Saturday, July 21, 2012

What's Growing in the Murray Yard?

Last year's garden never quite took off the way I had hoped... we had a big snow in May, mysterious black spots on my tomato plants, and not as many hot hot days for growing.  This year's garden is so much better! I love to garden but most of my techniques are based on trial and error plus a few things I have read or heard people say. . . so I generally have no idea what I am doing right or wrong in any gardening season.

Over the last few years (especially with a small child and dog) we have tried to be mindful of the kind of fertilizers we are using in the yard.  This year we got some great advice/ products from our local nursery and have used all organic fertilizers and compost to help our yard grow.   Basically, we traded chemicals (even "safe" chemicals) for poop-based products.  The lawn gets an organic chicken poop fertilizer.  Our dog thinks this is the greatest thing ever and rolls around the lawn after we use it.  It's kind of gross.  The garden beds get a sheep peat and compost mix, and the fruit producing plants get a bat poop based fertilizer (bats eat and digest lots of fruit... somehow this makes fruit trees and plants grow better fruit?)

Rob bought me an apple tree for my first mother's day when I was pregnant with Charlie.  It did not grow a single apple for 3 years. Kind of sad when your mommy gift can't make fruit? Well, this is the first summer we have had some apples... thank you bat poop and the woman at the nursery who suggested it.  We started off with about 8 apples, but a certain curious little boy picked a few that were within his reach and now we are down to about 5.    Just waiting for them to turn red!

I was worried about my plum tree when it blossomed in late February... surely a freeze between February and May would kill all the little fruit buds and we would have no plums again like last year.  Colorado's fickle weather pulled through this year with some ridiculously hot weather and no spring freezes and we have plums... lots of them!

Our blackberry bush also has a ton of fruit this year... but they are a little small and sort of sour so I need to figure out something to do with them.  Any good blackberry recipes out there?

Charlie has his own little patio tomato plant.  He waters it (drowns it) everyday and is very patiently trying to wait for those tomatoes to turn red.  Sometimes he is not so patient and comes to show me he has picked a couple little green tomatoes, and usually has taken a bite.   Today was an exciting day because a couple of them are yellowish and turning red and he noticed!

We've got our regular herb garden with onions, parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, oregano, and a little cilantro... but I have been a little lazy this summer about actually using the herbs in our meals.  Spaghetti sauce from a jar or go pick stuff from outside?  I have chosen the jar, sadly.   One of my favorite things to do (which hasn't happened yet this year) is to cook chicken kabobs on the BBQ on skewers of rosemary sticks...yum!

In the first big garden bed, our strawberries came back abundantly this year!   I had to build a tent of tulle netting as the berries ripened to keep the birds out (they will literally eat ALL of them if I don't).  We also have purple kale, green kale, carrots, lettuce, arugula, lettuce, and cucumbers growing in this one...

Kale is one of my favorites and one of the most nutritious foods around.  I typically bake it into kale chips or just marinate some leaves in lemon juice and olive oil to soften them up a bit and eat them raw.   Lots of good vitamins for pregnancy in kale like iron (dr. says I am iron deficient) and vitamin K! 

I love baby arugula in salad, but sadly the rollie pollies loved it more this year and every leaf has hundreds of tiny holes.   They don't eat any of the other greens, just the arugula.  I love the color of our lettuce (you can see a sad little arugula leaf in this picture too)...

Our other big bed has our tomato plants, squash, and a pepper plant.  We just ate our first ripe tomato yesterday! I will admit, some veggies don't taste THAT much different when you buy them in the store... but not tomatoes.  Grocery store tomatoes can't compare to the ones that come from the yard. 

My California friends and family are probably laughing at my little plants because your garden looked like this 2 months ago and your gardening season lasts from March to November! Gardening in Colorado is no piece of cake.   You can't plant until mid-May and even then there is no guarantee the plants will make it through crazy hail and storms that creep up in the summer.  

I love our little garden plants at the Murray house and I think there is nothing better than eating from the yard! Every night that we eat from garden I "announce" to Rob which plants came from outside.  I didn't get a very excited response the first time (I know, I know, I could not believe there was an absense of excitement over vegetables).  Well, the family has learned my expectations and now gives me the "OH WOW" that I ask for - ha!

