A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: June 2015

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29 June 2015

5, 15, 50 ::: 3 Fun Fountains and the quickest only takes FIVE minutes!

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Remember this fountain-in-a-pot I made last month?  It took about 30 minutes to put together, due mainly to the plants.  Today I have THREE different fountains-in-a-pot to share with you and they take varying amount of times, from 50 minutes of assembly all the way down to FIVE!  Before we jump into HOW, let's talk about WHY ANOTHER FOUNTAIN for a minute.  I recently read this article on highly sensitive moms and how that particular mom uses windchimes to combat anxiety.  I use water. (though I plan to make some beachy windchimes soon as well!)

The basic premise is that some people are simply more highly sensitive to everything: sight, sound, smell, touch.  For example, smell -- I know when someone has eaten peanut butter literally from across the room and I can smell garden flowers and identify them from across the garden.  I can hear the whispers of my kids from the next room and I routinely stare out the windows on road trips and spot birds in the trees as we speed by at 70 MPH.  (My family jokingly refers to me as "Hawk Eye".)  That all sounds weird and mystical, but it is not.  I am simply tuned into EVERY stimulus around me all the time and that can sometimes get overwhelming, particularity in large social situations.  Considering that our family has 4 children, 3 of which are boys, our family basically IS a large social situation.  Home can often be loud, smelly and highly overwhelming to someone who hears, sees and smells everything.  ENTER WATER.


A constant, peaceful sound can help drown out baby shrieks and boys wrestling.  It can refocus attention from the doors slamming and reek of dirty socks so that I can actually DO something about the mess instead of just being overwhelmed by it.  Calming music, flickering candlelight, windchimes and yes, fountains, are classic ways to deal with high sensitivity.  Setting the phone to vibrate so it doesn't jolt with anxiety every time it rings helps too.  Let's talk about the water though, shall we?


This post is sponsored by smartpond.

You will only need a few basic things:

A POT (waterproof and preferably WITHOUT a drainage hole)

smartpond fountain 

WATER and electricity source


1. The Little One

Let's start with the fast one, shall we?  The most "laborious" part of this process is unpacking your fountain from the package.  So get your fountain pieces out of the box and make sure you have an electricity source close to where your fountain will be.  Grab a pot from your stash and if it has a drainage hole, use the stopper on the fountain cord to plug it up.  I have found that I much prefer to just use a pot without a hole and negate any risk of leaks.


Fill the pot 3/4 full with water and place the fountain base and filter (the square part) into the pot, fully submerged. 
 Attach the "stick" and your fountain topper. The container fountain kit comes with three types and the simple "bubbler" works best for the small pot.


Plug the fountain in and BOOM -- instant fountain.  

Note that I used  the small bubbling fountain head provided in the kit for this small pot as the water otherwise
will spray OUT of the pot and you will be manually refilling the pot constantly. See?


To utilize the other fountains streams, you will need a larger container...

2.  The Pretty One

You can turn ANY container into a fountain, including containers that are not water-proof themselves. You can waterproof using spray-on clear sealant on some planters.  For others, you simply need a liner.  A pond liner works great, but a sturdy trash bag can also do in a pinch.  Simply insert the liner into the container and secure to the edges.


Fill with water OR simply lace a smaller waterproof planter INTO the lined container.  

Plug the fountain in and:



3. The Big One

Sometimes you just need the sound of trickling water, but sometimes you want a show-stopping fountain of water that is both beautiful to hear AND see.  Enter the patio fountain.  This container is large enough to hold many gallons of water and utilize the various spray options without losing water or getting the surrounding area wet.


The smaller fountain I created used the smartpond Container Fountain Kit (or Bubbler as Lowe’s calls it.  You can buy here: HERE)  
The Patio Pond (pictured above and below) as well as a cool illuminated waterfall fountain have been discontinued, but you can find them HERE.

A few tips if you buy the full patio box set:

A. The warning about the aluminum sides is correct, they are SHARP on the cut edge.  I cut myself pretty well by not being careful.  Be careful.

B. The metal pieces have some slight variations, so before assembling them with the liner, lay them out in a square on the ground to get the corners lined up first.  Move the pieces around until the corners are perfectly touching.

C. I found the boxes easier to put together by assembling the box first, then assembling the metal pieces and liner upside down on the floor.


smartpond was kind enough to send several fountain kits to play with and I am excited to show you what I have planned!!
  Keep checking back for the full terrace makeover and a fun DIY!

