Gardening with Mr. and Mrs. Twist – How to Create a Container Vegetable Garden Part One

We are sharing a fun backyard gardening project!  I’ve been wanting to install a small vegetable garden, but we didn’t want all the excavation and soil preparation that goes with it.  So, my friends at Jabo’s Ace Hardware and Miracle-Gro partnered with  me to make it happen.  In part one of this two-part story we will cover soil and drainage.  It’s not sexy, but it’s the secret to making sure Martha Stewart envies your garden!

We had the perfect space — a section of our backyard by the fence where the grass was sparse.  It gets lots of sun during the day and relief of afternoon shade. Pro tip:  Vegetables love sun, but also need respite from the heat if you live in the south, hence the usefulness of late afternoon shade.

The two most important factors in a successful garden – healthy, rich soil and proper drainage.  For the soil, Miracle-Gro provided me with 20 bags of solid gold!  Seriously, their new Performance Organics™ all purpose container mix scores 100!  It features organic and natural ingredients, delivers up to two-times more bounty versus unfed plants, feeds all season for up to three months, it’s blended with natural compost and is compatible for indoor or outdoor container gardens. Here’s a quick video from the Miracle-Gro site.  And, another source is the Miracle-Gro YouTube channel with lots of helpful resources on gardening and their products.  Jabo’s Ace carries this product in stores.  A bag sells for $9.99. For reference we were able to use two full bags to fill one 17-gallon galvanized tub. We needed 10 bags total.

The next essential step in your garden prep is proper drainage.  Jabo’s provided me with five 17-gallon steel tubs from Behrens.  The tub is made of durable hot dipped steel, sealed to hold liquids and has a wire reinforced top rim. Stronger than plastic, this pail won’t absorb odors and is recyclable.  They sell for $39.99 each.  We drilled holes in the bottom of each tub to make sure our soil has proper drainage.  You can watch how we did this on my YouTube here (be sure to subscribe while you are there — it helps me earn my very own channel!)

Now, your tubs are ready, it’s time to add the second secret to proper drainage — expanded shale.  Here’s a great source on all the reasons you want to use expanded shale from Gardening Know How, but in summary shale is the most common sedimentary rock.  It is a fine-grained rock made up of mud comprised of flakes of clay and other minerals such as quartz and calcite.  The bottom line, shale helps the soil to stay light, aerated and retain water. A thin layer at the bottom of your container also helps to keep the soil inside the container instead of running out when you water. I purchased a bag of shale at Archie’s for $14.99 and one 40-lb bag worked for all five tubs.

The other step, which was Mr. Bee’s idea, was to elevate each tub off of the ground using pavers to make sure, again, that each tub had the proper drainage.  Watch this video here from my YouTube channel on how we did this as well as a review of the shale installation.

Okay. We will stop here so you can absorb all this important information.  Remember:  the two most important steps in putting in a garden of any kind — excellent soil and proper drainage.

Thank you to my friends at Jabo’s Ace and Miracle-Gro.  In the next installment we will show you how to install a GrowOya, the perfect system to make sure your garden stays hydrated all summer long.  And, you can see some before and current photos of how well our garden is growing.

Disclaimer:  I was provided with free product in return for my honest review.All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced by my sponsors or its affiliates in any way.

DIY Vintage Wood Wall Treatment with Ace Hardware

Before: Blank, painted wall

Ace Hardware is my blog sponsor and they gave me a chance to try a new product  by Amy Howard at Home– Vintage Wood Pallet Wall in a Box.  I knew right away that I wanted to create a shiplap feature wall right outside the entry to my powder room.   Here’s the space before. Just a blank wall painted Sea Salt from Sherwin-Williams.  I had a full length leaning mirror here.  It’s about an 8′ x 4′ space with no cuts for outlets, so for a beginner like me, it seemed like it would be a doable project.

Before I got started, I set up eight foot tables covered with old sheets and towels in my garage.  And, I watched this how-to video .

The Pallet Wall in a Box comes with unfinished solid red oak planks enough to cover about 20 feet.  Here was my first glitch…I didn’t order enough wood. Thankfully, I have a super sweet relationship with Jabo’s Ace Hardware and they were able to help a girl out by expediting another box to me within a few days.

unfinished red oak planks

I laid all the wood out on the tables and set up my supplies.

First, you start with the Vintage Wood Better with Age stain. Open the can and stir with a stir stick.

 

Better with Age stain

Dipping the 1.5 inch flat paint brush into the stain, with long strokes, I painted each plank of wood.

brushing on the stain
stained planks

After I was finished, I let the planks completely dry for a few hours while I worked on laundry.  The planks will darken as they dry.  You could stop here if you wanted to, but I wanted a white wash look to the planks, so I moved to the next step the Venetian Plaster application. It’s a plaster made of lime and powdered marble and gives a beautiful textural aesthetic to the wood.

mixing venetian plaster with water

I poured the powder into a plastic bowl and added water until I got the consistency of a milk shake, stirring until smooth.  Using my paint brush I painted the stained wood with a generous coating of the plaster. Note:  I worked with one plank at a time, first applying plaster, then troweling it off.

applying the venetian plaster

Then with a plastering trowel, I skimmed off the coating of the plaster leaving a deposit of the plaster in the wood grain.

troweling off the plaster

It’s amazing how the plaster seemed to know exactly where to stay to show the beautiful detail of the wood.  I let the plaster sit overnight.  Tip: I watched the weather to make sure there were no freezing temperatures to affect the wood while it cured in the garage.  Be sure to plan accordingly if you attempt this project during cold weather by moving your wood inside.

applying cerusing wax

The next step was to apply the Cerusing Wax which is a soft wax that gives a satin patina of protection on the wood.  I first applied it with a lint free cloth, but I switched to a brush because it seemed to go on easier with a brush.  After I applied the wax, I let the wood dry for about an hour, then I went back and buffed it with a soft cloth.  You could feel the softness of the surface and it did give the wood a very light satin finish.

