team. I know I personally do not blog to try to start arguments, debates, or be insulted about the way that we live our lives, and I cannot imagine any blogger who would write with that intention. Most bloggers do not get paid for running their blog, so it is not like they are getting a weekly paycheck for keeping up with a blog, or have a boss telling them what to write about, or editing their entries.

So, why did I start my blog? Way back here on my first post on Tumblr, I started the blog with the intention of teaching my husband more about portraiture. I figured if he was documenting my more creative outfits and outfits I had designed and sewn, with the intention of posting the photos on a blog, he would be more motivated to work on his skills than if he was just photographing me for photos that no one else would ever see. He had experience with photography, but I wanted to work on his skills with portraits so he could assist me as needed in the photography business we wanted to start. I very quickly got bored of only blogging about my outfits, and decided that since I had already gone to all of the trouble to build the blog, I might as well start posting more interesting content.

A couple of generations ago, things like gardening and creating new recipes were common activities. I noticed among my own friends that they were hobbies and interests that were not as common as I am sure they used to be. I wanted to share some of my own experience (especially with gardening), and help inspire others to get out and get creative in their gardens, and maybe try making some healthier meals at home. I started writing about things I was growing in our garden, and documenting some of the recipes I came up with.

I started gardening at the age of two, with the encouragement of my dad. It is something he enjoys as well, and so did his mother. While my dad was always encouraging and teaching me about gardening, his mother was not encouraging to me about my gardening skills. She would tell me horribly mean things, like I would never be able to grow strawberries as well as she does (strawberries are not the easiest food to grow). She would tell me that nothing I grew would ever be good enough to win any awards or receive any recognition. Some of those comments stuck with me for a long time.

Since gardening has been something I have been interested in for so long, I wanted to help demystify the process of gardening for those who read my blog. It really is not that difficult (no matter what my grandmother claimed). I wanted to help inspire others to get outside and grow something beautiful or useful (or both!). Even when I only had a little studio apartment with an old fire escape at the end of the hallway, I still worked on growing a container garden of edibles that became a community garden for my building. I want people to know that it is easy to grow your own food and flowers. That is why I blog.

I also blog as a way to document our lives, mostly for our own reference. It may sound a bit morbid, but after having a couple of close calls with my health where my doctors were having conversations with my husband about the fact that I may not make it to the following day, I wanted to make sure that I was documenting our family from my point of view. A few times, when I have been too ill to be up and about with my normal routine (either when I had a severe case of pneumonia, was on pregnancy bed rest, had meningitis, etc.), my husband actually referenced several of my blog posts to find some of my recipes or figure out how I normally handle certain things around here. I like having that peace of mind knowing that my simple act of blogging could be a great point of reference if needed. Also, it is so much fun for me to be able to document our little guy growing up, especially for family members who are not local!

In addition to all of that, I really enjoy sharing when I have found something that works well for us, like the amber teething necklace post or my rave review of the gDiapers system. Those were not sponsored posts, they were just honest reviews of things that I was excited about and wanted to share with others. Unfortunately, sharing what works for us has not always been met with favorable responses.

After I wrote my gDiapers post, I was suddenly flooded with angry hate mail from crazy crunchy moms who were upset that I referred to disposable diapers as “regular diapers”. I know that cloth diapers are the original thing that everyone used, but sorry…disposables have become the norm, whether any of us like that fact or not (hence my use of the term “regular”). Such a minor thing to gripe about in reality anyway. I posted my low-sugar lemonade recipe, and got more angry hate mail from people who were upset that it was not as sweet as store-bought lemonade. With the disclaimer that it is a low-sugar recipe, without artificial sweeteners, why would you expect a sickeningly sweet lemonade anyway? When I decided to share the artwork I designed for our son’s nursery (for free, as printable pdfs), I mistakenly made a typo in referencing one of the Bible verses. As soon as the first person brought it to my attention, I corrected the post and the artwork, and apologized profusely for the typo. I still got tons of angry emails and comments because I was not able to correct the typo in the pin that had since gone all over Pinterest. Sorry, but that is not my fault…I did not design Pinterest. As I told one angry reader, the last time I checked, there has only ever been one perfect person, and He has never yelled at me for a simple typo. You would think that people interested in free Bible artwork would have a little more patience. It’s not like they purchased the artwork and it was defective!

