Friday, April 29, 2011

An Outdoor Escape

Posting pictures of the yard has been on my mind for the past two months (that's when I took these pictures), but apparently I haven't found the driving force necessary to do so. Here enters the need to escape from personal issues and to procrastinate from writing a fascinating paper on potatoes and globalization. Those quite motivating factors, coupled with the fact that we should document the "beginning" before showing the progress we've made, have led me to finally disclose our share of the great outdoors. Mind you, we like to say it "has potential," so don't get your hopes up too high. Definitely no fountains or great landscaping or well manicured green lawns. Just a lot of dirt, some plants, and dog poo (that I'll gladly tell you now is long gone!).

So imagine you are just driving walking (don't need to promote unnecessary use of fossil fuels in imaginary situations) down the road to come to our humble abode... Walking, walking, walking and bam! There it is on the left. Once upon a time you would have been greeted by ultra lush asian jasmine ground covering. Sadly, though, that is now a bare cover with mostly dead roots. Hurts the eyes a bit, but we are giving it lots of TLC to get it back on the mend.

You then turn up that lovely little sidewalk and are looking at us straight on. To the left is the lonely, never-used front door and to the walkway on the right is the driveway, back door, and backyard. So let's just take a right for pictures' sake. In real life though, our front door and it's "M" wreath would absolutely love a visit.

Before moving you take take a quick peek over to the right while you are deciding which way to go... Some semi-green grass, pretty crepe myrtles, and lots of low, dying jasmine yet again. Poor guys.

So you've made your way to that little entrance that you see above, and are greeted with a wide open breezeway filled with stuff. Some "stuff" is useful, such as the tools and recycling bin and firewood. And then some is temporary and will hopefully have moved on by your next visit. The back door is to the left and will enter the kitchen/dining area, but you decide to be brave and face the wilderness that is beyond.

And this is what you are greeted with! Not too shabby, eh? We have hopes that the vast expanse of dirt (oh, life with dogs) will either A. be lush, green grass one day or B. become a lovely natural landscape that prevents erosion and works with the Texas droughts. It's just cash and indecisiveness that are holding that space back.

You then take a stroll down the pretty patio, forgiving the fact that it is due some attention, and turn around to gaze at the lovely orange Tennessee umbrella and grill cover. "Lovely", Peyton we said! You also spot one loner dead bush by the garage. Curious...

By taking a turn you now see the back corner and the pathetic, dying orange tree. Don't you worry though! We have finally taken pity on that dejected soul and hopefully done some good for it. More to come on that soon.

If you decided to venture off of the patio to the left you would end up right here, in the far left corner of the yard. This space is the sunniest spot and just begs to become a vegetable garden in the future. Those wishes are definitely swaying our vegan hearts pretty quickly.

And this... well, this is just an example of the ground we have to deal with. Hard pounded, dry dirt and rocks. That's part of the reason why any change to the landscape is going to take quite some hard work through gritted teeth.

So there you have it! The place that oozes potential but needs lots of TLC. We are hoping to continue on as far as money will allow so that we can enjoy it as much, if not more, than the dogs have been. And with this starting point, I now have no reason not to post some of our progress. Long live procrastination!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Sweet Potato Black Bean... Stuff

Peyton and I have had a wonderful time recently riding bikes to the Whole Foods to pick up some yummy goods. I ride along, hair blowing, curvy calves glistening, laughing away with the fresh vegetables sticking out of my beautiful wicker basket. (Ok, reality. Have helmet hair when I arrive, sweat dripping out of every pore, can barely breathe let alone laugh, and lug a heavy backpack full of orange juice, almond milk, and soon to be smooshed bananas. But ya know, I like to imagine it the other way... It's that whole Pinterest fascination (more on that here) that has me living my life through gorgeous (and imagined) images.) Anyway, even though they aren't picturesque, these trips truly are great. As always in life, there is:

The Good: Bonding time without any gadgets, fresh air, helping save the world, helping save the dollas, and most importantly, a good booty workout.


