DIY Watering Can Sun Catcher

I have a huge problem.  For the first time ever, we decided to start our entire garden from seed.  This opens up an entire world of different types of tomatoes, peppers, carrots….things I’ve never seen in a grocery store or tasted before!   But, that’s a different post for a different day.   We have started our seeds and now I have an awful lot of time to sit and wait for things to start happening in the garden.   I’m itching for things to start blooming and for the dead wasteland that is winter in NJ to be overtaken by lush greens and blooming flowers.   But, alas, it’s still March and it’ll be a few more weeks.  So, I have turned my attention towards getting my garden decor ready.

Why decorate a garden, you ask? Because when a space is beautiful and inviting, you want to spend all your time there.   I don’t just want our little homestead to be functional. I want it to be lovely and cozy and filled with things that catch the sun and sing with the wind.   However, I’m cheap, so I am DIY’ing it as much as I can.  I’ll do another post on how to decorate your garden/lawn on a budget, but for today, I’m going to share this fun craft with you.

I got  my inspiration from THIS pin on Pinterest.  I just loved the cascade of beads and the colors!

First, I picked up my supplies.  I found my watering can at Target in the Dollar Spot for $3.   The beads and string came from Hobby Lobby.  Check out that score on the pink beads!  The clear ones were regular price so this way I saved money and put my own little spin on it.  *also, I don’t recommend this stretchy clear string.  Save yourself the frustration and just go buy heavy duty fishing line.*

Granola and Grits Blog- DIY Watering Can Suncatcher- supplies


I cut 6 even (just about) lengths of the string and threaded them through the spout of the watering can and tied the ends into knots.  If using the fishing line, grab some fishing weights and clamp them on the ends that thread through the spout.  You’ll thread it all the way down into the can, clamp on the weights and pull back through the spout.  This will keep the line from coming out.
Granola and Grits Blog- DIY Watering Can Suncatcher- threading strings

Next, thread your beads onto your string.  I didn’t take photos of this part because it’s pretty hard to thread the beads on, take photos, and keep them from sliding off and spilling everywhere, but you get the idea.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Don’t stress about what sizes go where.  Just be sure to pick acrylic or glass beads that are going to catch the sun.   My beads had some opaque plain options but I decided against using those.  The opaque beads I did use had golden details so they would still reflect some light.

Granola and Grits Blog- DIY Watering Can Suncatcher- flat lay


Unfortunately, today was a gray and dreary day, so there was no sun to catch with my beautiful new garden decoration.   But that’s ok.   I still love it and I can’t wait to put it on a hook above my peonies!

Granola and Grits Blog- DIY Watering Can Suncatcher- hanging in garden

Life in General

One Giant Leap

So, as I mentioned in my last blog, we are entering the exciting world of urban homesteading.  For most people, this may look like a slow and easy segue into gardening and maybe making a few things from scratch.   And for all intents and purposes, that’s pretty much how it has looked for us up to this point.   We started gardening about 8 years ago when we rented a great house in Arkansas with an awesome landlord who didn’t mind if we ripped up her yard to plant veggies and herbs.   Our very first garden was a 1000 square foot plot that we planted IN FULL on  April 1st.   ha.  Only in Arkansas could we have gotten away with that.   We didn’t know much of anything about zones and when to plant what and how.   We planted everything from herbs to melons on that day.   Then we had a washout spring which found us digging trenches in the pouring rain to keep our delicate plants from drowning.    They survived the spring and we entered one of the hottest driest summers on record.  In fact, that summer, we hit a record  high of 115 degrees (real feel…heat index was over 120!)     But, despite all of that, our garden thrived and we ate a good portion of our own home grown produce that year.    We were hooked.   We learned a lot and were thrilled to continue on.   However, the following year held some surprises for us.  7 years ago (today!) we moved to New Jersey.   The Garden State…except…the rules are a little different.   It took us a few years to get back to a place where we could grow a garden again and for the last 3 years, we have happily grown a good portion of produce in our back yard.

Now, I’ve always loved to cook.  I haven’t always been good at it.  When my husband and I first met, my skills level could have been classified as “has good intentions but is generally inedible”.   Except for baking.  That has always been my forte.   But, once we got married, I was bound and determined to be a “good wife.”  And a good southern wife is good at cooking, cleaning, and being resourceful.  I was none of those things.   But, I subscribed to every Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, and Southern Living magazine I could and began to learn how to create not just a house, but a home.   One thing that we’ve always desired is a warm and inviting home where people can come in and immediately feel at ease.  Where the coffee is always on and bellies and hearts are always full.   And despite my shortcomings in the kitchen (and laundry room… ) I think we’ve been successful there.  Because even if it’s not perfect, the love is there, interwoven in everything we do.

