Saturday, May 12, 2018

Fairy Gardens

Well the super wet rainy season for this La Nina year has finally ended, and the sun is out!  Many Washingtonians wander outside, start squinting at that giant golden orb in the sky, and their thoughts immediately turn to planting flowers and gathering veggie starts for the gardens!  I have always had in the back of my mind that when the girls were old enough, we would do fairy gardens.

I'm in love with all things tiny!!
Fairy gardens are surprisingly not cheap!  You can buy cute adorable houses and tiny fairy accessories, but they add up quick, especially when you multiply them by three. We actually gathered some of our supplies over a year before we started, hit clearance sales, used coupons, and stashed away a nice little assembly of all things little fairies might need to make their spaces adorably cute. You can also make your own houses out of sticks, natural materials, buttons, thimbles, anything your imagination can come up with.

First you have to decide what what kind of theme you want for your garden.  You could do the seaside, camping, tea party... the options are endless.  We opted for three little enchanted gardens with houses, rivers, bridges, flowers, and even had enough items left over to do a little camping garden. So stinking cute!

The other thing you have to decide is what kind of container your fairies are going to live in.  Pinterest has a great assortment of fabulous ideas you can use as a spring board for your own imagination. Big flower pots, bird baths, wheelbarrows, even broken flower pots.  The other thing you have to decide is space.  Where are your fairies going to live?  Front porch?  Front yard?  Our little neighborhood is pretty tame crime wise, but I still didn't want any of our little fairies or homes or miniature items to wander off (mostly because our house is next to the school bus stop), so we choose to place them in the back yard. 

We started with three containers, large, medium, and small.  To make it less heavy we filled the bottom half of the container with Styrofoam and then covered the rest in dirt.

Styrofoam makes the containers light and easy to move if needed.
I had this idea to place a similar, smaller container on top of the biggest container.  That way two fairy gardens could take up a small amount of space and at the same time be more visually appealing.  I had a third medium sized container in front, giving it a stair step look, where you could see all the fairy lands at the same time. 

I got these "aged" bronze looking pots (though they are plastic) at home depot.  They looked expensive though!

Once we got the dirt in place, and we had purchased the flowers (we tried to buy small flowers that would make it look "to scale"), it's a good idea to place the items around your pot (plants still in their original pots) to make sure all the plants and fairy accessories will fit.

This was so fun! We did quite a bit of rearranging to see which flowers should go with each fairyland.
So my oldest wanted the top floor (penthouse, it's the best).  She opted for a cute little flower house, swing set, a mini white picket fence, and a wheelbarrow full of tiny flowers.  She also wanted to do a rock path from the house to the edge of the fence (which we add later).

This turned out so charming.  The picket fence was flexible and bent around the edge nicely.
My middle two wanted to "share" the bottom pot.  We found a little house that said "Believe" on the door and planted flowers all around.  We used little decorative marbles to make a "river" through the property and placed a flowery bridge over the "water". 

We happened to find these super cute sister fairies holding a little kitty and a flowering bench to sit on.

They thought these two fairies were them with our cat Henry.  Perfect!
The middle level was deemed the picnic, play ground, tea and cookies area for the fairy neighborhood.  We found a little metal table that was black, and decided to spray paint it sparkly purple. Better!

The little gazebo, birdbath, flower lamp post and tiny hedgehog make things extra sweet
Later we got really creative and placed the tiniest tea services you've ever seen (we coated that with some sealer clear spray paint to help with weathering), complete with goodies. We also thought the seesaw and stepping stones were too bland, so we added some color and more sealant.

Yay... color is good!
We also found some super tiny, mini terracotta pots and superglued tiny flowers (found at Hobby Lobby) into bouquets and then glued the bouquets into the pots. 

We did a few pots, and even a wheel barrow of tiny plastic mini flowers
Now will all the little fairy gardens in a row up against our steps, you can see all the pops of color and the stacked pots let you see more of the fairy action all at once.

Fairy Gardens are the best thing ever!
Vivian also went back and added the stone path from the front door of her flower house.

We bought the small stones at a craft store in the vase section
We were having so much fun with these gardens (and we had a few items left over, like a 2nd bridge, that we decided we wanted to do a camping themed fairy garden.

I'm so in love with this little fairy campsite!
A few more tiny plants, a blue marble "river" with canoe, a camp fire, and in case you didn't notice, three enchanted river mermaids that happen look like each of my daughters.

Just so sweet!
Not to be out done, they found two fairies to represent my husband and I.  Of course I'm reading a book, and we were thrilled to find there was a boy fairy to be daddy.  Since I knew my hubby would never just lay in the dirt on his stomach, I used my crochet skills to whip up a tiny picnic blanket for us to hang out on. 

