Keeping it Simple: DIY Garden Edging

The simple DIY projects always seem to turn out best for me.  It’s when I overthink things that I run into trouble.  So today, I am sharing one of the simplest and prettiest landscaping projects I have ever tried.

For the backstory, we look to my post Improvements in the Garden, where I shared a project months in the making:  Our new bluestone walkway.

The walkway connected the back porch to the greenhouse, the garden shed, and the back patio.

Bluestone garden pathway

Beautiful as it was, it still looked unfinished to me.  As you can see, we needed some sort of transition between the flowerbeds and the walkway.

bluestone garden pathway

And I worried about the soil from the flowerbeds eroding into the walkway.

Garden edging was in order here – something rustic and natural-looking so that it would look good with the bluestone and also with the old drystack wall in our patio area.

drystack wall
Back patio drystack wall.

Chris and I kicked around the idea of a similar but shorter drystack wall for the garden edging.  Getting just the right look would be tricky, but we could have Carlos (the landscaper who did our bluestone path) come back.  He would probably do a wonderful job.

But of course we were overthinking it.  And it sounded expensive.  I knew if we could just get some big, pretty rocks, I could do the edging  myself.

Finding Big, Pretty Rocks

I really think that rocks should be free – like air.  But they are actually kind of expensive, especially big, pretty rocks.

The big box home stores near us didn’t carry what we wanted, so we wound up driving to a large stone yard out in the country.

There, we found a huge variety of stones.  We quickly eliminated river rocks as an option – too round.  We needed something kind of square-ish but still natural-looking.

It didn’t take us long to settle on Eagle Mountain ledge stone, which comes from Montana.

At the stone yard

Chris and I loaded a pallet.  (Well, he did most of the loading while I wielded the camera.)

The stones were irregular in dimension.  We only had a vague idea of which size or thickness would work best, so we just got a mix.  We got a half ton, which turned out to be just enough.  The cost:  A little over $200.

Installing the Stones

My plan was very simple.  I hoped it would work.  First, I dug a shallow trench for the stones between the bluestone walkway and the flowerbeds.  The trench was at most an inch and a half deep.

DIY garden edging: valley carved for stones

Then I added a thin layer of sand for good luck.  I’m not sure the sand was even necessary.

Then the fun started. I placed the stones in the trench.   I made sure the prettiest stones were placed somewhere obvious.

DIY garden edging: stones set in valley

And I placed the taller stones where the soil was high to keep the soil from crumbling into the walkway.

DIY garden edging: stones set

I trundled 1,000 pounds of stone into place.  I spent so much time finding the right stone for the right location that I almost started giving them names.

I tapped each one with rubber mallet to make sure it was secure. These guys were heavy, which worked in my favor since once they were put in place, they didn’t want to move.

Burkedecor.com is all new

Then after the stones were set, I simply backfilled the flowerbeds behind the stones with soil and swept sand into the crack between the stones and the walkway.  Voila!

DIY garden edging: Eagle Mountain ledge stone

The stones already look like they have always been here.

DIY garden edging: Eagle Mountain ledge stone closeup

I strive for an old-world look in the garden and I think these stones fit the bill.

DIY garden edging with birdbath

DIY garden edging near shed

greenhouse and hardscaping

In fact, if I’ve had a glass of wine and the light is right, they kind of look like the remains of an ancient rock wall.  Okay, maybe that’s a stretch.

path leading to patio

DIY garden edging: center planter

All in all, a labor-intensive but satisfying project.

DIY garden edging: patio entry


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A Lapse in Judgment Becomes Garden Art

In a recent post, An Old Stereo Cabinet is Transformed, I picked on my long-suffering husband, Chris, because he brought home an abandoned piece of furniture that didn’t seem to be worth the trouble of rehabbing.  But what I didn’t mention is that, around the same time, I did the exact same thing.

Only what I brought home was too icky to even bring into the house.

On the Curb for a Reason

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know that I have a hard time ignoring any piece of interesting furniture that has been kicked to the curb, like this dresser.

One of my hard-learned lessons is that I really should ignore any discarded piece of furniture that has upholstery, cushions, foam – in short, soft surfaces that more often than not harbor bad smells, mold, and even cooties.

But this chair.  Sure it had upholstery and foam, but it also had fun lines.  At one time, I reasoned, this chair must have really been something.  And I could bring it back to its former glory.

Chair as found on curb

My inner voice was screaming “You idiot!” as I packed it into my car.

When I got it home, Chris’s only comment was, “Looks like it’s been sitting outside for a while.”

I was already planning to replace every soft surface, but now the wood was also in question.  What kind of wood-eating insects were living in there?

I was tempted to take it back to the curb where I found it, but it was too late now, and someone might see me.

But no way was this cootie-laden white elephant coming into the house.  I would have to turn it into garden art.

Garden Art and Spider’s Nests

The seat of the chair would become a shallow planter, and the chair would be placed in the shade garden.

