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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Operation DIY Reptile Party…The Event!

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The day of the party arrived, all of the planning and creating and decorating was done, it was time to make sure my baby boy had a blast!  And have a blast he did!

Here he is sitting behind his favorite decoration…the cake.  I’ll never forget his reaction when he first saw it.  Makes this momma’s heart happy.

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While everyone stuffed their faces with snake sandwiches, chips, potato salad, baked beans, and bug juice with worms, my son kept asking, “Can we open presents yet?…Can we open presents yet?”  I informed him that his parties have followed the same schedule since his very first: food, cake and ice cream, then presents.  He doesn’t seem to like this routine any longer.  Maybe we’ll reverse the process next year.

Finally, it was time for cake and ice cream.  After snapping entirely too many pictures in front of the cake, we finally lit the candles (all 8 of them…boo hoo!), and sang “Happy Birthday” to my sweet little boy.  He made a wish and blew out the candles.  Then, proceeded to pick a lizard off his cake and lick the icing from it.  Still, he is waiting not too patiently to open those presents!  Eat the cake faster already!

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“Happy Birthday to you…”

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Make a wish!

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And the licking of the reptile.

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Now, after such a long and painful wait, it was time to open the presents.  Oh, how very excited my little boy was to rip open all the packages!

First, sissy got to give him the present she chose and carefully wrapped for him…one of her very own lizards…how giving my children can be.

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Next up, a lovely poster from his cousin.  She always gets him great stuff.

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Money…always a nice present!  And a growing tongue!  Thanks Wilma!

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A fake knife, a pack of turtles, and a dinosaur tooth from the aunt and uncle…very cool!

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I can’t believe he actually took time to read his cards!

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Hobbit Legos and a stuffed Raccoon puppet from granny.  He has wanted a raccoon for a long time, and he loved this one.  It looks so real!

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Grandmommy and Papaw got him a pop-up habitat, a boat to build, and an adorable stuffed “Pack Rat” puppet.

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From mommy and daddy, in a reptile cargo crate, he found tons of stuffed reptiles.  He got a Chameleon, a Leopard Frog, a Gecko, a Burmese Python, a Coral Snake, and an Alligator…and a scoop net to catch more reptiles with…preferably not of the snake variety!

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Also, he got a Deluxe Safari Fort Kit.  This was a wonderful idea I found on Pinterest.  It had a sheet set, clothespins, suction cups with hooks, and string placed inside a pillow case and tied up with a label.  Hours of fort making on the cheap!  Best present ever!  I can’t even walk through my son’s room now because the whole place is one giant fort.  I’d say he liked this present.

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I think he had a very, very “Happy Birthday”.  I love to see that smile!

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Now, onto planning for my little girl who turns 7 next month (boo hoo-ing some more!).  They really need to slow down with this growing up stuff!

Operation DIY Reptile Party…Phase Two, Three, Four…

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Phase One of Operation DIY Reptile Party was a success.  The invites were so fun to create, and everyone loved them…especially the birthday boy.

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However, Phase Two ended up being a total disaster.  I love baking and decorating cakes, so I thought I could work with gum paste even though I’ve never used it before.  I didn’t have any trouble creating the shapes I wanted, but they became dry and brittle after sitting out for only a few minutes.  Clearly, I did something wrong.  Also, gum paste tastes about like fondant, which I am not a fan of.  When I let my son taste it, he thought it was disgusting and proceeded to make puking noises.  I realized the gum paste cake decorations were out!  Luckily, I had a Plan B (pictures of Plan B to follow)!

So, on to Phase Three of Operation DIY Reptile Party.  My son wanted party favors in cargo boxes.  How to do this on the cheap and DIY?  I took a paper bag and hole punched “air holes” in it.  Then, I printed off tags that said “Fragile Cargo” and “Live Reptiles”.  Toss in some brown and green tissue paper and some plastic reptiles, and voila, Reptiles in a Cargo Box!  I also ended up wrapping his big present like a cargo box…it turned out really well.

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Phase Four commenced the day before the party and consisted of making all of the party decorations.  I made a welcome poster, and birthday banner, and a birthday card using poster board, card stock, glue, printed clipart, and some twine…all items just hanging out in my office waiting for me to get crafty with them.  And, I thank God for my pinking shears.  They have a way of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary!

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Phase Five…decorating the house…the day of the party!  By now, I’m in frantic mode.  I always stress a bit before parties wanting to make sure everything is perfect for my little ones.  When the party starts, I can relax and have fun with my kiddos knowing a gave them the best I could.  I decorated the table with some moss from Hobby Lobby and a bunch of reptiles belonging to the birthday boy.  I loved using the little mason jars with lime green and white striped paper straws.  We drank “bug juice” in them…with worms!  I put glass vases filled with rocks and plastic plants on the food table.  Then, I floated a couple of frogs in them.  I think I might keep these out for decoration.  They look really cool!

