Spring/Summer Garden Tour!

It’s been a while since I posted an updated garden tour! The last time I posted a garden tour was in the winter, and we were planning to work on our pondless waterfall near our bridge and our dry riverbed going down the slope of the hill in our front yard. We intentionally ordered the rocks and boulders to be delivered in the winter so we would be able to work on moving the rocks in the cool weather. As luck would have it, we had one unusually cold week this past winter where we actually had a bit of frost, and the rest of the winter felt way to warm to encourage us to move a bunch of heavy rocks around! Spring started early this year in our garden due to the unusually warm winter, which was great for my photo sessions! Since things got into bloom so early, I got way busier with the photography business than I had expected around that time, and some of the garden plans got pushed back for a bit (and blogging here too!).

Now that I’m trying to get more caught up and find a bit of balance again, I figured it was time to post an updated garden tour here! I previously posted this on my photography blog, so I apologize if you are seeing this again as a repeat. However, there is a lot of detailed info in this post that I didn’t share on the photography blog. πŸ™‚ If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out how are little gardens have been progressing over the past several months!

Our son got a new playhouse recently! We originally wanted to build him a play room in this area, but the cost of construction and permits was ridiculously high here, so we opted for a big playhouse instead. πŸ™‚ In Los Angeles, as long as a playhouse or shed is 10’x12′ or smaller, no permit is needed, so this was a great solution. Our bedrooms are ridiculously tiny, so it was nice to be able to move some of his toys out of the real house. πŸ™‚
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My husband realized a few months ago that the pergola that was in our patio previously was rotting and literally about to collapse on our son’s play area. He very quickly tore it down and replaced it with a new patio cover. Since he worked so hard on it, one day I decided to set him up a special little “man patio” area. πŸ™‚ Most of the garden is pretty feminine in design, so I thought he would like his own little area of the patio for lounging. Originally, I had his hammock chairs set up here, but we quickly realized that hammock chairs + slate patio + kids is not a good combo so those were put away.
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The dry waterfall behind our bridge is still in the same place it was previously…untouched lol. However, I still love the bridge and from certain angles it is still very useable for me for photo sessions!
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I added lots of reclaimed windows/doors/picture frames as garden decor. Originally, I was saving the windows and doors to build a greenhouse, but then we realized we wouldn’t be needing them. Removing every bit of glass was a pain but I love the finished result! I had a tarp spread out on the ground, smashed through the glass (while wearing goggles), and then removed each tiny bit of glass with pliers.
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Our vegetable cage has been working very well in keeping all animals out! Our son can now reach the latches on the doors, so I have found them left unlocked a few times which gave me a scare. πŸ™‚
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My beautiful new greenhouse! It wasn’t completely finished here, and I will have to post new photos soon. I found this beauty on Craigslist…someone had built it out of reclaimed windows then had to get rid of it due to a landlord dispute. My wonderful husband disassembled it, brought it home, and put it back together again for me. πŸ™‚ I just love it!BY0A5933BY0A5855 BY0A5857 BY0A5858 BY0A5859 BY0A5862 BY0A5864 BY0A5865 BY0A5868 BY0A5871 BY0A5872 BY0A5874 BY0A5878 BY0A5879 BY0A5880 BY0A5881
Our massive fig tree below. We will never understand why the previous owners planted this massive tree in a raised planter, so the tree starts several feet off the ground. I’m sure the tree was small to start out, but use a little common sense, people! Always plan how big something will eventually get once mature!

