Anything looks more beautiful in a glass case, and floral arrangements under glass make any flower look like a precious gem. I recently made this simple centerpiece to showcase a few garden-variety camellia blossoms.
My Issues With Camellias
I must disclose at the outset that I have issues with camellias in general. Here in the Pacific Northwest, they start to bloom about now and the blossoms look perfect and gorgeous – until it rains and they immediately turn to mush. And around here, that doesn’t take long.
The blossoms then fall off the plants to create a mushy mess on the ground.
So the best way to enjoy the blossoms is to bring some inside before all this happens.
But as cut flowers, they are delicate and bruise easily. Maybe that is why I thought them appropriate for an arrangement where their fragile beauty would be protected under glass.
For this centerpiece, I used a vintage Teleflora footed bowl, a small glass cheese dome, and a small floral frog.
For the natural elements, I used camellia blossoms, a few sprigs of Lemon Cypress (‘Wilma Goldcrest’) and some floral moss.
How to Arrange It
The cypress and the camellias were arranged using the frog which was placed in a small plastic condiment container.
The camellia blossoms were placed at an angle, almost horizontally, and the cypress sprigs were arranged in the middle.
Then the condiment container was filled with water to serve as a bowl.
Then it was placed in the middle of the footed Teleflora bowl and the moss was tucked around the perimeter. By using this “bowl within a bowl” method, I could keep the floral moss dry so it can be used in future arrangements.
Then the cheese dome was placed on top. Instant cuteness, and so easy. Camellias don’t have an especially long life as a cut flower, so I will enjoy this while I can.
My February plant pick is a little late because I was waiting for my favorite hellebore, the Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius), to start blooming.
But since this is one of the earliest blooming hellebores species around, we didn’t have to wait long.
A Big Beauty
This big beauty is at least 15 years old. It was originally planted on top of the drystack wall but has since spilled over into the flowerbed below. This is a full, clumping evergreen hellebore with leaves that mostly look healthy and fresh all year.
Corsican hellebores are said to grow up to 20 inches tall and 36 inches wide. But I say they get even bigger.
Its soft green flowers first appear in late January or early February in our garden, hardiness zone 8a. It seems to bloom forever.
Sometime in late spring or early summer, the flowers dry out. But even in that state they are kind of attractive and I usually wait until mid-summer to trim them away.
A Dangerous Beauty
In researching this plant, I was surprised to learn that, not only is it poisonous if ingested (as are all hellebores), but handing any part of it could cause an allergic skin reaction.
I have never suffered a skin rash from this plant, but the leaves look brittle and slightly prickly so I have never wanted to handle it without gloves anyway. Still it’s probably not the best plant choice if you have children in the house.
Bottom line: Wear gloves, and, no matter how hungry you are, don’t eat this plant.
Many of the trees and plants that are located on the elevated flowerbed behind our drystack wall struggle and eventually need to be replaced. My theory is that water drains pretty quickly from this area, so even though we have a sprinkler system, things tend to dry out.
But this hellebore likes well-drained soil and is moderately drought-tolerant. It also likes a part sun exposure, so it has thrived in this location.
It’s a good idea to prune away any dead, dried out or diseased leaves once in a while to keep this plant looking its best.
It also enjoys a layer of leaf mold or leaf mulch at least once a year. It likes acidic to neutral soil.
It is okay for this plant to dry out between watering (once established) but it does need to be watered on a consistent basis.
I have read that some owners of this plant battle large numbers of seedlings that need to be pulled out or relocated so the original plant won’t be smothered. I have not had that problem, but soil condition might be a factor.
This hellebore is a hardy evergreen perennial in hardiness zones 6a through 9b.
Black spots sometimes appear on some leaves. I usually just cut those leaves out. It also occasionally falls victim to aphids.
One of Many Beauties Out There
Hellebores are native to Europe and parts of Asia, and there are many species. This post focuses on my favorite hellebore, but I wanted to mention that there are other hellebore options – lots of them.
