Monday, July 17, 2023


Summer sure is summering, and life keeps right on life-ing.

I'm perpetually tired. It's all good things! Great things, even. But I could certainly use more sleep.

And ugh, the content I had planned! I'm sad about it. There are posts I still intend to write, but the timely ones centered around gardens and June's abundance of strawberries have already faded away.

Such is life - and instead, I've had full, busy days with my boys and several thrifting outings which all bring me joy and zero regrets. I just miss sitting down with ideas and inspiration and writing out messages of cozy homes and shopping secondhand and sprinkling beauty into our days.

Despite my absence here, life has been abundant.

July's cicadas and sunny mornings by the pool make me feel summer all the way down to my bones. It's such a crime - how fleeting it all is! Those things will start to fade all too soon. 

Here in Buffalo, we get so little warmth. Our summers are unrivaled, but quick. Ask any resident of WNY - we try to jam all of life into three months. We have to use it while we can! And be as active and present as possible.

We've gone fishing, been swimming, enjoyed lake-ing, and fit in a bit of resting. (Though not a lot.)

I spend mornings at the pool, enjoying friends and seeing my kids loving life.

I spend Sundays at the farmer's market, where I've come to adore photoing the products of locals who passionately grow, bake, and craft goods for our communities.

Every dawn, I walk my yard and say hello to my gardens - pulling off expired leaves, giving them cool sips of water, freeing them from intruding weeds.

And every evening, I turn my fan on high and crack a book to lull me to sleep - which takes about 5 minutes with how busy we've been.

I've also indulged (repeatedly) in the new season of The Summer I Turned Pretty, and if you haven't yet, or if you aren't Team Conrad, you are missing out on both counts. (Recommend, recommend, recommend.)

I have so much more I'd love to say - so many shareable things have been bouncing around in my head. But we're still busy, we still have a lot more summering to do, and I know that I won't be able to promise any of it anytime soon. I hope. I wish. But we'll see what's actually possible.

In the meantime, keep up with the rest of our summering on my IG highlights! I've been crappier at sharing there, too, but not nearly as neglectful. You can at least see what we're up to most of the time. :)

I hope you're enjoying summer to the fullest, too! 

And I hope to find oodles of time to share and share and share as the silver lining to summer slipping away all too soon. Talk soon! xo

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Homemade Taco Seasoning: How to Make It, What It Costs, and the Things That Surprised Me

As part of my #FarmGirlSummer goals this year, I'm learning to make a bunch of things from scratch. I'm not sure if a spice mix really counts with just some measuring and stirring involved, but feels homemade and I am claiming it, thank youuu.

There have been times when I've run out of the little taco seasoning packets and just shook random containers into my saucepan of ground meat and it did the trick. But despite seeing all these claims of how much more affordable it is, how much less waste there is, how much healthier it is without that ingredient they put in those little packets that keep our things dry - I couldn't be bothered until now.

And as far as all of the claims people make about the stuff? Well... I might debunk a few.

Let's peek at the recipe first, though.

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix (to fill a jar)

  • 7 tablespoons of cumin
  • 14 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 12 teaspoons of paprika
  • 14 teaspoons of salt
  • 7 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 7 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 7 teaspoons of onion powder
  • 7 teaspoons of dried oregano

In a mixing bowl, measure out each of these spices and give it a good stir. Then transfer it to something sealable to keep it fresh and on hand. I used a small latching glass jar that I got for $.50 at a garage sale, but you can find something very similar at the dollar tree! Use about 2 tablespoons per pound of meat with a little water to season your taco meat.

It's for sure the easiest recipe you'll ever follow. Now...for the claims.


Claim: It tastes better than the little packets. 

My opinion: true.

Based on the way my "oops I forgot to buy seasoning, here's some cumin and chili powder and salt & pepper and sure throw in some onion powder" emergency seasoning often left me disappointed, I expected this to be sub-par. But truly, truly - it was amazing. I've only used it once since mixing this up, but it was the best round of tacos I've made in years. Years! I call this one true - it does taste better.

Claim: It's healthier than the seasoning packets.

My opinion: questionable.

I think it really depends on your health goals here, because you can obviously adjust the amount of salt in the recipe to cut back on sodium and that would for sure be healthier than the packets. And, again, that silica gel ingredient or whatever the heck it is wasn't on the ingredient list.

