Monday, April 30, 2012

After-School Buddies

More often than not, Rosie likes to cuddle with Evelyn after school, which is when the girls get to watch a little TV.  Evelyn loves it when Rosie lays and sleeps on her - she's such a sweet cat!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Planting Day!

Today was the big day - planting twelve new plants and moving three bushes from the front yard to the back yard.  The only problem with a blank (dirt) canvas?  Where to put all of the plants.  I had a general idea, of course, but Evelyn and I had to figure out exactly where to put everything.  With measuring tape and marking sticks in hand, we marked the spots.
The one plant Evelyn really, really, REALLY wanted was lavender.  I let her do the honors of putting her lavender in its new home.
After planting all of the smaller plants on the west side of the path, we headed over to where the hydrangeas were going to go - the shadier area under the deck.  Here are the girls, planting an Annabelle hydrangea.  It was flanked by two Endless Summer hydrangeas - one on each side.
In all, it took us three and a half hours to plant 15 plants and bushes, followed by 20 bags of cypress mulch.
This looks so much better than what we started with, back on April 7th!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

One More Prep Day

 All three weekend warriors pitched in to prepare the backyard for planting day.

Several plants and bushes will go on the west side of the path, so Troy and Evelyn used the claw and the tiller to soften the ground.
 Julia tried her hand at tilling, too.  Look at that cheerful worker!
 Troy came across several roots and stumps from days gone by.  Some of the roots - like the one pictured below - were over six feet long!  See the trimmers laying on the ground?  Evelyn calls them "root choppers" because we used them to cut the thick roots.  I'm sure that's not what my Grandpa Miller called them, but that's what their name was today!
After about an hour or so of working in the dirt, we had a clean slate...all set for the big planting day tomorrow.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Backyard Update

About two weeks ago, Troy sprayed Roundup on the weeds in the backyard.  It looks TONS better now.
 We also got rid of all the extra trash cans, storage containers and holly bushes.
 Now we have a bunch of dead, dried-up weeds that need to be tilled into the ground.  Troy is going to do another round of Roundup this evening, to kill the new weeds that have popped up.
 The plan is to plant all twelve bushes and plants this weekend (pictured below).  From the left, our plants are: one (pink) butterfly bush, one lavender, six columbines, one Annabelle hydrangea (white), one (purple) butterfly bush and two Endless Summer hydrangeas (pink or blue, depending on our soil's acidity).  We also have three azalea bushes that will be transplanted from the front yard to this back area.  Look for more backyard updates this weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tea Cups and Ties

I started planning Evelyn's (May) birthday party way back in January.  That's when I decided on a tea party theme, and the search for tea cups and ties started.  The girls didn't know why I kept going to thrift stores, looking for tea cups and ties.  Maybe they thought I had gone loco?  I kept them in the dark for quite awhile...

A few weeks ago I clued Evelyn into what was going on - she would have a tea party birthday party!  We had collected seven sets of tea cups and matching saucers.  Troy's mom, Joyce, and my friend, Kat, had also kept their eyes open and helped contribute to the collection.  Most of the cups and saucers came from Maryland, but there's one set that came all the way from Illinois.  Not only will the girls at the party sip pink lemonade from their tea cups, but they will also take them home at the end of the party.
 Both Evelyn and Julia know that Grandma Luster sews tie purses.  But they were confused when I asked them to find tie patterns that 2nd-grade girls would like - they couldn't figure out why Grandma wanted to make tie purses for girls.  Once I clued them in about the party, they both thought tie purses would make an awesome party gift for Evelyn's friends.  I let my girls each choose their own tie - Evelyn's is on the bottom left, and Julia's is on the bottom right.
My tea cups and ties project took a few months to execute, but I think it will be well worth it.  In all, my thrift store buys cost about $25.  We'll toss in a little candy, and the birthday guests' goodie bags will be done.  And, if you ask me, I think these are pretty cool (and unique) party gifts!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


A few weeks ago I ordered all of the bushes and perennial flowers that will be planted in the backyard.  Today the last shipment arrived.  This box has a butterfly bush, two "Endless Summer" hydrangeas and an "Annabelle" hydrangea.  We're hoping for good weather this weekend so all twelve of our new plants can get moved to their new home.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Building a Cardboard Treehouse

This afternoon Julia and I got to work building one of her birthday presents:  a cardboard treehouse.  The directions said it would take us 30 minutes to build the ten-piece structure...but I wasn't too sure about that.
 With some guidance on how and where to fold the cardboard, as well as where to join the pieces, Julia had a lot of fun building this.
 Would you believe it only took us 21 minutes to build it?!?  I was pleasantly surprised.  And Julia was so proud of herself.  Next up is decorating.  This treehouse is for her three-inch princess dollies, so I'm sure it will be the most glamorous treehouse you've ever seen.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Julia's Castle Birthday Cake

Remember the pink cake Julia baked yesterday? Here it is, all dolled up with frosting:
I just
had to get a picture of the birthday princess with her pinkalicious castle cake.
After we lit the candle (a number four, per Julia's request), we all sang happy birthday to Julia. Ross's super-low voice got quite a few smiles from our little princess just LOVES being the center of attention!
After blowing out her candle, Julia said, "I feel bigger now!"
When I asked which part of the cake she wanted, Julia said the door. Since the cake was thick, Julia's piece was enormous! She cut right into the middle of her slice, and then she tried to figure out how to eat that big bite. Needless to say, Julia wasn't able to eat all of it, but she certainly enjoyed what she could!

