I’m back! Lots of changes around here! Front of house updates….

I stopped blogging here on my lifestyle blog a while back after there were a couple of negative incidents that I just didn’t feel like dealing with anymore. Lately, I have really been missing documenting our crazy journey with our garden and our endless list of projects for fixing up our little fixer upper house. My photo studio finally feels “finished” and all of the projects in there are done, so now we are able to focus our energy on finishing up the projects in our house. We had dedicated time previously for working on our house and then projects for my studio kept coming up and our house had to keep getting pushed to the back burner.

I realized this morning that when our second son was born, apparently my URL for this blog expired and since I was in the hospital, I missed the email about renewing. I had assumed that it was set to auto renew but it was not. So now of course, someone has purchased my old domain so here I am, starting fresh with this blog, with a brand new URL, aliciainwonderlandlifestyleblog.com. I actually like this better since it helps give more differentiation between this blog and my photography blog (http://aliciainwonderlandphotography.com/blog).

So I am going to start posting some updates on what we have been working on lately! The front of our house has always driven me crazy. Our little house has had several small additions from the previous owners, and it wasn’t all necessarily done properly. The laundry room was added on, the entry room was added on at another time, and of course my office/studio area was also an addition too. Unfortunately, the way that they did everything, they used a different type of siding for each addition, and the roofing was not done well. The fascia and soffits were rotting and my husband kept starting to work on replacing it all but kept getting sidetracked with other projects and life with two little kids!

I finally couldn’t take it anymore and started trying to come up with a faster, easier way to get the exterior of our house (and my studio) looking better and less dingy and falling apart. I realized that I don’t like the look of fascia and soffits anyway, and much prefer the way the house looks with them removed! We want to eventually replace all of the siding anyway, but that is such an involved project and it means both my husband and I lining up time when neither of us is working so we can get that done. That may have to wait until next year. πŸ™‚ So in the mean time, I was tired of the dingy, ugly cream exterior paint color that we have had since we moved here. Every time we drive up to the house, my husband and I both felt this sense of YUCK when we saw that color. It was just a subtle change, but my husband went through and used a paint sprayer and gave the front a fresh coat of creamy white paint to freshen things up a bit. I am so relieved that it is starting to look better! I can’t wait until it is all the way finished, but in the mean time, this is a much better improvement! πŸ™‚

I had previously painted our front door a dark green, which I quickly grew tired of. Now it is painted a matte black and I love it. It gets dusty pretty fast but other than that, I love the color. Eventually I still want to replace the door with a craftsman style door, but for now this is okay. I loved the screen door my in-laws got for their house in Texas, so we ordered the same one (from Lowes) and I love having a wreath hanging from the screen door. Our next door neighbors have a big huge magnolia tree and I love seeing it outside our bedroom window when I wake up in the morning. It made me fall in love with magnolia flowers and leaves, before I recently started watching Fixer Upper. πŸ™‚ In the Spring & Summer, I had a different magnolia wreath on the door that I found at Michael’s and it has big pretty white magnolia flowers. For Fall/Winter, I thought this one from Magnolia Market would be nice to switch things up a bit.

I found the Texas star for my husband, and I like the HOME sign on the opposite side since it helps get rid of confusion when my clients arrive and have to figure out which door is my studio and which is our house. I love the new exterior lights since they feel kind of like a mix between industrial style and seaside cottage.

Since our house used to be a nursing home, there were handicapped ramps outside every door previously. That actually surprisingly came in handy during the periods when I needed to use a wheelchair (my pelvis dislocated/fractured during labor with our first son). Now that I am done being pregnant, my husband was excited to start smashing up the concrete ramp outside our front door. He hasn’t 100% finished that project, but it is nice that we can actually fit a real door mat now in front of the screen door. πŸ™‚ I actually bought two matching door mats, one for my office and one for our house, but then realized the one in front of our house door wouldn’t fit because of the ramp and he started demo-ing the ramp the next day while I was out. I was a bit shocked to come home and see what he had been up to while I was gone lol. We were watching a standup comedian recently on Netflix who talked about her “party goblin” and my husband and I joked that he and I each have a “Project Goblin”…we will be working on one project and then the Project Goblin will come along and say “hey the house would look so much better if you got rid of that ramp! Let’s smash stuff up now!” And so thanks to Project Goblin, we always seem to have about 50 projects going on simultaneously. πŸ™‚

