Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Entertaining Guests

We had guests for dinner on Sunday.
Hubby's boss and his lovely wife.

I would love to show you the table set with delicious food, pretty dishes, candle light, the ice cream sundae, complete with whipped cream and a cherry, for dessert.

I would love to show these things to you.

But the truth is, I forgot to take pictures! I was so busy and so focused on making my wonderful guests happy that I forgot the one thing a good blogger always does - take pictures!

But that's o.k. Because stopping to take pictures would have been impolite.

So let me just say, it was a lovely dinner with wonderful company. The best kind of entertaining.
But what I can show you is the very clean house.

That is another nice thing about entertaining.

You get to enjoy the aftermath. The lingering fragrance of fresh flowers, scented candles, delicious food, freshly washed floors, and guest's cologne.

The cleaning up ritual is a contemplative experience for me. While gently washing special serving pieces and delicate glassware, snippets of friendly conversation and happy laughter come to mind and are pondered and savored once again, forming new memories.

And, of course there are always the last minute forgotten details. These colorful striped taffy sticks, wrapped in old fashioned waxed paper, were supposed to decorate the ice cream sundaes! Oh, well.....now they are a special treat for the next impromptu visitor. I have a feeling that is going to be one of my daughters, as I am pup-sitting this weekend for my daughter J's mini-dachshunds.
Peanut and Weenie Baby.
 They've been coming here since they were little puppies.
Whitey will enjoy the company.

My cats....not so much!

But for now peace reigns.

Whenever I entertain, not only do I love the process of attending to all of the little details that make things cozy and memorable, but I also enjoy the time afterwards when you get to sit back and relax. The house is clean, there are usually some tasty leftovers, and there seems to be a happy glow about the place.

You get to enjoy all of your hard work once more. With happy memories to make it all worthwhile.

Of course I had to buy just one little keepsake for all of my efforts. Something that I knew would give me a little joy when all was said and done; a little bobble to catch the light while I sit here in my favorite place contemplating the joys of entertaining.

While my pansies peer at me from around the corner!

They say Hello!

These little Johnny Jump Ups wanted to add their cheery voice to the greetings!
Soon the hot weather will force these little beauties to retreat and we will have to wait until the cool weather of fall to see their bright and happy faces once more.
So it was a special treat to share them with our guests.

Both temporary visitors that bring smiles.

Do you like to entertain?

What is your favorite way to entertain?

Or do you like to be entertained?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Tribute

In remembrance of those fallen serving our country so we can be free.

I've written a column as a tribute to my Father, a soldier, and our family tradition on Memorial Day.
We are forever indebted to these brave men and women.

Wreath on forgotten soldier's grave

Washington State Soldiers Cemetery

Red Roses Left on Wall in Remembrance

Stone walls in Washington State Soldiers Cemetery

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wildflower Walk-about

I took a little walk-about to see what was in bloom here on my little hillside. I thought I would take you on a little tour.

I planted the blue bells years ago and they have spread into a little colony near my bedroom window. The tiny pink flower is 'Herb Robert', a form of wild geranium. It is a delicate wildflower with lacy leaves that sometimes turn crimson in the fall.

We have many ferns carpeting the forest floor. This time of year they unfurl their new fronds.

The Columbine are blooming a little bit late this year. Last year I had several colors. This year, just  purple in the side garden. Every year is a surprise.

Purple Columbine and Blue Forget me Not are a beautiful and carefree wildflower combination growing beyond the picnic table in the side yard. You can see Whitey hidden among the foliage just to the left of center at the top.

Here, Forget Me Not has scattered itself among two different types of fern; the leathery Ostrich Fern that persists even in winter, and the delicate, pale Lady Fern who unfurls her tender fronds every spring but dies back every fall. The stone wall is concealed beneath the lush growth along the path to the side yard.

Pale green stalks of wild 'Fringe Cup' grow among tiny wild Pink Geranium (Herb Robert) along side the parking area of the driveway.

Wild ground covers carpet the ground under a young Hemlock tree along the path to the side gate used for the wheelbarrow.

Wild grasses mimic expensive nursery cultivars, growing among the wildflowers and ferns.

The resiliency of some wildflowers always amazes me. This diminutive blossom seems to be thriving along the edge of the gravel in the driveway.

By evening this cloud foreshadowed unsettled weather.

Formed by weather systems swirling around Mt. Rainier and floating away in it's own perpetual turbulence. It foretells rain within 24 hours. It's nearly 100% accurate.

Sure enough, we have had rain since Sunday. But tomorrow will be bright and sunny once more. Something to lift my spirits a little.
 It's been a hard week losing my sweet Little Bear.
She loved our little 'walk-abouts'.
But I know she will always be with me.
Forever roaming the fields of wildflowers in my heart.