Julia's Pink Presents

Kat and Ross came over this evening to celebrate Julia's birthday. Julia had the agenda all planned out: open birthday presents, eat supper, play for a little while, and then have birthday cake.Underneath the wrapping paper and inside the gift bags Julia found pink flip flops...a pink jacket...
...Eric Carle lacing cards...princess paper dolls and clothes...
...a build-it-yourself cardboard treehouse (for her little 3-inch dolls)...a Pinckalicious story collection... (pink) bedding and a pink princess scooter. Talk about an explosion of pink!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chuck E Cheese Party!

For the past several months, Julia has been giving me her birthday party ideas. They ranged from horse/farm parties to Little Gym parties to tea parties to swimming parties. But there was always one constant - Chuck E Cheese. As far as a guest list, she would tell me about friends, family and princesses that she wanted to come to her party. And her little friend, Nathan, always made the list. Julia made it easy for me to plan her 4th birthday party: go to Chuck E Cheese and invite Nathan. Nathan's older brother gets along really well with Evelyn, so it was quite simple to put together a party for four little friends.

We all headed over to Chuck E Cheese right after the big kids got out of school, and it wasn't too crowded. Julia had plenty of opportunities to use up her tokens on her favorite games and rides in the two hours we were there. She went on the clock a few times at the beginning of the party. She loved this ride so much that when she had 12 tokens left at the end, she just rode it over and over. (This was Evelyn's favorite, too, at her 4th party.)
One of Julia's favorite games was Hungry Frog. It's perfect for preschoolers - just hit the buttons to make ping pong balls go into the frog's mouth. Julia earned the most tickets from this game, too, which is always a bonus.
Another favorite game was this whack-a-pirate type game. What kid doesn't like using a hammer to hit objects on a screen? When the shark came out, Julia got really intense and tried to beat the tar out of it - it was really funny to watch!
After the kids had used up most of their tokens on games and rides, it was cupcake time! I kept things simple and brought four cupcakes for the four friends. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Princess Julia, and she blew out her candles, one by one.
The cupcakes were gone in a matter of seconds. You should have seen the kids' teeth and tongues after eating those cupcakes - there was yellow frosting everywhere!

Baking a Birthday Cake

Julia couldn't wait to start making her birthday cake. After laying out the ingredients and utensils, she was all set.

As we made the cake batter, I asked Julia what to do. First, she wanted to pour in the powdered cake mix. Then came the eggs, followed by the oil, and finally the water. You can tell that Julia has made cake before because she didn't even need to look at the box to remember the ingredients.

Julia wanted her castle cake to be pink, but not flavored. The solution was to add pink food color gel to a white cake mix, which meant separating the eggs. Julia did a good job cracking the eggs, and she only needed a little bit of help with the egg separator.
And here she is with her pinkalicious cake! Even though today is her real birthday, she will enjoy this cake tomorrow when we have her family party with Kat and Ross.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Birthday at Preschool

Julia was so excited to bring treats to preschool this morning to celebrate her birthday. And I was more than happy to make cake pops for her little friends. It sounds like Julia had a fun (early) birthday at preschool this morning - her teacher also made her a tiara with 4's all over it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Laundry Assistant

Rosie had to make sure the laundry stayed warm -

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Backyard Plans

Now that spring has sprung, and planting time is just around the corner (Mother's Day for us), it's time to start making plans for our backyard. Since it's fairly small - 18x24 feet - it will be easy to transform this weed-and-junk pit into a beautiful, flower-filled garden.

There's all sorts of junk in our backyard - five (five!) trash cans, various storage containers, cinder blocks, a fire ring, an iron ornamental fish, a healthy mystery bush, a holly bush and a few holly bush stumps. Oh, there's also an Evelyn hiding in the picture below...can you find her?
We plan to leave the bricks and pavers. True, it's an odd arrangement, but they serve their purpose. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But something that does need improvement is the weed situation. Evelyn had fun blowing dandelion seeds this afternoon, as there were several dandelions to choose from.
Yesterday, Evelyn helped me measure the dimensions of the backyard so I could make a map. Based on the amount of sun and shade the backyard gets, I already had in mind some of the flowers and bushes I want. But I needed to make sure the plants would work in the space we have. After moving my flower and bush circles around my map, I think this plan will work.

There are two butterfly bushes in the top left corner; the little circles on the left are columbine and lavender; there are two hydrangeas and one (big) rhododendron on the right; and the green circle is the mystery bush that gets to stay. Now that the planning is done, it's time to execute - next up is killing off the weeds with Round-Up, ordering plants and buying a boat-load of mulch. Stay tuned to see what the weekend warriors do next.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dyeing Easter Eggs

We've been on an Easter egg hiatus the last two years, due to traveling for spring break. But since we were home for spring break this year, we colored eggs. (This was also Julia's first time dyeing eggs that she can remember.)The little redhead used a slow and steady hand to lower the egg into the dye.
Julia was all smiles while waiting for the egg to get colored.
I let Evelyn take over when it was time to take the eggs out.
I just love the look on Julia's face when she checked on her egg - a combination of wonder and amazement.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Peanut Butter and Jelly Day

Happy National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day! What better way to celebrate than to eat PB&J sandwiches, picnic style. Never mind that the picnic was in the kitchen...we spread out a blanket and dined on sandwiches made with Jif peanut butter and Welch's grape jelly, which we partnered with Cheetos and bananas. Dessert was an assortment of Girl Scout cookies. Yum-o!