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I painted and re-covered the papasan chairs in my patio! I love this fabric that I found…it reminds me of the stripes on my favorite baby carrier. πŸ™‚
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Now on to the front yard garden! I set up a little bench area which is nice in the evening and for photo sessions. I also moved our windmill and several other items to the front to go with the country feel that our red barn shed gives. πŸ™‚
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My herb garden and climbing Cecil Brunner roses! These roses mostly only bloom in the spring (we are starting to get a second bloom cycle now though and I will have to take another photo with some blooms…this photo was from in June when the spring blooms had faded). When I was a little kid, my grandparents used to have me help with their gardening when I would go to their house. My grandma always told me that if I was a flower, I would be a Cecil Brunner rose. I always assumed she meant because they are tiny, delicate and pink (my favorite color). However, now that I finally have some of my own, I am starting to wonder if that’s what she really meant lol. I am a very sweet, caring, giving person, unless you cross me…then the Sicilian temper I inherited from my grandmother comes out. My husband and I recently realized that those sweet little tiny pink roses have the most painful thorn of any rose in our garden if you handle the rose incorrectly. If you are gentle with them the thorns don’t bother you at all…but try to rush when you are working with them and they will leave you crying. TouchΓ©, Grandma!
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I made some progress on our dry riverbed before I got pregnant. Not finished, but enough to use for photo sessions with newborns! πŸ™‚ My work on the dry riverbed will have to come to a complete halt for now though since I am not allowed to lift any heavy items right now.
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And some aerial photos my husband took!
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We haven’t quite finished up our evening lighting design yet, but here’s a few photos of the start of the project!
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Happy New Year, Jack Frost!

Yesterday was one of the coldest mornings I’ve ever seen here. Definitely not the coldest weather I’ve ever seen anywhere, but the coldest this close to the ocean. I started working on transitioning our garden for winter (it seems we have almost completely skipped fall, going from a very long summer straight to winter). I moved my tomatoes and peppers to the greenhouse and planted some cool season annuals in the flower beds. I was feeling quite content until I got an emergency alert last night on my phone with a frost warning.

We are in what is normally considered a frost-free zone, so that sent me into a state of panic. I quickly did a Google search to see what types of plants could die from one night of frost exposure. To my horror and dismay, I read that succulents and geraniums are very sensitive to frost. I would estimate that over 50% of our entire property is filled with succulents and geraniums. They are easy to care for, love our usual warm weather, and don’t require much water. They are in my top 5 favorite types of plants, so we have TONS. We literally have spent thousands of dollars on our gardens in the past year, and I would absolutely go nuts if everything died overnight.

Our son is normally a night-owl, refusing to go to bed at night, and sleeping in late in the morning. I usually don’t mind since that gives me some alone time in the morning if I want to garden alone, etc. Last night, I guess he was tired out from helping me in the garden all day, so he willingly went to sleep early for the first time ever. It was actually comical…the one night you’re supposed to stay up late, he knocks out early. πŸ™‚ We had planned to go to a New Years Eve party with our neighbors but decided against it since the little guy crashed out so early.

Since we didn’t really have anything else we needed to do with the little guy asleep for the night, I talked my husband into helping me cover all of the plants with blankets and sheets. He thought I was a bit nuts until I told him my thermometer outside was reading at 33 degrees. We covered everything with geraniums, succulents and citrus, which was literally almost our entire front yard, back yard, and both patios. I tend to collect blankets like crazy, so that came in handy. We threw shade fabric over one whole section of our front yard. We moved all of my potted tropical plants and ferns to the greenhouse and turned on a heater in there. Thankfully, everything looked in good shape this morning, except for one coleus plant that I didn’t cover.

Big apologizes to our neighbors who may have woken up and seen our house looking a bit insane this morning! Hopefully we won’t have to do that again. I just read that last night was the coldest night on record at LAX. Anyone else ever go plant lady crazy and cover their entire yard in blankets?!

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Pruning & Propagating in the Garden

Our weather this year has been unusually warm, so our plants and trees have been behind their usual fall schedule. Some of our deciduous trees and our grapevines still have leaves, and they are usually bare by now. Since the weather has been so strange, I procrastinated my usual fall pruning so we would have a bit more time with a full, colorful garden. I also didn’t want to do the pruning until it was more likely that the random heat waves were behind us.

Now that it is almost January, it is starting to get cool and some rain, so I decided it was finally time to start some pruning. About a week ago, I pruned back all of our Mexican sage. My son was crying and yelling “what you doin’?!”. I explained to him that I was giving the plants a big haircut, which he seemed to understand, and he then happily followed me around while I pruned the rest of the sage plants. πŸ™‚

Today, I went through and pruned our lavender, African daisies, coleus, iresine, Persian shield, fucshias, and geraniums (I’ve been pruning my Martha Washington geraniums a little bit at a time for the past few months).

I apologize for the cell phone pictures…my wonderful husband is spending his vacation time remodeling my office/studio again, so my computer and real camera are hidden away at the moment.