Some have flowers in deep, dramatic colors.
Some have filled flowers.
Some are subtle woodland wonders, and others serve as sweet little ground covers.
New hellebore hybrids are being developed all the time. Check out a good local nursery and hopefully you will be blown away by the selection.
Several years ago, I set up a little office for myself on the upstairs landing with a desk and a printer stand that I found on Craigslist.
My home office needs are simple so the small corner on the landing was just enough space. I hastily threw a few things together, including some mismatched file boxes and some smaller boxes to hold office supplies, and I wound up with a bland, cluttered, temporary-looking office that has bugged me ever since.
The Makeover Begins
I recently found a few things in our basement that could be repurposed or revamped and used in an office makeover.
For the makeover, the colors would be limited to black and white, and varying shades of cream and gold.
In the basement I found a WWII ammunition box in rustic condition that my father-in-law used to transport the tire chains for his old truck.
It’s painted white and we think it was used by soldiers who were posted in snowy locations since the white box would blend with the snow.
This ammo case was too interesting to stay in the basement. So now it’s holding my papers and reading materials vertically, replacing a two-tired wooden desktop organizer that took up too much space on the desk.
The white footed milk glass bowl, a garage sale find, is a stylish place to dump my shopping receipts.
File Cabinet Facelift
I love the look of my office desk with its turned legs, but the mismatched file boxes sitting under it detracted from the design.
I needed a “real” file cabinet. This oak file cabinet had been stored in our basement since we moved into the house. I bought it in the mid-1990s. But even then, the look was dated.
It took a coat of primer and three coats of paint (Valspar Ultra in Greek Tapenade) to cover the wood. I spray painted the metal hardware with Rust-Oleum Metallic spray paint in antique brass. My husband, Chris, had to make some repairs to the drawers which, as it turned out, had never been put together properly.
But it was worth the effort for this clean, fun look.
The Cork Board
I had a fabric bulletin board hanging over my desk. I never liked the colors – too weak and murky.
The office chair is attractive and comfortable, but the chair pad cover was a little bland and, being vinyl, didn’t breathe very well.
I recovered it with a Waverly fabric called Strands Mocha.
After I purged some books and moved others to the top of the file cabinet, I was able to free up the lower shelf of the printer stand. That shelf was the perfect size for one of the leftover file boxes, now filled with office supplies.
This meant more space on my desktop, so I was able to bring aboard a cute desk lamp (an estate sale find) and move the floor lamp to a different room.
There is even space now for one of my favorite photos of me and my father.
All On a Budget
The chair fabric, a frame for a small art print, and the paint for the file cabinet were the only purchases I made for my office makeover. Everything else was already on-hand.
The office is now organized, calm, and more attractive. And as I sit at my desk typing this post, I am that much happier.
I’ve always thought of my brother, Dan, as a bit of a “mad scientist.” He likes to experiment, making his own furniture, cabinetry, light fixtures. Add this to an engineering background and a strong artistic streak and, as you can imagine, he builds some pretty cool things.
This past Christmas, my husband, Chris, and I were the lucky recipients of his latest experiment: Two rustic hanging lights for our new Sunglo greenhouse, complete with Edison-style bulbs, a custom patina on the wire bulb cages, and vintage-inspired cords and plugs.
I had wanted to find overhead lighting for our greenhouse that was simple and industrial yet with some vintage charm. And these lights are exactly that.
A Little Q&A
I thought it would be fun to find out how Dan got his inspiration for these lamps and hear about his process, so I sat down with him for a little Q&A.
H: Dan, these lights are so unique. How did you come up with the design?
D: While flipping through the latest Rejuvenation catalog, I came across a pendant light called “Wiley.” The design was based on the classic old trouble lights. It looked simple enough to make myself, so I figured I’d give it a try.
H: Yes, as soon as Chris saw them he said they look like old-fashioned trouble lights. In fact, the lights you made are portable so we actually can use them as trouble lights if we want to.
D: Yeah, sure.