What's growing in your yard?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Almost a Big Brother

With our baby girl's due date just 12 days away, I have been thinking a lot about my time with Charlie James.  I am thrilled to meet our new baby, but also a little bit sad that my time with just Charlie is coming to a close.  We do so much together, and life with just one kid has become easy.  I know how my little buddy works, and he knows how to make mommy laugh (and how to push my buttons). 

Charlie is a typical boy... he loves looking for bugs, riding his bike, being loud, making a mess, and playing "tacky" (tackle).  I'm not sure I would call him a "compliant" child, but he's typically pretty funny and easy going... until he doesn't get what he wants. 

He also loves anything that is a tool, including kitchen utensils.  I am pretty sure we make a mistake by laughing the first time he did this, but now he thinks its hilarious to chase us around the house and pinch our legs with the salad tongs. 

One thing that has been so much fun this summer is swimming.   Since it is one of my favorite things to do, I was so happy when we went to the pool this summer and I realized I had a little fish.  He's done a great job learning to kick his feet, blow bubbles, and jump off the side of the pool.  

This summer I took him to a class at My Gym.   Charlie is a shy kid and tends to cling to us when he feels uncomfortable, just ask anyone who works in our church nursery!  He definitely isn't ready for preschool, but I wanted to start helping him get used to structured activities with a teacher and classmates.   When a friend suggested this class, it seemed like the perfect opportunity (plus we got to hang out with some of our favorite friends each week).   I am so happy we did it!  While each week certainly wasn't perfect, I definitely saw growth in Charlie from week to week.  The first week I left exhausted -- I basically held Charlie the whole time (and was 8 months pregnant), while he watched the other kids but didn't participate much.   He's still a little shy during certain parts of the class (like structured circle time), but has tried a lot of the activities, follows the teacher's instructions (sometimes) and gets excited about going to gymnastics.   I would love to hear techniques of other parents with shy kids, but I have found it challenging to balance allowing him to opt out of activities when he feels shy/ scared verses encouraging him to be a little more independent and not completely babying him.  Its not easy, but this gym class has been a very positive experience for us!

Charlie's new favorite spot in the house is our window seat.  The window is the perfect place for his cars, trucks, and trains.   It is so funny to hear him talk to his cars... they shout things to each other like, "I WANT TO WACE (race) YOU!!!" and even offer motherly advice to one another like, "Don't go in the street," or "Don't touch a bee, you get ouchie."   Ha!  At least he is paying attention.

 (Did I mention his obsession with Lightning McQueen and the movie Cars?)

Charlie has definitely made a shift from mommy to daddy in the last few months.  He adores his dad and wants to do everything that daddy does... wash the car, play Xbox, fix things with tools, mow the lawn.  Each day when it is time for dad to come home from work, we open a front window and Charlie watches for daddy's car.  When he pulls onto the street, Charlie SCREAMS as loud as he can... "DADDYYYYYY, DADDY, HIIIIII, THERE HE IS, DAD CAR!!!!" Its a pretty loud scene.  Sorry neighbors.  It makes my heart so happy to see him adore his daddy so much. 

Having this little boy has brought me so much joy for the last two years! There is so much more I could say about him. I imagine the next few months will present some new challenges with sister's arrival, but I am also confident that he will be a wonderful big brother.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Playroom Project #1

When you walk in our tri-level house, there is a sort of "entry room."  Its not very big, and we've never been sure what to do with it or even what too call it (that room up there, the upstairs room, the bookshelf room, the room by the door). I think most people make this some sort of formal sitting room type thing; but, if you have ever spent 5 minutes with our family you know we don't do many formal things, and not really much sitting these days thanks to Charlie James.

So, we have made this room more of a kids' playroom.  I have visions of all sorts of creative projects to make it really fun for our kids and finally completed one of them a couple days ago during nap time.

We used to have a boring row of hooks behind the front door for coats and purses (I forgot the "before" picture, but I'm sure you can imagine a boring row of hooks) we have a tree that I painted! I asked Rob a while back, "Um, should I ask you before I do projects and paint on our walls?" My nice husband said no need to ask! Good thing he likes the results most of the time.

The fabulous thing about this tree is that it is really our new coat / purse rack! I stuck hooks all over it (still need to get more) at random heights so that we can hang our belongings all over the tree.

