My First Garden

Happy spring!! Having spent four years living in a part of the state that enjoys a kind of perma-spring — sunny and 70 degrees pretty much year round — I think I lost the joy that comes in March and April every year. But up here in Northern California, spring is the magical (and fleeting) season of sunshine  and happiness before temperatures hit the triple digits.

With the passing of another season, we are getting closer to the wedding date. This means our garage is full of vases and glasses and ribbons and all sorts of other little details that are falling into place. I’ve been working on projects almost every weekend I’m planning to share those DIYs this summer, once all the madness is over.

In the midst of all that, I took advantage of the first glorious, sunny day of spring two weeks ago to plant my very first garden! I should say “our” first garden because technically my almost-husband built it for me and did a lot of the heavy lifting. Casey made me an 8′ by 4′ bed using two Douglas Fir boards. I had every intention of laying down newspaper to deter weeds from popping up through the bark that was already there, but in all our excitement to put in the soil, we forgot. We dumped a total of 8 cubic feet of soil and 2 cubic feet of compost into the bed and mixed it all together.

I read some articles about square foot gardening prior to building the garden and thought it was the best option for a rookie gardener like myself. I measured and screwed a nail every 12″ all around the bed. Then I used yarn to make the grid, marking off each square foot. The square foot markers also helped when it came time to plant the seeds, as each type of seed has certain spacing requirements.

IMG_0765

In the raised bed I planted watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, green onions, cilantro, and jalapeños. I used 6 paint stirrers from Lowe’s as markers so I could keep track of where I planted each crop. In a large wooden pot, I planted 3 separate sweet cherry tomato plants. In two raised planter boxes that Casey hung from the fence, I planted a total of 12 strawberry plants (6 in each box).

IMG_0767

IMG_0769

IMG_0772

Fast forward two weeks and this is what I have to report: one cat decided to use my garden as a personal bathroom — I had hoped the string would make it difficult for this to happen but apparently not. I found that citrus juice works as an all-natural repellant for cats so I will be picking up some oranges so I can spray the garden with juice. I’ll report back if this method is successful. In more positive news, as of this morning there are two cilantro sprouts, three green onion sprouts, and plenty of strawberries on their way!

IMG_0768Green onion sprouts! I might have squealed when I came out to find these yesterday morning. And again when I found two more sprouts this morning.

IMG_0770

Next on the list is a young lemon tree that I will pot in the backyard where it can get plenty of sunlight. I’m so excited for the fruits and veggies we will have this summer! I actually look forward to watering my garden when I get home every day, and I must admit I’m a little bummed when Mother Nature waters the garden on her own. That’s my job!

IMG_0771

Here is the garden, with the wisteria that’s slowly taking over above it. Part of me wants to rip out a big portion of the wisteria because its does block the bed from getting full sunlight for at least a couple hours a day, but there are TONS of bumblebees that love the wisteria. This makes it difficult to remove because the last thing we want to do is piss off a thousand bumblebees, but I think that it will also allow the plants to be pollenated once they grow bigger. I know you will all be on pins and needles waiting to hear what we do with the wisteria so I”ll keep you posted!

That Time Martha Stewart Failed Me…

I realize that I’m a little late to board the chalkboard train. I have been wanting a chalkboard frame for a while now, dreaming of finding the perfect chunky beautiful frame at a thrift store and giving it new life. It turns out that those big gorgeous frames are much harder to find than I originally thought…I spent months trying to find the right one before giving up and just getting a frame from Ikea.

Once I had the frame, I was excited to transform it. I bought Martha Stewart’s “multi-surface” chalkboard paint and painted the glass with 3 coats, waiting a few hours between each coat.

IMG_0741

I then conditioned the chalkboard by shading chalk across the whole piece of glass. It was a very unpleasant sound, literally like nails on a chalkboard. The paint didn’t feel even and my brush strokes were visible. Even though it didn’t feel right, I decided to press on and hope that the chalkboard surface would improve.

