4

Life is a Balance of Effort & Surrender

I’ve got big transitions and tiny living downsizing to share with you! Yes, you read that right, we already live tiny, but we are DOWNSIZING even more!!

When we purchased our Alfa 5th Wheel, we only planned on living in it for about two years. It has been three and a half years now!! That much time, two people, living in 325 sq feet….you’d think we’d be tired of it and ready to move on! Well, we are!! But it’s not the kind of moving on we anticipated.

Our plan was to live in the 5th Wheel as a way to “live within our means” so that we could purchase our own land to settle, build, and homestead. After living comfortably in the RV for a couple years, we started shopping for land. OUTRAGEOUS! We couldn’t even dream of “living within our means” and purchasing even 1 acre of useable land anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. It just wasn’t going to happen. We considered the whole mortgage idea, but it goes against our core values in life! Debt free living is very importance to us. Besides, we don’t really want just 1 acre, we’d like at least 10 – 20 acres for our future homestead. And so the wheels began to turn in our minds as we searched for solutions.

In January of this year (2017), my husband landed a great deal on a 2003 Fleetwood Truck Camper, and purchased it as a fixer upper project. Initially, he thought he’d just give it a rough fix, and use it for solo trips around the country in search of affordable and useable acreage. As he dug into the project, he found more and more things that needed fixing, and as he spent more time on the camper, his creative mind began dreaming up all kinds of amazing solutions for this tiny living space! If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen me share pieces of this incredible project.

I really don’t know what lead to what, but between June and September, our plans had shifted drastically! You may have noticed the blog slow down a bit during this time, as I was trying to sort out where we were even going and what direction to go with my blog. One thing lead to another, and after many long chats over warm coffee, we found ourselves on the other side of some big decisions. Hubby would no longer be taking the camper out on solo trips. He dropped the idea of a “rough fix” and dove head first into a thorough remodel and camper renovation project!!! We decided to put the 5th Wheel up FOR SALE and move into the truck camper, living the RV lifestyle on the road!

The camper project is far from completion, but we are moving forward regardless! With the Oregon rains settling in, and no shop to keep the project dry, it’s time to get down the road. The 5th wheel is scheduled to roll out of here this week, and now begins our adventures living full time in the Truck Camper! Stay tuned for updates as we live in the same tiny space we are trying to renovate, search for our future homestead, and enjoy life moment by moment during this season of our journey.

“Life is a Balance of Effort & Surrender” This is our motto as we take on this stage of life. We are putting in effort to create a lifestyle we love, including work, home, and location. We are surrendering to the challenges and sacrifices we have to make to get there. And we are enjoying the journey, life itself, along the way.

The Houseplant you CAN Grow

The Houseplant You CAN Grow

A while back, I was challenged to write down 3 things that would help make up my “happy place”. That cozy up corner where you can sit back and relax, enjoying everything around you. My 3 things were: animals, plants, and nature. In other words, I love to surround myself with LIFE!

Because of my love for having life all around me, I am constantly trying to raise houseplants! Now, with all the vegetables, herbs, and flowers I can grow, you would think I could grow houseplants too!! But no, the African Violets died and so did the Orchids. I also tried growing Schefflera, Kalanchoe and even Aloe Vera. The Aloe Vera did well for the most part, until we shared our tiny house with a certain little kitty cat who loved to chew on the stalks.

The Houseplant you CAN Grow

One day, my hubby came home from the store with a gorgeous houseplant I had never seen before. I admired it’s tri-colored leaves and was eager to try again to keep a house plant alive. First things first, I looked the plant up on the internet to learn everything I could about it. I didn’t even know what it was called! Oddly enough there was no name anywhere to be found on this plant. After searching for common house plants, I easily identified it as the Pothos Plant, also known as Devil’s Ivy. As I read about it, I learned that it is nearly impossible to kill, even if you forget to water it for long periods of time! Just what I needed. The Photos plant does well in low light, or direct light, rarely needs to be transplanted, and is just all around easy to care for.

The Houseplant you CAN Grow

As you can see here, mine grew quite well, in it’s original pot from the store for over two years! I decided it was time to give it a pretty new pot, fresh soil, and a major hair cut!!

My research said the plant would do better being trimmed back when it was time to transplant into new soil. So I gave this guy a major trimming!! I probably cut about 8 feet of vine length off. It was kind of hard to do it, but I know the plant will be happier for it, and will probably grow back quickly as well.

The Houseplant you CAN Grow

Of course, Kitty Inspector had to come check my work and make sure I was doing a good job!! She is always around, poking her nose in everything just like this when we are doing projects.

The Houseplant you CAN Grow

The finished look! All freshened up, cute tea cup planter, with the roots nested in new soil. I shook off as much of the old dirt as I could from the roots, and untangled the root ball a little bit. I also left one length of vine, because I just couldn’t cut them all off. It looks so happy and healthy now!

Kitty came back and inspected my final look and apparently approved, so I moved my plant back into the house to grow once again. What is you favorite house plant? Do you have any houseplant tips to share? Let me know in the comments!

The Houseplant you CAN Grow

1 Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Lemon Strawberry Jam

Growing up, strawberry jam was always my very favorite. Mom made it in little batches, several times each season. Though she never canned her jam, she usually put a jar or two in the freezer from each batch. We ate the rest within a day or two! My mom’s strawberry jam was one of my favorite things she made.

The summer before I got married, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to pull a jar of mom’s strawberry jam from her freezer…it was going to have to be MY strawberry jam! So that summer I picked my own berries, and made my own batch of jam. Of course, I didn’t own a freezer yet, so I went ahead and canned my jam and kept it in my bedroom until time to move into my first home of my own.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Since then, I have made jam every summer, using several different methods and multiple recipes. I went through a stage where I tried to cut as much sugar as possible out of our diet. This included the strawberry jam. After several batches of trial and error, some hard earned jars of jam getting tossed in the compost, and a whole lot of phone calls to Mom and hubby’s Mom, I have finally settled on my favorite way to make strawberry jam.

Cleaning the Kitchen

Anytime I’m going to do a project in the kitchen, the first step is to clean everything up. My husband and I joke about this often. As soon as one of us finishes doing the dishes we say “okay, it’s all ready for you to make it messy again!” And believe me, making jam is a take over the house kind of project for me.

It’s important to have clean surfaces to work on since you’re going to be canning the jam. Everything needs to be sanitary. You don’t want any bacteria going into the jars with your delicious fruit. I also work better in a clean space.

Gather Supplies/Equipment

Here is a list of the items you need for this canning project.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Preparing the Berries

 

Cut the stems off your strawberries and toss them in the compost bin for the chickens. (You have chickens, right!?) Then rinse the strawberries well under cold water and place in a colander to drip dry.

There’s no need to slice your berries. I just mash them with a potato masher, just enough to accurately measure 8 cups of smashed berries.

The Ingredients

  • Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!Fresh Strawberries
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Lemon Juice

Tips & Tricks

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Why am I putting butter in my Strawberry Jam!? This is something I learned from my mom. The butter keeps the jam from foaming up so much and boiling over!

As I already said above, I really love to cut sugar back as far as I possible in my recipes. Strawberries are already pretty sweet, so I used to think I could really cut the sugar back. I tried and failed two years in a row. The jam still tastes fine, but it doesn’t hold a good texture, it doesn’t keep good color in the jars, and quite frankly, I was afraid to eat it after being stored for just a few months. When you spend precious money on beautiful berries, a few days of your time canning the preserves, and space in your pantry to store it, you really want to be confident that your jam is still going to taste good when you go to use it. I’ve determined that I am only comfortable cutting the sugar back to 5 cups of sugar to 8 cups of berries. That still seems like a lot of sugar to me, but compared to equal parts sugar and berries, that is a huge improvement!

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!One last tip I have for you is the gel test. Take a metal spoon and throw it in the freezer as you start cooking down your jam. When you are getting close to the end of the projected processing time, grab that spoon from the freezer and scoop up a spoonful of your tasty jam. If it pours off the spoon, it is not set yet. If you get one line of drip, it still isn’t set. Two lines of dripping off the spoon and you’re in the acceptable margin. For the best jam, you want it to actually come off the spoon in a sheet…so a bit like a waterfall perhaps.

So many times I have gotten scared and went ahead and took my jam off the burner before it had set. We ended up with strawberry syrup instead of jam. Now I am very patient. I just keep licking that spoon, putting it back in the freezer, and trying the gel test again every few minutes until it is just perfect. My mom is amazing, she just eyeballs it every time. Her jam always turns out. Perhaps after years of experience, I will be able to do the same. But for now, I will stick with the gel test, enjoying little spoonfuls of delightful jam as I clean the spoon to put it back in the freezer to test again.

 

Preparing the Jars

While waiting for your jam to cook and set, gather your canning jars together and sterilize them. You can run them through a rinse cycle in the dish washer, set them in the rack of your already boiling canner, or simply hand wash them in very hot tap water (but only if your tap water is truly VERY hot like mine).

After sterilizing the jars, I set them out on a towel (to catch the drips) on the counter. Next you want to bring your lids to a boil in a small pan. Get your funnel, ladle, jar lifter, and any other items ready to go. Get a small clean wash cloth damp and ready to wipe the rims of the jars.

The Canning Process

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!Ladle your hot jam into the sterilized, and hopefully still hot, jars. Be sure to leave 1/4-1/2 inch of headspace. Next take your damp wash cloth and clean off the rim of each jar. I always think I can’t see that I spilled anything on the rims, but every time as I wipe them off, my cloth shows red strawberries that it cleaned off. If the rims have anything on them, it can mess up the seals of the lids.

Once the rims are clean, use your handy dandy magnetic lid lifter to grab your lids from the pan of hot water. Place on each jar and secure with a clean ring. Screw the rings down firmly, but not too tight.

With your jars ready to go, transfer them carefully to the rack in the canner. If you have empty spaces between jars, fill an empty jar with hot water to fill in the gaps. Don’t leave empty spaces in the canner or your jars of jam may fall over during processing.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Lastly, carefully lower the rack with the jars down into the boiling water. I really take my time with this! When I first started canning, I broke at least one jar per batch of canning. This got old really fast!! I’ve decided it is worth it to just lower VERY slowly, allowing the jars to adjust to the temperature gradually. I would rather take an entire minute to lower my jars, than to constantly risk breaking jars. Since adopting this practice, I can hardly remember breaking a canning jar. Yes, there is already hot jam in your jars, so technically they are hot…but I’ve just broken too many jars and I’m not about to let a jar of delicious strawberry jam spill wastefully into my canner. Better safe than sorry!!!

Final Steps

Once the water reaches a gently rolling boil, process the jars for 15 minutes. When the timer rings, lift the jar rack and rest it on the edges of the canner while you prepare a place to set the jars. I usually throw a towel on the back of the counter or the back of the table, somewhere out of the way as the jars will need to rest there for 24 hours before you should move them.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

Carefully use your jar lifter to grab each jar of jam and transfer it to the cooling area. You’ll notice that some of the jars will have already sealed (that’s what that popping sound is!) while they were sitting in the rack cooling. Some people like to count the pops as each jar seals, I usually don’t even notice anymore.

One the jars have fully cooled, you can check the seals. I like to check two ways. I remove all the rings and then push my finger down on the center of each lid. If the lids pushes down at all, that jar is not sealed and should either be eaten right away or re processed. The second way I check the seals is by picking each jar up by the edge of the lids.

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!

If everything is sealed, you’re ready to store your jars away! I leave the rings off for storage and I give them a gentle washing before they go into the cupboard as well. If there is any jam leftovers sitting on the outside of the jars, it will mold and just be gross. I’d rather wipe them down now so I can pull beautiful clean jars out of the cupboard.

