Let’s try this again: backyard gardening round 3

Backyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, Especially

↑ This year’s loot included flowers for the front yard because apparently we’re trying to get fancy this time around.

Every year that we’ve lived in our house I’ve planted a small veggie garden out back. Yay! And every year that we’ve lived in our house the small veggie garden I’ve planted out back has gone off the deep end before the end of July – so far that means two unsuccessful years. Boo! Hopefully with this year’s planting, the third time will be the charm. *Holds breath!*

Kelsey, Especially

Two Fridays ago Shannon and I took Briseis to the nursery to pick out this year’s crop. For the past two years we’ve gotten a little ahead of ourselves with trying to plant all of the things, which has never worked out mostly because we don’t actually eat all of the things (picky eaters unite!) but also because we don’t have all of the time to dedicate to growing all of the things. So this year we slowed our roll and planted only four different things out back: strawbrrries, spinach, green beans and cucumber. Yum, yum, yum and meh.

Backyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, Especially Backyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, Especially

Last year I bought the wrong variety of bean and it ended tragically for the rest of our garden. Instead of buying bush beans for our small planter-box garden, I accidentally bought vine beans, a mistake I didn’t realize I made until the vines had already grown out of control and suffocated everything else in our planter box, which kind of happened overnight. Oops! This year I made sure to get the right kind and am totally stoked because if this year’s crop of green beans turns out anything like our first crop of green beans in 2013, we’ll be eating fresh green beans with dinner at least twice a week. YAY!

Spinach is always a hit with the kids and we adults are partial to it too so bringing it back this year was a no-brainer. We went with starter plants again this time around; we’ve had really good success with them in the past so no reason to switch shit up. Same with the strawbrrries. We’ve always bought them as starter plants and they’ve done just fine so we went with strawbrrry starter plants again this year. The green beans and cucumbers we bought as seedlings in little packets. We planted everything two weekends ago and have already harvested a bit of spinach. Fingers crossed we start seeing green bean and cucumber sprouts soon!

Backyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, EspeciallyBackyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, Especially

We’re also trying our hand at growing flowers out front this year. Our front yard is really plain and boring but because (1) we don’t own, (2) the yard is tiny (we live in a townhouse) and (3) the yard is more weeds than grass, we’ve been really apprehensive about putting any money into it. But this year we said, “FUCK IT!” and planted some shit because apparently we think we’re both talented gardenistas and fancy pants kind of people. Both are untrue but what the hell? YOLO. Also, did you really expect me to say “no” to those hot pink leaves?

Backyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, Especially

None of us in the house are botanical or gardening experts, which made finding a few plants/flowers that don’t need a lot of sun a bit of a challenge. Our front yard doesn’t get any sun until the late afternoon/early evening and the space we had to plant flowers wasn’t very big so we had to be careful to find things that do well in shade and that don’t take up a bunch of room. Still not entirely sure if our choices were the right fit for the space, but so far, so good. Unless the wilting from “transplant shock” isn’t actually from transplant shock is actually because we suck at keeping things other than little humans alive. I guess only time will tell. But whatever. We only spent $115 bucks on all of it, and while $115 bucks isn’t exactly chump change, when you isolate that amount of money and apply it to yard and garden stuff specifically, it’s really not all that much money. And besides, Shannon, Briseis and I had fun picking out what to get. YOU CAN’T STOP OUR FUN!

Backyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, EspeciallyBackyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, Especially Backyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, Especially Backyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, EspeciallyBackyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, EspeciallyBackyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, EspeciallyBackyard garden, round 3 // Kelsey, Especially

We’re hoping to start seeing sprouts out back soon, and as long as the flowers in the front make it through this summer, I’m happy.

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Related: Building our backyard raised garden bed; our 2013 garden; and our 2014 garden

A Friday (Project Life) freebie!

Friday freebie 16-photo template // Kelsey, Especially

Happy Friday, bitchachos. I’m sharing my 16-photo grid template – a la my March 2015 mini – with you all today because why the hell not? I’ve only printed this particular template on pages sized at 8″x8″, but you can easily manipulate the template to fit a 4″x4″, 6″x6″ or 12″x12″ canvas. Instructions included in the PSD file below.