IMG_0729

Yeaaaaaah it’s safe to say it only got worse from there. The chalk squeaked against the glass and scratched the surface, leaving marks that I could not brush off, even with water. It was an ugly mess. I was so discouraged that Martha could let me down like this with her crappy paint, and the frame stayed locked in the guest room for months.

With our housewarming party coming up, I decided to give the chalkboard frame another shot. Especially after we took down the “Christmas Countdown” frame, that wall in the kitchen looked blank and in need of some love. I’ve used Valspar spray paint on a few projects lately and I’m loving the way the paint goes on so smoothly.

IMG_0732

(I promise I actually do have fingers, but my nails were not looking too cute so…)

IMG_0733

After 2 coats of the Valspar chalkboard spray paint, I could immediately tell the paint was thicker and more even. Also, say hi to our brown grass. What up, California drought?!

IMG_0739

Ahhh doesn’t it look about 800 million times better than before?! I’ve thought about maybe painting the white frame part to be a fun color that pops against our “greige” walls, but that’s another project for another day. As for now, me and Martha are fighting (even if she doesn’t know it) and I’ll be sure to read some reviews before buying her products if I haven’t used them before. Fool me once, Martha…

Spice Rack Revamp

Happy 2014! Now that the holiday season is over, we are going full force trying to finish up odds and ends around the house before our housewarming party in a few weeks. I’m planning to accomplish many lingering tasks, so the blog will (hopefully) be in a flurry of activity as well.

A few years ago, my grandfather gave me a spice rack that belonged to my grandmother who had recently passed away. Although I couldn’t use it at the time due to communal living, I knew that in the future I would love to have a piece of my grandmother’s kitchen in our home. Fast forward to moving into our own home two months ago, and the spice rack resurfaced out of the depths of my storage unit.

IMG_0700The spice rack was in perfect working order (it has a lazy susan on the bottom) but was a little outdated. Nothing a little spray paint can’t fix! Because ultimately, I’d like to paint the kitchen a light blue color, I thought I’d start small and paint the spice rack a robin’s egg blue. I got Valspar Paint + Primer in one, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to regular spray paint again! It goes on evenly and smoothly and it’s only $1 more than regular spray paint at Lowe’s. Totally worth the extra dollar!

IMG_0704

IMG_0703

IMG_0705Our backyard gets almost zero sunlight so the color looks weird here…

IMG_0721

I added some washi tape to the lids and labeled the spices I had on hand. I like the washi tape because I can always change the labels if I decide to mix up my spice repertoire.

IMG_0725

IMG_0720

The finished product in it’s new home! Right next to the sadddd knives that can’t even cut a bell pepper. Let’s just say a new knife block will be first on the wedding registry list, even though I’m fairly sure we won’t last 5.5 months using butter knives to cut things.

I’m off to go work on the “lady cave!” The whole point of that room is for me to work on projects and write blog posts in there; let’s cross our fingers that I’ll be writing the next post from my pretty new ghost chair!

Christmas Countdown

IMG_0715It has been sheer insanity the last 2 months. We made an offer on a house, closed escrow exactly 30 days later, and then filled the house with necessary items like a couch, washer, and dryer. It’s been expensive, fun, rewarding, and sometimes overwhelming, but we couldn’t be happier and are so happy to finally have a place to call our own! That being said, I have a handful of half-finished blog projects (blojects?) that are in disarray in what will eventually be my craft room/office. I’m currently accepting name suggestions for what to call this room, which for now is lovingly titled the “Lady Cave.”

imageNow on to your regularly scheduled blogging…

It’s officially Christmas-time! Although my Christmas tree was up and fully decorated before the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie had even settled, last week’s 5 inches of snow was just the extra push I needed to go Christmas crazy. Let’s see how many times I can say “Christmas” in this post. Ready, go.

