Rose Arbor

Rose Arbor

You may recall that earlier this summer I posted about my roses which were having their most prolific year yet.  If you missed it you can read about that here.  This  year there was an explosion of flowers and vines and I suddenly realized I was going to have to provide a better structure.  Otherwise I was going to have a big tangled mess on my hands.  Soon after that post  I met with a local fence and deck company representative and signed a contract for an arbor.   And, finally, this past weekend, the workmen came to build it.

It is probably better to put the arbor up first, then plant your roses, or at least plan where an arbor might go before planting.  However, I was not at all sure I would be able to grow these very persnickety flowers since I get very little sun in my yard.  The site I ordered my roses from specified that most roses need at least 8 hours of sunlight a day.  I found one little corner of my yard that might just possibly meet those requirements and crossed my fingers.

Two years later, I couldn’t believe my eyes!

Can you see that flimsy, struggling support trying to hold up this flourishing beauty?  At least a couple of times a week I had to go out and shore it up with braces and cinder blocks and rope.   It was apparent the supports were not going to last much longer with such abundance.

I intended for there to be a lattice panel on the back side of the arbor,  in addition to the sides.  This is not the type of arbor you can walk through.  There is a lower flower bed behind the roses which prevents anyone from attempting it.   Of course with the iron bench in place, it is even more obvious.  But now I am not sure.  One rose bush will have to be relocated or removed if I do so.  I will have to think about it.   I do like the idea of an enclosed little spot in the garden.  But I have a feeling that moving that rose bush will result in its demise.   Possibly I can get a few vines to criss-cross in the back there.  And that would create the enclosure I want.  I will mull it over, which is how I make all my decisions.

I had to do a little trimming on the rose vines in order to pry them apart from the  supports and each other.  That was not an easy task and I waited until the last minute to do it.  Since August is not the recommended season for rose pruning I hope they survive.  But I can always order more, right?  The construction progress was hard on my grass, but it will come back.

When we bought our house the backyard was a slope down to the driveway, with very few plantings other than azaleas along the fence on the right side.   At first our improvements hardly seem to make a difference.  But the accumulation of small projects has entirely changed the space.  There is so much pleasure in seeing a garden evolve.

I don’t seem to have any before pictures.  It was the early 2000s.  We weren’t taking so many pictures back then.

I’m looking forward to having coffee out here soon!  That morning sun looks so inviting.

 

I’m already thinking ‘what took me so long to do this?’.  But, I remind myself that inspiration takes time and ideas evolve and build on one another.

Useful Gear for Grandma’s House

Useful Gear for Grandma’s House

Being a Grandmother has been heartwarming and fun and a learning experience.  It’s been quite a few years since my own baby care days.   What’s interesting is I ask my Grandma friends for tips, just as I asked my Mom friends for ideas and advice back in the day.  We can always learn from those who go before, right?

One question that has come up, is there any gear I should have for my home?  I have found that  yes it is easier to have a few things at your house.  Parents don’t have to lug so much stuff around just to come over for dinner and your grandchildren adjust more quickly to your house if you have a few items they use again and again. Most of the gear I have acquired is second-hand.  I make sure it is as clean as possible (then clean it again at home) and  in good working order before purchasing.

The first item I bought  was a Pack ‘N Play.  This portable crib was recommended by one of my daughter’s friends, and we have used it quite a bit.  We started off sharing it, but she eventually bought her own because we used it that much.  I paid $30 and it has been worth every penny.  We set it up for short babysitting stints in the beginning, and now my granddaughter uses it for the occasional sleepover.

A stroller may not seem like a necessity, but when I saw this one at a thrift store for $20 I couldn’t pass it up.  As my granddaughters get older and I get to babysit more, it will be very useful for strolling around the neighborhood, or just sitting in while we blow bubbles in the backyard.

Your family or friends may still own some things from their baby raising days.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.  Luckily this  high chair that belonged to my husband’s family was still hanging around in a garage when I needed it.   It is a small folding high chair that will fit in a closet.  I will admit that it probably doesn’t adhere to today’s safety standards and we will never leave a baby in it unattended.  All of my children used it when we visited their grandmother and there were never any issues.  Obviously this is something you won’t need for awhile and there other options, such as seats that tie onto chairs.

