Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Light me up!

The weather has been so nice that I just have to be outside whenever I can, but since I can't just sit still, it means I've been coming up with lots of garden and patio projects to tackle.  One that's been on my list for awhile were our 2 back patio lights.

I'm guessing they were gold or copper fresh out of the box and have just oxidized over time.  I toyed with buying new lights, but why buy something new when I can paint!  Since I already had some black paint and a brush on hand, what did I really have to loose.  My patio furniture and accessories are mostly black, so I thought it would work.  I really do love the way the black plays with all of natures' greens, especially chartreuse this time of year.   It took about 2 coats of a paint and some glass cleaner to give these lights a quick facelift!  My favorite kind of project-quick, free and successful! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Shimmering elephant

For LMD's birthday party, I picked up a few extra elephants to pull the theme together.  I found this guy at Homegoods and thought he could be cute with a little spray paint.  A few coats later and presto chango, he's a good looking silver guy!

Do you guys have any good finds that you've spray painted lately?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Poison Ivy

While I love cascading ivy in small doses, I truly hate wrangling with ivy that decides to take over my garden. Granted it’s a great workout to play tug of war with this invasive vine, but it can be quite time consuming.  On a visit last year, my godmother pointed out that the ivy wrapping around my tree could ultimately kill it.  A thought Mr. Diva had been long harboring.   Over a few weeks time, I set to work trying to kill it.  I kept cutting at the roots until the tree went from ivy wrangled  to nearly ivy free.  A year later, the ivy is gone, but the dead vines have taken awhile to fall off.  The tree is much happier and is already sprouting new growth!  Yay team Diva!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesdays with LMD-Music Music Music

LMD loves music.  I always have Pandora on the background as she plays on the floor-even when she just was a wee little babe.  Now, when her favorite station, Rockabye, comes on, she gets so excited to groove with the tunes.   Here's a Top 5 list of LMD's favorite music must haves!

Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Journey

1. Rockabye-Whether it's Journey, GNR or Aerosmith, LMD loves some classic rock!

2.Toy Drum-This drum is great.  It's loaded with instruments, so you can start a solo act or make your own family band. 

3. Music Together-LMD loves music class.  It's 45 minutes of singing, dancing and instruments. Seriously, what's not to love!  Enrollment includes about 10 classes, 2 CDs and a music book.  Check out their website and see if there is a class in your neighborhood.

Image from

4. You Tube-You've got to love the freebies on the internet.  Little Miss Diva can't get enough of Mahna Mahna.  She just lights up and giggles every time she watches it.  Of course, now every time she sees a computer, she wants it played!  Lion King and Aladdin are other favorites. 

Our set is in all pink of course!

5.Fisher Price Musical Tea Set-Because every girl likes to channel their inner English diva. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Focaccia has been on my 2012 short list of foods to try.  It's also one that I earmarked in Peter Reinhart's book several years ago, but never got around to testing.  I just love the spongy texture and salty flavor of focaccia.  When I woke up to a rainy Saturday morning, I knew it was the perfect day to give it a shot.  As with most of Reinhart's breads, it's a 2 day process, but I still took the dive back into the bread making deep end.

I started by making the herb oil, which is used to essentially baste the bread with a flavor infusion.  I had never thought about making a flavored oil, but this method is very straight forward.  My herb garden has a lot of  oregano and some basil right now, so I tossed in some fresh leaves of both to make up the 1 cup needed for this recipe. Then, I set to work on the bread.  The instructions are fairly straight forward. As with most bread recipes, there's a lot of proofing, so you'll want to pick a day where you are home for a bit.  The recipe also says that you can't add enough herb oil, but I disagree.  I used a little less than was called for and even then I had some oil running out of the pan into the oven, which of course resulted in smoke and alarms!!!  Thankfully, the bread came out just right and even got better the next day.   

Picture of the dough before refrigeration for 48 hours.  I took other pictures that aren't uploading correctly. 

Verdict:  I made the dough on Saturday and didn't back until Tuesday due to other commitments.  The extra time in the fridge really helped the herb oil's flavor to penetrate the bread.  I'll definitely make this again albeit with less oil!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

To the trees!

Thanks to some great foundation shrubs my front beds are in pretty good shape, but there are two spots that could really benefit from some height.  

I called in the expertise of my always amazing uncle, who has a degree in horticulture.  He suggested both a leatherleaf viburnum and Foster's Holly.  They would work in the bare spots and would fill in quite nicely over the coming years.  

