Great American Backyard Campout Photos!

Recently, we pledged to participate in the Great American Backyard Campout organized by the National Wildlife Federation. I set up the tent and our little camping area Friday while my husband was at work. Whenever we have gone “real” camping, I have been limited to what we could fit in our Jeep so I could never get our campsites as pretty as I would like them. At home, that wasn’t an issue so I could make it as fun, glam, and bohemian as I wanted. 🙂

We actually had so much fun that we ended up camping in the back on two different weekends! We may leave this “campground” set up for the rest of the summer. 🙂 This was E’s first experience camping and he loved it! We can’t wait to bring him camping to a real campsite.

We live on a hill and have no privacy from our neighbors above us. To give us a bit of seclusion, I hung curtains around our pergola.

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Hand soap, lotion and lantern.
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Old fashioned hand washing station (E loved this!).
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Mason jar water glasses for each of us.
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Drinking water with fresh mint.
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We used E’s train table as our picnic table.
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Our dogs joined in on the fun.
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We roasted smores. We came to the decision that I am the smore making master. My husband thought his would win since he has been camping more, but I grew up going to beach bonfires every summer. 😉
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Stella loved sleeping in the tent!
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E loves his little books, and stashed lots of them in the pockets inside the tent. As soon as he woke up, he started grabbing books for story time. 🙂
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Father’s Day Weekend Part 1

This past weekend, we decided to skip our rule of one day of working on the house and one day of fun rule. For one thing, we were a little burnt out on working on the house after spending a couple of weekends getting the house ready for the baptism party. Also, since it was Father’s Day weekend, we decided to take the whole weekend to do fun things. Our Mother’s Day weekend was a little rough with all three of us feeling under the weather (each with different problems), so a fun and memorable first Father’s Day weekend was in order.

On Saturday, my husband and E wore their coordinating t-shirts that I got for them. Below is an Instagram picture showing their t-shirts. They were a big hit all day. 🙂1010309_10151526025612535_20475506_n

We started out the day going to the Heritage Square Museum, near Pasadena, CA. My grandmother used to tell this story over and over about how when I was really little, she was driving me to her sister’s house in San Marino. As we were passing by Heritage Square on the freeway, I looked over and said, “what boootiful houses!”. I am still very fond of old Victorian and craftsman houses, as is my husband. We were crushed when we did not get the first house that we put an offer on, a big historic house built around 1919 (the house was somehow repurchased by the same owner). My husband had never been to Heritage Square, and I had not been since I was a little kid, so we were excited to go. In retrospect, I wish I would have brought some of my other camera lenses with me, but worrying about carting around all the baby gear is usually enough stuff to carry. 🙂

I always thought that Heritage Square was a previously existing neighborhood that had been saved and restored. We were quite surprised to find out that they were individual buildings that were salvaged from around Los Angeles, relocated together and restored. It is so sad that there are so many more houses like this that were destroyed over the years around the city.

E was so cute when we were inside the houses. I really wished photography would have been allowed inside the houses. He had his eyes open so big, looking at all of the details of each house and the furniture. We jokingly told him to take it all in and start taking notes so he can work with us on our house soon. 🙂

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We loved the little vegetable garden next to one of the houses. It was modeled after the WWII era victory gardens and gave us some ideas and inspiration for our own garden.BY0A9184 BY0A9185 BY0A9188 BY0A9189 BY0A9190

We met a cute cat in the garden. He followed me throughout the garden. He reminded us a lot of our cat Fluffy. 🙂
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Originally, we were planning to go to another museum in the area after we finished at the Heritage Square Museum, but after we dealt with some long baby feeding sessions and diaper changes, it was a lot later than we had planned and too late to go to another museum. We were not ready to leave and go to dinner at the place we had planned, and wanted to do something else. We decided to go for a walk around the Cal Tech campus since it is so pretty and E absolutely loves looking at trees. 🙂

When I was in high school, a good friend of mine was applying to Cal Tech. I thought that it sounded incredibly boring to go to a college without NCAA sports teams. I decided to go to USC, but spent a lot of time visiting her up at Cal Tech on the weekends and breaks. It turned out that Cal Tech was not as boring as I would have assumed, and I ended up falling in love with the school and the whole environment. I wished I had applied there myself. While at USC, I felt that the general environment was full of a lot of superficiality, backstabbing, snobbery, and everyone judging everyone else. I really do not have too many fond memories of those years, with the exception of a few good friends that I made (however, by now most of those friendships have faded away anyway after moves, etc.). A part of me always wonders if I really did not enjoy studying engineering, or if I just did not enjoy the environment where I was studying. Perhaps if I had gone somewhere else, I might have enjoyed it more. I had a lot of horrible experiences where people in my classes were spreading lies about how I was getting an A in a particular class, and even a professor who tried to sabotage me because he was angry that I got a 97% on his midterm without attending his (pointless) lectures when I had fractured my spine. My good grade brought attention to the fact that everyone who had been in the lectures had come close to failing the midterm, or had failed, and I ruined the curve. Oops!

