Thursday, March 31, 2011

Potty Training

Oh hello. Thanks for stopping by. That? Oh, pay no attention to the potty in the middle of my living room/foyer. (It is literally the first thing you see when you come in the front door.)

I was going to wait until summer, or at least warmer weather for fewer layers. I'm not ready, but apparently she is.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ramblings with a Picture

So I am not quite getting that iPhone Instagram affect I want. I will have to keep working on it. It is supposed to have a very "polaroid" feel to the image.
Today I have to design, design, design for a couple projects I have going. It feels good to be back in the saddle so to speak. Also, the first of my tomato plant seedlings are poking their heads above the soil. I have lots more to start... 

Gary and I walked out and discussed the garden areas today and I realized I need a lot, lot, lot more seedlings. If the green house reaches 80 again (or seems to be likely to get that warm) I will be moving my seedlings outside for the day light hours to get the heat and rays. 

We picked up a bunch of 2 x 4's and some wood paneling from some friends of ours working on a kitchen remodel. Hopefully they will be able to return to use in our green house and elsewhere. We have so many projects to do it is crazy. It seems like moving the rabbits out of the greenhouse as the temperatures creep up is a priority. A long with breaking ground, cutting down trees, expanding the chicken coop, clearing a tractor path, putting up fences, getting the rabbits bred, etc. 

Can't think too much about that to do list right this second. I have to go design... 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Meet My Vitamix...

It is no secret how much time I spend in the kitchen. Feeding a bunch of kids wholesome homemade food is a full time job. Literally. I'm talking at least 40 hours a week (that includes doing the dishes too). Oh, but I love filling their often bottomless bellies with good stuff. Over the years, I have acquired quite a collection of efficient and helpful gadgets. Some like measuring cups and stainless steel bowls (can you ever have too many of these?) get used several times a day. The fondue pots and quart canner have their specific duties but are still loved when dusted off and put to use. But I'm not sure I ever had a favorite until now.

Meet my Vitamix, a generous (and hugely unexpected) gift from some dear friends. Don't be fooled by its exterior, folks, this is no blender. Can an ordinary kitchen appliance turn this...

into this... in less than 30 seconds?

It amazes me every single time I turn it on. No way can it liquify quartered apples, puree whole baby carrots, or transform celery into something pourable. But it proves me wrong every. single. time.

(A quick glance at our typical fridge foods...)

We are going through produce and ice like crazy, but that is pretty normal around here. Our diet is a lot of fresh and dried fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, mozzarella cheese, tuna, eggs, turkey anything and everything, beef, fish and rice. Occasionally we have crackers, homemade breads and homemade pasta. You won't see potato chips, ice cream or other junk foods unless I make them and I do. Quite often, actually. Vitamix made cherry vanilla dairy free ice cream just last night! We talk about nutrition and good food choices with the kids at basically every meal. Even the younger ones can identify proteins and carbs. The absolute best is when I hear them explain our food to unsuspecting friends over for a visit. There is nothing like seeing a kid explaining to another child why they too should consider watering down their fruit juices.

The pantry

Vitamix has been on my kitchen counter for only three days but I'm pretty sure this is love. It has gotten used every meal and my kids are begging for spinach. Either they developed an overnight obsession for their greens or they like the fact that they can drink their lunch through a twisty straw. Who wouldn't?

(I'm not selling these I just really like mine and thought you would like to know...)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Decoupage Bookshelf

I. Love. Books. Especially old ones with faded covers or notes written in the margins. My house is filled with stacks of colorfully bound thrifted copied of poetry, dictionaries, plays and classics. I am constantly amazed what paper and glue can become. Ahem, for instance...

I recently inherited a bookcase that needed some serious craft love and after playing around with the idea of paint, I decided to go back to an old favorite of mine: decoupage. Instead of hours of sanding, priming and painting, in the time it takes to watch a youth baseball game, I can give a small neglected shelf a second chance.

Here it is in its now former glory. Take a look at that trim. And the hardware. But the shelf itself was in good condition.

I keep a couple of my favorite books specifically for aesthetic projects aside; all kinds of stuff like expired atlases, old art books and classic children's tales. I originally was going to use a children's book to decoupage the shelf, but after surveying the kids spaces I realized they had no room for another stick of furniture. Instead I chose a rejected copy of Shakespear's Othello for a living room side table.

I know this picture is upside down. Blogger and I were having a disagreement... It won.

A screwdriver did double duty to remove the hardware and pry off the trim.