Most importantly you need toys and books, and sooner than you think.  I had saved a few of my children’s toys, like the Fisher Price barn and animals and some dolls.  It’s a good idea to get them out before you think you need to so you can wash them or make any repairs.     Also, I saved most of our kids’ childhood books.  I recently brought them out to a bookshelf so they are more accessible.  Already my older granddaughter looks for her toys when she comes over to our house.

 

In my short Grandmother tenure (a year) these are things that I have found to be very handy to have at my house.  My motto is, the more convenient and fun it is, the more they will come!

A Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole

I know I have mentioned here that I am always looking for breakfast dishes that can be made in advance.  When I have houseguests, it always seems as if the morning slips by while we are talking and drinking coffee and I haven’t taken the time to feed anyone, because I’m having so much fun.  Also, truth be known, I’m not one to wake up all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  So, having a casserole and some muffins all ready to go is the best option for me.  My guests get fed and I can still visit with them and not miss any conversation.

Last week some friends were in town and I had an opportunity to try this casserole.  It’s a grits and smoked sausage recipe and I knew I would substitute cooked pork breakfast sausage for the smoked sausage.  I used a 16 oz. roll of pork breakfast sausage which I cooked and crumbled before adding in place of the smoked sausage.  It makes a large casserole, fills a 13×9 pan, easily feeding 8 to 10 people.  My guests loved it.  My husband loved the leftovers.  And, it can stay in the refrigerator up to 4 days before you cook it.  It hits all my must-haves.

Smoky Sausage-and-Grits Casserole

Photo: Alison Miksch; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

I also made Classic Bran Muffins, which can be made ahead and frozen.  Add peach slices and some juice and your guests will think they are at a fancy B&B.  Ha!

I also plan to take this casserole to the beach when we go on our family vacation in a few weeks.

What’s your plan for breakfast when you have guests?  Please share in the comments!

We Painted the Brick!

Painting the brick exterior of our home has been on my wish list since we bought our house.  Unfortunately, it was not on any list of  Mr. DB’s and since there were other priorities I didn’t push it.  Every now and then when we drove past a pretty painted brick house I would point it out to him.  His response usually mentioned “maintenance issues”.   There’s always maintenance I’d say, as if we just had to accept it as the cost of being homeowners.   Adding to my painted brick houses board on Pinterest only fueled my belief that our house would look so good if it were painted.

Here we have a picture from those early days.  The landscaping consisted solely of English ivy from one end to the other, giving the property a somewhat sinister, deserted look.  While we were getting used to having a mortgage, we had little money for major improvements.  But we could pull out the ivy ourselves, and we did.   Little by little we added new plantings – it’s still a work in progress.

You know that expression lipstick on a pig?  I guess I thought  I could disguise ugly brick with landscaping and black shutters.  Didn’t work.

In another attempt at improving the curb appeal we had a tree cut down in the front yard.  We hate to cut down trees.  But I knew it would make a difference in the landscaping.  I wrote about that here.

Now we have more lush plantings that give us the perfect setting to display the American flag.

These half-measures did not make me stop wanting to paint the house. In fact, I became more and more convinced that we really needed to do it and now. I had painters at the house on another job and while they were here I got an estimate for painting the house. Hmm, less than I thought.  The maintenance will not be a big issue.  I was able to reassure Tom and he started really noticing some other painted brick homes in our neighborhood.  Gradually, he came around.

The brick color is Gateway Gray and the trim is Snowbound, both by Sherwin Williams from their HGTV home collection.  Interestingly, getting Tom to agree to paint the house was the hard part.  We quickly came to agreement when we found this color.  I bought many samples and we painted them on the side of the house.  Once we saw Gateway Gray we both knew it was the one, not too dark, not too light, just right.

The painters fixed the facing around the front door and removed an old intercom from beside the door.

Full disclosure, Tom isn’t the only one who hesitates on unnecessary home improvements.  I have to talk myself into spending money on projects that are purely cosmetic.   Shouldn’t we put that money in our retirement fund, or, if I’m going to be frivolous,  maybe toward a trip to Paris?

There are no regrets here.  We love the way it turned out.  It was just the fix the house needed.

How do you feel about painting brick?

My Notables: Noteworthy Articles and Products

There are always a few articles or products that I find so interesting and helpful, I just have to share them.

I have finally found a sunscreen that doesn’t make my face feel greasy or look shiny.

In case you are out of ideas on how to keep your kids occupied, this post from Emily Henderson may come just in time.