Favorite Ways to Enjoy

Canning Lemon Strawberry Jam, all about the process!It doesn’t get much better than homemade white bread fresh out of the oven with homemade strawberry jam slathered all over it!! But, if you’re not in the mood for baking bread, there are several other delicious ways to enjoy your jam. Add a spoonful to plain yogurt, use as a pancake topping, or eat with your favorite biscuits. What’s your favorite way to enjoy strawberry jam? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to share this post on social media if you enjoyed.

8 Home Tour Summer 2017, RV 5th Wheel

Home Tour Summer 2017

It occurred to me recently that I started this blog with the intent of sharing my home “inside and out”…but most of my posts have been outside! Now, that’s not entirely surprising, as I do spend much of my time outdoors. However, I do want to share the inside of my home with you as well. So that’s what I’m doing today!Tour our 1997 5th wheel RV

Welcome to my home!!

Come on in and enjoy a cup of coffee with me. Time for a home tour of my 36′ Alfa Ideal 5th wheel which has been our home for the past 3 and 1/2 years. We downsized from a 1000 square foot modular home to our current 325 square foot RV.

Large slide out RV decor, 1997 5th wheel.

This view of our largest slide out is what greets you as you step inside our tiny RV home. Half living room space, have dining room space. The dining table and chairs are an antique store find. Shabby Chic Dining table and chairsThe drop leaf style table works perfectly for our small space. When we are not using the table, we just fold it down and have room to turn the chairs around as extra seating for guests. During occasions where we have multiple guests for dinner (yes, that does happen in our tiny home!), we can easily pull the table out into the middle of our living room and seat 6 people quite comfortably.

You can view the video tour of our home on YouTube as well:

My little cozy up corner occupies the other half of this slide out. I love a good rocking chair, and I finally came up with the perfect “inn table” solution to house my lamp, books, computer and other personal things that I use on a daily basis.Office space in a 5th wheel My hubby had built these sturdy wooden crates out of scrap wood for garden produce during harvest season. I just love them and have used them for so many things! They make a perfect little bookcase, with space to organize a few other items and place a lamp (and a cup of coffee!) on top.

The Office

Moving around the room to the left, we have our “office”, if you can even call it that! Home to the printer, electronics/chargers/paper clips, etc.. This is also one of the few spaces in the house that I get to decorate. With so many windows (9 BIG windows in the living area!!), there is scarcely a place to hang a picture. So our favorite beach picture found a home where the TV used to be.

I would say this is one of the less than appealing sections of the house, and we have talked of tearing these cabinets out and re-designing this corner MANY times. But it has never happened, mostly because we live here and there just isn’t room for remodeling, especially when you have clients coming into your home for music lessons on a weekly basis!

I should mention that we purchased this RV with no furnishings. All the original furniture had already been taken out. I was glad of this because I wanted to re decorate anyways! The RV style window treatments were the first to go!! I replaced them with regular curtains and bamboo window blinds.

The Cubic Mini Wood Stove

Our newest addition to our small home is this adorable wood stove from Cubic Mini Wood Stoves. We have enjoyed the cozy warmth from this stove immensely!! If only we had known about these tiny stoves sooner! Our electric bill was through the roof the two winters before we purchased this stove. This past winter, not only did we save on our electric bill, we stayed warmer and cozier too!! We are so thankful for our wood stove.

Music studio in a 5th wheel RV

RV Style Music Studio

As you probably know, I am a private violin coach and teach private music lessons on a weekly basis. When we first toyed with the idea of moving into an RV, one of my biggest concerns was my piano. Ain’t nobody putting a full size acoustic piano in an RV!! Oh my was it ever a debate between my husband and I! Between his back trouble, our mission to downsize, and dreams of tiny home living, we had some decisions to make regarding my musical instrument situation. Full size Piano in an RVIn the long run, we decided to go with this Yamaha Digital Piano and I have to say, I am in LOVE with it and it is the nicest piano I have ever had.

Have you ever seen an RV with a full size piano AND a wood stove!? Pretty awesome I think. When people walk into our house, one of their first comments is something like, “Oh wow! You have a piano in here!!” I think a piano adds a very “homey” feel and just really helps the atmosphere of our home. I’m so thankful I didn’t have to say goodbye to owning a piano!

Oh and, in case you were wondering, that’s Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse hanging out on the music stand of the piano. They help me teach the little musicians!
Bookcase decor
We only have room for one bookcase in our little house. But then, who really needs to own books these days anyways? When you look them up on Amazon, you can get a copy of most books for pennies! And of course there is always the community library too. These books are either for reference, or sentimental in some way.

Again, I’m glad for a small space to decorate and display. I just love the glass doors on this bookcase. Seeing as this sits right beside the piano, I keep a lot of my music books down there on the bottom shelf for accessibility.

My Favorite Kitchen

And then there is the kitchen. You know, this is the smallest kitchen I’ve ever had, but it is by far my favorite! I have space for exactly what I need and nothing more. Letting the dishes pile up is not an option. Everything is within hands reach, and everything has a specific place. I’ve never had a more practical or organized kitchen. I also love that it is right close to the living room, so I can visit with guests while I work in the kitchen to finish up dinner.RV Kitchen

I don’t have a picture of it, but we do have two propane refrigerators in here, a pantry cupboard, and some extra storage above and below the refrigerators. I tend to have a “self sufficient” mindset and do lots of preserving and canning. I also like to stock up on certain pantry items when I find a good deal. Thanks to an extra chest freezer that we keep outside, I’ve never had to hold back on putting up food.

RV decor

This picture shows a bit of my storage spaces, including an extra canning shelf that my husband had built for our previous home. I’m thankful we were able to bring it with us into the RV.

We did replace the flooring soon after moving into our 5th wheel. It used to be a laminate floor with a bit of southwestern flair. I kind of liked it! But it was old and getting chipped in multiple places.

Hubby installed this flooring as a birthday gift to me one year. I really love the grey wood look, and they are so easy to clean! We had thought about ripping out the teal carpet (I kind of hate my teal carpet!), but alas, we decided to keep a little bit of cozy carpet in part of the house. I try to ignore the carpet color, but it kind of dominates my decor options!! Nothing against teal, it’s just not very suitable as carpet.

