Friday, July 30, 2010

Dirt pile

As you know, we have a sand pit in our backyard:

It's the leftover base of an above-ground swimming pool that the previous home owners took when they left.  My big plan for the summer was to remove the sand and underlying tarps/burlap, fill in the area with nice dirt and either sow seed or lay sod. 

But then it got hot out.  And I got lazy. 

Okay, fine. I got lazier.

When the crew dug up the yard for the fence posts, I had them put the dirt on a sheet of plastic in the sand pit, so we'd at least have the dirt there when we got around to removing the sand. 

Now, instead of having just a sand pit in my backyward, I now have a dirt pile on top of a sand pit.  That's classy!

And to my dismay, the soil is really, really rocky. There are some decent size boulders in that pile. Here's an example:

That's a size 8 foot in that picture for scale. Not sure whose foot that is, though...weird.

This new dirt pile, on top of the sand pit, has really added something to my backyard.
I'm not quite sure what it's added, but my guess would be a lot more work. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The finished fence

The fence is done!  And it only took two days.  Take a look:

Right now the fence is a beautiful reddish color, but the cedar wood will fade to gray over time.
The front and sides are 5 feet, and it tapers down to 3 feet in the back. 

I went with 3 feet in the back so the gorgeous view of the prairie wouldn't be blocked.  There is a gate back there for mower access.

Above, the crew is working on the large double gate.  They hung it as a single panel, and then cut out the opening and installed the hardware.  As a result, the gate sides are a perfect fit.
I just love the new fence!  What do you think?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The posts are in

Day One of fence construction:

First, the crew dug the holes and set the posts in.  Then, they came around with the cement.

And that's all that was accomplished on Day One.

I'm so excited about the installation!  If the weather is good, they'll finish the fence tomorrow.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's fence time, baby!

Way back in April, the TMI household began seriously considering getting a fence.  Some of us made a decision right away about the type, style, company and installation of that fence.

But someone hemmed and hawed and stressed out about this decision for nearly three months, putting the fence installation way behind schedule and possibly giving herself an ulcer in the process.

Okay, that someone was me.  But I finally made the decision on the fence, called the company and got the work scheduled.  Before work could get started, J.U.L.I.E. had to come out and mark all the underground utility lines. 

Now that J.U.L.I.E. has made her mark, it's time to get started on that fence installation. 
Tomorrow, the posts go in!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Martha Monday--Kids' craft contest

Attention crafters, parents and anyone who could really use an island vacation right about now...

Martha's crafts department is hosting a kids' craft contest, and the grand prize is a four night stay at Beaches Resorts!  Now, a stay at Beaches Resorts would be awesome anytime, but recently they made it even more awesome by partnering with Martha Stewart crafts...I blogged about it not too long ago. 

Martha has a bunch of kids' craft projects on her website, including fun summer projects, holiday crafts and crafts for parties.

Now, my Little Guy and Baby Girl are too young to tackle a serious craft project that could have a shot at winning this contest.  Heck, the Little Guy can't even stay in the lines when coloring. Just last week he colored the kitchen floor, and it was a sloppy coloring job at that. 

But this contest has my wheels turning...maybe I could find a crafty kid to make something for the contest?  Perhaps a local Girl Scout troop would consider this appropriate badge work, and hand over the winning craft to me so I can collect on that Beaches vacation?  Nah, the Girl Scouts are too honest...maybe I could try the Boy Scouts?

Just kidding, Boy Scouts. Don't get your panties in a bunch, mmmmkay?

At any rate, if you know a crafty kid then you should enter this contest on their behalf.  Even if you don't win, you've still managed to keep the child busy for a while on something productive.

Unlike coloring the kitchen floor.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'll need to see your ID

The Big Guy and I are contemplating a tree swap with the neighbors.  They'll take our four maples, and we'll take their...hmmmm...well, I'm not quite sure what these trees are.  Do you know?

