Last year was a rough year for my flower garden. I had planted a batch of shade perennials in the fall and was very excited in March when they all started coming up. Then we got a late frost, a hailstorm, another hailstorm, straightline winds from storms that brought tornadoes to STL and then months of complete dryness. As bad as that sounds, that’s strangely average for St. Louis. Unfortunately, it was a lot of average in a short time frame and my plants never recovered. Ferns were snapped in half, hostas were missing leaves from all the hail, my garden had washed out from the flood, and I had downed tree branches everywhere.
Before the storms
That’s an accumulation of hail and an overflowing rain barrel just before the tornado sirens went off and I ran for cover
I’ve taken a few small precautions for this year. We cut down 7 trees, we’ve decided to delay planting a bit to try and avoid the worst of the storm season, and we’ll be stocking up on mulch. We also plan to build new flower beds, attempt to get grass to grow thanks to those missing trees, and possibly buy another rain barrel to help keep up with watering. We’re also accounting for our recent Hardiness Zone change to 6A. Find out your Hardiness Zone.
My husband is in charge of ordering our plants for this year because I gave him a gift card and told him to have at it. Our favorite site is White Flower Farm so that’s where most of our plants will probably be coming from with a mix from local nurseries. Here’s some of our favorite collections of plants so far.
These were our first plants out of the ground last year and the first sign of spring. They stay low to the ground but still are quite noticeable. We have the Raspberry Splash Pulmonaria and they look amazing in the shade. Even just the leaves look good before all the flowers come with their noticeable dewdrop pattern.
We’re having a tough time seeing good height out of our Endless Summer Hydrangeas but we’re hoping for a better year or to reposition them in better conditions. For a shade plant they sure are beautiful. Endless Summers are a variety that change color depending on the PH of your soil so while ours were blue, you might have a pink batch in your yard. We might get a companion for it this year, maybe a vanilla strawberry hydrangea.
Japanese Shield Fern
Since we have a shade garden, it’s often very hard to find ways to inject color into it. Green plants tend to grow best so flowers are few and far between. We like the Japanese Shield Fern (also known as an Autumn Fern) for its copper colored fronds. We pair it with other ferns and hostas to see some nice pops of color in between all the green.
These are the main plant for our shade garden. We have 5 different varieties and will probably add more this year. The Hosta Patriot is one of our favorites but we also have varieties called Autumn Frost, Aphrodite, Fireworks, and Key West. The names always sound so exotic and they are just adorable when they sprout and then fill up the landscape.
My husband and I will be working outside a lot this spring and summer so expect to start seeing updates as we work on our home’s curb appeal. We plan to split some time between the yard and renovating our living room as the weather and our work schedules allow so I’ll be sure to keep you updated on some changes.Pin It
I made some baby blankets for my friend when she found out she was pregnant using some of the fabric Moda puts out each year. The fabrics I used were from their Pure line (you can still find it on Etsy) and when I had some leftover pieces I just knew I had to save them because of how adorable the fabrics were. See for yourself:
Well, her son just turned 1 and I realized I still hadn’t done anything with those scraps leftover from the Charm Pack I had bought for the quilt. Oops! Thankfully one of the bloggers I follow- Sara at Russet Street Reno came up with a challenge.
You can click the banner above for all the details but the basic idea is to get off your butt and make some piece of art with all that inspiration you’ve been pinning on pinterest. Since I’d bought the original materials for a baby, I decided to go the kids route with my DIY artwork. I don’t have kids of my own so I am sort of hoping one of my friends will say they’re expecting a boy and want it (anyone? where are all my pregnant people at, you can’t stop with just 1!) but in the mean time it was a cheap way to get out a burst of creativity.
I love the idea of animals made out of fabric and I happen to have fabric. I used 3 of the leftover charm pack pieces (a 5″x5″ square) and a $2 scrap of blue fabric from JoAnns. I also found having a fabric marker and some fabric adhesive very handy. I first cut out my templates (a dog, a bone, and a pawprint- each is a link to the file I used if you want to give it a go) and then placed the wrong side of the template to the wrong side of my fabric. I traced it with the fabric marker and then cut out the design.
