MirrorMate Frames - A Bathroom Makeover on a Budget!

This post is LONG overdue...about 10 months actually. I realized the other day that I never posted this and you have all been missing out all this time. I apologize. It's not too late though - you will still love this!

There's this company called MirrorMate and I saw their product on some home makeover website one day and I knew immediately that they were speaking directly to me! I have this huge mirror in my main bathroom -covering the entire wall above the sink and toilet area. I really love big mirrors, but this one wasn't very exciting - it was literally just a big mirror pinned to the wall. Sad.

But MirrorMate is this amazing framing company who transforms your plain and boring mirror into a MASTERPIECE that will make you happy inside every time you see it. And the best part is how easy it is to assemble and hang it. I had the help of some really great friends of mine and we had the project done from start to finish in less than an hour. Seriously- 60 minutes? You can't beat that!

When you get the frame, it will arrive in 4 pieces. You do this quick gluing and hammering step, which was really basic and easy once you get the first one snapped in. This is a no-mess process, unless you are a maniac with glue. We just kept a tissue on hand and slid a piece of paper under the parts where we had some glue ooze out. The corners are held together to form the frame with some little clips that you just hammer into place.
We couldn't find a hammer...but we did find a really durable hairbrush.

Gluing was one of four steps. We tried using a small hand weight as a hammer - I advise against this.

It was a long step.

Hanging the frame is the easiest part I think. Typically, you would envision this would involve a lot of short tempers and maybe some name calling and then a crooked frame - but this step is so quick and simple that you don't even have time for any of that! They give you two cardboard structures that you will tape onto your mirror for hanging the mirror. Just cardboard---nothing fancy. How resourceful is MirrorMate to think of this low-cost, low-waste hanging device??

You have to have a friend for this step - you hold the frame up to the glass and find the positioning. Your friend(s) very carefully holds the frame and you push the cardboard corners onto the glass (they have an adhesive back).
Once you have the cardboard corners in place, you just take the super-strong tape off the back of the frame and gently line up your frame to the mirror...and then give it a nice snug pressure to adhere to the glass. It slightly rests on the cardboard frames to help prevent gravity from any slippage. The adhesive that attaches your frame is some special thing from the rings of Saturn, or something like that, and it will last forever, but it's also possible to remove the frame at some point if you really had to. I would suggest you plan on it being permanent though...
Hanging - now in a fun and easy style!!!
And that is IT!!!!
It's the easiest and most economical remodel you can do for your bathroom. I love a large mirror, though it is a bit odd to have one this size directly behind your toilet (do boys like to watch themselves urinate?). The mirror just covering a wall is boring though, right? Whereas if you have a frame on it-it's suddenly classy Right?? Framing anything makes it classy.

I couldn't be more happy with my MirrorMate frame and I highly recommend you all get one if you have an unframed (boring) mirror!

Here is our BEFORE photo:
Blah Boring Puke
And get ready....
Here is the AFTER photo:

WOW OMG Look at that!!!!!!!

I have to acknowledge that I do recognize that these are the worst possible photos you could take of before and after shots. Let's note that these were taken before I bought my wonderful new Canon and before I took a college photography class. And before I did my hair and makeup. And we were a bit rushed getting ready for company who were coming soon, but I was adamant that I had to have my new framed mirror for my guests to enjoy. You get the point though right? If you want to see some really amazing mirror transformations though, visit their makeover site where people who know how to take pictures have posted their examples.

And remember that big bulky 1980's wooden light fixture? That totally ruined the vibe of my new classy mirror. I knew from the moment I moved in that it had to go, but when I got my mirror up, there was no holding back-it HAD TO GO.

So we pulled it out and installed this wonderful light fixture (half off on an internet special!) to better showcase my beautiful framed mirror. And by "we" - I mean my handyman of course. He installed it about 3-4 inches higher than I would have wanted it, but he had already cut a big hole in the wall before I noticed. He is a handyman, he's not a decorator. Regardless....LOVE IT!!!

Hearts rainbows and kittens

Love it right?? I wish I had a better picture of the monster wood light fixture that was in here before - I obviously couldn't bear to take any pictures of it, it was so hideous.

MirrorMate gave me a sweet little discount to review their product and I would have happily paid full price had I known how extremely happy I was going to be with their product and customer service. I love them - you should too!