Here's specimen number one:

And here's a close-up of the leaves:

In the swap, we'd be getting three of these. I've seen the large versions, and they are really great shade trees which would be perfect for the east side of our house.

Here's specimen number two:

And here's the leaves:

Does anyone know what these are?

I think specimen number one is a honeylocust, and number two has been suggested to be a hickory. 

Do you concur?  Quick--name that movie!

Specimen number two will go in the northwest corner of the backyard, which will hopefully provide a bit of a wind break and some much-needed privacy.

And while we're talking trees, is this going to be a problem?

That's at the base of specimen number two.  Help!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thanks, but no new pets for us.

We had a most unwelcome visitor in our backyard recently.  Can you spot him?

How about now? 

The Big Guy had quite a surprise when he was out grilling. I suppose this is one hazard of having your property back up to a wetlands preserve.

The Big Guy dashed in the house when he saw this, leading me to dash out with the camera and a rake.

My plan was to get the snake on the rake and escort him back to the brush at the edge of our property line.
It worked, but it took several minutes. I had a hard time keeping the snake on the rake (oooh...that rhymes!) and take a picture at the same time. Snakes just don't want to pose for pictures, you know?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stitching for Pink

And here's this week's public service announcement from The Martha Initiative. Enjoy!

SVP Worldwide, one of the world’s largest sewing machine companies and source of the SINGER®, HUSQVARNA VIKING® and PFAFF® sewing machines collections, invites sewers and embroiderers across the country and around the world to use their skills to help raise awareness and raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation through STITCHING FOR PINK. 

STITCHING FOR PINK is a global online campaign to raise breast cancer awareness and help fund a cure through embroidery. By donating $5, you become a member of STITCHING FOR PINK and will receive ten exclusive embroidery designs - along with complete instructions - that have a breast cancer awareness message or theme. The $5 donation will be given directly to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The STITCHING FOR PINK awareness and fundraising campaign will culminate on October 30, the final day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more detailed information, please visit

As a proud supporter of this global initiative, SVP Worldwide has created a very special free, pink-themed embroidery project called “Making a Difference” which will be available on throughout the month of July. The pattern incorporates words of hope and wisdom as well as beautiful pink embellishments. You can download this inspirational wall-hanging project at .

Monday, July 19, 2010

Martha Monday--Martha Stewart Pets

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Petsmart have combined forces to create a new line of pet gear called Martha Stewart Pets.  The line includes bedding, leashes, toys, grooming tools, feeding accessories and more. 

And by more, I mean 'waste management'...just keeping it real, folks.

The dog bedding is really pretty.  For those who need a dedicated dog bed that's not the couch or the human bed, give these beds a look.  And if that dog bed is in plain sight in, say, a family room (as Barley's is) then something as stylish as these would add to your home decor, rather than detract from it.  Take a look:

These two are my favorites--either would fit in perfectly with my family room furniture/color scheme.  I wonder if they come in size extra-extra-large? 
Good things to know: the cover is removable and machine washable (a must for the TMI household) and the bone-shaped pillow is actually a squeaky toy.  Fun!

While the dog bedding is great, I'm not quite sure about the pet toys.  They are totally adorable...maybe too adorable! 

In fact, I think these squeaky toys look a lot like kids' toys, don't you?  Take a look at this hen house with chicks: 
How cute!  It would make a perfect toy for a child!  And Martha wants me to give this to my dog?  Just imagine the trouble that could kids and dog would be fighting over the same toys, even more than they already do. 

 Maybe I'll just put all the toys from the Martha Stewart Pets line in this storage bin, and let them duke it out.  Or perhaps a system could work better: Barley can have the toys on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the kids can have the toys on Tuesday and Thursday, and on the weekend...the toys are for me. 

Like I said, that chicken house is really cute.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kitchen help

As my regular readers know, I have a lot of help in the kitchen.  For example, my favorite assistant joined me in the kitchen to make chocolate-covered pretzels.  This makes every baking experience a lot faster and a lot more fun.

