Our Garden / Before Photos

I have always wanted a garden. Like, for yearssss. But every Spring, I forget to plant the things I want, or if I do remember to plant a few things, I've completely forgotten about them come mid-summer and they're all scraggly and literally laying down on the ground like we can't even. To give myself some credit though, I have transplanted quite a few ferns, hostas and other shade-loving perennials from my parent's house to our yard, and those do awesome every year! But our actual food garden has always been lacking one thing - my time. Seriously, if you want to learn a few lessons on patience and "good things come to those who wait", plant a garden. Have you ever seen how tiny carrot seeds are!?!?! They're practically invisible! So you just gotta dump out the package into the dirt and hope that in 3 months time they've turned into beautiful, Martha-Stewart-cover-worthy rainbow carrots. Things I planted in April are only now starting to show up. Geeesh!

Months ago, when we were having an unusually warm spring day, I was in the backyard with my friend/neighbor Kim, when she pointed to the (what I would call terribly embarrassing) overgrown area at the back of our yard and said "Oh, is that your garden?" 😂 Obviously that's why I keep someone like Kim around, because she believes that even the worst sections of my yard will somehow bloom into something amazing and edible, which is excellent for my self esteem, but alas, I had to laugh and say "No! Ha ha! That's our 'parking area'". However, it got me thinking. We NEVER park back there. Like, ever. So why not make it into a garden area? That would allow us to keep more of our grass/yard and give us space to plant stuff! Win, win! When we first moved into our house, the previous owners had installed six square garden beds right in the middle of the whole yard, which was not very functional. We tore those out almost immediately and the grass has grown back in quite nicely giving us a cute little spot of grass for June to play in.

Here is what that back area looked like before T.J. got started clearing an area for the garden beds. As you can see, our backyard backs up against the local lumber yard, which was really convenient when we needed to get stuff for our garden boxes!

It took us only a few hours to dig up the front portion of the parking area and prep it for the beds to be installed. And T.J. was looking pretty, pretty, cool in a tank top -- just saying.

About a week after we prepped the beds, we built the super easy garden boxes and filled them with dirt from our compost pile! Unfortunately I forget to take pictures of the actual boxes being built and filled. Oh well! But now that a few things are starting to pop up you can see the garden bed layout! We took some of the extra gravel from the parking area and moved it up in between the boxes to help control the weeds and mud.

Some of the plants I started myself from seeds months ago, and others I purchased at our local greenhouse just before planting.

In just the few weeks that have passed, you can see that the GIANT tree in the backyard has leaves now, and many of the other things around our yard are loving all the rain. In the words of Phyllis (Lapin) Vance, "The plants are gonna love this."

Just this past Friday, I planted a handful of flowers and herbs in the box closest to our back deck. I am really looking forward to having fresh herbs right beside our grill, and colorful flowers to look at while we sit out back and enjoy our summer watermelon and iced coffees. C'moooonnn summer!

I apologize for the glommy photos, it was literally raining while I planted these and took the pictures.

I am so excited to watch everything grow over the next few months and continue to clean up our yard and outdoor living areas so we can enjoy them more of the year. I really, really believe that living in a home you're proud of, in a home that brings you joy deep in your being, is so valuable to our lives and families - and your yard is a beautiful, living extension of that. I hope you'll take a little bit of time to plant a few things for yourself, too! If you have any questions you think I could answer, please leave a comment! I'd love to know what you're planting or hoping to grow!

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.
— Luther Burbank

Good Day Sunshine

GUYS. The sun actually came out the other day and it was warm enough to put little June in shorts and it was basically the cutest thing of all time. June was thrilled to be outside, picking dandelions and finding rocks.

How To Make Sweet Potato Fries In The Oven!

I could eat sweet potato fries several times a week and never complain about it. They're just so dang delicious. And when homemade in the oven (no deep fryer! = less calories!), they're the perfect addition to your meal. Who am I kidding, they're the perfect meal. Our little June (currently 14 months) loves them and slurps them down like they're noodles. 😂 It's so cute.

And since these fries are baked in the oven... that means dipping them in Sweet Sriracha Fry Sauce is okay, right? Yea, I thought so too.

Oh, and here is a super official chart to show you how much I eat these fries now.

INCREASE IN FRY CONSUMPTION

HOMEMADE SWEET POTATO FRIES & SWEET SRIRACHA FRY SAUCE

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes (or Yams, like I use all the time!)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Chili Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Paprika
  • Mayo
  • Ketchup
  • Sriracha
  • Dried Oregano
  • Black Pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder

INSTRUCTIONS:

Start by slicing your potatoes or yams into thin fries. Use a sharp, heavy duty knife, as they can often be very hard to slice. Once you've cut up all your fries, place them in a clean bowl.

Rinse the sliced fries in cold water to remove any dirt, and then let the fries soak in the cold water for at least 10 minutes, or up to a few hours. Soaking them in cold water will remove some of the starch, allowing for a crispier fry in the end! Change the water occasionally, if you decide to soak them for longer than 10 minutes, to remove the cloudiness of the water and starch at the bottom of the bowl. Once you're finished soaking them, rinse them one last time and do your best to get as much water out of the bowl as you can.

