New car!

As much as I loved the Yaris, I had to let it go. That car sure did see a lot in its time with us.

The giant sequoias.

Driving west from Iowa to California.

The top of Mt. Evans in Colorado.

My first day with it!

But when it came down to it, I was more ready to move on to a bigger car than I realized. Maybe it’s some form of nesting, but I really wanted us to have a car that was the right size for our (new) needs. So here she is:

We found this ’07 Subaru Outback at, of all places, a Toyota dealership in Marin County. Marin is sort of notorious for being the land of the overpriced, but we got a really good deal.

We did have to get one thing repaired on the car, and while we were waiting we hung out at this fancypants shopping center that was actually a really nice place to spend a fall day.

They even had a giant pumpkin! It reminded me of the Iowa State Fair.

I resisted buying any pumpkins there, but I did get some more flat ones at Trader Joe’s.

I had to do something to perk up the porch area. Last year my plants were flourishing at this time, but this year everything is pretty much dead.

Last year:

And this year:

The only thing that seems to be thriving is the orange tree.

We moved it out of full sun into a spot that gets partial shade and it seems to like that way better. After almost completely dying, it’s sprouted a whole bunch of new leaves and buds.

I did manage to successfully grow this epic thistle on the side of the house.

This guy was hanging out around there.

Our neighbors have a cute little garden on the other side of our fence. Their tomatoes are so tall they’re peeking over.

This year has just been dry as a bone. But guess what — last night it rained! For the first time since May. We even got a few claps of thunder.

In the annoying news department, there was some kind of refinery issue in southern California and now our gas prices are insanely high. Just in time for us to have bought a bigger car, of course.

We start our 12-week Bradley class tonight, so I’m curious how that’s going to go. As we near the 23-week mark, I’m definitely getting rounder.

I’ve surrendered to the elastic waistband.

I can tell the baby is getting bigger because her kicks have moved up higher in my belly and they’re stronger. The other night I was enjoying baby TV, which consisted of me staring at my belly as it jiggled with kicks. I am still loving those.

In the kitchen I have decided I need to start sorting my recipes by those that can be made in a short period of time. (This butternut squash mac ‘n cheese is not one of them, but I tried it the other day and it was really good.)

I love my recipes, but many of them take a lot of prep time that I don’t think I will have in the next few months. I’ve been making a list of ideas, like this one for make-ahead breakfast sandwiches.

You package them individually and freeze them until you need them.

Any other ideas for me?

My first strawberries

In all of our gardening pursuits we’ve never grown a single strawberry. And that’s just wrong. A couple weeks ago we got a strawberry pot and a few plants and just figured we’d see what happened.

They’re looking really good so far. It’s been dry as a bone around here, but I’ve been trying to water the plants daily.

Can’t wait until they turn red! I noticed some tomatoes forming over there, too. And for some reason a blood-red iris plant just bloomed. All of our other irises are bright white/yellow, so this one really stands out.

Last weekend we finally put our smoker to use. Mike made a brisket that turned out really, really well.

I can’t believe I grew up 45 minutes from Kansas City and had to come all the way to California to have burnt ends. I am thinking next time I go home I want to do a tour de barbecue restaurants.

Succulent flowers

I was just noticing how all of the succulents in our garden have little flowers on them now. Some of them are really cool looking.

The chives are also full of flowers. I love the little purple pom poms.

I ended up buying a new mint plant and have already used it for mint juleps. I can’t believe I killed a mint plant. How is that possible?

I finally figured out that the orange flowers you see everywhere are California poppies, and they’re the state flower.

All the blooming flowers are making my allergies return.

In Iowa, I used to have allergies severe enough that I had to take 3 medications. After a year and a half sneeze-free, I’m definitely feeling it now.

Speaking of flowers, the place where I had my craft fair last weekend has the most amazing outdoor courtyard full of blooms.

It is such a cool setting for a show. Definitely my favorite.

This was my setup. I bought the umbrella on sale at Target the day before, and it was a total lifesaver.