I may have some strong opinions about how we do things in our house, and I often share those on my blog. But here’s the thing…it’s my blog. Meaning my own personal corner of the internet. I am not writing for a boss, or writing to get a grade at school. If you do not like how we do things here or how I write, you can simply find something else to read. I have a zero tolerance policy for internet bullying and rude comments. Even less patience if those rude comments come from someone I actually know or worse yet have considered a friend. If you have a legitimate concern, that is understandable, but people who just want to complain for the sake of complaining are persona non grata in my world. Just because you stand up publicly and say “here’s what I’m doing and it works for us” doesn’t mean you are also saying, “here’s what I’m doing, rip me apart if you don’t agree”!

Also, I never claim to be a certified expert at anything I write about. I am not a certified Master Gardener (yet…I don’t have the time to complete that process now). I never claim to be the best gardener in the world, or have grown the world’s biggest squash, or anything of the sort. If anything, I always think I am not doing a good enough job with our garden, and if you follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I almost did not even bring my squash to the fair that ended up winning first place and division winner. When I am proud of an accomplishment or award I receive, it is just news that I am excited to share…that’s it. Like most of us, I am always learning and challenging myself to learn more and try new things. My blog is just my way to document the process.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, has it inspired you to get out and try new things in your garden, experiment more in your kitchen, try a new DIY decorating project, give cloth diapers a try, or something else? If it has, please send me a photo! I would absolutely love to do a special post with reader photos that have been inspired by my past posts!

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Thank you for reading my rant, and now back to the regularly scheduled programming, so to speak. I always try to keep our garden free of any poisonous plants. I have realized recently that this is not always something that people take into consideration when planning a garden. If you have children, grandchildren, or pets, it is a good idea to keep in mind that some plants may be toxic or poisonous if ingested. Our son does a pretty good job now of knowing what he can pull off and snack on in the garden and what he cannot. He even can tell when a tomato, strawberry or kumquat is not ripe yet. I have worked with him extensively on this for months. However, one of my good friends had a scare a few months back with her daughter. She texted me a photo of a plant that her daughter had nibbled on, and was worried that it may be poisonous. Thankfully it was not poisonous, but it motivated me even more to make sure that nothing in our garden was toxic. Even though I grow specific plants for our pets to eat, some of them have a tendency to nibble on just about anything when they are in a certain mood.

When planning what I would plant in our garden, I selected mostly plants that have edible flowers, such as sages, rosemary, roses, nasturtiums, and lavender. I wanted to be sure that just in case something was accidentally ingested by our son, one of his friends, or one of our pets, it would not be a problem. I used to grow things like sweet pea flowers, just because I love the way the smell. Unfortunately, sweet pea flowers are highly toxic. I tried planting them in places that I thought our pets would not find. Our one cat became so infatuated with the smell that he seemed to find them no matter where I planted them. I have since stopped growing sweet peas.

When we purchased our house, it had lots of elephant’s ears plants everywhere (seen above). They are highly toxic, and unfortunately grow from little tiny pieces of the root system, making it difficult to completely get rid of them. Even the tiniest piece left underground seems to allow them to come back. I thought I had previously gotten rid of all of them when we first moved here, but they keep popping up when I least expect it. It means that I go out in the garden early each morning and do a quick check before our son and any of our furry kids wake up and come outside to play. Another thing that I keep trying to get rid of is the English ivy around our son’s garden, also poisonous if ingested. Ivy is nearly impossible to kill off, and it keeps coming back despite my best efforts. I have resigned myself to the fact that it may be a lifelong battle, but I at least try to keep it trimmed back enough so that it does not drape down into E’s garden. It is currently growing in the retaining wall planter above his garden.

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When I was purchasing plants for our back yard garden, I researched each plant online before purchasing. I have a variety of succulent arrangements in containers in the back yard. When I first researched the fire sticks shown below, all I read online was that they could be a mild skin irritant. That did not seem too serious so I did not worry about it much. However, in the series of gardening classes that I recently took at our local botanical garden, the instructors started talking about how dangerous fire sticks can be around children. They can be poisonous and deadly if ingested in large enough quantities, and can even cause temporary blindness. I was completely freaked out and it was a scary reminder that I need to always be sure to get my information from a reputable source online. I since replanted my fire sticks in their own containers, and relocated them up onto the high ledge above our son’s garden, where they are out of reach from him and all of our pets. Similarly, I also made sure all of my medicinal herbs are not accessible. Most of these are intended for internal use, but that does not mean I want anyone going in there and nibbling on things they should not be eating (more info on my herb garden coming next week).

