Ring Master MomJune 16, 20141 Comment

Building a vegetable garden with kids

Our family was thrilled when we bought a home because the 4 of us were previously squished into a 2 bedroom condo and were ready to literally plant some roots! There was a park next to our condo so we were always able to play and explore, but there’s really nothing like having the freedom to do that anytime in your own backyard and make your own decisions about what to plant and grow. We had to totally redo our entire house once we purchased it (roof, windows, interior, plumbing, floors, you name it – it was redone!) and the garden was on the back burner for a while. We made small improvements here and there for the last two years and I’m very proud of our progress.

Both front and back yards were covered in junpier bushes and red and white rock. The soil was incredibly dry and full of clay with made attempting to dig anything out nearly impossible. James was able to remove a few bottle brush trees in the back by himself, but we needed professionals to help with the bushes.


I mean seriously, it’s bush next to bush next to bush.


We also had landscapers add irrigation and a lawn in the front and back. This in addition to pulling out the juniper bushes took 3 guys one week. We also found out a year later that the tree in the back was a fruit tree despite it looking sad and not trimmed maybe ever. We trimmed it back and discovered that we now got to enjoy plums every Summer!

About a year and a half ago, we bought a few raised beds along with lots of organic compost to get started in one corner and work our way around to the chicken coop. Here’s Alice about a year ago supervising her ladies.


Sometimes we get surprises! I’m assuming it’s from the birds and squirrels who love to sneak a snack and possibly deposit seeds. We had volunteer pumpkins and carrots!


This is what we have in our garden now


*Yellow & green beans
*Red potatoes


Fruit trees:
*Cherry with three different varieties
*Meyer lemon
*Apple with six different varieties
*And we are lucky enough to enjoy a few apricots with a neighbor’s tree that drops sweet treats into our side yard

*Early girl & sun sugar tomatoes


Hopefully I can get my act together and grow more veggies in the Winter, too!! What are your favorite things to grow?


Ring Master MomJune 12, 2014Leave a comment

Succulents & color

I was visiting my favorite local botanical shop, The Botanist a few months ago and found an unreal selection of succulents. Growing up, one of my Grandmother’s best friends had a spectacular backyard full of large, tiny, and incredibly rare succulents that she herself had found over the years. I loved how unique and colorful each could be, and that inspired me to grow a few in small containers in college. I wanted to do something creative with what I had still had along with what I purchased at The Botanist. I knew I had to incorporate my favorite color – bright pink – into the mix, too!

Unfortunately, it took me about 2 months to find a proper container for this project so I didn’t get started right away. I couldn’t find what I wanted after visiting many nurseries so I decided to go with a shape I liked and paint something myself. I cannot explain how much I loved the warm peach color but it wouldn’t really match the hot pink accent. I think I may have to get more of these for future planting!

I started by painting this white, not forgetting to paint a few inches inside as well.


I waited for that to dry before taping and painting a shape to coordinate colors with the plants and pop of neon pink.


Once that layer dried, I filled the containers with potting mix and arranged my succulents.


The final step was to load some hot pink aquarium rocks on the top layer for a huge pop of color!


I had several leftover clippings, dirt, rocks, and other containers I wasn’t using so I added a few others to the other side of my front door.


These beauties are perfect for my porch since it gets tons of sun and doesn’t require watering. What creative ways do you plant your succulents?

Below are affiliate links to a few items I used for this project.


Ring Master MomSeptember 23, 20136 Comments

Garage organization

My guys were gone for almost a month and I knew it would be time to finally tackle the garage to get it organized.  When James and I got married, we lived in a one bedroom apartment (small!) and then a two bedroom condo (a little more space, but not a lot of storage) and when we bought our house last year, I was thrilled to finally get to store all of my holiday items in one spot rather than scattered throughout closets.  Problem when we bought our house – we had a major renovation – like had to replace ev-er-y-thing inside along with pulling out the overgrown juniper bushes and white rock in the yards.  Our $$ priorities were on other things, and I was happy that it was time to clean up and organize our garage.

When we moved in, we didn’t have any bookshelves in any rooms.  And as a family of readers, we acquired a lot of books.  I unpacked all of the books for Alice and Patrick, but it left an awful lot of boxes in the garage.  Along with a few odds and ends.  Extra clothes.  Holiday items.  Did you know I L O V E holidays??  As the kids get older, they get more outdoor toys, scooters, bikes, and my storage quickly turned into the black hole.

First picture: oh the shame!

Fun fact about our garage and others on the street – they don’t actually fit a normal sized car!  We can put our car into the garage and shut the garage door, but can’t actually get around the car and into the house.  Also, there’s only about 10 inches of room on either side of the garage door.  I figured since we weren’t getting a car in (and neither do our neighbors!) I might as well make the most of the space I have.

