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23 April 2014

7 Garden Trends to Get You Thinking SPRING!

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Trends come and go fairly quickly in the fashion and design worlds, but in gardening, they are a bit more slow and steady.  A new idea will emerge, be tested with the plodding practicalities of the gardener and fail or thrive.  It is as simple as that.  If you crave for a consumerist society that is a bit less hectic, take up gardening.  We welcome you.

Today I am going to introduce you to a few trends that have passed the test of many gardening hands and a few that are just starting to pick up speed.  Test out a few yourself, but by all means, just grow something.  Green up your space, whether it be a tiny cell of an apartment, a lovely little bungalow or standard suburban tract home.  There IS a plant (or ten! twenty!) for you!

**Some supplies below have been provided to A Nest for All Seasons for review purposes.  

1. Trash Pots

OK, so this isn't particularly a trend, but I think it should be.  
I've been planting my pots for YEARS this way, saving on potting soil and recycling my trash.,  LEARN HOW HERE.


2. Hydroponics and Mason Jars

Yes, the two trends have met and we now have the hydroponic mason jar.  Modern Sprout is a kickstarter business that makes adorable little jars like the one below, but also plug-in countertop hydroponic gardens -- See them RIGHT HERE<<<


Curious how it works?  They do a better job of explaining over at Modern Sprout,
 but very basically, the planter is self watering and sustains itself via timed pumps.  



Follow along on instagram or just come back soon to the blog to see my organic basil hydroponic jar in action!  


3.  Herb Salts, Sugars and Oils for Campers

Yes, you read that correctly, for campers.  I am not a camper, but recently I have been reading up on camping techniques, particularly when it comes to plants and food.  Why?  Don't ask -- a pinterest rabbithole, you know?  So anyway, camping food can be REALLY bland.  Understandable, yes?  Campers don't want to pack bottles of herbs and spices to season their food.  Keep those packs light!  Come eating time though, those campers crave a little flavor.

Well, chefs and mamas have been making herbed salts, sugars and oils for a long time, but now the campers are picking up on the benefits.  Instead of tasteless dry parsley, they can now have that parsley IN their olive oil, nicely hydrated and the flavor infused through the oil.  Simply chop up your favorite herbs from the garden and let them infuse your salts, sugars or oils with flavor for a few weeks.  Simple, safe and flavorful.


4.  Dish Gardens and Terrariums are still HOT HOT HOT

Yes, they are actually hot.  Grow anything indoors, anytime with these fun little gardens. 
Some plants won't last long enough to fruit (hello tomatoes in winter!), but you WILL get some green.



5.  Baker's Twine Meets Garden Twine

Baker's twine has been trendy for awhile now in craft circles and now it is getting THICKER.  Now I am not going to be using this pretty, expensive twine for all my garden staking, but I WILL be using it where it is visible in the garden, you betcha!


Another option?  This cool "twine" that costs a dollar a roll at your local Dollar Tree.  
It is actually clothesline, plastic and made to be outdoors.  Pretty cool, eh?

6.  Plant Stakes

Speaking of plant staking...
GGF banner 350×400_1

Global Garden Friends has a variety of innovative planting products, my favorite of which are the trellis and clip systems.   From leaning, sad, light searching leaves to straight and orderly.  The process took 5 minutes, not 20 like it normally does because the stakes are attached to a simple round piece.  Stakes are also adjustable and can be raised as the plant grows.


...and the clips look like leaves and are almost able to be attached one handed.  SOLD.



7.  Moss

Moss is both loved and hated in gardening circles.  Actually, I would say it is fairly hated in gardening circles, but everyone else loves it.  There is something romantic and Irish about little stands of moss, as if fairies had decided to make camp under the pin trees and grew moss colonies to live amongst.  The gardener might see it as a weed encroaching upon her well planned perennial garden.  I am firmly in the fairy camp on this one.  I love moss and encourage it to grow wherever it may.  In fact, I transplant moss to my dish gardens and sometimes in my garden garden.  Here is my "sliding" technique.