Preparing for Paint

I started by removing the upholstery and foam padding.  The chair had been poorly reupholstered with a lavender-colored faux-leather fabric fastened by a million tiny exposed staples.

Removing all the staples was time consuming but it gave me a chance to obsess over my poor judgment.

Allsop Home & Garden

I uncovered a sturdy set of metal springs in the seat.  They were fastened so well that I decided not to remove them.  I had already been through enough.

I scrubbed the chair clean – what was left of it.  All I had at this point was the wooden frame and an interesting set of seat springs.  Kind of cool!

Choosing the Paint

The lines of the chair would really pop with the right color.  But this chair was large.  If I painted it a bright color, it would look gaudy – like a clown throne at a circus.

So I needed a strong yet quiet color – something that would look nice in the shade garden.  I decided on a satin Valspar outdoor paint in “Oceanic” – a dignified shade of blue.

I masked off the seat springs before painting.

Garden art: Chair ready for paint

When I turned the chair upside down to paint the underside, I discovered a spider’s nest.  Since I was leaving the chair outside, I just left the nest and avoided spray painting it.  Let the little guys hatch.

Creating a Planting Area

The frame of the seat was about four inches deep, so Chris built a bottom for the frame out of plywood and drilled in a few drain holes.

Now the seat was a shallow planter with a set of springs at the top for interest.

Garden art: chair converted to planter

Planting the Seat

I filled the seat/planting area with good soil and planted a common ground cover – golden creeping Jenny – between the seat springs.   The plants could wind around the springs to create a fun look.

Garden art: Chair with creeping jenny winding around metal springs

Garden art: chair with creeping Jenny winding around springs

In the Shade Garden

My garden is very colorful, especially my back patio.  So I would probably have done this chair differently if it was going to be somewhere other than the shade garden.

But the shade garden is where I can rest my eyes.  It’s filled mostly with greens, whites, and blues – cool colors.  I didn’t want an accent piece that interrupted that quietness.

The chair, large as it is, is understated enough to fit in, yet it still catches the eye.

Garden art: chair converted to planter

Chair as garden art - arm detail

Chair as garden art

The golden creeping Jenny, recently planted, is just starting to spill over the sides of the frame.

I always have a lot to do in the garden, so I wanted a plant for this chair that would be low maintenance.  The creeping Jenny fits the bill.  I just need to cut it back once a year.  And once trimmed back, the metal springs can take over with their structural interest until the plants emerge again.

I played with the idea of fastening chicken wire to the back of the chair so that vines could creep up the back.  But the chair has such fun lines that I didn’t want it to be overpowered by plants.

So the back of the chair is left open to “frame” the ferns behind it.

Garden art - back of chair as frame

Baby Spiders

A few days ago, I was weeding around the chair.  And when I bumped it, dozens of tiny baby spiders cascaded from the arm on a delicate web chain.  The nest had hatched – luckily outside!


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April Floral Inspiration: Silver Dollar Eucalyptus

One of my favorite fillers for floral arrangements is silver dollar eucalyptus.  This airy, showy species of eucalyptus adds a casual elegance to any floral arrangement.

A small grocery store bunch costs around $5, so I was very pleased when my neighbor gave away the branches of the silver dollar eucalyptus tree that she had cut down.

I made off with a couple of large branches.  By then, the tree had been cut down for several days.  But the branches still smelled fresh and wonderful, and the large, round, blue-silver leaves were still gorgeous.

I cut the the branches into smaller sections to use in floral arrangements.

Silver dollar eucalyptus

Drying the Eucalyptus – The Easy Way

I had more eucalyptus than I could use at any given time.  So I wanted to try drying it.

I learned that eucalyptus can be preserved by placing the stems in a combination of water and glycerin – if the stems are fresh enough to absorb the mixture.

But these stems were starting to dry out.  There was no way that they were going to absorb anything.

I read that eucalyptus could be air dried if placed in a warm, dry, and dark location.  So for lack of a better place, I put them in my little greenhouse.  It was bright in there, but still warm and dry.  And I figured that two out of three wasn’t bad.

greenhouse full of eucalyptus

After several days, it seemed the eucalyptus had dried, and I needed to take back the greenhouse for other things.

I left one small bunch in the greenhouse, and it has done fairly well although withering a bit from the bright exposure.

Silver dollar eucalyptus

Alone or With Flowers

The rest I stashed around the house.  It looks elegant all by itself, whether in a large bunch or just one sprig.

Silver dollar eucalyptus in an ice bucket

Silver dollar eucalyptus in a vignette

The eucalyptus has been dried for at least a month now, and while the leaves have curled a little and the color has changed from silver-blue to more of a green, it’s still very beautiful.

And it still makes a lovely filler.  Here, leaves are simply tucked in where needed to conceal a tape grid at the mouth of this vase.

Silver dollar eucalyptus with carnations

And here, branches add interest to a pitcher of lilacs.

