A Spring Branch Bouquet

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Dogwood trees are starting to bloom where I live and their blooms are so pretty! The Redbud trees are also blooming and their rich color looks so striking against the other trees that are just starting to produce small leaves.

I decided to pick a few blooming branches and make a bouquet–something I had wanted to do last spring, but by the time I thought about doing it, the blooms were past their prime. So here’s how my “Branch Bouquet” turned out–I just combined 2 Dogwood branches with 3 Redbud branches and I think the different blooms look so pretty together! You could use other kinds of blooming branches, too–Forsythias, Pear Blossoms…whatever type of blooming branches that are growing around you. It brings a nice touch of the spring outdoors into your home or office.

You could also use this idea to make a pretty Easter centerpiece for your table!

Do you have any pretty blooming shrubs or trees in your yard?

I’m linking this to Fiesta Friday, Inspire Me Monday, Wow Us Wednesday, Favorite Things Thursday.

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Daffodils

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I picked these daffodils yesterday–they’ve just recently started blooming. They were growing by the side of the road, and I just had to pick some! I love the variety–some are bright yellow, some are soft yellow, and some are soft cream. My favorite, though, are the daffodils that have creamy petals with vivid orange centers.

Do you have daffodils in your garden and are they blooming yet?

I’m linking this to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener and Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Peppermint Tea Tree Bath Salts and 25 Other Uses for Epsom Salt

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There’s nothing like a relaxing soak in the tub with bath salts to make you feel revived and refreshed! The challenge is finding the time to do it! I decided a few months ago to start making time, at least once every few weeks, and it is something I really look forward to. It really feels wonderful to take time out and pamper yourself this way.

I thought it would be fun to make my own bath salts and came up with these Peppermint Tea Tree Bath Salts. They are very easy to make…you just need some Epsom Salt, Peppermint Essential Oil, and Tea Tree Essential Oil (you can find essential oils at your local health food store). I did not add any food coloring to the salts, but you can add a drop or two if you want–I prefer to just keep them the natural white. The peppermint scent is really refreshing, and the tea tree oil is good for your skin, so these two oils make a great combination!

I also discovered that soaking in Epsom Salt has health benefits because it’s rich in both magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium plays an important role in many bodily functions like muscle control, energy production, and the elimination of harmful toxins. Sulfate plays an important part in the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins, and also helps detoxify the body of environmental toxins. So, soaking in an Epsom salt bath is an easy way to increase your body’s levels of magnesium and sulfate. No wonder it’s so refreshing! Your body and muscles will be relaxed, toxins will be flushed out, and the salts also help reduce the swelling of sprains.

Here’s how I make my bath salts…

PEPPERMINT TEA TREE BATH SALTS by NancyCreative

Makes enough for one bath (I multiply this recipe by 4 and keep it in a large jar)

  • 2 cups Epsom Salt
  • 5 to 7 drops Peppermint Essential Oil (depending on how strong of a scent you want)
  • 3 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • 1 gallon-size zip-loc freezer bag (I like using freezer bags because they’re thicker than regular storage bags)

Put Epsom Salt in zip-loc bag and add the drops of Peppermint and Tea Tree essential oils; mix oils into the Epsom Salt by squishing ingredients together in the closed bag for several minutes. You can use it right away or store salts in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. To use, add 2 cups of the bath salts under the running warm or hot water in your tub. To get the maximum benefit from this Epsom Salt bath, you should soak for at least 12 minutes. And you can do this 3 times weekly, if you have the time! :)

I like to make larger batches and keep it in a jar in my bathroom; that way I don’t have to make it so often. These bath salts make a great homemade gift, too–you can make a double batch and put it in a jar tied with a pretty ribbon.

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Here are some other uses I found for Epsom Salt, if you’re interested in trying some of these out. The first one I try will probably be the skin cleanser. If you try any of these out, let me know!