by0a1496
I did a front door makeover post previously (here), and the cross I had made for our door before unfortunately got smashed up by some quite rude Trick or Treaters one year. I tried to repair it, but it kept falling apart. I ended up taking the one I had made for our son’s bedroom and relocating it to the front door and I actually like this one a lot better anyway. πŸ™‚
by0a1502

I had some window boxes up in the front for a while now, but realized I never posted any pictures of them. They were nothing special, just your average metal window boxes from Big Lots with coco liners. I thought they were cute at first, but they really do not hold the moisture well in the soil. I had to end up watering them every day or every other day with a little bit of water since they dried out so fast, and it started to feel like a huge burden. I absolutely love having window boxes, but started to feel like a prisoner to the house with needing to make sure they were watered so often. Since our older son has recently started preschool, I started thinking about ways I could streamline my morning routine, and watering the window boxes took up a significant chunk of time each day. My husband suggested installing a drip system emitter on each window box but I like my window boxes densely planted which mean so many tubes and emitters and it would just end up looking ugly. I was determined to find another solution!

I started looking into self-watering window boxes, and most were way out of my budget. I didn’t want to end up spending near $500 just to save myself some time and save a little water. Then I found some from Gardeners.com and they were much more affordable! I also ordered their special self-watering planter soil and got a fresh start with some new fall annuals (and some leftovers from my summer window boxes). I put in some Dusty Miller, pansies, ornamental kale, stock, along with the older geraniums, string of bananas and daisies. I am so excited with these new window boxes! I feel like it is going to save me so much stress every week…not having to worry about whether or not my window box flowers are about to drop dead because I overslept on a day when we are having a random heat wave! πŸ™‚

by0a1500
by0a1505
by0a1513
Previously, I had my herb garden under the arbor in our front yard (seen in this post), but the whole thing didn’t work out as I had hoped there. Everything started getting drowned in pine needles since that spot is so close to two of our big pine trees. The little fence started getting worn out and leaning, and just looked really shabby really quickly. So I relocated the herbs elsewhere.

I like my herbs to be as close to the kitchen as possible but since there is a big pine tree right outside the kitchen door, I have to put the herbs outside other doors. I don’t want to have to walk all around the backyard to collect herbs in the dark when I am cooking dinner. I put the culinary herbs that prefer consistently moist conditions here under the laundry room window. I put all of my herbs for flavored teas in my wheelbarrow planter near the bench (actually going to be swapped out for a regular planter soon because I am tired of the “Pinteresty trash-to-treasure” look to it). All of my Mediterranean herbs got relocated alongside our patio and I will do a post once I finish revising that area soon. πŸ™‚

by0a1516by0a1510

Curious about the original before picture? I realized for some reason I never really took any before pictures of this area of the house, but here is a picture from the listing when our house was for sale. You can see that the planter area under the laundry room window was pretty pathetic looking before my husband added a much better edging to that area!

I blurred out part of our house number for privacy, but you can see that the house numbers were listed in quite an ugly, outdated font. They have been driving me nuts for a while and I finally ordered some new numbers (my husband hasn’t put them up yet). When I explained to him that the font on those numbers was driving me crazy, he sighed an exhausted sigh of frustration. He said, “sometimes I wish I hadn’t married a woman who has been educated in design and fonts and aesthetics. Ignorance is bliss!” I feel sorry for him with my never ending list of projects but the new numbers are going to look so much better! I can’t wait to show the finished result! πŸ™‚
isukzn9hvvc83

Rose Care Tips

aliciainwonderlandblog

I have had so much going on lately that I haven’t had the time to blog as much as I would like to ideally. I do however always have my phone with me, so I am making an effort to give lots of gardening tips lately with my Instagram photos of our garden You can find me at http://www.instagram.com/aliciainwonderlandphotos πŸ™‚ The photo above is an example of one of my recent garden grams!