Silver dollar eucalyptus with lilacs

Of course it is brittle now and needs to be handled carefully. And the fresh eucalyptus scent is gone.

But it’s good to know that this beautiful floral filler really does dry nicely even without the glycerin mixture.



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An Old Stereo Cabinet is Transformed

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.


A while back, while driving to an appointment, I noticed that someone had left two unwanted pieces of furniture out on the curb.

One piece was a cute older dresser that I knew I could bring back to life with the right paint treatment.

I didn’t pay much attention to the other piece.  I didn’t really know what it was other than a plain and ugly old cabinet.

I texted my husband, Chris, asking if he could bring the truck and pick up the dresser.  Then I scurried off to my appointment.

Later I saw a text from Chris saying that he had picked up both pieces.

From Music to Spirits

The ugly cabinet was a mid century stereo cabinet. Chris wanted to convert it to a liquor cabinet.

I was a little skeptical.   Was this piece really worth the trouble?

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Cabinet before restoration

At least the legs were unique.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: the legs

Finding the Look

To me, the wood didn’t look like anything special.  I assumed it was either cheap wood or a cheap veneer over some sort of plywood.  I have seen some fun transformations of mid century furniture using paint, and I thought that paint was the perfect option for this piece.

But a little sanding revealed that the cabinet was actually solid mahogany.  So there would be no paint going on here. Chris loves the look of quality wood.

Bringing the Original Beauty Back

The first thing Chris did was remove the flimsy pegboard back.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: The back of the cabinet

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: removing the back of the cabinet

He used an orbital sander with 40-grit sandpaper to strip off the original finish – and decades of gunk.  Then he used 120-grit sandpaper to bring out the grain.

He repaired the dings and gouges in the wood using Wunderfil Walnut Wood Filler.  He let that dry and then sanded it.

Then, using a rag,  he applied Daly’s #288 Analine Dye. Over that, also using a rag, he applied a layer of Daly’s dark mahogany wood stain. He left the stain on for only 15 seconds and then wiped it off.


Finally, he applied thee coats of General Finishes Oil & Urethane in Satin using a Verathane applicator for oil-based finishes.  (The applicator is really for finishing wood floors, and it’s larger than Chris needed.  So he just cut it into smaller pieces and made sure he vacuumed away any lint before using it.)

Using 400-grit sandpaper, he hand sanded between each coat.

Damage Control

Now the cabinet was gorgeous, but one thing was still bothering Chris: The hinged lid to the turntable compartment. It was made up of two pieces of heavy mahogany that were joined together only by glue.  And with all the sanding, the glued seam was starting to separate.

So he separated the two pieces and re-joined them using wood dowels and fresh glue.  He set the seam to dry using these huge clamps.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Clamps for repairing turntable top

Now the seam is stronger and barely noticeable.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: repaired turntable top
Can you find the glued seam in this photo?

A New Back

Since the cabinet is already very heavy, he used lightweight but durable tempered hardboard for the  back.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: New Hardboard Back

Happy Hour!

What was once the turntable compartment is now a great place to store bottles and ice buckets.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Interior of turntable compartment

One of my favorite features of this piece is the long brass hinge in this compartment.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Turntable compartment hinge

Chris removed one interior shelf to make room for a wine rack.

Wine rack

So with a few refinements, an obsolete piece of furniture was transformed into something useful.

From this . . .

Mahogany stereo cabinet before

To this.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Mahogany cabinet after

And the piece is still true to its original form, although I can’t help wondering if it even looked this good when it was brand new.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Mahogany cabinet after, doors open

 

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: cabinet from side

Mid Century Furniture Restoration
It’s five o’clock somewhere!

I underestimated this little stereo cabinet.

Lessons learned:  Before I dismiss an old piece of furniture, I will take a closer look, and I won’t assume anything.

So what about the dresser I found on the curb with this cabinet? It’s still in the basement awaiting my attention.

This post is for entertainment only and is not a tutorial.


Resources:

Outfitting a liquor cabinet can be as fun and affordable as you want to make it.

The copper cocktail mugs are high on my wish list.


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DIY Soup Can Planters: An Experiment in Rust

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.


The project that I’m about to share is not for everyone.  But if you like rusty things, then this one’s for you.

A couple of months back, while at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, I noticed this cute little planter at one of the booths in the marketplace.

inspiration
Cute planter as found at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

I just loved the rustic patina and wondered if I could duplicate it.

So for fun, I saved a few empty soup cans.  I removed the labels and cleaned them.

before

The Experiment Begins

The patina I wanted to copy looked like a mixture of paint and rust. The paint part was easy enough, but what about the rust?

There are some wonderful rust accelerators on the market, but I wanted to keep this experiment low-budget since, after all, it was only an experiment.

My husband, Chris, offered to whip up a rust accelerator for me using simple household ingredients.  So while he searched Google, I searched through our spray paint cans.

The paint

Since I wanted to experiment with different results, I thinly sprayed the soup cans with random combinations of Rust-Oleum Heirloom White and Rust-Oleum Matte Citron – both paints that I already hand on hand.

