Project Backyard – Home DIY

When we decided to buy our home we never dreamed that we would buy new construction. Fixer Upper is our love language and with Freddie being pretty much just like Chip Gaines we wanted to put our own touch on our first home and fix it up! Well, our brand new home was customized to what we wanted for the most part, so no tearing down walls or gutting kitchens for us. Although lots and lots of shiplap and new hardware were in the cards! The one thing that was untouched was our backyard. We purchased a lot with a sizable yard and that “yard” was compacted clay and run off foundation pour. Project backyard became our first home renovation.

I ended up drawing the plans on a scrap piece of paper one night and Freddie ran with it. To anyone who has every trenched through compacted clay…God bless you. It took many hours and the help of family and friends but the foundation for our backyard was the start of our scrap piece of paper plans! Water lines, gas lines, drains and electricity boxes were laid in and out of those hand dug trenches. Freddie thought of everything we may want to do in the future and made sure we had everything in place before we even decided on a paver to cover the foundation. He also removed the air conditioning unit that was standard to the house and moved a new slimline unit to a new location.

Looking back on these photos I cannot believe that he would do the backyard himself. But it was exactly what we wanted to do. Someone commented on an Instagram post of our home that they had never heard of new construction being called a fixer upper. In our eyes we bought a house. We had to make it a home! And this was only the beginning!

 

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Do You Wanna Build a Scarecrow?

It sure does not feel like it here in the midst of three digit temperatures in California, but it is indeed Fall. We just had our first annual Halloween party last week and now we are back in the swimming pools! Crazy! It has been so hard to get in the holiday mood due to the weather so if you’re like most of us there is a simple DIY way to ring in the season.

Last year in our community there was a harvest festival and part of that was a scarecrow contest. I am probably one of the most competitive people you may meet in your life so I was all in! I had never even considered how I would construct this scarecrow but I figured there was a first for everything and lets give it a whirl!

Come to find out it is super simple to and pretty darn cutie if I do say so myself! I constructed your typical, everyday, run of the mill scarecrow and took pictures of the process to share!

 

I bought a half yard of burlap fabric at Hobby Lobby and folded it in half before I drew my scarecrow face template. I drew a circle I felt was large enough for my scale of scarecrow and then drew two curved lines on the bottom of the circle to create the neck.
After cutting out my template I pinned both pieces together to make my guidelines easier to sew in my sewing machine. After you sew together in a machine or by hand flip your “face” inside out!
I took two stakes from Home Depot and nailed them together to form the scarecrows body. I was lucky and found a pair of mens jeans and a nice fuzzy flannel on the sales rack at Target for next to nothing but definitely would have used what we had lying around the house.
You will also need a bundle of hay which I found at Michaels and although they look small iIonly used one! It was all I needed for the whole scarecrow! You will also need some rope or twine to tie your scarecrows limbs off and I used it as suspenders to hold his middle body together.
Before you stuff your screcrow with hay make sure to dress him up! Pull our pants on the lower part your stake frame and tie the bottoms of them off. Slip the arms of your shirt on the cross of your stake and tie the ends of the arms.
I cuffed my arms and pants but be creative! Also i had to cut a small slit in the croth of my pants in order to get it on the stake. Make sure it isn’t cut too large or you will lose hay!
And then you get to have fun! I started stuffing with the pants. made sure they were good and full and then buttoned up my flanned and stuffed the chest and arms.
My number one fan.
I wish i would have taken a picture of how I kept his body together. I took the same rope that I tied the limbs with and made “suspenders”. I tied a knot on two different belt loops on the back of the scarecrow before I stuffed his shirt and let them hang long behind him while I stuffed. When his shirt was full and buttoned I flipped the ropes over and tied to two different belt loops on the front of him. For extra support i just threaded the rope through his belt loops to make him a belt.
The last thing I did contruction wise was stuff and attatch his head. Before I stuffed the head I drew a face on him but thats up to you! When I attached his head I tied the bottom of the neck with some rope onto the stake.
After he is all stuffed up and can stand “on his own” in the ground you can go back and add extra hay around his collar and in his pockets. I put an old felt cowboy on him and hot glued a crow from Michaels on his shoulder. Because it was a neighborhood contest I added a flag with our community logo and a bouttinere with our family name.
He was really cool and he got second place! Our family was really excited about placing!
What a stud!


