Saturday, November 16, 2013

Quilted Diaper Bag

After a little over a year using the giraffe print diaper bag I bought before having Connor, I decided I was over it and ready for something cuter and less diaper bag-y. So I found a tutorial in the quilting section at JoAnn Fabrics for a messenger bag that zipped closed and had tons of pockets. It looked perfect so I bought it and found materials that matched my woven wrap and ring sling. Originally I was going to cut some of the extra length from my woven wrap for the outer pockets, but I couldn't bring myself to do it so I decided on a quilted look instead. Cutting out all the pieces was the most time consuming, especially with a toddler that likes to "help" with everything, so it took me off and on throughout the summer to finish the bag and I love it!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chicken Coop

So back in March, we decided we wanted to have backyard chickens. Well I have thought about having them for a while but thought it might be down the road. I had read some articles about how relatively low maintenance they are and to be able to have organic free range eggs without paying $8/dozen would be awesome. I also know several people who have backyard chickens and since I have some friends willing to help when and if I need it (especially when we are out of town), we started planning. So I began looking at coop plans to see what kind of coop Ken could easily build for the backyard. Of course, it had to look nice since I have to look at it every day and it needed to give the chickens lots of space and be secure from predators. I wanted it to be roomy enough for 6 chickens, even though we can technically only have 5. Extra space makes the chickens happy, and happy chickens lay lots of eggs! It also reduces the risks for diseases and bugs, and who wants those?

In my search for coop plans, I found this amazing coop on Williams Sonoma's website and instantly knew I wanted our coop to look like it. I pulled out some graphing paper and set to work reverse engineering the coop from the photos and making adjustments based on measurement guidelines for coops I had read about in several books.

Here are my initial plans:



Interior, Poop Drawer

Whatever you do, if you are wanting to recreate this coop, DO NOT follow these plans exactly as they are written above. Ken measured as he went and adjusted as needed due to discrepancies with wood pieces, like for instance I didn't realize that 1x8s are not actually 8 inches wide (boo!). We also had to shorten the legs of the coop because it isn't supposed to be seen from the road, so this also affected the ramp from the coop to the pen. I also decided after drawing up the plans to put a solid roof on the pen to provide shade for the chickens when I can't let them free range in the yard. I will try to point out most of the changes we made (or at least as much as I can remember since this was built in May and it's now November as I am finally getting around to writing this post).

Here are the pictures taken throughout the building process:

Underside of coop floor

Underside of coop floor

Coop floor on legs

Here's one of the changes we made, or rather added. The roof boards were bowing down a little so Ken added extra support beams across the top, which ended up working out really well as we used the one closest to the door to hang the feeder (notice the eye screw).

Pop Door

We actually changed out this twine for some strong fishing line because the twine was shredding as we tried opening the pop door and it rubbed against the wood. 

Nest Boxes: lined with shelf lining to make any egg break messes easier to clean

We cut plexiglass pieces that can slide over the windows for inclement weather (tropical storms and the like) and to reduce drafts in winter.

We added hooks on the door to hang a couple of cleaning tools and used some extra 1x8s to cover the gaps inside above the nest boxes.
Here we added a 1x8 up against the 2x2 on the floor separating the poop drawer from the rest of the floor to help keep the bedding from piling up in the drawer.

Our first batch of chicks! They were straight run from a friend and we ended up with only one hen! So we traded back two of the cockerels for laying hens and all four cockerels became dinner.

These babies were ordered online so they are for sure females. They are super sweet (the black one is my favorite).

We used untreated pine for the majority of the structure and the frame is cedar. I still want to paint a chicken on the door of the coop but am waiting for it to have a year of weathering before I paint it. If we had more time, it would be a good idea to paint the outside so that it has some weather protection. We had some issues with warping and expansion/retraction in the beginning but it seems to have calmed down a bit. The nest box access flap has given me the most trouble and has bowed out so much that we had to move the latch from the side to the top and it doesn't close all the way, though it's enough to keep critters out. It would have been fine if we had planned for the lack of width of the 1x8s that caused the panels not to meet up at the corner. We plan to repanel the nest box area to fix this problem. I think that's about it. Chickens are really pretty easy to keep, a little more work than having a cat and you get eggs in return!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! 

It was just Connor and me this year and it seemed pretty fitting that he should go as Bam Bam Rubble, so I went as Betty Rubble. We got a lot of great compliments on our costumes and Connor made the perfect Bam Bam!

I made both costumes for under $10 and they were pretty easy. I didn't take pictures as I went and pretty much just winged it, so there's no tutorial for how I made them but I can tell you that I used a strapless summer dress from Target that I had as a guide for my dress and then attached felt for the neck part (connected by velcro in the back). Connor's was made from two rectangles, one for the "skirt" (seam in the back and gathered at the waist with elastic) and the long rectangle for the shoulder strap sewn onto the back and attached with velcro on the front (though I will say this made it harder for me to keep on him so it may be better to sew it in place). I then hand sewed the white bone where the strap met the "skirt" and the black spots sporadically around the bottom. The fabric I used for both is the cheap cotton quilting fabric from JoAnn's. For Bam Bam's club, I cut a pool noodle down to size and covered it with brown craft paper that came as cushion in a box for something I ordered online.

