Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A little Etsy love....

     Every once in a while I have to share a few of my favorite finds on Etsy. Lately I've been over there surfing a bunch. Here are a few of my faves.....

I ordered this fabulous bag in dark brown. Great for all the gear I love to carry

These hair pins are beautiful! 

This is so perfect for fall. I love the texture! 

Okay, this is probably a me thing but I LOVE this hen

What are your current favorite finds?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Christmas on the brain.....

     Yep, I already have Christmas on the brain. Perhaps it's the weather cooling down, or maybe it's that Halloween has already hit the stores. Since I plan to DIY many of my Christmas gifts this year I'm giving myself some extra time.

     One of my ideas was to start fruit trees from seeds I'd harvested from particularly wonderful local produce. I got started on that this evening in hopes that by December I can get these babies up to a 3 gallon pot. We'll see. Much like my attempt to knit blankets for every member of the family a few years back, this may prove to be an equally ridiculous idea.

     Are you making any gifts this year? If so, what is up your DIY sleeve??

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A guide dog celebration- Moxie turns one

In just two days our Moxie is turning one. Moxie is our guide dog puppy in training. My husband and I are puppy raiser for Guide Dogs of America and Moxie is our second puppy. It's been a fast year and we are anxiously awaiting the call for Moxie's twelve month evaluation. I thought I'd share a few of my favorite photos of our time so far. 
Moxie- 8 weeks- finds the food within minutes of arrival

Moxie- 9 weeks- sleeping soundly

Moxie- 9 months- gets a hug from his young master
Moxie 11 months- Dodgers Game

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today in our garden.....

     Today we had a bit of rain and some high temps, but the garden is still producing and bringing us lots of enjoyment. Here are a few of today's memories...

The sunflowers are finally opening up

The hubby picks some squash for dinner

Me holding two of our younger girls

My son holding a not too willing Gertrude

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Things I've learned while gardening....

     It's been a big first year of gardening. We'd always had a yard, but this year we made an effort to grow more food, to grow more from seeds and to really push to expand on what we have. Here are a few things I've learned.

1. Plants need water
2. No amount of "extra" water can make up for not watering for a week
3. When your hose breaks and you decided to cut off the damaged portion, turn the water off first

and while I'm on the subject of hoses

4. Do not attempt to look down the nozzle of your hose to see why water is not coming out. Water will begin coming out right then!
5. If you don't try, you can never succeed
6. There will be successes and failures, so get rid of the evidence of failures post haste!

I'm pouring over my extensive gardening notes, drawing out designs for a vegetable garden expansion and searching the net for a bee keeping course this weekend. What garden projects are you planning?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chicken Dine and Dash.....

     Chickens can be your best friend! Okay, let me rephrase that with a bit more truth. Chickens can be your best friend when you have food! Today I went out to share some of our lovely grapes with the chickens and what started as a gesture of good will ended up an event where I was lucky to escape with all appendages intact.

And like a flash, she was gone
     I pulled up my vintage (of course it's vintage) patio chair and put the bowl of grapes in my lap. My plan was to sit and halve the grapes and distribute them to each hen, making sure that everyone got a few grapes. Oh no, this is not how things happen in Henland USA. My lap was immediately covered in a swarm of chickens that more closely resembled vultures. Pieces of grapes and juice were flung all over me while I tried to shield my face. Once a few chickens had been knocked off my lap a few more quickly hopped up. It only ended when the last grape was gone. And then? Oh, the chickens were no longer interested in me and quickly took off to explore the garden through the gate I had left open.

     This is a chicken dine and dash. There is no other way to explain the craziness of a flock of girls running full speed towards you, bringing back thoughts of every dinosaur you ever learned about in school, pouncing, eating and then retreating. I'm still recovering, but I think I'll pull through.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Garden Variety Pizza.....

     One of the things my husband loves to create with the produce from our garden are pizzas. Tonight's dish was a perfect blend of Trader Joes organics and a variety of special produce from our garden. The yellow pear tomatoes were picked today, the crust was hand tossed and all is well in our house as we scramble to the table to gobble up the goodness!

To make:

Trader Joes pizza dough in either whole wheat or garlic
Tradery Joes organic chicken sausage
Whatever veggies you have on hand from the garden (tomatoes, squash, basil, spinach)
optional tomato sauce
Olive oil

Lightly oil on the crust
Place cheese, top with veggies and sausage, etc.