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25 June 2015

Moving to Puerto Rico and the Unknowns

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Sometimes when you move to a new place, you have a good idea of what to expect.  You can research the local libraries, the local parks,  the best pizza place in town and find the local Baptist church in town.  Moving is always hard, but sometimes the path is pretty clear and certain. This one was not.  There aren't a whole lot of Americans moving from fairly rural Pennsylvania to beachside Puerto Rico for Act 20 yet.  I suspect there will be more in the future, but for now, the waters are somewhat uncharted.  We could research enough to know the area we are staying in is safe and that the school is top notch.  We visited several times and got a feel for the slower culture, the airport, the driving and the heat.

However.  Once you move, there are things that you never thought about that matter.  Things that matter quite a lot and things that you wish someone would have told you.  There are good things and bad and little things that would have possibly made us lean towards this rental instead of that rental or choose these months vs. those months.  Little things.  Little decisions.  We still would have come, but we would have been armed with a little more information and a little more comfort. You can follow along in real time on instagram if you are curious:

  
For now though, let's dive right into the things we've learned in the first 2 weeks.
Here goes -- the good, the bad and the stinky:

1. No-see-ums

We knew that bugs might be an issue, and were particularly concerned with mosquitoes and Dengue fever.  What we did not know is that there is an even more vicious foe and it is 1/4 the size of a common mosquito.  They are little biting gnats and they are quite hard to see, but then there is a swarm of them around you and bite-bite-bite.  The bites swell up more than a mosquito bite into a hard, little mound with a small pus-filled tip.  They itch like mad and then go away in 3-4 days.  We are combating them with various methods - throwing the arsenal at them really - and seeing which solutions work best.  I have some DIYs that I am trying and will share once I know they work, but thus far DEET products work and anything with Lemongrass essential oil (lots of it!) also seems to be working.  (I use THIS brand of Lemongrass oil from Amazon -- about $3 per bottle)

The gnats tend to hang out around water, sandy areas and forests and are most active at dawn and dusk.  Keeping yourself in motion or wind (as in an open golf cart) keeps them at bay and they do not seem to bug us while swimming.  Sit outside on the porch at dusk without a little citronella and you are eaten alive!

2. Toiletries

We were pleasantly surprised at the amount of "everyday comforts" available in Puerto Rico.  Presumably due to its status as a US territory, the stores seem to have the same US buyers, so many of the brands of food, toiletries and other necessities are the same.  Unlike Costa Rica where tampons and contact solution were nearly impossible to find, here in Puerto Rico, they are readily available.  I could have packed slightly less if I had known the local WalMart 5 minutes away had everything.  There is also a nearby Kmart, Marshalls and Old Navy which carry "American" sizes and styles of clothing and other products.  I recently made contact with another expat here in Palmas who is going to take me to see the local "pulgueros" (thrift stores!) and fabric stores.  Excited is an understatement!

3. The Heat

We knew it was hot and we knew it was humid, but we didn't quite know how we would adjust to it.  We have vacationed for extended periods in other hot locations (Mexico, Costa Rica, Florida), so we had an idea of what to expect, but there are two things that have made life a lot more comfortable.

Cold Showers & Black Iced Coffee

We truly never touch the hot water in the shower or bath.  The cold is never truly "cold", but it is definitely cool and we take 1-3 quick showers a day and usually a dip or 2 in the community pool as well. It helps a lot.  Switching cold turkey from hot sugared and creamed coffee to straight black coffee on the rocks happened fast and easy.  It is refreshing, bitterly so, and perfect morning, noon and night (decaf).  I drink mine in a glass mug and I drink it quick because every drink reaches room temp (around 80 degrees) pretty quickly.  

This portion of the post has been sponsored by Glade.  

Glade Hawaiian Breeze Candle
Fun little behind the scenes video with Cirque du Soleil for Glade HERE

4. The Smells

We moved to a nice beachside community called Palmas del Mar and were expecting beachy clean breezes and the smells of topical fruits romantically drifting amidst the palms.  It turns out the Caribbean is having an algae problem this year and it is STINKY.  Like so stinky that I honestly kept checking diapers the first couple of days because I was certain they must be dirty. 
Palmas del Mar Marina and Bay
Our rental is right on the water -- HELLO algae!
The smell has seemed to dissipate (or I have grown used to it) over the last couple weeks, 
but in the meantime, I was very, VERY thankful for the sample candles Glade sent for me to test.


Both smell expectedly delightful, but Hawaiian Breeze is my favorite.  
There is also a sameness about the ritual of lighting a candle, even in 88 degree heat, that feels like home.  

5. Trash in the Ground and the Post in a Box

Here in Puerto Rico, most of the trashcans are literally IN the ground (they look like THIS) and many of the homes here use post office boxes instead of home mailboxes.  Any package deliveries also go to the PO Box.  Neither affect us terribly much, but are an interesting twist on everyday life.  The PO Box is in a little postal store in Palmanova Plaza, a beautiful square in the middle of Palmas with restaurants, a fountain and apartments above.  (HERE it is at night.) I call it "the castle" because I can find my way home on the golf cart as long as I head towards the "spires".