Let's Talk Compost - Food Recycling Programs

Home composting system

Recently some students from Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, WA requested an interview with me. They had seen my article in 'The News Tribune' titled, "Plant a Garden and Feed the World" and were looking for someone who talked about the environment.

These forward thinking students; Lalaine Ignao, Irene Lopez, and Zareh Foster - Adams are trying to implement a Food Recycling Program at Bryant Montessori School in Tacoma, WA.

If you are not familiar with Food Recycling Programs, here are some interesting facts.

The average family throws out 477 lbs of food each year.

This goes into the landfills.

If everyone composted their food scraps or separated their garbage and used their local Food Recycling Program, this would free up many tons of waste going into our landfills, be put to good use to make compost and help the environment.

I call that a win-win.

Easy to build home composting bin

Not only can we as individuals recycle our food scraps, but schools and businesses can do the same! Most curbside trash collectors encourage Food Waste Recycling Programs. Simply separate your food scraps and put them into the yard waste receptacle to be picked up with your trash.

The average school can save $2000 - $4000 per year in trash collecting fees simply by recycling food scraps! That is taxpayer money! Think of how many schools there are in one district and multiply the savings!

Also, think of the benefits to the environment and the local landfills.

This is a wonderful program to start in your local school.

It's a great program for PTA to sponsor!

And so easy!

Simply set up separate waste cans for food scraps and assign 'helpers' to direct students where to put their food scraps.

Contact the local county Food Waste Recycling Program and they will be happy to help out.

And if you are a school with your own greenhouse or garden, think of the possibilities! You could set up your own composting facilities. This is very educational for students in so many subjects. Science, Environment, Recycling.

Simple home composting receptacle

More than 30% of our garbage comes from food scraps and compostable paper. Food Recycling eliminates that volume from consumer's garbage output.

With a smaller output of garbage, consumers can then move to smaller garbage cans, thus reducing their costs.

In our county, (Pierce), monthly collection service for a standard 90 gallon garbage can = $90 per month. If you recycle Food scraps, you can use a 20 gallon garbage can and reduce monthly costs to $25.25!

Food Recycling Programs are Free! Simply add recyclable food scraps to your yard waste bins.

Recyclable food items include:

  • Spoiled fruits and vegetable trimmings
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Bread, pasta, grains
  • Eggshells and nutshells
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Pizza boxes and uncoated paper plates
  • Cheese, meat, fish, poultry and bones (commercial Food Recycling Programs only)
I think it is wonderful that these progressive students are working hard to implement a Food Recycling Program at Bryant Montessori School, and helping to spread the word for others to try and start their own Food Recycling Program in their local school districts.

A great way to reduce costs, reduce waste and benefit the environment.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Little Bear

Little Bear - 1999 - 2012

"Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives."

John Galsworthy

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our beloved Little Bear.

It was very hard.

She had been our wonderful companion for nearly 14 years. If you are loved by a dog, you know how we feel. And if you love a dog, you know how hard saying goodbye is.

I can hardly say her name. There are too many empty places. Walks to get the paper are sad. Whitey is listless and sleeps all the time.

It seems a cruel joke that those that give us so much love, live such brief lives.

But how empty life would be if we didn't experience the pure, innocent love and devotion of our animal companions.

And so we say goodbye with gratitude for the time we did have.

And although our hearts are heavy, we wouldn't have missed one minute of it for the world.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bird Bath Planter

Recently my old concrete bird bath developed a leak and wouldn't hold water any more. It was a  beautiful feature in the garden that I didn't want to part with, so I turned it into a planter for succulents! Being shallow and made from warmth retaining concrete, it was the perfect planter for these heat loving types of plants.

I was very fortunate to find these 'tiles' of succulent plantings at my local home improvement store. They were trays of assorted succulents all growing together. If you can't find something like that, simply buy your succulents in individual pots. I recommend buying small pots, as you will be planting them in a shallow bird bath and they will need shallow roots.

Every region has it's own unique type of succulents suited to the climate. We have cool and sometimes wet summers here, so our succulent mix consists of hardier and moisture tolerant types.

If you have to plant individual pots, leave some space between each type for them to spread.  

For planting I used a 'cactus mix' potting soil as succulents require good drainage.

I also placed a layer of gravel in the bird bath first. I used gravel from my driveway, but you can use any type of gravel. You can buy small bags in the planting section of any home improvement store.

Lay down a good 1" layer of rock. If your birdbath is not as shallow as mine, put down a 2" layer. Good drainage is a must.