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If you are researching plants for your own backyard, I highly recommend referencing the ASPCA list of toxic and poisonous plants. Many of the things in our garden that were planted by previous owners were on that list, and I have removed them, such as lantana, elephant’s ears, etc. If you ever have any concerns that your pet or child has eaten a plant, contact your veterinarian or pediatrician immediately.

Orange County Fair 2014 Wrapup

I took a lot of pictures this year during our time at the Orange County Fair, and I wanted to share some of my favorites (the ones that I haven’t posted already anyway).

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Getting my flowers ready to bring for the cut flower competition.
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I entered two different giant squashes, on two different weeks. The second one was not as big as my first one. This one won third prize.
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My limes did not win a prize, but I was still proud of those little guys!
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Same with my apples, especially since that apple tree is brand new to us!
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My figs were up pretty high on the display (so I couldn’t get a good shot), but they didn’t get a ribbon either. 😦
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My kumquats got second place!
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My succulent arrangement won first place and division winner for the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle contest! So proud of this one. πŸ™‚
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This spindly little succulent was my entry for most unusual container plant. It did not win a ribbon, but I am still proud of how it is so odd looking! This plant was one of my rescues (saved from an ugly divorce situation where the wife was intentionally allegedly trying to harm the husband’s plants. I have come across some interesting plant rescue stories via Craigslist).
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One of my teapot entries.
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I was sad that my little teapot from our wedding didn’t win a ribbon, but I heard lots of nice feedback about both of my teapots. πŸ™‚
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My little wooden clogs were my entry for most unusual container. It sadly did not win a ribbon, but I overheard at least four fairgoers commenting on how they thought it should have won one, which made me really happy.
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My little baby staghorn fern won second place, up against some huge ones!
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In the cut flower department, my succulent bloom won second place!
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My fuchsia won third place!
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My pretty (and somewhat unusual) geranium won third place!
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My climbing roses won third place also!
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E and I proudly posing with our big winner of the week. He helped put mulch in there so it is partially his award too. πŸ˜‰
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For those of you who garden, who inspired you to start gardening? Who do you turn to with gardening questions? For me, my dad was the one that started me off early with cultivating a green thumb. He got me started at the age of two with my own little vegetable garden, and a little flower garden and flower boxes around my playhouse that he built. I still text him frequently with panicked what do I do?!? questions. His mom was an avid gardener, and it is definitely something that is being passed down to each generation.
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The first time that we all went to the Orange County Fair, I was pregnant with E. I have never been a big meat eater, but when I saw the signs for those giant Texas turkey legs, I had to have one. I think I shocked my whole family. This year, I finally understood my pregnancy cravings for those turkey legs. I was not able to capture E’s first taste a previous night of these turkey legs (my hands were greasy and I didn’t want to dirty up the camera). The first night, he literally had tears of joy rolling down his face because he was so excited. We were hoping for the same the second time around (I kept my hands clean so I could get pictures of him eating this time). No tears the second time, but he was still really excited.
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Grandpa’s head makes a great drum!
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Watching the motor derby.
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About to get on his first pony ride!
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We live in an area with a lot of horses. Every time we go out to run errands, there are people riding horses down the main road. I think since E sees people on horses so often, he took to the pony ride like a pro. πŸ™‚
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Goofballs!
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I really wish we could get some baby goats. πŸ™‚
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I was very nervous about this activity. I am still breastfeeding E, and he is a milk fiend. I was so afraid when we explained to him that he was going to milk the fake cow that he would end up putting his mouth on one of the rubber nipples. Surprisingly, he followed my husband’s instructions very well!
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E helps me brush our pets daily, so this activity booth was a no-brainer for him.
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My ribbon collection from this year. Things were too chaotic here with projects when the fair started, and then I was feeling really weak for a while after my miscarriage, so I only got to participate in the last two weeks of the fair (the orange ribbons are participation ribbons for each week). I am pretty proud of my 11 ribbons in just two weeks! We will see how well I do next year when I am more organized and things are hopefully less chaotic around here. πŸ˜‰
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