However: the individual spices aren't exactly squeaky clean. You can upgrade your spices - buy brand names, buy organic - but some of them still have additives. And when something is that decimated down to powder form, can you really be sure of what's in it? While not flagged as dangerous, there were still anti-caking agents in some of the spices I found which is exactly what the "you're eating silica gel packets!" crowd has been warning everyone about. 

So, yes - I think overall you can do better with mixing up your own spice blend. The same can be said for making anything at home. But it can be tricky to find the ingredients themselves to be the quality you want them to be, and stores and brands are really great at tricking us into overlooking things. So I'm just calling this one questionable.

Claim: It costs less.

My opinion: it depends.

I did my best to buy the best versions of the spices as I could, but in some cases there wasn't anything better available or they were outrageously priced. I spent $14.44 (before taxes - I'm not entirely clear on whether or not my state charges taxes on spices). I already had salt and pepper on hand that I didn't buy new, but if I'd needed to, that would add another $3.88 (which would make it $18.32). I spent $.50 on the jar I used. 

So, for true comparison sake, let's say I spent $18.82 to make this mix. 

I did have some of them left over - like the cumin, onion, garlic, and oregano. Obviously the salt and pepper, too. So next time I won't have to re-buy everything. 

The tricky part of figuring this out is while I know I use 2 - 2.5 tablespoons each time, I have no idea how many servings are in this jar. I probably should have counted it for the sake of this post, buuut I didn't. (Who has time to scoop tablespoons of taco seasoning for math reasons? lol Not I.) 

If I (loosely and very inaccurately) add up the measurements of my recipe, I can make an educated guess that I'll be able to use my jar of mix 18 times. 

That comes out to $1.04 per taco night.

I buy these types of groceries from Target, where the prices seem to be the lowest and I get 5% off with my redcard. If I buy a 3-pack of Ortega Taco seasoning, subtract my discount, and divide it by three - it costs me $.92 per taco night.

It looks like the packets win, yeah?

Well - the next time I make my seasoning mix, I already have the jar and I'm only missing two seasonings. I'll only have to spend $6.78 next time, which would make two batches of homemade seasoning mix come out to an average of $12.80. Making it $.71 per taco night.

So the long and short of it is: to make it cheaper, you have to pull a Costco and really make it in bulk. Like, cover a solid 36ish taco nights. And I have no idea if this mix will stay fresh and yummy that long - jury's out.

Claim: It creates less waste.

My opinion: I truly don't know.

The little seasoning packets come in like a lined paper pouch. I would assume the paper breaks down more easily and is better for the environment overall, but I don't know what the liner is made of or it's environmental impact.

I do know, however, that most of my spices came in plastic containers. A few came in glass jars - the nice organic ones I was able to find. But many of them didn't. And if I end up tossing 5 or 6 plastic containers every 35-40 taco nights, is that less waste? I feel like it isn't - considering plastic is relentless. 

I'm sure there are ways to get around this if this is the piece you are most passionate about. You could possibly find the spices in bulk somewhere, or refuse to buy anything that doesn't come in glass, but you will pay more and that may increase your cost per taco night.

I don't know enough about this to make a claim one way or another, but those are some thoughts that crossed my mind. 

Claim: Soo...should I do it or not?

My opinion: you do you, boo.

Based on the most important aspect of making the seasoning for you (the taste, the cost, the health, the waste) - try it (or don't!) if my findings helped you figure that out at all. Overall? I think the taste is better, the cost is better if you make enough of it, the health might be better, but I really have no clue about the environmental impact. Do what you will with that! haha

But do let me know if you make it!

I'd love to hear if you like it better, too, or if there's anything else that surprised you about this. Mixing up your own taco seasoning seems to be suggested so frequently, but some of these things surprised me!

Here's a pin so you can come back to the recipe!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Farm Girl Summer: Turn Your Home Into a Homestead, Even in the 'Burbs

In a world driven by convenience and instant gratification, the idea of homesteading might conjure images of vast farmlands, sprawling acres, and a back-to-the-land movement that feels disconnected from the realities of our modern lives. 

It always did for me - or, it often comes with the assumption that someone who lives that lifestyle is heavily religious. I'm not sure why that is - do you find that, too? No shade intended - it's just that I'm not religious, so when doing research or consuming content in this area, I'm sometimes frustrated that it comes with a religious tone. 

(If that's you too, then I hope to be a resource for you! Though, fair warning, I won't be pushing the other side of the coin, either: neutral ground here, baby.)