A Bedroom for Two

RV bedroom decor

Next up is the bedroom. Folks, it’s kind of hard to make a cozy haven of a bedroom when it is this cramped! This has been a bit of a frustration for me as I really value making a special place for me and my hubby to relax. But, I’ve made the most of what I have to work with.

Cozy RV bedroomWhen things are this tight, it gets messy VERY fast! I am always cleaning the bedroom, and tidying up in here, and yet it seems like it is always messy. Or shall we say, “lived in”?

This is about a cozy as it gets in here. We have room for a few special quilts and blankets, which kitty Macchiato uses as a bed, and some extra throw pillows. I’m pleased that we also found space for my cedar chest that my dad built for me as a high school graduation gift.

You can’t see it in the picture, but there is a llama engraved into the top of this chest. Inside are some of our keepsakes, and a couple more blankets.

The Practical Rooms

Looking back from the bedroom towards the living room, you see that the bathroom is between the two. Both of these doors close either direction, which is very handy.

5th wheel decor

After complaining about too many windows in the main part of the house, I find it humorous that I “added” a window to the bathroom decor. It just seemed fitting for a space that felt so cramped! Here are a couple pictures from the bathroom/laundry area.

I just love my Splendide Washer/Dryer Combo!!! We drove through a snow storm to pick this gem up during the first January we lived in the RV. What an adventure! Love having memories like that behind the things I own. Anyhow, this amazing machine works like a charm. You put the clothes in dirty and take them out clean AND dry! There are a couple down sides to it, such as TINY loads of laundry, and the frustration of not having a lint screen.

All my extra linens fit in the closet space above the washer, which would normally be very limited by a double stacking washer and dryer set.

A Wooded Front Yard

Last but not least, I had to share a few pictures from my front yard as I do consider this a big part of my home. We both spend a lot of time outside and we really enjoy our unique front yard that is much more like a small park.

I hope you enjoyed the tour! We feel very blessed to have been able to live here for the past 3 years. If you enjoyed the tour, please consider sharing this post via social media. And don’t forget to leave me a comment and let me know how you enjoyed your visit to my country home!!

Home Tour of 1997 Alfa 5th Wheel

4 Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from Scratch

Making your own strawberry rhubarb pie from scratch is easy! Everyone is always talking about how much they love Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and I had never had it before. Okay, I take that back…I did attempt to make it a couple years ago with some really mature rhubarb someone gave me and it was a total fail! As long as you have good rhubarb (that is not overly mature) and fresh strawberries (I’m sure you could use canned or frozen too!), this strawberry rhubarb pie will not disappoint.

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

strawberry season

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

The pie set up perfectly! The filling wasn’t runny in the least.

I started noticing strawberry posts in my Instagram feed which made me realize it was Strawberry season! Everything has been 1-2 months late this year so I had assumed strawberries were late as well. Apparently not! Instead we had a rather poor season for strawberries, with hot sunny weather and then rain, both of which are hard on strawberries. But I managed to get some lovely, super sweet strawberries from my local co-op for a great price!

First priority was to make jam, which I will blog about in another post soon. Strawberry jam is my absolute favorite (okay, maybe blackberry or boysenberry…) and I finished up my last jar just days before the co-op opened the strawberry buy. I wanted to make sure to replenish my supply for the coming year! Store bought jam just doesn’t compare. Like, at all!!!

strawberry rhubarb jam anyone?

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

Mature rhubarb doesn’t work well for pie. I selected the thinnest pieces of rhubarb in my bundle.

I purchased a bundle of rhubarb to go along with my strawberries with the intention of making Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and also Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. Have you ever had or made strawberry rhubarb jam? I’d love to hear if you have! I’m very eager to try it out, but I ended up with 18 jars of regular strawberry jam so decided to make a pie, and throw the rest of the rhubarb in the freezer. Oh yummy! Another Strawberry Rhubarb pie later on this summer?

When I picked up my rhubarb from the co-op, I was a bit devastated to see that the stalks were rather large and looked very mature. Nooo!!! Not this again! The first time I tried to make strawberry rhubarb pie, the stalks were much too mature and would not cook down, no matter how long I left it in the oven. We ended up with burnt pie, crunchy red celery, and one embarrassed housewife!!! I even served it to company!

 

picking the recipe

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

Chop the rhubarb into 1/4″ to 1/2″ chuncks.

Carefully picking through the stalks, I selected only the smallest stalks and decided to give it my best shot. With my back already aching from making my batches of strawberry jam, I sat down for a few minutes to select the perfect pie recipe from my favorite online hangout, Pinterest. I found a few that looked interesting, but most called for way more sugar than I was willing to use. After comparing about 5 different recipes, I decided to go with this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

However, I did NOT pour the liquid off the strawberry/rhubarb/sugar mixture before pouring into my pie pan. My thought was, the sugar pulls the sweetness and juices out of the strawberries…why would I throw that away? Seems to me that’s where the flavor is at! I had put tapioca flour in to thicken things up, so I decided to take my chances. Besides, the liquid would probably help soften my chunks of rhubarb as well.

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

My unique way of making a lattice pie crust! I don’t weave, I just criss cross the pieces.

why did this recipe win?

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

If you don’t like the square look, start criss crossing from one edge instead of starting in the middle like I did.

In my baking, I have learned that it is sometimes the tiny ingredients that make all the difference for mouth watering flavor. Sally’s recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of orange juice. Also, she pairs half brown sugar with half white sugar which I have learned makes a big difference in flavor as well. More rhubarb than strawberries?? Less than a cup of sugar!? Yep, you’ve got my attention. SOLD!

I’m not sure I’ll ever have the courage to try a different recipe, this one turned out so well!

the result? mouth watering pie!

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

It is worth the extra step to paint whisked egg over the crust and then sprinkle with sugar.

Oh my goodness gracious!!! As this pie bubbled away in the oven, I could just smell that it was going to be delicious. Pulling it out of the oven, I was kicking myself because it was 11pm by the time it finished baking and I was going to have to wait until morning to even taste it! At least I had something to look forward to for breakfast.