It was night time when I finally had a chance to make the blanket, but I couldn't wait to see it.
Speaking of the fireplace.  My youngest and I made it together.  We gathered sticks, twigs, and small rocks from our own yard.  We hot glued them to a mason jar lid one at a time.  We also cut or broke tiny twigs in the "logs" for the fire.

This was a fun project with my youngest.  Every campsite needs a fire!
Here's the full campsite with fire pit, picnic blanket (doesn't the hubby fairy look more content?), leaf tent, and tiny apples for snacking!

I really want to shrink down and go camping here.

I know you must be thinking to yourself... How could one make this little camp site any better?  Well, I'll tell you.  How about a tea light "flame" candle that makes it look like a real camp fire at night?!

That's right!  We went all out!
Here's the whole charming little scene by campfire light...

Cant you just hear the crickets?

The little flicker of the battery operated teat light made it look like a real flickering camp fire.

As the summer went on the flowers started to fill out

I love how they started draping over the sides of the pots
The pink flowers on the 2nd tier started covering the gazebo and made it look like the roof was made of flowers.

How can you not love your own flower-roofed gazebo?
We even found some tiny white beads lying around and decided to make little marshmallow roasting sticks for the campfire area. 

All in all we had so much fun making fairy gardens. I am not ashamed to admit that I had just as much, if not MORE fun than my girls working on this project.

So grab the closest kid (or willing participant) near you and go make one of these this spring. They are fun to plan, fun to implement, and exciting to see the changes through the season as the flowers bloom!

Happy Planting!

Friday, October 06, 2017

Baked Sloppy Joe Taquitos

I believe one of the greatest talents a mom can posses (among the many thousands), is to make leftovers into a magical, glorious new meal. No one secretly digs eating the same thing two nights in the same week, so I'm always on the look out on how to take the same ingredients and make them into something that passes as "new and exciting" for the small fry to try. 

So what did I do when I had a bit of left over Sloppy Joe meat when there just wasn't enough for a full meal with buns the 2nd time around? I remember one time years back I rolled them in crescent dough for what we called a "Classy Joe", and was declared a local hero by some, but sadly the only carb I happened to have lying about this time around was flour tortillas.  Then, the light bulb went off. Angels sang, and the taste buds rejoiced.  Introducing Sloppy Joe Taquitos!!

Sloppy Joe Taquitos - They DO say necessity is the mother of invention!

Slop-quitos? Sloppy-itos? Taquito-Joes?  Hmmm.  Once of those names should be clever enough to stick.   All you need to make these bad boys is some left over Sloppy Joe meat, some flour tortillas, a little shredded cheese, cooking spray, a cooking sheet and salt.

You're gonna want to make these

 I started by covering a cookie sheet with tin foil and coating with cooking spray

If you have small flour tortillas, just cut them in half, if you have the huge burrito sized tortillas, cut the edges off the tortillas and then in half to make a pile of rectangles.  

Place a little bit of Sloppy Joe meat in a line at one end.  Add a tiny bit of shredded cheese and roll up the taquito while pushing down (to squish the meat to the ends of the roll) as you go ( I had the smaller tortillas this time so I just cut them in half).

Good pressure while rolling will force the meat out to the ends of the tube.
Place seem side down on the cookie sheet covered in foil until you have a full pan of Taquito-Joes.

These are rather haphazard - I was actually trying to get dinner on the table and blog pics were a quick afterthought
Lightly spray with cooking spray over the top of the taquitos (or melted butter if you prefer) and then crank some sea salt over the tops of the Slop-quitos.  I might have to take a vote at the end, which name do you love best?

Bake at 425º for 20 minutes until golden brown and crisp 

These crunch up so nicely when you bake at 425º! No frying needed.
Don't be freaked if some of the Sloppy Joe filling oozes out the end. It tends to bake to the pan and make these lovely ooey-gooey ends.

Not pretty, but delicious!
After that, pop a few on the plate and sit back and wait for the "Ooos and Ahhs".

Taquito-Joes - You are welcome taste buds!
Okay, not so much of the Ooos and aahhs... you'll probably get a few side eyes and a "hey mom what IS this" look from your youngest, but when you explain it's their beloved Sloppy Joes in their favorite Mexican form (two worlds uniting as one)... you might even get a THANK YOU!

You are welcome children - you are lucky mommy is a genius
You can pick them up and eat them with your fingers (always a plus with the youngins), although at least one of mine topped it with some extra cheese - and I have to ask myself, well why not!?

Sloppy Joe Taquitos - hey the original at least rhymes.

