DIY Craft Paper Flags

Craft Paper Flags |

What’s very inexpensive (you can buy it by the roll) and super convenient to have on hand? Basic brown craft paper. We love the stuff around here. Great for wrapping up doggie bags, creating massive finger painting drawings on, covering tables for simple kid-proof protection, and – who knew – for super cute and easy flags.

Craft Paper Flags |

I just made a handful for our next party during a little art session. I’m keeping them in a plastic baggie in our saran wrap/foil drawer until they might come in handy. Maybe as cupcake toppers? for spearing drink garnishes? cheese flags?

Craft Paper Flags |

Brown paper = simple, classic.

Craft Paper Flags |

A packet of 10 in a cute little cellophane baggie would be a great addition to a cocktail kit. My mind is currently racing with more craft paper ideas! The stuff is awesome! (I sometimes buy craft paper by the sheet at a craft store like Micheal’s and I often get it in a huge roll at home improvement stores like Lowe’s. Painting or grout aisle, if I’m remembering correctly.)

PS more crafty ideas here.

Our 2015 Spring Veggie Garden

Remember last year when I went all out with our summer garden? I adored that garden and it was sort of Liv and my’s pet project for a good portion of the summer (and actually well into the fall). My winter garden did not fair as well but it did produce mini everything for a couple of months.

We are about a month into spring and our veggies/herbs/edible flowers (!) have officially been planted.

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

It’s exciting that some of this took off right away. We actually planted that nasturtium (pretty orange/red flowers there in the front) and the tall sunflowers (towards the back) from seed in the winter time, but as soon as they broke ground they zoomed. I think we have two sunflowers in there from an entire packet of seeds, and likewise just a few actual nasturtium plants despite maybe 15 seeds going into the ground. May the best seedling win.

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

Our tomatoes pictured here are about three weeks old (to our garden, that is), they went in first after a random trip to the Lowe’s garden section. In three weeks they tripled in size! The rest of the spring planting happened just recently and has included beans, squash and basil. It’s a hodge podge but I don’t mind the busy-ness! Bring on the veggies.

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

I added trellis to the back of the garden (along the right wall) in hopes that I could grow beans up it. My winter garden resulted in dead peas and my spring garden has already killed all but two of the edamame planted. I think that that little strip just does not get enough sun and that I ought to stop trying there :(. As a test I’ve planted one bean plant in a cage in full sun (see above) to see if it’s just a bean family thing or if we actually can grow them after all.

My little edamame holding on to dear life!

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

Many of our herbs are around from last year, including sage, oregano, mint (chocolate and regular – it took over there for a while! we had to mojito it back into a proper size) and thyme. I added more basil this time around so that we’d have plenty to pair with the new heirloom tomatoes (insert heart emoji eyes here).

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

Those strawberries above produced two miniature fruits last year but they stuck around through the winter so I’m letting them keep their garden box space rent free for just a bit longer.

Here’s the full line up of spring 2015 additions:

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

I am most excited about the artichoke, though he started as a sad little fellow that the nursery discounted to 50% off because of condition. Fingers crossed. (We used our local Armstrong Garden nursery for all but the tomato plants). I may add an eggplant if I can train the squash and cucumbers to crawl down the walls of the garden instead of the usual spreading out. I’m packing a lot into this little garden box space.

I also can’t wait to start harvesting those heirloom tomatoes! As mentioned above, nothing like a perfectly ripe heirloom + fresh farmer’s market mozzarella + a basil leaf + olive oil + fat grains of salt for an excellent summer appetizer. Oh. My. Goodness.

New to the trial and error process this year:

-amended soil from the nursery (mixed it right into last year’s compost pile soil)
-a light layer of mulch (instead of cocoa hulls, which we did last year and which smelled amazing but ended up molding)

In the above photos you can see that I took some before and some after mulch placement.

Our beets started as wee little seedlings in the winter and are still growing. Who knew that it took like six months to produce a decently sized beet? I will treasure my store bought beets ever the more.

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

Not pictured is a similar sweet potato with a similar story. Anyone know how to harvest those? The potato plant started as a potato, grew roots, was planted and now the brilliant lime green leaves have taken over. When do I know to dig the root veggies up?

We knew it was time to plant our spring garden when I had to abruptly pull almost all of our winter veggie plants from an infestation of aphids. They took over! One day no bugs, next day they were 3-4 layers deep. Ugh it was really gross.

Here are my underpaid workers a week before I pulled all of the broccoli and Brussel sprouts.

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

See how much smaller that nasturtium was just a bit ago? Crazy. Side note: nasturtium (like pansies and a few other varieties) are completely edible. They’re so pretty in salads, as garnish or even floating in drinks. I’m excited to experiment, though they do have a bite to them.

Those tall yellow flowers behind the girls are blooming broccoli flowers (who knew!). They were beautiful.