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Most of the plants that I pruned today are very easy to propagate. I got a lot of new baby plants started today from my cuttings, which is always exciting. I am not a certified master gardener or anything (yet), but here I have learned a lot about propagating from trial and error over the years.

I love my coleus when it is well pruned. I try to keep it growing bushy, and not leggy by trimming the stems just above a node, where there are two offshoots, just as you would do with basil. I also pinch off the flower buds every few days.

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Once I had all of my clippings, here are the steps I follow to propagate these plants:
1. Trim stem with clean, sharp scissors, at a 45 degree angle just below a node.
2. Remove bottom 2-3 sets of leaves.
3. Pinch/trim off any flowers.
4. Discard any cuttings that look weak from insect damage.
5. Dip cut end of stem in cutting powder and insert into water or moist soil.
6. Put cuttings in water in a window with indirect light. Put cuttings in soil in greenhouse.

The following plants have worked best for me rooting in moist soil: coleus and geraniums. I also tried rooting Dusty Miller in soil for the first time today. Hoping it goes well. πŸ™‚

These plants have worked best for me rooting in water: Persian shield, iresine, and fucshias. I also tried rooting some geraniums in water this time, just to try something different.

Making new plants from cuttings is one of my favorite parts of gardening. My succulent collection originally started with just two little plants from a dollar store and quickly filled up our living room just from propagating. πŸ™‚ This is one of my favorite collections of plants I’ve propagated, near our front door.

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Usually, spring and fall are the best times to propagate. I have successfully propagated almost year round here in Southern California (minus heat waves in the summer). If you are in SoCal, now is a great time to get out and try making your own baby plants!

Laundry Room/Pantry Organizing Updates

*This blog post contains affiliate links for your convenience. These are some of my absolute favorite homekeeping products!

If you have been following this blog for a while, you may remember my previous post about our laundry room/pantry organizing project (seen here). After my beloved washing machine broke yet again, we decided it was time to bite the bullet and upgrade our washer and dryer to new, more efficient models. As much as I loved our old top-loader, I did feel a bit guilty with a non-HE washing machine here in this awful California drought. Once the new washer and dryer came in, my old organizing shelf had to go. That prompted a few reorganizing plans. I am so happy now with our ultra-organized space! It is a tiny little multi-purpose room, but it works so well now!One of the first things I updated was our pet food storage, seen in the bottom left corner of the photo below. I ordered one container for cat food, and one for dog food (and labeled each). It works great, especially since they are on wheels and can hold everything from the big huge bags of pet food.

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My husband built me this awesome organizing cupboard in the extra space for all of my cleaning/laundry supplies, and our recycle bin and garbage bin. Having those two things behind doors is great with a toddler and dogs. Next to the new cupboard (which he made out of leftover fence boards!), I have my brooms, mop, duster, and rug beater all hanging on this organizer. I also dedicated a spot on the side of the cabinet for the things my husband always seems to be looking for: a clipboard and the lint brushes. Now that they have their own designated spots, that seems to help cut down on a lot of searching and confusion! I got the clipboard and the small white bins on the top shelf at the dollar spot at Target! Every time I go to Target, I always cruise through there to check for any cool organizing supplies, or little wooden toys that would be great for toddler busy bags. It is my favorite part about going to Target. πŸ™‚ Above the cupboard is one of my favorite cleaning devices, my LittleGreen carpet and upholstery cleaner (so easy to use and works really well!).

I labeled all of my small bins with my LetraTag and these labels. I may go overboard labeling everything at times, but it makes such a difference in keeping things organized! On the next shelf, I have my favorite cleaning basics in clear jars, my favorite stain treatment, Nellie’s All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, and a basket for my wool dryer balls. Below that, I have a jar of dog treats, anti-bacterial wipes, and a basket of some of our favorite teas (my husband is more likely to grab a bag of tea instead of a soda if he sees the tea out on display and looking pretty).