I sprayed some cans with only the Heirloom White, some with only the Matte Citron, and some with both colors.  I made sure to leave a few unpainted patches of raw metal – mostly at the top of each can.

Then I rubbed each can with steel wool, especially on the horizontal ribs, to expose even more metal.  The photo below shows it better than I can explain it.

DIY Rusty Patina - partially painted first

You can see that I wasn’t going for accuracy here, which is what is so fun about this project.

The rust

Meanwhile, Chris was mixing up his special batch of rust accelerator in a spray bottle, using a formula he found on this website.

The formula, which should be mixed in a certain order, calls for white vinegar, salt, and hydrogen peroxide.  All fairly innocent ingredients on their own.  But combined, they become a strong, wicked acid. Wear eye protection and gloves when mixing or handling.  Use this mixture in a well-ventilated area and away from anything that you don’t want to rust, stain, or inadvertently kill (sorry lawn). For more safety information, head back to this website.

Before I applied this mixture, I saturated each can with white vinegar. This etches the metal so it will better absorb the mixture.  Then I let the cans dry completely.

Now it was time to apply the magic mixture.  Using a spray bottle, I saturated each can.

It didn’t seem to work – at first.  Then after a few minutes the rust started.  I let each soup can dry, and then I reapplied the mixture.

Soon I just filled a shallow plastic pan with about 1/8-inch of the rust mixture and rolled the cans in the mixture, let them dry, then rolled them again.

I rolled the cans about four times.  It seemed that the mixture was starting to eat through the spray paint a bit.

Finally I was happy with the patina, although I might have overdone it.  The cans did turn out rustier than my original example.

The finish coat

I rinsed each can off with water.  I noticed that if I rubbed the cans at all, the paint would flake off and expose the un-rusted metal underneath.  Not good.

So once the cans were dry, I applied two coats of a clear, flat acrylic finish by Krylon to stabilize the patina and prevent any more paint from flaking off.

All done!  I love the rustic results.

DIY rusty patina

A Planter or a Vase

My cans look like a vintage find from Grandpa’s tool shed.

DIY rusty patina - planter

Since some plants don’t take well to being planted directly into metal containers, I plant them in small plastic pots and then set those pots inside the cans.

The cans also make cute vases.  I think they would be fun as table decor for a rustic-themed reception.

DIY rusty patina - vase

I could also see using cans of varying sizes in groups as a centerpiece.

To avoid having the cans leave a rust stain on any surface, I will use little coasters under them.

This post is for entertainment only and is not a tutorial.


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Love rusty metal?  Check out the huge supply of rusty things on Etsy.

I especially love these cute industrial planters from Mike and Art Design.

rusty planter
Photo courtesy of Mike and Art Design.

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Improvements in The Garden

To mark my 100th post, I’m writing about something important to me – something months in the making:  Our backyard re-landscape.

Like most projects, this one started out as a small repair job that grew.

If It’s Broken, Fix It.  Then Keep Going.

Part of a narrow walkway made of broken Pennsylvania bluestone had been torn up to make way for our little greenhouse.  The walkway needed to be repaired, and things were a real mess.

New garden walkway: before
Our walkway in pieces after the greenhouse installation.

The little walkway ambled behind a large circular planting area and led into our back patio.

Old garden walkway

Cute but very impractical as this was never how we accessed the patio.  No, to get to the patio from our back porch, Chris and I – and guests – had to trudge through the lawn.

Getting to the tool shed also meant walking through a sometimes soggy or muddy lawn.

Before the new walkway
The tool shed (left) and patio (center) could only be accessed by walking through the grass.

Same story with the new greenhouse.

Greenhouse before the new garden walkway

So we decided to expand the bluestone walkway so that it connected everything – the back porch, the greenhouse, the patio, and the shed.  Hooray!

Designing the New Walkway

I wanted to keep an informal feel to the new walkway so that it complemented our cottage-style garden and house.  That meant curves instead of straight lines.

We could have drafted up a blueprint or scale drawing, but instead we simply laid out our garden hose in different configurations until we had an idea of what we wanted – sweeping lines, generous proportions.

Planning the new garden walkway

This was an easy and accurate visual aid.  Now we just had to find someone to show it to.  We decided to hire a professional landscaper since the bluestone slabs would be huge and heavy, and they would need to be cut properly to look right.

Finding Help

We met with several landscaping companies that specialized in this kind of hardscaping.  But in the end, we went with a landscaper we met during a walk in the neighborhood. Carlos was doing a beautiful walkway replacement for a neighbor so we got a firsthand look at his work.

The Project Begins

The project started last fall.  Chris and Carlos marked the outline of the new walkway.

New garden walkway: marking the path

Then the grass was removed and a gravel bed was poured as a foundation.

New garden walkway: gravel poured

Sand was poured over the gravel.  Then it was leveled and compacted.

