New Fence

Recently we had to replace our 20 year old fence. Its time had come, as you can see below.

I decided to change the design slightly and add the arched effect. Our fence is mostly just a backdrop to the shrubberies and trees in our backyard.

This corner of the yard is a neglected area. We have never settled on a purpose for it.

It’s a few steps away from the house, just far enough that it seems too far. But there is potential. A few beautiful shrubberies up against that fence, along with some comfortable chairs and this spot could be a nice contemplative area. Or just a good spot for admiring the rest of the yard. Suggestions? I’d love to hear them.

I have one tip if you are ever building a fence. Don’t forget to tell your neighbors! Some of the construction will take place on their property and it’s not good to surprise them with people stomping around their garden. How could I forget to do this?! I will be smoothing feathers for the next little while.

Oh well. It’s good to check another home improvement off the list.

4 Perennials that Outlast the Heat

4 Perennials that Outlast the Heat

I usually try to assess my garden at this time of year, looking to see what has done well, what needs to be replaced and what holes in the garden need to be filled. It is still too hot here in the mid-Atlantic region to plant any shrubs but I can identify the conditions of the area and start researching appropriate plants for the spot. I also note my successes which are amazing since we have had many more 100 degree days than normal around here.

Caryopteris blooms this vibrant purple color in mid to late August, a time when most of the flowering plants have given up. It doesn’t seem to be bothered by drought or neglect and continues to spread and produce more and more bee-loving flowers. Before I got close the bees were swarming all over this bush. It brings welcome color to the front garden.

My Black Eyed Susans have been blooming for a month already and show no signs of wilting. Wedged in between the dark purple barberry and the dark lace cap hydrangea, the bright yellow really stands out.


This Annabelle hydrangea was planted 17 years ago. It dominates the garden with its height and large cone shaped flowers. Usually the butterflies are flitting from flower to flower.

My canna lillies never bloom but I still love the beautiful deep purple leaves that provide plenty of dramatic color. Cannas grow from bulbs that cannot survive the winters here so they must be dug up every year. My solution has been to plant them in these pots and move them into the garage in the colder months. I move them out again in late April and they reliably leaf out.

We have weeks of warm weather ahead of us thankfully. We are replacing our fence next week which is much needed since the old one is leaning inward. The new fence is a different style and I will share that with you once it’s installed.

Matchmaking with Vases and Flowers

Matchmaking with Vases and Flowers

One of the fringe benefits of hosting a dinner party is that afterward I usually have more flowers around than I normally do. Since I usually buy a few bunches to create a centerpiece, and often guests will bring a bouquet or two, this gives me an opportunity to divide and rearrange and spread them around the house for maximum enjoyment. Of course, there are also those days that I don’t have time to play around with flowers and I just want to get them in fresh water. They are still pretty. Anyway, I wanted to share some ideas for using all your flowers in different vases.

Here is what I started with recently:

The arrangement below is one of two identical arrangements.

I started with a few taller vases and a couple of smaller ones. I began with these three, but as you will see more were needed.

The mums are long stemmed so this taller vase was called for.

Then I went around the house finding the right spot for them.

These gerbera daisies are peeking around in the master bedroom.

And these gerberas add a cheerful presence to my office. Gerberas look beautiful in any size vase, don’t they?

I ended up liking the stock in this silver vase the best, after playing around with it in some other containers.

Alstromeria always makes a great loose, informal kind of arrangement.

This is one of the arrangements I tried with the stock. I like it better in the silver vase though.

One flower in a small vase is kind of adorable sometimes.

Did you notice that all of the arrangements were composed of a single type of flower? I didn’t start out to do that, but each type of flower seemed to lend itself to a certain vase. The purity of it was quite appealing.

All but one of the containers came from a thrift store! I always look for unique vessels for flowers when I’m shopping in thrift stores. I try to find two or three that are similar in size and color so that I can use them on the dining table. It’s hard to tell but I found glass containers for this early summer arrangement from a few months ago.

