Thursday, May 30, 2013

herbal beauty

I am so focused on the many practical uses of herbs that I overlook their beauty when they bloom.



Now would be a good time to assemble and surprise friends with beautiful, flowering bouquets of herbs!

Who would like one?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

these roses will knock me out

In early March, I pruned my knockout rose bushes to a diameter of about 1.5-2 feet. Now, only 10 weeks later, they've at least doubled in size. They are already too big for their bed.

At this rate if left unattended, they will be bigger than my house by their final bloom in December/January. I love them, though. Seeing their vibrant blooms spill out into my yard makes me happy. I'd love to add yellow to my rose collection, but I have no room left for another bush, especially one that will probably end up gargantuan.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Canal Park

Mason and I have been to Canal Park three times in the past week. Yes, it's that good. (And it's close to where we live, which helps.)

 Read my review of the city's newest paradise for tots at The DC Moms.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

reclaiming independent playtime

Soon after Mason turned a year old, I began putting him in the crib for a few minutes after breakfast each day for independent play, or IP as I call it. I gradually increased the number of minutes each week, and soon enough he could play and look at his books for 25-30 minutes.

And then, as Mason turned 18 months, he decided he hated IP. Suddenly, he was over it. And I panicked at the thought of losing those precious minutes with him safely contained and out of the way while I cleaned up the breakfast dishes, especially since he had dropped his morning nap.

Weeks of crying and screaming ensued each time I attempted IP. Then, I finally found something that helped: the alarm clock.

I started small. I set the alarm clock in Mason's room for two minutes. I made a big deal of telling Mason that I would return when the alarm sounded and not before then. The first day, he screamed the entire two minutes, but when I came back, I made sure he understood I was responding to the alarm going off and not to his crying. The second day, he whimpered the first minute and then played. The third day, I increased the time to three minutes, and he played contentedly until the alarm sounded. We're now up to 12 minutes. I still make a big deal of setting the alarm when I put him in the crib. I rush in as soon as the alarm sounds and congratulate him for making it. Often, he's standing up and pointing at the alarm while it beeps, with a huge smile on his face--victory for both of us!

Do you incorporate regular crib time or room time into your child's routine? How do you make it useful for all of you?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

peonies and powdery mildew

Peonies really are one of my favorite flowers.

And I get so excited when my bushes come back larger and more fruitful than the year before.

But last year they developed an unsightly fungus or something, and it's back again, earlier this year, which means it probably never truly went away.

The leaves look like they were dusted with white powder and according to the Internet, there's not much I can do to get rid of the fungus now.

Has anyone successfully battled powdery mildew on peony plants? Please share your strategies!

Monday, May 20, 2013

collecting a toddler urine sample--FAIL

At Mason's one-year check-up, the nurse said she needed to collect a urine sample to test Mason's blood sugar among other things. I said, "How in the world do you collect a urine sample from a baby/toddler?!"

Allow me to present exhibit A.

She placed this bag over my boy's jewels, adhered it to his inner thighs (the white part is sticky like a bandaid), reattached his diaper, and we went on with Mason's appointment. The problem? Mason had an explosive dirty diaper, which contaminated the sample when the bag was removed.

At his 15-month appointment, he didn't urinate enough for testing. At his 18-month appointment, we forgot all about collecting his urine until it was time to leave. The nurse sent me home with three sample bags and instructions. She said I could easily collect Mason's sample at home and drop it by the office for testing.


Wouldn't you know it that I went through every one of those sample bags and STILL didn't collect what was needed? I wasted two bags when I attempted to attach them by myself. Mason yelled, kicked, and thrashed like his life was in danger as I gently and quickly tried to lift and tuck his privates into the bag, whose opening is much smaller than it looks. The third time, Brad held Mason down, but it still didn't work--the bag loosened inside his diaper and we lost the contents.

So now I am holding out for his two-year check-up--only a year late--when I can rely on professionals to collect this sample for me. I will remind the nurse about it as soon as we walk in and I will pump Mason full of water while we're there. I'll even give him juice if I have to. We will not fail this time!