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Inside the cabinet, there is a shelf above the trash/recycling cans where I store more cleaning supplies and refills, including my microfiber cloths for my Swiffer mop! I found the two cute WASH containers on clearance at TJ Maxx, and the turquoise bin was from the dollar spot at Target! In the binder, I keep all of my housekeeping and gardening checklists, and a collection of magazine articles with fun family ideas in Southern California, for great weekend day trips.
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Next to the new cupboard, I ordered an over the door shoe organizer to organize all of my cleaning products (a great Pinterest-inspired idea that I’ve been meaning to do for a while!). I also ordered some fresh cleaning cloths since our old ones were starting to fall apart. Amazon Prime is so amazing…you can find just about anything on there for a great price!
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On the inside of the other door, I got a multi-hook over the door hanger on clearance at Ross, that works great for hanging my herbs to dry, and I also use this spot to hang our calendar.aliciainwonderlandblog
The shelf that used to be in the laundry room got moved just outside it, into the kitchen for a bit of extra storage. I put a lot of work into decorating that shelf, so I made sure we were still going to use it! πŸ™‚
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Originally, my husband planned to install doors over the pantry cupboards. Then we got busy with more urgent projects, and I realized that as we added a few more things in here, it would be a bit too crowded with doors. So I just covered up the ugly central heating unit with a burlap curtain. Next to that, I have our ironing board (nice because it is extra wide), and hanging organizer. I made two spray bottles that I spruced up with this contact paper, one for plain water, and one with a vinegar/water mixture (a great, natural wrinkle remover). I have one bottle from Home Depot and one from Lowe’s. The one from Home Depot wins, hands down. The one from Lowe’s barely works already.aliciainwonderlandblog

On the other side of the heater cabinet, I have my vintage washboards hung for easy access if needed for spot cleaning (and just decor too).
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On the side of the dryer, I used some magnetic clips to hang up some of my frequently used cleaning/gardening lists and stain treatment chart. I got the magnetic clips at the dollar spot at Target (pretty sure they still have some of these available). The strange looking magnet is a recycled magnet from a hard drive that my husband had since the dollar spot magnets were not strong enough to hold up multiple laminated sheets (I laminate all of my checklists that I use often using this laminator and these sheets).
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Below our Ikea fold-down table (which is never really folded down), I have our triple sorting laundry hamper. I have chalkboard signs on there for hand-wash, lights and darks (another Target dollar spot find!). Next to that (on the left) is our rolling laundry basket. This is one of my favorite things because it helps me roll the clean laundry out of the laundry room when I want to fold it all elsewhere (usually in the living room so I can watch TV while I fold). Great for days when my back hurts, or when I have had medical restrictions about lifting anything heavy. Originally, I had purchased a similar laundry basket elsewhere, and it broke within the first couple of days. This one has been amazing, and is really heavy duty.
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Previously, I had our lone socks hanging on a piece of twine, but I upgraded them to this cute little display with an antique washboard. One important thing to note…hot glue did not keep the clothespins on the washboard, but super glue did the trick.
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Still love our pull-out pantry drawers!
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My husband is notoriously bad about remembering to bring reusable bags with him to the grocery story when he makes a quick run. Even if I had him some before he leaves, somehow he still forgets them, so we end up saving a lot of paper bags. πŸ™‚ Thankfully, I always end up needing them in the compost bin or for kindling, etc. I gather them all up and store them in this “wasted” space, in front of the electrical panel (such an annoying location for that panel). I also keep our vacuum and attachments stored here.aliciainwonderlandblog
I have a piece of twine nailed to the wall that I use as a tiny indoor clothesline. Perfect for air-drying cloth diaper shells! Below that, between the Ikea table and the washer/dryer, I have our clothes drying rack. I have gone through many poorly made clothes drying racks in my life, and this one is so well made and holds so much!
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Previously, I had some plain burlap curtains that were actually from the laundry room at our old house. At our old house, that window was on the back door, and somehow the curtains got really dirty after we had a party one night. Burlap is really difficult to wash, so it was time for an update. I actually got these adorable vintage potato sacks for free via Craigslist, and turned them into our new curtains! They are even from a farm in our home state of California. πŸ™‚
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Below the window, I hung these three little metal buckets for tossing in miscellaneous odds and ends that turn up with the laundry, such as coins, lint (I save lint for the compost bins), etc. I actually got this great idea from ABowlFullofLemons.net! I made homemade chalkboard labels for those buckets (instructions here). I originally hung those buckets up with 3M damage free hooks, but I soon realized that those hooks work fine in our entry room with the eggshell finish paint, but they do not work at all in our kitchen or laundry room, where we have semi-gloss paint on the walls. So I replaced those hooks in the laundry room with some standard, screw-in hooks.
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Clearing out Clutter & Chaos

