Autumn Bouquets

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I am such a jar and bottle-saver! I save glass jars and bottles of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I was starting to get quite a collection and running out of space to put them, so I thought I’d make … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

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!

Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Salad

Fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella…three of my favorite things to eat, in one great salad! This is another quick and easy tomato recipe that I adapted from my old cookbook, The Tomato Cookbook. Also known as a Caprese Salad, it makes a nice lunch or light dinner. I’m so glad my garden tomatoes and basil are doing well…it’s great to just go out into the backyard and pick your meal fresh from your garden!  I don’t use any bug sprays on my plants; instead, I planted a big bunch of marigolds (from seeds saved from last year’s garden) near my basil and tomato plants, and have found that marigolds really do help keep the bugs away. Little by little, I’m learning how to do things the organic way. :)

TOMATO, BASIL, AND MOZZARELLA SALAD

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (about 5-6 medium size)
  • 12 ounces Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. each (or to taste) of salt, pepper, and sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • dash of red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts (optional)

Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, and arrange on a serving platter. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar if desired. Scatter basil leaves over the tomatoes and cheese (if using large basil leaves, you can chop them if you want; if using smaller basil leaves, just keep them whole). Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes and cheese. Add a dash or two of red wine vinegar if desired. Sprinkle on the toasted pine nuts if desired (to toast the nuts, put them in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until they are a pale golden color). Serve your salad with warm Italian ciabatta bread, garlic bread, or your favorite crusty bread. Makes 4 servings.

Linked to Just Something I Whipped Up MondayMarket Yourself Monday, and Rednesday.

Daylilies and Hostas

Daylilies and hostas are such pretty plants! They make a garden seem more full and lush. My daylilies and hostas began to bloom during mid-May and continued to bloom through the beginning of July.

It’s always nice to see the daylilies bloom–they add such pretty color to the landscape. I have quite a few daylilies in my backyard–three different varieties that are all very hardy and come up year after year. Many were dug up and transplanted to my yard from the gardens of my mother and my friend and fellow gardening enthusiast, Eileen. Here are some pictures I took of them during their prime blooming time…

I love their vivid colors–they really brighten up the garden. I just wish their blooming time were a little longer!

I also like the soft, pretty blooms of my hosta plants. They’re subtle and delicate, in contrast to the bolder daylilies. But there’s something soothing and graceful about them as their shoots spring up and the delicate, soft lavender-and-white buds begin to form.

These plants may be done blooming, but it’s nice to have pictures to remember how pretty they were!

Linked to Outdoor Wednesday.

The Amazing Cucumber

I found out some pretty interesting things about cucumbers from a blog called Stir, Laugh, Repeat. For instance, did you know that cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day? One cuke contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Zinc!

It’s amazing how good cucumbers are for you and all the different things you can use them for–and now when cucumbers are in such abundance, it’s a great time to try these tips:

FOR PERSONAL USE:

  • If you’re feeling tired in the afternoon, snack on a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and carbohydrates that can provide a quick pick-me-up. They’re also a good snack if you are having the “munchies”–a cucumber will help curb your appetite until mealtime.
  • To help reduce stress, cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water. The chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber react with the boiling water and are released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma.
  • For reducing the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite, rub a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes–the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite and wrinkles.
  • If you’ve had a spicy meal and are out of mints, take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath–the phytochemcials in the cucmber kill the bacteria in your mouth that cause it.

USES FOR YOUR HOME:

  • To keep your bathroom mirror from fogging up after a shower, rub a cucumber slice along the mirror to eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.
  • Use cucumbers to polish your shoes! Rub a freshly–cut cucumber over your shoes; you’ll have a quick and durable shine that also repels water.
  • If grubs and slugs are ruining your planting beds, place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans, but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.
  • If you’re out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge, just take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge–the squeak will be gone!
  • Here’s a “green” way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel: take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean. It will remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but it won’t leave streaks and won’t harm your fingers or fingernails while you clean.
  • If you’re using a pen and make a mistake, take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing. You can also use this on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls. :)

Hope you find these tips helpful! I’ll need to add a few more cucumbers to my shopping list!

Starbucks: Grounds for Your Garden

I’ve known about Starbucks’ Grounds for Your Garden for about three years now. But a lot of people don’t know about it, so I thought I’d mention it because it’s such a great idea! Starbucks actually started this program back in 1995, offering customers complimentary five-pound bags of used coffee grounds that they could use for their gardens, as part of their corporate effort to recycle and reduce waste. And they’ve continued doing this each year since…when spring comes around, you’ll notice bins filled with free packages of used coffee grounds in most Starbucks coffee shops. Each bag of grounds has a sticker attached that gives directions on how to use them–either by adding directly in the garden or in a compost pile.

Coffee grounds add valuable nutrients like nitrogen and potassium to your garden (other nutrients include phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and copper). You can mix coffee grounds into the soil or sprinkle them around any flowers in your garden as an extra fertilizer; they work well especially with acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, and magnolias. Or you can sprinkle lightly around vegetables in your garden. Don’t apply too thickly; the grounds applied directly to the soil should be less than 1/4″ thick to avoid the growth of certain fungus.

I read on the About.com website that coffee grounds can help control some bugs. They say that, supposedly, ants hate coffee–so you can try spreading the grounds where you have ant problems.

If you want to start composting at home, you can fill a wooden or plastic bin in your yard with a mixture of leaves and other yard trimmings; then mix in coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps from fruits and vegetables (do not add any scraps from animal products–that will contaminate your compost pile). Keep the materials in the bin moist and mix every so often to encourage the composting process. The compost will be ready to use in your garden when it fully decomposes into a dark rich soil-like material. You can layer on compost about 1/2 thick in your garden beds–it’s a great fertilizer and it discourages weeds and helps keeps plants moist, so you don’t need to water as often.

So try using some used coffee grounds in your garden–your plants will love it, and it’s a great way to help the recycling effort! It’s also a good excuse to stop by Starbucks and treat yourself to a yummy Frappuccino® this summer!

(Frappuccinos® pictured above are from the Starbucks website)

Linked to Anything Related Tuesday and Outdoor Wednesday.