  1. Skin Exfoliator–Add a drop of essential oil (or a Tablespoon of olive oil) to a handful of Epsom salt and massage over wet skin. Or just use the Epsom salt by itself. Rinse thoroughly. Makes your skin smooth and silky. Can be used on face as well as the whole body.
  2. Olive Oil Epsom Salt Scrub–Mix 1/2 cup Epsom salt with 1/4 cup olive oil; scrub skin in the shower and rinse thoroughly for soft, smooth skin.
  3. Skin Cleanser–Mix 1/2 teaspoon Epsom salt with your regular cleansing cream. Massage into skin and rinse with cold water.
  4. Bath Crystals–Mix 2 cups Epsom salt with a few drops of fragrance or 1/2 teaspoon glycerin. Store in airtight container until ready to use.
  5. Blackhead Remover–Add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt and 3 drops of iodine into 1/2 cup boiling water. Apply mixture to blackheads with a cotton ball.
  6. Hand Wash–Mix  equal parts of Epsom salt and baby oil; put in a dispenser by your sink to clean and soften hands.
  7. Hair Volumizer–Combine equal parts deep conditioner and Epsom salt and warm in a pan. Work the warm mixture through your hair and leave on 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
  8. Remove Hairspray Buildup–Combine 1 gallon of water, 1 cup lemon juice, and 1 cup Epsom salt. cover mixture and let set for 24 hours. The next day, pour mixture onto dry hair; leave on for 20 minutes, then shampoo.
  9. Itchy Skin Remedy I–Mix 1 Tablespoon Epsom salt into 1/2 cup of water until completely dissolved. Spritz on itchy skin or bug bites with a spray bottle, or dab on with a cotton ball to help relieve itching. Or use as a compress on the skin area. Can also use on minor sunburns.
  10. Itchy Skin Remedy II–For mosquito bites, bee stings, mild sunburn and poison ivy, make compresses by soaking a cotton washcloth in cold water that has been mixed with Epsom salt (2 Tablespoons per cup). Then apply to skin.
  11. Foot Soak–Mix 1/2 cup  to 1 cup Epsom salt in a large pan or plastic tub of warm water and soak feet for 10 to 20 minutes–soothes achy feet, softens skin, smooths calluses and removes foot odor.
  12. Epsom Salt Pedicure–Mix 1/2 cup of Epsom salt with warm, soapy water; soak feet to soften skin; remove polish, cut and file nails and calluses; then soak feet in an Epsom salt bath for 5 minutes (use another 1/2 cup of Epsom salt in a large pan of water).
  13. Toenail Fungus Treatment–Soak affected toes in hot water mixed with a handful of Epsom salt three times a day.
  14. Splinter Remover–soak area in concentrated Epsom salt water to draw out splinter. Or, add enough water to 1/8 cup of Epsom salt to form a paste. Apply mixture to injured area and let sit for 10 minutes. The magnesium sulfate in this paste works to gently pull the splinter to the surface so you can pull it out easily.
  15. Bathroom Tile/Grout Cleaner–Mix equal parts Epsom salt and liquid dish soap; apply on dirty tiles and grout; scrub and rinse well.
  16. Slug Remover–Sprinkle Epsom salt on areas where you have a slug problem–on floors, patios, or garden beds–the salts will help deter slugs. It’s supposed to help keep raccoons away, too, if you have a problem with them!
  17. Fertilizer for House Plants–Add 2 Tablespoons Epsom salt per gallon of water and stir to dissolve. Fill a spray bottle with mixture and use this to feed plants once a month.
  18. Keep Lawn Green–Use same mixture as above, 2 Tablespoons Epsom salt per gallon of water, and sprinkle on your lawn to keep grass healthy and green. Or another tip says you can use 3 pounds of Epsom salt for every 1,250 square feet. Apply with a spreader or dilute the Epsom salt in water and use a sprayer.
  19. Natural Insecticide–Mix 2 Tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water and spray onto your plants to safely and naturally get rid of insects like cabbage worms and spider mites. For roses, just use 1 Tablespoon per gallon of water to help discourage pests.
  20. Prep Garden Soil–Sprinkle up to 1 cup Epsom salt per 100 square feet, then work it into the soil before seeding or planting. This helps seeds to germinate better and helps mature plants transition when replanted. Note: If you’re growing the herb Sage, do not do this–sage does not like Epsom salt!
  21. For Tomato Plants–Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Epsom salt per hole before planting your tomato seeds or small plants. As plants mature, work in 1 Tablespoon per foot of plant height around the base of the tomato plant every 2 weeks.
  22. For Fruit– Mix Epsom salt with water at a ratio of about a quarter-cup of Epsom salt per 500 square feet when you irrigate your plants. Epsom salt supposedly reduces the amount of fertilizers you need and makes the fertilizers you use more effective in growing fruit.
  23. For Rose Bushes–Soak unplanted rose bushes in a mixture of 1/2 cup of Epsom Salt per gallon of water before planting to help roots get stronger. When planting, add 1 Tablespoon of Epsom Salt per hole before planting each rose bush. After planting, you can spray the bushes each month with the same liquid mixture (1/2 cup per gallon of water), or work into the soil at the base of each plant 1 Tablespoon of Epsom salt per foot (in height) of each plant. Another tip says to add 1 Tablespoon Epsom salt diluted in a gallon of water per foot of plant height every 2 weeks.
  24. For Trees–Work in 2 Tablespoons per 9 square feet into the soil over the root zone (or dilute in water and apply) three or four times a year, at the beginning of each season–this helps prepare the trees for the change in weather.
  25. For Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron)–Work in 1 Tablespoon per 9 square feet into the soil over the root zone every 2 to 4 weeks (or dilute the same amount of Epsom salt in water and apply).

