Going container combination crazy

F   irst, some exciting news. I've been selected to be part of Proven Winners' writers' distribution. This means that I'll get some new varieties of plants to trial prior to their release (so I will get a sneak peek at the 2011 introductions). I'll also be going to Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza March 6 in Chicago, which I'm very much looking forward to.

I also got a pack of literature, including the material sent to Proven Winners retailers, which is pretty interesting stuff. There's one piece in there about how many plants you should put in a hanging basket. Six, apparently is standard (keep in mind these are liners, so very small plants) but Proven Winners encourages retailers to use nine plants to create a more lush basket.

I remember years ago I used to think that the White Flower Farm catalog was on the cutting edge of container design. Maybe that's because I grew up in a place where a mixed container meant one thing: a spike, a geranium and vinca vines trailing out. Since then a lot of garden designers and companies have jumped on the creative container bandwagon and their creations are a great place to get ideas from for our own gardens.

Thankfully, container gardening has come a long way since the old standby. These days you don't have to go far to find great container combinations, and even if you're not a container gardener, there's some value in getting an eye for what makes a good combination in a container, because the same principles apply to combining plants in a perennial garden.

By now you've probably all heard of the "Thriller, filler, spiller" theory to container gardening. Someone got really cute and decided to make it all rhyme, but the idea is simple: have something tall, something that fills out the middle and something that trails over the edges. Obviously the person who came up with those terms was looking at a container different from the one pictured above ... that spike is a lousy thriller!

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There's no lacking a great thriller in this next container.

 

That's King Tut Egyptian Papyrus and I can almost guarantee you I'll have it on my porch this year. I LOVE it! But it's huge. It's supposed to grow to between 48 to 72 inches tall and the "spikelets" on top can be one foot across. But here's the kicker on this plant: It's a water plant, and Proven Winners even goes so far as to suggest that if you grow it in a pot, you plug the drainholes, but of course that won't work if you have any other plants in the container (as shown in the picture). Since it's such a big plant, you want it in a big container and I'm thinking maybe I could plant it in it's own (drain hole-plugged) container and sink that container into another container. Anyway, this combo is stunning.

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This is mostly a monochromatic look, but I also find it very textural, too. What I like about this container (called Abracadabra) is that it breaks the rules. There's a whole lot of filler, but not much thriller or spiller, yet the balance of plants in it—larger leaves of the coleus, smaller flowers below—there's enough going on to keep it interesting, but not too much to confuse the eye. The container, of course, is perfect as its round shape echoes the shape of the planting (but makes up about one-third of the overall height of the whole thing, which is a good design principle in general).

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This container is more traditional in nature in it follows the thriller, filler, spiller rule, but what sets it apart in my mind is the unusual color palette, which is, obviously, intensified by the container choice. Aptly named Chestnut Hill, it's also an excellent use of coleus, which I think makes a bigger statement when only one kind is used. With so many great coleus out there it's sometimes hard to restrain yourself to just use one, but it really looks so much better en masse (sound familiar, perennial gardeners?)


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Well this one is no wallflower is it? I'm actually surprised that I'm drawn to this container because there is a lot going on here, but I cannot take my eyes off that orange strawflower in front. The hot color of the strawflower along with the cool purples of the nemesia and heuchera and then the pop of the golden variegated sweet flag is just very pleasing to my eye. 


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Where the previous container had a splash of HOT color, this one is cool and refreshing (and perfect with those white columns. The blues, greens and whites accented with a blue container make this combination a breath of fresh air on a sticky, hot summer day. I think this container would be especially nice right at eye level, such as on a stair railing support because it also has great texture with the variegated sage (and it probably smells nice too). I'm a toucher (not in a dirty way, I promise). When I shop for anything be it clothing, fabric, furniture or plants, I have to touch them, so I think it's nice to have plants that have a different texture in the touching sense, not just the visual sense, placed where people can reach out and touch them.


