Monday, October 24, 2016

Autumn Traditions: Off to the Pumpkin Patch!

This weekend we took our younger nieces and nephew to one of our favorite local pumpkin patches to spend some time together with family, let them pick out some pumpkins and perhaps a few for ourselves.

Over the past few years we've enjoyed rounding everyone up at Gallmeyer Farms — it's a big open space with a farmer's market, flower garden, ample play area, hay maze, hayrides and of course an expansive field filled with varying sized pumpkins and varieties of gourds. The kids have started referring to this location as "Aunt Mary & Uncle T's pumpkin patch" since they associate visiting this one with us.

There's nothing quite like gauging the time that's passed when looking at pictures from past trips. Chelsea was a mere baby during our last visit and it's fun to read back how the kids were actually scared of the "spooky barn" back during our first visit. Now they tell us very proudly how very un-scary that barn is, even though we're still begged to take them in it :)

As usual, we'd told the kids that we'd buy them each one pumpkin — anything they wanted as long as they could pick it up with their own strength. Since this patch charges by the pound, setting a parameter was not only a fun game for the kids, but helped keep the entire day reasonable when rolling the filled-up wheelbarrow into the farmer's market check out line.

It's always fun to see which types of pumpkins each child will gravitate towards. This year they each wanted something different and ended up heading back home with a carful of orange, white and green pumpkins to decorate their stoop with.

As for us, we brought home a single heirloom pumpkin to pair with our potted mums and the ceramic jack-o-lantern I'd been eyeing for weeks at Lowe's before Tim came home and surprised me with it one afternoon.

On a related note, we've make plans to have the exterior of our home painted this November (which we're very excited for), but are thinking the chips, cracks and peels in their current state lend a touch of "haunt" to the way our Halloween porch is shaping up.

All in all, it was a beautiful day, a great time and an autumn tradition we look forward to each year.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Training our Wisteria: DIY PVC Pipe Garden Arbor

Right around this time last year, we'd returned back home from our Italian vacation on the grounds of an olive grove and unreal stone farmhouse in the hills of Umbria we'd found on AirBNB. Filled with leisurely sips of local wines and cooking dinners over open fire with simple ingredients — it was an incredible trip and one we think back on often as one for the lifebook. Oh, to return.

We'd sit perched up on the above stone landing overlooking the olive grove each evening under a pergola encased in winding, whimsical wisteria (say that one 3 time fast). The garden made such an impression on us that not 2 months later, you may remember that we'd ordered a wisteria plant starter from Etsy and set out to try our hands at growing a smaller, contained version in our own space (catch up on that full post here).

We had high hopes that the vine would take to its new home here in Virginia, surviving the winter months. In fact, Mary closed that original post with how we'd love to imagine enough eventual growth to train into a canopy over the back fence door.

Over the winter, the plant ended up losing its leaves and even sustained vine breakage in what we can only describe as "misunderstanding" with Basil, so we really weren't sure what to expect when spring came back around. Well, spring has passed and now already at the start to autumn (nearly a year since planting) — we're pleased to report that our wisteria has taken off, showing considerable growth and vining upwards, way above the fence! It's exactly as we'd hoped for:

With trainable vine growth now a reality, we scoured our local garden centers and online go-to sources for an above the fence arbor-like structure. We love the look of wrought iron trellises and above-door arbors, however we don't have a huge amount of backyard space and these structures can tend to be pricey.

Realizing that all we really needed was a simple semi-circle above the fence to train the vine around in order to let the abundance of leaves take center stage, we decided to get creative and construct the look of a curved lacquered metal structure for a fraction of the price. The piece turned out completely custom and is already giving us more of that "secret garden" vibe we like so much.

The big secret? We used PVC pipe which is not only extremely budget-friendly but flexible enough to achieve the curved look we were going for in an above the fence arch. For a more industrial or squared-off look, metal piping could work just as well. I've detailed out the materials and entire step-by-step process we took below in the event it's something that may translate in your own space.

(All PVC 1/2 inch round)
  • PVC pipe
  • 2 x 45 Degree PVC elbows
  • 2 PVC coupling fittings
  • 2 PVC adaptor fittings
  • 2  Floor flange
  • 8 Screws, 1-inch #10
  • Power drill
  • Pipe cutter or hack saw*
  • Spray paint, high gloss black
*Tip: If you've measured in advance, you can have the store cut PVC to size for you!

I started by securing the metal floor flanges into each top fence post that frame the door then screwed a PVC adapter fitting into each. These act as the base that hold the PVC arbor in place.

Next, I cut the length of PVC pipe into 3 separate pieces based on the ideal height and width we were going for to provide coverage above the door. I eyeballed the measurements since our door posts aren't exactly even heights on either side, however for reference, we ended up with 2 roughly 22 inch pipes and a single 24 inch pipe to suspend between the two.