For a more complicated piece like the paw print, after I cut out the individual toes I rebuilt the template so I could have even spacing in the frame, like so:
Then I attached the background fabric and sealed up the frame to reveal my handiwork.
This was a quick and simple project that used up some fabric scraps and cost me just $2 to make. Now I just need a friend to give them to. Anyone?
Update: this post got my friend pregnant! Okay, I’m exaggerating but shortly after this a friend announced she was having a boy so I give credit to the artwork.Pin It
This handy little craft project came in useful when I was coming up with centerpieces for a bridal shower. I wanted spring colored flowers for blue mason jars without all the price. I had heard of tissue paper flowers but I wasn’t convinced how easy they would be but I was convinced I could do a decent job. Plus, I could get all my supplies from the Dollar Store so if I failed I wouldn’t be out a ton of money.
- 3 packs of tissue paper – $1 each (I chose 2 in fuchsia and 1 in soft pink)
- 1 pack green pipe cleaners- $1 each
- Package of floral tape (optional)- $1
- Paperclips (optional)
- Vase or jars
- Total=$5 + jars
Before beginning, you’ll want to prep all your equipment. Line up 8 pieces of tissue paper of one color and tape together along the edges every few inches. Take a cup and draw a small circle on the top piece of tissue paper with a pen or a marker. I chose a 2 1/2″ wide cup to trace. I managed to get around a dozen circles onto the tissue paper. Then I cut through all 8 pieces of paper for each circle. A paperclip will be very handy to hold these circles together while you cut out all the pieces. Each vase will hold about 7 groups of those 8 circles so do some simple multiplication to see how many packs of tissue paper you’ll need and how many circles you’ll want to cut out.
Assembling the Flowers
Step 1: Make sure all your circles are cut and placed in stacks of 8.
Step 2: Use the metal part of the pipe cleaner to poke through the stack of tissue paper, just off-center. You’ll want about 1 1/2 inches to come through.
Step 3: Loop the pipe cleaner back through the tissue paper using the metal part and just off-center again. If the pipe cleaner has trouble ripping the paper use a needle to pierce the paper before putting the pipe cleaner through.
Step 4: Wrap the extra end of the pipe cleaner around itself.
Step 5: If you want a more flower-like look, wrap the pipe cleaner in floral tape. This is best if you are using a clear jar or vase. The floral tape sticks to itself so just wrap it tightly on an angle.
Step 6: Repeat on all the other circles and set aside till all are ready.
Step 7: Crinkle the innermost layer of tissue paper up very tightly. Don’t worry about making it look perfect, just make sure it covers the green of your pipe cleaner. Repeat on layer 2.
Step 8: For layers 3-6 crinkle a little looser focusing more on making a puffy shape than a flower.
Step 9: For layers 7 and 8 you’ll just want to crinkle the tissue paper.
Step 10: Now starting from the outside in gently unfold the tissue paper layers and loosen them until they start looking like a flower.
Just plop 7 of these beauties in a jar and you’ll have a gorgeous centerpiece. Here I’m displaying mine in my votive holders that I’m using as a vase.
I think these would be beautiful with yellow and white or in a centerpiece for spring or Easter or you could use them for a bridal shower like I did. For less than 10 cents a stem this is an easy way to decorate without wasting your money.
How would you use these flowers?Pin It
I love cacti. That is, I love every cactus because they are basically impossible to kill. Every one of those “impossible to kill” indoor plants like succulents or jade has always died on me but the cacti of the world are willing to live for me. I won’t admit which plants I originally created this project for but let’s just say they’ve gone off to plant heaven and a cactus has taken their place. Thankfully it’s a great fit.