That's just a few of the hundreds of container recipes Proven Winners has on its site. I don't think I've ever copied a container verbatim, but looking at combinations created by other people is a fantastic jumping off point to create your own mini gardens.

All photos other than top photo are from Proven Winners

A giveaway to check out

Maya over at Completely Coastal has some cool giveaways going on so go check them out!

Thanks for the shout-out

L indsey over at the Better After blog featured my freecycle buffet-turned-bookcase today.





I'm flattered, since the Better After blog is one of my go-to places for inspiration. Some of the things people come up with is amazing. There are so many creative people in this world.

In case you're a fan of before and afters, I thought I'd give you a quick teaser of a big one I have coming up: The eating are of the kitchen. The banquette is painted, the table is in place (although it needs to be cut to fit and painted ... I think I'll need a stiff drink before I do that to a brand new table), the cushions are being made and my mom is going to start working on the throw pillow soon (thank goodness for sewing moms). But would you believe I forgot to take a proper "Before" picture? I could kick myself!

I'm also working on a gardening post that will make all you gardeners get even more excited for spring, so stay tuned!

Great blogs

I   t's funny how my opinion of blogging has changed in the last year or so. I used to think that blogging was the ultimate in self-indulgence. I guess I assumed that most people were using blogs as an online journal. I couldn't have been more wrong. Blogging has opened up a forum for creative people who I would never otherwise know about. I learn something from a blog every day. It is the perfect place to steal borrow ideas and frankly, most bloggers are people like you and me: regular old folks who were looking for an answer to a question or solution to a problem, found it and posted about it in case someone else has the same question (and believe me, they do.)

I hesitate to encourage blogging because there's no doubt it poses a real threat to newspapers and magazines (and as a product of both and one of the lucky few who continues to make my living from words printed on paper I feel a certain obligation to the great printed word), but the fact of the matter is that not everyone will pitch their great story idea to a magazine, not every editor will be smart enough to recognize that it's a great story and not every blogger even wants to be published on a piece of paper.

I've been so impressed with the blogs I've found. These blogs are created by people who truly care about what they are blogging about. They are not, as you might say, phoning it in.

So I thought it might be appropriate to occasionally feature a great blog that I've found. I won't be held to any particular genre of blog (and I follow everything from gardening to home design to blogs written by dogs), so it'll always be a surprise.

And the first blog to be featured in this space is one I've just recently found. It's called Colour me Happy and it's written by Maria Killam, an interior designer and color expert. I don't know about you, but color really confuses me. I love it, but never really know WHY I like a particular color or why it works in a particular space (or even if it does at all), as evidenced by my ongoing saga with whites (here and here). Maria has studied color so she's one of those people who can tell you about undertones and when she explains it, it all makes sense (like in this post which talks about my current obsession: gray). I only offer you this warning: Once you discover Colour me Happy, you'll be obsessed with plowing through as many fascinating posts as you can.


Grab my Button


If you know of a great blog that I should make sure to check out, including yours, if I'm not already a follower, let me know!
 

At long last ... blueprints!

I   t's my birthday today. I tell you that not because I'm fishing for birthday wishes but because I was given an awfully nice gift this morning: blueprints for our potential house renovation. I've been waiting for these for awhile ... about seven years, give or take, since I knew from the moment I walked into our house that it would be ours and I also knew we'd need to make some modifications to be able to stay here for the long haul.

We love our house and hope to live in it until we can't anymore. That is what drives a lot of our design decisions and certainly that's what's driving this house renovation. We still need to crunch all the numbers to make sure we can afford to make this all a reality, but it's so nice to see it on paper.