It’s always a pleasure to have flowers around, isn’t it? I hope you found some inspiration to help you enjoy them even more.

Making the Most of Summer’s Bounty

One of my most favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh produce whether from the farmer’s market or your own garden. Mr. Bee’s garden is beginning to produce and, as you gardeners know, when things ripen, you can almost have an overabundance. Over the years I have collected recipes that help me make the most of the harvest.

We didn’t have a good year for beans in the garden, but there are plenty of farmer’s markets in our area that have them. One of my favorite dishes with green beans is a twist on the Nicoise Salad. It’s filling and flavorful, perfect for a quick weeknight meal. Find how I did it here.

You wouldn’t believe how many cucumbers one plant produces. We do share them with friends and family but somehow end up with 3 cucumbers in the refrigerator on a given day. Mr. Bee found this recipe for pickled cucumbers that his mother used to make. The fresh ginger gives them a real flavor boost. We love them with any grilled meats.

I am a subscriber to Bon Appetit magazine and I recommend it for great writing, informative articles and delicious recipes. Now that Mr. Bee is bringing home 3 and 4 tomatoes a day, we are making this Spaghetti with No-Cook Puttanesca once a week. You won’t believe how good this easy sauce is.

I have heard so much about aioli but wasn’t sure what exactly it is. Of course it was easy enough to learn more about. Aioli is a versatile sauce involving a raw egg, garlic and lemon juice. It’s delicious as a sauce for dipping or spooning over those fresh vegetables. In the course of my research I found this Cheater’s Aioli. It’s so delicious. And she has a great technique for adding the garlic flavor without the garlic bits.

I spooned it over some roasted carrots, but ate them before taking a picture! This sauce is irresistible.

I hope this gives you some ideas for enjoying summer’s fresh vegetables.

Meal Planning

Meal Planning

I am not a consistent nor organized meal planner. Now that Mr. Bee and I are empty nesters and there are no growing children to constantly feed, I am able to plan meals on the fly, usually as I do my grocery shopping. And this is okay for the most part. I have a repertoire of meals in my head, plus the cooking experience to know that I can come up with something we will enjoy. We usually do not eat out or order in and our meals are fairly healthy.

But I would like to up my game and have more variety in our weekly meals. Also, I realized that I do get repetitious and prepare the same dishes over and over. Let’s face it: eating is one of the pleasures of life, but it takes planning to make it truly so.

I really wanted to make the planning process less onerous and so I created a printable sheet where I can list my meals under categories. This sheet has proved helpful in several ways.

The idea I came up with to make meal planning easier is to categorize each day according to the routine that is established already at our house. For example, Monday is healthy meal day. We may have over indulged on the weekend, so Monday is a day to have a lighter meal. Sometimes it is a vegetarian meal but sometimes we have a salad with chicken. The weekends are grill time, although now that we have our first ever gas grill that may change. I have Thursday as leftover day to remind me of my goal to have less/no food waste. On that day my plan is to use our leftovers in pasta or on pizza or any way that I can to come up with a new meal.

I write in pen those meals that I make regularly. But if I plan to try a new recipe I will add it in pencil. That way, if it’s not a keeper I can remove it from my list of tried and true recipes. This planning tool is a new one and I will probably tweak it as time goes by.

I have two templates today. One printable has the weekdays categorized for our preferences. However, if you would like to set up your own categories, say crockpot Wednesday, or salad Tuesday, then there is a blank template for you to add your own categories.

How do you meal plan? I would love to learn about different methods.

Rose Season

Rose Season

Last year my Mother’s Day present from Mr. Bee was this arbor for my roses. The rose vines were so loaded with blooms that they required something substantial to hold them up. You can read about that here.

By the time the arbor was installed, the roses were past their blooming season. So this is my first season for the roses to bloom on the arbor.

Earlier this spring I did some pruning and shaping to get the vines to grow over the top of the arbor. This job required me to dress in a heavy sweatshirt and gloves because both of my rose bushes have a LOT of thorns. The vines just seem to reach out and hold onto me as I pruned, almost as if they wanted to keep me from my cutting. That trimming back has resulted in fewer blooms I think. But they will come back.

