September 27, 2010

Our New Evergreen Babies

Now that fall is upon us, we've been able to start work on our backyard again.  You may remember that when we moved into our house, our yard was nothing but a blank slate of grass:

Since then, we've added a fence, patio, and some shrubbery but our next step is to add trees to finish our backyard transformation and add some privacy.  Fall is a great time to plant trees because it allows them to have a few months to establish their roots before the first frost so by the time Spring rolls around you should have a beautiful established tree.  In my neck of the woods, it's still a bit too hot to plant deciduous trees but it's okay to start planting evergreens which are heartier.

We picked up these pretty evergreens at a farmer's market last weekend:

evergreen tree


They're a bit skinny and only about six feet tall now, but they're expected to grow about 2-3 feet a year and grow to be 5-6 feet wide.  For now, I just like they way they've "spruced" up our yard!

planted evergreen

In a few weeks, when the weather gets coolers we'd like to plant a flowering plum tree because it's another fast grower.  Any other recommendations for quick growing privacy trees?


September 22, 2010

Fall Shopping Finds

Even though I'm not ready for summer to end yet, autumn officially begins at 11:09pm tonight.  To get myself in the fall spirit, I put together a few of the items I'm loving for autumn:

  1. Pumpkin Muffin Pan from CSN Stores.  Don't you just love this store, they have everything under the sun from kitchen tables to muffin pans and even the kitchen sink
  2. Not all fall decorating has to be orange and brown, I love this white porcelain pine cone by Lazy Susan (Amazon).
  3. I have been wanting a firepit for a while now and now is a great time to snag one on sale, plus they're the perfect way to keep cozy while enjoying an autumn evening (Walmart).
  4. This pretty wooden bowl by Paula Deen is intended to be a salad bowl, but I think it would be a nice fruit bowl or look great just out on display (Walmart).
  5. These silky soft velvet throws are made from 75% bamboo derived rayon, making them ultra soft and they come in a variety of pretty fall colors like orange and taupe (Amazon). 
  6. Fall always puts me in the mood for baking so I'm eying these fun fall cookie cutters (Amazon).
  7. Okay, so this side table with removable tray isn't specifically autumn-like, but I think it's such a great bargain at $30 that I couldn't resist sharing it (Walmart).
  8. I couldn't put together a Fall Finds list without include some Halloween decorations and I'm loving this eerie crow with light up eye (Target).
  9. This cute fabric storage bin is another great bargain, it's on sale for under $7 at Target this week and comes in fun green or a variety of other colors (Target).
While you're getting in the fall spirit, make sure to check out the moon tonight!  Tonight is a Super Harvest Moon which means a full moon is occurring on the first day of fall.  This is a rare occurrence that hasn't happened in 20 years.  As the sun sets in the west, the moon will rise in the east creating a rare twilight glow and making the moon appear huge and low hanging.  It will be happening at 6:54pm in New York City and if we're lucky may look something like this:

Enjoy the show and happy fall!

September 21, 2010

Summertime Zinnias

After the very hot summer we had this year, it seems as though everyone is anxious for Autumn to begin... everyone except me that is!  I love summer and intend to hang onto it as long as possible and enjoying what's left of the warm weather!  Technically, it's still summer and fall doesn't even begin until tomorrow so I'm going to maintain my summer state of my mind until then (and as long afterwards as possible).

I have really enjoyed gardening this summer and my blooming Zinnias are proof summer isn't over quite yet:

planted zinnia

I planted these beauties from seeds in the spring and they have been blooming wonderfully over the past few  months.  This was my first time planting Zinnias and I will definitely plant more next year.  I'm already looking forward to planting Zinnias in different colors and varieties next Spring.  They seem to enjoy the hot weather and are very easy to grow.


The best part is that you can extend their bloom by cutting flowers, which means I've been enjoying this view in my house for a couple of months:

cut zinnias

There's nothing like fresh flowers to brighten a room!  How about you, are you still hanging onto summer like me or are your fall wreaths and pumpkins already on display?

September 20, 2010

Mail Organization Hanging Pocket

One of the big challenges we have in our house is keeping all of our mail and paperwork organized. There are all kinds of documents, magazines, coupons, letters and bills that I want to hang onto but we can never seem to keep organized. We have a filing system for important paperwork we want to keep for the long run, but no good place to put the little things, like the daily mail.

I have been drooling over these wood wall pockets from Ballard Design to solve our organization problem, but the $50 price tag is a little steep ($90 for the four pocket version).

This weekend I stumbled upon a much cheaper system to try.  I found this little wire basket at a garage sale for just 50 cents:

While it's not as stylish as the beautiful Ballard mail sorting pockets, I figured it would be a good temporary solution to help me figure out if shelling out 50 bucks for the Ballard wall storage pockets is worth it.  In fact, it even reminded me of another Ballard organizational piece, their wire wall pocket:

  However, I wasn't really feeling the dark finish of my wall pocket:

I decided to spruce up this baby with my old friend, white spray paint:

Once the paint was dry, I found a little nook in my kitchen to hang up my new paper and mail organization system (on the wall where my summer fun list formerly hung):

So far I'm loving my 50 cent storage investment!  If this little hanging organizer can keep my mail sorted, I may invest in the pretty Ballard hanging pockets, but for now I will enjoy my cute little wire basket and organized mail!

How do you store and organize your mail and household paperwork?  I can always use some organization advice, so do tell!