So, fast forward to  now… we’ve been successfully gardening and I’ve learned how to cook from scratch (though the kids still prefer daddy’s cooking over mine) and we have learned how to preserve the (literal) fruits of our labor.   The next logical step was livestock.    So, bees… yes.  check.  Chickens…ok.  Yes.  Check (pending application approval.  Fingers crossed!!)   Goats… yes. Nope.  Uncheck. Not allowed.   Probably for the best.  We’re biting off a lot here. But, I can’t help but feel like we have  a lot of ground to cover to make up for lost time.  And this is our giant leap.  I am a little nervous, I won’t lie.   Will the chickens destroy the gardens we so lovingly plant and tend to?  Will we get enough eggs from our small flock? We can only have 5 hens.   Will the bees survive our long and cold winters?  Will the chickens survive our long and cold winters??    So much apprehension, yet I’m so incredibly excited about this next chapter.   I can’t wait to watch my children learn new life skills and gain confidence in their capabilities.   That’s probably my biggest motivator.   With the elimination of life skills classes in school, it’s left to us to teach them the things that they won’t learn in college.    How to grow your own food, how to care diligently for animals that provide nutrition for your family even when it’s cold and wet outside, living a simple and fulfilling life, and being self sustaining.

So, for now, we are still devouring as much information as we can on hives and chicken coops as well as preparing for the planting season and figuring out where everything is going and how to protect everyone and everything from each other. lol.   Stay tuned as we begin these projects as we move into spring.


Also… Happy March!   In true NJ fashion, we woke up to snow.   “In like a Lion…”

End of summer Harvest 2016



Life in General

Into the Wild


Another year, another good intention felled by the demands on daily life.   And here we are again.   It’s been a crazy year.   My 2 older children started school last fall.  My littlest one turned a year old and started doing toddler things.  Like walking…running…making messes.  And, I… continued to allow life to pile on top of me and ignore my own needs.  As we mothers tend to do.   But, something else has happened in the last year.  My own mother has Alzheimers.  She’s 64.  And it’s advancing rapidly.   This lady who would have flapped her arms to fly here to help me if she could, does not remember me some days.  She does not remember my dad.   She does not remember my babies, whom she loves so fiercely.    My dad struggles under the weight of caring for her by himself while still working.   I can only offer words of love and support to him from 1200 miles away and that hurts.    But, perhaps what hurts the most is seeing all the dreams that they had for themselves suddenly puffed out.   My mother is alive, yes.  But she is not living.  She exists in a bubble of time that no longer ticks.   Dreams of traveling post retirement, while still there, become more and more unlikely as she progresses.   My dad’s dream of spending his golden years, strumming a guitar at various open mics is now replaced with keeping on top of mom’s erratic mood swings and hallucinations.    I’m heartbroken.  But yet, it has given me the realization that we simply cannot put our dreams off for a time when it’s convenient or when it makes sense.    Because we do not know what life will throw at us.   And especially since early onset Alz tends to have a hereditary factor, I am now choosing to live my life intentionally and fully expecting to walk this same path in a few years.   It’s scary.  SO damn scary.   I can only pray that I don’t and that I am simply going to glean a life lesson decades before most and live life without regrets.


This brings me to now.   One of my dreams as an adult has been to be self sustaining.   My husband and I have always wanted a farm.  A beautiful farmhouse on a lot of land.  With livestock, a bountiful garden, and the skill set to provide almost everything our family needs to live a simple yet fulfilling life.     However, when we bought our home, we couldn’t afford that beautiful farmhouse on acreage.  Not without sacrificing a lot more than we had to sacrifice at the time.   So, we bought our turnkey bi-level on less than a quarter acre lot and said “maybe our next home.”      We planted our little garden on 3 raised beds that we built by hand one sweltering June day while our babies napped under an umbrella in the yard.   And over the last few years, we have enjoyed bumper crops of amazing veggies.    Maybe our little .25 acre could be something, right?