The arbor is located in the sunniest area of the yard. Roses require at least 6 hours of sun daily.

This spot gets loaded up with all of the sun loving flowers, like petunias.

The red pots are planted with canna lilly bulbs. Canna bulbs cannot survive the cold temperatures of our winter here in the mid-Atlantic, so I move these pots into the garage for the winter.

My cannas do not bloom but I love their beautiful leaves like these from last year.

My other rose bush, New Dawn is a climber. The vines are full of buds now but none is open yet. I have some vacation plans coming up and I hope I don’t miss this flowering season.

I have to go mark my calendar to remind me not to plan any trips next May.

It’s gratifying to see how the roses have taken to the structure though!

Small Entry Hallway

Small Entry Hallway

I have shared some pictures here on the blog of the small entry hallway of our home. It’s one of those areas that calls for all the creativity I can bring. How do you add personality and function to an area that is basically a hall, with a door that opens into it?

Over the years, I have tried a few looks.

Even though it’s a small area, there is some separation from the living room. Usually, there are mail and keys, a coffee cup and random other items on that half wall. It’s a very convenient landing zone.

This past weekend I went thrifting and found a bamboo mirror, which has always been on my wish list. Did I tell you that right now I am on the hunt for any rattan, bamboo, vintage wicker “stuff”? I do have my eye out for those items, so when I saw this mirror for $20 I grabbed it. I didn’t know where I was going to put it but I knew it had to go in my house. Guess which area needed a big shot of pizzaz?

It’s hard to appreciate at this angle. However, when you walk in the front door, this is the first thing you will see.

Once past, the first step into the house, your eye falls to the hallway and opening to the living room. The skylight, which was here when we bought the house, really floods this area with light.

This little section of the living room is not really part of the living room yet it kind of is, let’s say, the edge of the living room. It’s up to me to define the space. I think of it as an extension of my entry way.

After several ho-hum efforts I am trying out this iron rack as a kind of filing system/organizer for those items that used to go on the half wall. I can stage my library books that I need to return and the old box can hold the mail that until now sat on my kitchen island. For the time being, and blog purposes, I put some decorative flowers on there too.

Of course Mr. Bee will have to be trained on the new procedure.

Also, I changed up the little area that is behind the front door.


I think these small areas can require more effort and creativity than the larger ones.

I couldn’t resist this vintage botanical print. I’m not sure it’s getting its due in this passageway, so we will see if it stays here.

I am trying a few different looks on this rack.

I found a few other exciting items on this thrift store binge. I can’t wait to show you.

Conquering the not-great View

Conquering the not-great View

I have had a disappointing view from one of the master bedroom windows for, well, as long as we have owned the house, twenty years. My answer has been to keep the curtains closed on that side of the room. We have another window which lets in a fair amount of light. I was not in the bedroom much except to sleep so that was an acceptable solution then.

View of neighbor’s backyard from my master bedroom window

Now that I work from home, I am in and out of my bedroom much more often during the day and this dark corner started to bother and annoy me.

And then I realized I had a ready made solution right in the house.

I made this fake stained glass window years ago. I bought an old window from a friend thinking I would do a different craft involving sea glass pebbles. Anyway, in the craft section of Walmart I found the supplies for making fake stained glass. You can also find the materials at Michael’s.

It has been 15 years since I made this window. However I remember that it was quite easy and an almost zen-like experience. The “leaded” shapes are pre-made. The squares and diamonds, those fleur-de-lis pieces, all of those come pre-formed. I took the time to plan my layout and measure. Planning is so important on any project, right?

I realize the window might look better if I hung it so that it is centered in the window frame. However, we just got new windows for the house and I can not make a hole in the perfect sash I now have.

This bedroom is getting a refresh but it is an extremely slow process. You can see the corner of a bench on some of the pictures here. I am not keeping that. What to keep and what to get rid of are decisions yet to be made. Balancing simplicity and starkness can be a struggle at times. Ha!