I did a quick photo shoot the next morning before we sat down to breakfast so I would have pictures to share with you guys. My mouth was watering in anticipation just looking at it, as some of you mentioned on social media as well!

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

As I took my first bite of pie, before my hubby had even sat down to breakfast (sorry! I couldn’t wait any longer!!) he asked, “is that the royal bite?” I nodded. It was perfect! No tough rhubarb, the filling set up nicely, the crust was perfectly flaky (brushing the egg on top was an extra step I’ve never done before but totally worth it!), and the flavor was exquisite! I’m not even kidding! I may have found a new favorite pie. It was amazing…and only survived two short days in our pie loving hands.

Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from scratch. Unique ingredients for superb flavor!

A perfect breakfast. Mouth watering and delicious!!

How to mend jeans in 5 easy steps with pictures

How to Mend Jeans in 5 Easy Steps

For some, ripped jeans are right in style and they actually purchase them new with rips and tears!! Well, I have a hard time keeping mine in working order. I have to tend to those torn jeans before long or I don’t have a pair of jeans to speak of anymore! Now, if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my post stating that dealing with the mending pile is one of my least favorite house chores. But, that is what I tackled this week and now I’m going to share with you, in 5 easy steps, how I mend my jeans.

How to mend jeans in 5 easy steps with pictures

I had some wool felt in my sewing cabinet, leftover from when I made my Crazy Cat Quilt. I thought this would work well because it would be fairly soft against the skin and not likely to unravel over time.

How to mend jeans in 5 easy steps with pictures

I cut a piece of cloth about 1/4″ larger than the hole I was patching on all sides. Then I reached inside the jeans to place the patch where I wanted it. I like to work from the side that’s actually going to show.

How to mend jeans in 5 easy steps with pictures

Intending to do a zigzag stitch, I almost forgot to set the seam by starting with a forward and back straight stitch. The zigzag seam is nice because it buttons down all those loose ends that are trying to unravel.

How to mend jeans in 5 easy steps with pictures

I reverse stitched right back over the top of my first zigzag seam to be sure I caught all the threads. And I was too lazy to pull it out of the machine, and restart going forward when I could just hold the reverse button down. LOL!

How to mend jeans in 5 easy steps with pictures

This is something I had to learn the hard way. The first few times I patched my husbands jeans, I soon discovered the patch cloth was unraveling, folded over, and frankly very uncomfortable. To avoid this, I always stitch all the way around the edge of my patch to secure all sides and prevent any unraveling. Not that wool felt would unravel! But it depends what type of fabric you use. This tends to make the patch look a little messy, but it gets the job done. I don’t know about you, but I’m more worried about getting the job done than caring how it looks.

How to mend jeans in 5 easy steps with pictures

Aw, the wonderful feeling of knowing I resurrected something a lot of people would have thrown in the Goodwill or even the trash. I really don’t think the patch is very noticeable. It would have been a lot harder to see had I used blue thread…but once again, I was too lazy to change out the spool and bobbin for a different color! Simply because it doesn’t matter to me. These are my work jeans now and the plants in my garden really don’t care.

How to mend jeans in 5 easy steps with pictures

 

 

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Kitchen Herb Garden

I’ve always wanted a kitchen herb garden. Something about it just sounds a bit romantic and cozy. Not to mention being able to snip fresh herbs right from the plant and into my cooking! Remember those White Washed Terra Cotta Pots I painted the other day? Well, those became the perfect white decor addition to my home in the form of a kitchen herb garden!

Kitchen Herb Garden in White Washed Pots

My little herb garden has been in my plans for a long time, ever since I bought my terra cotta pots at Fred Meyer’s Fuchsia Saturday sale in the beginning of April. It took me a few weeks to find time to white wash my pots, and then I had to wait a couple more weeks for the Pomeroy Farm Herb Festival at their Country Life Fair.

Country Life Fair at Pomeroy Farm

The Country Life Fair takes place on the historic Pomeroy Farm each year. The Herb Festival is what keeps me going back each year but they also welcome private vendors, give hay rides, and tours of the historic buildings and garden areas. There are herbs available here that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else, my favorite being Purple Mountain Basil. Unfortunately, they didn’t have my favorite Basil plant this year so I will have to make do with the other varieties.

Starting the day off with piano festival for one of my students, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get to Pomeroy Farm very early. My dad likes to attend the herb festival each year as well so I asked him to grab a few of my favorite plants for me before the early crowd bought them out. After a quick visit to the herb festival and a nice lunch with my mom, I was on my way home with these lovely little plants!

Herbs for Kitchen Garden

Kitchen Herb Garden in White Washed PotsI gather my supplies together and set up a temporary potting bench by spreading a piece of plywood over our wheelbarrow. Here is a list of everything I used to do this project.

I also made sure I filled my watering can up so I could give my newly potted plants a drink right away! Then I set the camera up so I could video the planting process for you. 🙂 Enjoy!

Every time I’m out working, Macchiato shows up to help me out and keep me company! Gardening with a cat can be interesting. I was worried that she might dig in my pots on the table but she hasn’t bothered them yet! She isn’t a kitten anymore so I’m sure that makes a difference. She used to be a real nuisance!

Gardening with CatsThe herbs and plants I ended up with were:

  • Red Robin Basil (a purple variety of basil)
  • Druett’s Variegated (the cutest plant I’ve ever seen!)
  • Tri-colored Sage (our favorite for breakfast gravy)
  • Pesto Basil (it just sounds so tasty!!)
  • Ornamental Curry (oh how I wish it was culinary)
  • Lemon Thyme (these smell amazing)
  • Dwarf Oregano (a small, creeping variety)

I tried to organize my pots so they each had a tall plant and a spreading plant. Pictured left is my Pesto Basil grouped together with my Dwarf Oregano.

Kitchen Herb Garden in White Washed PotsThey are doing really well together! I’m hoping the Pesto Basil will branch out a bit more and show off it’s pretty leaves. I can’t wait to taste this Basil in a Pesto recipe!!