The Bad: We don't plan well, leave when hungry, and come home famished with no energy to put together any of the ingredients for recipes we just decided on.

Luckily, there is a meal that saves the day time and again by keeping us from eating frozen food good badness. It's quick, easy, and great for the ticker too. I learned about it from my lovely friend Jenn and none of us have come up with a name besides that "sweet-potato-black-bean-salsa-and-cheese-stuff." But the yumminess makes up for the lackluster title. (I mean, how much would we really sell from a menu with that one? Possibly lots if we added "Locally grown, free-range, grain-fed, and hormone-free potatoes." Hmmm...)

Sweet Potato, Black Bean, Salsa and Cheese Stuff

One sweet potato
Black Beans
Vegan cheese **We've decided that Daiya is the best after sampling almost every other out there**

1. Bake sweet potato. Due to our lack of planning, we always use the microwave. Scrub that bad boy down, keep it wet, fork it a few times all over, then wrap it in a paper towel and microwave for around four minutes each side (or until soft.) **It can't just be me that was thinking this was getting "dirty" after the first few steps... can it? :) **
2. Chop and mash potato (we keep skin). Add beans, cheese, and sprinkle of salt and microwave until cheese is melted. 
3. Top with salsa and whatever else your heart desires! I sometimes add avocado or spinach and then have salad as a side.
It seriously is that simple. So simple, in fact, that I wonder if you are questioning my sanity over writing it down. But sometimes the simplest combos can be the best. And this sweet potato as taco (getting towards a name... hey hey!) thing hits the spot. So snatch up these versatile, long-lasting ingredients next time you're shopping and I bet that "stuff" will be beckoning you to try. 

P.S. Despite a post having nothing to do with our recent accomplishments, we have indeed had a very successful weekend in home business. I am totally giddy to share the details with you but have to finish the final touches... More soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

And I'm really loving a few things in particular.

1. Ok... So it has nothing to do with spring. But I am love, love, loving it. Pinterest is an amazing online community that you can create inspiration boards by "pinning" pictures that you find. You can peruse other people's boards, comment on pics they've pinned, and repin them onto your own! It's fantastic and beautiful and totally a visually-drawn procrastinator's dream. And I've just found (true obsession never rests) that I CAN tie it to this lovely season with my number 2, found there but originally from here. If you are interested in joining you need to get on the invitation list and wait a week or two. Or you could just take a peek, realize how amazing that place is, and ask me to send one of my invites to you. I'd be thrilled to share the joy.


My nightly occasional walks with Tegan are now sans iPod because of the natural musicians all around. Birds' songs are simply intoxicating. They call stress out of me after a long day and then refresh my soul as they announce a new morning. They are so gentle that when they first begin I barely notice, but every year they never fail to usher in the time of new growth and beauty.

3. My new herb garden. Being vegan, we cook lots and lots at home (not that you would know since recipes have certainly been lacking... will work on that!) and use herbs all the time to add flavor to our meals. I'm embarrassed to say that for the past two and a half years I have been purchasing all my basil, cilantro, parsley, and dill from the grocery store and swearing every, single time that I would plant some that weekend to stop the endless waste of money that is the herb market. But lo and behold, I never did. So after forking over much more than necessary to please our taste buds, I finally did it. I planted some herbs.

I was inspired by the dollar section in Target one day when I saw these.

So I grabbed four, a dollar pack of five metal plant markers, and then swung by Home Depot for some seeds. In no time flat I had some metal pails full of dirt and lots of tiny balls of magic.

All I had to do was wait. And let me tell you, when those first little sprouts started to show I called the hubster out excitedly like they were shooting out benjamins. Parsley was the slowest little guy, and Basil most definitely the cutest, but they are all out now experiencing the world with gusto.

