Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Garden Planning 2014

With the start of Spring, I'm beginning to map out my garden plans for this year.  I've grown some of our summer produce for the past few years, last year being my most extensive.  I flirted with the idea of a "raised bed" style garden for a while and last year I finally had one.  I'm lucky to have a husband who is always doing/building something around the house.  I said I wanted a raised bed and a couple hours later, I had one.

5'x8' raised bed built mid-April of last year

Two week growth progress..

Last year I tried growing carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, peas, squash, zucchini, and onion in the raised bed.  I put cantaloupe, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries in a smaller bed on the opposite side of my yard.  I also had green pepper and a regular sized tomato plant each in large pots.  

Right off the bat, the cantaloupe died (bummer) and squirrels ate all of the onions.  The peas and broccoli did really well at first, but then sort of fizzled out/stopped producing midway through the season.  The cucumbers and zucchini were the opposite.  They got off to a slow start and then produced once everything else was done.  The squash and cherry tomatoes consistently produced all season long.  My biggest flops were the carrots (only a few ever grew big enough to eat) and green peppers (my plant produced just one single pepper all season).  Strawberries grew but pretty much immediately got eaten by those damn squirrels.  I know this sounds a bit glum, but it was a really great learning experience for me and we did get several meals worth of home-grown veggies throughout the summer.

Plus, it was really soothing.  I spent so many quiet mornings checking on/tending to my garden.  I also spent many hot afternoons alternating between spraying the kids and the garden (and myself).

As we draw closer to April, I'm deciding just what to plant this year.  Using my experience last season as well as crops I've had success with in years past (namely green beans), I've come up with a tentative plan.

In the raised bed I'll have- cantaloupe (really hoping to have better luck this year), peas, green beans, zucchini, and cucumbers... laid out like this:

In my smaller bed, I'm putting several strawberry plants.  My plan is to put some sort of wire cage around them to deter the squirrels.

In both of my large pots, I'm going to plant cherry tomatoes.  They have done so well for me, much better than the larger tomatoes.  Plus, I can pluck them just before they are really "ready" and let them ripen on my windowsill, something else that keeps them from going to the squirrels.

My other ongoing issue last year was pesticide.  I really didn't want to spray anything on my plants.  I think I lost a lot of my yield to pests unnecessarily.  Other people I knew to have successful gardens basically told me point blank- you have to use pesticide of some sort.  So this year I'm going to look for something organic maybe.. or at least something as harmless as possible.

Anyone have any extra advice for me this year?  Experience with gardening or tips?  If you have a post about your garden, feel free to link it below!  I'd love to read about your backyard harvest :)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Outfit Inspiration

Warmer weather is coming.  It just has to be.  Please oh please let it be near.  In the meantime, I'll just imagine the sun shining on us in these spring-inspired outfits.  Details on where these pieces can be found will be listed below each collage.

For me:

Chambray top: Old Navy
Poplin Chino in Mango: Target
Sanuk Dotty Sandals: Amazon
Sunglasses: Target

For Dominic:

Cargo Shorts: Old Navy
Hat: Crazy 8
Sanuk Vagabond Sandals: Amazon

For Isla:

Heart Ruffle Tee: Old Navy
Leather Bow: Sadie Sky
Floral Skirt: Crazy 8
Moccasins: Freshly Picked

For Maisy:

Seersucker Shortalls: Oshkosh B'gosh
Sun Hat with Ears: Oshkosh B'gosh
Sandal with Flower Detail: Soft Star shoes

*Disclaimer- Amazon items are affiliate links.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New wheels

"I will never own a minivan.  There is just no reason for it.  Even if I have three kids, you can still fit three car seats in one row of an SUV" - Me when I only had one child.

"Kill me now" - Me as a mom of three car seat-aged children sitting in one row of my SUV.

A little back story, in October of 2012 my husband and I bought our first brand new vehicle- a Kia Sportage.  It was so cool with all the bells and whistles and was super sporty looking.  Sure it was a fairly small SUV (a crossover technically), but I only had two kids and wasn't planning anymore.  Shortly thereafter I found out I was pregnant with our third child.  Panic ensued.  We tried to take our brand new car in to see if it could be traded.  Not a chance.  The offer we got for it was laughable.  We got our infant seat (Chicco Keyfit 30) out of the attic and tried to put it into the car with the seats our other two already had (a Graco Nautilus and a Safety 1st Complete Air).  That was a negative.  We literally couldn't even fit all three on the bench, let alone install them.  I scoured the internet for another option.  