I'll get into more detail about the project when it becomes final and these are just preliminary plans that will be tweaked a bit (I already have a few tweaks in the works and the plans have only been in my hands for a few hours). I'll just quickly tell you what we're trying to accomplish, and not accomplish with this reno. First of all, we're not adding square footage. I know that sounds strange, especially when your house is somewhere in the 1,300 square foot range, but I'm OK with the size for the most part, and adding on square footage would be such a huge undertaking from a financial and red tape (our proximity to Lake Michigan and the charming "creek" that runs through our back yard complicates permitting issues) perspective that it would make more sense to move. This project started with a desire to fix a faulty roof design. We have these odd little dormers that are set into the peak of the roof next to it. As it turns out, they are a breeding ground for ice dams and roof issues. Every time it snows we have to shovel our roof or else it will leak. We've had new waterproofing stuff put up there, had multiple roofers and insulation people come look and they all say the same thing ... we can fix it temporarily, but the only way to really fix it is to change the roof design.

And you know how projects go: you said "As long as we're ......" a lot. And we have. So as long as we're fixing the roof (which also needs to be done because we need a new roof anyway), we're making a few modications. The biggest is adding in a second bathroom so that we have one upstairs. We're also adding in a shed dormer on the east side to get more usable space in the bedrooms (which currently have a knee wall so the edges of the roof aren't good for much). And as long as we're doing all that ... well why not knock out a window in our little den/office/family room and put in glass doors going out to a deck. And as long as we're building a deck ... why not put up a pergola? Well, you get the point.

Anyway, enough babbling. If we can make this work there will be plenty of time to talk about all that stuff and show you the interiors.

So, here's the house in it's currently configuration (sorry that I don't have any straight-on shots).



And here's the plan, prior to some changes (you can see we were already scribbling on it a bit as we tossed around ideas). You can click on the pictures to make them bigger.



So what do you think? Not a bad birthday gift, huh? Of course the flowers my awesome husband got me are pretty great too, but the poor things have a lot to live up to with these plans in my hands.

Does the paint make the painter?

O  r is it the other way around?

I'm in the midst of a bit of an experiment with paint right now. I'm painting my NEW BANQUETTE!!!!!!! (Can you tell I'm a little excited?)



A great craftsman took my rambling notes and turned what was in my head into reality ... and then he installed it in my kitchen!

He made it all to match our existing cabinetry, and since our existing cabinetry is white, the banquette will be too.

Of course I'll have loads of pictures for you as this process continues, but there you see the starting point. Since I didn't want to the banquette from the get-go, I spent some time on painting forums, where a lot of professional painters hang out, looking for tips. My biggest dilemna was about what kind of paint to use. Waterborne or oil? Any specific brand? And the issue was worth even more research because our kitchen cabinets are in rough shape. They are nice cabinets, and I like the color, but they've been around for at least 20 years now so they are getting to the point where they need to be repainted, and I'm reluctant to spend a great deal of money to have someone paint them for me (for some reason I resent paying people to paint. I can't build a banquette because I just don't know how, nor do I have the proper tools, but I do have a paintbrush and I understand the basics of painting. I know I won't do as good of a job as most professionals, but I can do SOMETHING). So I've been looking at this banquette painting project as practice for painting the cabinets (which is not happening this year).

A number of brands of paint were discussed on the paint forums, but I decided to give a brand called Fine Paints of Europe a try, as it was described as the holy grail of paint by some pro painters. And it better be. At about $100 a gallon (well it's not even a gallon, it's 2.5 liters) this is not the kind of paint you want to just use willy nilly. If this paint was as good as they said, it would be worth it.

I called Fine Paints of Europe and had the most pleasant experience. A very nice man named Emmett answered and immediately set to helping me. I told him about my project and said that I was wary of spending this much on paint. I described myself as a proficient DIYer, but by no means a professional. And he told me it was his opinion that this paint would make any paint job better than it would be if we used a different paint. He suggested I buy a "Dutch Door Kit" which is sort of their sample pack. Basically it's everything you need to paint a door but he customized it for my needs. Three days later I got a box with a small can of oil-based primer, a 1-liter can of Eco waterborne paint matched to Benjamin Moore's Cotton Balls, four paint sticks (thank you ... I always run out of paint sticks!), sand paper and the most amazing paintbrush I've ever held. Emmett talked me through everything, talked about technique, sanding, etc. It was by far the nicest customer service experience I've had in ages. To me, that alone is worth the price of the paint.