To start off the project, I went to Home Goods and bought a candle lantern that was marked on clearance because the paint had been scraped off in a spot. This was perfect because I wanted a copper color anyway. Here’s the step-by-step changes.
Step 1: Buy an Awesome Lantern
Step 2: Take out all the glass and spray paint it
Step 3: Put glass back in, admire work
Step 4: Put a Cactus in It
So to give a few more details, I used Rustoleum Hammered Copper Spray Paint. It ended up taking 2 complete coats so I have plenty of paint left for other projects. After I let it dry 24 hours I put the glass back in. Then I lined the bottom of the lantern with damp sand, some pebbles and potting soil. I added the cactus, spread some more soil in to secure it nicely, and then closed the door. Keeping the soil and sand damp is the key so everything doesn’t spill out the open door.
What projects have you been working on?Pin It
There seems to be two camps when it comes to chicken and dumplings. The northerners love a dumpling that is more ball-shaped and is light and fluffy and the sauce is broth-based. The southerners love a dumpling that is more biscuit and chewy while the sauce is more of a gravy. Living in Missouri my life has always been a mix of northern and southern traditions so chicken and dumplings are always a hot topic. The average southern style is always better than the average northern style but the best northern style will ALWAYS beat the best southern style. That’s just how it is for me.
Thankfully, this recipe is one of those best northern style chicken and dumpling recipes. Pam from For the Love of Cooking has tweaked a Cooking Light recipe to be amazing. She even understands my irrational hatred of rosemary and uses basil as her herb of choice. Rather than repost her recipe I want Pam to have all the credit so if you need to try some of the best northern chicken and dumplings out there, try Pam’s Chicken and Basil Dumplings.
How about you? What’s your favorite style of chicken and dumplings? I’d love to be convinced by your recipes.Pin It
I’m sure many of you have seen the pin on Pinterest about the magic regrowing onions. You know, this one:
I’ve seen a lot of pins that end up being too good to be true so I wanted to test this one and see how good it was. So after I used up the entire tops of some green onions making a meal for the Chinese New Year, I popped the bulbs into a glass and added a cup of water. I wasn’t a believer but they were just going to end up in the trash so why not try?
I woke up the next morning and gave it a look. WOW! That was just 12 hours and my onions were already shooting up. It took about 7 days but they were right back to the old height.
- Change the water daily. It will start to stink fast.
- After 14 days if you still haven’t used the onions then place them in a plastic bag in your fridge so they don’t get out of control.
- You can reuse the bulbs multiple times. The bulbs do get fatter so just cut a bulb in half if it gets too big.
Onions don’t cost a ton but I save the most on time, I don’t find myself needing to run to the store for a single ingredient when I can grow it in my Missouri kitchen in the middle of winter.Pin It
I’ve been looking at photos of Provence, France lately and I’ve fallen in love with the beautiful fields of lavender. How could you not fall in love with a countryside that looks like this?
So to bring the inspiration back home, I bring you this inspiration board.
Lavender Swoop Arm Tufted Chair Target $303.99
French Herb Wreath Viva Terra $69
Mikasa Lavender Lane 4-piece Place Setting Amazon $77.99
Lavender Field Print Etsy Artist GWENSART $12
Puckering Duvet Set Target $69.99
What other countries would you like to see some travel-inspired design for?Pin It
This all started before I knew what I was making. My local grocery store was having a 10/$10 sale on cake mixes and I was feeling kind of froggy so I bought a few to experiment with. The first creation was my Funfetti Doughnuts. For Valentine’s Day I wanted something simple. My husband’s birthday is the week before so we were a little overwhelmed with all the chocolate cake we’d had leftover. Valentine’s called for something lighter on our stomachs and something that looked like it took far more work than it did.
Enter chocolate covered cherry cupcakes.