New garden walkway: leveling the sand

We also took this opportunity to do something about the tool shed. It had begun to settle and was sinking on one side.

shed on rollers

So the shed was lifted, put up on rollers, and then set back down onto a better foundation.

Then the huge stone slabs arrived.

New garden walkway: bluestone slabs

They were cut and set into place.

New garden walkway: cutting the stones

New garden walkway: partially done

Carlos did a terrific job of cutting the stones.

new garden walkway: stones in place

The existing walkway and patio had mortar joints between the pavers.  But every landscaper we talked to advised against using mortar on the new portion because the mortar would eventually crack.

So we decided to use polymeric sand instead.  It is said to be more stable than regular landscaping sand but more flexible than mortar.

We needed a certain temperature and several days of dry weather to install the sand.  With the holidays almost upon us at this point,  the project was put on hold.

But recently, the weather cooperated – and we were able get back on Carlos’s busy schedule.   It took him just a few hours to pour the sand into the joints.  Then it had to sit and dry for a few days.

New garden walkway: facing south from in front of greenhouse

New garden walkway from back porch

New garden walkway: flower bed and greenhouse

New garden walkway: connecting shed to greenhouse

 

New garden walkway connecting to old patio work
The old and new bluestone work connects here.
New garden walkway leading to existing patio
New garden walkway leading to existing patio

It looks so new now, but over time I think it will blend well with the older patio work, especially once more of the perennials emerge and soften the look.

More Improvements Coming

I just love how our new walkway turned out, but there is still much to do.

Garden Edging

We want to put in some sort of edging between the flower beds and the walkway.  This will give the new walkway a softer look and also keep the soil from eroding into it.

New garden walkway

I want to keep it charming – nothing that looks too man-made.  We are hoping to just use natural stones.

The Greenhouse Foundation

I also want to do something about the greenhouse foundation. To me, the bare pressure-treated wood makes it look unfinished.

Sunglo greenhouse foundation

Maybe I’ll stain or paint it, or maybe we’ll do some kind of stone facade.  I’m not sure yet, but of course I will keep you updated.

Thanks for 100 Posts

My readers mean a lot to me.  Some of you have been with me from the start (hi Mom), but if you have just found me, I hope you will continue to visit.

Many bloggers map out their posts months in advance, but I usually just write about what is interesting and share-worthy to me at the moment.   Most times, even I don’t know what is coming next.  So thank you for putting up with that!

For a look at my previous posts, check out my photo gallery.


 

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March Floral Inspiration: The Skagit Valley Daffodil Fields

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.


Last month’s floral inspiration post featured a stunning floral sculpture – the result of one artist’s fanciful, intricate interpretation of a flowering tree. This month, we spin the dial in the opposite direction and visit the humble field daffodil before it is even plucked from the earth.  Well, not just one daffodil – fields and fields of them.

Yes, we are headed to Washington State’s Skagit Valley – home to some of the most prolific bulb farms in the U.S.  Most of these farms are owned by families that originated in Holland.

In April, many Washingtonians (including me) look forward to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, when the valley floor comes alive with colorful bands of blooming tulips.

tulips just starting to bloom - skagit valley
Tulips just starting to bloom in the Skagit Valley

Beating the Crowds

This popular attraction, now in its 33rd year, can get crowded.  So this year, I wanted to get ahead of the crowd and instead check out the La Conner Daffodil Festival, which takes place in March.  The driving route is almost identical to the tulip festival route, but the earlier-blooming daffodils are the main attraction.  Three major varieties of daffodils are grown in the fields.

Now, to convince my husband, Chris, to tiptoe through the, uh, daffodils with me, I had to throw in an element of adventure.

So I told him we could bike the daffodil route.

Heidi and Bikes - Daffodil fields of the Skagit Valley
Me with our bikes in the Skagit Valley

Our Day Among The Daffodils

We parked the car in La Conner, a quaint little town on the Swinomish Channel, and hopped on our bikes.

There was so much to see that it seemed we stopped every mile or so.

Red barn and daffodil fields
Chris in front of the red barn.

pastures, daffodil fields, and mountains

daffodil fields

Country setting

Biking the route was better than driving it because we really felt connected to the valley.  We could hear bird songs and see snow geese in the fields and hawks hovering overhead.

The Big Attractions

Our first big stop was Roozengaarde, a huge bulb farm with over 1,000 acres of fields growing tulips, daffodils and irises. Roozengaarde has a gift shop and a beautiful display garden.

Flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs at Roozengaarde
Flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs at Roozengaarde
Roozengaarde pink tulip
A short-stemmed tulip at Roozengaarde

Daffodils under a tree in Roozengaarde garden

Roozengaarde hyacynths
Hyacynths in the Roozengaarde display garden

And beyond the lawn behind the display garden, fields of daffodils seemed to stretch to the mountains.