This is a really great way to bring fall to your home for a just a small expense! And if I can do it, anyone can! When I started this blog it was mainly for our family happenings because we are always doing something. I’m a mom with young kids trying to create traditions and memories as best I can and if I can pass down some of our things to bring into your homes well then that would be cool! Show me your scarecrows!

Candy Corn Waffles

Since we moved to our new home the grocery store isn’t just “right down the street” anymore. Which means we eat at home! Which also means I cook three meals a day everyday. I am not the best by any means so I am learning and thought I’d write about my kitchen journey here. Finding something fun and festive to cook and/or bake is now what I do.

Every year when school starts for the kids, the holidays start for me! My mom was huge on the holidays, and I have tried to continue those traditions she started and make some of our own too. Put cooking and holidays in one and I have five happy people in this house!

 I found this recipe for Candy Corn Waffles in Food Network Magazine. I usually use a dry waffle mix so this was a step in a better direction! They were super easy to make and the kids loved them and thought I was amazing for two hours which is a major bonus! If you want a small step into the holidays I’d start here…

 

Ingredients

  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 5 tbsp. melted shortening
  • 4 tbsp. melted butter
  • orange and yellow food coloring
  • melted white chocolate

Directions

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, milk, melted shortening, and melted butter. Tint half the batter orange and half the batter yellow with food coloring. Preheat a round waffle iron to the lowest setting. Spoon some orange batter into the middle and some yellow batter around it. Cook until just crisp. Separate into triangles and dip the tips in melted white chocolate.

ta-da!

so cutie!


Easy Orange Cake

I love recipes with the word ‘easy’ in them. I also love recipes with the word ‘orange’ in them! So when I stumbled upon this gem, Easy Orange Cake, in Better Homes and Gardens One-Pan Recipes, I knew it was a go.

Most times when I make a citrus cake that has juice in the recipe i can only taste a faint bit of it. This cake, however, is as orange flavored as it gets. No lie! Perfect for after a summer bar-b-que or for breakfast! i love cake for breakfast. No judgment here!

I frosted my Easy Orange Cake with Butter Frosting and sprinkled fresh orange zest, but another option would be a dusting of powdered sugar! So good!

EASY ORANGE CAKE

Ingredients

  •  2 oranges
  • 1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. butter softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 recipe Butter Frosting or powdered sugar (optional)

Instruction

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with waxed paper or parchment paper. Grease and lightly flour pan.
  2. Remove 2 tsp. zest and squeeze 1/2 cup juice from oranges. In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add orange zest and juice, milk, butter, egg, and vanilla. Beat with a mixer on low until combined. Beat on medium for 1 minute. Spread batter in prepared pan.
  3. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan; cool on wire rack. If desired spread with Butter Frosting or dust with powdered sugar. Makes 8 servings.

Butter Frosting

  • In a medium bowl beat 1/4 cup softened butter with a mixer on medium until smooth. Gradually add 3/4 cup powdered sugar, beating well. Beat in 2 Tbsp. milk and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Gradually beat in 2 1/2 cups additional powdered sugar. Beat in enough additional milk to reach spreading consistency.

Nutrition Facts

  • PER SERVING 319 cal., 7g fat (4g sat. fat), 42mg chol.,144mg sodium, 62g carb., 1g fiber, 4g pro.

Cool Ranch Doritos

There are two people in this world of ours. Nacho Cheese Doritos lovers and Cool Ranch Doritos lovers. I happen to be a Cool Ranch lover! My mom used to buy the lunch sized bags of chips for our lunches and it was always the BEST day when that shiny blue bag was waiting for me. Surprisingly these chips are super easy to make at home and you probably already have everything to make them! Throw these with a PB&J and some chocolate chip cookies and your back at the fourth grade lunch tables!