The name Epsom comes from a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England. It’s not actually salt, but a natural pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate.

I think I’ll be using Epsom Salt a lot more now that I know about the benefits it has…have you used Epsom salt for any of your beauty, household, or garden needs? Do you have any tips of your own for how to use it?

Sources: Epsom Salt Council and several other sites linked to within the post.

Linked to Inspire Me Monday, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Create and Inspire.

Home and Garden: Getting Organized for Fall

I found some great ideas on getting organized from MarthaStewart.com. There are a multitude of ideas on her site, and these are some of my favorites (all photos on this post are from MarthaStewart.com).

Leaf Notions for Sewing Tools: A leaf needle book, pincushion, and scissors holder…so cute! These would make a nice gift, too, for any sewers that you know!

Shoe and Boot Tray: With the upcoming rainy and cooler weather, this boot tray would be really handy to keep by your door. Fill it with stones so the excess rain (or snow and ice during winter) will drain to the bottom.

HOME OFFICE IDEAS: I liked this Bookcase Desk, which is really great if you have limited space for your home office. A door laid over the bookcases makes a great desktop, and if you want to protect the surface you can cover the door with a large piece of glass or clear acrylic cut to size.

I’ve used Envelope Pockets in some of my notebooks and journals for quite awhile…it’s such a handy way of organizing clippings, photos, business cards, receipts, and other small papers that can otherwise get easily lost. You can attach the top part of the envelope by moistening the glue on the flap and folding back to attach to the inside of your notebook cover (I also add some double-stick tape to the top center flap to make it extra secure). Use double-stick tape on the bottom corners of the envelope to attach them, too.

Make a Framed Bulletin Board by covering fiberboard with pretty fabric, place in a new or vintage frame, and hang with a wide, sturdy ribbon.

If you just don’t have room for a desk, you can create this Closet Office to help keep you organized. You can make wheeled shelves and dollys, for easier mobility, by putting casters on ready-made shelving pieces. Use storage boxes, tins, and baskets to keep everything neat and tidy.

Gardeners will appreciate these next three ideas…

Seed Storage: Did you know that seeds can actually die if they are not stored properly? To keep seeds at their best, store packets in an airtight container, like a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (you can use canning jars, but use new lids). Add moisture-absorbing sachets to the jar (wrap 2 Tablespoons untreated cat litter or powdered milk in a double layer of tulle), then close the lid tightly and store in a cool, dark place until spring.

Storing Terra-Cotta Pots: Help avoid broken pots by storing them the right way…after cleaning and drying pots, lay them on their sides in a wooden crate, nesting the pots in rows (don’t stack pots vertically, as they will be more likely to stick together). Keep out of the freezing cold when storing them.

Labeling Flower Bulbs: I didn’t realize you could label flower bulbs with a permanent marker! Isn’t that a great idea? That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re planting the following spring. Store bulbs in peat moss or newspaper in a cool, dark place over winter.

Hope you find these tips helpful as you get ready for Autumn! Do you have other special ways of getting your home and garden organized and ready for the cooler seasons?

Boxwood Basil

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This fall I decided to try growing a basil plant inside so I could use it for cooking during the winter. I have a really nice, large sunny window in one of my rooms and thought it would be the perfect spot for a pot of basil.

I decided to try a Boxwood Basil plant, which I purchased at Lowe’s. Boxwood Basil has much, much smaller leaves than other varieties of basil, but the flavor and aroma are the same. It’s great to be able to pick some tiny leaves from this plant and use them fresh in salads, soups and other things…there’s nothing like fresh basil! My little basil plant is doing so well by the sunny window, too. I just water it a little every other day.

If you’d like more tips on growing Boxwood Basil, check out this information at eHow.com.

Welcoming Autumn

It’s hard to believe fall is already here! I’m glad it is, though…I love the rich colors of autumn–bright orange pumpkins, mums that bloom in rusty reds and vivid purples, and changing leaves in all kinds of brilliant, beautiful colors.