I started with a cherry chip cake mix and all the ingredients it usually called for. Then I threw in some cherry pie filling to really bring home that cherry feeling. After baking you might notice that your tops will fall slightly as they cool. This is actually good because it forms a little holder for the icing of choice: chocolate ganache. You want to plop just enough ganache on each cupcake to fit in the depressed space. Once you ice all the cupcakes, take some cherries (or cheat like me and use some leftover from amaretto sours), dip them in chocolate and plop them on the cupcakes.
Now comes the hard part: you have to wait 2 hours to let the ganache harden enough to eat them. Still, it’s worth it. The cupcake itself is sweet so the chocolate ganache on top is just bittersweet enough to remind you of an actual chocolate-covered cherry without being too rich. They’re super simple so you can make one tonight and it will be ready for dessert tomorrow.Pin It
You might know stromboli by its other identity of calzone but I like to think there’s a difference so I feel special saying “STROMBOLI!” in my horrible fake-Italian accent. This Meat Lovers Stromboli (or do I have to call it Stromboli for people who love meat?) follows some very simple steps that you’ll be used to seeing in my pizza recipe. Some key tools that make it easier include a Kitchenaid mixer with its dough hook and my favorite Pampered Chef Stoneware piece. The dough in my photo below is after my first rise. I had to run some errands and it got a little out of control so I punched it down and let it rise a little more.
This recipe is cheesy awesome goodness with ham, bacon, and pepperoni. If you’re the kind of person who likes pizza crust, every bite of this dish includes crispy dough with a bite of pizza filling. One bite is all it will take to make you a believer in stromboli. One bite.
The key to stromboli is wrapping it up like a burrito. You fold in the little edges first, then the big ones, then seal it nice and tight with your fingers and some olive oil before flipping it onto your baking sheet seam-side down. Even with all that mine leaked a touch but I just scooped the cheesy goodness right off the tray and chowed down.
A delicious stromboli recipe. The dough is 2 servings so freeze one half or double the ingredients to serve more people.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
- 1 1/3 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 to 5 cups flour
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 lb ham slices
- 1/2 pack of pepperoni
- 1/3 cup crumbled bacon
- 4 slices provolone cheese
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasonings
- In Kitchenaid mixer bowl dissolve yeast in the warm water.
- Add oil, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Use the dough hook attachment to begin blending together. Slowly add in 2 more cups of flour 1 cup at a time. If the dough looks too wet, add in the remaining cup of flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough looks blended but not crumbly or sticky.
- Continue to knead dough on low until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.
- Unhook the bowl, coat your dough in a tablespoon of olive oil. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for an hour.
- Punch dough down. Divide in two and freeze or save the second half for another project.
- Roll out remaining dough into a 10 x 12 rectangle. Keep it about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
- In the middle of the dough, add toppings, first ham, then pepperoni, then bacon, then cheese slices, then sauce, then shredded cheese. Make sure to leave space around all the edges.
- Fold the two shorter edges towards the center, just covering the toppings. Fold one long edge over, then cover with the other long edge, like a burrito. Use olive oil to help firmly seal all the seams.
- Grease baking pan with olive oil and place stromboli seam-side down onto the pan. Coat the top of the stromboli with a little olive oil and sprinkle on Italian seasonings.
- Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Cool 5 minutes, cut into 1 inch slices, and serve
With Facebook and Pinterest connecting even more these days, there have been a ton of new Pinterest users coming online and wondering what the heck is Pinterest. In a way I’m glad I joined over a year ago so I could figure out all the fun ways to use it without anyone I knew watching me. (BTW- you can find me on Pinterest here) Now it seems like everyone is online using it so if you’re clueless we all get to see it. Here’s some tips to help the Pinterest newbies and even some tricks that experienced users might want to try.
1. Stop Sharing It All on Facebook
Pinterest being linked to Facebook makes it easy to find friends but how annoying is it when you see 12 updates on your Facebook feed because someone just discovered cute puppy photos? Don’t be that friend, the one who doesn’t realize they’re annoying everyone on Facebook when all you need to do is uncheck some buttons.
Log into Pinterest and go to your Settings page. Feel free to link your Pinterest page to your Facebook page but by toggling off “Add Pinterest to Facebook timeline” you’re one step closer to making your Facebook friends happier.
Now get ready to repin something. Anything. When you see the popup, make sure neither the facebook or twitter boxes are checked. Then you’re good to go!
2. Edit Your Profile
First up, I hear so many people complaining when they get new friends because then they get lots of emails every time their pins get repinned. You probably already spend time on pinterest and can view which pins of yours get repinned by viewing your pins page – http://www.pinterest.com/YOURUSERNAME/pins (so mine is http://pinterest.com/julieannie0729/pins/ or you can see the page here) so turn those pinterest emails off!
If you linked up Facebook and Pinterest then your first and last name are right on your Pinterest page. That might be fine with you now but if you want some anonymity then you can change your first or last name right from your settings page. Change any other info you want on this page, including your photo. You can add your website, a bio, a location, link your twitter page, or even your facebook page. They all end up displayed on your main pinterest page like so. My website is represented with a globe and my twitter and facebook pages are linked as well.
3. Pin It!
When I helped my mom sign up for Pinterest, I noticed she was clicking “Add” and then “Add a Pin” every time she found something new on the web. Go to the Pinterest Goodies page and just drag that Pin It button right up to your toolbar. There’s some additional info needed for Chrome so check out the page for instructions.
4. Pin the Post (Not a Blog)
I often see a really neat pin, click it to view the webpage and discover that the original pinner pinned it from their RSS feed or the front page of the website. That means a lot of searching to find that really awesome DIY project I wanted to try. Always click the title of the post you’re on to make sure you’re pinning the right part of the website. If you see something like “http://www.thehyperhouse.com/” You haven’t gone deep enough. Make sure there’s more after the slash, like this one is “http://www.thehyperhouse.com/2012/02/7-new-ways-to-use-pinterest/” which means you can pin this page and anyone who clicks on it will be brought right to this post.
5. Keep a 5:1 ratio
It’s really fun to discover new projects on Pinterest, right? But I’m sure you have had times when you’re browsing and you see the same dang smoothie recipe for the 100th time. I think anyone on Pinterest last fall remembers the super simple pumpkin cupcake recipe that wouldn’t die. If you’re just clicking repin on pinterest, you’re missing out on half the fun. You should try making your own creations or finding ideas from your favorite websites and pinning that new idea. Try to pin 1 new idea for every 5 repins to help keep Pinterest fresh.
6. Clear out your Bookmarks
Do you have tons of items bookmarked in your browser but never go to them? As you can see, it used to be impossible for me to find any recipes. I’m a visual person so seeing all my ideas in a Pinterest board means I’m more likely to cook the recipes instead of just meaning to. I just load my bookmarked page, pin it to a board, and then delete the bookmark. Spend 5-10 minutes a day clearing out your bookmarks and you’ll have a head start on your 5:1 ratio too.
7. Clear Out Your Folders
Let’s be honest, Pinterest appeals to most of us because we’re the type of people who had inspiration folders all over our computers. I had some leftover from my wedding, ideas for home renovation, even just funny photos making fun of the first Twilight movie. It was bad. I also had no idea where most of those photos came from and I don’t want to upload ideas to Pinterest without giving credit to the original creator.
Enter Google Images. You can drag and drop images from your computer right into the search field and it hunts down the original source for you. The results are amazingly accurate.
It not only knew from my photo that the images were plates but it also knew they were 12 days of Christmas plates, made by Rosanna, where they were online to buy, and other images cropped from the same image I had uploaded. When you use it for pinterest, just drag and drop your inspiration photo and look for the original source or a page that gives credit to the original source. Giving credit on Pinterest is always a good idea.
Like this Pinterest Post? Check out even more great Pinterest tips! Or Discuss the New Pinterest Profile.
Do you have any Pinterest secrets? Share your Pinterest account in the comments and I’ll follow you!Pin It