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    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    A Look Back.

Full Bloom: Part Three (Garden Update!).

Summer is in full swing here in Seattle, and we’ve had the perfect mix of sunshine and rain that is making everything so green and lush.  Which means it’s time for another update on our first veggie garden!

If you are just catching up, here is how we got started back in May:

My last update was at the beginning of the month, and it’s amazing how much has changed in just a few short weeks.  I took this picture on May 28th, so almost exactly a month ago…

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And today?  Our boxes over-floweth!  Also, my neighbors got a new roof – haha!

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One quick thing I wanted to mention based off some comments on our last garden update – our veggie boxes are made from untreated Western red cedar wood (a few people were concerned they were treated – which can be toxic!).  Despite being a total rookie, I did actually research building the boxes quite a bit, and wood selection was something we wanted to be really careful about.  They are holding up really well so far, and I love how they match our reddish fence and desk so well. 

The influx of summer sunshine seemed to explode all the veggies overnight.  We had a few extra tomato plants that went into pots on the deck, and they seem to be doing well too.  We have so many green tomatoes growing bigger by the day.  I can’t wait for them all to ripen!

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And I don’t think I shared pictures of our herb boxes yet.  I actually found these big white planter boxes along the side of our house in an area where we never really go.  I figured they were of no use buried in the brush, and I grabbed a dolly out of the garage and hauled them to the back – perfect spot for herbs!  The first box has sweet basil, sage, purple Thai basil, and parsley.  I took this picture last Sunday…

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And check it out just a week later after a few days of rain.  Nuts! 

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The other herb box has our cilantro, oregano, thyme, and mint.  Picture from last week…

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Picture from this week – holy cilantro!  We need to get serious about guacamole or something very soon.  Anyone in Seattle need any herbs?  I don’t know how I will ever use it all, but I’m loving it.  And Cullen knows he is allowed to eat any of the “plants” in the white boxes, and he literally chows down.  Go figure he won’t touch a stalk of broccoli but he’ll stuff his mouth with fresh mint.  Toddlers are funny.

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The strawberries up on the hill are actually finally starting to do something.  Getting bigger every day, and giving us a few tiny, red berries that are deliciously sweet. 

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There is something weird where the plants go from biggest to smallest as they move west along our yard.  I wonder if it has something to do with the rotation of the sun?  This year is all about learning, so I’m trying to really pay attention to growth patterns, soil conditions, and anything else that might affect growing and ripening. 

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The other thing affecting our berry production?  Scavengers!  A few of you commented that I shouldn’t be so quick to blame our dogs for the missing ripened berries, which made me laugh.  I have caught them literally red-nosed!

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We don’t have too many furry friends in our yard, other than the ones who live here.  Definitely no deer (we have a full six-foot fence) and very few squirrels out here.  The dogs prowl and sniff around the pots, and have definitely figured out that there is delicious food growing.  It’s not a big deal though.  Just means that I have to try to get to things that are red and ripe before they do!

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Okay, back to the main garden – the planter boxes!  Here is the left box as shown in my last update, taken one month ago…


And check it out today!  Everything is growing bigger and faster than I can even keep up with. 

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The Asian greens bolted and got weird and stringy, and I ended up pulling them.  The spinach seems like it has probably bolted too.  But the lettuce and kale are out of control, and we have SO much. 

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I picked a bunch of the kale right after I took these photos, and I probably should have gotten to it a bit sooner.  The biggest leaves have started to get some holes, which I think means the slugs and bugs are getting to it.  Gotta keep up!  I have declared this week “salad week” – as we really need to eat up a much as we can to make room for new growth. 

In just a short amount of time, I feel like I’ve already learned so much and thought a lot about what I’ll do differently next year.  These lettuce are planted way too close together, and while (god bless them!) they have still grown well in their scrunched space – they don’t look very comfortable.  That said, homegrown bibb lettuce tastes like butter in my mouth.  I’m obsessed!

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Here’s a shot of box #2 from last month when it was newly planted…


And here is it now!  Tomato overload!

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Since my last update I filled in the extra space in the front with two eggplant plants (who have adorable little eggplant buds!)…

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And two crookneck squash plants.  So far only one squash blossom on these – seems slow.  But I’m still hopeful!

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And here’s an example of how awesome you guys are, and how much I have to learn from all my avid gardening readers.  Last time, I showed you my sad swiss chard and mentioned how I planted it all as one bunch (since that’s how it came in the seedling pack).  A few of you told me that it should have been separated, and that it was probably not too late to try breaking it apart.  It wasn’t growing well anyway, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

I dug up the plants and very carefully separated out the individual groups of stalks, and quickly replanted and watered them.  Everything looked limp and awful, and I was convinced I’d killed it all.  A few days went by and I impatiently checked on it all the time.  It still looked really bad, but very slowly a few sad little greens started to perk up a bit.  And two weeks later, here’s how it looks today!

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And the tomatoes are suddenly huge and tall, and covered in little green fruits!  Right after my last update I got serious about getting some tomato cages.  I looked at a few different options, and ended up settling on these Ultimate Tomato Plant Cages.  I didn’t want to get individual round cages, because I would need a TON of them.  These “cages” can be set up in many different configurations, so we opted to do them as a tomato trellis, which works perfectly since they are planted in a long row.  We can add and remove more “arms” as needed – so far so good!