H: So anyway, you just thought heck, I’ll build some lights. But how did you find parts?
D: There are lots of sources for reproduction lamp parts. So I bought the metal bulb cages and cloth-covered wiring online. The wood handles came from a ship’s wheel I bought years earlier and never used.
H: Oh no, I remember that wheel. You took it apart?
D: Well, the wheel was a reproduction and not worth a whole lot, so I didn’t lose any sleep over cutting the handles off. The wheel had eight handles. The rest of the parts (sockets, threaded rods, etc.) I got at my local hardware store.
H: There is a very cool corroded-looking, rusty patina on the wire cage. How did you do that?
D: The bulb cages were steel with a brass-looking anodized coating. I wanted something a little more rustic than brass, so I sanded off the coating, a rather tedious task, and then sprayed the bare metal with a rust activator and let it sit overnight.
H: What substance did you use for that?
D: I used Modern Masters Rust Activator designed for their Metal Effects line of paints.
H: Was this one of those rare projects where everything went as planned, or was there a stumbling block?
D: The hardest part was drilling straight through the wood handles. I drilled in from each end of the handle as straight as I could and hoped the holes would meet somewhere in the middle. Finding the exact centerline of the handle was difficult, and I had one handle split on me while I was drilling, but fortunately I had extras. That whole process would have been much easier if I had a drill press, but I think the end result looked pretty good.
H: Oh, I would have to agree with you there!
Don’t Try This at Home, Kids
Now keep in mind that lamp building is a tricky business best left to professionals, so this post is not a tutorial. As they say, “don’t try this at home.”
Any gift is more interesting with a nice presentation. These sweet little lined gift bags are a great way to present your Valentine’s Day gift to an adult or a child. They are great for holding candy, toys, flowers, jewelry, and even wine. And they are something that can be used even after Valentine’s Day.
They are easy to make if you have access to a sewing machine with a free arm and moderate sewing skills.
Put Your Own Spin On It
You can make the bag any size you want, embellish it however you want, with lace, buttons, faux flowers, faux fur. Or change up the color of the lining or use a patterned fabric. The variations are endless.
What You Will Need
Red fabric (A heavier fabric works best. I used leftover upholstery fabric.)
A lightweight lining fabric (I used white muslin but get creative if you wish!)
Coordinating webbing for the handles
Access to a sewing machine with a free arm
What You Hopefully Won’t Need
A seam ripper
Why the Lining?
Linings are an elegant finishing touch. Added to these bags, they just say “I love you enough to go this extra step.” But it’s an easy addition as you will see.
Cut the Fabric
Cut a heart template from heavy construction paper to use as a pattern. My heart was 11″ wide by 11″ long. To allow for the seams, cut the heart about an inch larger than you want it to be.
Using your pattern, cut two identical heart shapes with the red fabric and two with the lining fabric.
You will have a total of four raw fabric hearts, all the same size.
Stitching the Pieces
Put the “outside” (right sides) of the red fabric pieces together, facing each other, so that you have the “wrong side” out, and sew down along the right-hand side of the fabric, down to the bottom, then continue up the left side, leaving the top unstitched. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the stitching for extra support.
My lining did not have a right and wrong side, but if yours does, sew it the same way as described above except leave a small opening on the left hand side unstitched. This opening should be large enough for you to get your hand through later to pull the bag right-side out.
Adding the Handles
Turn the red fabric right-side-out so that the raw fabric edges are inside. Securely stitch the handles on either side about an inch from the top of the bag. The free arm feature on your sewing machine works best for this.
First I folded under the ends of each handle by about 3/4″ so the raw ends were not visible. My handles were 18″ each. You can scale yours to fit the size of your bag.
Now turn the bag inside-out and pin the handles down and out of the way, making sure the pin heads are on the “wrong” side of the fabric. Otherwise, you will have trouble taking the pins out later.
So now the bag is inside-out and your handles are pinned down inside the bag, but the pinheads are on the outside.