I can’t wait to  use artichokes in my next floral arrangement based on  this tutorial.

Friends recently served roasted tomatoes on crostini and it was delicious.  Top with mozzarella and basil and your guests may fill up on the appetizer.

Could you cut your weekly waste down to a tiny jar?

I would love to know what you think.  Let me know in the comments.

Favorite Vases

I really love playing around with arranging flowers these days.  Around here there are several places you can buy about  a dozen stems quite inexpensively which means you can buy a couple of bunches.  I cringe to remember the days I bought a ready made bouquet and jammed it into a pitcher (my attempt at artfulness).  But I have evolved.  Now I have quite a few vases and other vessels for my arrangements and I would never, ever buy a mixed bouquet from the grocery store.

Every now and them I am so pleased with my creation I must snap a picture and save it.  Will I ever make it again?  It’s unlikely, but, let’s face it, a picture is the only way a floral arrangement can survive.  I thought I would share a few of my favorites.  Hopefully, you will look at them and think, why, anybody could do that.  Yes, exactly.

I’m always going on and on about alstroemeria and that’s because it is the perfect flower for anytime of year.  They come in every color, they last for over a week, they are beautiful and at our Safeway a big bouquet is $5!  What more could you ask for?

I save the vases from floral arrangements I have received, like this clear square vase above.  The height is just right for seeing over on a dining table and it holds a good sized arrangement.  This arrangement is composed of several bunches from Trader Joe’s, which has the least expensive flowers around.  But I have noticed they do not last as long as the Safeway flowers.  Still, if I’m buying them for a specific event they don’t have to last a long time.

 

Those little daisy like flowers are chamomile.  I was going for a summery, just picked on the side of the road feeling here and the little chamomile flowers gave it just that touch.  I found five glass containers at a thrift store and made five arrangements for my table.  Did you notice the white alstroemera?  All of these flowers were from Trader Joe’s.  TJ’s does have a wider assortment than the grocery store.

Simple is always in style of course.  Peonies in a white footed vase will always delight.

When I found this green vase I tried to talk myself out of buying it.  As you can see I lost the discussion and I’m glad.  The shape and the color of the vase were created just to display two pink hydrangeas.

Okay, I know this one didn’t require a lot of creativity.  It’s a classic to put hydrangeas in a blue and white bowl.

This little turquoise pitcher is another thrift store find that called my name.  Again, I have never been sorry that I succumbed to its call for I have used it again and again.

Well, I could go on and on but that is enough for now.  As you can see, the possibilities are endless and well worth the effort.  Flowers, whether from your garden or the grocery store,  add that blend of beauty and warmth we all strive for in our homes.

Have a great weekend!

Summer Celebrating

I love summer for so many reasons, but especially for the salads and fruit desserts that I make at this time of year. Even though we can get the ingredients for these recipes all year I still tend to make them primarily when the weather is warm and the living is easy.  I thought I would put some of my favorite recipe links in one place in case you were looking for some simple but flavorful dishes.

Blueberry Tart

Potato Salad

Tortellini Salad

Deviled Eggs

And lastly, I could not come up with anything cuter than Emily Henderson‘s idea for a great Fourth of July party with kids (although she doesn’t mention food, just decor and games).  It is such a fun and adorable post though, I think everyone should see it and wish they were invited over to her place.

I agree with her idea (which is sort of what I have done) of gathering up your blue and white “stuff” and just adding red through food or other items – flowers – or clothing.  Then you have a red, white and blue party without investing in a bunch of kitschy party items you have to store.

I will bet you have a lot more blue and white around your house than you thought.  Put out some strawberries and watermelon on your table and you are good to go.

Happy Fourth of July!

Displaying the Flag

Displaying the Flag

For years I have struggled with how to display the American flag on our home or in the garden.  Our house does not lend itself naturally to flag placement.  We live in a typical ranch style house with no distinguishing architectural characteristics, such as porch columns or railings.

I love this display of the flag on the charming Victorian home.   And they have displayed the flag properly to the left of the door, according to this article.

Mr. DB leaned toward the flag pole idea, but I didn’t think it seemed right for our yard.  In the picture below they planted the flowers around it but it is a little stark for my taste.

Finally, after hours online and batting around some ideas, we hit on a solution that met all of our criteria.