When I would go visit at Cal Tech, people had themed parties that were more than just order a kegger and get wasted (like the parties at USC). They had open mic nights, spoken word and poetry nights, and other amazing themed parties and events. People sat around having amazing conversations, discussing philosophy, politics, and more (and sometimes science topics too). I definitely spent more of my free time at Cal Tech parties than events at my own school. It was the kind of environment that I had pictured when I thought about what college would be like. When I was busy fighting with the university because they were forcing me to live with roommates who never felt a need to study and stayed up all night partying, my friend at Cal Tech got to live in her own tiny dorm room, with no roommates, because the university understood that living alone in a smaller space was more conducive to efficient studying.

My husband does not like it when I say this, but I really hope E will consider going to Cal Tech if he is interested in science or engineering. I know it is silly to try to encourage him toward a particular college as soon as he is born, but I just loved it there so much and hope that one day I could live vicariously through one of my own kids going to school there. 🙂

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After our little campus tour, we finished off the evening with dinner at my favorite restaurant in my old neighborhood of L.A. (Los Feliz), and a drive through downtown. We had a couple of things in mind that we wanted to do downtown, but a worn out and sleeping baby made us decide to head home instead. 🙂

How To: My Favorite Lawn Care Tools

I like to try to keep our front grass looking as nice as possible, in as eco-friendly of a way as possible.  I use organic fertilizer, I don’t use weed killer chemicals anywhere, and use this tool instead.
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My husband was responsible for mowing the lawn at our old house, and it often was embarrassingly overgrown since he works so much (often on the weekends too).  I told him I would take over the lawn care at the new house if he got me a new lawnmower.   I do not like the gas powered mower he has, and besides the fact that I don’t like gas powered tools for their emissions, it was way too big and heavy for me to maneuver around this multi-level yard.

I told him I needed something I could easily pick up, and wanted to get a reel mower.  He thought I was crazy that I wanted to go motor-less, but I insisted.  I also wanted one with a bag so I could add the grass clippings to my compost bin.  If you leave the grass clippings on the grass, it is good for the grass because it adds an extra boost of nitrogen when the grass decomposes, and acts as a mulch.  However, in a neighborhood where everyone has immaculately groomed front yards, I don’t like the look of decaying grass clippings on top of our lawn.  It just does not look as nice as I want it to look.

I first tried the Scotts reel mower, and the blades were not sharp enough.  It ripped and tore the grass, leaving brown edges on the top where the grass blades were torn.  I returned that mower and then tried the Craftsman model.  This one works much better and I am really happy with it.

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Before I mow the grass, I always try to remove as many of the pine needles as possible.  The hired gardeners in the area always use power blowers to get rid of all of the pine needles, but I have found that our blower doesn’t really get rid of all of them.  Besides, I always prefer to use a little elbow grease instead of electricity/gas power when possible.  Getting a garden motivated me to cancel my gym membership! 🙂  I use a simple plastic rake, and it does great things when getting rid of the pine needles.  I go one round with the rake like I am sweeping, and then a second round where I drag the rake behind me, never lifting it up until it is full.  I zig zag back and forth dragging the rake behind me, until I have covered the whole area.

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The strange tool next to the rake in the second picture is my grass aerator.  I picked this up recently since the soil in our front yard is extremely compacted.  I used this to aerate the lawn, allowing the water to penetrate deeper to the grass’ root system.  I don’t like the look of the little dirt plugs that it leaves behind everywhere, but they add nutrients back into the grass.  As a compromise, I went through afterward and stepped on all of the plugs to break them up.

The last picture is the one challenge that I have found no store-bought tool will help with.  There is one particular type of weed that was growing in our backyard, with very thick woody stems.  They are too thin for the weed tool to yank up, and too thick for the lawnmower to cut.  I had to go through and yank them up by hand, which wasn’t fun, but didn’t take as long as I thought it would.  It only took me about a half an hour to go through and yank out all of these weeds in about 600 square feet of grass.

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Our Front Yard – 3 1/2 Weeks After Moving In

Here are some current pictures of our front yard!  I originally wanted us to find a house to buy in the winter, so I would have plenty of time to get settled and start on my spring planting.  Unfortunately, since things took longer than we expected in every way, I felt like I was on a mad rush to get things planted before the weather starts getting too hot.

It may seem strange to focus on planting the front yard when there is so much work to be done on the inside, but I had a lot of reasons for making the yard a priority. 🙂  For one thing, my severe dust allergies make it really difficult for me to be inside the house when there are things going on like heater repair, fireplace repair, and kitchen demolition.  I woke up a few mornings completely swollen, and my relief is found outside in the fresh air.  A lot of the projects inside the house are going to be more of a team effort between my husband and myself, and for the most part I handle all of the gardening on my own (unless there is something really major that I need his help with – like heavy duty digging).  We don’t want to start too many projects at once until he is eventually finished with the kitchen.  Plus, your front yard is your “face” to the neighborhood!

I will post updated pictures of the backyard soon…It is currently mid-project until the weather clears up a little!

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