You know how in the show Friends Monica was obsessive about cleaning and organizing, but had that one locked closet where she stashed all of her junk and clutter? That’s kind of what our closet room/storage room has turned into lately (our house has no garage, no basement, no useable attic, and no closets. We have a bedroom designated for all of our storage). Our house is usually clean and organized (despite having a toddler and four furry kids which makes keeping a clean house a lot more work). My one area of weakness lately is paperwork. I had gotten so behind on keeping organized with all of the receipts and paperwork for my business expenses, just shoving things in boxes and drawers to deal with later. As we approach the end of our extension for our taxes, I started going into panic mode recently trying to get everything organized. I quickly realized that this prolonged procrastination of organizing my paperwork made several things go missing.

I decided that it was time to do a major purge on the whole house. I started tackling area by area, as we looked for the papers we needed to locate. Even though things were organized and labeled, it was still neatly organized clutter that we don’t need, taking up valuable storage space in a house with very little storage. This pile in the photo below is our donation bags and boxes that Salvation Army just picked up yesterday, along with all of the paperwork that I still need to organize in a better manner. Luckily, just a few days after I started my massive reorganization/purge project, a 31 day purge project started over at ABowlFullofLemons.net! I have been going to that blog each morning to find a daily theme for purging and organizing, and adding it to my routine. Breaking it up bit by bit has really helped! There is also a great Facebook page set up for the 31 day challenge, where lots of readers are sharing pictures, tips, and more. It has been so incredibly helpful!

I will be doing follow up posts soon, showing some of the changes I have made, and how I am reorganizing everything! For anyone who may have been wondering why I have been silent in the past week…I apologize! I have really been trying to focus on the tasks at hand here. πŸ™‚ I’m finally just about finished with my tax stuff too. πŸ™‚

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On a side note, I sorted my donation bags and boxes after I took this photo for easier itemization. I even had a few things labeled. The men that came to pick up my donation were super appreciative that my donation was organized. It helps them a lot and it is apparently something people rarely do. It only took a few minutes too!

My Summer Reading List

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I have to admit, I am not very organized with my gardening. I try at times, but I end up gardening more like an artist than a scientist (and that aggravates my engineer husband at times). I fertilize and water the plants based on how much I feel they need, not calculated amounts. I try to keep on a schedule but I always loose track. I decided that going forward, I am going to get a lot more organized with my gardening. I have tons of gardening books that I refer to when needed, but I decided that it is time to go through, really get in depth with these books, and start creating a more organized approach to my gardening. I’m pleased with how my gardening entries did this year at the Orange County Fair, but I would like to be more organized about it next year and come home with even more ribbons. πŸ™‚

If you are new to gardening, and looking for some book recommendations, I put together a short review for each of the books that I have in my reading stack. Each book in my stack is great, and they cover a variety of topics.

Starting from the bottom, the Sunset Western Garden Book is one that I have had for years. This copy used to belong to my grandmother, and it was given to me after she passed away. At the time, I did not have a flower garden, but I started reading through its’ wide expanse of information and bookmarking pages. If you live on the West Coast, the Sunset garden books are a must-have. Someday I will probably upgrade to a more modern version. πŸ™‚

Western Garden Book of Edibles This is another great one, with information about pretty much any fruit or vegetable that you can grow here on the West Coast.

Sunset Big Book of Garden Designs You may have noticed a trend…I am a big fan of the Sunset gardening books. πŸ™‚ They are very well tailored to gardening here on the West Coast. I got this book after I planned our front and back gardens, but it has some great ideas if you are planning a complete garden makeover. It gave me some great ideas for the garden I am planning in our downstairs yard. πŸ™‚

Modern Essentials This is technically not a gardening book, but got thrown into the mix because it is something I am trying to learn more about. This book is wonderful for anyone interested in learning more about using essential oils. I have been using lavender oil and fresh herbs for a variety of things for years, but I recently incorporated a lot more essential oils into our routine, and it is something I absolutely love. I am going to be blogging more about our journey with essential oils soon.