Starting in January…after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season,  I always start to get Spring Fever.  The winter seems so long and desolate.   But, spring…  it’s there in the horizon and I can almost breathe it in.  So, I begin to plan.  What are we planting, where are we planting, when, etc.   This year, things felt different.   Not only do I have spring fever in the worst way…but I’m feeling such a transition of life.  And this insatiable need to just go for it.  To live this life that we’ve been dreaming of.   Even if it’s not 10 acres.   So, one evening, I casually ask my husband “what do you think about raising bees?”   And that’s how this story begins.

From this point on, I will be sharing what our life is like as we begin this journey in (somewhat) urban homesteading.  How we navigate growing our own food, cooking from scratch, reducing waste, raising bees and maybe a few chickens, and how we include our children in this adventure.  It’s so important to us for our kids to learn these life skills and how to have a deep appreciation for the food they eat and being stewards of this land.   And it’s important for them to learn that life is never going to line up perfectly to achieve your dreams.  Sometimes you have to carve out that path with the tools you have at the time.   And that we should never wait to pursue happiness.    And I suppose this is the best gift that I can give MY parents.



As always, it’s been awhile. Nearly 4 years, in fact, since I’ve come here to write.  So much has changed.  SO. Much.   Since our last visit  here…I’ve been pregnant and given birth twice.  We added 2 beautiful girls to our family in July of 2015 and August of 2017.  Our little guy is now 5.5 years old.  My heart is crushing beneath the weight of how quickly this time is passing me by.   And, though this corner of the internet has not seen how my life has been defined by the last few years, those of you who know me well, know how much of myself I have given and will always give to these amazing little people that I created.

Shortly after the birth of baby number 2, I found two of my callings in life.  One…obviously being a photographer, but more notably focusing in on maternity, newborns, children, and family.   Two…I became a birth doula and have future dreams of becoming a lactation educator and someday…far in the future, perhaps a midwife.   Pregnancy, birth, and motherhood  have become my entire life.   It is a passion that flows through my veins as forcefully as the blood that pumps from my heart.

But, with the birth of our final child…baby number 3…I have come to a very heartwrenching realization that, my days of creating life have ebbed and flowed into my days of simply sustaining life and raising these babies.   This has led me down a very bittersweet path.  Because I now feel so compelled to explore this new version of myself while also being so incredibly sad to let go of that piece of myself that I held in such high regard for so long.   I have often said that I am not the same person that I was the day before I found out I was going to be a mother.  I’m not the same person I was the day I met my sweet boy…or the day I met my first daughter…and especially not the day I met my second daughter.   Each of those moments had such a profound effect on me.   We aren’t just birthing babies in those moments.  We are birthing mothers.  Even if we’ve been down that road before.   Each time is as transformative, if not MORESO than the first.    Those moments brought me face to face with the mountains and valleys that I had to traverse and only I was allowed to walk through them.   In those moments, I found my strength. My power. Love stronger than any drug you could ever imagine.   My identity carved by the surges and releases and that first cry as my very own flesh and blood was placed upon my chest.

So this brings me to now.  How do I harness all of THAT to propel me forward?   I’ve found my power waning recently.  Feeling bogged down by the day to day demands.  So much to do.  Little time to pocket for myself.  Waves upon waves of negativity and hostility in the world slamming into my body at every glance of my phone…yet, I keep returning?  Trading what little time for myself that I have to constantly feel beat down by the world outside my door?   So, I’m challenging myself to stay away from Facebook for a long weekend.   I’m writing down my intentions.  What do I want to accomplish by unplugging (kinda…I’m a business owner and can’t unplug completely)?

  I want balance.  Peace.  I want to FEEL my strength and my power again.  And I want to nurture and cultivate this new me that is emerging.   This person who is not only a mom of 3.  But a person who bursts with creativity and compassion and positivity.  Someone who still seeks out real meaningful relationships with her friends and family.   Someone who has coffee dates more than online arguments and debates.

A free-er and happier version of the person I’ve been.

And I want to write.  I want to sculpt. Paint. Photograph. Laugh. Cry. Breathe in fresh air and exhale all of the negative emotions that hold me back from all of that.

Oh how I hope to return to this place and share my life here. Filled with funny stories of my kids, photographs of our adventures, encouragement to anyone else seeking positive change in their lives.   I know this feels like a jumble of incoherent thoughts.  But, this is me releasing and putting forth the energy and the intent to use my power as I grow into this next phase of life.