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Up next on the backyard project is tackling this upper wall area.  I really want to plant blueberry bushes along the edge (to act as a barrier for toppling toddlers), and to pick up the existing wonky pavers and do a new leveled patio area.  Just need to find a free weekend for me and Casey to dig in and do it!

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And finally, a bit of how we’ve been harvesting.  Last week when the kale was looking particularly overgrown, I headed outside and picked all of the biggest, outside leaves. 

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I know it’s such a simple thing, but it is still so fun to see all this beautiful food come from our very own backyard. 

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Lots and lots of washing.  These are as organic as it gets – covered in bugs and dirt!

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Sautéed and served along side grilled corn on the cob, oven-roasted potatoes, and grilled teriyaki tempeh.  Hello, summer!

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It is so fun quite literally eat the fruits of our effort. 

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Hoping to have more red, juicy tomatoes to show you next time!  And maybe even a squash or two.  And I’ll pop in here and continue to show what we’re cooking up with what comes out of the garden. 

How are all my gardening friends doing?  What is growing and ripening in other parts of the country?  Our tomato season is super late out here since it’s just now starting to get hot.  Any tips for a good (organic) tomato food or fertilizer?

Getting Crafty with Kiwi Crate.

Despite my best efforts, I just haven’t been able to get into the whole Pinterest scene.  For one, it’s totally overwhelming – but to be totally honest, it makes me feel bad about myself!  I am a good cook, a loving mom, a decent runner, and a pretty badass parallel parker.  But I am not crafty.  Not even a little bit.

I never used to really care about this until I had kids.  Now I feel like not only should I be hand-crafting all sorts of amazing party decorations and valentines, but I should also be crafting with them.  My own mother is enormously talented and creative, and actually owned a small craft business for many years of my childhood.  I have wonderful memories of making things with her.  I can still almost smell the hot glue.

My two-year old is really into typical two-year old stuff right now – sports, balls, trucks, animals, etc.  But outside of his play-doh garbage truck, he hasn’t really shown much of an interest so far in arts and crafts.  And I am sure that part of the reason is that I never really go beyond basic paper and crayons.  I would love to do more creative and original projects with him, but I lack both the talent and the time to research and shop for supplies.

Enter – Kiwi Crate

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Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription service that provides all the materials to inspire creative, educational fun for kids!  Each crate includes 2-3 hands-on projects – art, science, games, imaginative play, and more.  And each one includes supplies, instructions, and additional fun like sticker charts, and interactive kids’ magazine.

Each box has a different theme, and they start at $16.95/month (plus free shipping)!  Our first box had an adorable camping theme (if only I was brave enough to take two kids camping!). 

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The packaging is absolutely beautiful, and each item is clearly and cleverly labeled for both helping parents and for older kids who can work independently.  The boxes are designed for children ages 3-8 and tested to ensure that they are developmentally appropriate, fun and universally liked (by both boys and girls!). 

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Since Cullen is only two and a half, he needed a good amount of parent-involvement, but that just meant it was a fun project for us to do together!  We don’t get as much one-on-one time these days, and it was a much more fun use of Graham’s morning nap time than building yet another tower of legos. 

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Our camping crate contained two main projects – a homemade “campfire” along with a little hand-painted backpack!  The crate was clearly divided into the two projects, so picked one and got started.

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We opted for the “glowing campfire” first, as I figured anything that involved paint should probably be saved for last.  The instruction book had a cute legend at the bottom showing skill level, grownup involvement level, and types of skill sets that would be challenged. 

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Our first time using modeling clay! 

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I tried to do as little as possible, as I really wanted Cullen to feel empowered to create something himself.

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And just like that – it was time to roast our marshmallows!  He had a good time pretending to eat them, and later in the day his Sesame Street characters continued to gather around the fire to keep warm. 

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For the purpose of sharing Kiwi Crate with you guys, we went ahead and did both of our crafts in one day.  But since the box contains several crafts and things like coloring books, etc. – I’d probably typically spread these over different days.  I can see Kiwi Crate crafts being a breath of fresh air during the long rainy winter afternoons or when dad is traveling.

Our second craft involved painting, so while I grabbed things like paper towels and aprons, my little Monet channeled his inner artist. 

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He wasted no time slapping layers of blue and green onto his little backpack.  It was nice that – other than his apron and the grocery bag I placed underneath – everything else was included (paint cups, paints, brush, bag, etc.). 

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The final step was placing some nature shapes on the bag and setting it out in the sun to dry.  Such a cute and clever idea, and something I never, ever would have come up with on my own.  He loved it!

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Even after we had finished the crafts, Cullen continued to play with the remaining items in the crate.  He colored pictures in the activity book, and discovered a page with his very favorite thing – hidden pictures!  Anyone else’s kid love these?  I remember doing them when I was little, and it is so fun to watch him get into it too. 

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And before I finish, can I just tell you my favorite feature?  We don’t need this quite yet, but if the interaction between my two boys at their current ages is any indication of what is to come – well, I need a nap just thinking about it.  There is a sibling add-on option called the “no fight crate” for just $9.99.  You get all the materials to make two of everything – pure genius. 

The creative minds at Kiwi Crate have offered a generous discount for Daily Garnish readers!  Save 25% on your first month subscription with code [DG25]!  Note: Promotional code excludes sibling add-ons.

Many thanks to Kiwi Crate for providing a fun and engaging experience for me and Cullen, and for helping me find my craftier side.

This post is sponsored by Kiwi Crate.  As always, all opinions are my own.  Thank you for your continued support of Daily Garnish! 

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