Maybe I still have some waiting to do since they haven't even hit puberty, but baby, we are on the road to herb-free shopping trips. Hallelujah!

4. Peyton working outside. Poor Peyton doesn't get much time to enjoy life, as work has him going into the wee night hours most days, but the silver lining is he is able to do it outside. Most nights he can be found on our patio with a string of Christmas lights bunched above him in the umbrella, two lanterns swaying in the tree, Pandora streaming in his ears, glass of wine at hand, tapping away on his laptop. Maybe not the ideal situation, but it definitely is a darn good workosphere. I'll try to snap a shot sometime soon, but let's keep our fingers crossed that I won't get a chance!

So how about you? Is there any thing about spring that has you entranced?

We have plenty of gardening ideas on our plate this weekend to keep us out and about appreciating the chirpy weather. With spring giving us so much beauty, we are trying our best to pitch in. Spring is the time to be fresh, to try something new. Whether that be gardening, running, tennis, cooking, or sitting outside on your porch, go give it a shot. Just spread your wings, open your mind, and free your song. Spring is here!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Moment Between Lady Gaga and Usher

I'm driving down the road, wind blowing in my hair, enjoying this day, this life, this moment, when all of a sudden a few notes introduce a new song and today slips from around me. Within ten seconds, and a "Could you whisper in my ear..." I am fourteen in a tent in a pitch dark forest. Next to me my best friend Allison is curled up in her sleeping bag with just bought Wal-Mart sweats protecting her from the unexpected cold. We all thought that Orlando would be hot during spring break; sure showed us. I know there is silence around me as the wildlife begins its slumber, but what little noise there is I can't hear through the rhythm in my ears coming from my discman. With this song, these words, I am pouring my heart out to my first love on Hello Kitty stationary as blue as the sky. I tell him I miss him, how I love him, how I wish he were there. I fill one page, two pages, three. I gush and want and need. And I do; I feel all of these things in my fourteen year old heart and my reminiscing mind. "...Oh, May, do you wanna get married and run away?" I do, I do, I do. "I wanna wake up where you are, I won't say anything at all..." Our lives are planned; our love is fixed. My heart and mind know nothing else but him and our future and what we have. How could that change? How could something so entrenched in our beings disappear?

Because of this thing called Life. Because as real as everything is at fourteen, we don't see that changes come at us like bullets from all angles. They are big and small and creep in from every corner. And we can't fight them because we aren't prepared. We don't know how to protect ourselves and our most coveted treasures: our love, our relationships, our feelings. We just live it and take it and make it through better and stronger. We come out equipped and ready to face the upcoming storms. But life isn't the same, and most of our treasures are gone. Those that make it through are more deeply entrenched, yet we are stripped of so much. So we rebuild, and we renew, and we use our lessons to cherish and protect the new blessed things thoroughly. And one day we look back at what we had, the innocence and the experiences and the love, and can't believe we were ever there.

Our new lives are wonderful and lived with even more vigor since we know they are precious. But how can we not long for what was, what shaped us, what brought us here? For those times that slipped by without us even realizing they were special? For times that were mundane and every day and "normal"? In life all you take are memories, and all too often they are these trivial ones that you can't shake. They recede to the deep, dark corners of your mind and leap out at you when you least expect them. They take you, body and soul, to a place so real, so good, and so missed that they leave you wanting to buy a return flight to a nonexistent destination. They're done; they're over. But luckily your mind saw the beauty occurring long ago and buried them in songs.  And for those few minutes you can close your eyes and be enveloped again.