Also, I recently discovered Periscope, which is so much fun! You can post little live broadcast videos, right from your cell phone (which can also be watched later on replay)! I just uploaded a couple of videos about how I take care of our roses, and how I use them as an important part of my diet. I am really excited about adding these gardening videos into my blogging routine. Be sure to check them out! You can watch the replay of the first one here, and the second part here. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

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™‚
BY0A5769

BY0A5767

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.
BY0A5772 BY0A5776BY0A5845
BY0A5846 BY0A5847 BY0A5851 BY0A5853BY0A5777 BY0A5779 BY0A5780 BY0A5783
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!
BY0A5784 BY0A5785

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.
BY0A5787 BY0A5790 BY0A5794 BY0A5795 BY0A5800 BY0A5801 BY0A5802 BY0A5806
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™‚
BY0A5808BY0A5924 BY0A5930

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!

BY0A5887 BY0A5888 BY0A5889 BY0A5890 BY0A5891 BY0A5892 BY0A5901 BY0A5903 BY0A5906 BY0A5908 BY0A5909 BY0A5911

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™‚
BY0A5811 BY0A5814 BY0A5816BY0A5913 BY0A5915 BY0A5916

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™‚
BY0A5819 BY0A5824

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!
BY0A5832 BY0A5834 BY0A5835 BY0A5836 BY0A5837

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.
BY0A5838 BY0A5841

And some aerial photos my husband took!
BY0A5938 BY0A5944 BY0A5967 BY0A5982
We haven’t quite finished up our evening lighting design yet, but here’s a few photos of the start of the project!
BY0A5987 BY0A5999 BY0A6000 BY0A6003 BY0A6006 BY0A6009

Garden Updates and Current Projects

It’s been a while since I posted an update with our garden remodel, so here is our winter update. πŸ™‚ We are approaching the end of our list of garden projects, both in the front and the back. It has been such a massive undertaking, and we have spent all of our free time in the past year working on these projects!

I’ll start with the front yard.

We recently decided to hire some guys to build us a new barn shed that we could use for storage and as a workshop area. We were in the middle of a bunch of projects in my studio, so it seemed like a great idea to hire out some of the work for once. Unfortunately, the guys we hired did an awful job and did not finish in one day as promised, so finishing the shed is another thing that got added to my husband’s to-do list. 😦

Our grapevines finally lost all of their leaves recently, so I need to do my yearly pruning on those. I love using the grapevine as a photo backdrop, so I can’t wait until those leaves start to fill in again!
aliciainwonderlandblog
We have been planning to add a dry riverbed going through the sloping areas of our front yard, including this area. We just had 12 tons of rocks and boulders delivered last night. We are excited but quite overwhelmed. πŸ™‚
aliciainwonderlandblog
A while back, we received our official certifications as a wildlife habitat from the National Wildlife Federation! That was very exciting.Β  aliciainwonderlandblog
We added fencing around the lower part of our front yard and a gate which keeps our son contained when I am gardening in our front yard. We had some delays with finishing the fence in the upper part though since the posts went right along the line of some large tree roots. Finishing up that part and adding the dry riverbed up here too are on our list of things to do.aliciainwonderlandblog
My succulent fountain is filling in so nicely! Not bad for a free find!
aliciainwonderlandblog
Most of my perennial flowers are currently pruned or dormant for winter, but I was very excited yesterday when I saw the first few blooms on my heartleaf geraniums. πŸ™‚ These are one of my favorites!
aliciainwonderlandblog