I enjoy a good Christmas countdown, but something about those red-and-grean paper chain countdowns doesn’t scream “I’m a functional adult in the real world!” And since I’m not a huge fan of advent calendars, I thought I’d make something a a little different.

Materials needed:

White frame with a mat

Scrapbook paper – any color or theme that strikes your fancy

Vinyl letters- I found this one for $0.70 at a craft store after Christmas last year, you could probably make this with a Cricut or similar machine

Chalkboard paint, chalk

Steps:

IMG_0708Frame the piece of scrapbook paper

IMG_0710Adhere the vinyl letters to the glass frame

IMG_0712Add chalkboard paint (mine was another piece of vinyl)

IMG_0714Use those math skills and figure out how many days are left until Christmas…

Now ideally, you would update this number daily but I’ll be honest, I took these pictures on Sunday and it’s yet to change from “17.” Oops. I’ll try to be better, as this is the first Christmas tradition for our little family of 2 and I’m excited to continue every year.

Hope you enjoy this quick and easy Christmas art!

Monogram Towels

IMG_0696

I’ve already made it clear that I have an unhealthy obsession with monograms. I’ve been lusting after the West Elm Hammam towels but $17 for a monogrammed towel is a hard to justify for someone who doesn’t currently have a kitchen…

img24o

Aren’t they pretty though?

Anyway, I picked up these 79¢ Tekla dishcloths on a recent Ikea trip and used a 40% off coupon at Michael’s to buy the paint (I think $2.99 full price). It was so simple, I look forward to making more of these once we have a house and know what color scheme we will use in the kitchen.

Steps:

1. Wash, dry, and iron your dishcloths so you have a clean flat space to work with

IMG_0682

2. Lay out a stencil where you want your monogram (or other design). I used a Cricut and cardstock to make my stencil. You could also use large stamps or a regular stencil.

IMG_0691

3. Paint over the stencil using bristle brush or foam brush

IMG_0692

4. Immediately remove the stencil and let paint dry

IMG_0698

This super quick, cheap, and easy project took me less than 20 minutes for all three and each towel cost about $1. These would be a great addition to a wedding, housewarming, Christmas or birthday gift for your monogram-loving friends.

DIY Personalized “Be My Bridesmaid” Wine Labels

I have officially completed my first wedding-related project and I’ve been waiting to blog this for over a month! While I was still working on the Central Coast and basically living out of a suitcase, I was very lonely and bored. Unfortunately, all my crafting supplies were sitting in storage 7 hours away. Bad idea! I obviously had a mental breakdown and being the great fiancé he is, Casey told me to go buy new craft supplies and do my thing. As if I needed another reason to marry him.

Armed with my new crafting tools, I knew exactly what I wanted to create. I was originally going to buy these on Etsy, but I really thought I could do them myself. Plus when you buy, you’re limited to certain styles and colors but with DIY you can literally pick anything. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy these were!

Directions
  • Buy wine bottles: this can be done based on the type of wine, price, or color of the top label
IMG_0643
I used Beringer “Pink Moscato” mainly for the pink top label

  • Remove wine labels: soak bottles in warm water and Oxy Clean (approximately 1 scoop) for 2 hours and the labels will rub right off
IMG_0648
As for the temperature, I used pretty warm water but not so hot that it may alter the quality of the wine
IMG_0650
The bottles are extremely slippery so be extra careful and be sure to rinse the bottles off before going on to the next steps
IMG_0652
Squeaky clean bottles!