And a big thanks to my assistants, Courtney and Andrew, for their help in putting this together!

Andrew's Big Announcement!!

This is my beloved son, Andrew:


This is my beloved son, Andrew, wearing the shirt of the college that just accepted him:



He also got accepted to San Diego State University, but according to him, going to the University of Southern California is all that matters for his future. We have a list of reasons why this is true, and only a couple negatives (ahem-the price tag, for instance). His grades were not as high as the average USC student - but that matters not. Because what Andrew sets his mind to...Andrew gets. He worked hard on his application and he just made it happen. And this school is going to do wonders for Andrew's career - no need to place bets on it-he WILL be successful. You can just tell when you meet him - everyone tells me so. He's responsible, mature and quite smart. He's going to fit right in at this college- one of the top ten business schools in the states. Did I mention that they only accept 21% of the students who apply? That's one in five. Those aren't great odds, right? But he is THE ONE!!!!

And he GOT IN!!  USC has recognized the wonderfulness of my son and they are the lucky ones who will get to take him in under their Trojan wing when he flies from my nest.

He was accepted into Spring 2012 (early January), which has some pros and cons, but there's still a 50/50 chance that he will get bumped into the Fall freshman class. We'll know in mid-May. We're pretty okay with either fall or spring...because he GOT IN!!!!

I could not be more proud of him - he is absolutely the best son anyone could ever want.

So sorry to all the parents out there who are not me, because I have the BEST SON possible. Yours might be pretty good too, I'm just sayin...he's the best!!!  
(and if you happen to be the man who is legally Andrew's father: you get no credit for this great and wonderful son. We all know why).

THREE CHEERS FOR MY ANDREW!!!!!!!!!!

HIP HIP.....HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HIP HIP.....HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
HIP HIP.....HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Noodles in Peanut Sauce with Baked Crab Rangoons - Recipes of the Decade

My kitchen and I are the bestest of BFF's this year. I think I have cooked more in the last 18 months in this kitchen than I did in five years in the mini-kitchen we had in our apartment. And this is an enlightenment that all of you can learn from:
If you want to learn to cook - buy a house.
Back when I first started branching out in the cooking world, I intended to have a new recipe every week. Unfortunately, I am a slave to the man and I have to actually work outside my home for a very long period of time four days a week (one glorious day each week I get to work from home). For those of you who don't know - cooking takes time. Not just the actual creating the food part, but prep work ahead of time and cleaning up afterwards. Even if you clean as you go, it's still a long process.
HOWEVER - I do enjoy doing it, I just wish I had more opportunity.

AND I really love doing it when a recipe comes out REALLY well.

Last week I tried making two new recipes for our dinner. I know, cuh-RAZY, right? TWO new recipes-one night, all by myself!! Andrew was at choir so there was no one to rush to look for while I was supposed to be continuously stirring something on the stove. Let's not forget that I'm an amateur chef, k? TWO recipes in one night is a big feat. BUT - I totally nailed it! This was by far my best adventure in cooking yet.
The main recipe is called Chinese Noodles with Broccoli in Peanut Sauce, but we're going to rename it to: Peanut Goodness. As in - Oh My Goodness, it doesn't get any better than this.

The second recipe was for baked crab rangoons. Baked= healthified, right? Crab rangoons=heavenly goodness. Again, as in - Oh My Goodness, this is the best thing ever.

I found the recipes from separate bloggers over the course of the last couple weeks and I just knew they had to go together and I'm not sure what could have made this dinner any better. Nothing really-it was as perfect as it gets. Andrew and I gushed over it, proof we loved it. Andrew's friend Jeff actually ate it, which is proof he loved it (he lives on pb&j and McDonalds). We had leftovers for two days. The noodles weren't as great reheated, but still enjoyable.

Here's a few photos of my cooking endeavors, with the recipes at the bottom. I highly recommend you try them yourself.
Mike's Hard Lemonade is not in the ingredients list, but I've found it's always good to have within arms reach while cooking!

The original recipe was just broccoli, I also used fresh asparagus (because I had some I needed to use) and chicken breasts (to make it more filling).

We doctored the peanut sauce recipe a little bit as it tasted a lot like straight peanut butter.