Other half of the horror:

I started off by hanging bikes on these

and Swiffer/brooms on these;


I was able to locate 7 empty growlers of Pliny, 2 lawn mowers, 2 extra long orange extension cords tangled and knotted (how does that even happen when they’re sitting in a garage?),  1 unused refrigerator I thought I’d use for booze for parties, 1 giant roll of extra carpet, 5 alan wrenches, 3 levels, 6 spiders that were taken out of the garage, and a dart board.  That loot along with a few other items and a giant purge of all the closets in my house netted a donation of 10 bags of clothes, toys, outside bikes, 1 lawn mower, 1 giant mirror, and a few holiday decorations.  Phew!

I then was able to order some shelves and a mallet for building!  I ordered 3 of these

and one of these


and got building!  I have built most of the toys/chairs/bookcases in the house and when I saw the reviews for these shelves, I thought I was in heaven!  Sturdy shelves built in no time – what a dream!  I’d like to tell you that my dream came true, but I couldn’t get it to line up and had a little boohoo about it.  I was finally able to recruit my Dad who helped me build one.  Word to the wise – it doesn’t have to line up perfectly – it will work itself out as it’s built.  Mah bad!

Here’s the completed unit:

The bottom shelf has our emergency backpack/first aid kit along with water (don’t worry, I have a lot more I hadn’t placed on the bottom shelf yet!) and hand turbine/solar radio and smartphone charger along with extras from Costco that don’t fit in our pantry.

My nearby friend Katelyn offered her husband’s help after hearing my sob story, and built the other two:

Tools, gardening items, and all outdoor toys are now easy to locate!

Since so many holiday items had never been properly stored together before, I bought these storage bins

and made an assembly line of my holiday items sorted by holiday finally!

And to be extra organized, I used some extra chalkboard paint to label the storage bins:

While I did have almost a month to complete this project, I didn’t start right away with some last minute hot summer days keeping me out of the even hotter garage, then letting my broken toe heal properly, trying to dislodge a huge splinter/piece of glass from my heel for a day or two.  Also, Alice has been very clingy with her favorite boys gone so I didn’t tackle it as hardcore as I wanted.  But it looks better than I thought, and now I have lots of room for a secret surprise for the boys when they arrive.

James told me that Patrick was really enjoying table tennis and since we aren’t using our garage to store cars, I thought it would be a fun surprise to have this inside when they return:


What do you love/hate about storage in your garage?  Share your organizing tips or garage/storage horror stories here!


Ring Master MomSeptember 9, 20132 Comments

Storage ideas

As I mentioned in a previous post, James is gone for 22 days with Patrick and that has inspired me to do a deep cleaning of the entire house, garage, and give the front and backyard a makeover and possibly build a chicken run.  Phew!!

Today I added 2 more organizational tools to my bathroom and closet.

I’m not a girly girl by any stretch of the imagination and rarely use a hair dryer.  I didn’t have a special drawer built with an outlet for plugs when we remodeled only because I don’t use it that often.  The fact remains that it still gets some use, but the cord and shape make storage a nightmare.  Pinterest to the rescue!!

I used a magazine holder and 2 command strips – links below.

Next, I added a 3-tier file rack to the inside of my closet for clutches, wallets, and sunglasses.  Since this is on the heavy side, I used 2 command hooks.

These were super easy to install and up in no time.  I imagine you could use the file rack for jewelry or scarves too!!


Ring Master MomSeptember 3, 2013Leave a comment

22 days of getting things done

I broke my toe 2 days before my kids’ joint birthday party.  Of course I was supposed to be resting and keeping it elevated but Mama’s got things to do!!  Not everything was done before the big day but sometimes I go a little cray-cray with my plans.  Even though my toe is still broken, the bruise is still there but stopped growing finally.  That means it’s healing, right??  😉

In addition to finishing up a few more things around the house, my two boys are gone for 22 days.  This gives me a bit more freedom to get things done I wouldn’t normally like a big fridge and pantry clean.  I know – the fun I have.

The first thing on my list was to go to our local nursery to stock up on all the flowers/bushes/herbs/trees I’ve had my eye on.  I had to get this done ASAP as they’re closing up for the season soon and we are borrowing a friend’s truck.  Also, this truck is stick which I never learned so James had to drive it while I took the kiddies in our other car.  We got to the nursery with my list and changed it up a bit while Alice and Patrick played hide and go seek for an hour.  This was the first of two hauls:

Oh, and we also HAD to do this right away since James and Patrick were leaving for Australia that night.  And James had been gone previously in NYC so I had a little laundry and packing to do.