DIY Projects for the Self Sufficient Homeowner This book has some great ideas for projects that I would like my husband to build eventually. πŸ™‚ It has helped me show him step by step instructions for some of the things I would like him to build eventually. Some of the projects I am not 100% sold on, but that is up to personal preference. For example, we don’t like the idea of planting edibles in plastic containers that may not necessarily be rated as food safe (we try not to use plastic much at all to be honest). I was also disappointed that the book got me excited to try to build a solar food dehydrator, only to later realize that we do not live in a climate that is conducive to solar food dehydrating (so then I immediately ordered this electric dehydrator for preserving). Otherwise, the book has some really great projects!

Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening This book is my favorite out of all of my gardening books, hands down. It has such a wealth of information, and covers so many topics. It has monthly checklists that I am determined to actually go through each month from now on. This book usually sits on my nightstand, next to my Bible. πŸ™‚

Mini Farming This book has great in-depth information about various home farming methods, and detailed information about the benefits to the various methods. Reading this book has motivated me to get more precise with my vegetable planting in our raised beds. I definitely recommend this book if you are interested in growing your own produce.

The Backyard Homestead This book packs in a ton of information about edible gardening with limited space. It includes information about warm and cool season planting, proper soil preparation, how to cultivate a variety of types of fruit and vegetables, pruning guides, sample garden designs, preserving information, and lots more. The sample garden designs are one of my favorite parts of this book, and we drew inspiration from this when we did our first round of planting with fruit trees when we first bought our house.

The City Homesteader This book is a must-have for those with limited space who want to get started with edible gardening. The first few chapters are great for those who are new to gardening, covering all of the basics, and the later chapters have more detailed ideas even seasoned gardeners will appreciate. It gives a breakdown on which fruits and vegetables are well-suited for growing in a small space and which are not. It also gives great step-by-step instructions for a variety of projects that will help you live more self-sufficiently and Eco-friendly. There are chapters on beekeeping, raising livestock in a small yard, making cheese and yogurt, building a root cellar for storing produce, and more. There is even a chapter on foraging for wild foods which has become so popular lately. πŸ™‚

Flower Gardening Secrets This is another older book that used to belong to my grandmother. It has some great, time-tested tips and techniques that will get you on your way to growing a beautiful flower garden.

Soil Mates This one is not pictured, but it is one I always keep on hand during planting time. It has cute little drawings of vegetables, and my son loves looking at this book. I assume I couldn’t find it at the moment because he probably ran off with it again. πŸ™‚ The book may read as a bit silly at first (kind of like a soap opera for vegetables), but it really carries some very useful information about what vegetables are good near each other, and what to plant far away from each other.

If you enjoyed my book reviews and would like to order any of these books, please consider purchasing through the links provided. The price is the same as if you went through the main Amazon.com homepage, but they are affiliate links, which means ordering through those links helps keep this blog running!

Backyard Garden Tour Continued – Garden Structures

Continuing my detailed tour of our backyard garden makeover! This post features all of the various structures that we have in our garden.

The first structure is our big wooden pergola. My husband built this when we were at our old house that we were renting. He built is so that he would be able to take it apart and bring it with us. The diagonal pieces needed to be replaced, so my dad cut us some new ones (they still need to be painted though). I planted some David Austin Malvern Hills rambling roses in big terracotta pots around four of the posts on the pergola., and eventually they will be climbing all over the structure (this is a photo from a few weeks ago, and they are growing like crazy now!). The pergola is extra special since we had our smaller wedding reception under it in the patio at our old house (we had two wedding receptions…long story). πŸ™‚

Under the pergola is the artificial turf that my husband installed. He started with laying down a layer of base gravel, leveling and compacting it down, then a layer of decomposed granite, also leveled and compacted down. The fake grass that he chose was from a local supplier, Thompson Building Materials. My husband compared artificial turf at a number of places, including big chain stores, and liked this one the best. Apparently it is Thompson’s own product. It is super thick and soft, and has a 15 year warranty, which is much longer than most other artificial turfs that are available. If you are in Southern California and thinking about replacing your lawn, I would definitely recommend checking out Thompson’s.

