Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Break Hiking- Panther Creek

Every spring we take a drive down Panther creek to see the phlox bloom. The rock faces all along the side of the creek are covered with it.  The kids were on Spring break this weekend Fri-Mon so we decided to enjoy the nice weather and do a bit of hiking.  

  It is a much darker pink than it looks. It always looks so light and washed out in the photos.

 i've never been able to capture its beauty in photos, but it doesn't stop me from trying.

It goes all the up as far as you can see, and spreads down over the rocks.  It doesn't last very long. i think the phlox only blooms for a week or two.  It is pretty amazing to see.

Wild Columbine is coming up everywhere.  i was hoping to collect some, to help establish it in my woods but it growing in the rock crevices. There was no way to dig the plants without pulling and breaking the roots off because it was so dry out. i love to collect native wildflowers and transplant them to areas where there are none.  i've collected a few of the columbine in the past, and they still come up in my native wildflower garden.

The kids and i took a small hike up the stream, but didn't go too far. We were not really dressed for hiking, and the area is know for rattlesnakes and copperheads.  Kenan injured his back last week, so he hung behind while i wandered into the woods a bit with the kids. This is a lovely place to hike, but it is quite rocky and a little treacherous in places. Very easy to slip and twist an ankle or bust your head open.  i was hoping to see more wildflowers, but there was not that many back in the woods.

i did find a patch of Little Heartleaf wild ginger up on top of some rocks. i identified Wild ginger for the first time last year, and ever since then i see t every where!  

There were several Swallowtails fluttering around enjoying the phlox. This is the first swallowtail i've seen this year!

i also found wild bleeding hearts coming up along the rock faces. Like the columbine it was coming up in the rock crevices.  So beautiful!

It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed just hanging out for a bit and then we headed on to Beaver Creek Dam to look for tadpoles. 

This winter has been so long, it is nice to finally get  out and start hiking again. i missed our weekend day trips to the local state parks and other hiking trails.

i'm a little behind on posts this month. We took a trip to Florida at the beginning of April, and i'm planning to share some of our adventures on here. We also just hiked Hanging Rock yeterday, and i have a ton of pictures to share. i have to catch up on my creative everyday posts, and i have a product review for Earth Friendly Products to post in the next day or two.

i hope that you are all beginning to feel spring where you are!  Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Garden Prepping.

Just a few days ago it was snowing, and this week it is finally starting to feel like spring.  It's been the 70's the last couple of days, so i've been out trying to get the gardens prepped and ready.

i was hoping to start a bunch of seeds inside, but my mischievous kitten Banjo, has made that rather difficult. He chews up the seedlings, and digs in the soil. So the husband put together this cold frame, so i can try to get a few things started early. i typically plant seeds directly in the ground for almost everything. The exceptions have been tomato, peppers, broccoli/cauliflower, eggplant and sweet potato. i've never had great luck starting these inside and transplanting so in the past i have typically purchased them as plants from our local garden center. They actually have a great selection of heirloom varieties.

Last year i started a few tomatoes from seed and they did really well, so i bought a bunch of tomato seeds this year and am attempting to start them all from seed this year instead of purchasing them. i'm also starting seeds for Violet Cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli, because i can't get these variety at the garden center.  i'm attempting to start my own sweet potatoes as well, but so far they are not producing any starts.

My front garden was a huge mess. It was never turned up in the fall, and the weeds had taken over. It was covered in chickweed, ground ivy and grass. We still do not have a working rototiller, so the husband turned up the bed using a pitch fork.  Then i let the chickens get in there and really scratch it up.  eat up grubs, weed seeds and some of the chickweed. They  also eat the earth worms, which is good for them, but not necessarily good for my garden.  They do leave a bit of manure behind, so hopefully that makes up for it. 

i worked on turning up the soil in the main (summer) garden. Rather than planting in traditional rows, i like to plant in blocks. A few years ago i can across this method of making raised beds without building boxes or frames from Martha Stewart. You can see a video on it here.  i really like this method, it allows you to concentrate your fertilizer or compost where it's needed most and helps with drainage.  i also prefer the look of it.  i always felt very limited when i planted in rows, but with blocks you can split up the blocks and plant much more of a variety.

i recently came across this chart on the Heirloom Organics Fb page, and thought it was great!  It really shows how you can have fun with the blocks and create a nice looking garden without tons of space.  i love how they incorporated the flowers in with veggies. i tend to plant nasturtium with just about everything. It's pretty and edible.

i still have a quite a while before i can really start planting, but i'm enjoying playing in the dirt and getting it all set up and planned out.  