Daffodil fields at RoozenGaarde with Mt. Baker in the background.
Roozengaarde daffodil field with Mt. Baker in the background

Next we rode to Tulip Town, another large farm that grows and sells bulbs and other perennials.  The fields of Tulip Town were starting to show signs of spectacular color to come.

Tulip Town ulip fields
Tulip fields at Tulip Town

By now we were starting to feel pressed for time, so we didn’t linger in Tulip Town as long as I would have liked.

Getting Distracted

We hit the road again.  And not that this has anything to do with daffodils, but we happened upon the cutest unexpected sight: Miniature donkeys!

miniature donkeys

The next stop was Christianson’s Nursery. This place really speaks to me because they have several historic structures on the nursery grounds that the owners have rescued from other locations.

My favorite is the Meadow School, built in 1888. It is still used for classes – gardening classes, that is, held by the nursery.

Meadow Schoolhouse Interior
Meadow School interior

I could have spent hours in their quaint gift shop.

Christianson's nursery gift shop
A gift shop at Christianson’s Nursery

And I also fell in love with their many vintage greenhouses, especially this one from the 1940s.

Christianson's nursery old greenhose

Christianson's nursery greenhouse interior

But we were getting hungry.  It was time to wrap up the 16-mile ride and head back to La Conner to find food.

Daffodils in the City

Flower vendors in Seattle’s Pike Place Market sell the fancier filled daffodils which come mostly from farms near the city of Carnation.

Pike Place Market flowers
Pike Place Market, Seattle

To me, their soft beauty rivals any peony or rose.

Filled daffodils

But I wanted to use regular field daffodils to fill this French pitcher* that Chris gave me for Christmas.

Field daffodils in blue pitcher

It took two grocery store bundles to fill the pitcher – $4 well spent.


*The blue pitcher is by Emile Henry.  This company specializes in kitchenware and bakeware.  For Christmas, Chris gave me a mix of vintage and new Emile Henry bakeware.  I love the look, the quality, and how easy the pieces are to clean.

Emile Henry is a French company, and most of their items are made in France.

A nice assortment of vintage Emile Henry can be found on Etsy.

orange emile henry
Photo courtesy of Coastal Maison



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A Master Bedroom Refresh

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.


My Beloved Rag-Rolled Walls

Years ago, I painted our bedroom walls a buttery yellow, and over that I applied an amberish-colored rag-rolled finish.

The walls are the original textured plaster from the 1920s. The rag-rolled finish gave them an aged patina – almost like the inside of an ancient adobe house.  I was thrilled.

Master Bedroom Refresh: Before refresh with rag rolled walls

I thought I would never want to change it.

Still, it bothered me a little that the walls didn’t really look right with the ceiling or moldings.  So we repainted the ceiling.  And the walls still didn’t look quite right.  The room didn’t look terrible, it was just that nothing was working well together.

Master Bedroom Refresh: Before refresh with rag rolled walls

But I was busy with other things, and I still loved those walls.

A New Color Crush

Along came Downton Abbey.  Eventually I fell in love with the serene blue walls in Cora Crawley’s bedroom.  Sometimes they looked blue, and other times more green – almost blue but not quite.

And that is what I wanted – that “almost blue.”  Which meant the rag rolling had to go.

The right “almost blue” was not easy to find. After much searching and deliberation, I decided on Benjamin Moore’s “Galt Blue” (CW-560).

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.
Priscilla lounges on her bed.

I love the soft color.  Like in Cora’s bedroom, the color does seem to morph from a seaglass green to a blue depending on the light.

Photographing this color accurately was tricky, but I finally found a camera setting that got it almost right.

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.

Below the walls look almost green in contrast with the blue in our master bath (Valspar’s Amercian Traditions “Sky Blue”).

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.

New Bedding

The quilt, which I’d also had for years, didn’t work with the new wall color so I found something more neutral.

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.

New Window Coverings

I brought in these lace curtains from another room.

Master Bedroom Refresh: new window treatments.

The white aluminum mini blinds were dust collectors.  I wanted something with more contrast, so I replaced them with matchstick bamboo roll-up blinds.

Master Bedroom Refresh: new window treatments.

These surprisingly inexpensive blinds add a bit of natural texture but still give the windows a light and airy look.

The blinds are very sheer.  They don’t completely block out the light or the view.  But since it would take a hover craft for anyone to actually see into these windows, I am not too worried about that.

A Few Little Tweaks

The cheval mirror looked out of place near the window and blocked the little print hanging behind it.

Master Bedroom Refresh: Before refresh with rag rolled walls

A cute antique floor lamp sat in a forgotten corner of the bedroom, so I moved it to where the mirror had been and grouped it with a small table and a chair to create a little sitting area.

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new sitting area.

The mirror makes more sense next to my husband’s tallboy dresser.  I have a separate little dressing room, so I rarely use that mirror anyway.

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color.

Striking a Balance

I feel there is a balance between masculine and feminine decor in this room.  Sure, I fantasized about making the room very girly, maybe painting the dressers and the headboard – not that my husband would stand by for that.