I ended up coming across raving reviews for the Diono Radian RXT seat, which boasted the ability to easily fit three across.  The seats weren't exactly cheap, but we didn't have any other option.  The only hope I had was that I could fit two of the RXT's and one Keyfit30 in a single row.  Thankfully the Keyfit30 appeared to be one of the most narrow infant seats, so at least we were ok there.  I ordered and held my breath until they arrived.  The result??  It was tight, but it worked!  

So from the time Maisy was born (last July) until now, I've had three kids (all in harnessed car seats) across in my Sportage.  Plus a stroller in the back.  It's been challenging to say the least.  The car was awesome, but just not a good fit for our family.  The cargo area was way too small to fit groceries if the stroller was there too.  All we heard while driving were screams of "she/he's touching me!" and "stop kicking me!"  Basically torture for all involved.  Add to that the knowledge that as Maisy's infant seat was nearing expiration (it was our original seat with Dominic and was only good through May 2014) and she was getting bigger, the only convertible seat we'd be able to fit was another RXT.  This was unfortunate because we did already own other car seats she could use, they just wouldn't fit.  

Ear plugging was fairly common around here.

What the middle seat was like for Dominic..

We decided to try again to trade the Sportage in since it had been almost a year since we last checked and the amount we owed had obviously gone done considerably from a years worth of payments.  We started browsing used minivans with the thought that we could actually end up with a lower payment as long as we got a fair price for our trade.  We knew the numbers that would work for us and started searching for options in our area. 

From the beginning, I really had my heart set on a Volkswagen.  I've owned two in the past (both Jettas) and will always be partial to them.  I was pretty open to options.  The van didn't need to be fully loaded as I was really interested in a lower payment.  We searched used vehicles with fairly low miles.  We found several in our price range in various models.  Then we saw the perfect one.

A white Rountan with low mileage and a ton of upgrades that was well within our price range popped up at a dealership in Northern VA.  Jeff emailed a salesman about it and was told someone was currently there looking at it, but that he would get back to us if they didn't end up getting it.  Nail biter!  We heard back.  It was still there.  

On Saturday evening we loaded all three kids up and made the hour drive to Sterling, VA.  Between afternoon activities and Virginia traffic, we didn't get there until about 6pm.  They were closing at 7.  Eeek!  The whole way I had major anxiety about what they would offer us for the Sportage.  I was terrified we'd get all the way there and they would low ball us and the whole trip would be pointless.  We knew our rock bottom price.  Moment of truth- they came back with a price that was actually a little more than we expected.  From that point on it was just the normal process to get things handled and us out the door.  I was in such shock over how fair they were and how easily it had been.  I'm so thankful to Koon's Ford of Sterling for literally staying open an extra two hours on a Saturday night to take care of our sale.  Special shout out to our salesman who was easy going and transparent (we've dealt with some shady salesmen in the past).

Also, thank you to the cleaning lady.  You can imagine what three kids in a dealership for three hours at bedtime can mean...

Oh just wiping up an entire cup of tea spilled all over the floor.  I'm sure they love us.

Overall, I'm still on a high from the whole experience and I'm so happy to be a "van mom".  For serious I'm in love.

And Maisy gets to use a seat that we already owned.  Win.

*Disclaimer- this blog contains some Amazon Affiliate links.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Zoey's Attic Personalized Gifts Review and Giveaway

I was first introduced to Zoey's Attic Personalized Gifts just before Maisy was born.  My friend Mindi over at Simply Stavish had taken the most adorable pictures of her three boys in their matching sibling shirts.  I just had to have a set for my own kids!  I ended up finding a design I liked, but requesting particular colors for each shirt.  I was just blown away with the quality and speed in which they arrived.  I ended up using those shirts in Maisy's newborn photo shoot and fell in love when I took my first look at the results (this image is the one featured in my blog header).  Besides looking adorable, the shirts were very high quality, fit well (even the tiny newborn onesie!), and the printing was soft and flexible.  No thick ink or iron-on transfer stiffness here. 

I was so thrilled to be given the opportunity to review another product from this great company.  Because we already had the sibling shirts, I chose the Custom Family Tree Throw Pillow with Pillowcase.  I thought the idea of my husband and I at the trunk of the tree with each child as a leaf was so neat.  Plus, the taupe/turquoise option matches our living room colors.  

The pillow came to me quickly and was packaged neatly inside of protective plastic.  The pillow is a great throw size.  Just as with the shirts, the printing on the pillow seems to be printed *into* the fabric, not just sitting on top.  It is soft and squishy.  Probably one of the most important things when you have small children- the pillowcase can be removed from the pillow for washing.  Many a pillows in this house have been trashed because there was no way clean them.  I'm glad to know that this pillow won't be ruined because of a spill.  Even in the case of some extreme mess (ha) I could always toss the inside pillow away and put the cover on a new one.  

Look how cute!