I handmade rangoons!!! Who would have thought that was possible?? Not me, not Andrew.

Magic happening.

Dinner is served!!!
 This will absolutely be a dinner that I make again. I could have it every week and never get tired of it. Andrew might though, so I'll space it out to a couple times a month. (but when he goes to college...this might be my main meal weekly).

The recipes:
Peanut Goodness

Ingredients:
  • 1 pack of any Miracle Noodle Pasta (I like the spaghetti or Fettuccine)- I used a regular Thai noodle as I can't find any of this Miracle Noodle stuff locally, however, it looks really good and I might order some online.
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat peanut butter (I used chunky style, cause the peanuts were nice to have in the mix)
  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped (optional)

Directions:
  1. In a colander drain and rinse Miracle Noodles very well. Pat dry with a few paper towels. Set aside.
  2. Whisk peanut butter, 1/4 cup water, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and vinegar in a medium bowl until smooth. Set aside. **we used about double everything except peanut butter as the peanut butter flavor was much too overpowering. It may have been the type of peanut butter I used.
  3. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add broccoli and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften and brown in spots, about 6 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water and 1 tablespoon soy sauce to the pan along with bell pepper noodles, and garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pepper has softened and the liquid has evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat; stir in the reserved peanut sauce and toss to coat.
  6. Garnish with fresh chopped green onions.
Entire recipe makes 4 servings
Serving size is about 1 1/2 cups

Each serving = 6 Points +
PER SERVING: 239 calories; 16 g fat; 17 g carbohydrates; 11 g protein; 6 g fiber

**found via LaaLoosh - go here for a printable version. 
Baked Crab Rangoons:


Ingredients:
  • 1 can (6 oz.) white crabmeat, drained and chopped
  • 4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon Sriracha  **I actually forgot this at the store and substituted with chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons finely sliced chives, plus more for garnish
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 12 won ton wrappers 

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine crab meat, cream cheese, mayonnaise, Sriracha, chives, and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  3. Place 1 won ton wrapper in each 12 mini muffin cups. The edges of the won ton wrappers will extend beyond the mini muffin tin cups and may need to be folded slightly. Fill the center of each won ton cup with crab mixture.
  4. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until edges of cups are golden brown and filling is heated through. Garnish with reserved chives.

This recipe was found at My Baking Addiction.
I'm not joking around - these were easy recipes and WAY worth putting the effort into. I think it took me about 60 minutes total from start to finish, includes cutting the veggies and taking pictures as I go, but I did have the chicken already pre-cooked so that helped with timing/stress level. I think it will only take me about 40 minutes the next time now that I'm more familiar with how they it all comes together.
ENJOY!!!

Welcome to My World at Work!

Hello Everyone! Welcome to my work world!

I work in a cubicle world. I've been here a few years now and I don't hate the cubicle life as much as I thought I would. When I first started with this company, we had normal, high-wall cubicles but we renovated soon after and now we are low-wallers. I think the low-wall is the way to go. We pop up like gophers all the time, it's really convenient to be able to join in a conversation and make eye contact.
Here's a view of the cube world:



Pics of Andrew galore. It took me almost a year to get any photos up. Still no frames (so I can make a fast escape if needed). I have a bookmark (green and black) and a large picture from Africa Bridge, one of my favorite nonprofits. The bamboo there is actually topped off a coworkers plant which was growing to the ceiling and she was worried her plant would fall over but didn't want to throw it away. It's never really been happy in my cube, but I do what I can with it.


LOVE this poster! My title is Data Analyst - note that this is not my picture or my computer on this poster. It's from 1987 - check out the monster of a machine she is working on!!  This was found at a recycled craft supply store-I took it right off their wall and paid them 50cents for it. Total score!! 

Here we have a dog postcard I've had forever that says Stay Focused: Live for your dreams. I love this. And two more pics of Andrew. I love him. A one-year anniversary card that I'm keeping til I get my five-year card. A small zebra, a small wooden giraffe-both important. The toy is from Splash Mountain, circa 1996 and a memory of when Andrew was a wee one and life was simple. The bracelet at the base of the Splash Mountain bear is direct from Tanzania and is a thank you gift for the abc posters I helped send there.