I have a few go to nurseries that I hit up when I need something beyond your everyday essentials-hostas, impatiens, etc.  Nurseries are trouble for me.  If I don't go in with a plan, I can find myself over budget coming home with plants I really don't need.  Instead of making the 30 minute trek, I called ahead and was so glad I did.  It turns out that viburnums were a little hard to find and the leatherleaf variety had fallen out of local favor.  Perhaps I was going with an out of fashion plant? Too funny!  Since I couldn't find a leatherleaf in stock, I opted for another viburnum variety-Allegheny.  It will grow just as tall and wide, but will have a slightly different appearance.  

At another nursery, I found one of the last Foster's Holly in stock.  So my plan was really coming together.  We transplanted the 2 existing bushes to a new home right by the HVAC where they should fill in nicely.  My uncle also suggested trimming these shrubs back to help them adjust to their new home, so they are looking a little sad now (couldn't bare to post a pic).  Hopefully, by the end of the summer, they will be back in good shape.  Next, the Foster's Holly found it's new home.  It's amazing what a difference 2 plants can make to a landscape! 

While the new plants are still small, they will eventually fill in the gaps.  I can't wait to post an update!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesdays with LMD-Birthday Edition

Little Miss Diva had her 1st birthday just a few weeks ago.  It's amazing how fast the first year flew right by us.  To honor her special day, we had a little soiree at the house with family and a few friends.   The fabulous Emily Holmes designed the invitations. I was going with a pink elephant theme.  Yes, it's kind of random, but since we have a plethora of both, I just decided to embrace them!  

I was on a search for a few extra pink accessories, but couldn't find any pink candles that fit the bill.  Instead, I just used this Martha Stewart idea and wrapped my existing candles in streamers, which I already had on hand.  Love a free solution!  I picked up pink tulips and ranuculous from Import Flowers, and used vinca from my garden as filler.  I was pretty pleased with the results!  My flower arranging is taken a turn in the right direction.

I made the ribbon garland from pink ribbon I had on hand and some from the discount bin at Michaels. With all these pink accessories, I'm sure to have more pink parties in the future! We had a small sampling of food and adult beverages since the party was mid-afternoon.  Mr.Diva smoked up some delicious pork sliders, which sadly didn't make it into the pictures.  Harris Teeter did the smash and sheet cakes.  The pink cake with white polka dots turned out so cute and apparently everyone thought so...

Please note the before shot of the cake!

Our adorable puppy has an affinity for sweet treats.  He couldn't wait to help himself to some cake!  I just cut off the dog tasted portion and served the rest.  It was just a hilarious memory for a truly wonderful celebration.  LMD had the best time opening all her presents and dazzling the crowd.  Yay parties!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Salty Caramel Ice Cream

jeni’s splendid ice creams

Since the heat is here to stay, the ice cream machine has been dusted off and is churning out some tasty goodness.  For my second batch of the 2012 ice cream making year, I decided to test out Jeni's Salty Caramel Ice Cream as posted by The Bitten Words.  First up, I familiarized myself with the instructions and gathered my mis en place since it looked like everything was going to happen at a rapid pace. This really recipe piqued my curiosity with the inclusion of cream cheese

Caramel starting to form along the edge.  You have to keep a close eye on the mixture, so it doesn't burn.
It was pretty exciting to see the sugar go from grains to caramel without any liquid.  Yes, I'm a kitchen dork. 

Here's the mixture after I had added some of the heavy cream.

Then, the recipe came together pretty easily. 
After the milk was added. 

A small note: Turn your zip lock bag into a pastry bag by cutting an opening in one corner after it has properly chilled.  It will definitely help get all the ice cream into the machine without making too much of a mess. 

Verdict: The ice cream that came right out of the maker had the texture of a Frosty and the taste of smoky caramel.  It's an interesting flavor, but is a little off from my favorite caramel taste.  Give it a try and let me know what you think. 