I've always been a bit intrigued by a slower, more natural way of life. The fast-paced, artificial-everything society we live in has always felt a bit off to me. As someone with ADHD, the convenience of the way things are has always won the battle in the end, but I'm finding that being intentional about moving my daily life towards a simpler, slower way is incredibly fulfilling.

And the truth is...we can challenge our preconceived notions and transform even our modern suburban homes into cozy homesteads without sacrificing our love for contemporary comforts!

This summer, let's revolutionize our homes, nurture our green thumbs, and embark on a journey of sustainable living that will leave us feeling fulfilled, healthier, and more connected to the world around us. 

I call it..... Farm Girl Summer.

I do not have a farm. Not even close. 

But I've been developing routines and habits and tackling projects that make me feel like the caretaker of a bustling homestead in a way that going back to my human roots. Like listening to my ancestors. Like honoring the basic, foundational needs of myself, my family, and the nature around me. And I'm doing it all in Kate Spade and Tory Burch and Ralph Lauren and Lilly Pulitzer.

Because we can.

We can blend worlds - we can cross borders - we can bust through stereotypes and preconceived notions about which "types" of people live certain lifestyles. 

I've always been a bit of a walking contradiction. I'm this, but I'm also its direct opposite. Over and over again. And for some reason, I've always assumed that I'm just not "crunchy" enough, or I'm not "outdoorsy" enough to pull off this life. But so what if I'm neither of those things, or any of the others that most people are when it comes to homesteading? Why not both?

Farm Girl Summer is about treating your home, wherever and whatever it is, like a homestead.

A homestead is a self-sufficient and self-reliant property or piece of land where individuals or families engage in various activities related to sustainable living. 

In a modern context, the concept of a homestead has expanded to include suburban and urban settings. While the scale may be smaller, the principles remain the same. A homestead today refers to creating a functional and sustainable ecosystem within one's home and surroundings, incorporating elements such as gardening, food preservation, animal husbandry (on a smaller scale, such as backyard chickens, but for my family the indoor cats and dog are it and they will not be procreating, lol), DIY projects, and eco-friendly practices.

It's about taking an active role in the creation and maintenance of our basic human needs.

And it's incredibly fulfilling.

Okay, but like...why?

I feel you. It seems like more work and time and effort and those last two things are in short supply these days. But treating your home like a homestead offers a wealth of benefits that go beyond the physical aspects of self-sufficiency. It's about reconnecting with nature, nurturing a sense of purpose, and finding solace in the little things. Many of the routines and projects feel like a meditative practice and allow you to learn new skills, slow down enough to process life while your hands are busy, and then relax in an extra-cozy and personally curated space afterwards.

To me, it feels like a creative process - your home and the land it rests on becomes a work of art that you slowly add new colors and brush strokes to, and every time you step back to look at it, you're surprised to see how beautiful it has become.

Plus: bite into your first slice of sourdough toast from bread you made yourself and tell me you don't see heaven. That's why, dude. That's why.

Not sure where to start?

Well, don't worry - I will share the things I'm doing as I go along, and I promise that if a tired 30-something with ADHD and three tweens/teens can do these things, you can, too!

But a few very quick ideas to get you started:

  • keep some herb plants on your windowsill
  • bake some things from scratch
  • visit a farmer's market and buy your produce for the week there
  • plant some flowers - literally anywhere
  • go berry picking and make some fresh berry recipes
  • find a few opportunities to turn off lights and use candles instead
  • take a walk around your yard and photo pretty growing things
  • get a bird feeder and bird seed and fill it regularly

Just the tip of the iceberg here, but all extremely attainable.

What do you think? Want to join me? Farm girl summer has significantly more carbs than hot girl summer sooo, I'm not seeing why you wouldn't.

Here's to a fulfilling and grounded summer for us all!

I'll pop back to this post to link the projects and things related to farm girl summer, so here's a pin to help you keep it all in place:

Friday, June 9, 2023

Crazy Easy Patio Planter DIY! (It's a Super Affordable Upcycle, too!)

I love filling planters with flowers and scattering them around my patio this time of year - something about it makes it feel like a cozy decorated living room. I position them in little clusters by the wicker chairs that surround our firepit, on the little outdoor table next to our patio swing, on the back steps - basically anywhere someone might notice them or relax for a while.

