Perspiration Pays Off

Gardening requires lots of water — most of it in the form of perspiration.

But Josh loves to garden,

and I love cooking with fresh-picked vegetables,

and so we gladly perspire (most days).

2012:

today:

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Yes, we still have more perspiring work to do. We need to make a gate at the entrance. We need to trench in a line for water, so that we don’t have to drag the hose back there. We need more wood chips to cover the bare soil. We’re still working on our plants around the outside border.

BUT!

We have come so far! Here are a few pictures of what took place in spurts between Spring 2012 and Spring 2016:

One more look at what we started with. The only items that stayed are the four blueberry bushes that we planted behind the little spruce trees.

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First, we got rid of all of the old junk, cut down the scrubby trees, and then leveled the ground. It’s amazing how much perspiration is encapsulated in that simple sentence!

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Next, we planned how large to make our garden (the bigger the better, we thought), and then put in the four corner posts, using string as a guide to make things square.

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Still using the string as a guide, Josh dug the remaining fence post holes. We spaced everything out to work with our boards so that we wouldn’t have to cut any of them once we built the fence.

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That’s one way to get a workout!

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With all the fence posts in, it was now time to dig a trench, put up the metal fencing to keep out the snacking animals, and nail up the rails.

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With only half of it done, the wild turkeys could still wander in, looking for a meal.

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We buried the metal fencing at least 6 inches down, which was a good thing because we’ve had critters already trying to dig underneath it this Spring.

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Last Fall, all the fencing was in place, but we still needed to finish staining the wood.

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Here it is this today. We added copper solar light caps to the corner posts, and hope to add some kind of cap to the other posts.

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My mini herb garden

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On the left we have three rows of potatoes (red and yellow) with tomatoes (roma, cherry, beefsteak) further in behind them. In the center is my herb garden, and behind that we have peppers and different kinds of squash (spaghetti, cucumber, and zucchini).

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On the right side of the garden, we have three rows of corn near the front, four blueberry bushes behind, and rhubarb at the back.

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The blueberry bushes are loaded this year!

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We transplanted the rhubarb this Spring and it seems to be thriving!

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My herbs: mint, chives, rosemary, thyme, oregano, cilantro, parsley, lemon basil, and basil.

And we still have the raised garden beds on the top of our hill that have raspberries, garlic, onions, beans, and lettuce.   🙂  We are certainly blessed!

Two bonus pictures:

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My gardening companion who one minute is licking himself….

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….and the next is spazzing out as he chases his tail.

Posted in outdoor landscaping | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Update on Grocery Shopping Binder

I put together a grocery shopping binder near the end of January and promised I would let you know how it’s working out. Well, it’s five months later and here’s my verdict in one word: excellent!

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I use it almost every week, and on the weeks that I don’t, I pay for it.  For example, yesterday I went to the grocery store three times for items I forgot! Three times! When I use my binder, I never find myself making a quick run to the store.

The positives are still there:

  1. It’s easy to organize and actually use coupons.
  2. It saves me a lot of time.
  3. It’s quite easy to upkeep and I’ve never had trouble with it getting disorganized.

The negatives are still there too, haha:

  1. I still have to meal plan.
  2. I still have to clip coupons.
  3. I still have to keep it up, although the work is minimal.
  4. Using expo markers is still the best choice, in my opinion, but it does require erasing your items with water and paper towel, which isn’t a big deal but still a little annoying.

After reviewing my binder, I made a few tweaks to make it even better:

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I changed the order of some of the categories down the right side of the page to better fit how I shop at Meijers. I also added two columns at the top titled NOW! and SOMETIME! For the “NOW!” column, I list the items I need to purchase this week. For the “SOMETIME!” column, I list items that I’ll need in the coming weeks, so I can keep an eye on sales.

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I once again changed the order of the categories on the left side. I also made three columns at the top titled “exp. date”, “items”, and “amount”. In this way, I can see at a glance all the expiration dates as well as the amount of the coupon. 