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Part of my original design included a couple of gazebos with climbing roses. I wanted a smaller gazebo for this area, with this little table and chairs, and I found this one on Amazon which was an amazing deal (available here). We just spray painted it white, and the whole thing cost less than $100! I added one of the little chandeliers that was leftover from our wedding decor. πŸ™‚

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There are David Austin Generous Gardener climbing roses planted around this gazebo. πŸ™‚
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Originally, the thing that started this whole garden makeover was the fact that I saw an amazing bridge at Home Goods. I took a picture of it and texted it to my husband. I also saw an amazing gazebo and a cute tripod trellis, and I sent him pictures of those too. That started my planning and convincing for the whole project. πŸ™‚ We ended up getting the bridge, and painting it as well. It is in an unfinished area for now, but eventually we will be building a pond-less waterfall behind it (pond-less since it conserves water and is not a drowning hazard for small children).
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We also ended up getting the tripod trellis, which got spray painted (like almost everything else). I planted a non-toxic version of jasmine on each corner. If you are planting jasmine and have animals or kids, be sure that you select a variety of jasmine that is not poisonous (some are poisonous and others are not). The ASPCA website is always my go-to resource when I am unsure if a plant will be toxic to our furry kids or our son.
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When we were planning our wedding, we purchased a metal arbor at the Rose Bowl Flea Market to set up at the entrance to our wedding reception. We loved the idea of incorporating decor that would later become part of our garden at home. We brought the arbor with us when we moved, and it is in the center of the garden.

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It also has David Austin Generous Gardener climbing roses planted on it and a chandelier from our wedding. πŸ™‚
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Last major garden structure is our big gazebo! This one was a big ticket item (also from Home Goods), and it took a bit of convincing before we brought it home. πŸ™‚ The one that I originally saw there was actually sold out by then, but we ended up liking this one a lot more. It is the only thing that we didn’t paint white or cream, and I kind of like it that way. It has a beautiful shabby chic, chippy finish already, and I love the muted green color on this one. This gazebo has iceberg climbing roses planted on each corner (purchased from Armstrong Garden Center). Like the others, this gazebo also has a wedding chandelier. πŸ™‚ This is where we keep our fire pit and we have had some cozy nights under this gazebo already.

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All of the roses have really taken off since I took these pictures! Once I am a bit more caught up, I will post more updated photos. πŸ™‚ Lots more garden details coming soon! If you are on Instagram, be sure to follow me @aliciainwonderlandphotos for lots of regularly updated photos of the garden. I even have different hashtags for all of our different gardens throughout our property. πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

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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. πŸ™‚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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Wine Tasting & New Mom Fails

Recently, I was very excited to attend the Whole Foods Venice for the Fantastique French Wine Tasting and Gildras Coudrais Art Show at Whole Foods in Venice, CA. The proceeds from the event went to the Whole Planet Foundation. I thought it would be the perfect date night for my husband and I since it happened to fall on our anniversary weekend. I’m sure that most of the people attending went primarily for the wine and the art was a bonus, but for us it was the reverse. We were more interested in the art and the wine was a bonus. πŸ™‚ I have been to many art exhibits, but this would be my first time wine tasting.

I had a major new mom fail…I had heard all of these stories from friends about how they bring their babies with them when they go wine tasting and just assumed that we didn’t need to leave our baby with my parents or the babysitter. I should have asked ahead of time but I didn’t. Also, somehow in my mind I figured that since it was inside a grocery store, it wasn’t a “real” bar. You know what they say about what happens when you assume things! I also blame the voice of my Italian grandmother lingering in my mind saying, “It’s not alcohol, it’s wine!” When my husband and our baby tried to come in, they were politely informed that they could not stay since the baby was under 21 years old. πŸ™‚ So they wandered around the store, shopped, and relaxed and played games in the car while I enjoyed the event. I felt awful for my husband but surprisingly he didn’t seem to mind. He said it was no different than if he had just gone about our normal routine when I need some time to work…usually E and him go shopping and then have play time when I need to catch up on photo editing or other work. Normally, they would be sitting in our son’s bedroom, and not in our car in the rain, but they seemed to have fun anyway.

