The Shady Garden Corner

Mr. Bee calls this corner of our back yard the grotto, and with good reason. It’s a dark, gloomy and damp place.

When we moved in, the pavers and existing shrubbery were completely covered in English ivy. At first it seemed like a good thing to uncover a hidden patio. This little nook was way down on the priority list sure. But, a few plants and some yard sale furniture could make it a charming, pleasant alcove. It wouldn’t take much to make it a nice little outdoor retreat.

This picture was taken on a good day before we replaced the fence. I’d cleaned off the glass tabletop (a chore!) and the chairs, that were indeed all from a yard sale. As you can see there isn’t much growing here beside the one straggly shrub in the corner.

I had tried to plant a few shrubs but every attempt to get something growing in the ground ended in failure. This Carolina jasmine gave me some hope before it, too, succumbed. Tired of throwing money away, I resigned myself to planting liriope which at least covered the moist clay soil with something green.

I did try to disguise the shadowy corners with bright pillows and table styling. This photo is clearly for the blog.

That was the accommodation until late last year when the table base deteriorated to the point of collapse . The rattan base was on its last legs so we took the glass off to avoid a potential mess of broken glass. There was no motivation to buy a new table since we so rarely used the old one. The table was removed just as winter set in and the retreat sat empty.

Having more time on my hands lately I was going through some old garden books. I happened to read an article that explained the difference between partial shade and full shade. It was one of those aha! moments.

I have full shade and was buying plants that could only take partial shade. The garden books were helpful in pointing out shrubs and other plants that favor full shade. With my new knowledge I called the garden center.

Hope springs eternal.

Meanwhile I had an empty grotto. This glider, was moved into the space temporarily while I wait for my plants to arrive.

I will be back later in the week with some big changes in the grotto.

Family Separations at the Holidays

Well Easter Sunday is certainly going to be different this year. If we can’t go to church and we can’t have an egg hunt or go out to brunch, why not just call the whole thing off? It is somewhat tempting to skip the decorating and fancy cooking when we can’t have the entire family together. I have been here before.

For this is not the first time in my life that I have had to rise to the occasion on a holiday. Our family has had Easters when Mr. Bee was deployed and other Easters when kids were in college and too far to come home. One year we had both those situations at the same time. Even so, it just wasn’t in me to make a frozen pizza and call it a day. I came up with the idea of small scale festivity for these situations. And I was always glad I made the effort.

What is small scale festivity you ask? You figure out what is important to you to celebrate the day. Coloring eggs maybe? Bringing in some spring flowers? Making a nicer than usual dinner? Or a special dessert? Little pleasures soothe the spirit in times of stress and loneliness I have found.

The challenge of this time is to figure out new rituals and celebrations amidst the restrictions of social distancing. Luckily we have technology to help us see and speak with our loved ones. We can gather some flowers and greenery from our garden. We can go to a little extra effort for a meal. These small measures are the bright spots in these fearful times.

We may not look back on Easter 2020 as our most fun. Maybe we will remember it as the Easter we made the best of a difficult time.

How will you celebrate the special occasions while social distancing is in effect?

Home For the Time Being

Are you prepared to be home for the duration, however long that is? What does it even mean to be prepared in this unprecedented situation? I can get groceries, and just about anything else, delivered, the library has e-books, we have wi-fi and thus access to entertainment and information. So what is all this hoarding about? Am I missing something?

Most of us are trying to weather the situation as best we can. For us that means staying home and not having contact with anyone, including our children and grandchildren and, especially, Mr. Bee’s 92 year old mother.

While I am home trying to figure out how to be as prepared as possible I have to admit that my emergency preparedness kit is not up to an average emergency. My present system is to have our supply of batteries and other essentials all over the house in various drawers and cabinets. Certainly Mr. Bee can’t find them and even I have trouble remembering where I stashed them. I’m pretty sure I can come up with something better. We need a place to have a week’s (a month’s?) worth of food and water, batteries, a first aid kit, all in one place. Clearing out a space is something I can do right now so that when toilet paper becomes available again, I have a place to put it.