Other trends in the garden world?  Those hanging air plants, pallet gardens, cabbage as decorative plantings in fall - EH -- I am so over all of them.  I will take my good old moss, peonies and antique roses, thank you very much!  Have you noticed any garden trends picking up steam lately?  I love a great new garden product that makes our work easier and our plants stronger!


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22 April 2014

Travel Coffee Can Kit Activity for Your Summer Road Trip with Kids!

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Traveling this summer??  

Make sure you save one of your coffee cans because you might want to make 1 (or 10!!)
 of these disposible/recylcable buckets of fun for the road this year.  So drink up!!

travel kit title amy renea crafts unleashed

Portions of this post previously appeared on Crafts Unleashed for Consumer Crafts.  Some supplies for this post were provided for purposes of this post.

While road trips and vacation travel CAN be interesting, fun and even relaxing, more often than not, they are torture.  Kids can be difficult to manage on a long car ride as they (understandably!) get tired, bored and cranky.  While snacks and electronics help, sometimes you just need something fresh and new to capture their attention.  Here is what you might need (though you can make lots of substitutions with what you already have on hand).

Supplies

duo 2

The basic idea is to make basic old worksheet papers new again for your kids. If you simply through a workbook into the car for the trip, your kiddo might just plow through the worksheets, skip half of them and haphazardly complete them.

travel kit coffee can worksheets

The trick? Make it a mystery, add a friend and make each step a process. Here is how:

travel kit coffee can supplies

See that Sherlock Holmes workbook? It was found at a thrift store for a quarter and is the perfect book for this setup. We talked about detectives and mysteries the week before leading up to the "coffee can reveal".  You can use any worksheet book that has a theme or a story to it.  Just try to find something that can have a beginning and an end.  This is how the mystery begins...

travel kit coffee can shortening worksheets

Roll each worksheet individually and secure with ribbon, string, etc.  
Trim the ends (above) so they will fit standing up in your recycled metal coffee can.  
Kids can help with the ribbon cutting! (below)

travel kit coffee can child measuring ribbon

Once you have all the rolls made, you need a "character" or two to give this activity a little life!  I used these adorable little wooden toys.  At $1.17 each, they are cheap and the kids love them as much as I do.  We call them Din-Din (the Dinosaur) and Lizzy (The Lizard).

travel kit title amy renea crafts unleashed toys

Basically, these little characters are the "helpers" for your children and help them discover the "clues".  Simply write clues on the scrolls of paper, using state lines, state license plates, colors of cars, alphabet letters on signs, anything you might encounter on the road that allows the children to "unlock" each scroll.  Once "Din-Din" or "Lizzy" spot a clue, the kids can open that scroll and do the worksheet.  Once all the worksheets have been completed, make sure you include the "solutions" roll to see if their answers were right and if they correctly solved the mystery!

travel kit title amy renea crafts unleashed solution

Now onto making the can look more kid-friendly!    You simply need a used metal coffe can, cleaned and dry, along with some mod podge and tissue paper.    
Apply mod podge over the entire can and then carefully attach the paper with the straight edge along the top rim.  Go slowly as to avoid air bubbles.

travel kit coffee can mod podge can

travel kit coffee can wrapping paper

The kids can help with the mod podge step!

travel kit coffee can kid mod podge

Simply fold the paper under along the bottom of the can and leave as is or cover with a felt circle to make it look nicer.

travel kit coffee can bottom of can

Add several layers of mod podge on the top of the paper to make it a nice solid finish.

travel kit coffee can mod podging

As it dries, make sure to get any drips with a brush!

travel kit coffee can catching drips

If you are so inclined, hot glue this cool felt car (we ARE going on a road trip!) and secure with ribbon.  I hot glued two small pieces of ribbon to the edges of the car first, allowed them to dry, hot glued the car onto the can and then pulled the ribbon tight into a knot.

