Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ouspots Air sofas/inflatable loungers rule! - Product review

i recently had to opportunity to review an air sofa/ inflatable lounger. i've have to say, we totally love this inflatable lounger by #OUTCAM !

 i've seen inflatable loungers advertised and thought they looked so neat! Most of the ones i looked at were priced very high. This one works fantastic and is affordable to anyone! . Our whole family has enjoyed testing this product out. It did not come with directions, but i looked on youtube and had it inflated within minutes. It really is as easy as it looks in the videos.

Even the kids can now inflate this without help. We are looking forward to using it at the outdoor movie night that they have at the Elementary school.  

My son has been lounging in it while reading, doing homework and playing on his ipad.  They really are comfortable. These are great for outdoor concerts, music festivals and really any outdoor event. 

There a bit of a trick to inflating them. This inflatable lounger has two chambers. Be sure to have only one open at a time. Hold one side open with both hands, while keeping the other side closed and run or spin to get some air in it. It will not look very inflated, but's okay! Now do the same thing to the other side. Then roll it up, and snap the straps together. If it doesn't feel fully enough, open one side at a time and do the same thing again. By rolling the opening a few extra times, it will get firmer. i think one the mistakes people make is that they expect it too look totally filled up when they are filling it- it won't. It's when you close it and roll it that it actually takes shape and firms up.

The bag itself is a simple construction. Inside the nylon bag is a thin plastic bag. i'm a little concerned that the plastic will rip or pop and then the Air lounger will no longer hold air. Our cat and dogs keeps trying to get on it, and i do not think it will survive if they ever get their nails on it. The pockets are sewn on with a single row of stitches and the edges are not finished. That being said, for the price it's a great deal! i haven't personally seen the construction of the more expensive bags to know if they use a stronger plastic or are put together differently. As an economical option, you can not go wrong with this one. We love ours! Even my kids can set it up without any help at all. i have not yet mastered getting it back in the bag, but it's similar to packing up a tent, you have to roll it really tightly and make sure you get all the air out.

 i took a video of my husband inflating it and we had no breeze whatsoever, even the slightest breeze makes it completely effortless to inflate, but it can be inflated in a no wind environment.

i received this product for free or discount in exchange for my honest review. i was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chalk Markers in the Greenhouse.

i first discovered chalk board markers several months ago.  i bought a chalkboard to use as a memo board, but chalk looked so sloppy on it. i wanted it to look neater like the bistro boards that you often see with menus listed on them.  i did a little research and learned that they were using chalkboard markers. 

Chalk board markers write like a marker, but once they are dry they wipe off like chalk. The first set i bought off of ebay and i don't remember the brand, but they were fine tipped and behaved just like a regular marker. 

i recently had to the opportunity to review a set of 10 chalk  board markers from #Colors4Fun. These markers are quite large, and behave a bit more like paint pens than markers. You have to press the tip down to get the paint to flow.  

i loved the vibrant colors, but the tips are so fat that it's hard to write details on my little chalk board memo board.

So i took them out to my greenhouse. Chalk markers are one of my favorite 'gardening tools'.  i use them to label my post and seed trays. The chalk labels won't wash off just from basic watering.  When you want to take them off, you just use a damp cloth and they wipe away just like chalk.  They have helped me to stay much more organized this year with my planting. i usually lose my labels or the sharpie wears off and i can't read what i planted, but with the chalk markers the label stay perfectly visable until i want to remove them.

i really love these chalk markers.  My only complaint is that the tips are so fat, although i think for someone writing on a large chalkboard or bistro menu the large tips are perfect. They are just a little big for writing on my small chalk board.  So i'll be on the lookout for some with finer tips, just for that. This set will stay in my greenhouse. It's really a fantastic set. You can find it here on amazon. 

If you've never used chalk board markers before, i'd like to note that they do not always wash off of some chalkboards. i'm not sure why that is, but sometimes they leave a residue behind and sometimes they won't wash off at all. It isn't usually the marker that is the problem, it's the chalkboard. i've found that magic eraser works wonderfully to remove any residue that your chalk board markers have left behind.

Chalkboard markers are truly my new favorite thing and an unlikely gardening tool. Having all my plants labeled this year though, has been wonderful and i can't recommend them enough! 

i received this item for free in exchange for my honest review. i was not compensated. i truly love them!