Next add your cactus mix. Heap it up towards the center. You want it to slope down towards the sides for better drainage.

Because I had the little bird statue in the center, I wanted to raise that up a bit so it wouldn't be concealed, so I added an overturned pot to the center to serve as a base for the statue.

I cut my succulent tiles in half from underneath by running a pair of unopened garden shears in a line, separating the roots, then pulled the two sections apart. That left me with 4 equal sections. (I had two tiles.)

I filled in around the pot and the separated tiles with more cactus mix, patting everything tightly and shoring the edges up with small stones that I wedged in around the sides.

You can see the stones here. As time goes on, the succulents will trail over the edges and fill in the bare spots. I placed my bird on top of the overturned pot and I was done!
A beautiful new succulent garden from a leaky bird bath!
This winter when the rains start up again, I will find a dry place in a sunny spot to overwinter my new garden. (Under the eaves or under the edge of a deck overhang.)
To fertilize your new garden, use a tomato fertilizer at half strength once in the early spring and again in midsummer. You can easily increase your succulent supply by gently pulling off any branches with visible 'roots' and sticking them in potted cactus mix and keeping them watered until established.
Large clay plant saucers make great 'pots' for succulents using the same planting techniques as for the bird bath. Just remember to over winter your new friends in a dry, sunny spot.
And don't forget to water them every so often. Even though they love the heat, they still need a drink now and again. Once a week if there is no rain. (Less often in winter - once every two to three weeks)
I hope this inspires you to create your own bird bath garden!  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Photo Collage Magnets

I created these photo collage magnets as a personal and fun gift for a special family member. Made with flat-backed glass marbles that magnify and frame an image, they are easy and fun to make. Used as refrigerator magnets, they are a special reminder of family memories and a useful gift to tack up memos or even more photos!


Flat backed glass marbles (craft store)

E6000 epoxy adhesive (craft store)

round magnets (craft store)

Color Copied Photos with small images

paper collage elements (small images or words)

glue stick



Rigid plastic work surface for gluing. ( A plastic cutting board works great!)

I found family related words from magazines and newspapers for my collages

I chose photos with tiny images. Group shots are ideal for that. Also, you could use individual photos.

Make photo copies of your images as you will be cutting these to fit.

Trace around the marble to cut out your image. Each marble is shaped slightly different, so you will want to keep your marble with your photo as you go along. Don't worry about getting the image to fit exactly at this point. You can trim things up when you are finished gluing.

Clean your marble with glass cleaner.

Place your collage elements on your photo. I simply slid the back of the word onto the top of a glue stick to apply adhesive, then pressed onto the photo.

It's so fun to pick special words for each photo.

A good place to find family related words is in the newspaper, in the crossword puzzle hints, or the obituaries. (I know, a little sad)

You could also cut around the image and use an alternate background paper to place the image on. You could add stars or hearts, whatever you desire. I kept mine simple by just adding words.

Once you have all of your marbles matched with photos and words, it is time to glue everything together.

This calls for the E6000 epoxy adhesive. The reason you need to use this is because it is photo safe, crystal clear, super strong and will bond the heavy glass to the magnet.

This is a rather thick and slow moving, slow drying adhesive that must be used outdoors or in a very well ventilated room. In other words, you don't want to breathe this stuff in. And it goes without saying that this is not a project to do with the kids!

But it is easy to use and works so beautifully!

So, that being said, let's begin.

You want to use the nozzle that comes with the adhesive and simply snip off the tip.

Start by holding your marble in your hand (remember how it is placed on the image) and apply the adhesive to the back, than press firmly over the collage. Glue coming out the sides is a good thing. Wiggle it around to dispel any bubbles. Set aside to cure for several hours or overnight. (You can let it dry outside for an hour or so, then bring it in, there won't be any fumes by then)

Once the glue is dry, you can then use small scissors to trim around any protruding photo edges. The glue is easy to cut.

Now you are ready to glue the magnet onto the back.

Hold the magnet in your hand to apply the glue and then press onto the back of your marble collage. Again, a little glue coming out the sides is good.

 A word to the wise at this point - you will want to keep the photo magnets well separated! I didn't, and they started migrating towards each other! Two of them jumped and stuck together and I had to re-glue them! Also, the magnets will slide on the wet glue in their attraction to each other! It was very funny.

So keep them about 6 inches apart while the glue is drying!

These are so fun and easy to make. Give yourself a few days to complete each step one at a time and let the glue dry. You will be rewarded with a personal and useful gift or a delightful keepsake for yourself!

Present these in a collage decorated Altoid tin for a unique gift.

Happy Crafting!

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