Now for the back yard! Our son’s play area and his garden…not too much has changed here lately. I love that this area is adjacent to both our living room and my studio. That way, he can play outside and I can keep an eye on him while I work on other things.
aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog
This flowers in the lower area of this planter got frost damaged at the beginning of last month, so those will have to be replaced soon. My roses are all currently pruned for winter and I can’t wait until they start blooming again!
aliciainwonderlandblog
My husband initially thought I was coming up with crazy ideas when I told him I wanted to paint the accent pieces on our pergola the accent color that I used on the brick retaining walls. I love the pop of color on the pergola!
aliciainwonderlandblog
My rambling roses that are I am training to climb up the pergola are unfortunately deciduous, but they are starting to get some new leaves again!aliciainwonderlandblog
aliciainwonderlandblog
aliciainwonderlandblog
aliciainwonderlandblog
I special ordered most of my climbing roses last year, and for this gazebo, one of the roses that I was sent was an incorrect variety. I received a white rose instead of a pink rose. I was not happy about it and felt a bit nuts, like the red queen in Alice in Wonderland. I suppose that would make me the pink queen. πŸ™‚ Anyway, there was a delay with my reorder, and now the one leg on that gazebo is not as covered as the other two. I’m going to give that particular rose some extra TLC so hopefully it will catch up quickly this year. πŸ™‚aliciainwonderlandblog
The roses on our other gazebo are doing great!
aliciainwonderlandblog
I did a couple of photoshoots in this gazebo over the weekend for clients, and I am so excited about using it going forward. They came out pretty amazing. πŸ™‚
aliciainwonderlandblog
Here’s a sneak peek of one of the photoshoots I did in this gazebo so far!
aliciainwonderlandphotography
I also used this bridge in a session yesterday, even though this area is not actually finished yet (I did a few creative things to disguise that fact). We are going to use the rocks we ordered to build a dry pond and waterfall around this bridge. I can’t wait until that part is finished…then I plan to do “fishing” mini sessions! πŸ™‚
aliciainwonderlandblog
My nasturtiums are back and quite full already! Last year they almost overwhelmed the garden!
aliciainwonderlandblog
aliciainwonderlandblog
My husband finished our massive cage around the vegetable beds! Now we can have our veggies without fear of them being dug up by raccoons and/or possums or whoever it was that was causing all of the destruction.
aliciainwonderlandblog
aliciainwonderlandblog
aliciainwonderlandblog
We hope to have the rest of these projects finished soon, so I will post more updates in about a month or so!

Wellness Wednesday: My Low-Maintenace, DIY, Non-toxic Beauty Routine

I know that many people are fed up with seeing posts online (mostly via Facebook) about essential oils, nail products, skin care, body wraps, eyelash extensions, etc. I apologize in advance because I am not trying to be one of “those people”. Simply put, I have found a few things that have been major game changers for me in my beauty routine, and I am just excited to share with you all. Before our son was born, keeping my hair and makeup well-kept was much easier. While I was always very health-conscious and concerned about using products that were environmentally friendly, I tended to use whatever worked best in the beauty department before I was a mom. Ever since I was pregnant with our son, my whole perspective on beauty products changed (previous post here). I started searching for natural options, and things free of all of the toxins. It has been an interesting journey, to say the least. Some things that I have tried did not go well.

I had actually planned to do this post months ago, but it took me a while to be able to put it all together. Plus, there were a few variations that I wanted to experiment with to make sure that I was giving the best possible advice.

The first thing in my repertoire is dry shampoo. I have very curly (frizzy) hair, and curly hair always tends to be dryer because of the uneven hair cuticle. One of the best ways to care for curly hair is to not wash it every day. That works great for a busy mom because it takes me a long time to blow dry my hair (air-drying is not an option for me…my hair is way too wild and it just gets too matted, tangled and unruly for me, despite a lifetime of trying everything and anything to get it to air-dry nicely). Let’s be honest though…skipping shampoos does wonders for my hair (and my time management), but my scalp is oily so it is kind of a double-edged sword. I used to buy those fancy dry shampoos in a bottle that you spray in your hair, which worked great. However the good ones are expensive, and full of pollutants and strange chemicals. I decided to try making my own dry shampoo, and this has been amazing.