Here are the links I found on Pinterest and used as inspiration for our costumes:
Bam Bam

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quick Update/Blog Future

Ok, so I've been a terrible blogger this year. Life is super crazy and I just can't seem to find the time to sit down and write up blog posts. So here is a quick update...

Connor is almost 18 months and is the sweetest, most lovable child. He loves to run, read books, and play with water. He is so smart and I love watching him learn and grow. Speaking of learning... I have decided to start Montessori-style homeschooling with him (much of it right now are activities we normally do anyways). I learned about Marie Montessori's method in college and looked into it again and decided it really fit with Connor's learning style right now. I found a great online program (inexpensive to buy but given to us free because of Ken being in the military) that I'm using to get started: Then, of course, there is Pinterest to fill in with other stuff! I'm being really flexible about it right now and only doing a little at a time, but hoping to have a decent routine going starting in the fall to make sure we take time each week to focus on learning. I like that I can customize everything to meet Connor's needs and he can learn at his own pace. Plus, I figured, why pay for preschool when I am a former teacher and can do it myself?! Another benefit of homeschooling for us is that it gives us more flexibility for traveling to see Ken when he's not out to sea. When Connor is 5, we'll revisit homeschooling to see if I will continue to homeschool through the elementary years. There are so many benefits to homeschooling, so unless Connor asks to go to public school, we may continue at home through at least the early elementary years. I could go on and on about this but then it won't be a quick update! I may post separately about this in the future though :).

Another reason I've been a terrible blogger this year is that I officially launched my photography business shortly after Connor's birthday. It's been slow going, but with Connor keeping me super busy and Ken not here much, I expected it to be slow for a while. Though I have already upgraded my camera to a full-frame Nikon D600 (thanks to my wonderful husband who believes in me and surprised me with the new camera at Easter), and have acquired some new clients! It's so nice to get paid to do what I love! And in case you were wondering... my website is: and you can find me on Facebook: Kimberly Tank Art & Photography. If you need family portraits done, let me know!

Ok, for this next part... you might want to sit down... we are now raising chickens! Yes, that's right, as if I didn't have enough to do already, lol. But seriously, once we built the coop, the chickens are pretty easy. I just check on their food and water a couple times a week and scoop the coop once a month. Plus letting them roam the yard for a little bit most days and they love kitchen scraps! They really have been pretty easy to take care of so far and we're looking forward to fresh, organic eggs and possibly a couple dinner chickens (whichever turn out to be roosters since we can't keep roosters here!). Connor loves them and the dogs are starting to get used to them (and not eating them). I had hoped the dogs would be able to help me round them up when I needed to put them back in their run, but it's only worked about half of the time, lol. We'll see.

We've also been really lucky to have gotten to see Ken a lot this year. He's been able to come home a bunch and we went up to see him for a little over a week at Easter. So we've been busy soaking up our time with him too! Connor loves his Daddy and I love to watch the bond between them, it just melts my heart! When Ken came home for my birthday we went to Disney for my 30th and it was so much fun. He recently transferred to a new ship so he's started back with the in and out to sea stuff again, but he doesn't have a long deployment again until next year.

Well, I think that's about it for major things going on with us. As for this blog, I may not be putting up regular posts like before when I did a Connor update once a month and a few other things here and there, but I do hope to put up posts more often (especially with Connor taking a nice long afternoon nap now). There will probably be less family updates and more posts about projects we've done, homeschool ideas I've tried, recipes I've made, chicken stuff, and other such things I want to share with others. Because let's face it, I don't have a huge following and mostly family and friends are reading this, most of whom are on Facebook and can get my brief updates on there anyways! So this will be a pretty mode-podge blog... stick around if you enjoy reading a little bit of everything!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jungle Birthday Party

Connor's 1st Birthday party turned out great and was a lot of fun! Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate with us!

The party was jungle themed, with an emphasis on monkeys, since we call Connor our little monkey :).  I found a couple of pins on Pinterest to help expand on the ideas I had for the decorations and menu. 
Of course, I took pictures of everything to share here with everyone in case anyone out there needs some inspiration for a kid's jungle party!
Favors Table:  "Thank You" sign, kid favors, adult favors, monkey banner

For the monkey banner (which I also used in several other areas of the house) was made from the scraps from the "Happy Birthday" flag banner, brown yarn I had from a previous project, and monkey cutouts I found at a local education supply store when looking for green construction paper.

"Thank You" sign
 The "Thank You" sign was made from scrapbook paper I've had for years and leftovers from the "Happy Birthday" flag banner.

Party Favors

Big Kid/Adult Favors
For the Adult/Big Kid Favors, I used a monkey pop mold from Michael's (they're about $2) and put melted chocolate in them. Yum!