I had a bunch of them on my patio table where we sometimes have meals until recently, too. While I loved how they looked, it was a little tricky to have several of them there during meal times or when it got a bit windy. So I whipped up a cute little solution this week, and if you want a wildly fast, easy, and affordable patio DIY to tackle this weekend: I've got you.

Plus - you get to go thrifting so, wins all around.

First, do some shopping.

But this is the fun part. You'll need to make two stops, unless you've already got one or the other on hand! The first is a nursery or home improvement store - you'll need potting soil, and either some flowers or seed packets. And the second is a thrift store or garage sales, where you'll look for an old bundt pan with a center hole wide enough to fit your patio table's umbrella through it. I found several options when I went looking, and ended up deciding on one that I had no question would work size-wise, wasn't going to break (it's metal), and was reasonably affordable.

Here's mine:


Mine is obviously very simple, but you can use one that has more details or not - totally up to you!

Next, fill it with potting soil.

If you're using already bloomed flowers (like packs of annuals), fill the pan about halfway. If you're using seeds, fill it almost to the top.

I used flowers, so here's mine filled about halfway:


Now it's time to plant!

Go wild here - add in whatever you want to see growing on your table! I went with flowers simply because I'm too impatient to wait on the seeds in something that would just look like a cake pan full of dirt sitting on my table (haha), but use anything you like! Plant it like you would anything else - give everything their home, and add more soil where it's needed after everything is in place.

And finally, arrange it in its new home!

Give your new pretties some water, then center the opening of the bundt pan over the space where the umbrella slides through. Then carefully put your umbrella in place, going right through the center of your new planter! This was a bit was hard to not crush any petals!

And that's it!

So cute, right?

So, you might be wondering - what about drainage?

And to that I say.....I do not know. lol  You could drill some holes in the bottom of your pan (as long as it's not ceramic), but then it would drain dirty water all over your patio table every time you water. I'm honestly just crossing my fingers that these flowers don't mind long enough to last for a hot minute. And if they hate it? Well, then, maybe I'll get more. I'll let you know how this works out in the long run, haha.

Let me know if you try it, and show me how yours turns out if you do!

Here's a pin to remember this super simple project later on:

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

My Suburban Homestead: Welcome to The Crooked Apple

It's been quite a while since I've shared any details about The Crooked Apple. Such a long while, that you probably have no clue what I'm even talking about! So grab a cup of coffee, and settle into the history and beauty of our sweet suburban homestead: The Crooked Apple.

I wish I knew the actual history of our land - and I do have our deed, obviously, with some wildly aged records in it. While I could probably do some heavy digging, I didn't have time to before this post. (That will be fun to revisit!) But the house and the land as it exists today, were born in 1953. A decade before either of my parents.

Our history here didn't begin until 2010 - almost 60 years later. 

We had just moved back with our toddler from Charlotte, NY to the Buffalo area and wanted to sneak our way into our dream school district in an starter home. This would be our second home - the one we knew our kids would spend their childhood years in, and we assumed we'd upgrade in a few years' time. I had my heart set on a specific elementary where I'd done field work while I was in school to be a teacher, and I was absolutely determined to have my kids attend school there someday (spoiler alert: my kids do not go there, haha). 

When a house that was located on the same street as the school came up in our multiple searches, we always passed it up because of its kitchen. That's a story for another day, and something that we've since renovated, but we nearly skipped this place over entirely because of that. 

One afternoon, we were touring another house that was for sale, and Matt suggested that we swing by and check this one out since we were close. I was hesitant, but they were having an open house and I did like the location, so I agreed. The kitchen was as horrible as we feared, but the view out the back door - well, it took our breath away!

There, right in the middle of a busy suburb, was a personal rural escape. We had our very own acre covered in trees and nature - it was gorgeous, and we immediately wanted our kids to grow up in such a beautiful environment. We put our offer on the place, deciding that you can fix a kitchen but you can't fix the size of your yard, and it felt like everything fell into place perfectly. (Except, you know, thanks to weird zoning lines my kids ended up in a different school than I'd thought, but it was for the better!)

Our first summer here, in 2010, we fit this house so well. It's gotten a bit tight with two extra kids and a dog, but I'm learning that it's kind of wonderful, actually. It forces us to simplify, be closer together, and spend more time outdoors, which are all things we value. It gets tough in the winter (and phew, don't get me started on what it was like during the pandemic and schooling at home!), but with all of this land and nature at our disposal, the warmer months are nothing short of magical. 

Upon moving in, I was instantly desperate for gardens. It was too late in the season that year, so I decided to do some research to be prepared for the following year.