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On to Phase Six…the food.  My son wanted a snake sandwich, bug juice, gummy worms, and chips.  My mom contributed potato salad and baked beans to round out the extremely healthy menu.  The snake sandwich turned out really cute and the bug juice (lime Koolaid) was yummy, even with the gummy worms in it!

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The last, and most stressful, part of planning my little boy’s party was Phase Seven…THE CAKE!!!  After the gum paste fiasco, I was a little nervous about how the cake would turn out.  My son wanted a four layer round cake, half white and half chocolate, decorated with grass and a pond and reptiles.  He didn’t want much, did he?  Well, thanks to Plan B, and the use of plastic instead of gum paste, I think the cake turned out okay.  And when my son saw it, he started screaming and said it was “the most awesome cake ever!!!”.  I don’t need anyone else’s approval when I have my son’s adoration.  Worth all the stress and planning just to see him smile!

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Oh, and here is my son’s contribution to the decorating.  A list of Reptile Rules. He dictated this list of 10 rules to me.  Rules like:  Don’t abandon your home during hibernation, never go north, and stay away from Secretary Birds.  Hilarious!

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And, not to worry, I will post party pictures tomorrow.  So check back!

Happy, Happy Birthday

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Today is my son’s 8th birthday!  I just can’t seem to grasp the fact that he’s 8 years old.  Where did the time go?  I wouldn’t even let him say he was 8 until exactly 4:55 this evening.  I am clinging to every minute!

My little man is having his big reptile party tomorrow, and he’s been in lizard mode for a while now.  I got this birthday picture of him “sunning in the window”.  He’s a cute little lizard, isn’t he?

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Happy Birthday!

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We have a tradition in our house on birthdays.  The kids always get a pancake breakfast, complete with birthday candles.  My son chose the ever popular cheesecake pancakes, and asked that they be covered in butter, strawberry syrup, powdered sugar, whipped topping, and gummy worms…yes, gummy worms.  And, on this day, what the boy wants, the boy gets.

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And, of course, sis and I sang “Happy Birthday” to him before he blew out the candles.

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Make a wish…

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I think he really enjoyed those pancakes…and the powdered sugar…and the gummy worms!

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Today was all about my little boy.  He got to choose what games to play, what animals we would all be for the day (it’s a thing in our house), and what movies we would watch.  He even got to pick dinner…Butter Burger, yum!

I am pretty sure, though, that the absolute best part of his day was the little “gift” his daddy found for him.  While cutting grass, he caught a blue tailed lizard (5 lined skink).  My son went crazy over it!  A real live lizard to play with on his birthday…priceless!

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Poor little guy was missing a tail…thank goodness they grow back.

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A perfect end to a perfect day.  Happy Birthday to my sweet little boy!

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Kids In The Kitchen: Thumbprint Cookies

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Today, since it was rainy and cool and we could not have class outside, my kiddos and I enjoyed class on the couch followed by a wonderful time playing in the kitchen.  We have been wanting to bake thumbprint cookies for a while, so today we did!  Oh, how I love thumbprint cookies!  They are easy to make, budget friendly, fun for kids, and so very deliciously addictive.  In fact, out of the 3 dozen we made, I think we have 4 left…thanks to a little help from our family visiting today.  I really have to get that recipe for my sis-in-law!

So, here are my little chefs demonstrating the joys of baking thumbprint cookies…enjoy!

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Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup shortening

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 egg yolk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg white

1 cup finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Filling of choice:  Nutella, strawberry jam, lemon curd, peanut butter…I usually mix and match, but today we went straight for the Nutella!

Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 350F.  In medium bowl, add softened butter, shortening…

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Add the brown sugar…

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And the vanilla…

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And the egg yolk.  (Save that egg white in a small bowl for later!)

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Mix with a spoon.

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Now, add the salt…

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And the flour…

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And stir some more until everything is mixed together.

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2.  Shape the dough into balls.

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Place the egg white in a small bowl and the nuts in another.  Set up an assembly line with the dough, egg, nuts, and cookie sheet.  The kids love this part!

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Dip each ball into the egg white.

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Then, roll it in the nuts.

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Place balls on an ungreased cookie sheet.  And, the best part yet…press your thumbs…

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or fingers…

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into the center of each cookie to make an indentation, but don’t press too hard. You don’t want to break the little cookies!

3.  Bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Quickly remake indentations (moms, not kids, as the cookies are still super hot!).  If you haven’t already burned all the feeling from your fingers as I have, and don’t really want to touch cookies that are 350F, you can use the end of a wooden spoon to do this.  Let cookies cool slightly and transfer them to a plate.  Fill each thumbprint with about 1/2 tsp. of filling (or more if you know what’s good for you!).

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Try to wait until they are filled before eating them.  My daughter can hardly contain herself!

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4.  Last, but not least, enjoy all your hard work.  Maybe even share them with your kids.  After all, they did help.  And please, share with your family, because they can smell them and will travel to your house to steal them all.  Trust me, I know!

Homeschooling In The Great Outdoors

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Everything was thoroughly hectic and depressing last week, so much so that I didn’t even have time or the desire to write on my blog.  After taking some time to be a big baby, I’m pulling myself up by my bootstraps and living life!  And the best way I find to enjoy life is with my wonderful husband and kiddos…I love them so very much!

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One of my greatest joys and greatest challenges in life is homeschooling my children.  I feel so blessed to be able to have them home with me every day and to be responsible for their learning.  After taking an unwanted break from school last week, we were all very excited to get back in the groove.  Thankfully, the sun was shining today and it was nice and warm outside, and that means outside class!  We look forward to this time of year when we can just pack all of our books and supplies outside and learn while the sun is beating down on us and the birds are singing and the wind is blowing on our faces…perfection.

So, today, we had class outside.  And it was wonderful!  All the stress of last week just slid away as I worked with my kids.  I am always amazed at how well they learn and how much they truly enjoy learning.  Being able to soak up that happy sunshine also helped wipe away the stress!

Learning outside really has its perks.  We got to study ants as we talked about insects in science.  My daughter was able to write her spelling words on the driveway with chalk instead of using paper and pencil.

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We all worked together to make cute little leaf and flower butterfly crafts.

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And, my children used their very vivid imaginations to make “crossbows” with sticks and rubber band bracelets during their breaks.  Silly kiddos!

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Homeschooling in the great outdoors is just one of the many, many reasons I love being a homeschooler.  And it’s a really great reason!

Trek To The Top

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Behind my mother-in-law and father-in-law’s house, way up on top of the ridge, there is a really big rock, and we call it…wait for it…Big Rock!  The hike up to big rock is beautiful, even though it is straight uphill.  When you reach the top of the ridge, you can see our whole little town.  It looks so quaint from up there.  After a short walk on top of the ridge, you reach Big Rock.  This rock structure is really interesting to look at, and a little unnerving to climb on…especially when you have small children in tow!

A few days ago, my whole family decided to take the trek up the mountain to Big Rock, even my 74-year-old momma went with us!  She’s a trooper!  We really had a wonderful day surrounded by nature and family…two of my very favorite things!  I thought I’d share the experience with you, my wonderful blog followers.  If you have a mountain behind your house…climb it!  You will always see something absolutely beautiful…in your own backyard…so to speak.

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Here are my kiddos, breaking for a snack.

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I am so blessed with a wonderful hubby and two totally awesome kids.

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Up on the ridge…

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Here’s the whole gang.  Minus my sis-in-law who was behind the camera.

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This picture was taken by my 6-year-old daughter.  I think she might be a photographer one day!

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The boys…up on Big Rock.

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Big Rock!  I think it’s kinda pretty.

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Me and my girl up on the rock.

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Say cheese!  What a wonderful day.  I love time with family.  I love hiking.  I love Big Rock.  I love my life!

Can You Dig It?

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My kids decided they wanted to dig a tunnel in our hillside.  They got the idea from looking at pictures of the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam, and they have gone all out with it!  They enlisted the help of daddy and their cousin, and they’ve made quite the whole in my hill.

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Now, these would be tunnels have transformed into burrows for my animal children.  Yes, my children love to pretend they are animals.  I’m not sure whether these burrows belong to bunnies or lizards, but they must be huge bunnies and lizards!

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This tunnel/ burrow is much bigger now…both of them can fit in it comfortably.  And, they are now making another tunnel with the idea of connecting the two.  Who knows where this tunnel digging will end.  We may have a network of tunnels before long.  Needless to say, I’m having a blast washing laundry!  Oh, well, it’s worth it to see my children enjoy themselves so much with something as simple as digging in the ground.

Operation DIY Reptile Party…Phase One

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I posted a while back that my little baby boy decided to have a reptile party this year for his 8th birthday.  I guess he’s not much of a baby anymore, but he’ll always be my little baby!  Anyway, I was unable to find party decorations for reptiles, so I decided to get creative.  Everything for my son’s party will be DIY, and I’m really enjoying it so much, I may do it for every birthday.

I already make the cakes for my kiddo’s birthdays, so I might as well be in charge of the rest of the decorations, too!

I love being crafty, and I also love being thrifty.  By making my own party decorations, I am able to do both!  That makes me a happy girl!

So, Phase One of Operation DIY Reptile Party was to create an invitation.  I looked for some inspiration on Pinterest, and got to work creating.  I printed clip art reptiles and carefully cut them out, I cut some strips of wrapping paper and tissue paper, and took some leaves from a scrapbook sticker I had, and starting gluing them onto a piece of cardstock.  I printed off a sheet with the party info on it and cut the edges with my handy-dandy pinking shears and glued it on the card.  Then, I made a print version of my pasted together invite.  Oh, so easy, and so fun…and so cheap!  I really like the finished product.  And, most importantly, my son absolutely loved it!

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I’ll be reporting back on Phase Two of Operation DIY Reptile Party soon.  I get to learn to work with gum paste to create cattails and lily pads for my son’s cake.  Wish me luck!

Jumbo Carrot Cake Cupcakes

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As promised, here is the recipe for the carrot cake cupcakes I made for Easter!  They are so very yummy, and since they are only semi-homemade, they don’t take as much effort.  That’s a double win, especially around the holidays.  I typically associate carrot cake with Easter, but these cupcakes are so moist and delicious, I will have to make them again, and soon!  I hope you enjoy them as much as my family and I did!

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Jumbo Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 box carrot cake mix (I used Betty Crocker for this recipe)

1 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 medium-sized carrot, grated

8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup raisins

1 recipe Glaze (recipe to follow)

1 recipe Buttermilk Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe to follow)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a jumbo muffin pan with 12 jumbo baking cups.

2.  Follow package directions for first 4 ingredients.

3.  Add cinnamon, vanilla, carrot, pineapple, coconut, and raisins to batter.  Beat just until blended together.

4.  Spoon batter into baking cups (I use an ice cream scoop…works great!), and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

5.  Let cool slightly in pans.  Brush glaze over warm cupcakes. Remove from pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

6.  Frost each cupcake with Buttermilk Cream Cheese Frosting. (I used metal tip no. 1M)

7.  Now, you can decorate them or not…it’s up to you.  Throw on some sprinkles or candy carrots.  I tinted some of my cream cheese frosting and made my own carrot design on top.  Just use your imagination!  That’s what makes cake decorating so fun!!!

Glaze Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup butter

Directions:

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and cool slightly before brushing on the cupcakes.

Buttermilk Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2- 16 oz. boxes powdered sugar

4 Tbsp. buttermilk (or more, depending on how thick you want your frosting)

Directions:

1.  Beat butter and cream cheese together until creamy.

2.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended.  (This is the messy part!)  Then, beat at high speed until creamy.  Frosting will be very thick at this point.

3.  Start adding buttermilk 1 Tbsp. at a time and beat at high speed until you reach your desired thickness.  The buttermilk adds extra creaminess and a little kick to the cream cheese flavor.  Yum!

Spring Is Here!

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Finally, spring is making its way to Mingo County!  I have been patiently waiting to see my spring bulbs bloom and to get out in my garden and plant my spring crops.  Well, maybe I haven’t been all that patient.

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I was so excited when my daffodils and hyacinths started pushing their way through the ground, but the weather still felt so very wintry.  Unfortunately, the deer ate all of my tulip bulbs…every single one…silly deer!  My iris bulbs are sprouting, and soon I will be rewarded with their beautiful blooms.  I can’t wait!

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This week, my daffodils and hyacinths finally bloomed, and how very gorgeous they are!  It’s no wonder my favorite flowers are spring bulbs, and of course hydrangea, but I’ll have to wait a while yet for those to bloom.

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And, even more exciting than watching the flowers bloom in my yard is being able to get in my garden and plant my spring crop.  I love getting in my garden boxes, tilling the soil, and planting my own vegetables.  There is nothing better than eating fresh food from your own garden!  I already have some yummy chives popping up.  I use no fertilizer or pesticides on my plants, so I know what I eat is actually good for me.

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I am a barefoot and bare hands gardener.  I have tried to wear shoes and gloves when I garden, but I just can’t do it.  I love the feel of the dirt on my feet and under my nails.   I love the work that goes into tending my garden…I don’t even mind pulling the weeds.  I love the reward of fresh fruits and veggies, and lovely flowers, for all the work.  I just love being out in nature and being able to enjoy the rebirth and growth of spring and summer.  Bring on the warmth!

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