"In the spring, at the end of the dayyou should smell like dirt." - Margaret Atwood 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

First Signs of Spring in the Blue Ridge 2014

This winter is really starting to feel like it will never end.  We've had a few nice days in between the snow, ice and polar vortex cold and i took advantage of them and went out looking for signs of spring.

Coltsfood is always one of the first wildflowers to come up.  It lines the sides of road in the spring along with dandelions, chicory, and touch-me-nots. These two little blossoms were just beginning to open. Once they fully open they are often mistaken for dandelions.

Spotting the first butterfly of spring is always a beautiful moment! This little Eastern comma seemed as curious of me as i was of her.  i was following her, but the way she kept circling around i think she may have been following me.

She would stop just a few feet away, and open and close her wings.  She sat perfectly until i got my picture and then she disappeared into the woods.

Catnip is coming up all over the garden! i've already transferred a couple into pot (yes, i actually got to play in the dirt!) and i'll have to dig the rest before the garden gets tilled. Catnip makes the most fabulous tea. It's in the mint family and is a natural sedative.

One of the biggest sign that spring is coming! My hens have started laying again! Most of my hens,are new and were not laying yet last summer.  None of my birds laid over the winter, so we've been waiting for the new birds to begin laying.  In just the last couple weeks they have begun to lay regularly. 

So this isn't really a sign of spring, it is more a sign that winter isn't done quite yet.  It's a black swallowtail chrysalis.  We raised the little black swallowtail caterpillar in our carrot bed, and watched it transform into this chrysalis. It has spent the winter snug inside, and is waiting for the perfect spring day to emerge. Hopefully we'll get to witness it, and i'll share a picture on my next signs of spring post. 

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.  ~Anne Bradstreet

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Elsa's Door Paper Craft Tutorial (Frozen Inspired)

My daughter asked me to make her door look like Elsa's from the movie Frozen.  i did a quick google search and found this picture. My first thought, sure we can do it! Looks easy enough...ha ha. Not sure what i was thinking, it was actually a huge pain. :) 

 i didn't want to paint her door because her interests change from week to week, so i figured we could create something with construction paper which we already had at home.   Took me forever just to draw up the templates, but since i put all that time into making them i thought i'd share them in case anyone else is crazy enough to do this. :)  

This my template for the star design.   You may want to increase the scale on this if it doesn't print big enough.  When you arrange the pieces, you'll put them a little closer together.  The image should be around 6" tall.  i didn't include the diamond that is at the top and bottom of the star, but i'm sure you can figure it out. It's basically just a 2" square.  You need two of the stars for the pattern.  You can either use this as a template and cut your star out of construction paper, or use adobe to color this one in and print your pages in color. 

So i drew this free-form (obviously). ha ha.  This is my interpretation of the design on the door. (don't laugh!) It looks much better when it's cut out of construction paper:)  Once i outlined it in pen it got a little messy.  You can print this up right on the construction paper, then cut along the lines.  You can easily clean it up a bit, straighten crooked lines etc as you cut it out.  You need to print 4 of these for the design on Elsa's door. We created our door in dark and light blue.  You can use green or teal, what ever you have or whatever you think looks best. 

i think if you click the images you should be able to print them full size, but blogger is always changing things so i'm not positive. If you can't get them to print from the blog, let me know and i can email you the full size templates.

This should be about 3" tall, so again you may have to adjust the size. These are for the side borders of the door.  We didn't cover the entire door, so i only used 6 for each side of the door. You can do any many as you like.


Again, this isn't perfect. i didn't measure anything, i just grabbed a ruler and drew it out. So it's not quite even, but it's a good template to get you started. If you need it even, i'm sure you can straighten it up a bit after it's been printed. We cut these out of the blue construction paper and added strips of blue paper to connect them.

After cutting out all the pieces we used a glue stick to glue them onto white paper and then used two sided tape to stick the white paper to the door. i didn't quite get everything lined up correctly, but my daughter loved it anyway and that's really all that matters.  

We put this together before the movie was out and i could only find one little picture online. As i was putting this together i found this picture, which better shows the door.  If we wanted to do it correctly, there should be 4 of these full panels. Two at the top of the door and 2 at the bottom, and then the borders goes all the way down both sides.  i just did the two and put them right in the middle of the door. It's good enough for us. :)  i have a feeling once my daughter watches the movie a few times, i'll be adding the missing panels. lol. 

i also hung snowflakes in her doorway to add to the 'frozen theme'. You can check our snowflakes tutorial here.  My daughter loves her 'Frozen' room. 