So, I was left to enjoy the event on my own, which felt so odd since it has been so long since I attended an event without my husband. I apologize for all of E’s fans…there are no photos of my little guy in this post. πŸ™‚ I also originally hoped to get some photos of myself with the artist, but there is no way that I ever let anyone other than my husband use my camera. Next time we will definitely utilize a babysitter!

After I saw the display in our local Whole Foods with all of the labels designed by artist Gildas Courdrais (original post here), I was very excited to see his art on display at the event. I have been to many art gallery events over the years, and usually the artists featured are not the most gracious people you will ever meet. I have also seen art displays where I wonder what in the world the artist did to get their work featured since it was pretty underwhelming. The opposite was the case with Gildas Coudrais. He was pleasant, charming and gracious…truly a pleasure to meet. His work was impressive and I could definitely understand why he was asked to design the collection of labels!

I personally loved the sketch of the rabbit on the bottle of Malbec. It reminds me a lot of a whimsical version of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, so obviously I was drawn to it. πŸ™‚ I was excited to see that the art series featured at the event focused on the rabbit. At first glance, I thought that the series had a print of the rabbit that was altered for each piece. Upon closer inspection, I realized that each one was individually drawn. The precision and consistency between the pieces was very impressive. I also loved how Gildas overlayed the ears up onto the matting in each piece, showing that each one is hand drawn. The pieces were all mixed media, and had witty plays on various quotes. If I wasn’t currently saving up for a bunch of large expensive prints of my own photos, I would have definitely considered purchasing one of the pieces!

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When I was in my early 20’s, I had the impression that I did not like beer since my primary experience with beer had been whatever was served up for free from a keg at fraternity parties in college. Then one day some friends of mine convinced me to go beer tasting at a brewery, and I realized that I just don’t like bad quality beer. Since I am new to learning about wine, I have had some not so great experiences with some of the lower priced grocery store options that I have tried. My husband and I were pretty convinced that we are just microbrew beer fans and wine was not for us. However, this whole tasting experience completely changed our opinion.

At the event, I tried each of the different varieties, and I enjoyed all of them, even the sauvignon blanc, which was surprising since previously white wine was at the bottom of my list of drinks that I enjoy. My favorites were the malbec and the cabernet syrah. At just $9.99, all of the wines are an incredible value, and definitelyΒ way better than any of the other wines I have ever tried.

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There were a surprising number of people crammed into the tiny bar area that night, despite the massive rain storm here in Southern California!
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Bottles signed by the artist, and the very talented Gildas Coudrais.
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Some of the amazing food that night…I would pretty much die for some creme brulee…darn egg allergy.aliciainwonderlandblog_wine_tasting

*Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post for Whole Foods Venice (but everything I wrote is completely honest…definitely go to your local Whole Foods and pick up a bottle!).

Join Us for Wine Tasting and Art!

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Who wants to join us for an evening of wine tasting and art?! Whole Foods in Venice, CA is hosting a charity event this Saturday, March 1st benefiting their Whole Planet Foundation. There will be wine tasting, petit fours and work by the artist Gildas Coudrais, who designed the labels on the bottles in the photo above. I love the label with the rabbit in particular. To me, it feels like it could be on a postcard that you see in a sleek Hollywood nightclub, or part of a new cover for a modern version of Alice in Wonderland. I am really looking forward to seeing more of Gildas’ work featured at the event.

I am just going to be completely honest and admit that I am not a wine expert. My husband and I are in general more of beer snobs than wine snobs (we went all the way to Germany for Octoberfest but have never gone wine tasting at a vineyard…and there are lots of them just a couple of hours drive from us). However, since I had to cut wheat out of my diet for our baby, we have gotten more interested in learning about wine. I went with a friend to Whole Foods last night (she definitely knows more about wine than I do), and we looked through the various options. Right away, we noticed the section with the bottles grouped together that all had Gildas’ designs. They definitely stand out from the rest.

My husband and I tasted both wines shown above and liked them both! They are a great value at $9.99, and tasted like they would have been a much more expensive option. We are really looking forward to tomorrow night’s event! Be sure to RSVP to venice.events@wholefoods.com if you are interested in attending. You can find more info at:
https://www.facebook.com/events/269677509864980/273846822781382
https://www.facebook.com/wfmvenice
https://twitter.com/WFMlosangeles

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*This is a sponsored post.