I didn’t sell much (it was way too hot), but I definitely had a good time. The wall behind me had this tiny door that opened to a tiny window to the street.

The most amazing part is that this place is someone’s house! The people who live there are architects who remodeled a dingy apartment building into the coolest living space. Definitely magazine photoshoot worthy.

Loving: spring edition

First it rained, and I thought the way the clouds were resting on the El Cerrito hills was especially pretty.

Me and Reggie just hung out and knit for a while.

I whipped through the second Hunger Games book. I actually thought it was pretty good.

Mike and I enjoyed spring rolls at our favorite Vietnamese place, Nong Thon.

I also finally broke down and bought some dried billy buttons to put around the house. They just belong in that little vase.

When the sun finally came out, my outdoor flowers were so happy. The gerbera daisy fully opened, revealing a bright orange flower.

The rest of the daisies in the ammo box and pretty irises opened, too.

Sadly, something ate my mint. But I did decide to move both the tomato plant and the orange tree into the sunniest spot in our front yard garden. They both really seem to like the extra light.

Sadie has been doing this thing where she plops down in a sunny spot next to the house and refuses to come inside. Such a diva.

The best thing that happened this week, though, was an impromptu barbecue we had in our tiny backyard. We invited our next door neighbors, so I thought it would just be four of us. But it ended up being nine people and three dogs!

Party people. 🙂

This is Monkey. He lives next door.

Mike made lamb burgers with caramelized onions and feta cheese.

I mixed up a little vinaigrette for heirloom cherry tomatoes.

I also made strawberry shortcake for dessert. I’m still using the same perfect recipe.

We strung up the lights from our wedding throughout the yard, and that really transformed the space into a great spot for entertaining. Now we definitely want to get more furniture and a firepit so we can do this again.

Fun times!

The garden grows

Our little front porch garden was looking pretty dead up until recently. First, I noticed some tiny mint leaves poking up through the soil.

Then I got really excited when I noticed a little gerbera daisy starting to open.

I have planted them numerous times, but they never seem to grow back. Finally!

I also love the little flowers that are coming out of the succulents.

We went to the garden store to get some replacements for last year’s annuals. This year I got daisies to plant in the ammo box. It’s just funny to me to put such happy flowers in there.

We got a cherry tomato plant, too. I just moved it to a different spot that gets more sun, so maybe it will produce more this year.

I planted impatiens in various colors in the rest of the pots.

I’d really like to get a strawberry pot, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with how the garden grows. It’s nothing compared to what our garden used to be, but it’s also incredibly low-maintenance. Since we’re blessed with such an abundance of local produce I don’t feel as much pressure to grow it myself.

Spring in color

Not that we have much of a winter to begin with, but we pretty much had no rainy/cloudy season this year. So I have been lucky enough to enjoy even more sunny walks than usual, and now they are filled with the bright colors of spring.

Even some of my plants, which have received no attention whatsoever for months, are starting to revive.

I really need more recipes involving chives.

Trees are flowering, of course (achoo!), and I’ve seen a few tulips and daffodils that remind me of spring in the Midwest.

These were minis. So sweet!

I don’t know what the heck this thing is, but it’s seriously out of control.

I feel like our next-door neighbors’ statue is really enjoying the weather.

I really need to learn more about flowers and trees while I’m here. There are so many brilliantly colored and patterned options for landscaping.

Also on my love list this week: oranges. Some of the best I’ve ever had, and they were only 39 cents a pound!

Fall in California

There are a few signs that the seasons are changing here.

I got some flat pumpkins from Trader Joe’s. They make me happy.

My flowers are still blooming in all different colors.

And there are still tomatoes on the vine, although they are mostly green.

I bought some mums, but they died! However, my chives, thyme, and mint plants are all still doing very well.

On my walks it feels like summer and looks like spring. Unlike the summer, which was often chilly, fall is pretty warm. And flowers are blooming everywhere.

