Backyard Garden Tour – Garden Accents

One of my favorite things about our backyard garden is all of the whimsical accents we added. We did a lot of shopping, and I collected some items that I just love peeking out in various areas of the garden. Our son E also loves to chatter at all of the various little garden animals tucked away in all the various corners. 🙂 Most of the items shown below I found at Home Goods, Big Lots, 99 Cent Store, the Rose Bowl Flea Market, Amazon.com, Craigslist, and my favorite antique/vintage store, Magnolia and Willow in Long Beach, CA. The items that I ordered on Amazon can be found here.

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I love this bird bath that we found at Big Lots!
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I have two thermometers set up, one in the shade and one in the sun. I like to keep an area on the temperature in both areas so I can make sure to move our son elsewhere if it gets too hot out.
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This is the beautiful hummingbird feeder that started this fiasco. I am going to put it back up, just without any liquid. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog28

Pretty bird feeder! The birds haven’t really been using it since they have tons of things to eat from all of the plants around the garden, but maybe one day they will go in there for a snack. 🙂
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I absolutely love having a gazing ball, and was happy to find an unbreakable one on Amazon. I had originally purchased a glass one and realized that was a bad idea to have out on a display stand once our son started walking.
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Isn’t that the cutest little birdhouse? Another great Amazon find!
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This little tree seems like it is supposed to be a dwarf apple tree, but never fruits since it is shaded by the huge fig tree (poor planting location decision by previous owners). To give the poor little tree a little more pizazz, I started turning it into a windchime tree. Some we got new and some were vintage finds. All three of us absolutely love the sound of all of the windchimes! We don’t collect many things, but we are going to start collecting windchimes. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog35 aliciainwonderlandblog36 aliciainwonderlandblog37 aliciainwonderlandblog38 aliciainwonderlandblog39 aliciainwonderlandblog40 aliciainwonderlandblog41 aliciainwonderlandblog42 aliciainwonderlandblog43 aliciainwonderlandblog44 aliciainwonderlandblog45

I have nicknamed our backyard Alicia’s Wonderland Garden (the hashtag I use on Instagram is #aliciaswonderlandgarden). You can’t have a Wonderland garden without a white rabbit, right? I am going to be making lots of re-purposed teacup accents soon to continue the theme, and eventually we will put up our Wonderland themed signs from our wedding. 🙂
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Garden Reveal!

Our backyard remodel has been a major undertaking. Way bigger than we would have anticipated. It has taken so much longer than we had planned, and there are still a lot of last details left to finish. When I made over our front yard two years ago, everything went a lot faster since I didn’t have a child to take care of, and I didn’t have my mobility and pain problems. Those two new factors have made this project infinitely slower. I know a lot of people have been curious to see a reveal, so I wanted to post pictures of the progress so far. 🙂

I hated the ugly retaining walls that go throughout our backyard, and I have been trying to convince my husband to let me paint them some bright colors ever since we moved in. Finally, I looked for some examples on Pinterest that were close enough to what I had in mind that helped me convince him that I should paint. E’s garden is so much more fun now that it is colorful. 🙂 I have a really exciting project in mind for the planter above his garden…I can’t wait to get that installed too!

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I haven’t finished painting this area, but that will come soon enough. The table was an antique store find and actually came with four different chairs, but I wanted the set because I thought the chairs would be perfect around our firepit. The table was cute too, and got paired with four chairs that were a great thrift store find at $2 each!

The pink flowers in the top planter are one of the few that I did not plant (along with the roses that they are mixed in with). They were there from a previous owner, and are amazing. They are super low-maintenance, need almost no water, and reseed themselves each year. They are called a bunch of different names, but you can find them at Home Depot under the name Red Valerian. In the bottom row, I have our dwarf almond tree and kumquat tree, which I planted when we moved in. In between those, I planted more low water plants, lots of geraniums and Santa Barbara daisies.

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This is the pergola that my husband built at our old house! We actually had our small wedding reception under this pergola in our old backyard, so it is extra special. (We had two wedding days…the ceremony day that was moved up when we found out my grandma was dying and our originally planned date). The diagonal pieces needed to be replaced after the move, so my dad made these new ones for us! They still need to be painted but look great.

The pergola used to be our patio dining area at our old house, but now it is a play zone. 🙂 Underneath the pergola is the artificial grass my husband installed (more info on that in a later post), and a nice play area for the little guy and his friends. Things are a little more put away than usual today since we are expecting rain, but this is where his bounce house/ball pit normally sits, and his trains are put away from the train table. We actually found the train table for free on Craigslist, but it needed some legs, which was an easy fix for my husband! It is one of E’s favorite things. 🙂 I will post pictures of his bounce house/ball pit when I blog about his birthday party, but in the meantime, you can check it out here.
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This is the part of the garden where all the work really took place…I am going to post some wide angle overview pictures here and then go into more detail about all of the various projects and areas within the next few days!