Ingredients

  • uncooked small tortillas
  • 2 (1 ounce) packets dry Ranch seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • canola oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven or deep fryer and heat to 350F. You want about 2 inches of oil minimum.
  2. Cut the uncooked tortillas into wedges, like pizza slices.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the ranch seasoning, paprika, garlic, onion, and salt. The seasoning works best super fine, so you can pulse in a blender if you would like, but its optional and I didn’t.
  4. Working in batches, fry the tortillas until crispy, about 3 minutes per batch. I used tongs to press the tortillas down one at a time to let some of the air out, otherwise they can puff up very easily. Be careful with this step because the oil can bubble up.
  5. Place the fried tortillas on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with seasoning. Toss to combine, then sprinkle the flip side. You want to do this right after removing from the oil. Allow to cool.
  6. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas. This will make quite a bit of tortillas for the amount of seasoning.
  7. Store chips in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Enjoy!

Knott’s Berry Farm – Family Travel

This summer we are trying to branch out and try new things and new places and take our kids to as many places as we can while they are still little! Last Friday we decided to take them to Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. Both my husband and I haven’t been in years and it was so much fun to see how things have changed!

There is something for everyone at Knott’s. My mom and grandma came along with us and they enjoyed it just as much!I was surprised at how may attractions there were for our kiddoes especially in Camp Snoopy. There is such a great mix of kids attractions mixed with rollercoasters. My husband and I took our middle son on a “big kid” ride, The Pony Express, and he loved it! We all went on the Calico Mine Train and although somewhat creepy it was a classic and I’m glad the kids got to go on! I wish we would have seen a show but we kept missing the times however we LOVED the characters in Ghost Town. Summer 2017 Ghost Town is Alive and the characters were owning it! Freddie kept laughing at all of the different parts being played. We walked, rode rides ate funnel cakes (which now come with soft serve on them!) drank a Sasparilla in the Calico Saloon and ended the day with THE chicken dinner! It was a wonderful day with the fam and I love having these memories!

Since we were new to Knott’s here are some things that we found helpful!

– You can purchase tickets online! We got a discount for making our online ticket purchase!

– Parking for the day is $18.00 and can also be purchased with your tickets online! It is quite a walk back to your car so make sure you have everything you need for the day!

– Camp Snoopy is amazing for little kids! They have a great variety of little thrills to baby friendly!

– Most of the attractions outside of Camp Snoopy are a 48 inch height requirement however a few are 52 inches! Make sure to pick up a map at the entrance and check the requirements before walking to a specific attraction.

– There are so many great places to eat! We opted for Johnny Rockets for lunch and Mrs Knott’s Chicken Dinner but want to go back to try Ghost Town Grill and Fireman’s BBQ.

Annual Passes for the new year start being sold in August. If you buy them before (like we were going to) you only have until December 31. If you purchase in August you get in the day of your purchase and then if you would like to go between August and December 31, it is only $10.00 per visit and then you get the entire year starting January 1! We are definitely getting passes!

– For additional information about the surrounding areas, hotels and other attractions such as Medieval Times (which is a favorite of ours) and Pirates Dinner Adventure check out www.visitbuenapark.com.

Graduation Days

Two of our boys hit milestones this year. Graduation Days. Freddie and I both went to catholic private schools so public school milestones are a little different…

When we went to school we had a big kindergarten graduation and when we got word that Ryder would only have the Three Piggy Opera to celebrate I was a bit disappointed. Not that I wasn’t jumping at the bit to see my son sing as a pig but I thought they probably would’ve done a little more. Well lucky, lucky us to have had Mrs. Ingraham this year because she was new to the school as well and had her own graduation after the showstopper performance that is the Three Piggy Opera! But I have to add that we practiced that line for weeks and he nailed it…as I toot my own horn…

She let the students pick what they should be awarded for and my son thought that the thing her did the best in Kindergarten was…being the best Lego builder. Future engineer? fingers are crossed. When the awards were being handed out Mrs. Ingraham gave the kids the option of a handshake, a high-five or a hug. My rough, hyper, daredevil of a son chose the hug. Which to me spoke volumes on his personality. The “All Boy” with the biggest heart.

In catholic school, leaving fifth grade wasn’t a big deal since sixth grade was right upstairs. With Hunter’s fifth grade promotion he is actually leaving the elementary side of campus and moving up to middle school. Its been a rocky road with Hunter this year. He started a new school and then was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes in January. So to see get his promotion certificate was an accomplishment. I almost cried twice…but held it together because I didn’t want to be that embarrassing mom…Im a cool mom! We now officially have a middle schooler and are headed into those pre-teen years. And if memory serves I am in a lot of trouble.

