Our Kids’ Digging Garden

I was inspired to do this when I first saw this blog post linked to on Pinterest. I finally got around to doing it; we had a very late start to summer but I wanted it ready for our July festivities (4th of July BBQ, kids’ birthdays, general summer fun…).

This was a super quick project. We already had the perfect spot for it. Our backyard is weirdly landscaped, so we had this random retaining wall here. Last summer it’s where we put the sand & water table, and the year before a kiddie pool. The grass was already dead as a result of that, so I just raked the area. I’m debating whether or not I want to put a bit of topsoil there, since the dirt is very… dirty? Okay, duh, I know. It’s just very fine dirt that is quite dusty and manages to get everywhere.

This was also a super cheap project. The fencing came from Lowes and was just a few bucks for each section (I like the look of the wooden fence on the original link, but went with what was cheaply and readily available, and I still like the look of the fence we chose). The little decorations were already on clearance at Target (my son helped pick those out, we went with a butterfly and a mushroom) and he wanted the flag one day when we were at Lowes for something else.

I added in some of our little gardening projects from the spring. The larger planter in there has a strawberry plant and a couple of carrots. There’s a mason jar growing a marigold (which is also a bug deterrent, I believe?) and the little ceramic pot has a lone hot pepper. I don’t have much of a green thumb, if you can’t tell… most of our starter plants died. I also picked up a citronella plant and planted that in there in hopes that it might help with mosquitoes (WHAT is with the bugs this year?!).

I threw in the Tonka trucks he got for Christmas and his gardening shovels and rakes, although those are sometimes used elsewhere. My husband tossed a few coins in there (treasures to dig up, I guess?), although those will need to be removed before our littlest plays in there. Oh, and there’s a disposable lasagna pan that we already had (pack of 2 from the Dollar Tree). Mud pies, anyone?

Okay, onto the photos. You can click on them to make them larger.

Here are the befores and what I had to work with.



And the afters.



Very pleased with the outcome, especially for it costing very little and only taking about 15 minutes to throw together. We have a sandbox, but I like that this involves the earth and plants and has a more nature-y feel to it. I like the idea of having a space where kids can dig in the yard and feel like they have their own place to freely explore. While the kids would have been welcome to use the space before, setting it up like this seems more inviting. My nephew was immediately drawn to it, so it must feel more welcoming this way (and kids know that it’s for them).

Major thanks to the imagination tree blog for giving me the idea. Check her out, there are lots of great kid ideas on there!


How I organize it: Pantry (a before and after!)

There were multiple things that drew me to our house when we bought it. The old woodwork. The character. The urinal in the basement bathroom. (Hey, don’t raise your eyebrows, do you know how nice that is to have when your husband’s friends are over?)

The walk-in pantry was another one of those things that drew me in. The other places we had rented had all had terrible (TERRIBLE) kitchen storage options. Our kitchen doesn’t have a ton of cabinets (and absolutely NO upper cabinets) so it’s a good thing we have the pantry.

I had made a few half-hearted attempts to organize it over the years, but the mish-mash of random bins and canisters was starting to get to me. It just wasn’t working. I couldn’t tell if canisters were full or empty. What the heck was in that basket up there? Do we even have spices?

I finally had enough, especially after my recent kitchen utility closet reorganization. So this weekend I went to work. This was definitely a case of buying stuff in order to declutter and simplify; while I’ve been working on getting stuff OUT of my house, sometimes I find buying certain items makes things MENTALLY more minimal, more simple, and more functional.

I did a lot of purging. Got rid of a bunch of expired food and other crap that was in there. Purged canisters and bins. Replaced them with something more streamlined, and I like the the unified look of the canisters and baskets that I used.






(click to enlarge)

Aren’t those plaid boxes cute? They’re the only things that don’t really “match” but I still love them in there. They are photo boxes from Michaels (I plan on writing about them soon) and they are for the foods that are specifically purchased for the kids (a separate box for each, since our daughter is still so young). I think they are fun and I like that they stand out and look a bit more kid-friendly.

There are a couple of things that aren’t labeled yet, or that I put labels on but didn’t write on them because they aren’t yet used for something specific yet. It will take some tweaking to make it work for us. We need to go grocery shopping, so I’m sure I’ll see what is needed soon. It was so disorganized before that it’s going to take some getting acquainted with.

I had toyed around with the idea of repainting, or adding a pretty backsplash, or something. But then I decided against it, in an effort to simplify my life a bit. I love pretty household projects, but I’m pretty burnt out after painting the living room and the utility closet in the last month (plus we have plans to paint our entryway and upstairs hallway in the next month or so). So I left it. And that’s okay.

Cleaning a greasy stove top (or hood) filter: a before and after!

I was browsing Pinterest today and saw a pin for this blog post about how to clean a greasy stove hood filter. That is some good stuff right there. Check out her post, it gives detailed instructions and pictures on how to clean the filter.

We don’t have a stove hood, but our Jenn-Air stove has a built in vent and there’s a filter right on top. It has a cover on it, and usually I just try to ignore the idea that it’s there.

In fact, I believe I tried cleaning it awhile back and finally threw my hands up in the air and declared, “Good enough!” because I couldn’t cut through the grease… and went back to ignoring it. Thank goodness that cover helps me pretend it doesn’t exist.