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Our to-do list for this project still includes installing new raised beds for veggies, completing the irrigation system (I am hand watering for now…not too bad since most of the plants have low water requirements), installing the shade fabric system that will be drawn or retracted over the entire garden, lighting, sound system, waterfall, and adding more decomposed granite as walkway.

We originally were going to put in pavers, stepping stones, bricks or gravel, but then I realized that the decomposed granite that we put down as an underlayer is much easier for me to walk on! I like how it looks and it is super cheap (you can often even find it for free!), and we just need a bit more to thicken it up.

Lots more details coming in the next few days!

My New Potting Table!

I have wanted a potting table or potting bench for a long time. Recently, I saw a few (expensive) reclaimed potting tables when we were out shopping for our backyard makeover project, and I knew we could make one on our own for much less. I am addicted to scouring the free section on Craigslist whenever I have free time, looking for items that will be good for a project. A while back, I found a few free twin headboards and I’ve been saving them, planning that we would make a couple of benches out of them or perhaps something else.

I started thinking that the headboards would make a good table and shelf surface for a potting table, particularly the stronger pair. Also, this set of headboards had an open cut out area along the side that would be the perfect overflow area for excess soil that piles up on the work surface. I knew that I wanted to use a vintage door as the back of the potting table, and started trying to find some for free on Craigslist (I didn’t want to use the ones that I have since we made those into a folding screen/photo backdrop). Craigslist people are perpetually flaky, and I never heard back from any of the people I contacted. I decided to look at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore to find a vintage door instead of waiting months to find one on Craigslist. My husband and I each have our own hidden stashes of “junk” that we save for future projects. I raided my supplies and his, and decided that we would use two of my headboards, an old wooden closet rod for table legs (but I would need two more legs), some pretty trim I had been saving just for decorative accents, some of his scrap fence board for a shelf, and some of his general scrap wood to lift the whole thing up off the ground. Then we went off to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore closest to us (the Gardena, CA location) to find a door, some table legs, and something to use on top for shade.

I love the concept of shopping at ReStore…save things that would have otherwise gone into a landfill while helping a worthwhile charity at the same time. When I was at the ReStore, I started brainstorming about what we could use as a shade overhang above the door. Initially I was thinking scraps of shingles from a roof, but then I started thinking that old shutters would be even better. I love old shutters and think they look really cute, plus they could be adjusted to let in more light on a dark, dreary day. I found two sets of shutters that were a good deal at $6.99 each. I also found a decorative wooden rod that would work well for the table legs ($2).

I am a thrifting queen, and I can honestly tell you that most of the things at the Gardena ReStore location are very overpriced. I have read so many people in other states writing about the amazing deals they have found at their local ReStore, and that may be the case elsewhere, but there are not many great deals to be found at the Gardena store. Between how much I scour Craigslist, thrift stores, flea markets, vintage stores, and antique malls (mostly for photoshoot props but also for our own projects), I can pretty much tell you the going value on most things that you find often. I will tell you that the average price for an old vintage door with a bit of character is usually around $20-25. Almost all of the doors at this location were in the $40+ range, even very plain ones with no character and in bad condition. I feel that if things were just a little bit overpriced it would be okay since the proceeds go to charity but who is going to spend $40 on a broken down 1980s fax machine? Anyway, I spent a lot of time digging through all of the doors looking for one that I liked and hoping to find one that was not overpriced. I found one where the top half of the door looked like shutters, and it had the extra bonus of being priced at $19.99! Finally one that was reasonably priced!

I told my husband that I finally found a door that I loved and that I was ready to check out. He wheeled the door up to the cashier, and pointed out to them that there were actually two price tags on the door. The price tags were those really thin sticker tags that are perforated, making it impossible to get them off in one piece. Each price tag had a date on it, and the tag with the lower price had a more recent date, indicating to anyone with common sense that they door had been marked down. Instead of honoring the lowest marked price as a normal person would do, the sales associates called over the manager to ask him if they should charge us the higher price at $39.99 (why?!).

When the manager came over, he immediately started trying to make up stories about how the lower price must have been incorrect, and explain how he could not honor the lower price. When my husband very calmly tried to point out that both price stickers were dated and the lower price had a newer date, the manager then started trying to claim that someone must have switched the tags (really…with the tag in amazingly perfect condition? I find that quite hard to believe. I know people do it since I used to work retail, but I also know how close to impossible it is to do well with this kind of price tag). Then the manager did the most obnoxious thing…he started taking off the price tag with the lower price. He joked that maybe he would be nice to us and split the difference and give us a price somewhere in the middle.