Oregano is one of my favorite herbs to grow and use. It seems like every recipe calls for a bit of Oregano. I go through bushels of it when I make my home canned pasta sauce in the summer time. It also ends up in most every soup!

I did save a couple plants out for other pots, like the lettuce that I bought. Normally I would never purchase lettuce starts, but I knew I wouldn’t be growing lettuce at all this year if I left it to starting them from seeds. It just wasn’t going to happen. So I went ahead and bought some lettuce which I poked around out the sides of another hanging basket, just like I did with my Strawberries this year. I planted one of my Basil plants in the top portion of this basket.

Kitchen Herb Garden in White Washed PotsArtistically, three is a very balanced number. I planted three herbs in one of my pots; Thyme, Curry, and Sage. This curry plant smells amazing!! My husband commented on being able to smell it when I brought them home. Since I’ve been trying a lot of Paleo recipes lately, I’ve been using curry more and more in my cooking. I really wish this was a culinary plant instead of ornamental. I don’t know what the difference is, but someday I will grow some culinary curry.

We love to use sage, mostly for breakfast gravy. I’m pretty sure sage is my husband’s favorite herb! I like to grow all the different varieties, there are just some many unique sage plants. The variegated leaves are my favorite.

Even though I don’t use Thyme that often when I’m cooking, I love to grow this herb! Of course it goes in anytime my recipe calls for Italian Seasoning (which is just a combination of Oregano, Thyme, Basil, and maybe Rosemary). But the pretty little flower blossoms on this herb are on of my favorites! It is by far my favorite herb to use when I make knot gardens because of it’s bushy, but small, growing style.

Kitchen Herb Garden in White Washed PotsAnd then my favorite planter pot. I just love how this pot turned out! It’s so pretty!! Variegated leaves mixed in with a vibrant purple Basil plant.

No, this Druett’s Variegated plant is not an herb. It is a flowering plant. But I fell in love with the variety of leaves!! Some are solid green, some variegated, and some white. I thought this might change with different lighting, but it has kept it’s beautiful variety! I’m anxious to see what the blossom look like. By far my favorite of the three pots I put together.

Kitchen Herb Garden

And that concludes my kitchen herb garden project! Well worth the wait, enjoyed every minute of the process to create this lovely space in my home.

Kitchen Herb Garden in White Washed Terra Cotta Pots

2 White washing terra cotta pots.

White Washing Terra Cotta Pots

I’ve been noticing white washed pots in a lot of farmhouse decor and white decor homes. Ever since joining Instagram a few months ago, these white pots just keep showing up in my feed. Every time I see them I just think how much I like them and would love to have some pots like that! Well, I decided I was going to have white pots for my kitchen herb garden this year.

White washing terra cotta pots

why i went with terra cotta

At first I planned on purchasing my white pots, but as I started shopping around, I noticed that nice pots were about $10-$30 each. Then I noticed the terra cotta pots. I’ve always liked these pots anyway and I loved the variety of shapes and sizes to choose from. I’d seen a lot of people showing off their painted Terra cotta pots on Pinterest, so I decided to give it a try. I picked out 3 medium sized terra cotta pots that I thought would fit nicely on my dinning table. I went home with my 3 pots for less than $10 total. I knew I could use leftover white paint we had at home to decorate these pots just how I wanted.

White wash terra cotta pots

This project sat on the kitchen table for a couple weeks waiting for a break in my schedule. I’ve found that I have to make breaks for my projects, that is the only way I can get them done. There is always more “work” to do, always some responsibility that tries to stay ahead of my efforts to create a homemade life. We all have the same amount of time in each day, and we have time for what we make time for. One Sunday, I chose to make time for my white pots.

White washing terra cotta pots

a whiter white wash

Most of the white washing I was finding on Pinterest was very thing. So thin that the orangish terra cotta color was still very present. I wanted more of a solid white, but with the textured look that white washing gives. This was my first attempt at white washing anything so I wasn’t sure how much I should water the paint down. Since I knew I wanted a solid white color with texture, I decided to try the normal thickness of the paint first.

supplies to white wash terra cotta pots

I gathered my supplies together: paint brush, old paint can, an old rag, a shop towel to protect the table, and my pots. As I was getting things set up, my husband commented that I might want to change out of my nice clothes before I started painting. I brushed it off at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew it would just be silly to accidentally ruin my nice clothes with a splotch of paint. I took an extra minute to run in the bedroom and change into some older clothes with some rips and tares before continuing.

three tries a charm

Throwing the shop towel over the kitchen table, I spread out my workspace. When I was shopping for my pots, I went ahead and purchased the little coaster bases for each pot. So I had three of these bases to test my white washing skills before I had to work on the more visible surfaces of the actual pots. I painted the first one solid white and then tried to use my rag to wipe some of the paint off in ares to create the textured look I wanted. Well, this didn’t work out so well! The paint soaked right into the terra cotta and wasn’t going anywhere by the time I grabbed the rag to do some texturing.

White Wash Terra Cotta Pots

Next I found a disposable ziplock container and poured about 5 tablespoons of paint into the container. Then I added 1-2 tablespoons of water and mixed it together thoroughly with my paint brush. Grabbing the second planter base, I tried again. This time I got exactly what I was after! Nice white color, but thin enough to leave the marks of the paint brush trailing behind. When blended with the rag it was perfect! Exactly what I was hoping for. I perfected my blending skills on the third planter base but I still felt a little nervous about painting the pots themselves. Oh well! Time to get it done! It would either work or it wouldn’t, either way, I could still plant my plants in the pots just fine.

White washing terra cotta pots

blending the texture with a rag

Starting from the bottom of the pot, I did three rows of painting. I found that my paint brush had enough paint to get all the way around nicely one time. Then I had time to blend the texture how I liked with the rag before the paint dried or soaked into the planter too much. I found that the watered down paint didn’t soak into the pot quite as fast, which is exactly what I needed, to give me time to blend and touch up.