This project is shared on Southern Hospitality, Today's Creative Blog, Silly Little Sparrow, Picture Worth 1000 Words, All Thingz Related, and Sugar Bee.  Stop by these great sites to visit some of the other projects featured.

September 17, 2010

Baby Robin Update

Remember that robin's nest I found in my backyard, the one with these tiny day old birdies:

Those little babies grew fast because about a week later they looked less like a ball of fuzz and more like an actual bird:

Their mom and dad was constantly nearby keeping an eye on them and feeding them:

I was amazed at how quickly they grew:


Within a week and a half they were already growing out of their nest:


And just four days after the previous picture, they barely fit in their nest and were ready to fly.  This is the last snapshot I took before the birds started to fly that day:


I loved watching these baby Robins grow and am amazed they went from little fur balls to flying birds in two weeks!  Have you had any feathery or furry animal encounters in your back yard?

September 15, 2010

Healthy Banana Bread Recipe

I have a bread recipe you'll go bananas over…healthy banana bread!  I’m a big fan of sweet treats, but I’m also a fan of healthy eating so this banana bread recipe is not only tasty, but is also reduced fat and healthier than traditional banana bread!  Plus it’s super easy!

To make the recipe healthier than traditional banana bread, I use whole wheat flour, no butter, and egg substitute.   But what the bread lacks in calories, it makes up in taste, that’s why its packed with walnuts and chocolate chips.

Healthy Banana Bread Recipe
1 cup  all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1.5 teaspoons  baking powder
1/2 teaspoon  baking soda
1/4 teaspoon  salt
1/2 teaspoon  ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Better than Eggs or other egg substitute (equivalent to 2 eggs)
1/4 teaspoon  vanilla extract
2-3 mashed bananas
1/4 cup  cooking oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup  chopped walnuts
3/4 cup chocolate chips

1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.    Grease 9x5x3 loaf pan with non-stick baking spray.
3.    In a large bowl combine dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon.  Mix using a whisk and set aside.

banana_bread_dry _ingredients

4.    Mash 2-3 bananas.  (I use a large spoon and measuring cup to mash until smooth)



5.    In a large bowl combine egg substitute, sugar, vanilla extract, mashed bananas, oil, and applesauce.

6.    Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and stir.

7.    Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.
8.    Spoon into prepared pan.

9.    Bake for 55 – 60 minutes (or 45 – 55 minutes in a toaster oven) or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
10.    Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.



This recipe is shared on Sugar Bee, stop by to see some of the other great recipes shared.

September 08, 2010

New York City Sights

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend!  I had a few days off of work and it was so nice to relax at  home.  I worked on several DIY projects which I had been looking forward to for a while.  I can't wait to share my projects with everyone, but I will have to keep you in suspense until then!  In the meanwhile, I wanted to share some of the fun I had  over the weekend.

I took a day trip to New York City with Rob and his nephew over the weekend and we had a wonderful time!  The weather was beautiful and we packed the day full of sightseeing.  We had an awesome time but walked so much that I could barely move the following two days!

After doing some customary sight seeing in Times Square, we headed over to the Rockefeller Center area where there was a great street fair going on (I scored some very cute earrings).  Then we headed North to Central Park where we saw the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon.  From there, we hopped on the subway and went to Brooklyn.  After a yummy stop at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan.  From there, we headed back to the Times Square area, stopping in Little Italy for a delicious pizza pie at  Lombardi's Pizza.  Whew!  My feet are tired just thinking about it again.  Check out the photos if you'd like a recap of the trip without all of the walking!

How was your Labor Day?  Are you sad to see summer over or are you more excited for Autumn?  I love summer myself, and will remain in a summer state of mind until I can't wear t-shirts and flip flops anymore!

September 02, 2010

Chocolate Covered What?

Growing up, my Mom made delicious chocolate candies that were totally the bee's knees.  I haven't had them in about 15 years, but after tasting a similar candy recently, I was reminded of my Mom's chocolates and had to make them myself... immediately (as in I ran out to the store the very next day to buy all of the ingredients and made them.  This is serious stuff, people).

Tasting one of these bad boys, you'd never guess what the delicious secret ingredient is.  In fact, after making the candies I had several people try them and love them, but no one could guess how they were made.  But believe it or not, my favorite chocolates are made with....dried plums, also known as prunes!  Sure, prunes aren't the sexiest thing, but they are actually quite tasty, especially when they are chocolate covered prunes!


Chocolate dipped prunes are a favorite Russian recipe and I recently learned they are very popular in Poland and other Eastern European countries, sometimes being called Polish Chocolate Plums or Sliwka Naleczowska w Czekoladzie as they're known in Polish.

Not only are they super tasty, but chocolate covered prunes are very easy to make.  I really recommend giving it a try!

Chocolate Covered Prunes Recipe:

 - Pitted Prunes
 - Chocolate Chips
 - Almonds (I used Emerald's cocoa dipped almonds)

 - Prepare by lining a cookie sheet or plate with foil.
 - (Optional) If you'd like a more jelly-like filling, steam the prunes until soft in a double broiler.
 - Melt chocolate chips in the microwave.  Stir every 30 seconds to prevent chocolate from burning.
 - Insert one almond into each prune.  There will already be a hole where the pit was removed.
 - Use a toothpick to dip the prune into the melted chocolate.  Cover the prune completely.

     - Place dipped prunes on foil and place in refrigerator for at least 30 mins to chill.  
     - Surprise your friends and enjoy! 
     - Store chocolates you don't immediately gobble up in the refrigerator.