  • Create new labels: using whatever font you like, create a label (I used Microsoft Word, font was “Jenna Sue”) and print on adhesive paper*, you should be able to fit at least 2 labels on each sheet
IMG_0654
*I had to go to Staples to print my labels because apparently if you don’t use your printer for over a year your ink cartridge dries out. This just goes to show you how much printing I’ve done since graduating college.
IMG_0655
  • Cut the personalized label down to size and adhere to cardstock/scrapbook paper cut down to preferred size.
IMG_0661
 IMG_0659
 Here are all the labels, waiting to be adhered to the bottles! I made one extra as a keepsake for us (far right)
IMG_0663
I used double-sided tape on the back of the cardstock to adhere the label to the bottle. As it turns out, double-sided tape is extremely hard to photograph…
IMG_0662
Just to be safe, I used 2 rubber bands to hold the labels in place until the tape was really stuck to the bottle.
IMG_0665
I left the rubber bands on for a few days.
IMG_0673
The finished product!
IMG_0677
Megan, Adrianna, Leah, Hilary, Shelby, Courtney, and Lesley: Casey & I love you all and we are so excited to have you celebrate our special day with us!

Eurotrip Update

It’s been over two weeks since I got home from my Eurotrip but I still feel like my life isn’t back to normal yet!

I had a blast and the whole thing feels like a whirlwind, over 4 countries in 12 days (2 of those days were primarily traveling to and from Europe). Overall, my packing skills were pretty good! I definitely could have done without my jeans…it was HOT. If they weren’t one of my favorite pairs, I for sure would have chucked them, not because they were super heavy or took up that much space, but just out of sheer spite at how flipping hot it was. I could have used at least one more casual dress, but I did buy a skirt which helped mix up my outfits a bit.

As far as my backpack itself, I can’t deny that it was heavy and uncomfortable, especially in 90º heat. I will say that it hands down beats dragging a suitcase across cobblestone streets. My hands were free  which was really nice too. And in the long run, you don’t actually spend that much time wearing the backpack, even if it feels like forever.  Which it does.

To anyone thinking about traveling I have one word for you: GO! If you think that 10 days isn’t enough time to visit multiple countries, I have two words for you: YOU’RE WRONG. If you don’t know what you’re missing out on, I have no words for you, just a bunch of pictures to make you go buy your ticket:

Prague, Czech Republic

IMG_0171

Vltava River

IMG_0212

IMG_0219

Lennon Wall

IMG_0228

Before I Die…

IMG_0233

IMG_0244

IMG_0255

Munich, Germany

IMG_0384

IMG_0371

Hofbrauhaus: pints of beer will never be enough after you’ve had liters

IMG_0429

So basically I want to live in the English Garden…

Bavarian Alps, Germany

IMG_0465

IMG_0478

Neuschwanstein Castle

IMG_0512

IMG_0555

Summer sledding! Slightly terrifying and highly unsafe

Amsterdam, Holland

IMG_0563

IMG_0606

Heineken Experience

IMG_0613

Paris, France

IMG_0627

IMG_0637

Lastly, if you have no idea what World War II really was and have an interest in figuring out, I highly recommend Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright. I just finished it and was blown away by how much I learned and actually understood about history. It’s even more fun when you’ve been to the places she mentions!

Backpacking Europe: Packing List

So yes, I have been extremely MIA and for that I apologize. Allow me to explain my absence: my beautiful genius friends graduated college, I made the crazy huge decision to leave my job in San Luis Obispo and return home to Northern California to buy a house and move in with my fiance, I’m going on a 12-day backpacking adventure to Europe with two of my best friends, and I am also moving out of my current house. All in the course of about 6 weeks. I think you can understand why I haven’t had time to write a post. And because I’m being honest, there have been a lot of “cereal for dinner” nights which are not exactly blog-worthy. One time I added blueberries to my corn flakes, does that count for anything? No? Alright then.

Moving on, throughout all this chaos (good chaos!) I have been making lists to keep me sane. Well, I always use lists but my list-making has been taken to a whole new level lately. The most fun list has been the “packing for Europe” list. It beats job-hunting lists and house-cleaning lists by a landslide.

Because we are backpacking and staying in hostels, I invested in one of these bad boys:
IMG_0148
High Sierra Classic Series – Summit 45 – Internal Frame: I got this for about $85 on Amazon.