White washing terra cotta pots

I carefully set the pots aside to dry after painting the outsides of them. By the time I had finished painting all three pots, the first pot was basically dry. I picked it up carefully and turned it upright to paint the inside rim, just deep enough to reach the soil depth. This was one of the messiest parts of my task. Since I had already painted the outsides of the pots, any excess paint that ended up on the lip of the pot tried to run down the outside. I caught onto this on the first pot, so I was quick to grab up my rag to wipe the rim after running the paint brush around on the inside. Of course, it was also difficult to make a clean sweep with the brush on the inside of the pot, but it didn’t matter because the soil would cover the rugged edges of my painting. It was messy, but also the least visible part of the pot, so I didn’t worry about it too much.

the final product

White wash terra cotta pots

From start to finish I’d say this project took me about 45 minutes. Most of that time was spent prepping my work space, and coming up with a plan. It was a very easy project and turned out just how I imagined. For my first time white washing, I was pretty pleased.

How to Grow Strawberries in a Hanging Basket

How to Grow Strawberries in a Hanging Basket

A couple Saturdays ago I headed down to Fred Meyer for their Fuchsia Saturday event. Each year, on the first Saturday in April, Fred Meyer gives away free potting soil at this event. Now it’s not just any old potting soil either, it is my favorite brand; BlackGold! This is a pretty popular event, but not something you want to show up early to attend! Last year I got up extra early to try to beat the crowds only to learn that gardeners are an early crowd!! This year I didn’t get there until about 2:00PM. The parking lot was still packed, but the lines were a lot shorter.

Container gardening with strawberries

I took my time picking out various flowers from the garden center, then did my grocery shopping, and then got in line to get my free potting soil. There was only a handful of people in line ahead of me and I got my potting soil and headed back to my truck in no time.

Variety of flowers for containers

Truck felt a little out of place in the crowded parking lot. We found a place to park in the very back corner, but it sure was tight!

Parking lot at Fuchsia Saturday

When I got back home, I gathered my pots, new plants, and old plants together to make a plan. I wanted to put as much as I could in my hanging baskets to avoid letting things sit on the ground in reach of chicken feet and deer muzzles. Macchiato jumped right in to help me out with the spring planting.

Cat gardening helper

I had some old strawberry starts from last year. I had taken these off the mother plants and put them into individual pots to establish themselves before planting. When I was cleaning out the greenhouse this spring, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for these starts and wonder if there was a way I could save them. They really didn’t look very good after sitting in pots all summer and through the winter too. I decided to try!

Grabbing my largest hanging basket, I cut holes in the coco fiber liner all the way around the sides. I would poke one strawberry start out each of these holes and then plant flowers up on top. The strawberries wouldn’t take any extra space in the flower basket. Just making good use of the space I already have.

Poke holes in coco fiber basket

Now to prepare the plants! Pulling off the dead leaves from each strawberry start was the first step to reviving these little guys and giving them another chance. Once I removed the dead leaves, I carefully removed as much of the old soil from the root ball as I could. They were potted in clay soil mixed with potting soil and they were obviously ready for a new home.

I’ve never had very good success growing strawberries because they love well draining soil. My soil has always been thick clay that compacts on the tender roots and either holds too much moisture in the spring, or won’t soak up water at all during the summer. Well, since I am planting in a container this time, I get to make my own soil conditions! I grabbed a bag of rose sand and mixed it 50/50 with regular potting soil. This made a very crumbly soil texture which I’m confident the strawberries will appreciate. Only trouble is going to be regular watering during the summer months.

Sandy Soil

Trying to be gentle with the plants, I gathered the leaves together and poked their heads through the holes in the sides of the basket. It’s really important to strawberries to keep their crowns above ground so I tried to be really careful how far I poked them through. I filled the container with my 50/50 sandy soil mixture as I went, allowing the dirt to support the roots of my starts. Once I had them all planted, I cover their roots with the mixture and then topped it off with pure potting soil.

Grow Strawberries in a hanging basket

 

I had a hard time deciding which of my flowers to plant out the top of this basket. It is the biggest basket I have, so I decided my biggest flower needed to grow in this pot. That ended up being my Voltage White Osteospermum. This flower grows up to 15 inches wide so I figure it will have plenty of room to grow here. I also wanted a flower that would spill over the sides of the planter so I stuck one of my wave petunias in this planter as well.

Container Gardening

The rest of my planting was easy. Just a matter of grouping tall, short, and spilling plants in an attractive manner for each pot. Once I got them all planted, I set out to find homes for each of them. I hung as many as I could up high to keep them safe from the deer, especially the strawberries. I set the pots that couldn’t hang up about 3 feet off the ground so the chickens can’t get to them at least. I made a bit of a blockade to discourage the deer, but I’m mostly just keeping my fingers crossed that the deer will leave my precious flowers alone!! So far so good. I’m sure it will be more of an issue later in the summer when they don’t have as much to eat.

Flowers for container gardening

If you’d like to see exactly how I planted my strawberries, more details on making a sandy soil mixture, and making holes in the coco fiber container lining, watch the YouTube video I made of the process below.

What have your grown successfully in pots and containers? Let me know in the comments! I was really happy to be able to make good use of the space in my hanging flower basket to grow some food!

Strawberries in a hanging basket

4 Transplanting herbs from the garden to containers

Transplanting Herbs from the Garden to Containers

Spring has finally arrived. The sun is starting to shine, everything is turning green and starting to grow, and I’ve been getting really anxious to do some gardening! Tending to plants brings so much joy into my life. Join me today in the beginnings of my first attempt at container gardening.

Wheelbarrow of herbs ready to plant

I’ve been so thankful for the privilege of a very large gardening space these past 6 years. So much food has been grown, harvested, processed, and enjoyed at our dinner table. No matter how big my gardening space, I always seem to want MORE SPACE!!! Well, this year I get to practice self control because I’m going to be doing container gardening! I’m excited about this new venture, as well as a bit nervous. I’ve never been good with house plants, my chickens love to eat perlite out of my pots outside, and there are so many deer that hang out close to my house.