By "favorite assistant," I am obviously referring to the Little Guy.

And by "a lot faster," I really mean messier.

And by "a lot more fun," I really do mean a lot more fun.

BabyGirl is still too small to "help" but I know she's just itching to get in there:  chocolate-covered pretzels beat rice cereal anyday.

And when she's old enough to join us in the kitchen, she'll be my favorite assistant, too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pretzel favors

Several weeks ago I again made favors for a work function.  Last year, I made "thank you" cookies. This year, because it was too hot to turn on the oven, I made chocolate-covered pretzels. 

The process is easy:  melt the chocolate, dip the pretzels, and let it set/cool on waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and use disposable icing bags for easy clean-up.

The pretzels can be covered in nuts, sprinkles, candy, whatever you want, but I choose to drizzle white chocolate over the regular chocolate.  Note: I used Wilton candy melts  and Snyder pretzel rods.

Once the chocolate is completely hardened, the pretzels were wrapped individually.  Wilton sells the perfect size bags for these, but you can also find them elsewhere online.

I created over 50 pretzel favors in the course of one day.  This was a cinch.  Consider this project the next time you need treats in the middle of summer and it's too hot to turn on the oven.

Monday, July 12, 2010

One for the road...

I've been making changes big and small in TMI-land.  Last month I was all "Hey, I made some crazy and wild design changes to my blog".

You were all "Changing a font size and color does not qualify as a 'crazy and wild' design change, okay? Call us when you make some real changes!"  Geez Louise, you sure don't mince words, do you?

Then a few weeks later, I got all crazy and spontaneous and changed the blog template to the one you see now. BAM! BIFF! ZOOM! How's that for a big change?

I suppose that's how I work sometimes...I dip my toe in, test the waters, think about it, and leap so suddenly that I surprise myself.  Or maybe I'm the only one who is surprised, and everyone else is thinking "It's about damn time." 

At the end of May, I shared with you my transition of going back to work from maternity leave.  That was a change, but not so big because I was going back to my same job at my same office.  But now, in the span of one week's time, I made a very big change...I got a new job, in a somewhat new field, in a new city. BAM!

This new job has a lot of benefits, one of the biggest being that it is only ten minutes from my house so no longer will the kids and I have to endure a hellish 3-4 hour commute. To celebrate the new job and say goodbye to my friends at the old job, I did one of the things I do best...I made cupcakes.

So that's the new news in the TMI household.  I'll have a lot more time on my hands, which means I can re-commit to being more Martha-like with more quality homecooked meals, more time for crafting, and GASP! maybe even a workout in the morning.

To all my friends I leave behind in downtown Chicago, thanks for a great 5+ years. You've all been the highlight of my workday.  I raise a cupcake to you!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Queen of the hive

With my love for bees and honey, I've aimed for a bee-themed kitchen. For right now, that means that I have bee/hive decorations on my windowsill only, but I have plans for expansion.

Here's what I have:

The candle (far left) was a wedding shower gift, so I can't bring myself to light it up. The beehive votive holders from Crate and Barrel (far right) do see a lot of use, however. 

Please ignore my dirty kitchen window.  And the sand pit in the backyard. We'll be working on that this weekend.  That is all.

Here we have a lovely honey pot from Harry & David, which is part of a tea set that includes mugs and tea bag holders. This was a gift from my friend Shannon.

I keep a toothpick dispenser on the window sill.  This comes in handy when I'm baking cakes/brownies and need to test for doneness.  On the right is some sort of bee hive thing.  I don't know what it is exactly, but I found it at an antiques store and I really liked it. 
Actually, that's how a lot of things end up in my house: I don't know what an item is for, but I like it so I buy it.  I might have an acquisition problem.  Maybe.

Here's something I bought at a craft fair and I do know what it is:  my beehive ring holder (front).  I use it everyday and it's just darling.

Finally, this last decoration (another wedding shower gift) sums up my attitude about my kitchen and my home in general: 

It's good to be Queen.