Raising Black Swallowtails

A few weeks ago i found some Black Swallowtail caterpillars on my dill plants. They were already quite large when i found them, i'm not sure how i missed them before this. 

We brought them inside so we could watch them transform.

Unlike the monarchs, the black swallowtails don't hang upside down in a J. Instead they make a sling out of silk and hang off the side of a stick. 

They shed their skin a final time and the chrysalis is formed.   They typically stay in the chrysalis around 2 weeks, however late season Black Swallowtails will overwinter inside their chrysalis. This can be a problem if you have your chrysalis indoors, because the heat can cause them to eclose prematurely.  If you notice your chrysalis has not eclosed after 4 weeks, it's best to take it outside so that it can overwinter naturally.

Our first black swallowtail eclosed after about 10 days. We had a second one eclose the next day and we have one more chrysalis not quite ready yet. 

Raising black swallowtails is fun and easy. The host plants for the caterpillars are dill, parsley, carrot and fennel.  Every year i plant lots of dill specifically for the black swallowtails, this is the first year i've actually found them on it. i usually find them in my carrots. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Meet Izzy.

 Last week my husband surprised us with a new kitten. It had been living under my neighbor's house and surviving on dog food. The neighbor didn't want it and had been trying to find someone to take it, so Kenan brought it home.  It's about 8 weeks old.

The kids named her Izzy.  Short for Isabelle Mae. i call her little Pip.  Banjo was completely intrigued with her. He stalked her around the house and watched her from a distance. 

By the end of the day they were friends.

Our other cat,  Tallulah, will have absolutely nothing to do with her.  Tallulah stays outside almost all day just to avoid the kitten.  i'm hoping she'll warm up to her eventually.

 Banjo took to her right away and now they are the best of friends. We've had her about a week and she is unbelievably sweet. She was pretty much feral when Kenan brought her home, she had even bite him when he tried to get her from under the neighbor's house. 

Her and Banjo play all day together and snuggle up at nap time. Hopefully Tallulah will get over her jealousy soon. It didn't take her long to accept Banjo when we brought him home, so i'm not sure why she wants nothing to do with this new little kitten. The rest of us all completely in love with her. She seems to like us too. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Koram Grow Bag for Vertical Gardening

i was really excited to review the #Koramgrowbag ! The images from the listing make it look really neat.  However, when i received it i was a little disappointed in the size. So make sure and pay attention to the actual size of the bag.  These images show multiple bags connected together.

i really wanted to love this vertical garden bag, but i don't like it as much as i thought i would. The pictures in the listing are misleading. They must have multiple bags put together in order to create that look. It's much smaller than i expected (approx 3 ft x 11 inches), which is actually okay because once it's filled with soil and watered it's really quite heavy. It's made from heavy duty felt and has loops for hanging and grommets to secure it in place.

i have it hanging in my greenhouse with some lettuce starts and nasturtium planted in it. i think it would look awesome if i had done all nasturtium. It's really not big enough for veggies (in my opinion). So i may replant it with just flowers. i put the plants in a few days ago, and they are doing well. The lettuces wilt a little if it gets too hot in the greenhouse but is otherwise growing well in the bag.

The descriptions shows it being used inside, but the felt gets really wet when you water the plants and so the whole thing becomes quite damp. You wouldn't want that up against a wall without some type of protection behind it. i like the idea of vertical gardening though, and think these could be useful for those gardening with limited space. i attached a picture of me next to the bag so you can get an idea of it's true size. i think it would look awesome on a deck with cascading flowers in it.

Overall, it's not a bad product, but be sure and read the description well and don't assume it's going to be the size of the ones in the photos. The stitching is good, and the felt does appear to be heavy well made and good quality.

i received this product for free or discount in exchange for my honest review. i was not compensated.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Jewelescent Gel Pens by US Art Supply- product review

  My kids and i both love gel pens. i use them in many of the crafts that i do, and we both like them for coloring. There are so many great colors in this set! It has 72 pens!! i don't think i've ever seen so many pens in a set before.

These will work great for adult coloring, scrap-booking and writing. i like to use them on chalkboards, when i have something that i want written/drawn permanently. They really pop on a black background. They are non-toxic and acid-free. All of the US Art Supply product line is really good and inexpensive. i've been very pleased with every product we've tried from them. i'll be review a set of 100 double tipped markers next!