Recipe:
1. 2 tablespoons corn starch
2. 2 tablespoons cocoa (or cacao) powder (omit for blonde hair)
3. 3-4 drops eachΒ dōTERRA essential oil: lemon (for cleansing), melaluca (also known as tea tree – for itching and cleansing), lavender (for cleansing and soothing), and peppermint (invigorating and refreshing).
4. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse a few times until well blended.
5. Transfer contents to mason jar or other container.
6. When using, dab small amounts of the powder onto scalp with a makeup brush, massage into scalp, then brush thoroughly.

It helps with oilyness, itchy scalp, gives your hair a great refresh between washings, and saves tons of time (and money)!
aliciainwonderlandblog

The next thing on my list is my recipe for the perfect detangler/leave-in conditioner/texture and shine spray for perfect beachy waves and curls. I use fresh aloe vera for a lot of things, especially when any of us gets a cut, scrape, bruise, rash, etc. It has such amazing soothing and healing properties for our skin, and I started to wonder if it would do the same for my hair. Spoiler alert…it does. πŸ™‚ I have spent most of my life hating my hair, wishing that I had been born with anything other than such frizzy, unruly hair. I am not exaggerating by any means, but ever since I started making this spray, I have finally started loving my hair for the first time ever. See, major game changer, right?

aliciainwonderlandblog

1. To start making the spray, a piece of fresh aloe vera plant is essential. Cut off a piece about an inch in length, and place it in a food processor or blender. Liquify the entire piece until it is mostly smooth and creamy.
aliciainwonderlandblog

2. Then poor that mixture over a very fine mesh strainer. It is slow to strain, but you want to separate out all of the fresh juice, leaving behind the bigger chunks and bits.aliciainwonderlandblog
3. Then mix about 1 teaspoon of the aloe vera juice with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 2-3 teaspoons of filtered or distilled water, and 8-10 drops dōTERRA lavender oil (for soothing and healing the hair, as well as masking the scent of the raw aloe vera).
4. Mix well and pour into a spray bottle.
5. Spray onto hair before styling, when tangled, etc. Keep refrigerated between uses. Let sit out for a few minutes before using to reach room temperature, and shake very well before applying.

The other major breakthrough I’ve had with my hair lately has been with these jumbo foam curlers that I found at Target (similar ones here). My mom used to use foam curlers on my hair when I was a kid, and I wanted to try it out in an effort to use less heat styling. The first few attempts with the foam rollers were a bit disappointing. I even tried using them with things like coconut oil, steam, etc. and everything had slightly disappointing results. However, once I came up with the spray above, my results were drastically different. My hair came out with perfect Pinterest-worthy big waves and curls, without using the curling iron or hot rollers! This may not work the same if you are lucky enough to have naturally straight hair, but if you have wavy, curly, or frizzy hair, I definitely highly recommend trying this out!

I start with blow drying my hair to smooth it out. Then as I am getting ready for bed at night, I put in the aloe vera-lavender spray, brushing well to work the spray through. Then I section my hair into chunks and put in the big foam rollers. It works incredibly well, and my hair stays nicer all day than it does when I use the curling iron or hot rollers! It took my husband and son a few days to stop laughing at my hair in rollers each night, but they definitely appreciate seeing my hair down and nicely styled instead of shoved into an ugly bun in desperation. πŸ™‚

aliciainwonderlandblog
Cell phone selfie of my hair…first time I was ever proud of my hair. πŸ™‚
aliciainwonderlandblog

Speaking of getting ready for bed, I also made a natural makeup remover. Previously, I had always been afraid to use anything oily on my face because I tend to have acne-prone skin (thanks hormonal imbalance!). Then I kept reading online about how people were having great results with using coconut oil and castor oil to remove their makeup, and how it applies the like-dissolves-like principle. I knew that my regular face washing routine was not fully removing all of my makeup each night, so I decided to give it a try. Surprisingly, it works great, and has not given me any breakouts! I just apply it, massage it in, and wipe it off with a soft towel.