Hurricane

I worked at a southern BBQ restaurant when I was out of high school and every year we celebrated Mardi Gras. It was THE best time to eat there and I LOVED the special menu. Umm, hello fried pickles! Since those days of long ago I have always celebrated the holiday even though we are in southern California. We usually go to a Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in the Downtown Disney District but since the beginning of this year has been way too crazy for this tribe I think I am gonna have to try to bring New Orleans to my own kitchen. And to do that I may need a drink. And that drink may as well be the Hurricane.

I must say that the way I made this celebratory drink was not too shabby! I’ll just go ahead and toot my own horn! The verdict is still out on the juice to rum ratio but I liked it and it was very quick to make. Freddie and I recently tried Captain Morgan’s White Rum and loved it so I used a little of that and a little original!

Ingredients

  • 2oz. light rum (I used Captain Morgan White Rum)
  • 3oz. dark rum (Captain Morgan)
  • 6oz. passion fruit juice
  • 6oz. pineapple orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. grenadine
  • orange slice
  • maraschino cherries

Directions

  • In a large liquid measuring cup, mix the first five ingredients.
  • Pour over ice-filled glass
  • Garnish each glass with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry. (and maybe a fancy paper straw!)

I think the next time I make these i may try adding the grenadine after for a swirly effect but they did taste as good as they looked!

An Old Fashioned

Freddie orders weird drinks. He will tell me that he is ordering a beer and then when he actually orders he will pick some sort of fruity concoction that arrives in a fancy glass. I personally think its hilarious! Especially when it comes garnished beyond belief and he doesn’t know how to hold his glass! It is now a running joke with us and I look forward to seeing “What will Freddie drink next”?

But then there are those times when my craft cocktail husband will reach out for the classics. The Old Fashioned  was one of those drinks. And because we wanted to continue having that drink at home I learned how to make them! Freddie prefers Jameson over my fancy Four Roses but he won’t argue when I share!

To create an Old Fashioned you will need:

  • whiskey or brandy of your liking
  • sugar cubes
  • bitters
  • water
  • garnish of orange twist and/or cocktail cherry

And then to prepare:

Place a sugar cube or two in a glass and saturate with bitters. Then add a dash of plain ol’ water. Muddle until the sugar cube(s) have dissolved. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add your whiskey or bourbon. Garnish with an orange twist and a cocktail cherry!

So simple to make at home and Freddie loves them! Chin chin!

The preparation…
This one was made extra sweet!
Muddle, muddle, muddle.
Sharing from my own stash…I must love him!
We have a surplus of kumquat trees so we were fancy and used a fresh one straight off the tree for our garnish.
TA-DA!!

The Family Photo…and our 2016 Christmas Card

We take a lot of pictures in this house. We document every little thing that happens around here so you would think that THE family photo would be a cake walk…

In an attempt to be ahead of the game this year I recruited my cousin Sam to photograph my family in our new neighborhood, quickly and nothing too fancy and before Thanksgiving at that! At the end of this session I felt like the Rocky theme song should have been playing just because we survived! If you can’t tell by that statement it was a rough time. Asher was whiny, Ryder wouldn’t smile etc etc. Sam was truly a miracle worker because the photos did not depict this at all! Well besides Ryder’s grumpiness which we couldn’t even bribe him out of (yes we were those people). But at the end of the day, when we look back at this time we will remember how awful it was, how tired we were after, and how much we wish we could go back.

This was our first shot…oh man!

The only child who cooperated! 

This is the photo that Freddie says looks like we are having fun…looks can be decieving!

Ladies and gentlemen, here it is! Our 2016 family photo and Christmas card. This year I went with Artifact Uprising as our printer and I could not be happier with the quality and efficiency of this company! The gold foil is subtle yet defining and the color and texture of our image was not distorted whatsoever. I cannot wait to get my 2016 album printed by them!

Next year the goal is to have our cards out by December 1…and maybe with older boys everything may go a little smoother. And maybe I’ll just keep it a secret that I wish they could stay small. Many many thank you’s to Sam Shapiro and Artifact Uprising.