But the question remained: Is putting such great paint in the hands of an amateur a little bit like giving a fine wine to an 18-year-old who has never had a drink before? Like handing fois gras to someone who only orders takeout and then asking them to cook it? Like letting someone who doesn't know how to drive stick get behind the wheel of a Ferrari Testarossa?

Well, the jury's still out. So far I've sanded, primed, sanded and applied coat No. 1 of the finish. What I've learned so far is:

1. When they say don't overwork the paint, they mean it. The places that look the worst are the places where I fussed too much with the brush. The places that look like a sprayed-on finish are where I put it on and left it alone.
2. Maybe even moreso than good paint, a good brush is an amazing thing to have. I thought I was using good brushes (Purdy, mostly). But the brush they included in the kit was an Omega brush ($28 value) and this thing is insanely awesome. I don't think I'll ever use a cheap brush again when it matters. I'm totally sold. And you better bet I took extra care when I was cleaning it.
3. Even when you think you have vacuumed until you can vacuum no more, dog hair WILL find its way into your paint.

I studied my work pretty carefully this morning and I'm amazed. This paint claims to have great "self-leveling" characteristics and I have to say it's true. Where I saw a mass of brush strokes last night was mostly if not completely smooth this morning. It's no spray finish, but with a little work on my technique, I definitely think I'll be up for painting the cabinets in the future.

By the way,  you might notice the different colors of paint peeking out from below those posters in the wall in the above picture. That's my sneaky way of testing paint colors: I paint a patch of a sample color (or colors) under the posters, then remove the poster while I'm thinking about the color. When I don't want my kitchen to look like a patchwork quilt, I cover up the samples with the posters. And if I had done it correctly, you would never know those different colors were lurking under there. I got a little overzealous and painted too far, so it sticks out the bottom a little bit, but no one has said anything yet.

And the winner is .....

T   he winner of my 100th post giveaway is the super talented and multi-blogging Maya from Completely Coastal and A Beach Lover's Place.

Maya opted for the subscription to House Beautiful magazine so three years of great design inspiration are headed her way!

Thanks for participating, everyone!


Did I do that?


A nyone remember Urkell from that annoying sitcom? The geek who wore his pants pulled up a foot past his belly button and said in a nasal-filled voice, "Did I do that?" That's what's going through my head as I look at this picture.

I can't help it. I'm a murderer. A plant murderer. The irony here is that I have hundreds (thousands?) of plants that I tend to, talk to them (yep, I do, sometimes at least), and WILL to live. Yet every year I knowingly and willingly kill a plant.

I pity the poinsettia that has the rotten luck to be picked up by me in mid-December. It has done nothing wrong. All it does is show off its bright colors, attaining a great display of holiday glory. And for a time, I treat it with the respect it deserves. But then the holiday passes. The Christmas tree comes down. The decorations are boxed up. And there's the poinsettia. Still looking as perky as the day it came to its new home.

And it's the last thing in the world I want to look at.

So one day I'll look over and see that it looks a little limp. And I know it needs water. But I walk past. Sure, I feel guilty, but it passes. It will happen again, the next day, and the day after that. And then finally it's obvious.

It has passed.

Gone to plant heaven.

I suppose there would be more humane ways to accomplish this mission. I could chop it off like you might when dealing a death blow to a lobster. Apparently my mother-in-law once put an ill hamster in the freezer in an effort to ease its suffering until the inevitable happened. I suppose I could have, um, forgotten it outside.

I do feel guilty begging Mother Nature to save my prized plants and then allowing another to die just because I can't stand looking at it anymore, but I think this is something a poinsettia is just going to have to accept. In the past week I've met three other people (all master gardeners) who admit to poinsettia homicide of some degree.

Anyway, it is done. Whoops.


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A quick reminder:  Don't forget to sign up for my 100th post giveaway. At this rate, your odds are REALLY good!

The big 100th post GIVEAWAY!