I wanted the flag and it’s support stanchion to be part of the landscape.  Mr. DB wanted it to be central and to stand out. We found the perfect spot as the centerpiece of the landscape on the left  side of the house.  It looks intentional and purposeful there.

We purchased a 4×4 post from Home Depot and set it in concrete (using quickrete and their online directions).   It was a pretty simple project, after all the deliberation.

We are still looking for the right light so that the flag can be up at night.  Those lights in the picture provide a weak beam and aren’t really adequate.  Please let me know if you have suggestions!

I love to display the flag all of the time but particularly on the patriotic holidays, those times when we remember and reflect on  all the values that made us the nation we are.

Nowadays it seems as if we all have opinions on who is the most patriotic.   However, I would like to take this opportunity to dispel any notion that military families are more patriotic than others.  As a family member of a retired Marine, I can say that we chose that life, we loved it and felt honored by it, but we are no more patriotic than others who love and revere our great country.  And we all have our experience with the country; each is individual and unique.  That must be respected and acknowledged as well.

Do you have a traditional Fourth of July celebration or does it vary every year?  Ours certainly varies.

No firm plans yet, but I know we will take a few minutes to reflect on how very lucky we are to be Americans.

 

 

Visiting your Newborn Grandchild in the Hospital

Our second granddaughter arrived sooner than expected a couple of weeks ago! Our son and his wife had their child about a month early, and thankfully everyone is doing well.

Going to the hospital on short notice made me wish I had prepared a list of stuff to bring with me.  Even though this is my second grandchild (our daughter welcomed a daughter last year), I was still racking my brain for something helpful and useful to take.  That was my first mistake.

A gift doesn’t have to be useful!  Take balloons!  Balloons add such a festive touch to a sterile hospital room.

Food is usually welcome and appreciated.    Mom and Dad are probably off cycle with the delivery. Once everything settles down a bit, they may notice that they are starving.  Specialty sandwiches are a good option since they don’t have to be served hot.  Fruit and cookies are nice additions as well.  Everyone needs to keep their strength up.

Present for Mom. Perhaps the new Mom would appreciate a nice robe or wrap to put over her hospital gown, especially since everyone is snapping pictures right and left, not to mention plenty of friends and family dropping by.  Or maybe some scented hand sanitizer to dispel that hospital sterility and encourage clean hands.  Any suggestions on this one from some new moms out there?

Champagne?  Maybe.  You know the couple and what they would like.  Juices are also good for nursing moms.

Beanie or mittens for baby.  Etsy has so many options, personalized or not.

Also, just ask the couple what they need/want you to bring.  Most people are not in the hospital that long so there really isn’t a need to take too much stuff.

Of course the main thing is welcoming that new little member of the family!

After your visit you can start planning a meal or two to take over when everyone gets home.

Memorial Day and Shrimp Etouffee

 

We had a somewhat soggy Memorial Day but that did not dim our fun any.

Luckily I had planned a meal that did not require the grill. Growing up in southern Mississippi, on the Louisiana border,  my tastes tend toward the spicy and flavorful blend of seasonings that defines the region.   It has been awhile since I have done some Cajun cooking and I had a yen for etouffee.

Etouffee is a kind of gravy combining spices with celery, bell peppers and onions.  This gravy adds so much flavor to the shrimp.  It is really good served over rice with some scallions on top.  I used this recipe and it was outstanding.   Serve it with a tossed salad, maybe a little fruit salad as well and to me, it is the taste of home.

 

Chef John (creator of the recipe) says he used frozen shrimp and it was very tasty.  I used previously frozen shrimp from Whole Foods.  They were really delicious, and also came peeled and de-veined which was a bonus.

Back when my mother used to make etouffee we used crawfish, which were plentiful in that area.  Crawfish are the poor relation of shrimp; they are a little chewier, but they do hold onto the sauce more tenaciously.  Shrimp works just as well.

No one seemed to miss the burgers.

Naturally, the red, white and blue decor had to come out.   Have you noticed how useful red napkins are?  I plan to go out this week and buy some more.  Between the patriotic holidays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day they are on a steady rotation.  The blue tablecloth is from Ikea and it is so easy to care for.  It comes out of the dryer wrinkle free.

I bought those funny little patriotic characters over 15 years ago at an antique mall.  They add their own kind of spice to the table.

And now summer is officially underway!  Unfortunately we have another week of rain to look forward to.