6. The Golf Carts

We knew that many people drove golf carts around Palmas instead of cars, but we didn't know how much we would like it!  Palmas is really quite like a small town in itself with multiple restaurants, a bank, the postal store, various activities like golf and tennis, etc. so the carts make good sense.  What we did not realize is that a used golf cart cost us nearly the same amount as a used car here.  Granted, we needed a 6 passenger golf cart instead of 4 for our family, but the used golf cart market is hopping.  By all appearances though, the carts hold their value, so we should be able to sell it or trade it in for a fair value, as opposed to cars which dip dramatically. In any case, the entire family LOVES the gold cart.  When it is hot outside, the wind is just perfect and when the baby will not fall asleep, the golf cart is her panacea.


7. The Dryer that Vents INTO the House

The homes here rely on tropical breezes and fans a lot.  There is plenty of air conditioning to be had, but the electric costs are double or triple US mainland prices.  For a couple of days, we tried to go without AC, but then the no-see-ums attacked and we realized that anything without a screen at dusk or dawn was just simply not an option to open.  We started using AC, balanced with fans in the rooms that were occupied and both get turned off when you leave the room.  You can get a sense of how delicate the balance is, yes?  Well, enter laundry.  The first time I went to do a load, the washing went fine, but then the dryer turned on and after 10 minutes, the laundry room literally felt like an oven.  200 degrees or so -- really.  It turns out that this particular home has an inside dryer water vent.  That means the heat, lint and such are pushed into a tub of water to vent IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM instead of outside and thus the ENTIRE house gets hot.  It is a solution that might be necessary in a basement apartment or such, but for a tropical location where access to an outdoor vent would have been possible, it is a deal breaker for me.  We are currently house hunting and that dryer vent is one of the very first things I check.  It is VERY important.

UPDATE: 3 weeks in and we are able to turn the air off a lot more often even without opening the doors.  81-84ish feels ok (with a fan breeze) for room temperature to us now, but when it creeps above 84, it feels quite hot!

On the opposite side of things, this particular rental home has luxurious sheets, pillows, towels and beds.  It makes a WORLD of difference and we kind-of hit the jackpot in that regards.  It all evens out :)

All said and done, we are adjusting to Island life, trying to slow down, grow in patience and learn to manage the heat and the bugs.  In short, Palmas del Mar is lovely, the people of Puerto Rico are lovely, the breezes are as lovely as expected (though the smell is sometimes not) and we would do it again in a heartbeat.  We would pick a place with a dryer vent to the outside though.


If you are interested in learning more and making the leap, please read and contact REX:Relocation Experts.


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24 June 2015

"Moss" Marshmallows, Edible Terrariums and Bugs, Bugs, BUGS!

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Each summer in our house, we like to have a Bug and Garden week.  Though bug-catching is a stalwart standard, I always try to switch up things just a bit.  Last year we made moss marshmallows for an edible terrarium activity, created a family of lady bugs and even planted a Venus fly trap!  Join me today as I share our activities!

This edible terrarium activity is a project inspired by Jenn at Rook 17's terrariums.  She makes the cutest little mushrooms for her Woodland Cake Terrarium version -- check it out HERE!  For our project, I wanted the moss rocks to be large and flat, so I used the "smore" marshmallows.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

I layered chocolate yogurt and ground pecans in my edible terrarium jars for "dirt." 
Then added marshmallows and some fun miniatures that the "fairies" left behind when their gardening was complete.

Supplies:

Add about 1 cup of sugar to a plastic baggie. A little goes a LONG way with the professional Wilton food coloring, so add just the tip of a teaspoon to start and add more if needed.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids
Mix it up gently...
Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

...and voila!
Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids
Lightly wet the marshmallows, then toss them in the bag until they are "moss" covered.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

These little quilted jars were perfect for the miniature edible terrarium versions for the boys.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

I let them use edible markers and craft knives to create "bugs" for their mini edible terrarium jars.

 (That knife set is under $3!)
Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

Here is a little orange fella one of the boys made with lightning bolts for antennaes.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

We also made stories using this tub of bug stickers as writing prompts:

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

You can see the rest of our activities & ideas from last year's Bug week RIGHT HERE
 Note the plastic canvas leftover from the plastic canvas challenge last year here at Crafts Unleashed

THIS year bug and garden week will look a LOT different with tropical island bugs and creatures to get to know.  I am thinking lots of stories of lost iguanas and perhaps science experiments to rid ourselves of noseeums once and for all! 