Now to make them extra delicious! Coat fries well in olive oil. Then add spices -- there is no exact measurement for the spices, because it depends how many fries you're making and how strong you'd like the flavor to be! For the three large yams I used here, I would guess I was around 2 teaspoons of the garlic powder, paprika, chili powder and dried oregano. (Feel free to use more or less once you've figured out what you like best!) What I normally do is sprinkle all a little bit of all four of those ingredients on the fries, give them a good shake/mix, and then sprinkle the same stuff on them again - repeating this maybe four times. It seems easy to add the spices to the fries in several rounds, instead of just dumping it all in there and hoping they all get well coated.

Once spices are added, salt and pepper to taste.

Dump the fries out onto a baking sheet and arrange them into a flat layer. The less they overlap the crispier they will get! As you can see, I was really excited about the fries for lunch the other day, and packed my pan pretty full.

Place into a 425° oven for 20-30 minutes. If you have a convection oven, use it! That will help them cook faster and get a little crispier, too!

While your fries are cooking, start mixing your sauce.

Combine equal parts mayonnaise and ketchup. Add a much smaller amount of Sriracha sauce. (The sauce can get spicy fast! So keep in mind that you can always add more if you feel it needs more heat, but you can never take it away! Start small.) Add garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and dried oregano. Mix until well combined!

I never make my fry sauce exactly the same every time. Sometimes it has way more heat than others, sometimes it's more peppery, or sometimes it's sweeter with ketchup, but it is without a doubt delicious every time. Don't over think it! Give it a shot and change what you want to next time. Cooking for yourself, or your family, should be fun, not science. 👍🏼

Before I remove the entire tray of fries from the oven, I always poke one of the larger ones with a fork and test it out, just to make sure they're cooked all the way through. Once cooked, remove them from the oven, and if you can wait, give them a few minutes to cool on the tray before you start eating them! Also, resist the urge to dump the entire tray onto a large plate, causing them to pile one on top of another. This will make the fries get soggy really fast, from the heat and steam they release. Serve them directly onto your plate, and enjoy!

If you make these fries, be sure to tag me in a photo of them on Instagram (@brookecourtney) or send me a Snapchat (@brookemousetis) - I'd love to see 'em!

Easter Egg Tree / DIY

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Ever since getting married, and especially since having June, I've loved the idea of starting traditions that are specific to our little family. When it comes to Easter, my side of extended family has the tradition of our Easter Egg Roll, where we all gather at the top of my Grandpa's long and steep driveway and literally roll our eggs down the hill. We have winners for furthest overall and yoke only. It's pretty awesome!

But leading up to Easter, I don't really have any decorations or anything special that we do. UNTIL NOW! I've wanted to make this Easter Egg tree for two years, and I finally have!

As far as DIYs go, it's pretty easy. Below are the instructions and supplies needed, as well as what I chose for each egg to represent so it can help teach June, and our future kids, the story of Easter.

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* This post was originally created for walk in love.'s blog - Check it out HERE! *

SUPPLIES:

  • Eggs (paper mache, wooden or hollowed real ones)
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint Pen
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue
  • String
  • Branch
  • Vase/Jar
  • Paper to protect your table while you paint

INSTRUCTIONS:

Find your vase and branch and set aside. Trim down the end of the stick to fit into your jar or vase if needed. I chose to stick with white, black, gold, mint and pink for my colors. I wanted it to be simple and spring-ish! You may choose any colors you'd like. Paint eggs your desired colors. My eggs took two coats of every color, except black, for them to look well painted. If however you like the single-coat-brushed-on look, stick with it! Both are good options! 

Once your second coat of paint has dried completely, you're ready to start decorating them. I used a combination of my black Sharpie paint pen and actual paint for my decorating. You can decorate yours however you'd like! If you want your tree to have "tradition and storytelling" to it, you can follow my suggestions below - or find your own!

Here is what I decided on:

  • Egg with Crown - To represent Jesus as Messiah, the Holy King.
  • Egg with Eyes - To represent Jesus' miracles - Giving sight to the blind.
  • Egg with Palm Leaves - To represent Palm Sunday.
  • Egg with Paint Strokes - To represent the breaking of bread at the last supper.
  • Egg with 30 black dots - To represent the 30 silver coins that were offered in exchange for Jesus.
  • Egg with X's - To represent Judas's betrayal and kiss.
  • Egg with Slashes - To represent Jesus being beaten sentenced to death on a cross.
  • Egg with Crosses - To represent the cross.
  • Egg that is solid black - To represent the darkness of the tomb.
  • Egg that is solid gold - To represent Jesus rising FROM. THE. DEAD!
  • Egg that is half white, half black - To represent life over death.
  • Egg that is all white - To represent our sins being washed white as snow. A clean slate.
  • Egg with Hearts - To represent accepting Jesus into your heart.
  • Egg with Gold Dots - To represent our charge as Christians to be the light in a dark world.

Cut string to desired lengths and with a tiny dot of hot glue, attach string to top of your egg. Knowing what my branch looked like, I made my string lengths vary in size, so the eggs could hang at different heights! If needed, weight the bottom of your jar/vase with sand or small stones. Since the branch I found grew heavily to one side, the added weight of the eggs was causing it to tip over. So make sure you test it out before you load up your branch with all the eggs.

I hope that this little project serves as a reminder in your daily life of the great story of Jesus and his love for us. I pray it allows you to teach your family about Christ conquering death, or that it starts an otherwise un-had conversation around your dinner this Easter! (Side note: You could also totally make one of these and give it to someone as a gift for their home and table!)