Archive for December, 2012

For the Educators

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

The few followers of this little blog know that I taught kindergarten and first grade for the past twelve years.

I find news of Newtown unbearably sad and even more so at this time of year with too many holiday celebrations as we carry on, miles away from the horrific tragedy.

So I baked…

teachers 1

and baked…

 teacher 2

and washed lots of dishes.

teacher 3Until I had a coffee cake, cranberry muffins, brownies, macaroons and granola to deliver to Spencer’s school for the staff that has eased his transition to high school in a new town.

teacher 4Because when I was teaching, a little snack at recess was always welcome.

And because life can be so unpredictable.

 And we are so very grateful for the education our son is receiving and his success thus far.

Was that just an earthquake?  That just might prove my point!

You never know…





Driveway Entrance Revamp

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Instead of starting the orchard, we decided to freshen up the approach to our house.  It was arguably the ugliest entrance in our neighborhood.  The crumbling asphalt was developing a pot hole so large it threatened to swallow small cars whole.  The planter was engulfed in ivy which was beginning to overtake the brick pillars.  Note the railroad ties set at varying lengths, some of which had deteriorated and were long gone.  One side had the best part of the hedge bordering the street.  The only problem being that it blocked that side of the road, requiring nosing the car out into oncoming traffic to determine, often too late, if the coast was clear.  The gate itself appears to be either unfinished or poorly made.

Now this doesn’t look so bad.  I managed to crop out the pot hole.   The white orbs on the gate are polo balls so that the previous owner could tell if the gate was open or closed at night.  While not all of the houses in our neighborhood are perfection, some do look like this…

This is fancier than most and leads to a house which probably has a garage bigger than our home, but you see why we wanted to at least fill the pot hole.

First up was clearing the beds of ivy, railroad ties and the hedge to equal distances on each side.  This left exposed chain link and a clear view of the front yard.  Bender board was added until we can have rock-work done to match the rose garden.

The gate was painted the same green as the house.  Maybe some trim would make it look more finished.  Road base filled the holes in the drive and pea gravel serves as a stop-gap measure to make things look a bit better.  Confederate jasmine was the first addition to, hopefully, quickly cover the chain link.

Wreaths  were hung to further obscure the fencing.  Maybe garland across the top would eliminate the floating in thin air look.

Next up, choosing two biggish trees to anchor the flower beds and plants to fill them back up.  Can’t decide whether or not to plant boxwood borders.  Maybe flax and/or iceberg roses across the back.  Something unusual would be fun…but what?  Here is the new and improved approach.

If nothing else, it is neater, not as daring to exit and we haven’t lost any small cars lately.  Unfortunately, I have to go to the nursery.  Darn.












Birthday Wreath

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

I was reading the latest issue of Sunset Magazine and was intrigued by the Wild Wreaths article in the Home & Garden section.

A dear friend’s birthday was coming up and she is very insistent about NOT wanting gifts.  She, however, likes giving gifts for everything.  I found that presenting her with disposable or edible gifts was an acceptable way of circumventing the guilty feeling of showing up empty handed.  I may or may not have mentioned that I am addicted to succulents…this seemed the perfect solution to my gift giving dilemma.

It seemed like an easy enough wreath to create, succulents plus moss, perfect.  I set out to Micheal’s, then Joanne’s, then to the same stores in two more towns before I settled on a metal wreath frame, sheet moss and floral picks with wire to attach the succulents.  The selection of wreath frames was bleak, most were way too small for my liking and bags of moss seemed a bit messy.

I gathered my supplies and set to work.  I cut the sheet moss into a square, then removed a circle from the center, and rounded the corners to just fit the wire frame.  Quickly I realized that the wire frame needed heft, so out came the bags of moss I had attempted to avoid.  The article, I now note, does offer a tip to use a “firm wreath base, such as one made of straw or foam.”

The rounded edges were clipped to be pulled over the frame and secured with lots of hot glue.

Remember the mess I was trying to avoid…this proves that went out the window.  You can see some of the supplies used:  scissors, wire cutters, clippers, floral wire, floral picks, glue gun and moss.

It became clear that another sheet of moss was going to be necessary to hold the wreath together, so the entire process was repeated.  For extra security the entire wreath was wrapped with very thin floral wire.  Succulents scavenged from my ever-growing collection were attached to floral picks and hot glued into the wreath.  Sadly, the succulents were more green than red and I added a few more than the inspiration photo.  A bow to hang it and voila…

Not quite as soft and loose as the article depicts, but nice none-the-less.  A gift tag created using more moss and a tiny succulent was the finishing touch.

Lovingly delivered with a caution to keep it out of direct sun lest all that glue melt.  That could be a disaster.














Friday, December 7th, 2012

The word is in…GREEN is the color for 2013.  I am SOOO in on this color trend!  They are calling it the color of rejuvenation and renewal.  I call it the color used most in my house.

Well,  color me renewed, beginning this morning with my third (yes third) cup of tea.  Olive, Kelly, Mint, Apple, I really don’t mind the shade.  I will take it!

My old kitchen had lots of green.  The new is meant to have darker green lower cabinets and white uppers…coming soon and on trend.  Not that it would have mattered.  Now I can justify my obsession!


House Plants – A Growing Obsession

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I never was very good at keeping house plants alive.  When we were staging our Ojai house for sale I bought a nice big Dieffenbachia to make up for all of the furniture and too many possessions that were put into a pod.  We had a front room that was light filled and I found that the plant thrived…until we moved and I stopped watering it.

When we finally started to furnish The Shack, I bought some more plants to fill rooms.  Note:  all those possessions that were packed into the pod have for the most part remained boxed up nearly two years later.  Can anyone say hoarder?  I know you are…but I say that I am awaiting beautiful built-in cabinetry to house the books, DVD’s and every kid art project our boys EVER made.  But I digress.

I first brought home two ivy topiaries from Vons to do a little Christmas decorating last year.  The topiaries have languished for nearly a year, but not died.  I pick up cute little seasonal pots while grocery shopping to change them up for the season.  Still sporting the summer look here.

I recently picked up two succulents potted in pumpkins from Trader Joe’s.   Am I the only one who can’t seem to get past the front doors without first putting some sort of living plant or cut flower into my cart?

The kitchen window houses spent orchids and one aloe vera.

Then I added a Peace Lily Plant or Spathyphylum and have managed to keep it alive by watering it when the leaves go limp.  This may account for the brown tips on the leaves.   Our living room has windows on both sides of the room and seems to have a green house effect on the plants.

So I picked up a gorgeous Dracaena Reflexa Variegata at a nursery in Ojai.  It claims to thrive on neglect and really has grown a lot.  I love the bright green striped leaves.  I moved it to our bedroom after Spencer said the living room was looking like an office.

I was coveting Fiddle Leaf Figs in magazines and found a smallish one to add to my growing collection.   I loved it until I met this beauty at Home Depot…

We even had to bring it home in our landscape trailer.  The smaller plant was banished to the equally sunny over-sized hallway leading to the boy’s rooms.   It looks really beautiful in the opposite corner of the living room next to the windows.  ( I had to move it across the room to make way for the Christmas tree.)

When Spencer first saw it he said, “What is with the fake tree.”  It really is that beautiful and unusually large for a home.  But then Marlin came home from college and said, “What’s with the jungle?  It looks like a hotel in here.”  Maybe too much of a good thing?

Well I haven’t killed any of them…yet.  I will keep you posted on how the jungle progresses.