Over the past few weeks, we’ve been really working on getting our front porch in tip-top summer shape. We have a ton of outdoor living space that we really haven’t done a very good job of utilizing over the past two years that we’ve lived here. We have a really nice covered porch on the front of our house, and an absolutely huge deck on the back of our house. Both of them have sat mostly empty for the past few years—we just didn’t really know how to make the most out of these huge spaces. But I think we’re finally starting to figure it out. We haven’t done much to the back deck still (our plan is turn it into an outdoor dining area, since it has a door to the kitchen), but we are definitely getting there on the front porch. We have a few really nice sitting areas, plus an awesome hammock area at the end of the porch. Our plan is to eventually switch out some of the furniture we have out there for higher-end pieces, but for now, it’s functioning really well and we’re using it every single day! One of our favorite spots on the porch are our two Adirondack chairs. We sit here and drink coffee in the morning and eat dinner at night (well, when the bugs aren’t too bad). I love this little spot, and one of my favorite parts of this spot are our wall planters we hung up above the chairs. They add such a fun little burst of color to the otherwise ho-hum brick wall. These planters were so incredible easy to make, and, for us, totally free because we had the materials on hand, and we did some dumpster diving for the tires. Let me show you how we made them. Here’s what you’ll need for each planter:
As far as plants go, we went with shade and part-shade annuals because, obviously, on the covered porch, they’re not getting a whole lot o’ sunshine. We planted a combination of decorative grass, impatiens, and lobelia. We really like that the tall, spiky grass fills in the center of the tire, while the impatiens and lobelia fill in the bottom and add some color—and eventually the lobelia will hopefully spill down and out of the planter a bit. If your planter is going on a wall in the sun, you have a crazy wide variety of fun plants you could fill it up with! These would be so beautiful with wave petunias pouring out of them. We snagged our tires from the local recycling depot. It’s not hard to track down used tires. Look on the side of the road, ask your local garage, or go ahead and hit up the dump or recycling station like we did. If you’re planning on getting new tires soon, ask the mechanic putting them on if you can take your old tires home (in fact, most places charge you to dispose of your old tires, so if you take them home, you’re actually saving cash). First up, I gave our tires a good scrub so the spray paint adhered well. You’ll need to drill in some drainage holes in the bottom of the tire. So go ahead and figure out which way you want facing up, and then drill a few holes in the bottom of the tire using your drill and drill bit. We ended up using a 1/2″ drill bit, and drilling through both directions (outside-to-inside and inside-to-outside) to make sure the holes didn’t close in. Drilling through rubber isn’t easy or fast, but you’ll eventually get through it. It doesn’t take a ton of drainage holes—we ended up with about four per tire. And now it’s time to get painting! You definitely don’t have to paint the tires if you’re digging the black—in fact, the dark color will help keep the soil nice and toasty if you live in a cooler climate. But, I can’t resist an opportunity to put an obnoxiously bright color on something, so I whipped out the spray paint (and, obviously, you can tell from this picture, it wasn’t my first painting project of the day)! We have lots of touches of teal and turquoise on our front porch, so I decided to pull that into the tires as well. I went with Valspar Exotic Sea. I thought the color would also look really nice against some dark plant foliage and the colors in the brick. Because our planters are hanging on the wall, I didn’t really worry on painting the back, just the front and the sides. I thought it was going to take a billion coats, but it only took two, plus a light touch-up to get some pretty, pretty blue tires. Then I let those suckers dry and cure out in the sun for a day. The next day, I came back and cut small strips of landscaping fabric to line the inside of the tire. This probably isn’t necessary, but I figure since I had the fabric, it wouldn’t hurt to put it in to help keep the soil from plugging up the drainage holes. And then I filled up the bottom with soil, planted my plants, and watered it in! We hung them up on the brick wall using 3-1/4” concrete screws in the mortar. At first, we thought we’d just put two screws in and hang the tires on them and be done with it. But Craig wasn’t too happy with how secure that felt, so instead, he drilled large holes in the top of the back of the tire to actually fit over the screw heads—much more secure. I am obsessed with these planters. I absolutely love everything about them. I love that they are quirky and weird and eclectic. I love that they’re trash that we ended up making beautiful again. I love that they allow us to put plants in a place you wouldn’t normally expect them. Don’t be surprised if you come to our house and see tire planters everywhere—I have so many ideas for places to put them now! I can see a whole row of them on the wall next to our back deck filled with herbs. Or a bunch of them on the walls of our barn packed with bee-friendly plants (to help draw bees to our garden). Bring me all the tires!
Smoothies are a new parent’s best friend. Seriously. Being able to pack tons of nutrients and goodies into something that can be “eaten” with one hand is pretty much life-saving when you’re busy taking care of a little one. I think all parents should register for a high-quality blender on their baby registry.
Thankfully, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might enjoy some one-handed eats and managed to whip up a big batch of smoothie packs before I went into labor. If you’ve never made a smoothie pack before, basically, it’s all the ingredients for a smoothie portioned out for an individual serving all ready for a trip in the blender. I’m the first to admit that there is nothing complicated about making a smoothie the regular way, but being able to shave a few minutes off with smoothie packs has been a total lifesaver during these itty bitty teeny tiny newborn baby days. All I do is open up one of these packs, dump it into the individual serving cup of my blender with some milk, and—bam!—smoothie.
It probably comes as no surprise to you, but my favorite of the smoothie packs I made is this banana-yogurt smoothie that’s spiked with some fully-leaded coffee. I’ve always enjoyed coffee, but I’ve never been one of those folks that needed a daily jolt of java. But now, I’m quite liking the little bit of pick-me-up that I get from coffee, and being that it’s the middle of summer and hot as heck here in the Midwest, I really enjoy getting my burst of energy in cool, creamy, frosty smoothie form.
My smoothie packs have three ingredients—frozen vanilla yogurt cubes, frozen concentrated coffee cubes, and frozen banana pieces.
To make them, I first just portioned out the yogurt into an ice cube tray. I went with vanilla yogurt because I like the added flavor and the little bit of sweetness, but you could obviously use plain yogurt or whatever else sounds good to you.
And then, in another ice cube tray, I froze some highly concentrated coffee. I made this coffee about twice as strong as it would be if I was just drinking the coffee, because I only put two coffee cubes per smoothie. I really wanted that coffee flavor (and well, the caffeine) to come through in the final smoothie. You could also make espresso and freeze it if you have an espresso machine.
And then I also froze banana pieces into large chunks. For each smoothie pack, I put in two yogurt cubes, two coffee cubes, and about half a frozen banana into pint-sized freezer bags.
And then, when it’s time to make the smoothie, I just dump the pack into the blender with about a cup of milk and blend it all up until smooth. This gets me about a 12 ounce smoothie, which is a perfect hold-me-over option until I can procure a real meal. I then rinse out the freezer bag and hang it up to dry for the next time I want to make smoothie packs.
This method of smoothie pack making works for all kinds of flavors. I have other packs in the freezer with yogurt cubes, frozen strawberries, frozen bananas and these booster packs—which is nice for when I need to get in some real nutrition. I’m also thinking I might make some with chocolate milk (yum!), banana and peanut butter.