Monday, August 18

Octopus Birthday Crown {free pattern}

Baby Brother turned one a couple weeks ago (and yes, he's totally still a baby). I still can't believe it. We marked his big day with a simple, low-key celebration of his first year in the big, wide world. A trip to the zoo, pancakes, and all the cheese and blueberries his little heart desired. He also got a special birthday crown (similar to the dinosaur crown I made for Big Brother's birthday) but this time the theme was... octopuses! Octopi? No. We're going with octopuses.

It was the first thing my tired brain thought of that I could make with the felt colors I had on hand. And so and octopus crown it was.

Here's how it went down: at 10pm on Birth Eve (as per usual) I sit down and I say to myself "what is the most complicated animal I could pick with the most small parts to have to sew down?" Answer = octopus. Duh. That's called a "midnight win," right there. And so I spent the night sewing down 14 little octopus legs. 14. Because my octopuses have seven legs each. Double win.

But really I love doing this kind of crown because they are pretty easy to make and the designs are SO flexible. You can really make any kind of crown you can imagine (or at least cut out of felt).

Here's all you need to make your own octopus birthday crown:

Saturday, August 16

DIY Sprinkler Arch

We still have a few steamy days headed our way before summer is over, and this DIY sprinkler arch is a great way to stay cool in your own backyard!

We've had a lot of fun hooking this up to our hose when things get too hot. And when we're done playing we can set it over our garden beds to water the garden! That's a freebie. That's also how Husband talked me into the idea.

It's a pretty quick and easy project to put together. We did it in an evening while the boys played in the wading pool and ran (or crawled) circles around us. So you can definitely squeeze it in before the next heat wave!

It's also great because you don't need a workshop full of tools to pull it off - just one small tool and a few pieces from the hardware store!

Wednesday, August 13

Freezing & Canning from the Garden

We love summer. Love it. We've been spending as much time as we can outside enjoying the heat and sunshine. Taking walks, going to the park, working in the garden. It's summer at its finest around here.

These stubby carrots are Big Brother's favorite thing in the garden. He was so surprised the first time we pulled some!

This is the first summer we've actually had a big garden that's actually been giving us some food (yay!), which also means it's our first summer trying to figure out how to preserve all this stuff for winter. It's extra time in the kitchen now that hopefully will pay-off big time later.

And yes. We've been totally neglecting the blog. But we'll get it all perked up again when we're stuck inside this winter. For now we spend our days like this:

And this:

But I did want to hop in today and share some of the things we've been preserving this week. Just in case you guys are in the same boat and looking for new ideas! And, seriously, if you have any new non-pickle things to do with cucumber please tell me. So many cucumbers. Here's the lowdown from the kitchen:

We're freezing the extra zucchini. I ran them through the grater attachment on our kitchenaid and scooped 3 cups into each quart size bag. Then flattened them out and stuck them in the freezer. Boom. Done. Easiest thing so far.

My dad gave me some rhubarb that I used to make this rhubarb vanilla bean jelly. I'll tell you right now, I don't know what I'm doing. This is not bright pink like the recipe picture and it also didn't set up right so it's kind of runny. I should also tell you I haven't tasted it yet. I should probably do that....

We used some of our many cucumber to make sweet pickle relish. It's a nice way to mix up the pickle monotony (plus I'm the only one who eats pickles so we don't need that many).

And last but not least, we're freezing corn from my grandpa's farm. My mom taught me how to do it and it's been working great, so I'll share the steps for you guys.

Start by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Throw some corn in. Let it boil about 3 - 5 minutes (I just did 3).

Move the corn to a bowl of ice water.

Once it's cooled down let it drain a little while in a colander.

Then use a knife to cut the kernels off each ear. I like to hold the ear over a large baking dish while I cut. The deep edges help catch all the corn.

Before you toss the ear, flip your knife over and run the dull side down each ear. This will get out any left over juice or bits of corn.

Not a great picture, but you can see the ear on the left has had the kernels cut off, and the ear on the right has also been done with the back of the knife. There's quite a bit more that comes out in that step.

Keep going until you have a nice pile of empty ears.

And a nice full pan like this:

Then divide 3 cups of corn into each quart size bag (we ended up with 5 bags), lay them flat, and freeze them. Pull them out in January when you're dreaming of summer. If you can wait that long.

We still have lots of cucumbers to put up and I'm hoping to have enough tomatoes for salsa and pizza sauce. We'll see! While we wait, let's admire the garden boys one more time.

What are you guys preserving this summer? Feel free to share your favorite recipes or tips!

Saturday, August 9

Juniper Books Children's Library

I've read a lot lately about how important it is to read to your kids. And we really want to raise our boys with a love of books. Which is why we are so stinking excited about our new library of children's classic books!

Not only is it a wonderful collection of classic children's literature, but it's one we love to display because it is so pretty to look at!

This set includes 30 books from one of our new favorite book sellers - Juniper Books. They offer ready-to-ship and custom book sets for both kids and adults. You can check out the full list of the titles in this set here and see all their available collections here.

The children's classic set is really beautifully well made with bright colors and pictures. It has some great titles, including several great adventure books for little boys like The Swiss Family Robinson and Peter Pan. Plus a few of our favorites from our growing-up years!

Black Beauty, anyone? I don't know how many times I read this and dreamed of having a big black horse.

Here's a peek inside. It looks just like I remember!

Don't need any kids books? They have tons of other sets on the site for adults too. Husband and I have been drooling of the Harry Potter sets which... wait for it... come in custom jackets for the Hogwarts house of your choice. Hufflepuff all the way, baby.

Books are a great investment for your kids. In fact, books are one of the four gifts we plan to get our boys each year for Christmas (something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to READ). And a beautiful set like this is something they can even pass on to their kids years down the road.

We can't wait to start reading these books to the boys. What are your favorite books to read with your kids? 

Disclaimer: We received consideration from Juniper Books for writing this post, however these are our honest opinions and we would never recommend a product we did not believe in. Happy reading!