Anyhow, so I came across that blog post today. And I was already planning on cleaning the top of our stove today (er, well, I meant to do it last week but whatever). Perfect timing!

This was super disgusting but in a (kind of) fun way, because it just feels good to watch all that grease melt away. Be careful to watch this carefully, mine bubbled up a lot and I had to keep pulling the filter out so it didn’t boil over. I had to do the whole process a second time, mostly because I couldn’t get the middle of the filter because the water wasn’t deep enough. The second time I didn’t add the baking soda right away, so I could let the hot water really get to work on the center part without worrying about it boiling over. I still couldn’t get the middle super well, but it’s still better than it was. The really dark areas are the parts that are closest to the griddle/grill part of our stove, so I’m guessing they are just really burnt.



During (yuck!):




Not perfect, but at least it’s clean.

The rest of the stuff on top of our stove is dishwasher safe, so I put them in the dishwasher and then I thought, what the heck, I’ll put that metal filter in there, too (although it didn’t seem to make a difference). And then I somehow worked up the motivation to do some stove top scrubbing and made our stove fit to be cooked on again. Ick. I’d rather clean the bathroom than deal with kitchen crud.

I need to do the oven soon. Not looking forward to that, but it needs to be done. I need to win the lottery so I can pay someone else to do this stuff for me.

How I organize it: Utility Closet (a before & after!)

We have a utility closet in our kitchen. It has always bugged me, but we need the space because we don’t have a garage, and our basement isn’t easily accessible (and it’s a very “basementy” basement, old and cementy and yuck).

Anyhow, back to the closet. When I painted our kitchen in late 2011, my husband asked me if I was also going to paint the closet (which desperately needed a paint job). Ugh. I said heck no, that it could wait until spring. Closets and shelves are a pain in the butt to paint.

Needless to say, I didn’t get to it last spring, either. I reorganized the closet a bit. Decluttered a little. Other than that, I did my best to ignore the closet. Until last weekend, when I decided It Was Time.

I took EVERYTHING out of it. I purged. I reorganized it all. I labeled. I repainted. And then I put everything away as neatly as possible.

This project was not fun to do, especially because I decided to do it while my husband wasn’t around to help. Other than about 30 minutes when my mom was over and I could focus on painting, I had to do it in little spurts throughout the entire weekend. My kitchen was unusable. It sucked. But I’m glad I did it.

Here’s the before (which isn’t as terrible as it was about a year ago, but still icky):


And the after! Much better.


Total cost: about $40

I already had the teal paint from when we painted the nursery in 2010. We bought way too much paint. We purchased painting supplies (you can buy a set with a tray, roller, and brush for under $10 at Lowes). And then I bought the brown & black boxes at Michaels… which I will write about in another post soon. They are for storing photos, but I use them around the house and they are awesome. They retail for $3.99 each at our store, but they frequently go on sale. They were 6/$10 at our store last week, plus I had a coupon.

My biggest piece of advice? DECLUTTER. Seriously. Get rid of stuff and your closet (and house) will be easier to organize and clean and maintain.

Here’s a bit of a breakdown as to how its actually organized:


The very top shelf (not really shown; it was difficult to photograph as the closet door opens up and almost touches the refrigerator) just has a bag of potting soil, cans of paint, and the photo boxes for painting and gardening.

The next shelf has yellow canvas bins, which we already owned. One contains spray paint, one contains fabric & ribbon, and one contains educational items for our children.

The next shelf is full of the photo storage boxes, and contains household items. Things from light bulbs to batteries to power cords. Labeled carefully, of course.

The next shelf contains boxes with our Scentsy bars and for candles. The striped tote contains cleaning supplies (although I plan on ordering an organizing utility tote from Thirty-One very soon to better store those items). The little drawers contains “junk drawer” type items, such as Command strips, hooks, emergency candles & lighter, Tide/Clorox pens, etc.

The bottom shelf is for crafting. My sewing machine is there, and the boxes contain various craft items. My son’s markers and crayons and paints are stored elsewhere, but messier child crafts as well as my own craft items (glue gun, glitter, etc.) are in these boxes. There used to be one of those over-the-door shoe organizers on the door (the black and white monstrosity in the before picture, to the right) that contained craft items. That’s no longer there, as everything was able to be organized in the boxes and bins.

Under that bottom shelf I have two storage drawer thingys. The one on the left is for our medicine and first aid items (I will be posting separately about that one soon). The smaller one on the right contains DVDs, video games, and games.

Hanging up on the wall we have a basic tool kit (red thing on the left hand side), and hanging on the right hand side is a metal basket for paper towel and tissues, and I have a quick push mop hanging up as well. The vacuum and the steam mop are on the floor.

So there she is. I am very glad that I took the time to do this, even if I should have waited one week so I’d actually have some help doing it. It is SO EASY to find things now that they are carefully labeled in those boxes. My mom was over a few days ago and needed batteries for something my son wanted to use, and she was able to just go get them without me having to explain where they were. I’m hoping this means that my husband won’t have to ask me as frequently where basic household items are as well (although I doubt he’d want me to also store his wallet, phone, and the remote controls in there as well).