Lots of glue, pages and little hands made this project come together quickly. I cut the pages out of the book with a blade and a straight edge. The sticky stuff was Mod Podge. Spreading the glue on a old cookie sheet and laying the bookshelf on a old beach towel helped keep the mess to a minimum. No one ever said decoupage was a nice neat project. By the way, if you use a cookie sheet, make sure you do not plan on using it for baking again. My sheet is for craft purposes only.

We started on the insides of the shelf. This consumed much of the front half of the book with most of the handwritten notes. If you have ever had the good intention of taking notes in the margins of book, you know you never can carry the extra effort past the halfway point. Had I thought of it ahead of time, I would have planned for those to be on the more visible surfaces. Oh well.

Two quick coats of high gloss black spray paint on the original hardware and the transformation was complete. So the total cost of this spiffy table... NOTHING!

The book had just enough pages to decoupage the entire surface, including most of the interior of the drawer. Literally I had one sheet left and it was completely blank.

After I realized the issue with all the cool pages ending up where no one could appreciate them, I managed to save a few of the important pages for featured places on the drawer front and top.

I think the black and white is such a simple backdrop for my colorful books and other favorite things. Only the tops of the shelves did not get papered, but you can't notice unless you are lying on your stomach taking this picture.

All of my work is far from perfect and this close up shows it. I totally love it bubbles, wrinkles, creases and all!

When it finally warms up outside I would like to protect my favorite (and first in a long time) decoupage project with a coat of polyurethane. Hmmm... do you think that will work?

Imagine what you could do with this... vintage children's picture books with beautiful sketches covering a playroom wall, cookbook images and recipes for a kitchen shelf (thanks Erica!)... Maybe old sports cards from when you were a kid... What you can come up with?

(This is where you participate. Go ahead and leave a comment and wow the other readers with your insanely creative ideas...)

If you like what I have done with this shelf, you may also like this one I did last summer.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Best Part of Keeping Chickens...

This is a wonderful short post by Jackie that was posted back in February. For whatever reason (Blogger glitch) it reposted when I updated the label... not realizing Jackie had already updated the label. No matter what it shouldn't have reposted, but it did. So enjoy it again!! **Wink**

Begin a recipe only to find you have no eggs.
Run to the coop and gather the exact amount you need.

A happy blessing.
I'm making brownies by the way...

Saturday Open House

Welcome to our houses! We are excited about the changes happening on the blog as our vision unfolds. Just wanted to take a moment to walk you around and share all the changes.

We have added a button for you to grab and use on your blog or site. Hopefully you will love what we do here so much you won't mind sharing us with everyone you know.

Don't forget to grab your own
TBH Button!
Our Facebook profile image has a new, fresh look. We add images, updates, and other surprises occasionally on on our Facebook page that we don't post on the blog and would love for you to be apart of our Facebook community. Please take a moment to "like" us, won't you?

Like us on Facebook

Our cloud of labels went away but don't worry ALL the content is still there. We have simplified our labels under 8 categories. Looking for posts about chickens? Check out our Barnyards. Looking for posts about our gardens? Check out our Backyards. Below is a list of some of what can be found under our new categories.
  • Backyard - Garden and all things out our back doors, etc.
  • Barnyard - Animals, fencing, generally all things farm.
  • Days... - Life.
  • Homemade - DIY, projects, crafts, decoration, re-purposing, etc.
  • House News - Announcements, open houses, giveaways, sponsors, general blog information, etc.
  • Snap Shots - Photos. Moments in our lives.
  • Soap Box - A place to share our view on current events we care about, along with some social responsibility, health, etc. 
  • Yummy - Food (enough said).
Please be patient with us as we go through our 100 + posts and re-label them all. We promise to have that done really soon.
Our inspiration has moved! The links we love are now on their own page and we will be placing them in categories. And last but not least, to make your browsing experience easier we have added links under each post of other reads we recommend. Feel free to hop around the blog and let us know what you think!

Well thanks for visiting. We hope you come back again soon and keep a watchful eye for more new things to come. Happy Saturday!

P.S. We added a subscribe by email option at the very bottom of our blog. If you are interested, and we hope you are, in getting the latest and greatest from Two Blue Houses now you can right in your inbox. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Making New Friends

Jackie made a surprise visit into my little suburb so we got to spend a good portion of the night (Thursday) and day (Friday) together! We have LOTS of changes happening on the blog and our time together was both refreshing and productive. I would say that this visit very much meets the criteria of one of my 2011 words to live life by "accomplished". However, I will talk more about that and the many exciting changes tomorrow.