So keep listening and keep living. It's comforting to know that your mind looks out for you and holds what you can't consciously. Who knows what we will remember ten years from now, what tent a song will carry us to. What can be assured is these memories will be bittersweet. They will be part of you. And like my song today told me, they will be "little pieces of nothing that fall." Take those moments to breathe them in, and then get back to living your glorious life so down the road you'll still have today.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Springing Up the Craftiness

Gorgeous days that hold a slight breeze, clear blue skies, and the burst of new life in gardens city-wide begin an awakening in my soul. It just begs to create and contribute to this magnificent world. The additions never need to be big, beautiful, or elaborate; they just need to be something to help me feel alive and well. Yesterday I tried my hand at making a spring-y door decoration: a moss covered "M" monogram. And even though I would do a few things differently, it puts a big grin on my face every time I see it (which is often since it has me opening the front door to check it out every hour or so.) It's the perfect quick and easy addition to get your home spring ready!

To start your project you need the letter (wood, foam, or thick cardboard), a hot glue gun, a pack of sheet moss, tacks, hammer, and ribbon.

To assemble you simply attach the moss to the letter using the hot glue. Once it is all covered (I covered the sides and a small bit of the back as well), you attach the ribbon to two spots. I used tacks because they were handy, but if you have a wood letter you could screw in hooks at the top or use whatever you have around (maybe even hot glue?) to attach.

Finally, hang up and admire!

I learned one major lesson in this project. I am a big supporter of buying the cheaper option if all is equal, but in this case it wasn't. I was given the choice of $3.99 moss that came in sheets but was still loose versus the $6.99 option that was attached to a netting of some sort and all very uniform. I figured that the $3.99 would be sufficient, which it was, but the moss had different textures and colors so it looks a bit sloppy from the front. This is a situation where I would spring the extra 3 bucks and just go with the next level up.

Tegan keeping guard. 

Now I'm itching to go back outside (and check out my snazzy front door)... More later!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gone To The Dogs

With three dogs, one cat, and an undulating amount of foster animals, Peyton and I are bonafide animal loving peeps. From the time when I was itty-bitty I always was infatuated with dogs. I love their cold noses on my face when I wake up; their love for belly rubs; their huge bodies squishing me in a dog hug; their excitement every, single time I come home; and most especially, their enthusiasm for everything in life, whether it be to fetch a ball, go on a long run, or settle down for a nap with their human. In fact, I even adore the smell of sleepy dog paws, a comforting mix of earth and warmth and home. Luckily for me, Peyton is no different when it comes to puppy dog charm (well, maybe minus the foot-smell thing... He thinks it's a bit odd.) So when I came across this tribute in the "2010 Greater Austin Pet Resource Guide" I just had to share with everyone else whose lives have gone to the dogs. Enjoy!

If I Didn't Have a Dog...
  • I could walk around the yard barefoot in safety.
  • My house could be carpeted instead of tiled and laminated.
  • All flat surfaces, clothing, furniture, and cars would be free of hair.
  • When the doorbell rings, it wouldn't sound like a kennel.
  • When the doorbell rings, I could get to the door without wading through the fuzzy bodies who beat me there.
  • I could sit on the couch and my bed in the way that I wanted, without taking into consideration how much space several fur bodies would need to get comfortable.
  • I would have money... and no guilt to go on a real vacation.
  • I would not be on a first name basis with six veterinarians, as I put their yet unborn grandkids through college.
  • The most used words in my vocabulary would not be: out, sit, come, no, stay, and leave him/her/it alone.
  • My house would not be cordoned off into zones with baby gates and barriers. 
  • My house would not look like a daycare center, toys everywhere.
  • My pockets would not contain things like poop bags, treats, and an extra leash.
  • I would no longer have to spell the words B-A-L-L, F-R-I-S-B-E-E, W-A-L-K,   T-R-E-A-T, B-I-K-E, G-O-, R-I-D-E.
  • I would not have as many leaves inside my house as outside.
  • I would not look strangely at people who think having ONE dog/cat ties them down.
  • I'd look forward to Spring and the rainy season instead of dreading "mud" season.
  • I would not have to answer the question, "Why do you have so many animals?" from people who will never have the joy in their lives of knowing they are loved unconditionally by something as close to an angel as they will ever get. 
How empty my life would be!

