Monday, July 27, 2009

Huzzah for the Moonflower!

Our baby step towards a full-blown (excuse the pun) Night Garden bloomed its first bloom tonight! The Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is beautiful, as you can see, and within a few days there should be lots of blooms - we plan to sit and wait for them to open each night. It's not exactly 'one small step for mankind', but it does have a magic of its own.

Goodnight Moon . . .

What Makes This Monday Cheery?

Flowers in our neighbor's garden - Brown-eyed Susan, to be exact. Well, to be really exact they're Rudbeckia Hirta, a member of the Sunflower family.

And also, one of our favorite never-fail plants - the Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea Batatas) - seen here behind the Polka Dot Vinca. I think this variety of SPV is called Marguerite. There's another great variety called 'Chillin' Limeade' that's even more of a glow-in-the-dark chartreuse. Three Great Things About the SPV: it can't be killed, it spreads like crazy, and it's really easy to root in water.

The only drawback for the lazy gardener is that the SPV can take over neighboring plants and one day you notice it's the only thing thriving in your container and several long tendrils of it are stretching across the porch floor (not unlike those creepy, sad Philodendrons in offices that are allowed - or even encouraged! - to wrap around the whole room or ceiling). So, don't be afraid to prune it often and stick the clippings in a vase for a week and then you'll have a pass-along!

Hope your gardening week is cheery as well . . .

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Etiquette Question of the Week: Thank-You Note Stationery

Thank-you notes are often a great source of stress - and they should not be! Unless you're dealing with a wedding or death, the modern rules are fairly relaxed. The only real rule is to send a thank-you promptly. People often ask about the type of stationery that's appropriate to use for a thank-you note. There used to be an unwritten rule about note cards with the words 'thank you' printed on them - these were considered tacky. (Actually there was a bit of a snob factor with this issue which we won't delve into now . . .) The key for us today is that this 'rule' no longer applies (again, the exception being very formal situations where you would use your own stationery - typically with your initials or monogram). After all, Crane makes many styles of cards with 'thank you' printed on them and they are the final word in stationery etiquette. (Their Blue Book is a must for any etiquette library!)

So, choose stationery that fits your personality, mood, and budget - with or without the words 'thank you' on the front. Fold-over cards are more suitable than flat, correspondence cards and this leaves you with so many great choices. Stock up on cute cards when they're on sale and you'll be ready to send a timely thank-you in style. As for me, I'm off to buy some adorable note cards I saw on sale earlier this week . . .

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Looking for the Perfect Tea Accessory?

How about a sterling silver tea strainer?

This gorgeous Art Nouveau strainer could brighten any tea table - and if you don't normally use loose tea, this could be just the incentive you need. Pair this with a great pair of sugar tongs, and you're ready for an elegant tea party!

But, don't save these just for special occasions - use them everyday. After all, one of the things tea lovers love about tea is that it offers a chance to relax and enjoy a few quiet, stress-free minutes. So add some beautiful accessories to your tea routine and you're sure to make time for tea more often - and who couldn't use more quiet, stress-free moments?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What's Pink & Green in the Garden?

Amaranthus Tricolor, better known as Joseph's Coat of Many Colors. This fabulous plant has stunning color and likes our hot, dry weather.

I love this plant because it always makes me smile - not only because it's so pretty, but it makes me think of Joseph and his horrid brothers which then makes me remember the Sunday School play about them when I was in 5th grade which, of course, leads to thoughts of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical and its great soundtrack (who doesn't love the Joseph Megamix?), which leads me to think of Donny Osmond and that's where the smile comes in. I don't think about Donny nearly as much as I did 30 years ago (I wonder where my powder blue Puppy Love cassette is now . . .), but whenever I water my Joseph's Coat I think of Donny and that's a happy memory (even if he turned out not to be my dream husband)!

Stay tuned for more about my actual dream husband and his boring single-color coats . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Makes This Wednesday Cheery?

I am hooked on the small 'try-it-first' cans of paint that are now widely available. I first purchased one of these last summer from Restoration Hardware and have since used the little cans to try lots of fun colors. The latest is 'New Grass Green' from Glidden and I'm trying it on the shelves in my laundry room. It's such a great color that I'm sure I'll end up buying a whole gallon, but it's hard to commit to a vivid color without seeing it in the room first - especially when you're surrounded by hundreds of paint chips.