45 liters of backpacking goodness! This backpack fits everything I need, but I have to check it at the airport so I am also using my Vera Bradley bag to carry a change of clothes, my Kindle, and other necessities for 21 hours of travel. If you take out the cardboard bottom, it folds down pretty small so as soon as I am reunited with my backpack, I will consolidate and just use the backpack.

Just how much stuff can I fit into this backpack, you ask? The short answer is: a lot. The long answer is below:
IMG_0133_edit

1. cross-body bag
2. toiletry bag
3. luna bars
4. underwear (14) socks (6 pair) swimsuit
5. makeup bag
6. 1 pair shorts
7. 1 shorter skirt for night time
8. maxi skirt
9. chambray shirt
10. black tank top
11. 4 “cute” shirts
12. 3 v-neck shirts
13. pajamas
14. black leggings
15. dark skinny jeans
16. 5 dresses: 3 casual, one maxi, 2 fancier
17. umbrella

How I packed all that into my backpack:
IMG_0134

I used the rolling method for the bulkier items and Ziploc bags for smaller things like t-shirts and underwear, socks. My backpack loads from the top, and as you can see, it’s like a cave down there:

IMG_0123
By keeping the smaller things together in bags, they won’t sink to the bottom and be lost forever…

Here’s a peek of what is in the toiletry bags:
IMG_0137
IMG_0138
Shoes:
IMG_0119_edit
I’m not sacrificing cuteness (or 4-5 inches of height) just because Europe has cobblestone streets. I’m outsmarting the treacherous cobblestone with wedges. These are also surprisingly light, so they don’t weigh down my bag. On longer travel days, I’ll stick with my converse but sandals are fine for daily outings.

What I’m wearing on the plane:
IMG_0140
I will not apologize for wearing leggings on the plane. They aren’t see through (I did the bend over test, they passed!) and if I’m embarking on 21 hours of travel, I want to be comfortable.

What’s in my cross-body bag:
IMG_0143
Please note the book selection ;)

What I’m taking in my carry-on:
IMG_0147
I like bringing a change of clothes in my carry-on just in case my luggage is lost. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, right?!

Not pictured: fast-drying towel, bras, and extra Ziploc bags for dirty clothes, wet swimsuit, etc.

Altogether, my backpack weighs 19 lbs. and it doesn’t feel too heavy on my back because of the internal frame. There is some room for new purchases too! I should have everything I need and some things may be unnecessary but I feel very prepared for our trip. We start in Prague, travel to Munich, Amsterdam, hopefully Belgium (I really just want to try a waffle), and my journey ends in Paris.

I’m off to go learn some basic German! I think three key phrases will be enough for me to get by…

Sprechen sie Englisch? Konnen sie mir behilflich sein? Ich hatte gerne ein groβes Bier.
Do you speak English? Can you help me? I’d like a large beer please.

Balsamic Steak & Veggie Rolls

IMG_0087

For the past few weeks, I have been spending basically every waking moment with my friends before we all go our separate ways after they graduate. We usually have potlucks every month or so, but with a month left to spare, it seems we have been filling our time with as much food, fun, and alcohol as our bodies will allow. The only silver lining is the detox that will occur when this whole college journey comes to an end.

This week’s potluck theme was “Just Appetizers” because if we are being honest, that’s everyone’s favorite part of a meal. I decided to try out a new recipe I hadn’t done before: Balsamic-Glazed Steak Rolls. The recipe was really straightforward and the ingredients weren’t too complex so I gave it a shot.

Ingredients

1.5 lb Flank Steak

Salt & Pepper

3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

Steak Seasoning (I used Montreal Steak)

1 tbsp Olive Oil

1 Carrot

1 Bell pepper

1 Zucchini

1 Bunch Green Onion

2 Cloves of Garlic, smashed

1 tsp Italian Herb Seasoning

2 tbsp Butter

2 tbsp Finely Minced Shallots

1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar

2 tbsp Brown Sugar

1/4 cup Beef Broth

IMG_0063

I cut my steak lengthwise, then cut it into rectangular strips. I’m not sure the technical terms, as this was my first attempt at butchery but it came out just fine, I ended up with 8 strips (only 6 pictured because I stacked them). Also, bare with me while I figure out my new camera in indoor light…it gets better I swear!