The best part (and really the reason for this playroom project in the first place) is that our kids can use the lower branches to hang their own hats and coats. I love seeing self-sufficiency in Charlie, and I think he is very proud of himself when he can accomplish things on his own. At the same time I can still put my purse high enough so that a certain little boy can't snag my cherry tic-tacs :)  He's quite self sufficient when it comes to candy or using sharp tools, not so much when it comes to using the potty or sleeping.

I also re-painted the inside of our front and back doors... didn't realize how filthy they had become until I rolled on that bright white paint.  What a difference! I should have taken "before" and "after" pictures, but honestly I may have been too embarrassed to post them.

I guess this is what happens when I scale back on Etsy orders -- I start painting whatever I can find around our home.

Playroom project #2 is already underway... hopefully pictures will be coming soon!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Murray Designs 2011 Summary

Way back in December I put together a little spreadsheet to summarize my very first full year in "business" with Murray Designs.  Then, I was going to add it to my blog...7 months ago, ha!  Somehow the last 7 months feel like they disappeared into a black hole.  Did I mention my drivers license expired in December and the cashier at Babies R' Us had to be the one to tell me about it last week?

So, maybe it is ridiculous to recap 2011 in July, but here it goes...

I received my first Etsy sale on January 9.  Ironically, the family who bought the two aspen tree paintings lived about a mile from our house in Broomfield so we delivered them personally. 

Since then I have learned more than I ever expected about shipping -- when to ship USPS, when to go with Fed Ex, where to buy 3/4" bubble wrap in bulk.   My biggest lesson learned in shipping-- dimensional weight is a big deal!  If the box is way to big for the paintings, you will pay for it, even if the box was free.  Buy the right size box (and now I know exactly where to order them in bulk). 

  • Total orders in 2011: 98
  • Total Canvases painted (or "canvi" as Rob calls them) in 2011: 181
  • Of those 181 canvi, I made 7 aspen tree paintings, 12 monkey paintings, 14 ladybug paintings, 15 guitars, 15 planes & trains, 20 jungle critter paintings, and the big winner...
  • 48 Birds and Trees!

A few months into the year I made some nursery letters for a sweet friend's son...

which turned out to be a great decision because I painted 120 more nursery letters throughout the year!

The biggest piece I painted was 36x48" and the smallest was 8x10"

The most orders were placed during May and July... the least in April, June, and December.  I'm not sure there is any rhyme or reason to that.  Its definitely not due to any advertising on my part, since I don't do any.  

Overall, 2011 was a wonderful first year in business.  I was far more blessed than I ever expected and met some really neat people through my Etsy shop.  More than anything, I feel honored that a hundred families chose to have my art in their home, and privileged that this has allowed me to stay at home with my sweet little boy while helping our family income a bit.

Hopefully I will be able to tell you all about 2012 before July 2013 (but I make no promises)!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Time flies when you don't update your blog...

I had to laugh that my last post was in November, and holiday related, since it is now July!   We found out in mid-November that we were expecting, and then I spent the next 4 months trying to survive some pretty awful morning sickness.  Needless to say, blogging took a backseat (so did cleaning, eating, and getting up off the couch).  I'm pretty sure I fed Charlie a bowl of cheese puffs for breakfast in front of the TV several days of the week during that time. Don't worry, they were "natural" cheese puffs from Sprouts so I'm sure they provided a lot of great nutrition.

Fast forward a few months and now are expecting our baby girl in less than 4 weeks and I can hardly believe it!    We are thrilled to meet her, but I'm a little anxious about caring for two kids and even more anxious about labor (I've had lots of flashbacks to the 21long difficult hours of labor with child #1).

I'm still painting a bit -- I have just a handful of custom orders to finish up in the next week or so before things slow down for a couple months.  I debated putting the Etsy shop "on vacation" for a while but ended up just scaling back quite a bit on my listings.   Basically, I am taking a break from custom orders until probably the beginning of September and only listing items that I have already painted and are ready to ship. 

I have been painting a few garden inspired pieces that are available in the's actually kind of a refreshing change to be able to create pieces from scratch, with no deadline, from the ideas swirling around in my head instead of the same made-to-order paintings in the shop (don't get me wrong - I am absolutely grateful for those too).  Recently I have been drawn to designs that are simple, but pretty with some unique texture...