Right now there are more important matters at hand. Jackie and I have a solid direction for the blog and we are excited to find new ways to make friends via the wonderful online world. We have frequented many blogs over the last several years and honestly you start to think of those lovely bloggers as friends in faraway places. We have never spoken directly with any of them but somehow you feel connected as if you did know them personally. We sincerely hope that via Two Blue Houses you will come to feel the same.

Well we are busy making new friends! We have already told you how much we love the Homegrown community and through that wonderful online place I stumbled upon a sweet farm blog called Verde Farm and have just fallen in love with it's vintage charm and beautiful animals. It sure seems like Amy & Richie have an exciting year ahead of them with their adorable Kunekune pigs and cute piglets (to come in 2011) and as they start to host weddings (I would have gone with the rustic barn venue for sure). Won't you stop over and check them out?

Speaking of Verde Farm we have jumped in and joined up with their Farm Friend Friday. Please stop over and check out all the other wonderful farm blogs linking up.

While enjoying Verde Farm I noticed a cute button for the Blog Guidebook. It was the bee that pulled me in...

My dear Jackie was no stranger to the treasures this site held. Tutorials, giveaways, linkies love, resources, and  last but not least blog listings. We I can assure you; you will find us listed in the not so distant future under the category Country Life/Homesteading. The founders of the Blog Guidebook, Lyndsey and Sarah, created the site to provide a safe place for bloggers to learn and gather. I think the concept of the Blog Guidebook is best summed up in the following statement from their about us page:

"Blogging is a new form of journalism. It is a way to self-publish your dreams, hopes and stories of your world. The Guidebook offers a way for others to find you, in a friendly, happy, easy to navigate, safe environment."

For Jackie and I, Two Blue Houses is very much away to share our dreams, hopes, and ideas for our present and future. I am glad we can make new friends to share that with. 

Thanks for joining us! We are so glad you are here.

Jackie & Lauren "Instagram" - Homemade Style

After less then four hours of sleep we are still smiling... the blog appreciates our sacrifice. We hope.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Baby and Chick

They saw each other for the first time.

I have to say this group of Silver Laced Wyandottes are extremely calm. Nothing like our previous batch.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baby Chicks

The call came from the post office. Little peeps. 6 a.m. They are here. Always a novelty. Last time the postman told us that there used to be lots of chickens coming by mail to our fair community. Bees too. Not so much now a days. When we started keeping chickens there were no regulations on them. They weren't considered livestock. You could have a rooster, as many birds as you want, it was the coop they were worried about. We were told it ("it" being the coop) would bring coyotes. Really.

The shipping box from Meyer Hatchery in Ohio. Hurray local!

They are here. Great I was completely irresponsible and up until 2 a.m. and great we are about to get hit by a snow storm. I was banking on the end of March being warmer than the beginning. This group is supposed to go in a brooder in the garage. Right now the garage is cold, stinks of gasoline because of the tractor, and is cold. I know I mentioned that.

Huddling chicks. The are right under the heat lamp.

Out of the box they were cold and huddling. Each got a beak dipped in water until they drank. The one has a semi pasty butt already nothing is blocked. I will clean it when Gary gets home. All behinds will be inspected then. Corey came out in a hurry to see them only at Gary's insisting. He seemed completely unimpressed. Sixteen year olds can't "be impressed" by chickens. He would have been more so two years ago when the last group arrived. He was a better age for it all back then and hadn't yet been jaded by the heavy **Wink** burden of taking care of adult chickens.

In less then five minutes they had relaxed and were exploring their new home.

When we left them in the garage secure in the knowledge they had drank, were exploring, and no longer a heaping pile it was clear novelty had definitely worn off. I am tired. My pictures are not great. They are wonderfully cute but I don't feel the necessity to peer in every few minutes to make sure they are still alive. They will serve their purpose and will be a great addition to our mini farm.

Two roosters and the rest hens (well will be when older). They will be replacing my laying flock in September.  Hopefully the majority of them make it like my last group of chickens. Some loss is to be expected. The general idea is that this group will replace and/or add to themselves. Either by going broody or by us incubating their eggs.

No decisions on what will happen with the old flock yet. I am grateful to them for their service but I would like some long roasters or maybe lots of chicken soups with homemade stock.  They could also be sold on Craig's List to a beginner(s) chicken keeper(s). An easy beginners flock.

The baby is wide awake and bushy tailed. He shouldn't be up. I hope to get him to lay down very very soon and I will follow his example. How does he know I am not sleeping soundly in my bed? Baby's must have sonar or something. Perhaps his bottle will convince him it is still sleep time?

Well I am enjoying a breakfast of champions. Dry granola and coffee. Until next time.