That is when I lost it. I know my husband was embarassed that I got really, really angry. He was looking at me like please, this is a charity store. I don’t care…I spent a lot of my time looking through all of the doors in there, looking through all of the prices. No way was I about to be ripped off at this point. In general, I pride myself on being very warm and friendly to people that I meet. However, if you really make me angry, my Sicilian/Mexican/German temper comes out and it is not something you will soon forget. The way that they acted like they were going to set their own price for us based on what they felt like charging us was what made me so incredibly angry. It felt very discriminatory.

I informed the manager that I was not an idiot, and he could not pull a bait & switch stunt on us. California state law requires that a marked price be honored, even if the price marked on the tag is there in error. I worked in retail for many years, and took many retail marketing and management classes in college.

When I started mentioning the state law, the manager got angry and told me, “don’t start quoting the law to me. I don’t care about any of that because the law does not apply in here.”

Oh really? Interesting…so because they are a non-profit, they are allowed to pull stunts and rip people off using bait & switch techniques? Does the price depend on your race, ethnicity, or car you drove up with? They can make up prices to be whatever they want based on the individual customer? I really don’t think that is the case…they are a store that sells to the public, which is still a retail location by definition, regardless if they are a non-profit, a resale store, or any other classification.

In the end, they begrudgingly honored the marked price, but it was not until after I had to do a lot of yelling. I applaud them for running a charity store, but it is time that people start being held accountable for their actions. I have never been so horribly treated at any store in my life. I am sure that there are many other great ReStore locations, but the Gardena, CA store needs a serious overhaul with their employees. I hate calling out a charity in such a negative manner, but since no one pays any attention to customer complaint letters these days, I just hope that this post will bring some attention to the matter so other customers are not treated in a similarly awful nature.

If I had the time to wait, I could have in theory found all of the items for this project for free via Craigslist, but since I have a ton of plants to put in my new flower pots for our backyard, this project was fairly time sensitive. If anyone else wants to make one, I highly encourage you to scour the free sections of your local Craigslist, and save up all of your own perfect supplies!

My husband was very skeptical of my design at first. He followed my instructions but had a hard time picturing the end result until it was finished. He kept trying to think of a place where we could put the potting table where it would be out of the way (and therefore not an eyesore). Now that it is finished, we both love it, and it is going to be featured prominently in our new backyard design. It is so cozy and quaint…just makes me want to go out there and plant lots of new things! 🙂

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Below: my husband made me some hooks for my tools out of an old wire hanger.
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Below: a succulent arrangement I made in a vintage watering can, the vintage Joy sign that was my grandparents, and one of the mini chandeliers that hung at our wedding reception.
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Below: a windchime that I found at a dollar store a while back and a side view of my husband’s handiwork. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog.com

Below: supplies in cute vintage buckets, pebbles and homemade compost.
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Below: more supplies in buckets, potting soil in a large bucket with a lid (found at Home Depot), and my lesser used gardening supplies such as soil testers, etc.
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Below: another vintage bucket reserved for holding clippings, etc.
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Below: excess dirt is easily cleaned up with the open slot in the headboard-turned-table.
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Below: my scrap trim finally put to good use.
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Below: the biggest splurge for the project, my shelf brackets from Anthropologie (aren’t they just so pretty?!).
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Below: the remaining evidence of the price discrepancy.
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Backyard Update – Lots of Paint!

Those who follow me on Instagram may have seen some snapshots of my progress with this project this week (@apluscphotography). I have been busy painting all of our finds for the backyard in shades of white and cream so things will look more cohesive and like my dream shabby chic garden. I went through a few different types of paint before I found the ones that I liked the most. I ended up settling on two from Rustoleum (I found both at The Home Depot). I have been painting early every morning while our baby is sleeping, and again while he naps in the afternoon.
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For our bridge, I wanted a slightly textured look, so I used the Multicolored Textured paint in the cream color. For the rest of the items, I found that I liked the Ultra Cover Paint + Primer in Heirloom White the best. The add-on handle really helped cut down on my arthritis pain from when I broke my fingers and wrist (relying on a bicycle as your method of transportation in Los Angeles is dangerous business).