Heat in the oven for 20-25 at 425 degrees. Voila, an easy pizza!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Random Sunday Ramblings...

    Recently I read a rather fascinating article about organic lettuce being sold in a plastic container. I know, kind of doesn't make any sense being that plastic is so toxic. However, if you have purchased a few of these organic lettuce mixes you might save the containers. These are the perfect containers to use for seed starting come next spring. I've had family and friends saving them for me. Also, they are great as mini green houses and so much easier for transporting plants outside.

     Totally random, but my husband and I picked up this organic wine at Trader Joes tonight. I have to say, it's pretty good. It's a good table wine, nothing too fancy, but it's nice to try a wine from organic grapes. We're always up for trying something different!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The girls... an update

     The younger chickens are nearly fourteen weeks and things are running smoothly. Though the big girls still assert some authority we don't have any pecking or fighting amongst the chickens. The younger girls go nicely into their coop at night and the big girls have a separate coop. Now I'm sitting around counting down days until our next "first egg."

Friday, August 19, 2011

This is our town.....

     Eight years ago my husband and I left the city in which we grew up and searched the outlying towns for more affordable housing. We not only found a house, but found in our community a home. Nestled amond the trees and wood faced houses of our mountain community we were transported to each of our youths. For me it was the scent of pine trees and fresh air reminiscent of camp. For my husband the starry night skies reminded him of camping adventures with his father. A move that had insured a good long term real estate investment had proven to be a good investment in our lives.

     Though many of our friends still live in the nearby city in which we grew up, many with homes far nicer and grander than our own, we aren't jealous. In fact, we feel especially grateful to be a bit removed at times. We don't feel a sense of needing to keep up with the Jones' as our neighbors are more interested in comparing camping tales than possessions. We have learned to live with, and love, having less.

     Tonight we will sit out side and watch as the sun sets behind the mountains, enjoy the first stars coming out and enjoy each others conversations. We will cook at home, probably watch a rented movie and enjoy the serenity which often feels more like a vacation. This is definitely not the life for everyone, and probably boring for many, but we have come to find peace in this place. It is a good day to be alive!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Big day.....

     Our vegetable garden has another set of tomatoes blushing, we have 24 pumpkins coming up and today my son began kindergarten. It's been a long and tiring day, but a good one. This evening I walked the garden and took a little mental inventory of the vegetables and herbs we've been using most. This will help me get next year's garden planned out early and give me lots of seed catalog browsing time.

    My husband hung the sweet pig sign I found at the flea market. Yes, I know I don't have pigs.... yet, but this look darling in the chicken yard and filled a blank wall that needed a little something. I've also added a big cast stone rooster as another finishing touch. Overall the garden is really coming along and I'm super excited for even bigger things to come. Think bees!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Today's finds.....

     Today I was very excited to attend this little Tuesday flea market held in the town where I grew up. Though this is a very small flea market, only about 60-100 vendors, there are usually some deals to be found. Also, the Tuesday group tries to stick to vintage and antiques and though it has strayed a bit over the years there are still some great vendors.

     First I picked up this amazing 1950's chrome and bakelite three tiered server. It's in great condition and will look perfect filled with cheese and crackers or cookies at the holidays. At only $10 I had to own it. I don't usually collect 1950's chrome but I do have a love affair with bakelite.

     Second I found this darling large outdoor sign that used to hang in the Santa Barbara This Little Piggy Wears Cotton store. I've heard that, sadly, all of these children's shops are closing. I've always loved this shop and I thought this sign would look great in my chicken yard. Plus, being that it's wood it's quite a nice find also priced at just $10.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Growing up... saying goodbye to preschool

     Congratulations to my darling son on his completion of preschool. It's time for kindergarten and new adventures!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

From this to that.... a makeover story

     This week's from this to that feature discusses one of my favorite hobbies; refinishing old furniture. I'd long been after a round coffee table for my living room. Round tables provide more walking space and make a room appear larger. After looking at the tables available at my favorite shops I realized that I'd much prefer a vintage piece. After about six months of searching I happened upon a super cute drop leaf coffee table with a shelf underneath (they usually don't have shelves) and the price.... $20.

     I used a liquid sander to remove years of aged stain and then my mouse sander to finish smoothing the table. Rather than using a can of paint which would require rolling and brushing I opted for Rustoleum spray paint in satin (semi-gloss). Once the piece had two good coats of spray paint, which only took one can, I sanded areas that would typically wear over time. These areas would be edges, along the legs, and little bit where the leaves fold down and a tad on the top. Then I used MinWax stain applied to the sanded areas. This not only seals in the finish but it brings out beautiful wood tones which compliment the black painted furniture.