I   n celebrating this 100th post on this blog since April 27, 2009 I thought a long time about what sort of giveaway I should do. Maybe give away 100 of something. A hundred plants, 100 bucks, 100 ... um ... paint samples (actually I'm getting dangerously close to being able to do that one, ever since the local Benjamin Moore dealer started offering mini-cans as samples).

All of those seem a bit impractical. I don't have a lot of readers, but those you who do stop by to check out the latest post are pretty loyal, and I love reading your comments and suggestions, not to mention checking out your personal blogs.

I thought you all deserved a little reward for hanging in there with me through two blog redesigns, not to mention a slight shift in focus when I ran out of gardening stuff to write about this winter.




So I'm giving away one of the following, which you'll notice are all a  bit like this blog: a little bit garden, a little bit home:

$30 gift card to Crate and Barrel
$30 gift card to Gardener's Supply
$30 gift card to Bluestone Perennials
$25 gift card to Pottery Barn (they don't have $30 gift cards there)
One-year subscription to Fine Gardening magazine
Two-year subscription to Organic Gardening magazine
Three-year subscription to House Beautiful magazine

Here's the disclaimer: If you are located outside of the U.S., you're only eligible for the first two.

Here's how to enter:
1. Follow this blog if you're not already
2. Comment on this post with which prize you'd like
3. If you don't have a blog I can contact you through, please include your e-mail address so I can let you know that you won!

For extra entries, just blog or tweet (or both) about this giveaway, then come back and make another comment (or two if you did both).

Entry closes Sunday, January 17 at 8 p.m. CST. I'll pick a winner using random.org.

Thank you all for reading. I'm having a lot of fun with this blog, and I hope you're enjoying it as well.

Get your gardening on




T   here is nothing better than a flower or garden show for a gardener stuck in the middle of winter. Actually, I would imagine they'd be great even if you live somewhere you can garden most of the year, because they are a fantastic place to get new ideas. Gardening is all about inspiration, which is why most gardeners love to tour other gardens. I get at least one new idea from every garden I go in, whether it be an interesting plant combination, a beautiful piece of garden art or a wonderful hardscape. So where's a gardener craving inspiration to go when there are no gardens in bloom? A garden show or event.

There are oodles of shows and events around the country, so with luck, you're close to one. Unfortunately for Christine in Alaska, who stops by this blog from time to time, I couldn't find any events in her home state.

I've been to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show (a couple years ago after it moved from Navy Pier. I wasn't really impressed, but apparently it's much better now that it has moved back downtown) and last year I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show, which was fantastic. This year I'm heading down to the Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza in Chicago in March.

Here's a calendar of some of the larger gardening events coming up this winter and spring. Hopefully there's one close enough to you to check out. Even if you're not a big gardener, it's a great touch of spring when most of us need it the most.

Have you been to any great garden shows that I should put on my garden show radar for next year? Anybody been to the granddaddy of them all: The Chelsea Flower Show?

February

3-7 Northwest Flower & Garden Show, Seattle
4-6 Southeastern Flower Show, Atlanta, Georgia
Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza, Dallas
18-21  The Flower & Garden Show of New Jersey, Edison, New Jersey
20  Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza, Salt Lake City
28-March 7 Philadelphia International Flower Show, Philadelphia

March
Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza, Chicago
6-14 Chicago Flower & Garden Show, Chicago
11-14 GardenScape, Rochester, New York
12-14 Washington Home and Garden Show, Washington, D.C.,
13  Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza, Minneapolis
17-21 Canada Blooms: The Toronto Flower & Garden Show, Toronto
24-26 Boston Flower and Garden Show, Boston, Massachusetts
26-27  Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza, Vancouver
26-28 Boise Flower & Garden Show, Boise, Idaho

April
24  Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza, Boston

May
25-29 Chelsea Flower Show, London, England

One last note: Don't forget the upcoming giveaway. This is officially post No. 99, so the next one will be giveaway you won't want to miss (who doesn't love free stuff?)