Plants!! I have a prime spot for healthy plants. The yellow cat is a travelling visitor. We pass it around my teammates cubicles and one day you will just walk in and he'll be amongst your stuff. Not sure how or why this got started. I like the cat though. I also have an african tribal man made out of metal, another african thing in front of the non-planted plant (ghetto). And as every person who has lived in asia is obligated to do-I have a little waving kitty watching over me.

One of the lovely girls who sit near me was walking down the hall one day with her hands full of laptop, phone, papers, pen, full glass of water and as she got to my area, she said, I probably shouldn't be walking with a full glass of water over my laptop....and then she tripped and the water spilled everywhere and she jumped back a bit to save the laptop, which dug a little gouge in the pillar directly in front of me. I have a direct view of this gouged area, it's at my eye sight and I'll see it the rest of my life (or until I get fired. Or until I marry a rich man and quit.). I added a little note as it is better to have 100 people who walk by it laugh at the note instead of ask what happened to the wall.

My window view. This was taken on a bright (rare) sunny morning so the blinds directly in front of me have to be at half-mast to protect my precious eyes.

That's what I see all day every day - except on the glorious day when I get to work from home, and the weekends when I like to never think about my cubicle.

Any of you work in a cubicle? Love it? Hate it?

Scrabble Flash Game Giveaway - Move Fast!

This is a quick turn-around giveaway - and it's for a fast-paced game, so only quick-moving people are eligible. :)
Calling all wordsmiths! Scrabble has a new Facebook page dedicated to all things Scrabble.  Find daily word challenges, words of the day, coupon offers, Scrabble news and tips, online gaming, and School Scrabble info, with more exciting features still to come! Visit www.Facebook.com/ScrabbleNA and click on the Like button and start exploring the world of Scrabble.

In celebration of Scrabble’s new presence on Facebook, and to celebrate being named Toy Industry Association’s 2010 Game of the Year, Scrabble Flash can be YOURS.

This game challenges players to shuffle, slide and swap electronic letter tiles to form three, four and five letter words in 75 seconds. It’s a new game and a new experience each time you play.
We LOVE this game! We've played every night after dinner since it arrived in the mail. You can play for 2 minutes or 20 minutes, which is great-sometimes you want to play a game but dread the length of time you have to commit to...Andrew loves playing Scrabble, but I don't always want to sit and play a full game, and I am NOT one of those horrible  people who will leave a game before it's totally finished.  This game solves all my problems - I can play a game with Andrew that he loves, keep my little brain active, AND play a game until we have a winner. Goodness all around.

Each player has a new word to unscramble, some seem hard but it really depends on how fast your time is going by...and if your mom is leaning in telling you how amazing she is at this game..and how she almost feels bad for winning so much...but maybe some of the words are hard...

You can also play by yourself and it will add up your score for you and then you can repeatedly play and try to beat your score.
Andrew thinking hard.
This is what I look like when I am winning.




ACTION shots!
Slide, and slide fast.
Dark background means you are a WINNER! (I see this a lot)


Again I say:  We LOVE this game.
And it comes in a sweet little travel case that takes up nearly no space-which is great as really fun travel games are hard to come by.

To win: (sorry, only available to the US)
Leave a comment telling me your favorite board game.

For more entries:
  1. Leave an extra comment if you are a follower or subscriber.
  2. Leave an extra comment if you have posted a blog in the past that mentions Scrabble (and share the link).

Contest ends March 30th, 2011 at 8pm PST.


Hasbro sent me this game for review with no pressure to say nice things about them or their new game. This review is solely my words and opinion.

Friday Fragments - Busy Thoughts on a Not-So-Busy Night

Andrew has fixed my car!!! Well, it's close to being done. He installed the drivers side window regulator and motor -YAY. He just saved me (us) about a million dollars. Well, maybe not that much, but at least a few hundred, right? Or maybe a million. You never know. And now he's officially a man!!! RIGHT?? Cause we all know that fixing a broken car makes you a full-fledged adult. My parenting job is complete.