If you want to make a similar binder, here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Use expo markers for all of your labels for the first few months so that you can change things around. Now that I’ve used the binder for almost half a year, I switched my titles to permanent marker so that they won’t erase with the other things that I want to erase.
  2. Take your expo marker with when grocery shopping and cross off the items as you purchase them.
  3. After putting your groceries away, take a moment to erase any items that you purchased from your grocery list and online coupon list (if you have one). This will start you off with a clean slate for the coming week.
  4. When you sit down to meal plan, flip through your coupons and take note of which items you might be able to use.  Also, fill in your shopping list as you look through your recipes.
  5. Just before grocery shopping, quickly glance through your coupons and pull out any that have expired.
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A Side-Benefit of Summer Break: Good Lunches

Summer break has arrived, and with it a renewed dedication to my blog (I hope).  I have so many topics and ideas that I can blog about (decor, gardening, recipes, life), it’s almost overwhelming! But I’ll take it one day at a time, mixing current life with things I’ve done over the past year but never blogged about.

Today’s topic: lunch. Now that I have freedom from time constraints, I no longer am stuck with a basic sandwich. I get to experiment with yummier lunches that take a little more prep time but are often worth it!

Today’s lunch:

whole wheat French toast

with blueberries and black raspberries

drizzled with maple syrup

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the berries were frozen so they gave off a delightful berry juice when I thawed them

Posted in food | Tagged | 3 Comments

Garlic

Spring is officially three days away, but this year its pronouncement on the calendar is little more than stating the obvious. We’ve already had many days of frosty nights, cool mornings, and warm afternoons….all heralding Spring. The crocuses have popped up overnight, their brilliant purple, orange, and white blooms cheering our front garden. As I leave for work under the dark morning sky, bird melodies burst out from the trees around me, and I know that Winter has passed. And yet, the most exciting sign this Spring is the shoots of green pushing through the dark earth. Meet Belarus Purple Stripe, Chesnok Red, and Music (garlic that we planted late last fall). Each variety has its own profile, and I’m excited to try them all!

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“My final, considered judgment is that garlic

blesses and ennobles everything it touches –

with the possible exception of ice cream and pie.”

-Angelo Pellegrini

I agree!  🙂

Posted in outdoor landscaping | Tagged | 1 Comment

Jumping on a Trend: Pallet Wood Sign

I know that rustic signs made of pallet wood are a popular trend right now and that in a couple of years they might be “out”.  But I like them (when they are meaningful and used sparingly) and they match my style of decorating, so I jumped on the bandwagon.  I had a big empty space above my bed which I didn’t know how to fill and the idea of a sign was appealing.  When browsing items at a school sale recently, I happened to see an unfinished pallet wood sign made by Mr. Kamp, already put together and ready to be painted:

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 Our wedding text was from Ruth, which is where I got my inspiration:

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I stained the wood, free-handed the lettering with gold paint, and clear coated the whole thing. You can tell that I didn’t use a stencil, but oh well….

 

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And yes, I redid most of our bedroom in the last year.  I’ll have to show some of the projects involved!

Posted in decorating: before and afters | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Do You Have Sugru?

(This is not a paid endorsement. I just love this product, haha.)

Have you ever been frustrated when something broke and your only option was to trash it? Enter Sugru, a product I first heard about on another blog. Lickety-split, I hopped over to their website and ordered a free sample. It’s basically a mouldable glue that hardens into rubber. It has a ton of uses and can withstand extreme temperatures.

When I received the small sample packet in the mail, my husband was naturally intrigued and had to help me out. We went to work with the Sugru and fixed three “unfixable” items:

The tea kettle:

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The glass window on this side is completely normal.

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On this side, the glass window was leaking water whenever we used it, and we always had to wipe up a puddle after making tea. I rolled the gray Sugru into a very small strip and then pressed it into the crack around the window.  We’ve used the kettle over ten times since the fix, and so far the water has not been leaking.  Success!