Toddler Tales

Monkey at the Zoo

So this past weekend graced us with some beautiful spring/summer-like temperatures and we took FULL advantage.   S learned to walk in early November, so it was already too cold for him to get out and run around and fully enjoy the outside.   He spent the last 4.5 months padding around houses and, occasionally, stores in his little leather soft soled shoes.

With the onset of warming weather, his daycare started taking them outside to play more often. Which was fantastic.  Except…I missed his first time ever playing outside since he learned to walk.

   I know.  So sad.

That said, the kid is pretty much hooked and desperate to go out any chance he has.   So, we decided to take him on his very first zoo outing on Sunday.   This place isn’t a huge zoo…but it was plenty big enough for a toddler who is insistent upon walking on his own two feet.   We got there about 1:30 in the afternoon, enjoyed a slice of pizza at their cafe, and then set out on our trek.

Boy, did he enjoy it!  He was fascinated by the animals.  Particularly the chickens, ducks, deer, and bears.  You know…the things he sees in our yard regularly.  (except chickens…for now.  )       He loved feeding the animals. (and occasionally pilfering an animal cracker or two for himself) Naturally, I toted along the camera and got some pictures of my sweet monkey having himself a grand old time.   I’m only posting a few pictures of him…I took well over 150 total, so that’s just too many to sort through, edit, and decide which ones to share here.  Besides…he’s cuter than any animal picture, by far.

oh and I see those judgmental eyes… yes, my boy is wearing a backpack leash and he LOVES it.  He may or may not have bonded with an “older woman”  wearing one of her very own by the jaguar pen.

Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen…nobody knows my sorrow…..
Doin’ time with Daddy.
This drama llama says, “uh huh, sugah… I am NOT eatin’ that stale azz corn”
The View From the Top. Riding on daddy’s shoulders like a boss.
Feeding the deer. Clearly the highlight of his entire day.
Checking out the Peacocks.
Just a leisurely stroll at the zoo… looking way to big to be MY baby.
Life in General

Southern Comforts

Boy I am missing the South tonight.   These moments of intense home-sickness sometimes sneak up on me.   I’m never quite certain what they are born out of…but I do know it’s like a kick in the stomach when they do come.    It could be because, finally, I was able to wear flip flops today… for the first time since last summer.  Back home, I’d be wearing them year round.  Or it could be because I’m a mere week and one day away from being able to wear white pants and shoes.   And now, I’m chuckling that I would be remiss to wear white between Labor Day and Easter…but I don’t bat an eye at the thought of wearing flip flops in the winter.  Oh, the complexities of a southern girl.

I’m missing a lot of things… TLC Berry Farm, Pinnacle Mountain, the bright yellow daffodils that pushed through the soil weeks ago.    I almost swooned when a NJ friend of mine posted a picture from Cracker Barrel.   It’s as southern as it gets here.  People actually base their perception of “good greens” off the collards found there.   And, though I know better…my greens are definitely the best…I’d give just about anything for that country fried steak and fried okra.

This weekend is kicking off beautifully with temperatures in the 70’s and bountiful sunshine.  That all changes come Tuesday when rain brings forth a cold front and ushers in 40 degree temps and snow showers on Wednesday.   I just can’t… Lord help me to get through the rest of this northern spring.    I am in desperate need of sweet tea and a porch to rock on.   And, I need that to be available at  anytime it strikes my fancy.

I’m grateful that we live in a beautiful place in the north.  It’s pretty country, actually.  Quiet and peaceful… and honestly, if not for the cold weather and the accents… I could almost pretend that I am back in the south.

Almost.  But not quite.

Wings are only good if you have roots to fly back to.  Time to start planning my annual voyage to my mother-land.

Toddler Tales

Sleepless in…where am I, again??

I’m so exhausted that I’m pretty certain up is down and down is sideways.   It would appear that we are in the throes of that dreaded 18/19 month sleep regression that I was warned about many moons ago.  And, I naively assumed that the sleep regression would only really affect sleep.   Thank you, Captain Obvious.  But, no.  Not only sleep.  My sweet natured and loveable little boy has become “The Kid That Does Not Wish to be Dressed or Diapered” with a side of “The Kid That Fights the Carseat… and leaving daycare. And getting out of the tub.  And eating dinner. And stopping eating dinner.  And drinking chocolate milk.”   Whose kid IS this?!?!

