Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Ornament Display

Every year since my husband and I have been married, we have bought a special Christmas ornament to commemorate that year.  Many of the ornaments are crystal and are not very visible when placed on a traditional Christmas tree.  This year I made a display out of naturally shed tree branches to showcase these very special keepsakes.

I used a ceramic vase I had hanging around the house not being used, and then looked around the yard for some branches to hang the ornaments from.  I carefully arrange the branches in the vase making sure to vary the sizes somewhat while still maintaining a balanced look.  Once I was happy with the arrangement, I carefully hung the ornaments.

The total cost of this display was $0.00.  Since I already had the vase and collected branches from the yard, there was also zero waste.  I like using things that are readily available in my yard when I can.  I also think the randomness of the branches gives the display a fabulous look.  If you are in an area where branches are not easy to come by, willow branches from a craft store can be substituted.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fall Container Gardening

This container has rosemary (great to clip and use for cooking) in the center with pansies and elfin thyme around the perimeter.

Container gardening is a great option for fall and winter gardening.  It is very easy to compose a lovely container with the many varieties of fall plants readily available.  All of the plants as well as the urn pictured in this post came from a chain hardware/garden center.

Containers can add a big look to a drab corner of a porch or patio.  Planting in a container is a wonderful choice in colder months because in many parts of the country the ground too hard for easy planting.  It is easy to do if you follow a few simple steps.

There are several things to consider when putting together a container.  Choosing a lovely container will get things off to a good start.  It is worth looking around to find just the right one.  I really like stone (concrete) containers because they seldom crack (like terracotta), and their heavy weight gives them a sense of permanence when placed strategically on a porch or in a garden.  If you cannot find what you want at a chain store, try looking at smaller, locally owned garden centers.

Once you choose the container, soil is the next thing to consider.  Although it may be tempting to choose the cheapest, or on-sale potting soil, it is worth the extra money to get a high-quality soil.  Containers loose their water much quicker than plants in the ground, so it is important to look for potting soil with fertilizing and water retentive properties.

The only thing left is choosing the plants.  I find the best aesthetic results when I combine plants of different height, colors, and textures.  Choose plants with your container location in mind.  There are great plant varieties for all locations; shade, part-shade, and sun. Plants can be changed seasonally, or left indefinitely, depending on your selections. Work from the center of your container with taller plants, and then out to the edges with shorter ones.  

Once you are happy with your results, water well (and regularly) and enjoy!
This elfin thyme is wonderfully fragrant with diminutive purple flowers  It also has a trailing habit, so in the coming months I expect it will be spilling over the sides of the pot providing an elegant look. For this container I purchased one plant and divided it, putting a section on both the front an back sides of the container.  This helps to create a balanced looking container.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beat the Heat with Night Gardening

One problem many gardeners face is how to spruce up planting beds in triple didget temperatures.  A good solution is to garden during evening hours when temps are lower.  If your home is not well-lit at night, wearing a head lamp may be a solution (the kind miners wear).  Handle lighted areas at night and less lit areas in early morning hours. 

At our house we involve the entire family.  My teenage son helps with things like carrying heavy watering cans, while the younger kids help pull weeds and pick up yard debris.  During our time in the garden we discuss the different plants and their needs, and what else we may want to plant later in the season.  Working together in comfortable temperatures at night, when we are all relaxed and unhurried, is a wonderful way to bond and get those planting bed ship-shape.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Appropriate Children's Parties