Friday freebie 16-photo template // Kelsey, Especially

Welp. That’s it this week. Go forth and create amazing pages, people. And please – send me links to any pages/layouts/spreads/projects you make with this template, or tag me on Instagram (@kelseyespecially). I’d seriously love to see what you guys create! Happy weekend and happy crafting. Catch you back here next week!

[download 16-photo 8×8 grid here]

Related: Why I don’t have my own Project Lift shop; fresh + clean white border photo templates (FREEBIE!); Project Life for beginners; my Project Life process; and editing photos on the computer

Demanding v. intentional gifting | what’s your take?

Kelsey, Especially

Sorry for the double post today but I just couldn’t leave this one alone. It’s bothering the shit out of me.

Have you guys read about the baby birthday party invite that has gone viral this week? Shannon emailed me about it earlier today and I knew from the clickbait headline and hyperbolic first paragraph that I was supposed to be outraged at how “demanding” this one year old’s birthday e-vite was (is?), but the entire time I read the story I kept thinking, “What the actual fuck is the actual fucking problem?” I guess people have their panties in a tizzy because the parents of this kiddo outlined – mildly and tactfully, no less – the items they prefer be gifted to their child, asked for gift receipts, and requested that no more than 2 gifts come from any one household. Here’s the thing: I don’t understand what’s wrong with this.

These parents weren’t demanding that those invited MUST buy the child a gift. These parents outlined what they preferred their child receive should the attendee choose to bring a gift to the party, and then offered a brief explanation behind their thought process (“no more books please since our little dude already has more than we’ve gotten around to read”), asked for gift receipts for any gifts that deviate from the requested items so they could exchange or return unwanted gifts dollar-for-dollar (vs. losing part of the value of the original item during a receipt-less return/exchange), and asked gift-givers to restrict how many gifts they gave the kiddo. Maybe it’s a little detailed, but I get the idea the detail was a calculated attempt to address any questions or criticism before either arose and not a controlling or demanding effort.

And come on, people. The parents weren’t demanding ridiculous gifts for the kid. No Coach shoes or mini electric Lambos or Beats by Dre headphones. These parents asked for shit from WalMart and Ikea, two stores offering some of the most affordable and reasonably priced products in the country. Like seriously, what’s the problem?

I don’t think this approach to gifting is “demanding.” I think it’s brilliant. Maybe I’m biased though, because this is exactly how I’ve approached gifting when it comes to my kids since forever. In an effort to avoid duplication I routinely ask different family members for different types of items (books from grandma, clothes from grandpa, etc.); I routinely ask for gift receipts to be included in case duplication does occur or in case a size is incorrect or in case an item I don’t want my child to have (or like) is gifted; and I routinely provide quantity preferences so that my kids, my house and my sanity aren’t bombarded with an insane amount of chaos. I don’t know the logic behind this set of parent’s particular requests, but I know that the gift requests I issue for my kids – and the limitations I place on them – stem from careful consideration and pragmatism. The gift requests I issue for my kids don’t stem from some plot to be controlling or demanding, or an attempt to rule other peoples’ lives; they come from my best attempt at being a conscious consumer and a conscious parent.

I want my kids to be surrounded by items that they’ll enjoy, yes. But I also want them to be surrounded by items that have a functional and practical value to them, hence the repeated requests for things like art supplies, magazine subscriptions to educational kids publications and books, and hence the sustained moratorium on things like a billion baby dolls or weebles or ‘play’ make-up or toy guns (though Madden does have a few from his dad, one gift-giver I can’t successfully restrict). But I also don’t want a house full of crap. If the kids have plenty of clothes come Christmas, I ask relatives to refrain from buying clothes (unless they’re in a larger size for later) and offer that contributing toward the kids’ school supplies or their bookshelves is preferred. If the kids haven’t cycled through the current inventory of books come one birthday but are low on season-appropriate clothing, I ask relatives to refrain from buying books and ask for clothes instead. I almost always ask relatives to not buy toys.