For the makeup remover, I mixed together:
1. 3 tablespoons organic coconut oil
2. 1 tablespoon organic castor oil
3. 3 drops each dōTERRA lavender (for cleansing and soothing), frankincense (for skin renewal and anti-aging), and melaluca oils (for cleansing and anti-acne).

aliciainwonderlandblog

The last thing on my list has been something that I’m sure many people have heard of, but perhaps have not considered trying yet. I’m talking about Jamberry nails. When I was pregnant with our son, I started trying all different types of natural nail polish. None of the non-toxic options seemed to last longer than a day without chipping, even on my toe nails. I honestly don’t care if my fingernails are polished unless I am going to a fancy event (with all of my gardening, crafting, and cleaning the house, I am just happy if my fingernails are all the same length and clean), but I can’t stand going in public with unpolished toe nails. Since we live in Southern California, we keep our sandals in heavy rotation most of the year (it is almost November and still in the 80 degree range most afternoons lately).

I have been using Jamberry nail wraps for the past several months on my toes and have been so happy with them! They stay on for weeks at a time, which is amazing! They even hold up through all of my barefoot gardening and beach walks. πŸ™‚ Over the past few months, I found a few tips that work best for me with applying the Jamberry nails. The first couple of times I applied them they were okay, but once I got the hang of a few tricks, they have been beyond amazing.

Alicia in Wonderland blog - low maintenance, nontoxic DIY beauty

If you haven’t heard of Jamberry nails before, they are basically like a DIY, non-toxic alternative to salon gel manicures. They are adhesive strips that you apply to your nails with a hair dryer. It is pretty simple and great for moms because you don’t have to worry about your kids coming over and smudging your perfectly painted fresh pedicure (has happened to me many times before I tried these)! Also, they have so many fun, amazing designs to choose from! I have seen some nail wraps at the drug stores, but the patterns available there do not come anywhere close the the amazing options that Jamberry has available. πŸ™‚

Here are my tips for the perfect Jamberry manicure/pedicure:
1. Be sure to prep your nails well. Soak to make sure they are nice and clean.
2. Dry completely, then push back/clip any messy cuticles.
3. Lightly buff your nails, trim, and file them to get them prepared.
4. Wipe nails with rubbing alcohol pad.
5. Apply Jamberry strips per instructions.
6. Be sure to trim any excess tiny bits around the edges and sides of your nails. Anything that is not trimmed off will lift up, leaving your manicure or pedicure falling off when it could stay on for much longer otherwise. The easiest way I have found to trim all those excess bits is with a pair of sharp cuticle nippers (seen below).
7. Pay attention to the size and shape of your nails when applying. I am very petite, which means I have small feet, and therefore tiny little toe nails. I initially had a problem with keeping my pinky toe nail polished, but then I realized a trick that worked best for me. The cuticle bed of my pinky toe is tiny and flat, not rounded like the other toes. Once I trimmed off that rounded bit on the pinky toe wrap, it stayed on much longer! Trimming to fit your own toe nails’ shape/size is the most important part. πŸ™‚
8. Don’t rush when using the hair dryer to apply them. If you need to, stop the process and come back to the next few nails instead of cutting the applying time short. I often do a few nails, deal with the round of “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom”, and then come back to finish up the rest. πŸ˜‰

Alicia in Wonderland blog - low maintenance, nontoxic DIY beauty

If you would like to try Jamberry nails for yourself (and I definitely recommend that you do!), I have a Jamberry party set up over on Facebook here that you can join! My friend Kristin set up the event (and has very patiently rescheduled it multiple times for me while I tried to get this blog post together!), and she has a way of making these Jamberry parties so much fun. πŸ™‚

*Disclaimer: the post above contains affiliate links for your convenience. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to treat, prevent or cure any disease.

