A Thousand Words a Picture Does NOT Tell ;)

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I thought it would be hilarious to dress up as Chip & Joanna Gaines for Halloween. I wanted to get a picture of us in front of our shiplap covered fireplace and floating shelf mantle that we worked very hard to create, very Fixer Upper style. πŸ™‚ From an outside perspective, it looked like everything was picture perfect. In reality, I just did a really good job of framing the photo to exclude all of the chaos surrounding us. πŸ™‚ Want to know the real behind the scenes story? It has been so crazy here lately that even my mom called after she saw the photo and asked how we pulled that photo off (since really only very few people know the reality around here lol).

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For most of October, our boys traded off being sick, reaching a peak in late October when Baby F came down with an ear infection in both ears, and roseola…fever spiking at nearly 105 degrees. It was beyond stressful. The boys were getting stir crazy and the house was a chaotic mess from them being stuck inside for so long. Of course it all played out when I am in the midst of the busiest time of year for photographers, when I am already stressed to the max.

We “finished” up our renovation projects on my home based studio/office during my maternity leave a few months ago (I say finished in quotes because I always seem to come up with some new crazy project idea for my poor husband). Now we are trying to focus on finishing up our crazy projects on our actual house with the little free time that we have. Things have been a chaotic mess as a result. Walls have come down, flooring is temporarily filled in with patches of awful concrete, etc. We keep trying to make plans with friends, family and neighbors but things keep coming up in the chaos and we feel like we’ve had several months of antisocial behavior as a result lol.

Previously, we had a bed in our master bedroom that we made. My husband made the bed frame, and I made the padded headboard. It seemed great in theory, until slimy toddler hands kept jumping up onto our bed and destroying my pretty satin headboard. So that looked nice for literally about a day! My husband asked me to visualize my dream bedroom and tell him what that included. I said that I have always wanted an antique white armoire and a pretty black antique style wrought iron bed frame. Literally since junior high, that is what I have been hoping to have some day. So I started searching online to find those two items. I found an amazing white armoire that I love (and happens to look really cute with the vanity I already had!), and found an adorable bed frame on sale from Target, and a beautiful white quilt from Overstock.com. I was so excited…my dream bedroom should be arriving any day via UPS! πŸ™‚ Then reality hit…..

The bed frame arrived severely banged up and damaged. The bedspread arrived in a defective size, definitely not proper king size bed measurements. I spent over four hours on the phone trying to resolve both of the issues. We ended up with a damaged bed frame in a box sitting in the middle of our living room for a few weeks while we sorted out all of the details of the mess. The big huge box was in front of our fireplace, and was driving me nuts. My mom saw the picture of us in front of the fireplace and was so confused…she immediate called and asked what happened to the big huge box and all of the mess around it lol. We literally shoved it out of the way just for the picture!

While the baby’s fever broke by Halloween, the boys were still feeling a bit under the weather and not up for a whole lot. They were being particularly crazy while I had my tripod set up for the photo above. πŸ™‚ I realized I had been working so much lately that I forgot to do laundry, and our 3 year old son E was out of clean clothes, particularly clean underwear lol. He was running around in circles while I had the tripod set up, yelling “no underwear today, woo hoo!!” Baby F is my little gardening helper (I call him Mr Green Thumb because he jumps out of bed every day, excited to come garden with me in the morning, and loves pinching/harassing all of my plants). πŸ™‚ Since F had been sick and it had been a bit cool and rainy, he hadn’t been allowed to come outside and garden for a bit. He was trying to escape out the door into the garden while we had the tripod set up lol.

Later that day, E fell asleep for a rare but much needed nap, and I finally caved and let F play with my little herb garden planter outside our front door. While he was happily pinching my basil, my husband came up with a funny idea to take a cell phone pic of him as a “sweaty” Chip Gaines. So hilarious if you know how often this poor guy is actually this sweaty on his “days off work” while he’s working on our house lol. This time it was just water though. πŸ™‚ I am thankful that I have this great man to keep me sane in the chaos of our lives. πŸ™‚ He keeps me laughing when things get challenging!