IMG_0067Coat both sides with Worcestershire Sauce, salt, and pepper.

IMG_0074

Cut up the veggies. See, I told you the pictures would get better!

IMG_0076

In a large pan on medium heat, melt butter and add chopped shallots. Cook until shallots are translucent.

IMG_0080

Add in brown sugar, beef broth and balsamic vinegar, cook until the mixture is thick and syrupy. The smell at this point is delicious, but resist the urge to quit now and just drink the syrup mixture. Instead, pour the mixture into a small bowl and set aside. You don’t need to clean the pan for the next step.

IMG_0081

Add the olive oil to the pan, turn the heat up to high, add veggies (you don’t need to cook the green onion), garlic cloves and Italian seasoning, and saute for no more than 3 minutes.

IMG_0083

Lay the steak flat, placing the veggies in the middle of the horizontal strip. Roll up the steak, securing both ends of the strip with a toothpick.

IMG_0085

Place steak rolls back into the pan, cook until done, being sure to roll them so that all sides are cooked evenly.

IMG_0086

All done and ready to eat! The verdict? Sooo scrumptious! The bigger rolls were a bit difficult to eat (like, balsamic juice dripping down your am) so maybe don’t make these for your next fancy dinner party, but the taste was better than I even anticipated! I’ll definitely be making these again.

And because we’ve been going on so many SLO County adventures, I thought I’d share some of the recent highlights:

IMG_0057

Edna Valley Vineyards

IMG_0058

Chamisal Vineyards

IMG_0092

Montaña De Oro State Park

IMG_0110

Montaña De Oro State Park

Greek Chicken Pitas

Lately I have been fighting an overwhelming desire to nest. I want to buy pillows and ottomans and DIY all sorts of cool wall art. I also want to monogram everything. Literally there’s nothing I can think of that wouldn’t be better with a monogram. Basically, I want to start creating a space that feels like home for me and my fiance. At the moment, I still have two and a half more months on my lease, but no idea where I will be moving when that lease is up. It’s really difficult to nest when you don’t know where your nest will be located. And as much as I’m looking forward to moving into our first home with my fiance, I have crazy mixed feelings about moving out of my current house and being separated from all my best friends. I even spontaneously combust into tears from time to time at the thought of saying goodbye to them. It’s not a good look for me.

So what’s a girl to do when faced with so many questions about the future, moving on, and life? Eat. Well, cook and then eat. Maybe a little bit of drinking too. Alcohol, obviously.

I made a few tweaks to this recipe, mostly because don’t like cucumber. This has quickly become one of my favorite recipes, it’s so easy and makes really good leftovers.

Image

Ingredients:

1 lemon

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

dash of salt & pepper

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 heaping tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

3 cloves garlic

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used fillets)

1 red onion

1-2 tomatoes

pita bread (I used Sara Lee whole wheat pitas)

IMG_0022

Red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, dried oregano, salt & pepper

IMG_0023

Add the Greek yogurt. It looks like mozzarella!

IMG_0026

I cut the chicken into small pieces for easier cooking.

Pour about half the sauce into a large Ziploc with the chicken.

Let the mixture marinate in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Or until you are hungry and can’t wait any longer.

IMG_0027

I cooked them in olive oil. Next time I’ll try barbecuing them!

IMG_0037

Chop the chicken into small pieces and pile it into the pita, topped with some of the leftover sauce, chopped red onion and tomato. Delicious!

I think I might have overstuffed my pita, but it was so good! And I must say, they were even better as leftovers today!