I started with a very old gardening book that I wish I could remember the name of now! I'd found it at the library and despite efforts to find it again, I've never been able to. This particular book had some really great quotes and tips from "the old days" that I've stored away through the years. One of the first tips was to find a prominent feature on your property to name your homestead after so people would recognize it. Our hilariously crooked apple tree was the obvious answer!

This little apple tree is a source of laughter for us (why is it SO crooked?!), but we really love it! It makes our property kind of quirky, and because of the way it leans, it's at a perfect height for little ones to climb and pick apples to eat (and they do every summer! at least until the bees move in and take ownership of the apples themselves), and also for all of the deer in our area to walk up and snack on it. There have been many sleepy mornings where we sit with our cup of coffee and watch the deer have their breakfast at the apple tree - usually full families with babies in tow. They've even appeared while we're in the back having an evening fire, and we love to sit and watch and take pictures.

The beauty on our property is limitless, and with each season I am once again in awe. There are so many times when I just sit among all of the beauty and thank whatever was in the stars that allowed us to end up here. Don't you just feel so at home when you're surrounded by trees, breeze, and singing birds? 

But I haven't always been so wild about this place. And every January-March, I tend to get a little claustrophobic in our tight quarters. So we've gone through a lot of phases.

That old book I mentioned? It also had a quote about how loving on a smaller home is more fruitful and cozy than any large home could ever be. When I'd read it, I carried that around like a badge of honor. But as my kids grew into their elementary years and we were introduced to the types of homes their friends lived in - well, it was easy to feel inferior and embarrassed. I can't tell you how hard I worked to come to terms with this tiny little place, and vacillated between that and straight up hating it. 

There are times when I am so, so frustrated with the lack of space and ease. We've tried to move several times, always into a kid-filled development with sidewalks and chatty neighbors, but it was never really what we wanted. We wanted it for the kids (still kind of do), but with all of them being tweens and teens at this point, it seems like a waste of time. In another 5-10 years, as they each fly the coop, a place like this is where Matt and I will want to be. 

I can't say with any level of determination that my most recent change of heart is going to stick because that's just not the type of person I am. But, lately, I have a renewed passion for our home and a strong desire to turn it into an adorable cottage snuggled into a sweet suburban homestead. 

Living more simply and intentionally brings me a lot of satisfaction and happiness. It's not the only thing I want to do, and I can't say it's what I want to do forever. Sipping on something tropical under some breezy palm trees certainly sounds satisfying, too. But reminding myself of the way I looked at this place when we first made it ours does a lot for my heart.

And, you know, maybe with steady practice and habits, I'll learn how to love this place more even when it isn't "amazing backyard season". As I check on my gardens, watch seeds sprout leaves, familiarize myself with the birds and wildlife that visit us day after day - I'm learning about the long-game. The things you can do in fall and winter and early spring that all lend themselves to a fruitful summer and fill your soul with contentment and beauty in the moment. That, in the end, is my goal.

Speaking specifically about the gardens on The Crooked Apple, they've had some big improvements this year. 

We carved out a small kitchen herb garden and built a raised bed back in 2011 (with this guide), added a second in 2012, and rebuilt them with fresh wood just last year, in 2022. 

This year, we moved our beds to a new location, and added two half-sized beds - one for a tea herb garden, one for cut flowers. We planted glass gem corn in the dirt left behind by the old beds, as well as some moonflowers and young rose of sharon shoots. The old herb garden still churns on, and we have little lovely pots of flowers scattered all over the yard. 

The goal is to find some fencing to put around all of the raised beds, add a gate, create walkways between the beds inside the fence, and landscape around the outside of it. Kind of like this, but with raised beds of mostly veggies and herbs inside:

(source - not my photo!)

Gorgeous, right? Someday!!! Someday soon, I hope.

Lately, my feet are always dirty and there's often soil under my finger nails.....and I couldn't be happier. Maybe that's gross...Matt certainly picks on me for it. He'll say, "your feet are dirty again!" and I'll say, "Farm Girl Summer!" haha

We're not quite to farm status...not even micro-farm. But maybe someday.

Anyway, I have so much more to share about our homestead over time, but I wanted to start with documenting the history and evolution of our sweet Crooked Apple. Before I go, though, here's a few more photos of its beauty from over the years, including the gorgeous blooms from the apple tree itself:

Come back and visit us soon! :)