I can’t make anyone – family member or not – adhere to the gift-giving guidelines or preferences (or whatever you want to call them) that I have for my kids, and at the end of the day when they are gifted something that doesn’t mesh with my preferences for whatever reason, I simply return it or donate it. Usually I do this guilt-free, because if someone gifts my kids an item that I explicitly state I don’t approve of beforehand, why should I feel guilty getting rid of it? I know this can be frustrating for the gift-giver, but hey – how’s the phrase go? #sorrynotsorry.

Parents: If you don’t want your kids to have certain items, let people know. Be firm but tactful in your delivery of your preferences. Sometimes it’s hard for Grandma to hear that the thing she realllllly wants to get her grandbaby is a no-no in your house. Offer up a brief explanation for ‘banned’ items and provide a few suggestions for alternative gifts. But also be mindful that not everyone will play along, and when that happens don’t go getting your panties in a tizzy. If your kids is gifted an item that truly goes against what you stand for, get rid of it. If not, make a judgment call on whether to keep it and allow it to be used limitedly. Either way, talk to the rogue gift-giver after the fact and try to work something out. Most people will comply once they realize how important it is to you, even if they don’t agree or understand.

Friends and relatives: If you don’t want to be disappointed that the gift you gave your godson or your nephew will never be used because you knowingly bought something on his Do Not Buy list and your bitch of a sister-in-law gave the damn thing away before the kid’s chubby little fingers fully unwrapped it, THEN DON’T BUY SHIT ON THE DO NOT BUY LIST. You don’t have to agree with the reasoning behind why something isn’t allowed. You don’t even have to understand it. You just have to respect the fact that the things on the Do Not Buy list are off limits, and go buy the kid something else. If that’s really a problem for you then you can choose to not bring a traditional gift at all. Get creative. Make an investment in the kid’s college fund or hand over some cash for the kid’s future braces instead. Or offer to take the kid out to a museum or kids play place or local sporting event or the park for an afternoon to give the parents a break and the kid a day full of fun. But don’t go ignoring ‘the rules’ and then get butt hurt when your gift ends up at Goodwill.

I’m sure some parents can go overboard and be truly demanding. But in this particular instance, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the content of the parents’ email or the voice of its delivery. It didn’t read the parents’ email as a demand. I read it as a set of guidelines asking people to respect their choice to not saturate their child with items that the parents do not wish for their child to have or items that the child simply doesn’t need. That’s not demanding at all. That’s smart, intentional, economical and practical – and it pisses me off that conscious consumerism and conscious parenting – two roles that are driven by knowledge, intention, responsible spending and practicality – are being misrepresented and attacked. Lay off those parents, people. Just…LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE*!

What do you guys think? Am I in the minority here?

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*(+1,000 cool points to anyone who gets that reference.)

Read these books | April 2015

Read these books | April 2015 // Kelsey, Especially

Reading between workouts during Festivus last weekend. I had so much free time on my hands between WODs that I was able to read two entire books that day. After each workout I wandered off to an empty alley in the same business park as the competition, posted up with my snax and books, and hung out with just myself. In the sun. For hours. It. Was. GLORIOUS.

INTO THE WAR by Italo Calvino | (fiction predicated on real life)

Into the War is a collection of three (super) short stories by Calvino, all set in wartime Italy. The cover is what drew me to this book (surprise…not), and when I read the back of the book I was pulled in: beautiful writing describing WWII from the perspective of a teen boy learning to navigate the world in two drastically different states – peace and war – and through two drastically lenses – boyhood and adolescence. But when I read it, I didn’t really understand what was so great about it. Admittedly, though, I’m no history buff and that absolutely could’ve played a role in my feeling lost and wondering what was so awesome about the stories the whole time. Still, the stories aren’t bad. The entire collection is only about 100 pages so the book is a quick read. I’m not sure if I’d actively recommend this book, but I wouldn’t actively not recommend it either. Let’s just say this is the kind of book you could start and finish while your kid is back with the doctor or the dentist or getting his or her hair did. You definitely won’t become a worse person for reading it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

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THE LAST DAYS OF CALIFORNIA by Mary Miller | (fiction)

The  thing that sold me about this book is that it’s basis is in religious fanaticism. Well, more like it’s basis is in a 15-year old girl’s interpretation of her preacher father’s religious fanaticism  – the skepticism, the wondering, the loneliness that goes into figuring out what you believe as you’re figuring out who you are. It takes place over the course of four or five days as a family of four – mom, dad, tow teenage girls – makes the long drive across the country to California in anticipation of The End, which the narrator’s father is convinced is coming and will spare his family because obviously. Or something. Anyway, I found this book really funny and sharp and emotive and it brought me right back to being 15 and wondering if people liked me (did I even like myself?) and wishing I had a sibling and wondering who I was and if what I’d been told I believed (re: religion) my whole life was what I actually believed (spoiler: it wasn’t/still isn’t). A quick, enjoyable, funny, identifiable and thought-provoking read. Definitely pack this in your pool or beach bag this season.