But in the end, the masculine-feminine balance is what grounds a room and keeps it interesting.

One Thing Left to Do

I would like to replace the bedside lamps with something more substantial,

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.

similar to the ones below.



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A Busy Mom’s Guide to Creating Birth Annoucements

This post was sponsored by minted.com.  All opinions expressed are my own.


Recently my brother and sister-in-law welcomed a sweet little baby girl into the world.  Everyone is over the moon, and Daisie’s arrival feels like the start of a new era.

Bringing a new baby home is such a happy event.  Every little task is a milestone.  I wanted to join in the fun, so I offered to help my sister-in-law, Maura, create birth announcements.

We used minted.com to design them, and in this post I share a few tips based on what we learned.

Start by Browsing the Designs

This helps you get an overview of what is available and a sense of what you like – be it classic, simple, sweet, fun.

a handwritten hello
“A Handwritten Hello” birth announcement. Image courtesy of minted.com.

The search filters help narrow down your options.

Browsing the designs can also help you:

1.  Test Your Photo

If you already have a photo you would like to use, you can plug that photo into the “find it fast” feature to see how it looks in multiple card designs and with various text placements.  This is a quick way to pinpoint your options.

And if you have not chosen a photo yet, browsing the designs will help you decide which photos would work best in the designs that you like.

2.  Decide on Wording

Writers block?  Not sure what tradition dictates? Not to worry, the card designs all have wording samples that serve as a starting point.

Wording for baby announcements can be fairly simple – as in this example.

Chic Baby Birth Annoucements
“Chic Baby” birth announcement. Image courtesy of minted.com.

3.  Become Familiar With Time-Saving Options

Maura was happy to discover that the birth announcement she chose offered a coordinating thank you card.

Thank you card and announcement
Daisie’s thank you card and birth announcement

This provided a unified look and saved time over having to browse for a thank you card as a separate step.

Photographing Baby Yourself

Shortly after Daisie came home, Auntie Heidi (that’s me!) brought over her nice DSLR camera and tripod to take photos of Daisie to use in the birth announcements.

And that is when Auntie Heidi learned that some things are best left to a professional photographer.

But one of my photographs was chosen for the thank you card.

Daisie's thank you card

And I did learn a few things:

1.  The Basics

Use your best camera – a DSLR if you have one – and a tripod if you can.  Use natural or deflected light, not a flash.  For good natural light, try taking the photos near a large window.  Save your photos in high resolution, large file sizes.

2.  The Background

I didn’t notice until after the photo shoot that most of my backgrounds were too strong.  To feature a baby properly, the background should be as neutral as possible – like in this example.

Organic Newborn Birth Announcements
“Organic Newborn” birth announcement. Image courtesy of minted.com

3.  Just for Fun: Try Using Continuous Shooting

It seemed to me that Daisie’s expression was constantly changing, even when she was asleep.  I tried to capture her cutest expressions – only to miss them by a nanosecond.

So as an experiment, I set my camera (which was on a tripod) on “self-timer: continuous.” This worked well since the delay of the self-timer eliminated any camera shake after pressing the shutter.  Then the camera automatically took ten shots in quick succession.

Even though the shots weren’t used in the announcement, the variety was fun. I especially like this one, which I call “talk to the fist.”

Talk to the hand

(I hate to state the obvious, but Daisie is quite advanced for a newborn.)

4.  The Power of Black and White

We wound up choosing a sweet black and white photo taken by a talented photographer at the hospital.  There is just something timeless about black and white photos.

Announcement photo

Customizing the Design

Once we had chosen a photo and an announcement design, the fun really started.  We could choose from a variety of shapes.  We could also choose the font type, size, and color, and the format (flat or folded).

Here is an example of the birth announcement design we chose, which is called “Editor.”

Editor Birth Annoucement
“Editor” birth announcement. Image courtesy of minted.com.

And here it is after we customized it.

announcement

I think the pink photo border looks beautiful around the black and white photo.  You can see that we customized the font color, size, and type, and chose a scalloped frame.  We made the same font choices for the thank you card to keep the look cohesive.

The back of the birth announcement provided more choices: A pattern for a finished look, or blank for a place to hand-write individual messages.  But Maura went with the third option of adding another photo and a printed message. This was also a time-saving feature since it eliminated the need for handwritten messages while still adding a personal touch.

The envelopes were also customizable with color and liner options. We took advantage of the free recipient addressing for the envelopes, and they look beautiful.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when I find something like this in my mailbox.

envelope

I enjoy social media but I feel that, for marking life’s milestones, nothing will ever compare to the tangible satisfaction of holding a fine-quality announcement in my hand.  The text might not say it, but the message is clear:  “It’s official – you now have a beautiful niece!”


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Three Charming Little Easter Decor Ideas

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links


 

Easter falls in March this year, so it’s not too soon for me to share three fun little decor and gift ideas.