My Tegan girl. 
Sweet Athena <3

Now go ahead and give your babies a big hug, kiss, and treat. I'm going to go appreciate this beautiful day with my sweet girl!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Make Your Own Headboard

Our guest bedroom was in serious need of something. It could fulfill it's purpose (to house guests in comfort and safety) and included a bed, some reading lights, and even a twenty-five year old television to entertain! But it was begging for some pizzazz, some character, something to make it feel like the main, loved guest room. We, lacking funds, decided to placate the bedroom's demands by making it a headboard. And hallelujah was that bedroom right! All of a sudden it went from a mud brown box to a cozy, colorful pad. What's even better, it didn't take much time, money, or effort to get it there.

Clearly the bed is the main focus of a bedroom. And as the star it totally deserves to be snazzed up a bit! But looking through catalogue after catalogue, one can easily be discouraged after falling in love with one $800+ bed frame after another. There is a new (or maybe revitalized?) trend for upholstered headboards which we love, but we never could find all the reasons to spend our extra dough on one. And then we found DIY directions to make one at home. They claim the project to be fast, economical, and easy to do, and by golly, we are here to support that claim. The basic directions we used can be found here from, home of two of the best DIYers we've found. We did have to finagle theirs a bit from lack of motivation to find all parts (such as the canvas stretching frame) and a desire to save some money.

So the following is our how-to on making a DIY headboard:

Tools: Saw, Screwdriver, Hammer
Supplies: 3- 72" 1x2 finished pine boards, 4 right angle fasteners, screws, tacks, sandpaper, fabric measured to fit with extra for sides, 1 bag of extra thick batting
Time: 1-2 hours

1. Measure the bed's length and height. We decided to make the frame 36" x 66". That left about 26" above the mattress and a few inches on both sides to anchor the look.

2. Make the frame. Cut 1 board into 2- 36"halves and cut the other 2 down to 66" each. Cut 45 degree angles onto all ends, making sure they correspond appropriately with one another. Peyton marked the ends by numbers to correspond each joint. Sand them down to meet flush at a right angle. Attach with screws using the right angle fasteners.

At first we tried those wave frame connectors but without a jig to hold the pieces forcefully together they didn't work. You can see Peyton's markings here though. 
The right angle fastener.

3. Attach the batting and fabric. Stretch the batting over the frame (we doubled it over since we had extra) and attach using tacks or staple gun if handy. It helps to have another person hold the opposite end tight so there isn't slack. Attach one side, move to opposite, and repeat. Once batting is secure attach fabric in same way. We trimmed down the corners a bit once we got there and tried some different folds to figure the best looking way to attach them.

4. Make your bed a happy camper. Add the glitz it's looking for! Since the headboard is so light, if the bed is against the wall you can simply add some nails to the wall and hang it like a frame.

**It was tougher for us because we have it against a window. Peyton simply nailed two more boards to the back, one each right and left of center, that went almost to the floor. He then screwed two thicker 2x4 pieces below the windowsill and attached the boards to that. This way it was secure to the wall and got past the lip of the windowsill.

One of the supports that Peyton added to attach to wall.

**Another way, that we should have used since we can't hang ours, is to use plywood. Do the same steps for attaching, but since it is a sheet of wood it will be heavier and will have to be attached to the wall similar to ours.

So there you have it! Our first official step into the DIY realm completed. And we are tickled pink with the results. Let's take a look at the before and after.

The whole room seems to have a focus now. The colors and pattern make it become artwork for the room and leave lots of options open for accessories. It's crisp and fun all at once! The fabric just begs to have small splashes of its colors around the room. We love the little green lights we got from Target and finally get to show off an adorable pillow case that my grandmother made years ago with little white hedgehogs on a red background. Lots more to do in there (like hang curtains, art, make a chest for the foot of the bed) but what a huge improvement already. It just showed us that you CAN fix up your house on a budget. Fun times await!