 This set has 3 classic, 12 glitter, 10 metallic, 6 neon, 9 pastel, 12 glitter neon, 12 dye, 2 black and 6 swirl pens in it. They are smooth rolling pens, although some of the stuck just a little when i first tried to use them. They rolled perfectly after that though. They do not write quite as smooth as gelly rolls (my absolute favorite brand), but for the price and the amount of pens it's still a great deal.  The pen barrels are clear so you can easily tell when you are running low on ink. The caps click on the pen securely, so you don't have to worry about your pens drying out because the cap didn't click. . 

 The color choices are amazing, although i couldn't tell exactly what was what with some of them. i love all the glitter and metallic pens the best. The neon and pastel pens are easy to identify, but i wasn't sure what the difference was between the classic and the dye. i also really like the swirl pens. The pens come in a clear plastic box and they snap into a try, making them easy to store. My daughter has been busy drawing with these. This is really a great set for anyone that loves gel pens!

 i received this item for free or discounted in exchange for my honest review. i was not compensated. All opinions are my own. #usartsupply

Raising Monarchs

Every year we walk down the road to collect the monarch eggs and caterpillars before the county mowers mow down all the milkweed. 

The eggs are extremely tiny, but we've learned to spot them easily.  We remove the leaf with the egg and bring it home. We use to leave the eggs and only collect the caterpillars, but the eggs kept disappearing. i don't know where it's ants or something else that carries them off, but something seems to eat them. 

The newly hatched caterpillars are extremely tiny. After they hatch they eat what is let of their egg and then begin to munch on the milkweed.

As the caterpillar grows it sheds it's skin several times. These are called instars.  

When the caterpillar reaches it's final instar (#5) it stops eating and find a quiet place to rest. It spins some silk to create a sling for it's back legs, then it hangs upside down in a J position. It will shed it's skin a final time and underneath is the green chrysalis. 

In this photo you can see the green chrysalis and a newly eclosed Monarch.

When the Monarch is ready to emerge from it's chrysalis, it is visible inside. Sometimes it's gets very dark, almost back a day or two before the monarch is visable.

When the monarch first ecloses, it's wings are crumpled and it's abdomen is swollen. It's body contracts and pushes the fluid from the abdomen into the wings. The sit and let their wings dry for a few hours after they have eclosed. When the wings are dry they will begin to open and close them, signaling that they are ready to be released.

So far we have raised and released 4. i have another chrysalis, a caterpillar in it's final instar and a few newly hatched caterpillars. In the wild only 1 in 10 monarch caterpillars survive to adulthood, so raising them inside in a controlled environment is really important for their survival. Monarch populations have been declining for years because of the use of pesticides and loss of food source (milkweed). This year the monarch population has started to increase and i truly believe that is in part due to the efforts of all those planting milkweed and raising caterpillars inside. 

i truly feel that it is not only beneficial to caterpillars, but also to me and my children. Watching the process and knowing that you are helping to make a difference is a wonderful feeling. Seeing our monarchs fluttering around the herb garden, tasting the flowers and leaving tiny new eggs on our milkweed plants is so incredibly rewarding. 

The movie Flight of the Butterflies  is currently streaming on Netflix. It's a visually stunning documentary that follows the yearlong migration of the monarch butterfly from the volcanic forests of Mexico all the way to Canada. Definitely worth watching. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mini Floating Moss Gardens

Took a walk in the woods yesterday and could not resist coming home with a basket full of beautiful moss. A few years ago i made moss fairy garden inside jars. i'm always looking for interesting jars and containers to create them in.  i recently had the opportunity to review some Glass Bauble ornaments and i knew they would make the perfect terrarium/ moss gardens!! We have so many beautiful types of moss growing in our woods, i knew they'd be easy to make. 

The glass bauble/ terrariums i received come in a set of 4.  They were packaged well, wrapped in bubble wrap and separated inside a box.  They arrived in perfect condition.  They are very lightweight and have a thin hoop with twine attached. They also have a flat bottom, so they can either be hung up or placed on a shelf.

To make a moss terrarium you'll need - 
Glass baubles (you can purchase them here)
 - potting soil mixed half and half with vermiculite
 - Activated charcoal (You can get this at a pet store or garden shop)
 - Gravel, rocks or those pretty flat marbles for fish aquariums. (this is for drainage) 
- Moss, small plants or succulents
- Decorative items-  mini-toadstools (purchased at Michael's), crystals, stones, marbles etc.