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I can’t even believe it but our sweet little Baby F is nine months old today! It is bittersweet for me as he is getting older. More of his nature loving personality is coming out, and I see more and more of myself in his personality (even though he is the spitting image of my husband!). My husband and E groan when I say it’s time for everyone to help work on the garden, but when Baby F hears me say that, he crawls as fast as he can to get outside, with a big smile on his face. πŸ™‚ I am sad because I know he will be our last baby, and after spending so much time pregnant over the course of 5 years, it is hard to believe the baby portion of our lives is nearing an end. I am looking forward to having quite an enthusiastic little partner by my side in the garden though! πŸ™‚

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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™‚

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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™‚
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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™‚

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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™‚

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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™‚
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Rose Care Tips

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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™‚
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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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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!
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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™‚
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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
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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!
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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™‚
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Here’s a sneak peek of one of the photoshoots I did in this gazebo so far!
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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™‚
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My nasturtiums are back and quite full already! Last year they almost overwhelmed the garden!
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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.
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We hope to have the rest of these projects finished soon, so I will post more updates in about a month or so!

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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Transitioning from Baby’s Nursery to Toddler’s Room

You may have seen my previous post about our son’s baby nursery design. Now that he is no longer a baby, I have made several changes to his room and wanted to do a follow up post with his updated room. One of the major changes was that I rearranged all of the furniture. I wanted to create a layout that gave him more room to play on the floor. Also, he started climbing up on the daybed to look out the window at the garden. Previously, the daybed was just on the edge of the window, so as soon as I saw him leaning over to look out the window, I started rearranging all of the furniture. We also found two cute rugs at Ikea that work well in the middle for a cozy play area.

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I wanted his toys to be organized and accessible for him, so I got the toy box at Ikea also, and ordered the toy hammock online to hold all of his stuffed animals (how did we accumulate so many of those so quickly?!).
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The picture frames are all empty for now, until I eventually get around to ordering prints (you would think we don’t have any pictures of our son or something with all of those empty frames!). The octopus kite was a cool vintage find in E’s favorite color, red. I let him pick out a plant for his room one day when we were out plant shopping, and he picked out a spider plant. πŸ™‚
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This wall has new items, all crafty things that E and I have made together. The weaving was our first craft project together. He handed me nails and helped me make the loom on the back of an old drawer, and helped me pick out yarn from the stash of yarn that I used for his newborn photoshoots.
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These are a couple of activity boards that I made for him. The one on the left is a little magnetic board, that we use with magnetic numbers and letters for learning time. The rest of the time, I keep the letters and numbers packed away since they just end up all over the house otherwise. πŸ™‚ The board on the right is an old cork board that I turned into a fun felt story board. I purchased some felt stickers of owls, fish, bees, and ladybugs at Joann’s Fabrics and then cut out some trees and a pond. I put Velcro on the back of the animals and bugs and E loves playing with them and moving them around. Sometimes the fish even end up in the trees. πŸ™‚
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This branch was another project E and I made together. He loves trees, so I took a branch that I pruned from our yard and we covered it with fabric scraps to hang up in his room.
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His cloud bunting is still up, with the addition of a (temporarily empty) frame above it.
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We are still cosleeping at night, but I am trying to encourage E to use his crib for naps. He was never a fan of the crib, but since my husband converted it to a toddler bed, he is much happier with it. E is an awful napper for the most part, but I was beyond excited a couple of times recently when after playing in his room, he climbed up into his bed on his own and took a nap. πŸ™‚
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E loves to pick out his shoes each day, so I have his box of shoes down low and accessible, along with plenty of books and a few toys.
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This vintage print was an amazing antique store find. πŸ™‚
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That’s it! I also moved the changing table out of this room, into the hallway near my office for a couple of reasons (first so that my clients could use it without having to go into the the personal area of our house; second since it was not very much fun to play on the floor next to a diaper bin!). Pretty much everything else is the same. I try to keep things organized and keep clutter to a minimum so the room does not turn into a huge disaster. Our bedrooms are so small, so keeping them organized is so important! We may do a decluttering round soon on some of those stuffed animals. :-/

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Letting Go of Worrying What Others Think About Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why I Blog + Keeping Poisonous Plants Out of Our Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orange County Fair 2014 Wrapup

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

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