Hope you enjoy these templates and are able to print them up correctly. i figure you can look at the images to see how to arrange the pieces.  Have fun with it! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Newman's Own Organics Review and Giveaway!!

 Last year, right about this time i won a blog giveaway for a product of choice from Newman's Own Organics. i picked the Espresso Dark Chocolate bar, which i totally intended to hid from my family and not share at all. tee hee.  The owner of the blog that i had won on had found my blog through my contest entry and read the post about our house fire.  She then shared our story with the folks at Newman's Own Organic.

i received a very kind letter from the folks at Newman's and a generous offer to send snacks for the entire family, rather than just the normal giveaway prize, because they were saddened by our story. i admit i was quite blown away that a large and well known company like Newman's Own Organics would take the time to write a personal email and show such kindness.

Newman's Own Organics was established as a division of Newman's Own in 1993, and became a separate company in late 2001. The sale of Newman's Own Organics products generates money for the Newman's Own Foundation to give away. Since 1982 Paul Newman and the Newman's Own Foundation have donated more than $350 million dollars to educational and charitable organizations worldwide. What an amazing company! 

i was recently back in touch with Newman's Own Organics and was given the opportunity to review some of their fantastic products and host a giveaway for my readers!

When we received the box...WOW! We were sent an amazing selection to sample.  Many folks are unaware of the variety that Newman's Own organic offers. We were sent an assortment of pretzels, dried fruits, cookies, licorice, chocolates and mints. i was pretty amazed by the selection. My family spent a couple weeks sampling the different products and tried to narrow it  down to our top 4 favorites. It was difficult, they are all delicious!  i had everyone in the family choose their favorite.

i admit it was really hard picking a favorite! i chose the Hermits as my favorite because they are a bit unusual. They are soft, spicy, chewy molasses and raisins cookies. They are quite addictive and are made with real ingredients!

     “Hermits were a family favorite when I was growing up,” say Nell Newman, co-founder and president of the company. “Our recipe, which is based on one we used to make at home, is filled with our delicious organic raisins and sweetened with organic molasses. These spicy, chewy cookies are said to have originated in Colonial New England. One theory is that hermits were named for their long keeping qualities—better when hidden away like a hermit for several days. I doubt if these will last long enough to hide.”

Kenan's favorite is the Espresso Dark Chocolate bar. It's smooth, creamy and made with organic ingredients and grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms. The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal guarantees that the cocoa in our Signature Series was grown on farms that meet comprehensive standards for sustainable farming, protecting soil, waterways and wildlife habitat as well as the rights and welfare of workers, their families and communities.  The Espresso Dark chocolate is definitely one of my favorites too, and all the products in their chocolate line are fantastic. 

My boy chose the original Newman O's as his favorite pick.  These creme filled cookies are perfect for dunking in milk!  You can check out the ingredients here. These come in several delicious flavors like mint, peanut butter, chocolate creme, ginger and they even have a wheat free variety!  My boy loved the original, but i really loved the chocolate creme and was pleasantly surprised by the ginger creme! i didn't get a chance to sample the peanut butter, but i think they would be a favorite and i'm now on the look out for them. You really can't go wrong with any of these, they are so good!

My girl chose the sour strawberry licorice. She definitely has the biggest sweet tooth in the family. She loved all of the licorice flavors, except the black licorice (does anyone actually like black licorice?). The sour flavors are definitely her favorite, although she said they are really not very sour, just very sweet and delicious!  The licorice are made with organic ingredients, and most of the flavors contain elderberry extract and fruit juice concentrate. 

All of Newman’s Own® Organics’ products meet all the requirements of the USDA’s National Organic Program. Ingredients have been grown on farms that have not used artificial fertilizers or pesticides for three years or more. The farms and processors have also met the USDA’s organic standards.

You can check the store locator to find out where you can purchase Newman's Own Organics.

One lucky winner is going to receive  my four favorite products from Newman's Own Organics including the Hermits, Newman O's, Espresso Dark chocolate bar and a pack of sour licorice. 

To enter, just fill in the Rafflecopter form below.  This giveaway will end on  3/31/14. Open to the US only. The winner will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to reply. 

A huge Thank you to Newman's Own Organics for sponsoring this giveaway and offering this fantastic prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: i was sent a box of Newman's Own Organic products to review. This review is 100% my opinion. i was not compensated in any other way for this product review.