I tried some other paints first and the whites were too cold and didn’t provide enough coverage. I absolutely love the warm, creamy tone of the Heirloom White. I am hoping to finish up painting today so my husband can start trenching the irrigation lines tomorrow morning! 🙂

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Weekly Dose of E – An Early Birthday Present

Things have been crazy around here the past week and I am behind on everything right now. I usually like to do this weekly post on Saturdays, but I am trying to play catch up today, so I apologize that there will probably end up being two of these posts this week. 🙂

The current garden makeover project is taking longer than we expected since it took us longer to find a lot of the things that we were planning to buy. The three of us took most of last week off, driving all over Southern California, collecting our various treasures for the yard makeover. I found an amazing vintage rocking horse style duck at an antique store that E loved (and will make an amazing photoshoot prop too). A couple of months ago, E and I saw a vintage kids fire truck in the window of a barber shop, and being slightly obsessed with cars, E was pointing at it and wanted it. I told him I would find him one for his birthday, but then I realized that they are actually pretty hard to find. One of my amazing friends happened to stumble upon one on Craigslist that was for sale in our area and sent me the link (not even knowing that I was looking for this specifically!). E was SO excited to try it out when we got home! He made some of the funniest faces I’ve ever seen from this little guy yet. 🙂 I can’t wait to do a formal photoshoot for this little guy with our new treasure. 🙂

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Garden Updates & How We Celebrated Our Anniversary

First, I am going to start this post with a few exciting seasonal updates with our garden.

The first is…I finally pruned our grape vines! They were already existing when we bought the house, and in desperate need of pruning. I estimate that it has been at least 3-4 years since they were last pruned. When we bought the house, we were in escrow during the time they should have been pruned. I was already sneaking in earth worms and compost…pruning things before the house was officially ours might have been a bit strange. 🙂 Then last year, they got ignored again while everything was chaos with my pregnancy bed rest. I was pretty happy to finally be able to get rid of some of the excess growth. We wanted to replace the fence that they grow on, but I have a feeling that will have to wait until next year since we are in the middle of a major project in the back, and the new leaves have already started coming in.

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The first of this season’s grape leaves!
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I finally was able to prune our mature peach tree as well! Also below, all of our citrus has been sprouting blossoms like crazy ever since I fed them with a bunch of my homemade compost. 🙂
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This is one that I am very excited about…we are going to be getting our first home grown cherries! I planted two dwarf cherry trees, and it took a lot of research to find out which varieties of cherry trees will actually produce fruit here in Southern California. Since we don’t get very cold in the winter, most varieties of cherries won’t produce fruit here. Our neighbor paid his landscaper to plant some cherry trees in their yard a few years back, and the landscaper keeps making excuses why the trees haven’t produced any fruit. I bet our neighbor that my trees would make fruit before his ever do (since his are the wrong type for producing fruit in this climate). I’m going to be so proud when these little cherries are ready to pick. 🙂
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Since our backyard and normal vegetable area is about to undergo a huge makeover, I planted a bunch of lettuces in one of our wine barrels. Time for some salads! 🙂BY0A9753

I also planted a ton of nasturtiums in flower pots since I love the way they look and I also love using the flowers in salads. I just think it is so beautiful when new life springs up out of the dirt.
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Finally, I get to the backyard project! Recently, we debated doing an addition to our house, to enlarge the bedrooms a bit. Our bedrooms are all pretty tiny. When all of the estimates told us we would probably have to spend somewhere in the $200,000 range just to add on an additional 500 square feet of living space, we decided it was not a project we plan to pursue. Our bedrooms are small and cozy and that is fine. We recently watched Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and liked the way the genie had his bottle decorated anyway! Our bedrooms feel a bit like a genie bottle at times since they are so small, but it does not make sense to spend so much just to make them a bit bigger. It definitely would not increase the value of the house that much. Instead of adding onto the bedrooms, we decided to create our dream backyard and our ideal outdoor living space. We could have gotten a house with bigger bedrooms elsewhere, but part of why we picked this house was because the weather is nice here (5 miles from the ocean) and we have a lot of outdoor space.

Originally, we planned to start on this project sooner, but the recent rain storm here in Southern California delayed our start a bit. Our three year wedding anniversary was on Tuesday, and we decided that we wanted to celebrate our anniversary by really digging into this project, literally. 🙂 We are both really excited about what we have planned for this area. It is all going to be grass free, with drought resistant plants. There are going to be a bunch of different shaded seating areas for entertaining. To start, my husband rented a sod cutter to remove all of the old grass (it was mostly dead and weeds anyway).
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Then we went on a treasure hunt for a bunch of garden accents. There are still a bunch of things that we are looking for, but we are really excited about some of the things we have found so far!
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E likes these hand painted planters that I found. 🙂
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We are trying to get this yard finished up in time for E to have a birthday party. I apologize for those who know me…we may be a bit M.I.A. for the next few weeks while we work on all of this. I am going to be blogging our progress though as the project continues! Coming up soon, I will also be writing about my first experience with wine tasting! 🙂

Our Home Tour

I did a full blog post on our photography blog with tons of pictures of how we have our little house decorated!

http://www.apluscphotography.com/blog/personal/2012/02/our-home-tour/

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