Saturday, March 13, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Parade - Pictures Only

We went to the St. Patrick's Day parade in the Downtown Raleigh today. Here are the pix:

3 Projects Completed

Remember the three projects we started working on back on February 21st? Well, we're done with those:
1. Prepare the front yard for veggie garden
2. Decorate the living room
3. Organize M's arts and crafts collection from last year

Ok, the #3 was the easiest of all and took me just a couple of days. It would've taken even less than that, but I had to wait until M was in bed or else I wouldn't get anything done at all.

I wrote about project #1 - veggie garden - some time ago. Here's an update - not only did we prepare the veggie beds, but we planted some of them mostly with greens. The radishes and lettuces are sprouting already!

Now, decorating the living room is kind of a really big project. What I had in mind was to put some kind of art work on one of the walls that looked bare and also to get a side table of some sort.

The art work project was done and I now have a place to show off my (for now very small) collection of sea shells, pebbles and driftwood. As for the table, we didn't have the budget to buy one. I thought about getting an old (antique) wooden crate at the flea market and make it into a table. But luckily I didn't get around to it.

Instead, I got a different and a much better idea (from the Decorating Junk Market Style book). Basically, it's a tree log from the tree that was cut down back in February. My super-strong hubby hauled it inside and screwed in 4 casters that we just happened to have (we misplaced them months ago, found them recently when cleaning out the upstairs linen closet and were getting ready to stick them into the attic). I think the end result looks very nice and it's totally FREE.

Now we are ready to select new goals and start working on them. Will update you on those as soon as we get them on paper.

Playdates Overload - Outdoors Edition

Hooray, the spring is finally here - warm, even hot, sunny and just totally awesome. And so this past week we've tried to spend as much time outside as possible. I think our record was set last Tuesday with a 4-hour monster playdate at a park.

First, we met with a friend of ours who has a son M's age. These two get along so well together (I wrote about it earlier). Boy, you should've seen them playing at the park together and in general being as happy as they could be. Then we all had a small picnic and M's friend had to go home.

We, on the other hand, didn't have to go anywhere.

So I called my friend who has a little girl M's age. They were on their way to the park. While we waited for them, we wandered off the playground and to a nearby creek. M really liked watching the water and throwing pebbles into it. There's also a nice little grassy area next to the creek and I think next time we'll just have a picnic there. (M's in his picnic stage now - wants to have a picnic every day, real or pretend one - doesn't matter).

Unfortunately, by the time they got to the park it was already lunch time. So they had lunch first (M was invited and scored a cookie and yogurt). Then he played some more. But he was already tired and it was time for us to go home by way of a nearby toy store.

The next day we met up with my friend Lana and her husband Patrick and their little almost 2-year old son for a stroll around the farmers' market. After lunch we decided to head over to the Yeats Mill for a little walk. There's no playground there, which is just fine with me. I feel that while playgrounds are great for gross motor stuff, they simply aren't designed for diverse sensory input and quiet games of discovery. So I like to mix it up a bit by going to places with no playgrounds.

M and his little friend loved the mill. We walked along the trail to the mill (saw some wild turkeys foraging just a few steps from us). It's a watermill with all the trimmings - a dam, a waterfall, a small bridge over the creek, big slimy boulders... Great place! So we walked around and took some pictures and let the kids run around.

Everything was just fine until I slipped on one of the slimy boulders, fell and pulled M with me (he was holding my hand). I got off with a light bruise and some dirt on my jeans. M wasn't so lucky. He didn't get hurt, but he fell right into the water and the slimy algea and his clothes got wet, dirty and stinky (and that's something he doesn't tolerate easily). And he got scared too.

So after the fall, he didn't want to hear anything about going around the pond. All he wanted to do was to get back to the car. So we all headed back to the parking lot.

Except, of course, him and his little friend got very interested in a water pump and splashed around a bit (with our help). Then they got busy running around an old grinding stone. Then - throwing pebbles from the picnic area into the pond. Then M started arranging the pebbles around the trash cans. Next thing I knew, he didn't want to leave and insisted that his clothes weren't wet after all!

But it started looking like rain and we pursuaded the kids to head towards the little visitors' center where they got to rock in the rocking chairs on the big porch. Now, this little visitors' center has a little museum, all about Yeats Mill, with an old hand-crank machine for cleaning corn off the cobs and with a short video describing mill's operations. Well, let me just say that by the time M and I left the building 30 minutes later, he was totally into corn grinding and mill operations.

We got home and assembled his marble run (ex-chocolate factory) which quickly became his corn mill. He then proceeded to explain to me and all his friends - Winny the Pooh, Tiger, Rabbit, puppy, frog and duck - the basics of mill operations: "water goes here, woosh, zoom, turn gear turn gear shift and come flour". He also kept mentioning how he fell into water at the mill, but he didn't sound scared any more, but rather proud.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring Is Here - Time to Garden!

Wew, our entire family, including the cat, spent this entire weekend working on our veggie garden. Last year we had just three smallish - 4' by 6' - raised beds and some cukes, squash and watermelons (remember our 55 lb watermelon?!).

This year we're expanding. The veggie garden, when completed, will take the entire front yard. Yes, our neighbors are lucky peeps, hehe. Actually, most of them are taking the temporary mess and the permanent lack of a well-manicured lawn in a stride. Many stop and ask questions about the garden or say hello. Let me tell you, having a front-yard garden is a great way to meet the neighbors!