Travel kit securing ribbon

Do not attempt to add anything to the can until the mod podged paper has COMPLETELY dried.  You will rip it!

travel kit coffee can bottom of can

Once your can is completely dry and decorated, fill it full of papers, that cute little dinosaur 
and lizard and save it in the car until the kids are going WILD then break out your "mystery in a can"!

travel kit title amy renea crafts unleashed full tin







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18 April 2014

San Francisco's Chinatown, Fortune Cookie Factory and Dim Sum is GROSS!

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My baby girl is almost 6 months old now and this trip to San Francisco occured while I was pregnant.  Talk about posts that never got posted!  In any case, here are a few photos and tips from our short little foray into #Sanfran.

Chinatown of San Francisco


First stop?

Chinatown.

We ARE tourists.

As much as I hate being a tourist, Chinatown was actually quite fun :)  My hands down favorite shop was this one:


It was full to BUSTING with STUFF and it was all cool kitchen equipment.


I could have spent an hour or so just examining every little tool, but I made it a quick 5 minute stop, grabbed a couple spoons, chopsticks for the kids and such and vowed to come back some day.  If you approach the Wok Shop from the street look for this sign:


The cool wooden sign is cool, yes, but difficult to see until you are right up on the shop.

Here were a few of my favorites inside:


718 Grant Avenue (between Sacramento & Clay St.)  San Francisco CA  94108-2114


The next fun stop was the fortune cookie factory.


Yes, it is that easy to miss.

Look for Ross and then ask around (my best advice -- sorry it is shady)

The actual address is 56 Ross Alley, San Francisco, CA 94108



What is inside the fortune cookie factory?  Well, they charged 50 cents to take a photo and like the cheapster I am, I couldn't cough it up.  (What is wrong with me??)  Instead of a "factory" of folks making fortune cookies, there was one lady, one machine and hundreds and hundreds of cookies.  The cookies start out as two little rounds and are then bent together with the fortune inside.  I never dreamed that the cookies were created out of two circles.  I am not quite sure WHAT I thought the configuration was, but it is a far more simple process than I initially thought.  You can buy the traditional cookies or the "rounds" that are cooked, but not bent.  We bought some rounds for the heck of it and they tasted fine, but were still basic old fortune cookies.  I am not going to lie and say they tasted good.   I have yet to find an Asian dessert I actually like.  (Sorry Asia)  The experience of seeing this little factory was fun though.  Definitely take a peek while you are there!

I also got a $6 haircut at this place. Why?  Well, Alex always liked my hair when we lived in Thailand.  I had it cut at the local places there and they always used a razor on the ends.  I have heard this is not good for your hair, but it is kind of pretty.  Who cares.  It is hair -- it will grow back :)  So, when the opportunity came to get shaved hair ends for 6 bucks, I jumped.  Weird weird videos on the screen while I had my haircut, but otherwise a fine haircut.


153 Waverly Pl  San FranciscoCA 94108


Last stop: Canton Bazaar.  Typical tourist fodder, but interesting to take a peek into:



616 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108


The Meridian

We stayed at the Meridian, which was nice.  Our view was of a darling little roof garden:


A few misses on our trip included:

A. The streetcars.  We hoofed it from Chinatown up to Lombard St, the famous "crooked road".  It was interesting, but as a 6 months pregnant chick, that was difficult.  We were then going to hop on a streetcar, thinking the ride down the hill would be more fun than up, but the line was literally several trolley car turns long and it was HOT.  We grabbed a taxi.

B.  Dim Sum.  Sorry dim sum, we wanted to like you.  We went to three (THREE) places and bought samplings of dim sum and not one was delicious.  I can't recommend a single one because they were AWFUL.  I know it is hipster and cool to like dim sum and I should be all "it was soooooooo deeeevine" and I can't wait to go BACK, but no.  It was gross.  (Before you attack, let me remind you we lived in Thailand and ate street food all the time and while it was sometimes hit or miss, we are not food snobs or novices.  Dim sum was GROSS.)

Overall, SanFran was fun and I would love to take more time to explore!  We only had a day and a half and some of that was spent in business, so really only a day or so was spent exploring.


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