To counter-act my amazing parenting skills, I told him he could have a drink of my Mike's Light Hard Cranberry Lemonade and this is how the conversation went:
Son: I can't - I'm going to drive.
Mom: It's only a sip - you won't even feel it.
Son: But then I can't drink...
Mom: I'm not offering you a bottle - just a taste. You'll be fine to drive!
Son: Mom...I'm not 21...
Mom: I KNOW! I'm just offering you a DUH-RINK!
Son: ...sigh....if I got pulled over with alcohol on my breath - I will be in trouble because I'm not the legal age to have ANY alcohol.
Mom: Oh.....good point.
My girl Ginger
My friend at work is going to get two little baby kitties this year and I'm insanely jealous. I want baby kitties!!! I don't want more adult cats though.  Dilemma.

My gardening class is coming to a close. I'm sad, as I have been having the greatest time and learning more than you can imagine, but it will be nice to not be out in the rain and cold for five hours on Saturdays just standing and learning/watching. I have exciting things to share - stay tuned for more about my fabulous life as a master organic gardener.

Andrew and I are talking about taking a sign language class next month but I'm a little worried about my wrists. I type ALL day, and sometimes a lot of the night. I'm concerned my tendinitis will flare up and be painful. It's two hours one day a week, plus practicing for class. Maybe I'll just have to work less to allow for less wrist usage. Ha! Great idea-work less. Learn more.

The majestic Whiskers
I spent about 90 minutes the other day browsing through this website looking for things I want to make out of wood, now that I know I'm so skilled with wood-working I feel like I shouldn't waste my talent. I've got some grand plans - an entryway bench, a gardening bench, a shelf for the garage, a few gifts for people,  a guesthouse for the backyard...who knows. I have a hammer and 3/4 of a bottle of wood glue, so get ready for me to amaze you!

I'm exhausted and it's only 9pm. And it's a Friday night. I am the boringest person ever....but I'm pretty content just staying home with my book, my cats, and NPR.

Happy weekend, ya'll!

The Latest Household Need

Some of you know that I have moved away from cable - and I am loving it.

I want to do two more steps:
  1. Get a new LCD tv stand and get a nice tv (I have enough points on my credit card to get a free one!)
  2. Get one of those thing-a-bob's to connect my tv to my computer so I can watch shows for free on my internet, but have it broadcast on my new beautiful tv.
Does anyone have a set up like this?

I've asked my friend G (aka Google) and he's offered all kinds of advice, but sometimes too much advice is overwhelming. G is famous for providing too much advice. G is the reason I have in the past thought I have a brain tumor, or that I was a bad parent, or believed that my financial situation is akin to a fisherman in a small thai village who found a hole in his boat. G is mean sometimes.

Anyway, right now we are watching our tv shows on my computer monitor, which is a mammoth size in itself, but the comfy couches are all in other rooms, where my pathetic tvs, on their pathetic tv stands mock me.

Worm Bin Project: COMPLETE!

I did it!!! I built something. With WOOD!!! By myself!!!

With no guidance or assistance from anyone - I MADE a very sturdy and fairly good-looking wood worm bin. I have amazed myself. Who knows what else I can do! Maybe I'll build a guest house in the back next!

Gluing proved to be an important step!
I veered off the directions at some point....and this all would have gone better if I had followed every direction on the guide I found online - but it's even more admirable that I was able to improvise and still finish in a timely fashion.
Andrew assisted with some hammer-time.
Action Shot!
The finished box - waiting to be occupied. (disregard the mess in the background)
WORMS!!!! This is just half a pound of red wiggler worms. Which will hopefully double in the next few months.
ACTION SHOT! Wetting some paper to add on top.
Helping my worms get all snuggly in their new home.
Night night little guys!



I am so excited that I have completed this. Two weeks ago, I had no idea what worm bin composting was, much less that I would be this excited about it. And I don't know that I would have actually attempted to build something without buying some kind of kit - but I did it, and now I know I can, and that's the biggest accomplishment here.

My comprehensive organic class is just amazing! I've learned so much information and can't wait to put more of the knowledge into action!

Your Mystery Gifts Have Arrived!

A few weeks ago, I left my wonderfully responsible son home alone for a couple days. While I was gone, he had a little visitor...but we don't know who.

Andrew found these three items on our doorstep at night:



A Santa cup with a straw....a 500 piece puzzle of a swan....and a Harlequin romance, which Andrew called: An erotic novel (lol).