I found lots of wonderfully inspiring autumn decorating ideas to help welcome in the season at BetterHomesandGardens.comsome of which I’m posting here. Hope you find some ideas you can use in your own home!

This beautiful Cornucopia Wreath (pictured above) sounds pretty easy to make…just attach leaves, miniature pumpkins, squashes, and gourds to a foam wreath form using wire and a hot glue gun.

Do you have any bittersweet or Chinese lanterns growing in your fall garden? To make this wreath, just strip the leaves from the bittersweet vines and Chinese lantern stems, then bend and twist the vines into a circle. Wrap the vines circle around a wire wreath form, then tuck in the Chinese lanterns, securing stems and loose pods with dots of hot glue.

This Gourd-and-Vine Wreath is made by attaching colorful long-necked gourds to a simple vine wreath with raffia or wire. Add some colorful berry sprays and a ribbon or raffia bow to finish it off.

Here’s an easy-to-make leaf wreath. Use colorful fresh leaves from your yard or pliable dried ones from your local craft store. Cut a slit in the center of each leaf with small scissors (you can cut several at once). String the leaves onto a wire wreath form until full, and hang on a door or wall with an autumn-color ribbon.

Hanging pinecone bunches make a nice fall door decoration, too. Just hot-glue the flat end of some smaller-sized pinecones around a 3-inch wide plastic foam ball, then tie a bow and hot-glue it onto the ball (you’ll also need enough ribbon to make a loop to hang this on your door… you could loop the ribbon around the center of your bow before you glue it onto the pinecone ball). For an extra-special touch, hang your family monogram from a ribbon, too.

I love this idea of hanging a wreath on the back of a chair with an elegant velvet ribbon!

White pumpkins make a nice arrangement with rustic twigs and pretty mums.

What a nice, welcoming display to have in your front yard…a wheelbarrow filled with pumpkins, gourds, and bittersweet vines!

You can make some pretty potted arrangements with a variety of autumn plants and flowers.

And don’t forget the ornamental Kale…isn’t it beautiful?

Last but not least, here’s a great idea for your entryway…fill a decorative container with pumpkins. gourds, Indian Corn, and mums!

You’ll find these and many other ideas at BetterHomesandGardens.com. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have to run to the store and get some mums and pumpkins now… :)

Remembering the Daisies

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Is is possible that summer is almost over? I will remember this summer as the summer of The Move and the hottest summer I’ve known in Arkansas. And I’ll remember how much I loved seeing the daisies begin blooming in my garden every June. Early in the month, they would start opening up, like little bursts of sunshine, along the back fence. I planted the Shasta Daisies from an inexpensive packet of seeds. I usually don’t have great success with seeds, but these sprouted right up and bloomed for several months that first summer. The next year there were even more daisies. After a few years, I started thinning the daisies out and giving them to friends to plant in their own gardens.

This particular daisy was one of the first that bloomed this summer. Little did I know when I took this picture in early June that a month later my house would be sold! I put it up for sale at the end of June, thinking that it might sell by next spring with the housing market being so slow. Much to my surprise, the house sold in a week! At first I was excited that it sold so fast, but then reality set in…I have a month to find a new place to live and move! Yikes!

The first two weeks of apartment-hunting were pretty discouraging. Nothing that I liked was available when I needed it. Rent was higher than I thought it would be. An apartment community I was interested in had an apartment available, but it was too small. Things were not looking good.

Then, the third week of my search, an apartment I could realistically fit into suddenly opened up at a place I really liked. My house was inspected and I didn’t have to repair or replace anything. Things were looking up!  The move was still pretty crazy, though. I didn’t realize how much “stuff” I had collected while living in my little house. I donated a lot of things to Goodwill. It felt good to do some “downsizing.” There’s nothing like a Move to make you want to get rid of things–especially when you’re moving in 105 degree heat! You certainly don’t want to be lugging things around that you don’t need or use.

I’m pretty settled in my apartment now, and I’m enjoying this new place that will be my home for the next year or two. Friends ask me if I miss the house. I don’t really…it wasn’t my “dream” house. It was a nice little home that I enjoyed living in for the time I was there. But it felt like the right time to sell and move. And I certainly don’t miss mowing the lawn :) But I do miss the flowers sometimes. I had flowers that bloomed from early spring to late fall…it was always a delight to watch them bloom each season.

And the daisies were one of my favorites.