If the color doesn't work for your original project, it can always be used for craft projects. Another great paint deal is to look for pre-mixed colors that were rejected for some reason. Most home stores have a shelf of these in a variety of finishes. So, if you're not set on a specific color, you may pick up a great paint at a bargain price. Must run now . . . have to try my new paint!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Meet Polly the Dolly

Inspired by the some fabulous sewing blogs, I decided to make a fabric doll for my niece. Using the pattern from Inside the Black Apple and fabric from Amy Butler, I started with high hopes. (BTW - if you're looking for Amy Butler fabric, several eBay fabric stores carry great fat quarter packs that let you try whole collections and are perfect for small projects like this!) I used velvet for the hair, instead of felt, but otherwise stuck closely to the original. Mine isn't as well-tailored as the ones for sale by Inside the Black Apple, but I'm pretty pleased with her and think my niece will like her, too. She has her own pillow and a quilt that was based on the full-size quilt on the May cover of my new favorite magazine - BBC Homes & Antiques. The next time you're browsing through the web, take a look at the many great craft and sewing blogs - you're sure to find some inspirational ideas . . . and it's the perfect time to begin making those holiday gifts!

Friday, July 10, 2009

What Makes This Friday Cheery?

Remember the fable of the ant and the grasshopper? During the busy spring months I often feel like the ant - weeding, planting, fertilizing, weeding, pruning, watering, etc. By the time July and August roll around, I'm not that motivated to spend hours in the garden. In fact, I've become the grasshopper - stretching out in the hammock with a good book when I should be gardening or at least spraying everything with a new coat of deer repellent! But, then on days like today the hard work pays real dividends - the first blooms open on plants that will reward us with color all summer. The native pollinators (that's bees in non-garden speak) and butterflies are busy hopping from bloom to bloom and suddenly I'm glad I was the ant for a while . . . and happy to now spend a few weeks as the grasshopper.

'Miss Huff' Lantana - loves the heat & blooms until frost

Crape Myrtle 'Muskogee' - look at all the buds!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Polite Police on Patrol - The Ladies Room!

Are you slightly creeped out by public restrooms? You don't have to be a full-fledged germophobe (think Mr. Monk and his ubiquitous wipes . . .) to avoid touching things in the ladies room. So, if you've already touched the yucky door handle, why not hold the door open for the next person? (Admit it - you love it when that happens to you.) Or if the paper towel dispenser requires you to pull a wet lever to get a new towel, why not go the extra step and leave a new towel for the next person? Much has been said about restroom etiquette -particularly the workplace restroom. However, I'm not dealing with any of those issues here - just the thought that a tiny bit of effort can brighten the day of someone else and the ladies room is just the place to start . . .

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sterling Flatware 101: Demitasse Spoons

If you would like to start collecting sterling silver flatware, but aren't sure where to begin, consider demitasse spoons. At around 4 inches, these spoons are used for small cups of coffee, espresso, etc. They are readily available, beautiful, and often inexpensive (less than $5 each).

Many times when you find them in antique shops or online auctions/stores, they are in pristine condition (like those from the 1950s in the photo above - see the gold washed bowls? no wear at all!). Apparently many brides received demitasse spoons without receiving the necessary demitasse cups and saucers and the spoons were subsequently packed away and never used. Even if you won't use these for fun after-dinner drinks, they are perfect for small desserts (think custard or pudding in tiny cups), serving small items, or just for display. And, like many miniature items they're just fun! But, be forewarned - this may lead to a collection of demitasse china as well . . .

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

If you're still in the mood for something patriotic when the fireworks end, check out the Smithsonian's website for neat info about the Star Spangled Banner.

Happy 4th!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What's Pink & Green in the Garden?

Begonias! Not only in the garden, but in containers as well. (And if you also have problems with Carolina Wrens nesting and scratching in your containers, try river stones or shells. Just a few will deter even the most persistent birds.)

Five things to love about begonias:

  1. Low maintenance

  2. Blooms all summer

  3. Spent blooms fall off - no need to deadhead

  4. Lots of variety in both leaf and bloom colors/textures

  5. Easily rooted in water

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