Any guesses on what these mean?
He's pretty confident they were for him.  I don't really have friends who do things like this (I don't think), but it seems like something a teenager would do. We can find no connection to them. Andrew looked at certain pages based on numbers on the puzzle box, but found no hidden message....but he may have found some serious romantic passages, considering his labeling this book as pornographic.

So....what do you think? See a connection here?

Cars Cars Cars....Driving Me Crazy

Cars are not my friends today.

Andrew's car is in the shop for a noise he was hearing when he turned or went over speedbumps.
The good: The noise was just a loose bolt on in the rear of the car. Only $45 - problem fixed. YAY.

The bad: Andrew's brake light was on and so we asked them to check on that. Leaky calipers. Boo. That's a $300 fix and he advised us that the car is very unsafe as is so it really must be fixed now.....sad.

but wait...there's more...
While Andrew's car was in the shop, he borrowed mine. He put the window down, all the way, and...it doesn't come back up.
Yep...two broken cars - one day.

Luckily, we're pretty sure that the window is something Andrew can fix - his car has the same issue last month and he and my handyman got the job done. And we were able to pull the window back up into place so the car can be secured (and driven in the rain). However, we have to leave the door panel off until we get the part and have a block of time when Andrew can work on my car, which means I'm all ghetto-style. And to further make that enjoyable, the door handle doesn't reliably work when it's not attached to a door panel, there's some kind of trick to it...so I could possibly be having to crawl out the passenger side to leave the vehicle. Awesome.

Organic Composting Introduction - I Am a Lover of Worms!

In my quest for personal growth and not becoming stagnant in life, and also in an attempt to save money and be more self-sufficient, I signed up for our local Tilth Comprehensive Organic Gardening class.

And comprehensive it is!!  I have learned more about gardening in the 7 hours of class so far than I would ever have known by reading a book or researching online. I have about 18 more hours of class - I will be on information overload by the end of it for sure!

We meet every Thursday for two hours of just class time.
And then for three Saturdays we meet for five hours of mostly outside learning.  This first week has been focused on soil and learning how to tend to it, what makes it healthy, how to love it and nurture it so that it will love and nurture your seeds/plants. If you have good soil, you will have very low-maintenance to do for your garden, so having healthy soil is key.

A couple of the things I learned right from the start: never ever use some kind of spray to kill bugs in your garden. If you feel like you have to spray something, soapy water is better, but using a fertilizer spray doesn't just affect your own soil negatively, but it also washes into our watershed and affects us all in the long run. So stop spraying weed/bug killer for all of our sakes. Thanks.

Another important thing that I didn't really follow 100%: don't walk on your soil! Healthy soil has pore space to move water and oxygen to your plants. Walking in your garden upsets that pore space and hurts your plants. So stop that. My garden bed isn't very big, but I sometimes walked right out into the soil to get to the backside and thought that as long as I wasn't too close to the plants it wouldn't matter, but it does. Everything matters where your soil is concerned. I'm going to add a couple stepping stones in key areas and never use my soil as a footpath. You should too!  I tried to walk on the wood portion of the raised bed and it just shifted the wood and over the season last year, one of the wood pieces cracked (I'd like to think it's due to older wood, not just me being heavy!!).

And my last pearls of wisdom to share with you - don't just leave your garden at the end of the season or if you have a season you aren't planning on planting. Put in a "cover crop" and let it take over so your soil doesn't just sit there for months exposed to the elements. Never cover it with a tarp-those are horrible for soil. Cover crops will keep nutrients in your soil so it doesn't just wash away. At the very least, cover your garden with hay or some kind of mulch. The easiest way to cover your soil is with burlap bags, which you can get for free from your local coffee house (at least in our area you can).

I will admit that I have failed at every one of these things. And many more things, I'm sure.

One failure I am correcting immediately is the disposal of my food trash. I feel guilty every time I cook, as I throw away so many food bits (or put them in the garbage disposal). So wasteful!!!

Our class last Saturday looked at composting and we learned about the amazing benefits, beyond just not being wasteful, you can actually utilize your scraps to make fertilize your garden. I honestly used to think that you could just toss your food garbage in a pile and it would naturally dissolve into the soil and add the nutrients as it dies off. Ha, funny-that's so wrong.

