November 14, 2013

Fall decorating

A little redecorating and furniture shuffling has been going on, nothing extremely autumnal, but just a nudge toward velvet, wool, plaid, and a few natural objects like pumpkins and acorns.

Sammy approves of the new placement of armchairs on either side of the fireplace, as this presents him with two places to sleep during the cold months.

I am enjoying this quiet, cozy layout for a month or so before glitter, twinkling lights, fair isle knits, and wreaths and garlands mark the onset of Christmas in the house.

November 3, 2013

Our garden: summer and fall

Today was a blustery day. The wind blew steadily all afternoon, dislodging many of our trees' colorful leaves. It's sad to see the leaves on the ground instead of up in the air, where they look so pretty against a sunny blue sky. Now that Halloween has passed, however, I should be grateful for green grass and a few almost-warm days as we move quickly along towards Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This year I haven't posted very much on our yard progress, but the shrubs, vines, and perennials have been steadily growing, filling in the two big beds we added to our backyard this summer and last. I love to see the colors slowly change as the weather gets colder. A few photos from the last few months...
This is early on in the summer; the butterfly bushes grew another three feet or so. The bed is filling in a lot and slowly covering up the A/C unit in the corner...yay!
I planted a deep purple butterfly bush late in the season to join the periwinkle and pink bushes I planted last year. Our beds have been full of butterflies for months! 
Another new planting was a grouping of three sedum plants along the stepping stone path. I have always liked how sedum changes in appearance throughout the season.
I don't know what this little guy is, but he visited us for several days in a row. Is he a hummingbird? A large moth?
The plumbago leaves are starting to turn as the weather gets colder. This new addition has been a real winner...reliable flowers all summer long, plus lovely fall foliage (see another photo of the same plant, a few weeks later, below).
By the fall, all the plants are smushing into each other in the beds, a look I really like. Here: ornamental grass, hydrangeas, lambs' ear, and willow.
View into the front beds from our front door 
View of our backyard one morning last week...I love how the sunrise lights up all the grasses and trees!
The last of the Incrediball hydrangea blossoms
Happy autumn!

August 8, 2013

Housekeeping: conditioning your cutting boards

I haven't done a housekeeping post in a while, though I have been doing lots of housekeeping. Since I'm off in the summer, it's a great time for some deep cleaning and house maintenance projects.

A couple weekends ago, I picked up some of this oil from Crate & Barrel and was able to tick off another item on my to do list: oiling my wooden cutting boards. 

While I was at it, I went ahead and oiled the top of our kitchen island as well. We don't cut directly on the wood surface, but it does get a lot of wear and tear and periodically needs to be conditioned. I like this oil since it is all natural (I know a lot of cutting boards say to condition them with mineral oil, but I prefer this food-safe oil).

I have two wooden cutting boards (along with some plastic ones). I prefer the wooden ones for serving and use the plastic ones for food prep. The larger, longer one (seen in the top photo) is from the Phoenix Gallery in Lawrence, Kansas.

This little checkerboard bordered one is new; I got it this summer from Synchronicity Gallery in Glen Arbor, Michigan.

I did not buy this cutting board, which had a beautiful "plaid" pattern, and now I'm wishing that I would have purchased it! I think these sorts of cutting boards are really functional art, and they make great gifts, too!

The actual conditioning process is easy: wipe on the oil, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe off with a clean cloth. I'm already thinking of a few other unsealed wooden items that I can condition: some salad bowls, wooden handles on serving utensils, etc.

July 23, 2013

Combining plants

Combining a selection of plants into one pot or bed requires attention to form, scale, color, texture, etc. I am not very good at this selection process, which is why I'm always looking for examples of combinations that I can file away for future attempts. A few photos of combinations I've snapped while walking around this summer:

 Of course, a gallery of container photos and plant selections is always helpful, too!

July 11, 2013


Incrediball hydrangeas from our backyard, little seashells collected from our vacations

July 2, 2013

House tour -- powder room

I was looking through the newest issue of Veranda magazine last week and noticed something familiar in their roundup of freestanding sinks:

The same Kohler sink (pictured on the far left in the article above) in our powder room:
It truly is a good sink; it has more surface area than other pedestals, and it feels sufficiently solid and looks sufficiently old-fashioned to me.

I don't think I've ever posted photos of this room before, so here are a few shots:
A little gallery is growing on the walls as I slowly find and add new pieces. The little circular ink drawing above is a flea market find, and the blue city scene is from Salzburg, Austria.

All of the fittings are from the Kohler Bancroft collection.

Paper cut-out ship from a flea market; ink drawing from a little art store on the grounds of the Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Two ink drawings from Istanbul, Turkey (I posted about how I framed the bigger one here).

June 25, 2013

Updates on the garden

Earlier this season, I told Josh, "I think all we need to do this year is replace a couple trees, replenish the mulch, and that's it!" But, as I was doing the regular pruning and mulching, I managed to come up with a few more projects (as usual!).  A few photos of our yard in progress this year:

Our willow tree continues to grow at an alarming rate. I've been thinning it out monthly, trying to keep the hostas visible!

Our variegated red twig dogwoods are growing happily this year, too, and I added some heuchera next to them because I thought the purple color and the large leaves would contrast well with the dogwood. A row of dwarf balloon flowers in the front of the bed is getting ready to pop open with their blue blooms! Also in this picture you can just barely see another big project...

...our new arbor!! I've been wanting one of these for a few years, and last year I decided I was finally going to install one "all by myself!" I bought the kit, brought it home, assembled it, and painted it by myself, and then it sat in our garage all winter long. Finally, last week, Josh helped me put it in the ground. It was our first experience sinking something in concrete, but we have had several bouts of high winds and severe thunderstorm warnings since then, so I think it's pretty solid.

On the right side of the arbor is a pink climbing rose and some limelight hydrangeas and a big yellowy-lime hosta. I am hoping I can coax the rose to start climbing this year.

On the left side, I planted this cute little porcelain berry vine to start training up the arbor as well. It has purple-pink stems and leaves that look paint-spattered, and it should produce clusters of berries in the fall.

I also planted a few clumps of astilbe in the front beds. I felt like I needed more flowers in those beds, so these will help keep the hydrangeas company.

 Around back, we're in the process of installing some lattice panels under our deck.  This honeysuckle I planted last year really needs some support! The plan is to paint the lattice gray to match our deck. In the background you can also see a little pad for our grill and some new stepping stones.

 I planted a little grouping of plumbago this year as well; James requested blue flowers, so I hope these will be reliable bloomers all summer long.

I was so excited to see the Japanese maple come back after the winter; we've planted a couple before, and they never made it. This one survived an attack by some hungry bunnies and still looks good! (Also in this picture: Incrediball hydrangea and butterfly bush)

 I made a realization last year: I am horrible at plant combinations for potted plants. From now on, I'm just going to do one type of plant per pot. So, I have a couple big planters of ornamental grass on the back patio...

 ...and some pink, blue, and white on the front steps. So far, this strategy has been working well!

And, lastly, does this look familiar? I'm planning a new bed for the back corner of our lot, so I used some sponges and foam balls (left over from our VBS games!) to start playing around with plant placement. It looks ridiculous, but it helps me work out the spacing!

Here are some of the plants for the back bed, currently hanging out among the hydrangeas so I can keep them well watered until it's time to plant. I'm using mostly shrubs and a couple types of perennials, hoping to fill in the big space economically. It's the type of bed that looks deceptively small from the house.

So that's it! I'll try to post more photos once I make some more progress! What garden projects are you working on this year?
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