Kid Favors
For the Kid Favors, I had a hard time trying to figure out what to get/make. I had bought a cute monkey straw cup from Target* for Connor and he seemed to really like it and after not being able to think of something better, I decided to get one for each of the kids coming. The teal ones were for the boys and red/pink ones for the girls. I washed them ahead of time and wrote their names on them in case they wanted to use them at the party. Then, while at the Dollar Tree, I found cute little jungle animal puppets that I thought would be fun and rounded off the favor with a little bag of animal cookies, decorated with jungle animal stickers I also found at the local educational supply store. 
(*The monkey cups are currently in Target stores for Valentine's Day, so if it's past that time and you are thinking of favor ideas, start with the Dollar Tree and see what you come up with!)

Spotlight on the Birthday Boy: Highchair monkey banner, party hat, "Happy Birthday" flag banner, cupcake liner balls, balloons, jungle animals & baby book

Since we were using the table for the food spread, there was no room in the kitchen for the highchair so I chose to put it by the fireplace where I was hanging the birthday banner (a disposable table cloth was used to catch the smash cake). 

Birthday Boy's Highchair
I used a monkey banner to decorate the highchair and made the party hat out of felt. 

Mantle Decorations
For the "Happy Birthday" flag banner, I used scrapbook paper and yarn. The number 1 was made from leftover scrapbook paper. I made cupcake liner balls because I had bought jungle animal print cupcake liners a while back thinking I would use them for the party but decided not to make cupcakes so I made them into decorations instead. Then to top it off, I put two of Connor's stuffed jungle animals and his completed baby book on top of the mantle. 

Jungle Vines: green crepe paper, green paper leaves, monkey

Jungle Vines
I saw this idea on Pinterest and had to do it. We used the ceiling fan as the focal point and my husband and sister hung green crepe paper vines coming out in all directions and then the leaves I cut from green poster board (because I couldn't find construction paper) hung down from the vines. Then a monkey I found at the Dollar Tree hung from the fan. We also used green balloons to decorate various areas of the house.

Food Table (decorations): green balloons, monkey banner, grass skirt, green material

Food Table

I saw on Pinterest someone who had used grass skirts to decorate the food table. She had apparently gotten them cheap around Easter time... but it's not Easter time right now and they were $8 a piece and we were going to need several so we went with a roll of craft paper instead and cut it to look like a grass skirt instead. Then I used an extra green curtain I had lying around for the top of the table. 

Main Dish
Since the party started at noon, we served lunch. The main dish was bbq pulled pork, we I dubbed "BBQ Boar", served atop a bun with "Crocodile Coleslaw". (And as you can see, I used a monkey banner to decorate here too.)

Jungle Juice
 The "Jungle Juice" was something I came across on Pinterest; pineapple juice and ginger ale. It was delicious! Just watch out when you pour it as it fizzes up a ton! (More monkey banner and balloons hung from the counter.)

Hyena Humus
I love humus and typically like to make my own since it's so easy, but to minimize all that I had to do/make, I just bought some at the store and served it with carrots. 

Cheetah Chips
 Nothing special about the chips... I just love to dip them in hummus and they needed a fun name too!

Zebra Cakes
 A play on Little Debbie's Zebra Cakes (something served at a jungle party I found on Pinterest), I made brownies and used zebra brownie tattoos to make them "Zebra Cakes" sine I can't eat the Little Debbie version (due to gluten-intolerance).

Deviled Darter Eggs
 And because everyone loves deviled eggs and they are so easy to make... we had "Deviled Darter Eggs". If you're wondering... a darter is a bird found in Africa.

Hungry Hippo Salad
 My "Hungry Hippo Salad" was a mixture of baby greens, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Served with homemade salad dressing. 

Caracal Carrot Salad
 My mom loves carrot salad and wanted to make it for the party, so we found it a fun name for it. 

Gorilla Grapes
The "Gorilla Grapes" were totally something I found on Pinterest and had to use. Aren't they cute?
Last, but not least.... CAKE!

Jungle Cake

I found a cute idea for a jungle cake on Pinterest and thought it would be fun to give fondant a try since I've never used it to decorate a cake before and you can do so much more with it than regular frosting. The fact that it's gluten and dairy-free made it even more appealing. Well, I love how it turned out, but it took ALL DAY before the party to do. But it looks great and I would do it again! Just be prepared that it takes a long time. My sister made the monkey on top and my mom made the leaves on top, which saved me a ton of time. I will also say that to save myself some time, I just used box cake mix and fancied it up a little by adding strawberries to the chocolate one and chocolate chips to the vanilla one. They were both pretty yummy! (Tip: to get the grassy look around the layer edges: put green fondant in a cookie press with the multi-hole disk.)

Smash Cake
Connor's smash cake was made from an allergy-free mix (Cherrybrooke Kitchen) and coconut milk frosting (with brown food coloring since he hasn't had chocolate yet). I used the Wilton monkey pan I had gotten at Michael's a while back when I saw it on sale. It was a good size and Connor loved it!

Happy 1st Birthday Connor!

First Birthday Party = Success!

**Pinspiration links: Jungle Vines, Food Ideas, Jungle Cake (pin link not working: