18 Ways to Create an Enchanting Garden with Solar Lighting

The options for lighting your garden at night are practically endless and so much more affordable than hiring an electrician to install lighting. Plus, what is more environmentally friendly than decorating with solar lights? Keep reading for 18 ways to add enchantment to your garden with solar lighting.

Over a patio. Stringing solar lights over your patio provides a cozier feel, almost as though you are being protected by a roof. To simplify this project, attach lights to the house, but also to 10′ copper pipes stuck in the ground. Copper pipe is decorative and can be stabilized by fitting it over some rebar pounded into the ground. Or, another possibility is putting the pipe in a tall planter that has a 5-gallon pot with gravel in it. Soil and plants can then be placed above the bucket. An S-hook is inserted at the top of the pipe to hang the solar light. Here I used these solar ball lights which have even held up over two winters. If they do every need to be replaced, I want to try these celestial lights over the patio next time.

Draped over a fence. Draping solar lights over a fence is a fast and easy way to provide ambiance. In addition to these regular solar ball lights or these drop-shaped lights which work year round, there are also many options for holiday lights such as these heart lights for Valentine’s day, these solar pumpkin lights for Halloween, or even some patriotic flag lights for the 4th of July.

Add a lantern. A solar lantern can be added to a tabletop or hung from a higher point, such as an arbor or plant hanger. This firefly lantern might remind you of summer evenings spent catching fireflies.

Fairy Garden. Nothing makes a garden magical like adding solar lights to your fairy garden.

Water” your plants with solar lights. One of my favorite changes to my garden last year was the addition of this solar watering can which is “watering” my heliotrope plant.

Highlight an urn or fountain. To highlight a focal point in your garden, consider a spotlight, either a warm white or these colorful solar lights which change colors, adding interest.

Container stake. Add some whimsy to your favorite containers by adding a decorative solar stake. This moon and stars pack could be used in a trio of containers.

Over an arbor. Draping lights over an arbor an easy way to add ambiance and highlight the structure of your garden. My favorite lights for this purpose are these <a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07HGYX8Y6/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B07HGYX8Y6&linkCode=as2&tag=kendamorris0a-20&linkId=321626b8363126ed5daaa159c98b50a4">Brightown Outdoor Solar String Lights, 2 Pack 33Feet 100 Led Solar Powered Fairy Lights with 8 Modes Waterproof Decoration Copper Wire Lights for Patio Yard Trees Christmas Wedding Party (Warm White)wire fairy lights.

Lining a bed. To highlight your garden plantings at night, consider solar lights edging your garden beds. These tulip lights can be directed downwards highlighting your favorite plants. Here is a similar style in my garden.

Lining a pathway. These stake lights will illuminate your path when you walk through the garden at night or perhaps coming home after a late night. These celestial lights will even reflect moons and stars.

Focal point. If you are looking to add a major wow factor in your garden, consider making solar lights the focal point. Some examples include this willow tree, this moon, a peacock, or allow this whimsical fish to swim through your flowers.

Tabletop lighting. Add a centerpiece or group a solar light with other decorations at night. This lotus lamp is especially lovely.

Interspersed with your flowers. Since regular plants cannot be seen at night, “plant” some solar flowers like sunflowers or tulips. Similarly, add decorations such as these firework stakes.

Floating. If you have a pool or small pond, there is a wide array of light choices. Perhaps these floating lanterns or balls would be the perfect touch to enjoy your water feature at night.

As post caps. If you are looking to light up your entire garden, consider adding post caps to your fence posts. They come in tremendous range of prices and styles.

Inside a shed or greenhouse. Do you have an outdoor structure that doesn’t have electricity? A solar panel outside the structure can easily be connected indoors to light your tasks at night. Just use this solar shed light.

Doorway. If you have an exterior door without lighting, a simple hanging solar light will help you find your keys or the doorknob after dark.

Security. If you wish to make your home safer, consider adding solar security lights.

Some posts on this site include affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please know that the opinions expressed are entirely our own.

20 Frugal Tips to Garden on a Budget

If you are like me, a visit to a garden nursery can easily be an expensive outing.  To create the garden of my dreams, it took both patience and thoughtful choices to get the most from my gardening dollar.

ACQUIRING PLANTS

Of course, you are most likely to spend most of your money at the garden nursery and there are many opportunities to save money while getting the plants you love.

Buy containers with multiple plants.  By examining plants carefully, you will find some containers have 2-3 plants when other containers of the same plant only have one.  This is especially common with vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and melons.  When you buy a container with more than one of these types of plants, you can VERY carefully separate the roots and then plant the vegetables separately. See this marconi pepper? Maybe 25% of the containers that I looked at had two plants, but I looked them over carefully and walked away with two plants instead of only one.

Buy plants that are easily divided after purchase.  Similarly, there are some plants which root along the surface of the container.  If a thick enough mat forms, you can divide these plants into two or sometimes even more pieces with a pair of scissors.  Some examples of plants for which this works include Creeping Jenny and dichondra. Select your plants carefully since some plants will have a thicker mat.  Since you are destroying some of the roots, it helps to then cut the plant back by about a third. Similarly, if you inspect the base of a Dracaena spikes plant, you will see that some have divided into two parts that can be separated into more than one plant

.

Select annuals that will bloom all summer.  Where I live, the summers get so hot, that certain plants peter out.  Therefore, one way to save money is to mostly select annuals that do well in heat. See 10 Container Flowers that Bloom All Summer

Make the most of sales. The nurseries in my area have flat sales every year where I can get 36 plants for about $13-15 per flat. The selection is not great, but it is a good opportunity to stock up on 4 flats of impatiens which I use to provide the foundation for the more interesting plants that I grow. Having so many of the same plant also provides nice repetition throughout the garden, a core tenet of design. Even if your area doesn’t have flat sales, you can often buy similar types of plants at hardware stores. In addition, premium annuals often go on sale at a deep discount after 4th of July. You could buy a plant, enjoy it for about six weeks or so and then take cuttings to overwinter, assuming it is the type of plant for which this might work. To make this most of the sale strategy, keep records of purchases (what, where, when, and how much). If you see a good price on something you might want next year, try to take a quick note of the same information.

Don’t impulsively remove plants.  When I moved into our house, there were hostas at the base of a large tree in our yard.  I hate hostas and tearing those out was one of the first things I did.  This ended up being a huge mistake because one plant after another failed in that spot.  Eventually what did I successfully plant there?  Hostas.  I spent money on hostas when I could have just learned to love the free hostas that were free and growing there in the first place.

Propagating

Know which plants are best started from seed.  It bothers me when I am at a nursery and see plants for sale that are very easily grown from seed and typically need to be planted in multiples.  These plants include lettuce, spinach, basil, dill, parsley, beans, and peas.  If you want to grow these plants, I would encourage you to consider buying seed and direct seeding them where they will grow for the season.  The yield will be significantly higher than growing just one plant.


Root cuttings.  Some expensive annuals can be rooted if you purchase them early enough in the season.  I don’t recommend this if you need a large plant for a planter, but it can work well if a small plant will suffice.  I have successfully started euphorbia cuttings in water and many others such as torenia, angelonia, coleus, and double impatiens by sticking cuttings in rooting hormone and then potting mix. Even better, take cuttings in fall and overwinter them indoors or in a greenhouse for the next season. For best success research the best propagation strategy for the plants you wish to root.

Divide your perennials.  To thrive, some perennials benefit from dividing every few years.  Once you have grown a plant for couple of years, you might be able to divide it to create more plants.  In fact, one strategy is to buy one of several types of plants that appeal to you and then divide the plants you like and that have survived a couple of years later.  Some perennials that you might like to divide are phlox, echinacea, yarrow and salvias. Many gardeners do not especially enjoy this task, so you might be able to score some free plants by dividing your friend’s or neighbor’s perennials such as salvia, echinacea, daylilies, and hostas.  You might also keep an eye on social media, Craig’s list and Freecycle for offerings of free divisions.


Create new plants through layering.  Dividing plants can be more work.  First, they need to be dug up which isn’t too bad, but then those perennials need to be consistently watered the rest of that season.  One way to get around this is to look for places where certain plants might have created new roots at an edge allowing you to cut a piece off with a sharp shovel and plant it elsewhere.  You can even encourage this by cutting the leaves and piling some soil around the base of a plant.  Some examples of plants that naturally layered for me include clematis, hydrangea, and vinca. I also was able to encourage this by taking the leaves off some clematis vines at the base and then using a garden staple to attach the base of the vine to the ground and covering up the base with some soil.  Next year, I had a nice root that could be transplanted elsewhere. (photo of hydrangeas). To learn more, research layering.

Save kitchen scraps.  I used to try to grow scallions from seeds, but had mixed success.  Eventually, I realized that I could just plant scallions from the store if I didn’t think I was going to use them.  I plant them in a windowsill over the winter.  In spring, I harden that container off for a few days and then grow the scallions outside all summer.  When I want some scallions, I can lift some out if I want the whites, but usually I just cut off some of the green.  The green regenerates fairly quickly.  Although I have read in several places that it is not recommended, I have also successfully grown potatoes that sprouted.

Scallions transplanted to an indoor container for winter.

Preparing for Next Season

Save seeds.  Certain plants are easy to save seeds from, but be sure to save seeds from open-pollinated plants, not hybrids.  Just a few examples are certain varieties of tomatoes, peppers, peas, and beans. You might even be able to trade seeds with other gardeners.

Save small potatoes to grow next year.  Every fall, when harvesting potatoes, I save the very smallest in a paper bag in a cool spot of my basement.  Those potatoes sprout and grow stalks during the winter.  As early as recommended the next spring, I very carefully plant those potatoes trying not to break the stalks. 


Overwinter your favorite plants.  If a plant is expensive, it might be worth trying to overwinter at least once just to see what happens.  Certainly some plants are easier to overwinter than others.  Without a doubt, I have had the greatest success with geraniums.  One winter, I planted them in a window in my basement and forgot about them for months.  To my great surprise, they were green when I found them and grew well after hardening off.  I have also had success with euphorbia, double impatiens and heliotrope.  You might do best if you take cuttings and grow them for a while outside in the fall before bringing the cuttings in.

Wintersowing.  Without a doubt, one of the least known, least expensive, and greatest ways to create new plants is through wintersowing.  Sometime after December 21, but before it gets too warm in the spring, you can sow seeds in moist soil in clear covered plastic containers such as the containers in which you might buy spinach or gallon milk jugs.  The containers are then placed outdoors and, when conditions are right, the seeds will sprout.  I usually only need to water these containers every few weeks at most when I see there is no more condensation on the lid.  This method works well with many seeds, but I have the most consistent success with these seeds:  kale, cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias, gomphrena, bachelor’s buttons, calendula, parsley, dill, and chamomile.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Reuse.  Don’t throw things away without considering how they can be reused in your garden.  A watering can that leaks can be reused a planter.  The plastic labels that come in containers can be reused in next year’s containers by writing the name of a plant  in permanent marker.  Containers can be used to sow seeds next year. Newspapers and fleece can be used as capillary matting to keep plants moist. Cardboard and newspapers can be laid on the ground as a weed barrier.

Use yard waste.  In addition to using yard waste to create compost, yard waste such as untreated lawn clippings and chopped dry leaves can be used as mulch.

Research inexpensive fertilizers and herbicides.  Before spending a lot of money on fertilizers and herbicides, research lower-cost alternatives such as using diluted vinegar to kill weeds and crushed egg shells to fertilize.  The list of possibilities is practically endless. Coffee grounds can be worked into the soil of plants that need acidity such as blueberries and might even benefit lettuce. Kitchen scraps can also be used to make compost. Compost can be used to make compost tea to fertilize plants.

Think outside of the box when solving problems.  Coir liners are quite expensive, but often burlap bags will work in the same situations.  Small mesh trash cans from the dollar store can be turned upside down as an inexpensive way to protect plants from rabbits. 

Utilize an automatic watering timer. Without a doubt, the thing that has saved me the most money is finding a way to keep my garden watered, especially once the summer heats up and missing even one watering can mean the end of your plants. Therefore, some kind of automatic watering system is essential. This is one area where a splurge makes sense because it will save you money in the long run. You can buy timers that water only one zone, but a timer that waters multiple zones is ideal for individualizing your watering. For instance, you can have a zone for vegetables, one for bedding plants, and one for containers. Best of all, you can go away on vacation without needing to find somebody to keep your garden watered.

Utilize drip irrigation.  Like buying an automatic timer, drip irrigation is also an investment. However, it also saves money because you can better direct irrigation towards the roots of your plants which means they require significantly less irrigation overall. You can also better individualize the amount of water each plant gets. Best of all, it is not nearly as difficult as it might seem. To learn more about drip irrigation, please see The Beginners Guide to Drip Irrigation.

If you are starting your first garden, you may be tempted to just buy the plants that most speak to you, either due to their beauty or the food they produce.  You may think it is just a matter of buying what you like, planting, then keeping things watered.  In actuality, for most of us, our gardens are never done. Every year is a chance to learn and improve our gardens.  Therefore, the final tip is directed at you perfectionists out there. Try to enjoy the gradual process of curating your favorite plants over time and watching your garden evolve.

15 Versatile Freezer Foods to Simplify Meal Prep

My journey to easy meal preparation was not an easy one. I started by trying some “dump” recipes where you put all of the ingredients for an entire meal into a bag and then when you are ready to cook, you can just dump the whole thing in your slow cooker.  The problem was some of the foods were overcooked, while others were undercooked.  I eventually decided that any recipe with the word, “dump” was not a recipe for me.

I also tried freezing different casseroles and soups, but while there were some successes, many turned to mush. The other problem was that we like a lot of variety and, after having a meal, I usually didn’t want to repeat it for months.  This is why I eventually learned to just freeze versatile ingredients that I can use in many of our favorite meals.

Why should I consider freezing these ingredients?

  • improves meal quality
  • increases meal variety
  • saves food prep time
  • reduces dirty dishes
  • saves money since you can buy in larger quantities or stock up when items are on sale
  • reduces food waste
  • often helps with portion control

How should I freeze the following items? It varies depending on the amount you expect to use at any one time. One idea is to freeze in portions and then move the frozen portions into zippered plastic bags.

Another space saver is to freeze in a zippered bag and then flatten the bag out before freezing so items can be stacked. Best of all, after the items are frozen, they could be stood upright in plastic bins similar to folders in a filing cabinet if your freezer allows this configuration.

Finally, when you expect to need larger amount, it works well to freeze in plastic or glass freezer containers. If you would like to do this, look for square containers since they use space more efficiently.

Some people prefer taking a day once a month to do all of their meal prep, but that isn’t for everybody. Most of the items listed below can be prepared in large quantities during the regular preparation of a meal and the unused portion frozen for future use.

What should I freeze?

  • Cooked Ground Beef Crumbles
  • Cooked Sausage Crumbles
  • Cooked Shredded Chicken
  • Cooked Shredded Pork Loin
  • Cooked Italian Meatballs
  • Taco Meat
  • Sloppy Joe Meat
  • Italian Meat Sauce
  • Chili
  • Marinara
  • Pesto
  • Condensed Stock
  • Cooked Rice
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Pizza dough

Ground Beef Crumbles
How to prepare: Allow to fully cool and then freeze portions in a flattened zippered bag, making sure to remove all air. You’ve Been Freezing Ground Beef Wrong Your Whole Life
How to use: casseroles, skillets, soups and chilis, loose-meat sandwiches, taco salad or go here for more ideas 50 Easy Dinners that start with Ground Beef

Sausage Crumbles
How to prepare: Cook bulk breakfast or chorizo sausage (i.e., no casing) in a skillet until fully cooked and crumbled. Cool and then freeze in plastic bags in the amounts you are likely to consume.
How to use: pizza, soup, egg dishes, hash skillets, stuffed vegetables, casseroles, pasta, sandwiches or go here for more ideas 25 Best Ground Sausage Recipes

Shredded Chicken
How to prepare: After cooking, shred chicken using the paddle attachment of your mixer or two forks. Freeze in flattened zippered plastic bags. How to Make Shredded Chicken
How to use: soups and chilis, quesadillas, BBQ chicken sandwiches, wraps, burritos, nachos, chicken salad, chicken pot pie, BBQ chicken pizza, salads, bowls or go here for more ideas 50 Shredded Chicken Recipes

Pulled Pork
How to prepare: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Freeze in flattened zippered bags.
How to use: soups and chilis, sandwiches, bowls, tacos, tamales, burritos or go here for more ideas 20 Easy Dinner Ideas Using Pulled Pork,

Italian Meatballs
How to prepare: There are lots of great recipes to choose from. Here is mine: Kenda’s Spaghetti and Meatballs Please note that the marinara and meatballs should be frozen separately.
How to use: spaghetti and meatballs, pizza topping, meatball sub sandwiches, sliders, soups, casseroles, or even shape the meatballs into meatloaf instead. Please go here for more ideas 42 Crazy-Good Dishes That Start with Frozen Meatballs

Taco Meat
How to prepare: Follow directions on your taco spice package. Spanish Gardens makes my family’s favorite. Allow meat to cool completely and then freeze in flattened zippered plastic bags.
How to use: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, enchiladas, pizza, pastas, casseroles, stuffed vegetables (e.g., zucchini, bell peppers), salad, soups, or go here for more ideas 25 Recipes You Can Make with a Pound of Taco Meat

Sloppy Joe Meat
How to prepare: The BEST Sloppy Joe Recipe sauce described here. Freeze in flattened zippered bags.
How to use: sandwiches, casseroles (e.g., Tater Tot), pasta topping, stuffed vegetables (e.g., peppers or zucchini, top french fries or corn chips, top rice or mashed potatoes, stuffed baked potatoes, or go here for more ideas 36 Ways To Repurpose Sloppy Joes Into Something New

Italian Meat Sauce
How to prepare: Brown ground beef and mix with your favorite homemade marinara. One option is the sauce described here. Simply make without the meatballs and mix with the ground beef crumbles. Freeze in flattened zippered bags.
How to use: pasta sauce, pasta casseroles (e.g., lasagna), pizza sauce, stuff vegetables (e.g., pepper, spaghetti squash, zucchini), mozzarella grilled cheese or go here for more ideas Ways to Use Leftover Pasta Sauce

Chili
How to prepare: If you don’t have a favorite chili recipe already, here is an Easy Chili Recipe to try. My family loves Williams Chili Spice Mix and it makes chili night easy. Freeze in flattened zippered bags or plastic or glass containers.
How to use: Baked potatoes, spaghetti topper with cheddar, chili dogs, crescent roll casserole, wraps, chili mac soup, over fries or corn chips, cornbread casserole, stuffed peppers, or go here for more ideas 20 Ways to Use Leftover Chili

Marinara Sauce
How to prepare: There are so many tasty recipes, but the sauce described here is my favorite. I freeze some in flattened zippered plastic bags and some in muffin tins to use for pizza sauce.
How to use: Cooking your own marinara allows you to create a thicker sauce that can be used for pizza or thinned a little for pasta sauces, casseroles. Marinara can also be used to top chicken parmesan, meatloaf, meatball sandwiches, and stuffed vegetables. Add even more water for soup. Please go here for more ideas 70 Meals that Start with a Jar of Pasta Sauce

Pesto Sauce
How to prepare: Fresh Basil Pesto Freeze in ice cube trays or silicone muffin tins and then store in a zippered plastic bags.
How to use: pizza, pasta topping, pasta casserole, top chicken or salmon, flavor vegetables, sandwich spread, soups, or go here for more ideas: 25 Things to Make with Pesto

Condensed Chicken Stock
How to prepare: I keep a bag in my freezer where I can quickly stuff leftovers such as chicken bones/carcass, dill and parsley stems/leaves, celery, carrots, and onions. This allows me to make a rich chicken stock. Condensed Chicken Stock can be frozen in ice cube trays or muffin tins. Just be sure that you know how much water to add to each cube.
How to use: Soups, gravies, and sauces are obvious, but stock can also be used in casseroles, skillets, chicken pot pies and other ideas listed here 40 Recipes with Chicken Stock to Use up the Box

Cooked Rice
How to prepare: Cook brown or white rice according to package directions, then thoroughly cool. Freeze in zippered plastic bags, removing as much air as possible. Use immediately after removing from the freezer.
How to use: fried rice, topped with stir fry, with beans, soups, casseroles, skillets, stuffed vegetables, topped with etouffee or gumbo or go here for more ideas 35 Ways to Use Leftover Rice

Mashed Potatoes
How to prepare: The most important thing is to use the right kind of recipe. This recipe uses sour cream and cream cheese instead of milk/cream which prevents grainy mashed potatoes upon thawing. Potatoes could be frozen in a flattened zippered bag or in a silicone muffin tin and then transferred to a large zippered bag.
How to use: as a side, topped with meatballs or chicken and gravy, topping Shepard’s pie, casseroles, potato cakes/croquettes, breads, dumplings, waffles, pancakes, soups, gnocchi, pierogi, or go here for more ideas: 35 Easy Ways to Use Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Pizza Dough
How to prepare: How to Freeze Pizza Dough
How to use: pizza, calzone, Stromboli, breadsticks, garlic knots, flatbread, crackers, pot pie or go here for more ideas 31 Things to Make with Pizza Dough

Aromatics
How to prepare: The aromatics to use depends on how you most frequently flavor your meals. For guidance, please see Freezing Aromatic Flavor Cubes for Asian Stir-Fry Suppers and All About Mirepoix, Sofrito, Battuto, and Other Humble Beginnings. Caramelized onions can be frozen in a silicone muffin tin and then transferred to a zippered plastic bag. Roasted garlic can be frozen in an ice cube tray, as can citrus juice, with or without its zest. Herbs can be minced and frozen in an ice cube tray and some butter or oil added, depending on what is most appropriate for each herb (e.g., butter in dill, canola in parsley, olive oil in basil). Garlic and herb cubes can then be transferred to a zippered plastic bag.
How to use: Most work well in a variety of soups and sauces. Here are some additional uses for the different types of aromatics: Asian (stir fry, noodles, fried rice), Mirepoix (chicken pot pie, roasted poultry and dressing), Spanish Sofrito (arroz con pollo, eggs, paella), Holy Trinity (jumbalaya, gumbo, etoufee, red beans and rice), caramelized onions (any recipe that requires you to cook an onion until softened), roasted garlic (any recipe that requires you to cook minced garlic until aromatic), fresh minced herbs (any dish that is finished with fresh herbs like parsley, dill or basil), citrus juice (any dish finished with a bit of fresh citrus).

Some posts on this site include affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please know that the opinions expressed are entirely our own.

Kenda’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

This is hands down the recipe most preferred by my friends and family. I am pretty sure my husband married me so that I would make him this the rest of his life.

Kenda’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

Freezing:  Freeze meatballs and sauce separately.

Kenda's Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Sauce
olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove minced garlic
28-32 oz tomato sauce
12 oz tomato paste
1 cup water
1 TB sugar
1 tsp (or a little less) salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp oregano

Meatballs
milk
4 slices white or potato bread, dry in a warm oven for an hour or so
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese or a parmesan/Romano mix
2 TB dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb ground round

For sauce:
1. On medium heat, sauté onion in a little olive oil until just turning golden.  Add garlic and sauté another minute. 
2. Add other ingredients and simmer uncovered on medium low for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Add meatballs, cover and simmer on low another 30 minutes.

For meatballs
1. Dip bread in milk and squeeze excess milk out.  Discard leftover milk. 
2. Mix all other ingredients, except beef, well.
3. Finally, gently mix in beef until just combined.
4. Shape into meatballs about the size of ping-pong balls. 
5. Brown meatball in a frying pan with a little olive oil OR bake in oven on a rimmed cookie sheet greased with olive oil for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.  Flip and bake another 10 minutes. 
6. Add meatballs to sauce and cook another 30 minutes. 
7. Serve over spaghetti. 
8. This sauce tastes best the next day

littletudorontheprairie.com

Making a Door and Mantel Headboard

How to make a headboard from a door and mantel

A while back, I started looking at headboards and fell in love with one that I saw on the Pottery Barn website.  Unfortunately, it was more than I could afford, but I realized that it might be possible to make something similar by attaching a fireplace mantel to an old door that used to be in our old house.  Making headboards out of doors is fairly common, but I used to be hesitant just because I typically thought they looked very much like doors.  By combining a mantel with the door, this problem is diminished.

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If you are handy, you could make your own mantel, but I am not that handy, so I purchased one from Santa Clara Studio on Etsy.  I requested a custom size and they were happy to accomodate this request.  I specified the dimensions of the door because I wanted the mantel to fit over the door, making it easy to attach.  If you are interested in buying the exact same mantel, here is a listing of the one I asked to be customized to my specifictions:

White Distressed Wall Shelf with Dentil Crown Molding and Wooden Domes – Fireplace Mantel

I think it was also important that it is a mantel installed using a French cleat.  This meant that there was a hollow space behind the shelf where it was easy to install the shelf over the door using a series of L-brackets.

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In addition to screwing the mantel onto the door, it was also necessary to add some boards at the bottom to elevate the headboard and provide a place to secure the headboard to the bed frame.

Once the headboard was secured to the bed frame, it was time for the fun part, decorating the bed!  I used my old Laura Ashley bedding that I have owned since the 1980s.  It has been a long time, but I still love it!

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I also added some throw pillows, including a personalized pillow that I also purchased on Etsy.

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Happy Decorating!

Some posts on this site include affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please know that the opinions expressed are entirely our own.

Freezing Aromatic Flavor Cubes for Asian Stir Fry Suppers

Freezing Aromatic Flavor Cubes for Asian Stir Fry Suppers

Do you love stir fry, but find the prep work tedious?  I felt the same way until I learned some easy short cuts that not only cut back on my prep time, but also meant less clean up time.  One of those short-cuts involved the mixture of garlic, ginger, scallions, and red pepper flakes that add complex flavors to my stir fries.  No matter what meat or vegetables I cook in my stir fry, I always make a little well in the center and quickly fry some aromatics in it before adding a sauce.  Unfortunately, it takes a long time to mince the aromatics small enough that we don’t end up biting into a big, unappetizing hunk of garlic or ginger. I could use the food processor, but I don’t want to get it dirty for such a small job.  I also don’t want to have to buy ginger every time we have a stir fry and ginger doesn’t  really last all that long.  The solution that works for us is to prepare enough aromatics for several stir fry dinners at once and then freeze them in ice cube trays.

Asian Aromatic Flavor Cubes

Ingredients

4 heads peeled garlic (about 8 oz once peeled or 1 cup minced)

2 oz peeled ginger (about 1/4 cup minced)

Whites of 16-20 scallions

1 TB red pepper flakes (optional, adjust according to heat preferences)

¼ cup sesame oil

Unless you love chopping food into tiny bits, use a food processor to mince the garlic, ginger, scallions, and red pepper flakes.  I try to process until it is just short of a puree. Asian aromatics after mincing

Spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray in 1 TB portions, making about 18 portions.  Press the aromatics in tight and then spread the sesame oil over the top where it can soak in and fill in any holes before freezing.

When you are ready to make a stir fry, get an aromatic flavor cube out as soon as you start cooking.  This will allow it to thaw a little before mixing into your stir fry.  I set the cube near the pan to help the thawing process.  This mixture can also be used to flavor a marinade for grilling meat.

Simplify stir fry with aromatic flavor cubes.  Happy Cooking!

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Create a Useful Dining Centerpiece

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I have a minor obsession with centerpieces.  Over the years, I have tried one thing after another, never satisfied with my efforts.  I guess it is important to me because centerpieces are usually the focal point of any dining room, so I want ours to make a statement.  Unfortunately, sometimes that statement was, “I am too tall to have a conversation over” or “I am really easy to knock over”.  More than once it turned out to be, “I looked good on Pinterest, but I don’t work in real life”.  Even when a centerpiece was attractive, the look was always marred by the practical items that needed to stay on the table for meals.  Finally, it occurred to me–why not make those functional items into one centerpiece?  Doing so had the added benefit of allowing us to stop moving items to and from the table every day.

There are many possibilities for a container in which to place your centerpiece items.  The one that I pictured here is technically a condiment server, that is no longer available, but I have also used this copper plant tray.  When I was looking for just the right item, I looked at condiment servers, trough planters, utensil caddies and, wooden toolboxes.  In addition to Amazon, Etsy and Ebay have some great options.

The item that I eventually bought is 18″ long, which allows space for me to place food on either end when we eat.  If you have a long table, you might go as long as 24″ or possibly longer.  As you can see, mine is divided into sections, but I am not sure that I would choose a sectioned centerpiece again unless the sections were at least 7-8 inches wide.  This would have allowed the trivets to fit in without angling them.  Also pay attention to the height of the items that you want to put in there.  These sections are 4″ deep and my salt and pepper shakers are just barely tall enough to easily access.  If you use a shallower container, you might use jelly jars or other containers to hold items upright.

The items to put in your centerpiece depend entirely on what you typically need at the table.  For us, that meant napkins, trivets, salt & pepper shakers, silverware, and the pink-striped tea towels that we use as place mats.  You could also consider other condiments than do not require refrigeration.  Another possibility would be placing all of your serving spoons in your centerpiece.

I hope that you are inspired to design your own useful centerpiece.  Happy Decorating!

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10 Container Flowers that Bloom All Summer

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When I first started gardening, I chose flowers ENTIRELY based on looks…I was so superficial back then.  I scoffed at those who bought petunias.  They were so boring..  I was only going to plant the less common flowers.  No impatiens for this girl!  So, I planted those unusual flowers.  Some of them made it and some of them didn’t.  At first I thought it was due to my inconsistent watering. After I improved my watering by using drip irrigation (see here), I realized that it hadn’t been just my poor caretaking, it was also my flower choices.  Turns out, the flowers that  I so readily scoffed at were probably so common because they were much easier to grow than the flowers I was choosing.

Urn with petunias, impatiens, euphorbia, dusty miller, dichondra, spike
Impatiens, Bacopa, Euphorbia, Petunias, Dusty Miller, Dichondra

Cool-Season Annuals.  I realized that I was wasting a lot of money buying plants that didn’t have much of a chance where I live, so I started making a list of the flowers that I bought in the spring and then taking an inventory in August to see what was still blooming.  If a plant didn’t make it to August for two consecutive years, it was downgraded to a “maybe” plant.  I didn’t want to completely stop buying all of the flowers that petered out in the heat, because that would mean giving up some of my favorites. Instead, I bought very limited quantities of flowers such as alyssum, pansies, and lobelia and planned for their demise.  In other words, during the spring, I would enjoy these short bloomers next to longer-blooming flowers.  Once they died or flowering slowed considerably, I would pull them out to make additional room for the flowers that had proven to be longer blooming.  Another option is to wait for cooler weather in the fall when these flowers may bloom again.

Heat Tolerant, but Require Deadheading.  I also noted that, for some flowers, it wasn’t about the heat.  For instance, geraniums and marigolds do well in the heat, but they require deadheading to keep blooming.  I began to also limit these to small quantities, no more than I was willing to deadhead.  Similarly, Cosmos and Zinnias do well in the heat, but require deadheading to keep blooming.  For these, the solution was a cutting garden, the frequent cutting of flower bouquets means an abundance of these flowers for most of the summer.

My Top Ten.  The ten cottage annuals chosen for this list do well in containers, even when temperatures top 100 degrees.  They do not require deadheading, although a few will benefit from being cut back by half midway through the summer.  I usually do this shortly before we go on vacation.  We return to find the flowers blooming even better than before they were cut back.

Torenia and Double Impatiens in a Brick planterTorenia.  It is a mystery to me why torenia, also known as wishbone flower, is not more widely grown.  It is incredibly adaptable, doing well in both sun and shade.  Heat doesn’t seem to affect it one little bit, it just keeps on trucking.  I now only buy the Summer Wave series from Proven Winners.  Any other cultivars have been a disappointment.  The above photo was taken of two Violet Torenia plants and one double impatiens, midway through the summer; they were even larger by fall.

euphorbia, impatiens, petunia, spikeEuphorbia.  These tiny white flowers that resemble baby’s breath are a versatile filler in both sun and shade. Don’t over water, it is drought tolerant.  Euphorbia is exceptionally easy to take cuttings from and some also overwinter this plant indoors.  “Diamond Frost” is a favorite.

 

petunias with bunnyPetunias.  Petunias are known as a flower for full sun, but in my area, they seem to do well even in partial shade.  Although deadheading may increase the number of blooms, I find it sufficient to cut them back about halfway once in the middle of summer. Petunias seem adaptable to a variety of watering conditions.  They come in a rainbow of colors, but I am partial to the pink and purple varieties.  If I could afford to do so, I would love to buy dozens of the expensive cultivars, but I am always satisfied with the less expensive plants that I buy in six packs.

 

Angelonia.  Also known as Summer Snapdragon, Angelonia requires full sun and is fairly drought tolerant.  Most varieties grow over one foot tall.  It is sometimes helpful to cut these back once during the middle of summer.  The Serena series is grown from seed and easiest to find, but I prefer Proven Winner’s Wedgewood Blue when I can find it.

 

bacopa, euphorbia, petunia in urn croppedBacopa.  The little white flowers of this delightful plant continue to bloom in part shade to full sun, as long as they are not allowed to dry out.  If blooming slows, cut back once about halfway during the summer.  Bacopa drapes beautifully over the side of a planter.  In addition to this white, it also comes in pink and purple.

 

Calibrachoa.  Once you have grown this prolific bloomer, it is easy to see how it earned it’s nickname, Million Bells.  Single Calis looks like mini-petunias, while the double Calis look like mini-roses.  It comes in several colors, but I am partial to this Double Pink Calibrachoa.  As pictured here, Calibrachoa fills in the planter, as well as spilling over the edge.  Calibrachoa needs full sun and be careful not to over water.

 

Impatiens.  Of all the flowers I buy, I depend most on lovely impatiens, also known as, “Busy Lizzies”.  There are now some more expensive varieties that do well in sun, but I love the inexpensive varieties that I can afford to buy by the flat to brighten up the shady areas of my garden.  In recent years, I was surprised to realize that my impatiens can also do well in sun.  The above variety is called Blue Pearl, although they are pink.  Impatiens require regular watering.

 

Salvia.  Although these Victoria Blue Salvia were purchased as annuals, many plants often return after a mild winter…or perhaps they just self sow.  Salvia are known for their drought tolerance.  Be sure to check the projected height of any salvia before purchase.  Some grow too tall for smaller containers.  Salvia are best in full sun, but also do well in partial shade.

 

Verbena.  While I love the many shades of verbena, most that I have tried required some cutting back for continued blooming.  Not so with these little Imagination Verbena.  Verbena do well in partial shade to full sun.  Although they tolerate some dry conditions, they seem to flower best when kept continuously moist.  These verbena are especially useful for adding height to containers.

 

VincaVinca. As a beginning gardener, I could not tell the different between impatiens and Vinca to save my life.  Even today, I pay more attention to the foliage, than the flower.  Vinca, also known as periwinkle, does well in full sun and is fairly drought tolerant.  For me, the plants stay relatively small, but still provide a nice pop of color.

 

 

Honorable Mention:  The following flowers also do well in heat and do not require deadheading:  Pentas, Lantana, Scaevola, Begonia, Moss Rose.

Spend less time deadheading and more time relaxing in your garden.

Happy Gardening!

Make a Fireplace Screen from a Stained Glass Window

Make a Fireplace Screen from a Stained Glass Window.  Photos and a printable with materials and instructions are included.I didn’t particularly like the gas fireplace insert that came with our older home, but a new one was not in the budget.  My next thought was to buy a fireplace screen to cover it up, but they were all expensive, unattractive, or you could see through them, which rather defeated the purpose.  When I fell in love with an old stained glass window in an antique store, I knew that I had to have it, but could it serve as a fireplace screen if I attached some shelf brackets?  I decided to buy it and figure out the “how to” later.

After some thought, the answer came after I bought the shelf brackets and realized that the metal part inside could be unscrewed and turned upside down, such that the large part where the screw was inserted was at the bottom and the smaller part was at the top.  Once the screw was attached to the stained glass window, the window sat on the brackets, even without wood glue.

Shelf BracketStill, for added strength and stability, I used wood glue and secured the bond with C-clamps to dry overnight.  Incidentally, I chose these particular shelf brackets because the open design would allow me to easily attach the C-clamps.

unpainted stained glass window with brackets

Once the brackets were attached, I taped off the glass and painted all of the wood black.

It should be noted that a fireplace screen such as this should not be placed in front of an open flame.  Our fireplace has a gas insert, so all flames are behind glass.  A fire lit up the stained glass, but we just don’t light our fireplace all that often.  I eventually tried Christmas lights hung on a couple of nails behind the glass.  Much better!

The warm lights give the room a nice amber glow at night.

Stained Glass Fireplace Screen with Christmas lights

Please click here for a printable list of tools, materials, and instructions.

Happy Decorating!

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Make a Fireplace Screen from a Stained Glass Window

Some posts on this site include affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please know that the opinions expressed are entirely our own.

6 Creative Uses for Drip Irrigation

6 Creative Uses for Drip IrrigationI love drip irrigation!  If are interested in using drip irrigation and would like to learn how to do so, please read The Beginners Guide to Using Drip Irrigation in Your Containers.  If you would like to consider some different uses for drip irrigation, please keep reading…

Living Wreath.  Have you ever seen a planter like this and thought it would be too difficult to use?  I had purchased this wire living wreath form before I started using drip irrigation, but I quickly learned there was no  easy way to keep it hydrated.  It was awkward to water with a hose and plunging it into a tub of water frequently enough to keep the impatiens hydrated just wasn’t practical.  The solution was a loop of tubing going around the inside of the wreath with 4 emitters attached.  Another alternative would be using a small length of drilled soaker tubing inside the form.

impatiens wreath using drip irrigation
Living wreath hanging on a ladder with peat moss sheets and pink impatiens.

Birdbath.  Do the birds in your garden have to miss their baths during dry weather?  We have many birds in our backyard and they just love this little birdbath.  It only took a few seconds to fill when I was hand watering, but once I didn’t need to hand water anymore, I didn’t always feel like making a trip out to fill it on a hot day.  I could have hung an emitter over the side, but that would have ruined the look of this birdbath.  The solution was hiding a drip emitter over a branch in the dogwood tree overhead.  It drips into the birdbath while my flower containers are receiving water from their drip emitters.bunny in birdbath with drip emitter in tree overheadDifficult-to-Reach Containers.  At one point, I had my many containers around the fence line of our property receiving water, but I still had to go out daily to water this urn in the middle of our garden.  When we went on vacation, I would run a temporary line of tubing to it, but that was not a permanent solution because the tubing would show and/or accidentally be mowed.  The solution was using a slim piece of PVC pipe with the drip tubing inside of it and burying it between the nearest flower bed and this urn.  It took less than an hour to dig a shallow trench and bury a piece of PVC with the drip irrigation inside.  In just a short time, the grass had filled in and the tubing was no longer visible.  It’s been quite a few years and this solution is still going strong!

urn planter in middle of yard

PVC and drip tubing in bed and about to go underground
Drip tubing inside a slim PVC pipe is about to travel underground to the planter in the middle of the yard.

Container Water Garden.  Have you ever made a container water garden?  They are so easy and fun!  For the first one that I made, I just hung an emitter inside it to keep the water garden full.  You could not easily see the tubing behind the plants.  I later learned to bring the tubing up through the planting hole before plugging it with plumber’s underwater epoxy putty.

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Water garden with water celery, sweet flag, and copper butterfly dripper fountain.

Fairy Gardens.  Do you have a fairy garden?  I love these tiny little pots that go in a fairy garden, but how could I possibly keep something so small hydrated during our long, hot summers?  I learned that I could insert the tip of an emitter into the bottom of each little container.  This one is a little tricky because you have to bury the emitter with it facing directly up and then fiddle with it a little until it stands up straight.  I think it’s well worth it!  For more about creating your own fairy garden, see Magical Lights in the Fairy Garden.

drip irrigation in fairy garden

Butterfly Puddlers.  Did you know that butterflies benefit from the nutrition that they find in mud puddles?  For more on that, read this.  My latest project is hanging a drip emitter over some sandy, salted mud to make a butterfly mud puddler.  The emitter could be hung in a tree or on a Shepard’s hook overhead.  You could even just identify a hanging flower container that starts dripping pretty quickly when watered and move away some mulch underneath to make your butterfly mud puddler there.  We will see if this works.  It isn’t terribly attractive, is it?  Hopefully the butterflies won’t mind!

butterfly mud puddler

I hope that you found a fun project to use in your garden!  Happy Gardening!

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