My Herb Garden Tour

I have been working on my herb garden expansion for a few months now, I am very excited to give a tour of my complete collection! I started out just growing culinary herbs and lavender. I started using lavender for so many things that it sparked an interest for me in growing other medicinal herbs. Lavender the plant and lavender the essential oil were both my “gateway drugs” into expanding my repertoire of herbal medicine. πŸ˜‰ I don’t actually have lavender in my herb garden since I have it planted all over the place in the front and back gardens. I fit in lavender anywhere I can. πŸ™‚

I wanted to make sure that our son does not get into my medicinal herbs, so I tried to think of some kind of barrier to keep him out. I found these rolls of little picket fencing held together with wire which has been working perfectly (purchased at Lowe’s). I love that it goes nicely with the picket fence that we are adding to the front of the yard also.
aliciainwonderlandblog
Previously, I have planted my catnip plants in the ground and in lower hanging containers, and our neighbor’s cat has destroyed them each time. Even when I had my catnip in one of our window boxes, that pesky cat still found it and destroyed it. I have relocated my catnip up into a hanging flower pot near our front door. I actually do not give the catnip to our cats often, but use it primarily for making soothing teas for our son and our dogs (when they are upset and stressed out from fireworks). Next to the catnip, we hung my St. John’s Wort plant (mostly because I think it is such a pretty plant to have hanging!). Yes, we still have our Christmas lights up! My husband says that by the time we finish all of our other urgent projects, it will be time to put them up again, so why bother? πŸ™‚
aliciainwonderlandblog
Some of my culinary herbs prefer to have consistently moist soil, so I keep them in a small self-watering planter.
aliciainwonderlandblog
In the rest of the herb garden, I have a bunch of other culinary herbs.
aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog
I use sage and steevia often in my tea mixes. Sage is a great caffeine substitute and steevia adds a great natural sweetness, which I love in some tea blends (I never give our son any teas with sage…he has enough energy already).
aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog
On the other side of the herb garden, I have the rest of my medicinal herbs. I use lemon verbena in lots of my teas since we all love the flavor. Hyssop is something new that I just recently started experimenting with, and the toothache plant has been a lifesaver for us (more on that coming in another post).
aliciainwonderlandblog
Valerian and lemon balm are more calming herbs that I use for teas and tinctures.
aliciainwonderlandblog
I cannot remember why I initially purchased rue, but it has the added benefit of deterring pests, especially cats out of the herb garden. Ever since I planted it, my herbs in here have been free from that pesky cat (I still wouldn’t go so far as to trust my catnip plant in there, but the rest of the plants have been unharmed, which is a first here at this house!). Feverfew is another herb I use for teas and tinctures. Comfrey is great for external uses, such as in a warm compress over an injury, etc. I heard one herbalist recommend trying it in a tea (despite the FDA’s warnings against internal use). The day that my husband and I tried comfrey in our tea, we both had a debilitating headache for two days. We are never trying comfrey internally again.
aliciainwonderlandblog
Three more of my medicinal herbs, a bit sparse since I had just made a bunch of teas and tinctures.
aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog
In the back, I keep two of my herbs that prefer shadier conditions.
aliciainwonderlandblog
Most of my mints grow under our fig tree and pergola.
aliciainwonderlandblog
I have found that for me, most herbs tend to grow best in dappled sunlight. Even the herbs that claim to need full sun have done much better for me when they are getting some filtered sunlight near a tree, but not directly under a tree (exceptions being lavender and rosemary – those love full sun but rosemary will tolerate dappled light). Some of the herbs grow well in the ground, andΒ  I plant the ones the ones that need better draining soil in flower pots. I have the comfrey in a pot to control its size; I have been told that it can quickly take over your garden.

I will go into more detail in future posts about how I use each of the medicinal herbs! Are there any in particular that anyone is most interested in learning about? Feel free to let me know!

If you are interested in learning more about growing herbs, this is one my favorite books: Your Backyard Herb Garden.

*Disclaimer: the link above is an affiliate links. Any books I recommend are books hand selected by me that I enjoy and personally recommend (i.e. not sponsored selections). If you are interested in purchasing one of those books, purchasing thorough those direct links is much appreciated and helps keep this blog running!

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!

aliciainwonderlandblog
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.

aliciainwonderlandblog

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).

aliciainwonderlandblog

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.