First things first, I pulled all of my favorite herbs out of the garden we had last year and gathered them up on the tailgate to keep them away from the chickens while I organized the potting situation. My favorite herbs that survived the winter include: Oregano, Chinese Chives, Thyme, Tri-colored Sage, Orange Mint, and some good old Catnip for Macchiato. The Catnip didn’t actually survive the winter, but I found some new starts coming up so I grabbed those.

Herbs on the tailgate for transplanting

Tailgate potting bench for transplanting herbs

I remember it being very difficult to get the Chives growing strong so I don’t want to risk loosing those. I dug out all 3 clusters of them, carefully avoiding their roots. I also pulled my most productive Oregano plant. The Thyme was just pretty, thriving, and calling my name. (Can anyone relate!?) I don’t actually use it all that much in my cooking, but I love the tiny pink flowers when it is in bloom.

The Oregano and Chives were given to me by a former piano student along with some Strawberry starts. I saved the Strawberries too. I have a hard enough time keeping Strawberries alive in the ground, I’m not very confident with my ability to help them thrive in pots, but I will try my best! Maybe they will even do better for me!!

Transplanting herbs and starts from the garden to containers

My Tri-Colored Sage was a favorite herb last season. It makes some of the most delicious breakfast gravy and it is my husband’s favorite herb (probably because of the breakfast gravy!). We are still using dried sage that I harvested from this plant. I was shocked to see it had survived the winter, though it doesn’t look too good right now. I’m sure it will improve in time with some tender loving care!

In my digging around, I came across 3 volunteer pansies and 2 succulent type plants (no idea what they are!) so I saved those too. There is something about plants, I just want to give them all a happy place to grow and thrive! It is so hard for me to thin my veggie starts, or pull up unwanted volunteer plants in the garden. They’re trying so hard to grow, I wish I could just give them all a home!! Well, these 5 plants won me over this time. I don’t have very many plants yet so, for now, I have room for them and will take care of them.

I made a quick run to Wilco for potting soil to make sure I’d have enough soil to pot everyone up nicely. What an adventure that was! Wilco is pretty new to town, and they moved into an existing old building with a TINY parking lot!! Just two rows of parking, with the busiest main drag of town out front, and not much space back to the building either. Then of course they have their load out zone in the corner of the parking lot too. Very crowded space to say the least! I don’t think they were anticipating full ton, dually farm trucks pulling in and out of there like I was today!

After inching my way back and forth out of my parking space, I was speeding back across the countryside to my precious herb plants that were waiting for their new home. I was pushing for time too because I only had about one good hour of daylight left. The late evening sun helped to brighten things up until it would disappear behind the distant coastal mountain range, so I knew I had some time and it was just beautiful out!

Evening Chicken coop with sun rays

Relocating the planter boxI decided to plant most of the herbs in the planter box I built last year. But first, I was going to have to move the planter into a sunny location. Do you ever go out and start working on a project, determined you will do it by yourself? Without needing to ask your husband for help!? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’m always asking him for a tool, some of his wisdom, or a strong arm. I’m so glad he’s there for me, and he’s always happy to help, but sometimes I just want to do it myself without bothering him! Well, I tried, but moving this planter was not one of those things I could do alone! I dug all the soil into the wheelbarrow to make it light enough to move, but then discovered the wood was sopping wet and the bottom was starting to fall out….so I gave in and asked for help. 🙂

 

New planter location in the sun

I was able to fit most of the homeless herbs into this planter. I did my best to arrange the plants attractively, keeping their full grown size in mind. Of course, I can keep these herbs trimmed back to be whatever size/shape I want, but I wanted to balance the tall plants mixed in nicely with the short plants. I’m sure it will look better after the plants have established themselves and filled in a bit.

Herbs resting in loose potting soil

Placing some of the herbs in the planter, and some of the herbs in the wheelbarrow with the potting soil, allowed me to visualize the end result as I arranged the plants, swapping one out for another and getting them all placed just right. Working from left to right, I made sure to get the potting soil in firmly around all corners of the plants. I added another handful of soil to the top of each plant, right above it’s original root ball, underneath the greenery. This helps to keep the plant from drying out, by having the same type of soil on all sides, especially the top.

Thyme herb root ball

These herbs were living in some pretty hard clay soil, so I tried to carefully remove as much of that soil as possible without disturbing the roots too much. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it encourages new growth from the slightly damaged roots. Secondly, it takes off the bulk of the root ball, allowing me to plant them closer together in their new planter. Third, these herbs don’t exactly thrive in clay soil, so I am glad to get rid of it!

Finished herb planter

With these guys all planted, I turned my attention to the flowers that I just couldn’t resist buying on my quick run into Wilco! I’m planning to get lots more flowers next week at Fred Meyer’s Fushia Saturday, but I was more than ready for some spring blooms!!

As you can see, these little beauties are pretty much root bound too! When this happens, it can be tricky to get them out of their pots as the roots kind of grab onto the sides of the container. Just give them a gentle squeeze from each side, flip them upside down, sliding your fingers around the greenery to catch the plant as it comes out of the pot, and then flip the pot upside down and give the bottom a little tap. The plant should come right out! If not, you could also try sliding a knife or another thin object around the sides of the container, much like you would get fresh baked muffins out of the muffin pan.

Pansies in planterOnce you get the plant out of the container, if the root ball is this snug, it’s a good idea to tease the roots a bit. I just grab the bottom of the plant, and pull the sides away from each other, as if I was cutting the root ball in half. I only let this tear go up about 1/2 inch. Then I turn the plant and repeat the same idea. This leaves me with a 4 way break in the root cluster. If you don’t free the roots in this way, they may not figure out that they have lots of room to break free and reach deep into the soil for water and nutrients.

And then finally, my work was done. A satisfying planter filled with tasty herbs, a beautiful pot of flowers on the porch to serve as spring eye candy, and a happy gardener. Spring is officially here. I have gardened, and summer can come on over!

What have you been up to as you welcome this wonderful season of spring? I’d love to hear about your projects too! Please share in the comments.

 

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