*Join the Bunny Hop for more inspirations on design and DIY- http://bunnyjeansdecorandmore.blogspot.com/

Voila! A new table for under $30 and tons of character to boot.

                                                        From this.... to that!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

International Assistance Dog Week....

     This week (August 7th-13th) is International Assistance Dog Week and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this important time. As many of my blog followers know we are guide dog puppy raisers for Guide Dogs of America. We are currently raising puppy #2, Moxie, who will be turning one year old on August 29th.

     I am often asked how I could possibly raise a puppy for eighteen months and then simply hand them over at the conclusion of that time. My answer; with difficulty. You see, it's not easy for any of our puppy raisers to turn in their dogs. We aren't born with tougher skin or less of a love of dogs. In fact, you have to really, really love dogs to be a part of this program because let me tell you, the dogs are going to test you. As someone who had to say goodbye to her first puppy all too soon (Patton was career changed at nine months) and start all over so quickly I can attest to the fact that it is very hard. However, the sleepless nights, endless walking, potty training, "leave its" and so on are one amazing gift and contribution we can make for someone else.

     My drive is always fueled when I speak to a puppy raiser who has raised multiple dogs (our leaders have raised twenty) and even more so when I am privileged to hear the experiences of a guide dog handler. The bond between a guide dog and their person is something amazing and I'm proud to be a very small part in the overall picture. Guide dogs provide something that can never be given a price tag: freedom. So, really, who wouldn't want to help provide that very special gift.

     If you are interested in raising a guide dog puppy, sponsoring a litter, or supporting in any way please visit GuideDogsofAmerica.org

Thrifting adventures.....

     As a child I always remember peering in my mother's curio cabinet at her collection of tea cups and glass. In the top left corner of one such curio cabinet she had collected a few striking pieces of clear and frosted glass with birds. As I grew I learned that these pieces were manufactured by Renee Lalique and I began to research him.

     Lalique first began designing jewelry in Paris in the year 1881. Furthering his artistic endeavors he began working with glass around 1883 bringing back the "lost wax" technique. As his designs caught on and became sought after he increased his company and industrialized creating a wide range of items from molds such as perfume bottles, animal figures, vases, etc. The company continues to produce beautiful glasswork to this day and earlier pieces are highly sought after.

     Having grown up quite interested in art glass I was very excited when I came upon a small pin tray marked $3 in a thrift shop this week. Though I figured the piece to be reproduction it brought back memories of my mother's own collection, but featured an owl which have always held a special place for me. Upon closer inspection I have come to find that my little pin tray is indeed a piece of Lalique. This $3 find has a value betweet $125-$195. It's amazing the treasures that await on a thrifting adventure!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A sick chicken.....

     Who would have thought I'd fall head over heels for a flock of chickens? Tonight I sit here, "Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens," at my side, my computer whirring while I try to diagnose whatever ailment has afflicted my head chicken, Mabel. You might remember Mabel from a few posts back. She's our loud mouth, lead chicken and a right pain in the patut. However, since we don't have a rooster she does a good job of keeping the rest of the girls in line. She's our little warden and though she has pecked me more than once I'm kind of partial to her.

     While Mabel is in her coop, hopefully sorting out her issues, I'm nervously researching chicken diseases and fearing I might have to don the latex gloves and find the lube for a vent check. Yes, it's as gross as it sounds. It's funny that being an urban farmer has exposed me to so much in so little time. I've seen garden pests I never knew existed, done battle with my share of spiders in order to reclaim the yard as our own and now I'm thinking of sticking a finger where the the sun don't shine..... on a chicken. How times have changed.
Mabel, left, shares a snack and chat with her BFF Ethel

     While this post may seem light hearted it's never easy when faced with an animal sickness. No good person wants to see one of their pets in pain. Hopefully tomorrow will bring a fresh egg and a perky, and even pesky, Mabel back from her current state. One can hope. After watching a seed grow into a plant and then turn to food on our table I'm realizing that anything is possible. I'll have to hope that for Mabel as well.

The week in pictures....

Things I've loved the past two weeks.....
A private event at the Getty complete with dinner

My younger chickens coming to sit on my lap (ugh, I'm in my pj's)

My son and nephew getting to play at the beach (we live far apart)

Picking a tomato from my very own garden that is as perfect as any store! 