Photo: 2010 Cavallini Easel Garden Calendar, $12.95 at Paper Source

Stay tuned this week for a big giveaway!

T    he Impatient Gardener is just three two posts away from 100 posts, and I think it only fitting that we do some kind of giveaway to celebrate. I haven't decided what it will be yet, but it will be good (and it will probably be a gift card to some store you REALLY want to buy something at).

So hang in there this week ... fun stuff is on the way.

A show you should check out

H  ave you caught the new show "Curb Appeal: The block" on HGTV? I'm really loving it. The premise is that they go to a neighborhood and pick the shabbiest house on the block and give it a $20,000 makeover. That's great, especially if you're the lucky person in the shabby house. But what's neat about the show is that they also choose two other houses in the neighborhood to do mini makeovers on. They only spend about $200 on the mini makeovers, but the idea is that the whole block benefits from a little sprucing up.

What I love about it is seeing what a huge difference small details can make in a house. Take this mini makeover. This house was perfectly nice looking before the makeover. In fact, I'd say with it's light gray siding and bright white trim it was downright sharp.



But check out what a little paint can do. This is actually an ORANGE door and I love it. They also did a small amount of sprucing up the yard, cleaning up the beds in front a little and redefining the walkway. I think the difference is amazing.



Gets you thinking doesn't it? So what minor or major changes are you planning to make to the exterior of your place this year?

Yipee! It's catalog season!

I   t's such a nice time of the year to be a gardener. Everything is possible. Energy is unlimited. New gardens that live in our brains all make perfect sense, and everything grows just as it should, even if you are pushing it a zone or sticking a full sun plant in partial shade.

And what drives all these utopian dreams? Catalogs. Lots and lots of catalogs. And I say, bring 'em on, because dreaming about gardening is almost as fun as actually doing it (and in the case of weeding, much, much better).



 The mailman is nice enough to bring me a new one a couple times a week, keeping me more than busy dreaming about the perfect garden that lives in my head, if not my yard.







The convolated path to design inspiration

E   very once in a while inspiration strikes. That happened Friday night and it came on so strongly (I think you might have been able to see the light bulb over my head) that even though I was snuggled under the blanket, I jumped up from the couch to run from the basement to grab the object of my inspiration.

But before I tell you what that is, let me tell you the convoluted path my brain took to inspiration. I'm in the middle of what I thought was just a little sprucing up of the kitchen but the other day it occurred to me that this is on the verge of an all-out eating area renovation. I found some lights that I love in this picture on Houzz.



For a week now I've been obsessed with those lights, but they are not in the budget. So I've been searching the Internet like a Google maniac looking for an acceptable substitute. After a lot of hand-holding by a friend (who has the completely unpleasant job of walking me through these minor home decor-related obsessions), I came to the conclusion that I'm just going to have to adjust the budget to accommodate those lights. And then I made a really bad mistake. I added up how much this "little" project is going to cost. And I felt ill. Even though I've impressed myself with my ability to find great deals on this project, it's still way more than I intended to spend and frankly I wish I hadn't done that little bit of math.

So that brought me to the "entry" portion of this project. We have no real entryways in our house. Both doors open up smack dab into the middle of a room. There's not a closet to be found anywhere in either room. Ten dollar coat trees my mother-in-law brought over the day after we bought the house have done a yoeman's job, but we have the bad habit of loading up the one in the kitchen to the point where it sometimes falls over. Although I yearn for one of those stunning mud rooms with little lockers and a padded bench on a slate floor and oh, dream of all dreams, a place for dogs coming home from a beach play day to lay until I can get around to cleaning them up, the fact of the matter is that it's just not going to happen at this little cottage. So it's time to get creative. And at first, I thought something like this from Pottery Barn's Samantha collection would do the trick.



Well, turns out the area I have isn't nearly wide enough for that and then there's the little bit about that budget that I more than blew. So I thought, OK, I can do without the bench. We have kitchen chairs three feet away to sit on if we get so wobbly we can't get our shoes off without sitting down. So I started searching for a smaller version of the shelf that we could put some oh-so-cute baskets in for mittens, hats and dog leashes. Still looking at $100 or so and nothing was really what I wanted.

