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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Happy Accidents

Sometimes my favorite pictures are the ones that are not planned. I have done several photoshoots in my studio with babies in old vintage buckets, and I always wanted to do one in our garden with our son actually in a bath with bubbles. Unfortunately, when he was a little baby, our backyard was kind of a disaster after months of neglect thanks to my difficult pregnancy. I didn’t get the pictures I had envisioned, and I eventually put them out of my mind. Then one day recently, my husband and I were trying to clean up the mess that our fig tree was making in the backyard. My husband asked me to go get a bucket of soapy water. As soon as I laid it down, our little man decided that now was the perfect time to get those photos I had wanted months ago. E hopped into the bucket on his own accord and started posing. I guess he remembered it from in my studio and thought it was photoshoot time! Of course I immediately ran to go grab my big camera. This little guy sure knows how to make his mommy happy. πŸ™‚

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At first I considered removing all of the dirt and grime from his face when I was processing these photos, then I decided to leave it. If it had been a “real” photoshoot for a client, I would have of course removed it. However since this was a spur of the moment thing with my own son, I decided I kind of like his dirty little face in the photos. Dirty face and messy hair after helping me in the garden…a perfect example of his sweet little personality. πŸ™‚
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The funniest part of this impromptu shoot is that I happened to set the bucket in front of my “happy accident” squash plant, which ended up being a big prize winner at the county fair! The whole story on that will be coming to the blog next week. πŸ™‚
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E loves helping me wash things. He helps me load laundry every day, and always wishes he could help with the dishes. Since he wants to clean things so badly, I made him some little sponges in different shapes that he uses in his water table with some soap bubbles. I don’t like when he “washes” his books, but it cracked me up when he suddenly pulled one of his little sponges out of the tub. I did not even realize he brought it in with him!
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Trying to give the elephant statue kisses!
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These ones were after I told him it was getting cold and it was time to come out of the water. πŸ™‚
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Maybe if she can’t see me, I won’t have to get out!
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Recently, I took our little dog to go get her follow-up vaccines at the vet. She did fine the first time but felt kind of under the weather with the second round. Since she was a rescue, we do not have too much medical history on her so we have to watch her closely after the vaccines. She was particularly mopy that evening, and our three boys were trying their hardest to cheer her up. I wish our other cat would join in on the fun with them (she is still afraid of E), but I am pretty darn happy with a few photos of these four all playing together! Another totally unplanned, happy accident photo opportunity that ended up being some of my favorite photos. πŸ™‚
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Free Train Rides!

E and I have been to these free train rides in Torrance before, but this time we brought along my husband and some friends. The train rides take place at Wilson Park in Torrance, CA, and are free on the first Sunday and third Saturday of every month! It is such an adorable little area, with lots of little rustic decorations. Great fun for little ones and parents too!
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Mom! Can’t you see I’m getting ready to enjoy my train ride?! This is no time for pictures!
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Afterward, we had a family picnic in the park. E recently outgrew his dairy and wheat allergies, so we were quite excited that we would all be able to eat cheese and crackers. πŸ™‚
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Then some fun play time in the park. πŸ™‚
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Big sloppy kisses for Daddy!
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Backyard Garden Tour – Furniture

These chairs were old Craigslist finds that we had from our old house. I painted them a while back, and we recently got new cushions for them. They are fun and colorful in E’s garden area. πŸ™‚

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These chairs float back and forth between our firepit area and the patio table. I found them for the firepit, but they happened to come with a table, which we then decided we wanted to use anyway.
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Once we found this amazing patio umbrella (Pier 1), we really started enjoying using this patio table. We can have some snacks at the table while E runs around in his garden. πŸ™‚
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Originally, we wanted to find Victorian style circular tree benches that would go around each of the dwarf fruit trees. We couldn’t find any anywhere, even after contacting companies in England. We looked into having some made, but did not like the idea of spending somewhere in the range of $10,000 or more for a few benches. So instead, we found three benches like this at the Rose Bowl Flea Market (for a total of $110!), and circled vintage chairs around the other two trees. I like the end result much better than our original plan.
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We are really into hammocks. We have a few different hammock chairs around the pergola now, and we also put up hooks for our big hammock as well. We have a stand for the big hammock in our downstairs yard, but that area is not as nice as the upstairs now so we are using it more up here. We have had some great weekend afternoons with all of us cuddled up in the big hammock.
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I also have my little reading area set up, so I can read while E runs back and forth on the fake grass area. He loves to run laps around the little area. πŸ™‚
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We also got a chimnea that we move around the garden at night since our firepit table isn’t very portable. We initially tried a propane powered one but it was absolutely awful (didn’t produce any noticeable heat) and we much prefer this wood burning one.
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Backyard Garden Tour – Garden Accents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots more details coming in the next few days!

My New Potting Table!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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