Their sibling shirts were adapted from this design.

I encourage you to check out Zoey's Attic Personalized Gifts, as there is something for everyone- from birth announcements printed on canvas, to teacher gifts, and everything in between.  You can follow Zoey's Attic Personalized Gifts on social media to keep up with new products, specials, and coupon codes.

Now the fun part!  One of my readers will win a $35 credit to Zoey's Attic Personalized Gifts!!  This credit will be sent to you in the form of a code and is good for anything in the shop.  

*Disclaimer- I received the custom throw pillow complementary in order to facilitate this review.  All opinions expressed are my own and I really do think this shop is the bomb[dot]com... as I have purchased their high quality goods in the past.  Winner will be selected by a third party source

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Recent IG faves

Find my instagram feed at :)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

#FreshlyPicked and #ShopSadieSky Giveaway!

To say I am excited to be hosting this review and giveaway would be an UNDERSTATEMENT.  I was absolutely thrilled when I learned I was selected to review a pair of Freshly Picked moccasins.  In case you've not heard, Freshly Picked moccasins are the bees knees when it comes to baby and toddler shoes!  In addition to being adorable, these shoes stay on, are super high quality, and are soft but durable.  You may recognize this brand from the hit TV show, ABC's Shark Tank.  Owner/Designer Susan Peterson was recently featured on the hit show and her story is really inspiring.  

From Freshly Picked
"Susan Petersen started making baby moccasins in 2009 after becoming frustrated by the lack of well-designed baby shoes. Using her second child, Gus, as a mocc-tester, and a bag of scrap leather she picked up at a yard sale, she began experimenting with designs. Working at her kitchen table, on a shoestring budget, Susan persisted through some disastrous attempts until she had created a pair of moccasins that not only looked adorable on Gus’ chubby little feet, but stayed on his feet as well.
Since then the moccasins have gone through about six design changes. Each change has perfected the look and the fit of the soft-soled shoe. The moccasins you purchase today are durable, well designed, and most importantly: stay on your child’s foot. 
Money was tight at the time Susan started and in order to earn money to start her business she got resourceful. Her brother owns a window installation business and in the summer of 2009 she convinced him to let her keep the old windows that he was removing from the houses. She spent a whole summer banging the glass out of the windows because they were encased in aluminum frames. At the end of the summer she took the aluminum window frames to the scrap yard and recycled them to get money. She made $200 dollars and with that literal sweat equity, she started her business."

I knew which color I would pick right away- the newly released "Radiant Orchid", inspired by the Pantone color of the year.  I am partial to purple and so is Isla.  My honest opinion now that we've had these shoes for a few weeks and Isla has worn them often:  I am very pleased and will most likely be ordering another pair for Maisy soon.  They are very soft, but the elastic around the ankle makes them stay on.  I requested a size 7 for her, which is what she wears in other brands.  I would say these are true-to-size... perhaps slightly big.  She definitely has room to grow but still walks without trouble.  The ultimate review- Isla loves them.  I mean slightly obsessed.  She can put them on easily herself (another plus!) and often puts them on just to wear around the house for fun.  There is no swaying a two year-old's opinion, so I put a lot of weight into the fact that she loves them.  And omg the new colors and styles!!!  I can't even handle it.  The best part about hosting this review is that one of my blog readers will win a pair of moccasins of their own!  Any pair!  These moccasins come in sizes 1-10 (baby/toddler sizes) and will be shipped to the winner directly from Freshly Picked.

In addition to winning a pair of moccasins, the winner of this giveaway will also receive a handmade Radiant Orchid leather bow from Sadie Sky Boutique, as pictured below.  Jess, from Sadie Sky signed on to participate in this review and giveaway as well and I just think she ROCKS.  She sent my girl a bow of her own and an additional bow (with headband to use if your wee one hasn't much hair) for me to send to the giveaway winner.  I was surprised at how soft this bow was.  For some reason I was picturing a stiffer fabric, but I was so pleasantly surprised when it arrived.  The leather is gushy soft and looks adorbs when paired with her moccasins!  The clip is easy to work and stays in her hair even while playing.  I really *really* like the look of this bow and  might just have to order her new Pink Luxe Set.  I LOVE stripes.

The winner will receive the bow and headband pictured below!

I am so excited to be offering these two fabulous prizes and wish each participant the best of luck!  The winner will be drawn at Midnight on 3/15/14.

*Disclaimer- I received both the moccasins and leather bow complementary in order to facilitate the review.  All opinions expressed are my own and my honest thoughts.  Winner will be draw at random by third party, Rafflecopter.  Moccasins will be sent to the winner directly from Freshly Picked.  Bow and headband will be sent by me.

Instagram @jesscarbone