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WIDOW BASQUIAT: A LOVE STORY by Jennifer Clement | (biography + memoir)

This book caught my eye – literally from aisles away – by fate. I read the back, flipped through the pages a bit and was completely sold. Solid cover design, great organization, phenomenal story. Though to be honest, I had no clue who Jean-Michel Basquiat or Suzanne Mollouk were before reading this book. In case you don’t know either, here’s the deal. Basquiat was a drug-addicted NYC artist during the 80s and Suzanne was his muse/girlfriend/junkie buddy. They rubbed elbows with pop culture elite at the height of pop culture – Basquiat was BFFs with Andy Warhol and hung out with Madonna – yet lived chaotic and paranoid and lonely lives that were very literally dictated by the drugs they constantly used. Not only is the organization of the book really unique and great (it’s written in little micro-sections, each no longer than two or three pages in length, and it’s written from the perspective of the author, who was Suzanne’s friend, but also includes narration from Suzanne), but the story is so real and evocative. At times I found myself laughing at parts of the story, totally relating to the ridiculousness of it all. Other times I found myself having to literally put the book down for a bit because it was too relatable – parts of the story brought me back mentally and physically to my drug days and I not only remembered what it felt like in my mind to be so fucked up and not wanting to be, but I also could physically feel that sickness in the pit of my stomach while reading this book. So, so, SO good. Only low point? It doesn’t come with pictures. What kind of bio or memoir doesn’t have pho’os?! Especially when the book is about an artist and his muse… Da fuq?

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What have you read so far this spring? What’s on your reading list for summer?

Related: Last month’s reading recs; shit to help you pass the time; and the best of Netflix: movies for grown-ups

Things making me happy this week | 06

Kelsey, Especially

  • Badass art on walls in the city.
  • Planting our veggie garden out back and our flower ‘garden’ out front over the last few days.
  • Finishing 4th in the Festivus Games last Saturday.
  • Making last Friday’s 5K, even if we were last minute. Traffic was awful that evening and by the time we got up to where the race was held, it was already 15 minutes in. They let us jump in at the last second and even though we started late, we ended up finishing with the bulk of the pack.

Kelsey, Especially

  • Starting the last week of my get-back-at-it strength program on Monday. I’ll re-test my back squat and strict press maxes today, and then my front squat and deadlift on Friday. I’m hoping to see an increase across the board, even if it’s by a single freakin’ pound.
  • Finishing my March PL mini! WOOT! This project was such a good opportunity to switch shit up from the normal PL routine, which, quite frankly, has become pure monotonous torture to me this year.

Kelsey, Especially

  • Finishing two books over the weekend. There were SO MANY athletes competing in Festivus Games last Saturday that as a consequence there was SO MUCH downtime between heats – like, 2 hours between each heat. It was perfect weather that day so I took my ass outside, up the block and planted it right on a grassy patch in the sun and knocked out two books while I waited to compete. I LOVED having the time completely alone.
  • Handing in my final paper for my second-to-last class!!! ONE MORE CLASS TO GO AND I’M DONE WITH COLLEGE! I’m just one discussion moderation, one quiz and one paper away from graduating college. HOLY FUCK!

Kelsey, Especially

  • Spending SO MUCH time outside. Walks, play time, picnics-for-dinner, you name it.
  • Shannon’s L1 certificate arriving in the mail on Tuesday. IT’S SUPER OFFICIAL/LEGIT NOW – she’s a a bona fide CrossFit Coach! I don’t have the passion or patience to coach, but she does and she’s so great at it and I am so damn proud of her you guys!

Kelsey, Especially

What’s making YOU happy this week?

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