What made your week bright?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

DIY wipe off calendar....

     I saw an idea for a wipe off calendar in Mary Janes Farm (if you aren't a subscriber, you may want to be) and instantly knew I had to make one. This fun and simple project is a great gift idea and perfect for those school bound children. You start with a frame (I used a 16x20) and some scrapbook paper. 

       I started with a white frame I'd had sitting around for ages. I had chipped a little of the frame so it was stored. A coat of matte black spray paint made this frame look new. Then, as per instructions, I cut out 2" squares from two shades of paper. I glued all of this on the backer board that the frame came with. I added the days of the week in ink and then sealed the calendar back into the frame. The month, days and important dates to remember are written right on the glass where they can easily be wiped off when it's time for the next month.   

     This project is simple, took only an hour and with dress up your home office or family room. If I made another calendar I'd probably use some patterned paper just for fun, but as it was I stuck with all materials I had on hand making this a $0 budget project. What do you think?

Idea credit- Mary Janes Farm Magazine, Volume 10, #5 page 23.      


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chicken update....

     Today I spent some time with the chickens. I can say now, having had both baby chickens and purchasing six week old chickens, that having the babies from two days old is better. My younger girls are completely tame, even at this young age. Whereas the older gals, I could never really touch until they started the egg squat. I love them all of course, but I'm partial to the younger girls who are now eleven weeks.
Harriet, Rhode Island Red "What?!?"

Dorothy, Gertrude and Harriet- 11 weeks

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thrifting adventures.....

     I have a secret obsession with vintage sheets. Yep, they are like a little surprise at night when I pull back my duvet cover. Add to the sheets a spritz of lavender linen spray and I'm in slumber heaven. It doesn't matter the age or maker particularly, I'm drawn to the fantastic little flowers and designs of these vintage sheets in addition to the soft worn texture. I pretty much stick to flat sheets and add them to my existing all white bedding for a splash of color when the bed is all unmade.

     Today was another blissful thrifting adventure in Ventura. The temps were in the low 70's with a coastal breeze blowing. My husband, sister in law and our boys hunted out some treasures and then hit the beach for a little running around. Besides a new sheet to add to my growing collection I also picked up some beautiful silver spoons. I love mismatched things. Not only in my bedding and utensils but also my dishes and even my eclectic style of decorating.

     What treasures have you found lately?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

First comes gardening, then comes cooking

     Anyone who knows me knows I've never been a fan of cooking. However, as my passion for gardening has slowly intensified so has my love of creating dishes with the items I've grown. Tonight I tried out a simple basil recipe (see recipe below) which my husband will use for our vegetable pizza that also includes fresh squash from our garden. It's pretty exciting to see the entire growing process from seed to table.

     This evening we planted more pumpkin seeds in hopes that they will supply us with a few treasures for Halloween. Our first batch of seeds only yielded one sprout and it's been a chore to protect it from the dogs. We used some pieces from our previous chicken run to block off the pumpkin patch. I love when I can creatively reuse some odds and ends and though this little gate isn't the prettiest, it does keep the dogs out. Hooray!

   Simple Pesto Recipe

1 cup packed basil leaves (fresh)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Mix the first three ingredients in the Cuisineart using the pulse feature for a few beats

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
pinch of salt, pinch of pepper

Add the olive oil while the Cuisineart is on, adding it slowly. Then add remaining ingredients stopping a couple times and using a spatula to scrap down the contents of the bowl.

Voila, pesto! Use some and freeze the rest for a winter treat.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guide dogs and chickens......

     You'd think the pair could never mix, but our chickens are helping us train our guide dog puppy. Bird distraction is a strong instinct in labradors and it's important that a guide dog can ignore his predator drive. Moxie and I often walk around the chicken run working on maintaining a straight line. Tonight I had my husband snap a photo to show how well Moxie is doing with ignoring our chickens.

     Wow, Moxie is eleven months old and will turn one year this month. Time has flown. Soon it will be time for his next evaluation. We have worked hard and hope that he passes and can continue on until turn in day at eighteen months (or a little sooner). He definitely has an eager personality and is willing to please. Personally I think he'd be very receptive to formal training. However, only the experts can judge a dog's willingness to work. In the meantime we will continue to work on our sits and downs, our stays and heels, our formal come and our leave its.