Bringing It All Together
Now take the lining, reverse it so that the raw edges are on the inside, and insert it into the red fabric part, which is still inside-out.
Push it in until it fits snugly and the seams line up. It can be a little difficult to work around the handles, but just take your time. If everything looks wrong and backwards at this point, you are probably doing it right.
Carefully pin the lining and the red fabric together at the top, raw edges up. Be sure to line up the seams. Stitch the red fabric to the lining following the heart contours. Work you way all around the top of the bag in this manner, backstitching at the seams.
You will need the free arm feature on the sewing machine for this. If your bag is too small to fit onto the free arm, you will have to stitch by hand.
Getting it Right-Side Out
Okay, if you’ve come this far it’s time for the magic. Remove the pins holding the handle down.
Then reach into the bag, put your hand through the little opening you left in the lining, and pull the red fabric through it until everything is right-side out.
After that, you can stitch up the hole in the lining.
Then tuck the lining down into the bag and carefully iron the top until everything is even. Be sure to test the iron with scrap pieces of all fabrics first to make sure the iron won’t damage anything.
It takes a little time to get everything pushed out, tucked in, and straightened out and for the heart shape to emerge.
The Finishing Touches
I played around with adding vintage buttons to my bag, but in the end I kept it simple. I just added a gift tag with a vintage button and used a piece of old linen instead of tissue paper inside.
There are so many things you can do to make your bag unique, so enjoy and have fun with your creation!
Posts on this website are for entertainment only.,
Sometimes bad things happen to good lamps. They wind up neglected, unappreciated, or worse, paired with an inappropriate shade. But they can be saved. Most of the lamps at our house are rescue lamps that have thrived with a little TLC.
Paint it Black – Even When It’s a Bad Idea
Years ago, my husband, Chris, wound up with a 1920s floor lamp that had been in his family for generations. It was painted black but the paint was eroding and he could tell that there was something else underneath.
Finally, when he had time, he rubbed the lamp down with denatured alcohol and the black paint came off, revealing the original 1920s polychrome paint.
The lamp didn’t have a shade when he acquired it, but eventually we found a fun shade for it.
Hidden Art Deco
While at an estate sale, I spotted this ugly, oversized lamp shade sitting on a base.
Luckily I looked underneath to see what was holding the shade up and found a beautiful art deco lamp base, covered in years of grime.
We paired it with a more attractive and scaled down shade, which cost considerably more than we paid for the lamp, for this winning combination of old school glam.
Lesson learned: look underneath, around, and past ugly lamp shades. You never know what you will find.
At the same estate sale, I found a grungy little lamp base down in the basement with the tools. It really didn’t look like much, but the price was right.
We cleaned it up and got a shade for it, and this is what we had.
It’s adorable now after a little soap and water.
This hanging lamp was in Chris’s parents’ house for years. His mother loved estate sales and probably got it second hand. Each panel has a different, hand-painted bird scene.
In rustic condition and unsafe to use, this lamp needed a lamp whisperer. For starters, Chris cleaned it, rewired it, and added a new chain.
One of the four little wooden support bars at the top was missing. Can you see from this photo ( which is the view looking into the lamp shade from above) which one Chris replaced?
If you guessed the lower right side, you are right. He cut a piece of wood, painted it black, and used a small piece of All Thread to screw it into the middle block. He then used glue to secure the other end to the shade.
Know When to Call In the Experts
It’s satisfying to find a neglected lamp and bring it back to its former glory – or in some cases, make it better than it ever was before.
But be sure to check if the lamp is safe to use. Look for frayed or cracked cords, or even cords that have become brittle. Check the connection between the cord and the plug. Look for any previous attempts to repair the lamp. If you find any reason to think the lamp is unsafe, run it by an expert for a second opinion.
And While We’re Talking About Lighting
I just have to give you a little preview of the beautiful hanging lamps my brother, Dan, made us for Christmas. They are for our new greenhouse and he made them to look like old-fashioned trouble lights, complete with Edison-style filament bulbs.