The vacuum wheel:

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The front vacuum wheel encasement completely snapped off the vacuum. Because it is a spinning/rotating wheel, we couldn’t just glue the black encasement back on because then the vacuum wouldn’t be able to turn corners. So I moulded a thin piece of sugru through the hole in the middle, and then made an end cap, making sure that the sugru didn’t stick to the black encasement.  Once the sugru had hardened, the wheel could once more spin.  I haven’t used this vacuum much since the fix because it’s more of a spare one for the cars, basement, etc……but so far, success!

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The freezer handle:

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The bottom of the freezer handle snapped off, and so we tried to fix it with the sugru. As soon as it dried, we realized that it might not work because the joint seems quite weak and wobbly. But so far it’s holding up and hasn’t snapped off again. So we’ll have to see if this is a success or not.

So the next time you feel the need to trash something because there’s no way to get a replacement part, check out Sugru and see if you can’t mould a little somethin’.

 

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Grocery Shopping Binder

There’s no graceful way to splash back into a blog that’s been sadly ignored for months.  So I’m going to pretend that it’s only been a day or two and jump into my topic for today: my new grocery store binder. Yes, I’m excited about such a simple thing. I love being organized and when I find a small system that works, my heart sings. While this binder isn’t tried-and-true yet, my gut feeling tells me that it’ll work really well (I’ll update this post after I’ve used it more).

I’ve been daydreaming about something like this ever since I started grocery shopping 6 years ago. Here are my main complaints of the system (or lack of one) that I used to follow:

  1. Every week I’d have to rewrite any items I didn’t purchase the previous week (they weren’t on sale, the coupon didn’t match any sales, etc)
  2. Every week I was copying out coupon information (from physical coupons and my online MPerks) onto my grocery list.
  3. I tried to use the least amount of paper for my list, and so my list was very jumbled and I didn’t group similar items together (dairy, meat, produce, etc).
  4. I’d have a fist full of coupons that I’d be trying to look at, placing some in my “to use” fist and others got stuffed back in my purse.

I browsed online for some kind of system that’d work for me, but came up empty-handed. For a while I used a mini file to store the coupons in, but that barely helped. And so I decided to make my own system (almost everything was purchased from Staples):

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This is a mini-binder (8″ by 9″). It’s heavy duty, lies flat open, and sits well in the front basket of the shopping cart. I placed some verses from Matthew in the cover that talk about not worrying what we should eat or drink because God will provide. It’s a nice reminder each time I go shopping!

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I use overhead markers that are easily erasable but don’t smear when touched (unlike whiteboard markers). I bought these plastic dividers that you can write on. The first page has my menu plan for the week. I love the plastic pocket on the left and place the coupons I end up using in there as I shop.

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The second page contains my shopping list, with categories written down the inside spine. I usually shop in that order, so I have no excuse to miss any items as I go along. If I don’t purchase an item, I can leave it on my list and just erase the other items. The third page contains my MPerks coupons that I copy from online. Once again, I can leave them there if I don’t use them that week, and they are ordered into categories of how I shop the store.

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In my next pages, I have my different categories split up into sections with business card sheets in each section. My paper coupons go into the card holders. I try to keep the vital information visible (item, value, expiration date), but I’ve had to write the expiration date on one or two that weren’t visible.

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Yes, I know that cheese is in the dairy section, but at my store the higher quality cheese is in the middle of the produce section.

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I put some sheet protectors in the back to hold coupons from other stores.

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I also slipped some information sheets in the back (what cuts of meat are good for what, etc).

 

So, what do you think? Too much effort for something small?  For me, it’s worth it because I grocery shop every week and am saving my family money by using coupons, being organized with my meal plan, and not missing coupons that expire in the bottom of my purse.  It’s also a time saver: no running to the store for last minute purchases, no copying down coupons week after week,  no circling the store to get missed items, and no standing in an aisle rummaging through my coupons.

How do you grocery shop? Do you have a system that works for you?

Posted in food, organization | Tagged , , | 18 Comments