I'm not expert at all - but this is what I learned:

We looked at hot composting, which is building layers of dry/wet (or browns and greens). You would add a layer of your food garbage, and then on top of that add your old hay or straw. Or leftover hops from your local brewery! Or coffee grounds from your local coffee shop. And then repeat. The layers sit on top of each other and then you rotate the pile so everything starts melding together.

Here's an example of a great hot compost layered look:
This is Connor and he LOVES hot composting.
This compost pile was 160degrees!!! That's really hot for a pile of recycled material to just naturally become. It's ALIVE!!!
Moving the compost from one bin to the next, then moving back to the other in layers mixes it all together to work on an even decomposition.

After 5-6 months, this compost will be PERFECT for growing the best, organic vegetables you could ever hope for.

This type of composting is NOT for me. I don't have that much patience or that much food to compost. And it smells. And it's a lot of work.

The best thing for the lazy composter is a worm bin. And I went to our local depot for home items and bought some plywood and will be building my very own worm bin this week. Worm bins are great - you just fill it up with material like wet newspaper and cardboard strips (more recycling opportunities!). You can add some soil, but you don't even have to - they will eat your old paper products. You have to let the worms chew through some of the bedding before adding them but after a short bit, you can start adding food. Just move some of the bedding aside and make a hole, drop in your food waste, cover it (to avoid fruit flies) with bedding, add some wet material on top after you cover (to further avoid fruit flies and hide the smell), and then close the lid and let your worms eat! You have to just turn the bedding a bit and over time, you will have this lovely black soil - really all worm poop! Add it to your garden and then bam-healthy, lush, organic vegetables will grow like crazy! And your worms? They will just be content to eat and eat.

You're not using regular worms-you have to buy special "red wiggler" worms. Get them from an organic farm store so you know you have the best and healthiest worms to really do a good job. They cost about $40-60, but will provide the best fertilizer you can imagine so it will payoff in the long run for you. And the worms procreate and make tons of little worm babies that will help eat your food waste and produce more and more of that wonderful black gold soil for your garden.

Worm bins are awesome! I can't wait to get my worms on Friday. Stay tuned for pics of my journey with worms. Happy composting!!

Lots Of Little Kids..I Must Shoot Them (with my camera of course!)

I had the chance a couple weeks ago to get together with my best girl friends from high school.
Me, baby Carolina, Loda, and Cherry
We had some really fun times back in the day, and then we all went off into the real worldand became adults and lost touch somehow. 

My friend Cherry lives in Mozambique now. She lives a life I would LOVE to have....working for an agency making a real difference in the world, meeting people who have the same values, experiencing cultures from all over the world. And now she has two wonderful little ones!! Her husband is super-sweet and they just had a beautiful bouncing baby girl. She is precious. Carolina (Caro-leena) was born with down syndrome, which I don't have a lot of knowledge about, but I know that Carolina has a healthy heart (which I think is not always true for babies with d.s.) and a wonderful family to grow up in. I totally heart her.

And she has the cutest big brother, Santiago, who is growing up bilingual, in Portuguese and English, and has these amazing life experiences under his belt and he's not even four yet!

My friend Loda came down to visit from her home in Alaska, where she lives with a herd of animals and her two little girls, Morgan and Riley. Morgan is awesome, full of spunk and personality.

Riley is the baby and this is the second time we've met and she has a piece of my heart in her little 10-month old sticky hand.

It's so fun to be around other peoples kids and just really enjoy them and then get to walk away.
It's really interesting to be around the girls I went to high school with and see them with brand new babies at a time when I am getting ready to send my baby off to college. Our lives turned out so differently!

Something that is not different - we are all going through big changes this year. Cherry is leaving Africa in October (her contract is up) and hopefully will move to Portland to be with me (hint hint). Loda is leaving her job to be a stay-at-home mom to her lovies. And I am sending Andrew off to school and will live alone for the first time...ever.

I took about 260 photos over the course of 48 hours. Here's a few of my favs:

If you click on this and make it big, you can actually see the spray from the wand as he blows on it!


Magical eyes!

Riley loves to be tickled. We were happy to oblige.

The kids were really tolerant of all three moms taking photos, sometimes much too up-in-their-face.


Good times with good friends!

I don't really keep in touch with anyone from high school, other than adding them as friends on Facebook. I think this is fairly normal, right? Are any of you close with high school friends after more than a decade?

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