They are exactly what I wanted – industrial yet vintage. He did a custom patina on the metal bulb cages. Even the little touch of rust was planned.
Wow. But how did he “make” these lamps? I’m hoping he will tell us, but that will be for another post. You will be seeing them again when I reveal my greenhouse interior.
When I organized our basement last fall, I was on the lookout for items we could revamp or repurpose for DIY projects.
One item I found was the mid-century modern chair from my husband’s childhood bedroom, to which he has already given a snappy makeover.
A Piece of Art for My Office
Another item, a simple wood-framed cork board, is coming in handy for the office makeover that I am currently working on.
Of course I want the cork board to serve a practical purpose in my office but, since it will be hanging above my desk, I also want it to stand on its own as a nice piece of décor that adds some femininity and old-world glamour to the space.
I started by painting the wood frame. Since the frame could not be separated from the cork board easily, I just masked off the perimeter of the cork board with blue painter’s tape.
I primed the frame with a water-based primer, then painted it with “Venetian Gold” craft paint.
Once that dried, I painted a dark charcoal-colored craft paint called “Wrought Iron” over the gold paint.
Then I immediately took a damp, soft cloth and lightly wiped the charcoal paint off, leaving traces of it in the cracks of the frame.
This smudged the frame up just enough to get the old-world look I was going for.
I had some cute burlap fabric left from a gift bag project – enough to cover the cork board.
I used the burlap because I want to use push pins to secure papers to the cork board and, because of its loose weave and rustic texture, push pins shouldn’t snag or harm the burlap as easily as it might other fabrics.
I also love the contrast of the natural, rough texture of the burlap against the refined French-inspired pattern and the gold frame.
I glued the fabric to the cork board by slightly diluting craft glue with water and painting it onto the cork board with a paintbrush, then putting the fabric in place.
I glued a ribbon of 1/2-inch black trim fabric around the perimeter for a finished look.
The Push Pins
I want my office colors to be primarily black, white, shades of cream, and some gold. Since colorful push pins wouldn’t look right, I am using wood ones that blend harmlessly into the background.
Stay Tuned for More
I have several other items from the basement to use in my office makeover including a WWII ammunition case. How can that possibly work in my feminine, old-world office? More on this coming soon.
I just love houses that were built in the 1920s. Architects from that era seemed to be in a kind of fantasy state and really had some fun when they designed them.
Even the more ordinary homes, like our 1927 cottage, shun straight lines wherever possible in favor of curves, coves, and arches.
Something Was Off
When my husband Chris and I bought our house, it had a coved ceiling in the living room. Most 1920s houses with coved ceilings also have some arched doorways. But the doorways between the living room, dining room, and kitchen were squared off and plain.
Eventually we learned that the doorways in question were originally arched but had been squared off as part of a 1950s kitchen remodel.
Bringing Back the Arched Doorways
We remodeled the kitchen and, while we were at it, we decided to do a few things to bring back the original charm of the house, including restoring the arches.
We knew bringing back the arched doorways would be tricky since if the pitch of the arch was wrong, it still wouldn’t look original. In fact, if done wrong, it could wind up looking pretty silly.
Finding the Right Pitch
Chris made arrangements to look at several 1920s houses that still had their arched doorways.
He needed two good examples: An arch for a wider (almost six-foot) expanse, for our living room-dining room transition, and a narrower arch (three and a half feet) for our dining room-kitchen doorway.
When he found examples of arches that would work, he traced them onto large sheets of masking paper to serve as templates.
Adding the Curves
Our carpenter, Bruce, who was working on our kitchen remodel, built wooden arch frames to fit the existing doorways using the templates that Chris had traced.
The kitchen was already torn down to the studs for the remodel, so this was the perfect time to frame in the arches.
Lots of Plaster
Our drywaller then worked his magic blending the arches seamlessly into the new kitchen drywall, as well as into the existing plaster in the dining room.
Since we added the arches, we needed to paint not only the new kitchen remodel, but also the living room and dining room. For our kitchen, we used Valspar Butter and for the dining room, Valspar Honey Pot.