Then I started looking for an Ikea hack or something that would work. Maybe I could just put up a Lack shelf with a basket on top, hang some hooks underneath and call it a day. Too modern. Then I thought I could find a small bookshelf and mount it high. Too, well, too bookcase stuck to the wall.

Then I came across this post at Apartment Therapy. Hmm, those boxes are sort of cool. Maybe I could stick those to the wall with hooks underneath. Well not those boxes ... they were sold out and too expensive for a wood box anyway.

So I ended up finding this way cool old soap box (a box to display soap, not the kind you stand on to spout off your thoughts).






But alas, those cubbies are so small I don't think they'd serve a lot of purpose (and the shipping on it is pretty high). Of course I keep thinking it's so cool I may have to get it anyway ... but I digress.

OK, next stop on Erin's attention deficit disorder tour: This little baby. Ooh ... that's fun. Two problems: First, it's exactly the same size as the space I have available so if either the Etsy seller or I am off on the measurements, I'm in trouble; and second, it's a box. Come on ... it's cool but if I can find a box close to that I can certainly make something look like that. Plus, after finding the soap box I was loving the idea of something vintage with advertising stamps on it. And I'm supposed to be on a budget here, so how do I justify buying a wooden box?

Well, here's the moment you've been waiting for. Cue the chorus of angels.


 Suddenly I remembered that I have this box from a jeraboam of champagne in the basement. Sadly I did not drink the champagne but my husband was at the party where it was consumed and was sweet enough to bring the box all the way home from New Zealand for me. For about three years now I've been using it to store ribbon. So I ran downstairs, dumped the ribbon out (literally dumped it out on the messy wrapping table) and brought it upstairs to hold it on the wall. I think it will be perfect.

Of course it needs some work. It looks way too new. I don't want it to look like I'm sticking a box on the wall because it has the name of some tasty champagne on it. What I want is something along the lines of that soap box. So I think if I do some distressing and a glaze of color on it, it'll look like something I found at a great flea market (if I knew where one of those was and if I had the first clue to actually find the good stuff at one).

The other question is how it should be oriented. Right now it has a hinged top. If I stick the bottom of it to the wall, I could use the hinged top as a little door to hide things, which might be cute. Of course then you don't see any of the cool stamping on the box and it just looks like a cheap plywood box stuck to the wall. The other option would be to take the flip top off and stick it to the wall right side up. Then we'd have sort of a bin for mittens, etc. Not sure what to do.

After that great decision is made, I'll do something about affixing some hooks to the walls for jackets and leashes. I will probably put the hooks on a board or something that is painted to match the box so that it looks more like it goes together (and so that the board can go into studs and I can space the hooks how I want without worrying about where the walls studs are).

I guess I feel a little bit like Dorothy. After all that searching, what I needed all along was in my home.

File cabinet planter

I   love the Better After blog for inspiration. It amazes me how there are people out there who can see another life for something that I would classify as junk or never see beyond its original purpose.

Here's a garden related before and after that would be so cool for a more modern house. Taking a file cabinet and turning it into a planter: Who thinks of that? Well, this guy did. Kudos to him.

White strikes back

I     think I predicted this was going to happen. If you recall I was on the search for a "named" white for the trim in our house. I did a bunch of testing and it turned out that Benjamin Moore's "Cotton Balls" seemed to be very close to our existing trim color, but maybe a touch brighter. The idea was that I could repaint trim as necessary without having to repaint all the trim in the house.

The back door has been in major need of a paint job for several years now. We taught the dogs to ring a string of bells hanging from the back door when they need to go outside, rather than encouraging barking or worse yet ... not telling us at all. And that was a great idea and I'll probably do it again with other dogs because I now have the "mom hearing"thing going where I can be in the deepest possible sleep upstairs and I will immediately wake up if I hear the bells. The problem with it is that one of our dogs chooses to ring the bells with his paw. It is a big paw. I believe this paw is responsible for the removal of most of the paint on the door.