I found a few tutorials online that may help you get started: here, and here.

What solutions have you found to hide unsightly views or add privacy without sacrificing sunlight?

Easy Salmon Pinwheels

Remember office parties? It seems as if they are a relic from the past, but we had one this past weekend. I have been working on a recipe idea and I used this occasion to try them out. .

The office party is obviously quite different from having your friends over. It sits in that gray area between formality and familiarity. Our crowd this weekend was friendly and outgoing so that made it fun.

Smoked salmon served with capers and red onion, a little creme fraiche is one of my favorite appetizers. However, it can be messy to keep all of the ingredients contained so they don’t end up on your clothes or the floor. The answer? Put those ingredients in a tortilla! So I did and you can find the recipe here.

I usually offer vegetables and dip at a cocktail party. My go-to dip is curry dip which has so much flavor. I took this picture before adding the curry dip to the bowl.

At a party I hosted a few years ago, I found out by accident that water is something your guests will greatly appreciate. At that time I served water and lemonade in crocks because I was hosting our extended family with a lot of teenagers and I wanted to give them choices besides sodas. But the water crock was what I kept refilling. Every since I have put one of these containers out at parties and people always drink it up. I encourage everyone to make it easy for your guests to get some water.

Last week was a busy one. A party really gets me motivated to tackle and finish projects around the house. I put up a towel hook in the bathroom, washed my dining room chair slipcovers, planted pansies in the yard, cleared out a bunch of clutter from all over the house, and cleaned. Whew! It felt good.

Do parties get you motivated to take care of all those little chores you have been putting off?

Compost Saves

One of my resolutions this year is to be a better citizen of the planet. For me that means to use as little plastic as possible and to re-use and recycle whenever I can. My ultimate goal is to radically reduce the amount of trash we add to the landfill.

One of the primary ways I reduce trash output is to compost. For those who are not familiar with compost, it is a method of recycling food waste, such as peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, along with yard wastes and other matter. These materials decompose into a rich and nutritious soil conditioner for your plants. And I continually learn of items that can be added to the compost pile, further reducing my trash.

Another important reason to compost is that it helps the environment. Did you know that food waste in the landfill is one of the major causes of the methane gases that are contributors to climate change? By recycling our food waste we can help reduce those emissions at the same time we create rich fertilizer for our shrubs and plants. Talk about a win-win.

So, how do we do it? In our case, we set aside a corner of our side yard for this purpose. This corner already had two sides from our fence, and Mr. Bee was able to fashion two other sides out of fencing and a large piece of slate we inherited. Compost bins are available from garden websites as well. We started composting by throwing in yard clippings and kitchen scraps in this pile. I have added some links below this post for a more detailed method to compost.

For the compost to break down in a timely manner you need both green matter (like kitchen and yard waste) and brown matter.

Brown matter can be manure – which you can buy. But also paper is a good source of brown matter, and specifically shredded paper will break down very nicely. I love dumping out my shredder in the compost pile. And so you “layer” your kitchen waste and your paper. I admit that we do not carefully layer our materials. We dump and stir. I probably take out the vegetable matter every day but do not dump in the paper for months. But it works! We end up with a rich black soil for our gardens.

The first time I lifted up a shovel full of compost, I was dumbfounded that this rich soil came from my kitchen scraps! It almost seems like magic. As you handle the soil and feel its rich texture it is obvious this will be good for your garden. The difference in your flowers and vegetables will be recognizable and will multiply each year.

I recently bought this copper canister at TJ Maxx to hold my scraps until I am ready to take them out. No one would ever know that behind that sleek and shiny exterior rot is running riot. But it’s a good idea to take it out daily. Sometimes I use a plastic produce bag to line the container to make the clean up a little easier.

Recycling your food scraps into compost is such an easy way to create food for your plants, reduce methane gas emissions in the landfill and reduce the volume of trash as well. I hope I’ve encouraged you to give it a try!

To learn more about composting you may want to refer to these sites:

https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/100-things-you-can-compost