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Shutterfly Free Stuff

"Moss" Marshmallows, Edible Terrariums and Bugs, Bugs, BUGS!

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Each summer in our house, we like to have a Bug and Garden week.  Though bug-catching is a stalwart standard, I always try to switch up things just a bit.  Last year we made moss marshmallows for an edible terrarium activity, created a family of lady bugs and even planted a Venus fly trap!  Join me today as I share our activities!

This edible terrarium activity is a project inspired by Jenn at Rook 17's terrariums.  She makes the cutest little mushrooms for her Woodland Cake Terrarium version -- check it out HERE!  For our project, I wanted the moss rocks to be large and flat, so I used the "smore" marshmallows.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

I layered chocolate yogurt and ground pecans in my edible terrarium jars for "dirt." 
Then added marshmallows and some fun miniatures that the "fairies" left behind when their gardening was complete.

Supplies:

Add about 1 cup of sugar to a plastic baggie. A little goes a LONG way with the professional Wilton food coloring, so add just the tip of a teaspoon to start and add more if needed.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids
Mix it up gently...
Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

...and voila!
Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids
Lightly wet the marshmallows, then toss them in the bag until they are "moss" covered.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

These little quilted jars were perfect for the miniature edible terrarium versions for the boys.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

I let them use edible markers and craft knives to create "bugs" for their mini edible terrarium jars.

 (That knife set is under $3!)
Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

Here is a little orange fella one of the boys made with lightning bolts for antennaes.

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

We also made stories using this tub of bug stickers as writing prompts:

Make an Edible Terrarium with Kids

You can see the rest of our activities & ideas from last year's Bug week RIGHT HERE
 Note the plastic canvas leftover from the plastic canvas challenge last year here at Crafts Unleashed

THIS year bug and garden week will look a LOT different with tropical island bugs and creatures to get to know.  I am thinking lots of stories of lost iguanas and perhaps science experiments to rid ourselves of noseeums once and for all! 


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Shutterfly Free Stuff

18 June 2015

Girls' Summer Party

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Flower Bar

I am always looking for an excuse to invite my nieces and their mamas over to spend some time in the garden, and a garden party seemed like fun to plan and enjoy.  We had dainty little finger foods (THESE Cucumber Cake Towers , Leave 'em in the Oven Overnight Meringue Ribbons and Floating Island Punch)and enjoyed some fun crafts and a dip in the pool.  Join me today as I share a few of the crafts with you!

Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

Supplies:

(1-3 * in order of difficulty)

1. Flower Jars *


Lemon Balm or any Mint

Various Flowers

    2. Lace Crowns **

      (updated floral crowns in the book!  Stay tuned!)

    Round Vase

    Possibly Hot Glue/Gun

    3. Table Decor and Setting ***


    Various Vintage China and Fabrics (Thrift Store!)

      how to lace baby crown amy renea

      I was excited to make little lace crowns for the babies and larger elastic lace crowns for the older girls.   
      Simply dip the lace in fabric stiffener,  mold it onto a glass vase and wait for it to harden.

      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

      I hot glued the David Tutera paper flowers onto the older girls crowns, but the baby crowns were a lot more adorable :)  
      I also made some pom pom garlands and rounded up some mismatched china for the table.

      Smashing Vintage Plates and Pom Pom Garland

      To create your own garland, you will want to weed out some colors in the pastel assortment.  I liked the purple, white and yellow together, but 
      any combination of 2 or 3 makes a pleasing color story.  Before stringing, line up the poms on the floor, alternating large, medium and small poms.


      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

      I kept my pattern even and balanced, but not exact.  Instead of doing a pattern of small-small-big-small-small-big, 
      I would do small-big-small-small-small-big-small and so on.  The end result looks random, but also provides balance.

      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

      Lay out your string and poms to get an idea of how much space you want between poms and how long your string should be.

      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

      Using a large craft needle, thread the pom just to the left or right of center.  The center of each pom is very difficult
       to thread directly through and the edges do not provide enough material for a solid attachment.

      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

      To make things go a little quicker, thread 4-5 poms at once, then space them out along the string.

      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

      Once the garlands are hung and the table is set, is time to start thinking about food!
      Cucumber Sandwich Tower Cakes and Frozen Grapes
      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea
      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

      After lunch, the girls grabbed mason jars that I had pre-painted with pink chalk paint and stocked with mint for a flower collecting walk.

      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

      Adding a filler plant before guests begin collecting allows the arrangements to look nice and full no matter how much or little they choose to gather!

      Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea Summer Girl Garden Party with Fresh Picked Flowers, Overnight Meringues, Punch and Lace Crowns by Amy Renea

      I hope you enjoyed a little peek into our party and will enjoy one of your own before the summer is up!

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