Just before assembling the PVC components in place, Mary spray painted everything in a shiny black color to mimic the lacquered finish of the black metal hardware already on our back garden door.

Once dry, putting the pieces together was straightforward:
  • Fitting each length of the side arch pipe into the adapters
  • Securing a 45 degree PVC elbow at the top of each side pipe, facing toward eachother
  • Suspending the final center piece of PVC pipe between the two in a curved arch
I have to admit, we were both surprised at how simple it was to put together. From there, we wrapped the bushy vine growth up and around the base of the arbor to begin training the growth.

We're excited to see what the winter and next spring bring. While it's likely too soon for the plant to bloom (we hear it can take between 7-15 years), we will be eager to watch it progress again come this time next year. Little by little, our little back patio space is gaining some personality.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

How To: Simple 3 Ingredient Natural Applesauce Recipe

One weekday last month Tim came home with a basket filled with fresh red apples. Taking advantage of the extended weekend, we spent the better part of Labor Day making and canning a new season's worth of homemade applesauce and apple butter.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Octob-Etsy: Our Monthly Etsy Edit

On this first day of the new month, Anne of Green Gables couldn't have said it better — "I'm so glad we live in a world where there are Octobers." There's a coolness to the air, a deepening in hues and just a slight touch of the unexpected with Halloween just in reach.

By day, I spend the bulk of my time deep in the depths of the Etsy marketplace — and it's these days that I'm re-inspired and continually amazed at the new seasonal collections and emergence of autumn goods from creative entrepreneurs all over the globe. In the spirit of sharing, every so often it's fun to round up a few of our personal favorites — here's what we're digging this October!

1. This simple trio of stacking bangles with hints of opals is good for everyday wear or as a gift idea for those with October's birthstone.

2. What does this fox say? Wintercroft is at it again with all sorts of new DIY mask kits. The geometric patterns feel like such a modern take on the typical mask and the options for printing these out instantly could make your last minute costume the talk of the party.

3. I have such a girl-crush on anything hand lettered and the oversized wooden names that Letters to You recently released are taking this trend to new heights — how sweet would this be for a baby shower, later to be hung as wall art in a nursery?

4. My mother recently pieced together a fire pit with a collection of hay bales and a metal grate down on her property near the river. We've been itching to get down there and strike up a round of smore's. With that in mind, we're digging these reclaimed marshmallow roasters, made with discarded wood from wine barrels in Colorado.

5. Something about cotton in the pod oozes an instant rustic, or farmhouse feel — this simple version of a cotton wreath is giving me all the feels.

6. How adorable are these cat votives? No explanation needed, amiright?

7. Is that you behind those Foster Grants? Tim found these vintage Jack-o-Lantern sunnies and ever since we've been reciting that cheesy line from the best of those classic 80's commercials.

8. Natural beeswax blocks from the hives at Honey Run Farm in Ohio — while a great natural material for DIY projects, we like to keep beeswax on hand as a household helper.

9. Filled with fiber from the llamas of Fox Hill farm, these adorable little bird hangers make a warm welcome and offering to birds foraging for nesting materials. Wouldn't these serve as such a cute housewarming idea?

10. The witch is in! These simple beaded wire tiaras are right up my alley for a quick Halloween accessory. They come in so many different shapes for alternate looks like antlers, bunny ears, crown & sailor hats.

11. As avid fans of hudson bay blankets, these cozy collars made from reclaimed Pendleton wool caught our attention right away (shhhh... don't tell Basil).

12. Have you seen all the creative pumpkin decorations cropping up from mason jar lids? We're particularly fond of these shimmering versions that use a cinnamon stick for the pumpkin stem.

We're loving the concept of pumpkin kits that come with different pieces to stake right into a fresh pumpkin — they allow your pumpkin to have a bit of personality longer than the few days a carved jack-o-lantern lasts (plus, hello no carving!).

This season we're digging the creative and completely custom metal kits from Knob Creek Metal Arts — the crab, angel and spectacled versions have us in stitches:

Image credits: Witch | Spectacles | Crab | Angel

We'd love to know — what are some of your favorite Etsy finds right now?

*This post includes affiliate links
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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Hanging onto Summer: How to Make Sun Tea

With 90 degree days in the forecast this week, the heatwave around these parts sure does put new meaning into "hanging onto summer." It's been a particularly hot season here in Virginia this year and hot summer days call for southern traditions, like sun-brewed tea.

Such a simple pleasure, sun tea is quick to make, requires minimal ingredients and puts the sun's rays to work instead of heating up the kitchen during hotter summer months.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Over on eHow: How to Clean & Season a Gas Grill

Hello, Labor Day weekend!

We're spending the long weekend at home, enjoying the extended break and have plans to fire up the grill for one last summer feast to bid the proverbial season adieu.

While "grilling season" is a year round event in our household, I'll certainly miss the accessibility of plucking fresh vegetables from our little urban garden to blister on the grill next to a simple cut of meat from the butcher.