These are super easy to put together. You put your rocks/gravel in the bottom, then put a thin layer of the activated charcoal over them. Then you want to add your soil.  Now add your moss down and plants and give it a misting of water.  i use a chop stick to push the plants/decorations in place. Long tweezers would also work. 

i like to add hens and chicks and sedum.  They are very easy to keep and require very little maintenance once they are set up. 

These are super easy to make and they really look pretty a long time. You'll want to place the garden in a spot where it will receive indirect sunlight and mist it now and again to keep it moist, but not too wet.  i love to make these, and they make wonderful gifts. 

i received the #HangingClearGlassBaubleSphere for free in exchange for my honest review.  i was not compensated.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Garden update- August 16

A few photos from August. 

TYpically my gardens peek around the second week of July, but this year i planted a bit late and things really didn't get going until the first week of August.   My first planting of beans is done, but i have a second planting coming in strong.  Squash and peppers are producing well and more of my heirloom tomatoes are finally beginning to ripen. Some take longer than others, i still have several varieties that are green.

Some of the varieties in this photo are Hillbilly, Cherokee Purple, Violet Jasper, Black Cherry, Pink Brandywine, Yoder's German Yellow and Boxcar Willy.

My squash peeked out around the second week of August. We got quite a bit of rain around the end of July/begining of August and my plants statrted producing like crazy and then wilting and dying. i'm still getting plenty of squash although i had to pull most of my plants due to vine borers and mosaic virus. 

My hens have been on a bit of a break. Many of my girls have been broody all summer, and others were molting so i haven't been getting very many eggs. Just recently, they have begun to lay again.  So excited to be getting the maran eggs again. 

This week i've been super busy canning tomatoes, freezing beans and cooking up lots squash!  i'm trying to get my gardens cleaned up so i can put in some fall crops. The tomatoes in my greenhouse are still doing amazing! Next year i may not even bother with garden tomatoes and just grow them in the greenhouse.   

How is e everyone else's garden doing? Did you try any new varieties this year?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Brick Fair 2016 Chantilly VA

School starts this week, so last weekend we wanted to do something fun for the end of summer vacation. We had originally planned to visit to Williamsburg, but my son really wanted to go to Brickfair in Chantilly instead.

He listens to an online  Lego Bionicle Podcast and found out that the members of the pod cast would be there. 

So we waited in line to meet them, get autographs and have his picture taken with them.  It was all very exciting!

On our way to Brickfair (5h drive) my girl drew pictures of the podcast members. When it was time to give them to them, she kind of panicked and didn't want to give them the pictures. i encouraged her to give them the drawing and they LOVED them. They made a huge deal about it, and had her come up and they all asked to take pictures with her (instead of her asking to take a picture with them). They even took a video of her holding the pictures.

She loved the attention and my boy suspects she'll be getting a shout Out on the next pod cast. i think he was a wee bit jealous of the attention she got. ;) Especially since she doesn't even really listen to the podcast.

The Brickfair was pretty overwhelming! It was really large and there were so many people! One of the rooms had all the lego models on display.  These are not sets you can buy, but models people created on their own just using lego pieces.  They were truly amazing!  i'm sharing a couple of my favorites. 
The Harry Potter Quidditch pitch!  The details are unbelievable. Harry and Malfoy are both on broomsticks in the field. You can see Snape, Hagrid, Dumbledore etc up in the stands. i could have stood there all day looking at all the details and finding different mini-figures we recognized.  

The White Council (LOTR).  i love the way the bricks look like water.  

The inside of the tardis. :)  This was amazing and so detailed.

These pictures are entirely made of lego, and they change depending on which angle you are looking at them. There was a lot of 2-d artwork like this besides just the models.

There were so many full landscape sets that were just unbelievable.  So much detail! We really enjoyed looking at them all.  Half the room was models on display and the other half was legos for sale.

They had a second room with bounce houses, games and lego tables set up for the kids to build. 

It was really a pretty neat experience. It was much bigger than i was expecting it to be. i was also able to meet up with a friend i haven't seen in 6-7  years and her kids while i was there.  So that was incredibly special. 

My kids really had a fantastic time, and i have a feeling we'll be back next year if they have it again.