(This paint job was from few years ago, and as you can see the colors are dated now and probably need to change.)
We chose a strong earth tone for the living room, which gets a lot of natural light.
It is an Olympic color called Earthy Ocher.
New Old Lights
Now we needed the finishing touches: 1920s light fixtures in the dining room and living room.
Vintage lighting can be pretty spendy, but we trolled eBay until we found some little gems that fit our budget.
We got this light for the dining room.
And this one for the living room.
There was no overhead light fixture in the living room before we installed this one. Chris climbed into the attic space above the living room and measured to exactly where the middle of the living room would be to install the electrical box for the light.
When he got to that location, he found the remnants of an old electrical box. So originally there had been an overhead light in the living room, presumably another casualty of the 1950s remodel.
To learn more about out kitchen remodel, check out these posts:
You might be wondering how we avoided starving during a major kitchen remodel that wound up growing and spilling into other parts of the house.
Options for Surviving a Kitchen Remodel
Everyone deals with a major remodel differently. You can:
Dine out every evening;
Eat fast food and takeout for every meal;
Move in with a relative or friend and hope they still love you afterwards; or
Set up a makeshift kitchen.
Setting Up A Makeshift Kitchen
We opted for number 4. Chris set up this little kitchen in our living room. Not much counter space, and the dishes were being washed in the laundry room, but we coped.
Note the stylish trouble light he clipped to the curtain rod over the range for task lighting. He got the little second-hand range on Craigslist, and it was actually from a trailer.* It kind of felt like we were camping in our living room, and I suspect Chris actually enjoyed this.
But he was pretty amazing. The remodel was done around the holidays, so his workload was light and, most days, he was able to spend all day working with our carpenter, Bruce. But Chris also made lunch for himself and Bruce in the little kitchen, and often he had dinner and a glass of wine ready for me when I got home from work.
Wine definitely helps when your olive oil and your wall paint wind up living side by side and you’ve completely given up on housekeeping.
As the remodel encroached further and further into the rest of the house, we had to move the makeshift kitchen first to the office and later to the upstairs landing. Each time, the kitchen got a little smaller. Eventually we had to put the fridge on the front porch.
But by this time, I just happy to still have my morning coffee, even if I had to go outside for the milk. Because by then, the end was in sight, and it was well worth it.
*Always consult a professional before installing or using a trailer range in your house.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
The Coum Hardy Cyclamen is a tough little guy that is hardy to -20 degrees and blooms in the dead of winter. The blossoms are just starting to appear in my shade garden.
Some winters, the blossoms can be seen peeking up through the snow. The flowers (usually pink or mauve) only get about 4 inches tall on red stems, and the plants grow in dense patches up to about 12 inches wide. The leaves are also very attractive.
They are sweet, subtle little plants, not flashy show-stoppers. But they are a welcome sight in the middle of winter when nothing else is blooming.
Great for Naturalizing
They look great in a woodland setting and thrive in hardiness zones 6 to 10 in full to partial shade. Everything I have read about them says they need well-drained soil, but I would say the soil in my shade garden is just a touch on the heavy side, and these little guys still thrive.
They go dormant in summer, so winter is the time they shine. To create a year-round display of blossoms, groups of Coum Hardy Cyclamen can be planted around the bases of deciduous trees along with groups of shade-tolerant spring, summer, and fall-blooming bulbs and tubers.
In fact, there is another small hardy Cyclamen variety, Cyclamen hederifolium, which blooms in fall.
My shade garden (in hardiness zone 8a) is wonderfully low-maintenance, and I do nothing at all for these little guys. They like soil that is rich in organic matter, and this occurs naturally in my shade garden as the trees lose their leaves and cones.
Once the plant is established, it’s okay to let this cyclamen dry out a little in summer, when it goes dormant anyway.
They prefer to be undisturbed and don’t take kindly to being dug up and replanted, although I have tried it and had success.