I was asked recently by a friend for ideas for her daughters birthday party. This is a really loaded question. Parties in recent years have gotten more and more elaborate (and more and more expensive). Partly due the economy and partly due to the return of sanity, there is a shift to parties that focus more on the kids and less on giving a show for the other parents.
Let's me start by saying I love my kids. They know this. I do not need to put on an over-the-top display of craziness for them to feel loved. Now that we have gotten this minor piece of therapy out of the way, we can plan a fun, kid focused party.
Cost - Decide on a budget first. This will determine many of the things that follow. Low budget birthdays are better staged at home, whereas a little bit bigger budget opens up options of off-site possibilities. One thing to remember is that although a birthday party at a play-type venue may seem much more expensive, make sure you consider all that is included. Once you buy all of the paper products, food, and entertainment (depending on what you are planning), you may save money or come out pretty close to the same in terms of cost.
Venue - Determine an appropriate place for the party. Many people like off-site parties to limit in-house mess. I tend to agree with this, although I have had very fun at home parties that did not result in Christmas morning type mess making. One great thing about having the party elsewhere is that it does give the kids a sense of "special occasioness" (my own word invention - feel free to use it!).
Theme - If your child has their heart set on a themed party you don't have to break the bank to pull it off. If, for example, you sweetness wants a princess party, you do not have to clean the store out of every princess themed plate, napkin, balloon, and party favor they have. Let the cake or cupcakes set the theme. Perhaps get some themed plates, and let the other party supplies play a supporting role in a less-expensive coordinating solid color.
Parents - If you are inviting minor children to a party it is a safe bet they will come with a parent in tow. Although I don't think you have to go party crazy, you should consider the parents when planning the event. Many places that cater to kids needs (especially the non-chain places) will let you bring food more geared to adult tastes. I recently had a party for my daughter at just such a place, and they had no problem with bringing some adult food, and some fresh and healthy additions to their pizza for the kids.
Decoration - Decorating is fine, just don't go insane. I like to rely mostly on lovely serving pieces that I have invested in over the years to add a special touch. White table cloths are wonderful to make any table a little less ordinary. I also like to use goody bags and treats to add some color.
A child's birthday party need not be an ordeal. A simple home-spun party with homemade cupcakes and simple outdoor games can be just a fun an the most over-thought, over-done, mega party.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer is Still Time for Learning

Although school is out, summer can still be filled with all sorts of meaningful learning. The school year is often overtaken with activities like dance lessons, sports games and practices, church, and piano lessons just to name a few. I like to take advantage of the slower summer pace to teach the kids skills that the school year just will not allow for.
I encourage my girls interest in sewing, embroidery, and other crafts by having "classes" once or twice a week for them. They look forward to "classes" and take and active interest in the "subject" for that week. I have even included my son, who is a typical teenager in every way, in the fun. We all spend time in the garden weeding, planting, caring for, and learning about plants in the garden.
Take time in summer to encourage your child to try new activities. It is wonderful bonding time, and it may just spark a life-long interest.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pretty Crafty School Clothes

School clothes shopping can be a dreaded part of getting kids ready to go back to school. An inexpensive and fun alternative to joining the herds of people at the mall (all shopping from the same tired and often inappropriate selections) is to make your own. Now, before you sigh and say you are no seamstress, there are many outfits that are so easy, you need little to no experience with a sewing machine.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Inexpensive Botancial Looks for Spring

As spring is being revealed all around us here in the South, I like to reflect the seasonal excitement indoors as well. While I admire what I see in the florists window, I generally don't like the prices or the short life span of what is available. One solution I have found is to search my immediate envinronment (my yard and my neighborhood) for botanical options that will not only give seasonal appeal, but go easy on the budget.

The arrangement I have displayed this year in my entry hall was an easily achieved look. I simply cut three g00d-size magnolia branches and placed in them in an old, large candle holder (purchased at Target some years ag0) with a some water. The key to making anything look good in clear glass is to make sure the glass is exquisitely clean. The reflections of light off the glass and water therein is what gives it a clean, fresh look. The other consideration is to be certain whatever is removed from the outdoor environment is prepared for being displayed inside. In this case, I wiped all visible pollen of the magnolia leaves with a wet paper towel, and discarded small pieces of moss and pine needles.

This arrangement should stay looking great for several weeks. Total cost: $0.00