Has anyone else encountered a pediatrician who collects a urine sample from a one-year-old? None of the other mommies in my circle had heard of this. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

hanging baskets

Hanging baskets on my deck are a necessity for me, even though few people see them and the space is 100% shaded all day. Impatiens are the only flowers I've found that bloom vibrantly in full shade. I prefer the New Guinea impatiens because of their bold colors and large blooms. Anyway, I share all of this because instead of paying $10 or more (sale price!) for each hanging basket this year (I buy four), I assembled my own, for probably about $4 per basket. 

I saved the baskets I bought last summer--they held up well and can withstand another season, I think. I replenished some of soil and took advantage of Home Depot's sale on New Guinea impatiens a few weeks ago.

I only planted one flower per pot, but if my experience with New Guinea impatiens holds true, they will grow to fill the pots quickly.

I actually like how the arrangements look right now--clean and not too crowded--so even if the plants don't grow that much, I am satisfied. And enjoying four hanging baskets for a total of $16 is worth it!

Do you have a gardening bargain story? Are hanging baskets a must for you, too?

Monday, May 13, 2013

strawberry picking

Last year, to celebrate my first Mother's Day, we started a tradition of partaking in a fun family outing on Saturday of the holiday weekend. The zoo was last year's adventure. This year, I decided to put my boys to work by taking the family strawberry picking.

Schlagel Farms in Southern Maryland was awesome--very kid friendly and only 23 miles from our home.

Mason could pick the berries, but he preferred to throw them in the box. When he lost interest, he simply ran up and down the rows.

We ended up picking 8.7 pounds of berries, which was much more than I needed. I made a strawberry pie as soon as we got home, and soon realized we had picked enough berries for about 15 pies. Oops!

Does anyone have any favorite strawberry recipes to share? I have about a week to use about eight more pounds of strawberries.

Friday, May 10, 2013

my new neighbor

I can now stroll to the grocery store! The much anticipated Giant opened four blocks from my home last week. Although I've resided in a city for 15 years of my life (nearly 13 in DC, two in Chicago), this is the first time that I live within walking distance of a fully stocked, large supermarket. The added bonus is that because the store is brand new, it's also clean, and I plan to enjoy the heck out of it until it turns dingy and understocked, as unfortunately, many urban supermarkets do.

Hooray for H Street Development!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 National Book Festival Authors

This must be a record. I never remember the author list for the National Book Festival being published before summer, but here it is! Just by name alone, I recognize more authors than I did last year. Once the bios are up, I'm sure a few more will jump out at me.

Who am I most excited to see? Hands down, Veronica Roth. I recently got into her YA Divergent trilogy. What a great opportunity for Roth to plug book three's release on October 22nd--not that she needs to! (If you haven't heard of this series, it's similar to The Hunger Games, but different enough to keep it interesting. Most importantly, for me right now at least, these books are pure entertainment and quick reads.)

Which authors on this year's line-up stand out to you?

Monday, May 6, 2013


It's azalea time!

I think we visited the National Arboretum's magnificent display just a tad early--the azalea bushes didn't seem quite as full as last year.

We still had fun enjoying nature on a beautiful afternoon, though. My little man loved the trails. Why ride in the stroller when you can march uphill over tree roots and take random excursions from the path?

I may need to venture back later this week to catch the blossoms at their peak.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gravelly Point

Within the past couple of months, Mason has become obsessed with trains (choo choos), helicopters, trucks, and airplanes. He first fell in love with helicopters, probably because we live so close to the United States Capitol and multiple helicopters fly over our house every day. Within a minute of waking up each morning, he asks to see an airplane. His naive belief that Brad and I can provide anything his little heart desires is quite endearing.

A friend suggested I take my airplane-obsessed boy to Gravelly Point, near Reagan National Airport, so off we went last Saturday. It was a gorgeous, sunny, warm, spring day with clear skies and tons of planes, and my boys were overjoyed! Between the boats in the Potomac River and the planes overhead, Mason could have stayed there all day. It was truly a little boy's paradise.

And at Gravelly Point after every plane passed over us and Mason signed eagerly for more, Brad and I could say with near certainty, "Only two more minutes!"

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

front yard

It's May! And guess what? My front yard is finally done!

I feel like I've been weeding and prepping the yard for months. How I breathe a huge sigh of relief once that last bag of mulch is emptied.

I often walk past other Capitol Hill homes and think, "Wow, a gardener lives there!" when I see a particularly attractive yard.

I covet that reaction to my yard.

 And now, on to the back yard!