On the creative side, I recently discovered art journaling. Ever since my first online course, I have been drawing and coloring and painting and gluing with abandon. There is no requirement to be good or show others and it has just been a wonderful way to meditate and to think through life’s challenges. An outgrowth of the art journaling has been to start a coronavirus journal to chronicle this extraordinary time we are living in. Perhaps someday my grandchildren will be interested to know how we lived through these days? I include a few headlines from the paper (yes, we still get a hard copy delivered) but this is not meant to be a factual account. I write a few lines about our daily activities, having lunch together, starting a puzzle, the weirdness of the toilet paper shortage/hoarding. That has been a creative and purposeful activity to focus on.

Being at home nonstop, without the distractions of shopping and errands, I see that there is plenty that needs doing. The garden needs tending, closets should be cleaned out and there’s a pile of sewing projects that have been languishing. Wouldn’t it be nice if my home were more tidy and organized when this is all over? Studies show that being productive helps with anxiety. Win-win.

How are you filling your days during this time at home?

My Hammam Bath Experience

My doctor, dermatologist, actually, suggested the hammam bath for me due to my dry, scaly, bumpy skin.  I knew my skin, especially on my back, needed attention.  In fact, one reason I was in her office was to check for cancerous spots, but also to diagnose the itchy rash that suddenly appeared all over my back and legs.

For the rash I was prescribed a visit to the spa.  Well, kind of.  In many cultures body scrubs are part of a monthly ritual for deep cleansing.   The hammam treatment is a Moroccan bath which  involves a period of steaming followed by vigorous scrubbing.

I’ve been to many spas over the years, but I have never experienced the hammam.  I googled it to see what to expect.  Experiences vary so I thought I would share mine.

Fortunately a spa providing hammam baths is located within a 15 minute drive of my home. Soon after arriving I was ushered into a comfortable room with a daybed and two chairs.  Maria, who performed my service told me to remove all of my clothes, including underwear and to wrap in the large Turkish towel provided.

Next I followed her into a sizable tiled room that was filled with steam.  A shower was running in the corner and I showered there, basically letting the warm water wash over me.  From there I was helped over to a large tiled slab where I lay down on a mat.  The room is so steamy you can barely see and I felt like my breathing had to adjust a little.  But it also feels good.

Then Maria used black soap to wash my entire body, front and back.  This took about 5 minutes.  You are left to steam for about 15 minutes.  When she came back, she began a vigorous scrub with a brush on my legs, working her way up to my shoulders and arms and then doing the same on my back side.   This scrubbing felt good for the most part.  Only my abdomen felt a little sensitive.  After scrubbing a section Maria would pour really warm water over me and that felt wonderful.  After the scrubbing and the water she applied a thick gel-like substance, like a masque all over my body.  I steamed some more, probably 5 minutes.  She came back and poured more water over me, removing the masque with her hands.

Then she had me sit up and she washed my hair and applied conditioner.  I went back to the shower for a final rinse.  In the dressing room I toweled off and Maria came in and applied Argan oil which my skin just drank up.  The entire process lasted a little over an hour.

My skin feels so smooth now.  I think I will go on a regular basis because I do have exceedingly dry and bumpy skin.  Also my doctored “ordered” it.

Afterwards you  feel a little raw, so if you are going to go anywhere you might want to bring a hairdryer and a little make-up.  Although there was a hairdryer and brush in the room, which I used, I would probably bring mine next time unless I planned to go directly home.

All in all it was a good experience and I see why some make it a regular part of their skin care routine.

What is your favorite spa procedure:  massage, facial, scrub, steam?

Make College Graduation Day Special

Make College Graduation Day Special

Our three children  have long since graduated from college.  But I clearly remember the excitement and pride I felt on each of those occasions. We wanted to celebrate afterwards  to make our graduate feel special and show them how proud we were.


 Each institution has its own traditions for those celebrations that take place immediately after the commencement ceremony.  How do you throw a party when you aren’t at home?  Won’t the restaurants be packed?  If you prefer to host a gathering, finding a venue can be challenging.

Perhaps your student has been living in an off-campus apartment and that would be suitable.  Streamers and balloons in the school colors add a festive touch.  Don’t forget napkins and other paper goods in the appropriate colors.   Food and drink could be purchased locally or brought from home if you are driving from nearby.