I figured we’d get the big stuff planted together and I could work in the back with the veggies/fruit/herbs later.  My front yard had other plans.  Apparently there is so much clay mixed in with the dirt that I was ready to install wheels and build a kiln.  It. Was. So. Hard. To. Dig.  James and I took shifts with picks/shovels/watering and got a good chunk done.  We were able to plant 5 rose bushes, 6 small shrubs, 1 hydrangea bush, and a lime, fig, and cherry tree – with 3 varieties!!

I have no idea how I’m going to do the rest without him.  My body’s not in pain, but my hands are so raw from the pick that I had to take a day off.  Luckily the front is seeing progress in the former dirt patch!

Despite the clay soil in the front, I feel like the land around us is very fertile which is what gets me so darn excited to plant in every square inch of our property.  Our neighbors have apricot, apple, every type of citrus tree, tons of berries, squash, etc.  I’m amazed at how often they share their harvest with us, and I do what I can when we had fresh plums.  It’s like our own little farmers’ market sometimes as we trade produce.

Right now we’ve got pumpkins going nuts and lots of sweet corn!

Hopefully I get my second wind back to finish planting the hydrangea bushes, meyer lemon, nectarine, and apple tree (with 6 different varieties!!), artichokes, raspberry bushes, and herbs.  I still have tons on my list, and hopefully I can get lots of cleaning/organizing/work done with the boys away.  More updates on that soon!!



Ring Master MomJune 26, 20132 Comments

My Little Ladies

My husband James grew up with chickens in his backyard while living in Australia.  My Aunt had them too, but it wasn’t something I was excited about until I actually had my own backyard and was trying to figure out what to do with all of this space!  James and I lived in a one bedroom apartment till our son was born and we moved on up to a two bedroom condo.  Once we ran out of room with our daughter, we were lucky enough to score a house with a great backyard.

We didn’t add chickens right away, but what sparked my interest even more was one of my friends suggested we take a class together in raising chickens.  Since I knew little to nothing, but James knowing so much, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to play catch-up with chicken knowledge.

http://www.growbetterveggies.com/ Love Apple Farms holds tons of great classes and I was distracted before I could even register for one!!  I’m pumped to have bees at some point, but my hubby not so much.

The grounds are beautiful to say the least, and this was the view – in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Lots of greenery between the classroom and where chickens and goats were kept

This guy loved the attention

The class was easy to understand and we got 4 chicks at the end!!  I was trying not to squee too loudly when we walked in and this is what we saw

These 4 came home with me and it was great to watch everyone hold and love them

and watch them sleep

They grew super quickly

and love exploring our backyard.

Here they are in their awkward teen phase – middle of losing their fluff and gaining feathers.  The black one is named Lacey since she’s a laced wyandotte, Matilda is the golden one and she is a buff cochin.  The other two are Betsy and Abigail, named for famous American ladies since they are the ameraucana breed.

Once they were old enough to go outside, James built a lovely coop and then we added a chicken run for them.  The first night in their new coop, my son Patrick stayed by their side to make sure they all went upstairs to sleep together.  He always calls them his girls!

They don’t produce eggs yet, but it’s great to show the kids a little responsibility and see how the interact with the girls.

Here they are at 2 months old.  I can’t wait for fresh eggs soon!



Ring Master MomJune 18, 2013Leave a comment

Organization and Cleaning

I try to have a clean house.  Having one with two little ones and a husband who counts as a little one is next to impossible.  I am not at the extreme of having it vacuumed every night and you can probably pick up some dust if you slid your finger over my mantle, but everyone has to pick up their toys (hubby included!) before bedtime.

Anyone who knew me as a child knew that my room was messy.  Jillian Jigs is too close to real life.  Every toy and piece of clothing was out and I did not mind. Everything would be shoved into my closet for any family event, but it was a disaster most of the time.  It wasn’t until i heard this piece of advice as a teen that it finally clicked for me.  “Put everything away in the correct spot the first time.”  When I heard that, I thought to myself, “Well, DUH.”  Guess who didn’t do that, though – me.  I would pick up a bracelet and put it on my bed and it would move around in a magical dance just like the sorcerer’s apprentice.  Except that it never made it to the correct spot.

I started finally putting things in their correct location and was surprised at how quickly i was able to clean.  A modern day miracle, right?  It seems like it because a lot of friends want to know who my housekeeper is (currently she’s a cranky lady who doesn’t get paid enough…hint, it’s me) or how my children have clean rooms.  As long as you put something where it belongs, you’ll have a house clean in no time, and always know where your car keys are located.