A Surprise in my Garden

Now that we’re well into fall, I’ve been getting the garden ready for winter little by little. As I have time, I trim and clear the flower beds of dried stems and leaves so they’ll look a little neater over winter. As I was clearing one bed recently, I saw what looked like part of a cantaloupe under the leaves of another bushy plant. How would a cantaloupe get in my flower bed? I wondered. When I cleared away some of the growth covering this strange object, I discovered that it was indeed a nice round little cantaloupe still attached to the vine! I didn’t plant any cantaloupe seeds in my garden-I actually have tried to grow melons before, but with no success. So it must have grown from seeds in my compost pile. All year long, I continue to add coffee grounds, fresh fruit and vegetable scraps (including seeds), and plant clippings to the compost pile in my yard. This spring, I had a nice amount of rich, moist compost to spread around my flower beds. And without me realizing it, this cantaloupe vine had started growing in one of the beds, mostly hidden by other bigger plants. What a fun surprise! I felt a little sense of accomplishment as I picked the melon off the vine in my garden, even though I hadn’t really done anything to cause it to grow. So, I am resolving next year to try growing melons again!

In case you’re wondering what those other cuttings are in the basket, they are blooms from my garlic chive plants that are in the process of drying out. In the fall, I collect the seeds from the dried chive blooms. I plant these the following spring to grow more chive plants and also give the seeds to friends who plant them in their yards. Chives are so easy to grow and it’s great to have them growing all summer long so you can use them fresh when you cook and bake things! Finely chopped chives are also good mixed in cream cheese or scrambled eggs. Here’s a close-up of the chive bloom–those little black rounded shapes in the upper right of the photo are the seeds…

I haven’t cut open the cantaloupe yet…I want to admire it a little longer before I do! :)

Happy Autumn!

There’s just a few more hours of summer left…and while I will miss those long sunny days, I have to admit I’m looking forward to fall. As much as I love the bright, clean colors of summer, I also love the rich, deep colors of autumn that can be seen both inside and out…from autumn flowers and colorful turning leaves in the neighborhood to beautiful pillows, wall-hangings and tableware that add warmth to the home.

Bringing the rich color of the outdoors inside with fresh or dried flowers is a great way to decorate your home. Here are some flower tips I found in a magazine called Natural Home & Garden that you may find helpful.

CUT FLOWER TIPS:

  • When cutting stems, use a sharp knife or scissors and cut while holding under cold water.
  • Splice the ends of large stems to allow greatest water absorption.
  • Add a spoonful of sugar plus a few drops of lemon juice to your vase water to keep the flowers fresh longer.
  • Perk up wilted flowers by placing the stems in hot water for 20 minutes; then return to vase water.
  • To dry flowers, combine 30 percent borax and 70 percent white cornmeal. Cover flowers entirely and leave for several weeks.

(Source: Haley’s Hints Green Edition by Graham and Rosemary Haley.)

So enjoy your flowers and the rich autumn colors this season!

Linked to I’m Lovin’ It Fridays, Tickled Pink, Rednesday.

Garden Update: Late Summer

I thought I’d better post a summer garden update before summer is over! :) Even though we had a lot of hot, dry weather this summer, my flowers and herbs did pretty well. I have a lot of sun in my yard, so I always try to buy plants that do well in full sun. The plants I’m showing here all bloom most of the summer.

Here’s my basil, which really did great this year! I’ve enjoyed making a lot of pesto from the four small plants that I bought back in April, which have grown to be quite large. And I recently tried a new recipe with my basil, Creamy Lemon-Basil Pasta, which you may want to try…

One of my favorite bushes is my butterfly bush. It blooms most of the summer and the blooms have a light, pretty scent. They look a little like small lilacs…

Here’s a view of the entire bush–it’s so pretty when it’s in full bloom…

I have some flocks in my garden that I love seeing come up every year…

The daisies come up every year, too, and multiply like crazy! I planted a small patch of them from seeds, and now I have large clusters of them in many different places in my yard…

I have two lavender bushes–one in the front yard and one in the back. I love the smell of lavender, and I collect the buds and dry them so I can make lavender sachets and enjoy the scent all year long!

I’ve had these pretty yellow flowers in my yard for about five years…they come up every year and friends have asked me what they’re called, but I can’t remember their name! If any of you flower experts out there know, please tell me!

Last but not least, here’s a photo of a zinnia. They are such vivid, pretty flowers! I grew some from seeds that a friend gave me…

Well that concludes the “Late Summer” Garden Tour! Hope you enjoyed viewing all the summer plants!