Another plant (like the beets) that took forever and a day to produce anything were the Brussel sprouts. I was able to save one full size plant after the aphid attack but it still had only dollhouse-sized vegetable sprouts after an entire season. I’m wondering if any Brussel sprouts will be enjoyed this season by the Spenla family?

Here’s one of the bad Brussels just before I pulled it:

Our Spring Garden, 2015 |

See the white powdery mildew? That plant had a few other problems, too. Supposedly you can wipe those leaves down with a baking soda + water spray (instead of cutting just the leaves, which can damage the tender veggies that they cover) and it should be fine, but I ended up pulling this plant because all of the issues.

Do you have veggies in the ground? What are you planting this year? Or is a garden totally off of your radar :).

More garden box goodies, including what we did with the harvest last year.

Prioritizing My Work Schedule

Working Mom: Prioritizing My Work Schedule |

I wanted to share a follow up to my post on productivity because it would be easy to say that focusing on time management alone makes for an easy day… but most of you mommas know that when you’re balancing all that’s on your plate, even the the most productive gene in us does not beat out fatigue, a drag in creativity and even all of the great/annoying daily distractions that we encounter.

This is where focusing on prioritizing my work schedule has helped me in a big way.

I know (after years of getting used to the rhythm of my own work ethic and patterns), that there are certain times of the day where I am ON and when I am OFF (or getting there…). If I take a step back and prioritize my list – saving the good juice for when I really need it – then my days feel so much more energizing, happy and, I guess I’ll say it, productive. :)

7-9am: Mornings are my special time so I really try to not mess with the 7-9am hours. Work will never get done in those hours unless it is an absolute must.

9am-2pm: This is my power time! I can get so much done in this block of time that it’s crazy. This is when I must have child care, this is when I must have chill time in my little home office, this is when I must block the world out. This is when I focus on big projects, when I schedule conference calls, when I put my brain into overdrive. I prioritize this time, too – it has it’s own set of lists.

2-3pm: This is right about the time in the day that I need a pick-me-up. A cup of coffee, a quick park date with the girls, or even stopping everything for 30 minutes to make a smoothie and chat with my little ladies. Liv is done with preschool most days at 2 so it’s a natural stopping point in our day. Most of the time our morning sitter heads home at 2 or 2:30 and an afternoon second sitter (or even a mother’s helper) comes by again at 3. I sometimes like to prep dinner during this hour (I’m working on this one – I think if I can start to build this into my late lunch break I’ll make myself SO much happier come 6pm). All in all, a break in my day for kid-time is rejuvenating.

3-6pm: I know that this is my ‘coming down from the mountain’ time. I’m a little bit more tired, a little bit slower, my creativity juice is draining fast. If there’s a bag of chocolate somewhere in my home I’m in trouble (it’s 2:45 and I’m eating a reese’s peanut butter cup right now). If I line up my day correctly, this time of the day is filled with updating expense reports, invoices, checking and responding to less immediate email. I might start a blog post or edit a handful of images. I don’t schedule conference calls (unless they are overseas) during this time so it’s okay if the kids are noisy in the background.

6pm: Afternoon sitter heads home. When day light savings time is in full effect I LOVE to get out of the house (this is when living in a walkable neighborhood becomes a win-win) if I didn’t earlier at lunch for an hour for everyone to burn off some steam. Especially if I really did prep dinner at 2 or chose a crockpot meal that morning.

7-9pm: I put a show on for the girls and finish up dinner. Kevin gets home around 7:30 and we aim to eat right away. You can sum this chunk of time up as feeding and putting children to bed time :). Okay, family time. We prep, cook, eat, clean up after a meal – we discuss our day, pray for everyone in the universe five times, have mid-bite dance parties when the mood strikes (L & T, that is.) Dessert is threatened and everyone hops back into their chairs to finish their meal. PJs, teeth brushing, story time and cajoling children to their bedroom for lights out.

9-11pm: Remember when I used to be a late nighter? I used to get back to work after the kiddies went to bed but I am trying REALLY hard to not do that as of late. I might flip open the computer but it’s for light hearted stuff like blog reading and email answering. I’m even making it to bed most nights before midnight because I honestly, can’t-for-the-life-of-me keep my eyes open past 12pm. I think I need to have my thyroids checked, it’s killing my production capacity ;).

This started as an exercise on measuring my energy levels at different times of the day but quickly turned into more of A Typical Day post. :) Heyyyy brain dump…

But! What I mean to share is that I think all of us have those definitive ON and OFF moments. With this self-awareness we can (and should) give ourselves a break when our patience is running low and likewise we can push ourselves into overdrive when we’re feeling on top of the world. By grouping appropriate activities in appropriate time chunks, we are giving ourselves a better chance at making it successfully through the day with that calm assuredness that our balancing act is indeed possible and totally worth it. We are super women after all, right? (yes, yes we are.)

And because, after all, there are plenty of big priorities outside of work that need our full attention (and energy), too.

Liv Dancing |

PS more thoughts from a working mom, including a note on what it means to feel balanced and what I think a full-time working/full-time mom schedule might look like.

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