Every time I pass a fuschia plant I make a mental note to get one someday. They are too cool.

I love all the fruit trees. There’s a huge apple tree peeking out from behind the palms in this person’s yard.

Of course there’s all kinds of citrus fruit.

And figs!

Hands off, though…

There are berries, too.

I just noticed there’s a ladybug in there too.

I don’t know what the heck these are.

I even saw this guy selling fruit on a random corner.

I think strawberries are having a second season around here. They were only 89 cents a carton at the store last week.

There are spiders all over the place making the most incredible webs.

Palm trees still weird me out. But I will take them over shoveling snow.

And I will take this view anytime.

Well, after all of our walking, we are pooped.

But stay tuned — I have the most amazing recipe for chicken pot pie coming up!

Tiny oranges!

I looked at the orange tree the other day and I noticed that the itty bitty oranges that have been there for months are finally starting to get bigger.

I have no idea if they’ll turn into edible oranges at any point, but now I’m excited!

Vintage container gardening

As soon as I saw this article, I knew what I had to do with my bare front porch.

I had a minimal budget for gardening, but I already had both an old wooden soda crate and a wooden ammo box, plus a bunch of succulents growing in the front ‘yard’. Mike had always imagined the ammo box overflowing with pinkish flowers — the perfect ironic planter.

But first I started with the soda crate. Since the slats in the bottom had big openings, I decided to plant a succulent in each slot in its own little container. And I discovered that empty yogurt cups out of the recycling bin were the perfect width, as long as I cut the rims off. You just poke a little hole in the bottoms for drainage.

They were a little too short, though, so I used some pieces of egg cartons to boost them up.

I filled them about halfway with some sandy/rocky soil I got from the side of our house (which I ended up covering in weed blocker and mulch later on in the weekend).

I very delicately separated out a few plants down to their roots and replanted them in the yogurt containers. Then I popped them into the soda crate.

I was about to stop the project when I ran out of yogurts. But when I went to Home Depot I discovered a section devoted to succulents of all shapes and sizes and I pretty much cleaned them out. I am a fiend for those things.

I still didn’t have quite enough to fill the crate, but I discovered the succulent secret: some of them have more than one plant per pot. I managed to get three of them to separate into two plants, just enough to finish my project. I also tucked in some old soda bottles. And after topping off the containers with potting soil, I covered the tops with peat moss so that you couldn’t see the tops of the plastic containers.

I am so happy with how it turned out.

Sometimes your crafty vision really does turn out exactly how you thought it would.

For the ammo box, I lined the bottom with three 8×8 cheap foil trays and added rocky soil to the bottom for good drainage. Then I just bought a half flat of colorful annuals that like shade and planted them inside. After a couple days they perked right up. In fact everything I’ve planted has been super happy so far. Yay!

No more weeds! Whew.

Have you used any fun objects as planters? I always see this one house when I’m out walking with a bathtub planter and it makes me smile.

Happy plants

I have a new addition to my little front porch garden — a cherry tomato plant.

I am so happy to see that not only did the herbs I planted survive, but they seem really happy. The mint is already out of control.

And the cilantro is shocking me by growing even better than the basil.

I’m working on some more planter boxes, which I’ll show you soon. Then I need to mulch a couple of bare areas, and the garden should be all finished. I love having a garden of manageable size.

I am also loving this hazelnut half and half that I accidentally bought.

I meant to get the regular kind, but it turns out I love this stuff. It’s like creamer, but it’s actually real cream, and organic. As long as I only put in a little splash it’s not too sugary either.

This box of crackers may have fallen into the cart as well.

I can’t help it. How cute is their packaging?

I have been working on another project, which I will share with you soon, involving some giant poufs. I’ve had to get creative with my dyeing process since I can’t use the washing machine (it breaks up the rope) and it’s hard to find a container big enough. But I figured it out.

It was really funny to see the dyed rope all rolled up in giant balls.

Now I have to get ready for my first California craft fair this weekend. I am really hoping for cool, but not rainy weather.