We are excited that you can find us on Verde Farm's Farm Friend Friday! Stop over and check out all the other great blogs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

5 Signs of Spring

Number 1:

Waking up the herb garden from a long cold slumber...

The perennial herbs are already on their way back to life. Hello chives, thyme and oregano!

Number 2:

Hanging the first load of laundry out on the line...

It was not particularly warm or sunny but it sounded better than folding the other clothes in the dryer.

Number 3:

Flip flops.

Number 4:

First baseball game in the front yard.

Number 5:

Putting together the trampoline.

Nope, there is no going back now...

Watch, I bet it is going to snow later this week. If you know something that I don't know, please just let me dream.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Seed Starting Set-up

Today we are busy installing some indoor outdoor carpet in our basement to complete the remodel. There is still lots to do and consider like furniture and layout, but I'm looking forward to putting cool stuff up on those bare cream walls.

A week ago, I officially started my seeds. There are lots of new additions and my entire list is here. I'm not neat or fancy when it comes to projects, but I can get the job done. All of the planting took place in my dining room and later the pots were hauled upstairs for their dedicated growing spot. I'm really thankful for my bamboo floors throughout the house for tasks such as this. All I needed was a bucket of hot soapy water and the room was good as new.

So here they are a week later.

Don't you love my table, a section of board over two saw horses. Like I said, it may not be pretty but it works.

This our normal light with full spectrum compact fluorescent bulbs. We have them in every in fixture in our home. The light is switched on first thing in the morning and turned off when the kids go to bed.

Pardon my flash, but I wanted to show you the extra supplies stored under the table: a laundry basket with the rest of the seeds, a clear box holds more containers, and the tote has soil. The soil is from the woods behind our house, mixed with a small bag of organic potting soil and half a bag of vermiculite.

And if you look closely you can see even if it's inexpensive and unattractive, it can still work.

Chamomile. The package said it may take a long time and sprout erratically, but here they are!

Our first planting of broccoli. We start some every 4 to 6 weeks so we have a constant harvest.

This is my first year growing some ornamentals and flowers.

A pepper already! I'm a surprised as you are!

Hope you have a swell weekend!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Good Food Friday: Ginger Lemon Cake

If sunshine had a flavor, I think it would be ginger lemon. The flavors are such a happy combination and this recipe is perfect for these sunny but still cool spring mornings. I'm pretty sure the basic recipe for this bundt cake came from my bon apetite magazines, but the ginger-lemon twist is my way of saying..

Welcome Home Sunshine!

Ginger Lemon Bundt Cake

  • softened butter
  • course granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons ginger powder (don't be skimpy)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks butter) -- shhh... I only used one stick... still really really good...
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • zest of one lemon
  • Preheat oven to 350 *F. Brush butter liberally all over inside of a bundt pan. Sprinkle coarse sugar over the butter in the pan until well coated.
  • Whisk together flour, ginger powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until uniform. Add eggs two at a time, beating after each addition. Add egg yolk and vanilla. Beat. Add sour cream and lemon zest and beat.
  • Pour half of flour mixture into the large bowl and fold with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining flour and mix again until just blended. Fold in crystallized ginger.
  • Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan, being very careful to leave the sugar in tact.
  • Bake until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs about 55 minutes (less if you halved butter, like me).
  • Cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Using a butter knife, gently ease the cake from the sides of the cake pan. When sufficiently loosened, invert the cake onto a plate.

What really makes this cake fantastic is the lemon glaze...

  • juice of half a lemon
  • powdered sugar
  • zest of half a lemon (or more if you want to see people make that classic sour face)

  • Juice the half lemon into a mug
  • Add powdered sugar until its about the consistency of slime (hey in my defense there are a lot of boys living here...)
  • Add lemon zest.
  • Stir and drizzle onto your cooled cake.

So sorry I couldn't get any pictures of this delight. It was sectioned and devoured before the glaze even had the chance to get to the cake. Maybe you could take some pictures of yours and share with me?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mailbox Update

Here it is.

I don't think a mailbox has ever seen so many screws and nails.

The duct tape is totally unnecessary but absolutely hilarious.

And just for perspective...

It is about a foot shorter than the previous one. Oh well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunny Days

Gosh! I don't know about you but I am dying for some spring time weather and some sunshine to lift my spirits. The last two days here in Ohio have been gloomy! The news has been gloomy! My families nerves and attitudes have been gloomy! Lets look at some sunny pictures and smile.

Sun Tea

Last year I planted for variety of sunflowers along the
house. This year I am thinking blueberries.

This is a late season shot of the sunflowers. Sun! 

A happy reminder that sunny days will come again.

What keeps you going on these gloomy days?
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