Not to mention, the poor kid (what? Now he’s some innocent bystander?) is cutting some major teeth.  He’s always been a bit slower to cut teeth than the books say.  Except now, I think he’s trying to catch up.  From what I could tell by my ill-advised attempt to put my finger in his mouth and feel his gums, I think he’s cutting at least 4 at the same time.  But I could be mistaken. I mean…it’s hard to get in there and back out without bloodshed or losing a finger altogether.

But, let’s get back to the kid who does not wish to be diapered.   We’re a cloth diapering family, which I love…and he seems to quite enjoy it too.  On a normal basis, that is.   But, do you have ANY idea how difficult it is to SNAP a diaper on a child who has decided to get up on all fours and try to swan dive off of the changing table?  Well, here’s a hint.  It’s damn difficult.   Add that to the screaming fits and you would think that we were trying to put barbed wire underwear on a greased pig.    And quite frankly, those straps on the changing pad are good for nothing.

  I’m fairly certain that at the end of all this, he’ll have an awesome new skill or talent. Like basket weaving. Or computer design. Or something.  But, in the meantime, it’s a good thing he’s cute.   I came home to this tonight.  My little guy covered in pizza sauce and crayola marker:

Markerd man
iPhone pic and R photo-bombing the background.

And, for a moment, he was back to my smiling, laughing, sweet natured baby boy.  Until bath time ended and bedtime was imminent.

Send wine.

Send coffee.

  Send spiked coffee.


Cooking for Littles ~ Empanadas and Plantains

Those of you who know me on a personal level, know that food is pretty high on my priority list.  There isn’t much in the way of food that I DON’T love.  And, I’m working hard on passing that passion for flavor on to S.     I got very lucky when I met and married R.  Not only is he super cute, smart, and a talented musician…he’s an awesome cook.    While I am good at comfort foods and baking…he is the kind of guy who can walk into the kitchen, close his eyes, and just start throwing stuff in a pan and it comes out 5 stars amazing.


Awesome news for my tastebuds…bad news for my waistline.

That said, I’m not the only one who practically swoons when he busts a move in the kitchen.  Friday night he set off to make Empanadas.  He briefly lived in Puerto Rico for a few months some years ago.   However, this was his first foray into this particular Puerto Rican dish.    Well, when he set that plate full of golden brown deep fried deliciousness in front of S, he didn’t realize he was making a rookie mistake.  Let’s just say, a 19 month old may or may not have eaten almost the entire plate and freaked out if we dared to take some for our own dinner.

So, tonight, we try again.  This is not so much a “recipe” as it is just throwing things in a skillet.  (See mention of super chef above)   Also, this was made in a frantic rush since R got home late from work.  That explains the lack of very detailed shots.  Oh well…you do what you can.  🙂

Disclaimer: I am a portrait photographer…not a food photographer.   It’s also super hard to sous chef, supervise a toddler, and wrangle a camera all at the same time.  Just take pity on me, please. thanks.

Empanada shells and plantains. The green ones taste like potato chips.
Gently roll out the shells to be about 1/2″-1″ larger in diameter. Take care not to get the top too flour-y.
Like So



shake some of this....
shake some of this….
...into some of that.  Ground sausage, with minced garlic and salsa.  Use whatever measurements you like.
…into some of that. Ground sausage, with minced garlic and salsa. Use whatever measurements you like.
Fry in olive oil until golden brown
Fry in olive oil until golden brown
Hire a cute assistant
Hire a cute assistant
Soak plantain slices in salt water, then flatten into discs with bottom of a glass. Fry in olive oil until light golden brown.
Finished Product
Finished Product
Most amazing food ever.
Most amazing food ever.
Chowing down.
Chowing down.
But, this time…he shared.

How do ya like my new place??

Welcome, welcome!!  Things are a little shinier over here, yes?   Over the last few months, I have really been working and thinking about which direction I wanted my blog to go.  I was feeling very limited by my previous platform and I also felt that as my life was evolving and my focus was on my son, that what I had to write about was evolving as well.  Which brings me here.

I never set out to be a “mommy blogger”.  However, when one becomes a mom, it’s such a very natural progression that her interests and priorities change.   I still have many interests outside of parenting but I have found that the topic that really lights me up these days is my kid.   What he’s up to, what’s he’s learning, discovering, and of course, destroying.

That being said… I still want to talk about my other interests, hence this being a Lifestyle AND Parenting blog.   I still want to share with you the adventures of being me.  Which as we all know is a full topic load in it’s own right.   So, I look forward to this new chapter and our new home here at Granola & Grits.  🙂