All and all these were a big hit!  If you are interested in our regular chicken taquitos, click here, which are also well loved around here.  So let me know what you think I should call these crazy things, other than that it's going on my very short list of "things my kids will eat and not complain about"!  Yay for me.  Enjoy.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Corner to Corner Crochet - Blanket

I took a small break from crochet. I was up to my eyeballs in yarn there for a while, plus, with our extra hot summer, hanging out with a bunch of thermal yarn in your lap was only going to make me extra warm, which is a big no bueno in my book. It took seeing a cute blanket on Pinterest to completely inspire me. Not only was the pattern intriguing, but the colors were absolutely beautiful. Behold, my first attempt at corner to corner crochet.

Corner to Corner crochet
By the way, you can find the free pattern and tips for making this blanket by Susan Carlson on her blog "Felted Button" here... and the yarn is called "candied" by Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable Yarn, which is pretty much gorgeous, and can be purchased at craft stores like Joann's, and also in multipaks at Amazon

Because of the increasing (or decreasing at the end of each row), I would consider this blanket at the intermediate level. Just as a personal tip, I also watched a number of YouTube videos to make sure I had started the pattern of increasing correctly before getting too far into the project.

The thing about crocheting any blanket typically is... it's super boring. Seriously. You get the initial chain stitch down for as wide as the blanket needs to be, and then go back and forth, back and forth, same number of rows and columns, repeating the same crochet pattern over and over until a blanket starts to form. This is great if you are on a plane, or in a waiting room somewhere and don't want to count rows, but for me, after a day or two, the endless back and forth feels more like a drudgery to me than a fun crafty side project.  Enter in corner to corner crochet!

My first attempt at corner to corner.  Hook used is a 5.0 mm (H) Crochet hook
Corner to corner does just that, it starts in the corner.  You need to add a row of increase at the end of every row, which is just enough to keep you interested and your mind sharp.

Corner to corner, this got me really excited when I saw the rows change on their own.
The other awesome thing about corner to corner, is that if you pick a yarn that has a slow color change, you won't need to switch colors all the time (and tie off loose ends, my least favorite part of a complicated blanket). The yarn magically and gradually changes into one beautiful color after the next.  

The most beautiful pile of pastel rainbow yarn ever
You just keep increasing rows as your triangle wedge grows...

It's working, it's really working!
until it gets wider and wider, and you need your tween daughter to hold it up for a picture.

Thanks for helping me Vivi!
I will admit I did get a bit persnickety in the middle of the blanket about not wanting two rows to be the same color. When I saw the pattern might make two rows of the exact same pink shade near the same part of the blanket, I would cut and tie off the yarn at one end, pull a few feet out of the working yarn, and start the new color so it wouldn't sync up later in the pattern.  

Oh and be it noted, no matter how warm it is outside, crochet will attract your kitties, they love to "help" by laying directly on your work.

Haley, the softest kitty in the known universe (aka Fluffy butt) "helping" me crochet
When you get as wide as you think you want to go, now is the time to switch it up, and start decreasing each row.  This keeps you mentally on your toes and helps minimizing boredom. I also went to YouTube to make sure I was doing this correctly. 

Decreasing suddenly makes a square edge appear along the sides - neato!
It's fun to see the rows shrink and shrink until all you have left to do is to put an edge on it, and tie off the loose ends (you'll still have some - just not as many as if you switched rows every color).

Tying off loose ends... it's actually quite the task
Then you can sit back and admire your work.  This was the first time I could lay it out on the floor and take a step back.  It was awesome how the color change of the yarn made the most excellent stripes, and almost gave it an optical illusion effect.

Rainbow stripes o'plenty

Here is it draped over a chair.  I just love how it turned out!

The next day I took it outside to get some shots of the colors "in the wild".

Unicorns would definitely approve of this blanket, so many colors!

Candied yarn - love the color changes!
From sea to shining sea it's color mania.  Oh and the border on this pattern gave it a nice solid edge, and actually made two different variations, depending on which side of the blanket you are looking at.

Flat facing on the front of the blanket, loops on the back side border.

This blanket is warm and soft, but not too heavy.  It's perfect for family movie nights in our new chair. It was immediately claimed by my eldest, as you can see here... she's ready for a bowl of popcorn.

Vivian says this blanket is "hers" now.
This was a really fun, and really beautiful blanket to make. Red Heart Unforgettable yarn is not only super soft, but comes in a bunch of beautiful slow color change patterns. I was thinking about picking a new color scheme and making a second one actually. Feel free to post any projects you are working on, and... Winter is coming... so happy crochet everyone!
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