Next up:  Southern Living's Lemon Icebox Pie Ice Cream

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shady lady

Gardens are definitely a work in process.  We moved into our house 3 years ago and found ourselves with some good garden structure albeit overgrown. Every spring since we moved in, I've tried to tackle a few projects-either of my own making (butterfly bed & window boxes) or Mother Natures (tree removal).  Last year, we lost one of our backyard pine trees, which allowed us to open up more of yard.  In turn, the back bed was really exposed.  It was full of Virginia creeper, ivy and weeds turned to shrubs.  It was definitely an undertaking to get the 3 large stumps out of the beds, but well worth it.  In turn, I found lots of buried stones that I used to edge along the entire back bed.  The stones really helped pull together our stone patio with the garden beds.  I transplanted a few hostas and azaleas to get the beds started. 

This spring I decided to lengthen the back corner bed.  The area between the bed and my large compost pile was more weeds than grass.  I thought it would look nice to extend the bed with the stones and some shade lovers.
For now, I'm using some monkey grass and ferns to fill and will either transplant or buy more hostas down the line.
In progress after!

Tuesdays with LMD

Little Miss Diva is quite the reader.  She's happy to pull down every last one from the shelf and then spend forever flipping through her books.  It's really quite sweet and I hope the start of a great reader.  I thought it would be fun to list LMD's Top 5 picks of the moment (in no particular order).  We'll see where they stand in 6 months!


1. Tails-This book was a gift from my Dad and stepmother.  LMD loves to flip through it and a few tails have been removed because it's just too fun not to tug away at them. 

I'll See You in the Morning [ILL SEE YOU IN THE MORNING-BOA]

2. I'll See You in the Morning-We just received this one in our Citrus Lane box.  It's a really sweet board book. 
 A Mud Pie for Mother
3. A Mud Pie for Mother-A Books from Birth book. 

Good Night: A Touch & Feel Bedtime Book

4. Good Morning, Good Night: We've been reading this book since we brought LMD home from the hospital.  Mr. Diva and I know it by heart, which helps when LMD wants to flip through it!
 Barnyard Dance! (Boynton on Board)
5.  Barnyard Dance-Who doesn't love a little dancing with the animals!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Salad shake up

Little Miss Diva is quite the good eater.  Of course, I haven't introduced her to the prowess of salty food!  Seeing her eat lots of veggies, I realize what a poor job I do with my daily intake, so when I stumbled on this salad, it immediately went on my rolling list.  In hindsight, it's more fruit heavy than veggie, but still on the moderately healthy side.  I substituted sugared almonds for walnuts because they sounded better and used a Champagne vinaigrette I had on hand. 

Verdict:  Great way to break out of your salad rut and feel a little bit better about eating a few handfuls jelly bellies!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Green with gardening!

Ahh spring 2012, you’ve been an interesting beast.  It started off so warm that daffodils and forsythia were out record breaking early.  At one point, I just gave into the insanity and kept rooting for the warmer weather to stay since I didn’t want any of my precious early blooming perennials to suffer. It was about that time that spring garden fever hit, but of course, the local nurseries weren’t ready for us or the warmer temps.  Nor should they have been since we had a few frost scares along the way.  Thankfully, the craziness should be behind us and the garden has never looked better. 

So what’s on my 2012 garden to do list?  

1. Add height to front beds with trees and/or shrubs. 

2. Add a spigot to the front beds to help water the front yard.

3. Extend back shade bed.
Area right behind these chairs

4. Replace/paint exterior patio lights.

5. Gut lily bed since it doesn't get enough light anyway.

6. Install rain barrel. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesdays with Little Miss Diva

It's that time of year when the sun is shining and the heat is on.  I can't wait for the pool to open and the tanning to begin!  In the meantime, I've been taking Little Miss Diva to the Y's indoor pool for some swim lessons.  They might  sound a little ridiculous to some, but they've really been a great.  The lessons are geared towards getting the kids used to blowing bubbles in the water, paddling and kicking.  Little Miss Diva has really enjoyed splashing around and I'm sure will love hitting the outdoor pools in just a few weeks. What better way to usher in the warmer temps than a few LMD picks for summer must haves!

A colorful swimsuit
Trend Lab Dr. Seuss Bucket Hat, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
I'm terrible about remembering to a take a hat with us, so maybe I should buy a few!

These wipes are genius!  The higher SPF lotions are so thick that it's often hard to get them all rubbed into the little ones' skin-enter these wipes.  I love that I can get this sunscreen on quick even if LMD wiggles a bit too much.  

No diva is complete without some shades!

Step2 WaterWheel Activity Play Table
A water table is a great way to enjoy the patio on a hot day.  Be warned you'll either want to put your babe in a swimsuit or strip down to can get a little wet!          

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