1.  Tiny Little Eggshell Planters and Vases

I love it when I can combine a couple of ideas and get something new.  The March edition of Martha Stewart Living had a beautiful little one-page article on using the shells of goose, turkey, and duck eggs to make mini vases and baskets.  Then I saw something on Instagram about starting seedlings in eggshells. Those ideas got me thinking.

I remembered the eggshells that I had painted black as part of my Haunted Hatchlings Halloween scene.  They looked good and, because of a little trick I had discovered, they were also crack and shatter resistant.

I decided to try a variation of those eggshells to make tiny little planters and vases for Easter using the shells of the brown eggs that I had on hand.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg shell vases and planters.

Cracking the Eggs

So for a couple of mornings, when making breakfast, I saved the eggshells. I placed each egg in a shot glass and cracked it carefully around the top with a knife so most of the shell would be left intact but I could still lift off the top and empty the egg easily.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases step one: cracking the egg

I didn’t worry too much about getting a very straight break since the uneven, broken edges add charm.

Coloring the Shells

I used a gel food coloring (Betty Crocker Classic Gel Food Colors) to color the eggshells.  Since they were brown shells, the color did not turn out as clear and bright as they would have with white eggs, but that didn’t matter because this was just the base coat.  The interior of the shells turned out bright and pretty.  To add to the variety, I left a few shells undyed.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step two dying the egg

Adding Some Sparkle

I wanted my tiny vases to have some elegance and polish so they could be used even after Easter.  So I thinly coated the exterior of each shell with metallic craft paint (Dazzling Metallics “Dark Patina” and Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Metallic “Gold”), and then I squirted them lightly with water from a spray bottle.  I let the water run down the sides of the shells to create a mottled finish.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step three: adding some sparkle

Reinforcing the Shells

To make the shells crack resistant, I painted two coats of Mod Podge on the outside of each shell and one coat on the inside.  Although the shells were noticeably more stable after this, I still had to use care when working with them.

Making the Shells Stand Upright

Now I wanted the shells to stand upright.  So far I had only used materials that I already had around the house, so I wanted to continue doing that.

I am a bit of a vintage button weirdo, and for some strange reason I tend to hoard them.  So I glued vintage buttons to the bottom of each shell as a base.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg shell vases and planters, step 5: Adding a base

Adding Flowers and Tiny Plants

This was the funnest part of this fun project.  I used a small teaspoon to fill some of the shells with pre-moistened soil, and then I carefully planted tiny succulents.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step 6: planting the tiny plants

Other shells became vases for tiny flowers from my garden: Primroses and violets.  Of course I knocked a vase over by accident. It didn’t break, but I did discover that the food coloring does bleed into the vase water, so just a warning about that.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases, step six, adding the water and flowers

Table Decor and a Gift

I’m planning to have one on each place setting and then let my guests take them home.

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases

 

DIY Easter Decor: Egg Shell Planters and Vases

2.  DIY Dinner Napkins: A Simple Project Just Got Simpler

Sometimes to get the table decor I want for a special occasion like Easter, I have to make my own dinner napkins.  And recently I decided to make some sets of dinner napkins to give as gifts. This is such a simple task:  Measure, cut, and hem the fabric. How could it get any simpler?

By eliminating the measuring and cutting.

While at the fabric store looking for an easy-care cotton fabric to use for my dinner napkin project, I found myself standing in front of the fabric quarters:  Those pre-cut pieces of cotton calico fabric that come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and measure 18 X 21 inches – just right for a dinner napkin.

DIY Easter Decor: Making an easy dinner napkin

But could I really just buy the fabric quarters and hem them?  It seemed too easy, so to make sure I asked a fabric store employee. She confirmed that since they were 100% cotton, they would indeed work as dinner napkins.

Solid-colored fabric quarters work best because they are double-sided.  With most patterned fabric quarters, the pattern only appears on one side and the opposite side is blank.

To iron, pin, and hem them took me less than 15 minutes per napkin, so making a set of six took under an hour and a half.

DIY Easter Decor: Making an easy dinner napkin

A set of six dinner napkins makes a great hostess gift.  I made two sets in one afternoon and bundled them using lace ribbon and vintage buttons.

fabric quarters - finished napkins1 wm

And I still made them with my own two little hands – even if I did take a shortcut.

3.  A Sweet Yet Practical Hostess Gift

You may not have time to make your own hostess gifts, but you can still give something handmade.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I love the soft and whimsical dishtowels that Cousin Lolli makes in her fabric studio in Fort Bragg.

For Easter, it’s hard to find anything more adorable than her carrot and bunny dishtowels. She created them using images from vintage children’s books.

Adorable handmade carrot and bunny dishtowel by Lolli Jacobsen, available on Etsy

Dishtowels are always a wonderful hostess gift, and they have the added bonus of being packable and unbreakable.  Most of Lolli’s dishtowels can be found on Etsy.


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CREATIVE HOME AND GARDEN IDEAS FROM THE HOUSE DOWN THE STREET