But anyway, back to my story. We were going to have the beds ready last weekend, but the weather was horrible. It was too cold to plan anyway. So this weekend Chris went to the City Solid Waste Management and got a huge load of compost for $10. Then he went to a corner hardware store and got a couple of straw bales there.

And I found a source for some first-rate goat manure ($3 for 50-lb bag - cheap!). In case you're wondering, go to the State Farmers Market, to the covered area. Find a guy who sells goat cheese and cheese spreads (he always has tons of samples too, yummy). Tell him how many bags of the good stuff you need and he'll get them to you, fresh from the farm, the very next day.

This prep work took a good part of our Saturday. Still, we managed to prepare 2 beds. One was our old raised bed which we (and by we I mean Chris) moved from its old location. We simply filled it with compost (a mix of our own and the City compost).

The second bed was something we decided to try this year - a keyhole bed. And we built it up, lasagna-gardening style. First, we put down a thin layer of manure. Next - a couple of layers of newspapers (Chris got a ton of those from a recycling bin at his work; that's about the only perk his job offers). After getting the newspapers soaked, we put a thin layer of compost, a dusting of bloodmeal, followed by a thick layer of straw. Then - another, this time - thick, layer of compost. And we mulched it all with some more straw.

It sounds very time-consuming, but it really wasn't. It took us about 30 minutes to build one bed. And some of this time was spent supervising Mr. M who oh-so-wanted to help!

After the first bed was made, we decided to call it a night (again, it was on Saturday). But before packing up, I decided to put some more wood chips on the path around the bed. And lemme tell you, it was a good thing I did too! How so?

Well, as I dug into the wood chip pile, I noticed that it was smoking. That didn't look good at all. But maybe it was just dust? So I dug a little bit into the pile and touched the inside - sure thing, the wood chips in the bottom center were getting hot. With all the nice warm weather heading our way, this wood chip pile was sure to catch fire in the next few days!

So instead of going home, we grabbed our neighbor's wheelbarrel and started shoveling and carting off the chips. We put a ton of them in the back yard, as a sort of a path (if anything, we hope it'll kill the weeds). In about 30 minutes the pile was reduced to a harmless and manageable non-spontaneously-combustible size.

This morning, sore from Saturday's work, we started building the rest of the beds using the same lasagna approach. Man, that was a lot of shoveling! But we were done surprisingly fast, in about an hour (or 20 minutes per bed). We then took a break because we had some other things we had to take care of.

Then, in the afternoon, we made a long garden bed, alongside the driveway. And also I started planting. I planted one of the raised beds and two keyhole beds. Mr. M was so excited! When I told him that after lunch we were going to plant some seeds, he said "Мама, это отличная идея! Обязательно надо так сделать!"

And so we planted:

Raised Bed 1 - radishes, arugula, leaf lettuce, pak choi, spinach, garlic, calendula
Keyhole Bed 1 - carrots, beets, bush peas, fennel, dill
Keyhole Bed 2 - kale, swiss chard, calendula, parsley

Mr. M planted some of the larger seeds, but then got bored with the process (I need to try a windowsill garden with see-through containers). So he took off and found some sticks that he pretended to be various brass and woodwind instruments. He then said that he was going to sit on the steps, play his instruments and wait until the veggies grow.

With all the running around that he did today, he sure was hungry. As a matter of fact, when we came into the house, the first thing out of his mouth was "Мама, приготовь мне ужин!". And he said it while pointing at the stove too! All this working and playing in the garden is doing wonders for his appetite (meatballs and lettuce are now among his favorites), not to mention his gross motor skills.

Now, we're pretty much done with the garden until the next weekend when I'll plant some more greens in the second raised bed. Hopefully the blueberries and the goji berry we ordered a while ago will have arrived by then so we can plant them as well. And I'm thinking about adding more flowers too. Stay tuned for further updates and a nice shot of our front yard garden.

Collection Show-off

I never thought of myself as a collector. Actually, I remember very well a time when all my friends were collecting something or other - stamps, small dolls, pebbles - and I didn't. I felt like I had to start collecting something (all that peer pressure), but could never figure out what. And so I kept growing up collection-less.

Then, as a grown-up, I tried collecting - postcards, fiesta ware (don't ask), Russian laquer boxes - but never got into any of it. Mostly because collections take space and we kept moving way too often. Plus I'm a kind of anti-hoarder and try to get rid of anything that seems remotely like clutter.

But a few years ago, during our trip to New Smyrna Beach, FL (one of my most favorite places), I bought a few very pretty shells that I just couldn't part with ever since. Until very recently they were wrapped in paper and kept in a box along with some other trinkets that I just don't want to get rid of.

Well, if you remember, I bought a very nice printer's drawer (and a huge bargain, at $8) and started cleaning it. It took me a few evenings, but the end result was absolutely beautiful. I didn't even have to paint the drawer or stain it!

So I took out all the shells I had, added a few pebbles and cut outs of the maps from the places in FL we really loved. And hot glued it all to the box. It is now hanging proudly on the wall in our living room.

But it made me realize how few shells I have and that I need more. Hopefully we'll get to go to the beach this year (even if it's just to Wilmington, NC) where I can buy some more of these beauties (and maybe find some driftwood to boot).