 If the weather is conducive, a picnic is a great option.    Picnics can be as casual or as elaborate as you like.  You will need to coordinate with your student to find out if the institution allows picnicking on the grounds.  Or perhaps there are public parks  nearby.  Check to see if these spaces require reservations.

Along these same lines, perhaps a tailgate picnic would work.  If you have the capability to bring a grill and some coolers, then your graduate can invite friends to join the celebration. Or some of those public parks may have grills (and restrooms) available.

Some colleges and universities have provided options on campus for families to set up their reception area.  I am surprised that more schools don’t do this, recognizing that families want to take the time to congratulate their student.

Obviously if you want to go to a restaurant you must plan ahead and make reservations.  I would start calling in February for a May graduation.  They may tell you that you have to wait, but then you can find out when reservations open for graduation day.  Put that date on your calendar and call early that day.

For one of our children’s graduations we rented a house for the weekend.  Having a house enabled us to invite our graduate’s friends and their families over to join us.  The school colors were orange and navy blue so I found as much decor in those colors as I could.  We brought food from home since the school is a short  two hour drive.

For another child’s graduation we attended a party at his fraternity house that was coordinated by some parents.  We all contributed to the cost. This provided an opportunity to socialize with the other graduates and their parents.

Any other suggestions for celebrating college graduation?  Let us know in the comments!


Best Greenery for Your Home

Best Greenery for Your Home

I think we all know that plants and flowers add a warm and nurturing feeling to a home.  Plants not only add beauty but also make our homes healthier by acting as air filters.

I know, I know.  What if you are not good at keeping plants alive?  House plants can be somewhat tricky.  For the most part I confine myself to the easier variety.  Today I’m going to share what works for me and a few other ways that I bring foliage into my house.

Continue reading “Best Greenery for Your Home”

Boho Guest Bedroom Final Reveal

We are done (for now anyway) in sprucing up my daughter’s guest bedroom on a $500 budget.  This post is a little late because we ordered a rug which didn’t arrive until the end of the week.

We are so happy with all the new personality in this room!

Continue reading “Boho Guest Bedroom Final Reveal”

5 Tips for Renting A Vacation House

Every year (almost) we rent a house at the beach for a week of vacation time with our family.  Now that our three children are grown, and two are married, it can be difficult to coordinate our schedules so that we can all be together for an extended time.  All of us try to make it a priority to set aside a few days to come together.  And it’s vacation, so it’s not hard.

4 houses, better (1 of 1)

Of course, as your family grows and people mature, you look for different things in a house.  This year we will have two granddaughters with us.  Yay!  In years past we wanted a ping pong table.  Now we need some quiet areas.   It’s a good idea to jot down some must-haves for your house, along with budget and the dates that are good for everyone.

Continue reading “5 Tips for Renting A Vacation House”

Show Your Love

I don’t usually make a BIG deal of Valentine’s Day, but it is fun to make it a little less ordinary.  Here are some of the ways I have celebrated the day with those I love.

I made this potholder for my mother-in-law.  If you sew, it’s easy to make these with scraps from your fabric stash.

I bring in more candy than usual.  Candy doesn’t last long around here – even with the kids gone.

It’s a good opportunity to bring out your heart decor.


How cute is this craft heart for your kids, of any age?

And thank goodness for Valentine’s Day or I would have lingering Christmas decor until Easter.  Oy!

I’ll be back on Monday with my easy weeknight Valentine’s Day dinner for two.

Boho Bedroom is almost Done

We are almost done in the guest room of my daughter’s new house.  If you haven’t been following along, we are sprucing up this room on a $500 budget.  You can see more here.

This week we worked on the side of the room across from the bed, which basically only needed a mirror and a little styling help on the dresser top.

I think a little larger plant might be in order at least for the pictures.  I do like to leave room for guests to place their brushes and toiletries, etc. on dressers and other surfaces.

I found the small shelf at a thrift store and painted it white.  We didn’t need anymore brown furniture in this room.

In the beginning it looked like this:

Luckily we had good quality furniture.  All we had to do was add a few accessories and warm it up a bit.

This empty corner gets a little personality with a shelf and some pictures.

A few more incidentals and we are done.  And we have not spent all of our $500.  I will have a full accounting of our expenditures on the final reveal.