Couple the big paw situation with the fact that this is the entrance and exit we use 99% of the time. That's two people and two big dogs going in and out most of the day, every day, and well, just how long is paint supposed to last anyway?

Anyway, I sanded, filled all the holes, primed and painted the door and the door frame (I still need to do the grill) over the weekend. And then I stood back and looked at the window about 10 inches away from it. Which now looks like it is trimmed in gray. Of course this is in the kitchen, and as far as I can tell right now the cabinets are painted the same color, more or less, as the trim. So if I start working my way around the room painting the trim, at some point I'm going to end up at the cabinets, and while giving them a fresh coat of paint needs to happen at some point, it wasn't a project I planned on undertaking this year.



I'm not sure what I'm going to. I think I might be able to get away only painting the window next to the door and once I put some color on the wall (leading contender right now is BM's "Revere Pewter") I think I might be able to get away with not painting the rest of the kitchen.

A peak at a favorite New Zealand garden

F   ew places on Earth are more beautiful than New Zealand. Actually, I've been lucky enough to do a lot of traveling and so far I've not found a place as beautiful as the little land down under. And it's particularly wonderful if you love gardens.

I've been enjoying reading the blog of a Kiwi friend of mine who is chronicling her adventures as she discovers and embraces a raw and vegan diet. Certainly it's not a diet for everyone (Kate discovered it in her attempt to manage Crohn's disease), and you won't catch me giving up bacon or fish or, well, chocolate cake, anytime soon, but everyone can benefit from adding in some parts of this healthy diet into their life.

I was so pleased the other day to catch a glimpse of Kate's mum's most awesome garden in one of her blog posts. I was fortunate enough to visit this garden last year, and if I had had the forethought to bring my camera I would have offered up the shots of the place as garden porn.




Since much of the U.S. is in the throes of a vicious cold snap I thought it might be nice to share a little bit of this great New Zealand garden. And since many of us have undoubtedly resolved to make 2010 a healthier year, Kate's blog can help with that, too.

Go get that tree back from the curb!

H   appy new year everyone. You won't be getting any resolutions out of me (I detest them), but I will tell you that I promise to try to offer quality posts here. I'll work to avoid "phoning it in" and really try to put some thought into my posts so that hopefully they are interesting and fun to read.

Now, about that tree. If you're like me, it's out of the house already. Normally I might have waited until today to take it down, but my tree removal man was leaving town early this morning, so if I wanted help with it, it was coming down yesterday.

But I forgot to tell you about one of my favorite projects, and if you have kids, I think it's especially great. The good news is that it's not too late to make these tree trunk ornaments, although usually I start the project when we bring the tree home.

Start by cutting a slice off the trunk of your tree. About a half-inch thick is perfect, but it can be hard to be that precise. Try to make the sides as flat as possible. If your tree is already at the curb, well, grab that saw and get out there.

Once you cut your slice off, it's best to let it dry out for awhile. I usually put it away with the Christmas decorations and bring it out the next year to paint, but I'm sure a couple weeks of drying time would suffice. Once it has dried out, give it a good sanding on each face. Then it's just a matter of pulling out the paint (acrylics or just about any leftover paint you have around will work) and getting to work. I like to paint the year on one side (you may want to write the year lightly with pencil on them before you put them away to dry in case you get backed up on decorating them) and a depiction of something that happened that Christmas or during the year. These two bring back memories of the year we got an ENORMOUS tree, which fell over within five minutes of me sitting down exhausted on the couch with a glass of wine to admire my work (every tree since has been tied to the ceiling beams before even a light goes on it) and our oldest Newfoundland's first Christmas.

When the paint is dry, I give it a couple coats of clear polyurethane and enjoy hanging them on my trees every year. I'm sure kids would love to help with this project and enjoy looking back over the memories of Christmases past.