Then came woodworking school.  Because I have zero experience using power tools, I asked my two guy friends from church, who are skilled at a chop saw and nail gun, to help me.  They got the project started for me and once they were half way finished, they walked me through how to install the wood planks myself.  You can see in the photo below how they marked the studs in the wall with a pencil.  Those marks showed me where to nail the boards up first.  They showed me how the wood is installed with no specific pattern.  Look at this photo how each plank is different, some whiter than others, some more distressed.  The ends don’t match either.  Some rows have two planks, some have three planks.  They were great teachers to show me how to determine what plank we should pick for the next row.

initial installation and marked space showing stud location
Yes, I am amazing with my saw skills

Then, came learning how to use a chop saw.  It’s amazing how empowering you can feel the first time you use a power tool…as demonstrated on my face here!

We went back and forth with cutting, nailing, cutting and nailing.  The install took about three hours.

The last bit that needed to be done to finish was the strip right above the baseboard.  It wasn’t quite wide enough for the plank to fit, so the church guys took it back to their shop to use the table saw. Once that cut was made and installed, it was finished. I couldn’t believe how it transformed this small space and made it so fresh and clean looking.

finished wall
view from the powder room
I added the mirror for now
view from the family room

The total for the wood and supplies was about $272.  That was because I needed two boxes of wood.  If you are just needing one box you’d spend around $171.  In terms of time, I broke down the project over several weekends because that was what worked for my schedule.  I think you could easily stain and plaster the wood one day, wax and install day two.

I would totally encourage you to try this project on your own.  It is really fun when you can look at something and know you made it.  As Amy says, “Enjoy the bragging rights!”

To purchase the products listed in this post click here.  Amy Howard products are available through Amy Howard at Home and through Jabo’s Ace Hardware.

How to Make a Centerpiece Using Magnolia Market Paperwhites

Real Paperwhites — Longfield Gardens

A few springs ago I purchased five faux paperwhite bulbs from Magnolia Market.  Real paperwhites are a fragrant winter-blooming bulb typically grown indoors.  I liked the faux option because they would last me until spring when I change over my decor to Easter.  And, I can tuck them away in a storage box for the next year.

I wanted to show you that with just a few simple supplies you can create your own paperwhite centerpiece.

First, you need an adorable kitten to supervise the process.  Then, you need a glass vase so you can see the rocks, moss and roots of the bulbs.  I purchased five bulbs (Magnolia Market still offers them here).  You could do this project easily with just three bulbs (remember in nature most things grow in threes and fives).

First, put in a layer of river rock.  You can either use rocks you’ve collected or most craft stores sell bags of rocks.  I think I used about 20 rocks, but if you use a smaller vase you can decrease the number of rocks.  Then take green floral moss, again from the craft store, and place a nice layer on top of the rocks.  I keep a few bags of moss on-hand in a ziplock bag in my floral box in the attic.  Last, start nestling the paperwhite bulbs down into the moss trying to fit them snug into the rocks so they will stay standing up.  Don’t they look real?

I had five total bulbs, but I could only fit four into the vase (that’s okay, I put the remaining single bulb into a smaller square glass vase).  You may have to move the moss and rocks around to get it all to fit.  Be sure if your bulbs have roots to make those peak through the moss.

There you go!  I placed the centerpiece on the entry table with just a few other pretties like a dish of chocolate and a book of quotes with Mother’s paper weight placed on top of the pages to keep the book open.  A fun decorating trick.

Paperwhites are the perfect flower to hint that spring will soon arrive!

Make Your House Smell Like Christmas with this Homemade Stovetop Potpourri

Here is a last minute gift idea I made for friends that would be a perfect way to engage your children and teens when they are home for Christmas — homemade stovetop potpourri!

When I was little, Sister and I would make crafts together as my gift to family members.  One year we made spice ropes, another year we filled hairspray caps with plaster and stuck a fork inside to make a recipe holder.  Our creative skills were on fire!  I have fun memories working with her on these crafts instilling in me the spirit of giving.

For this project, I got the idea here on Pinterest from The Crafting Chicks.  All the ingredients and a free printable are available on the link.  But, I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version.

Gather all your ingredients and Ball jars.  I always purchase my Ball jars at Jabo’s Ace Hardware because they have the best selection and I can use the $5 off coupons they send me in the mail for being a reward customer (and if you use Ebates they reward 2.5% back to you).  I purchased the cinnamon sticks at Fiesta International Market and sourced the cloves and cinnamon in bulk from Whole Foods.  The cranberries and oranges came from my local grocery store.

Then I got to work bagging up the spices into small snack size ziploc bags.  I placed the oranges and cranberries inside first and tucked the spice bags to the side.  Your little children could help with counting each orange and cranberries that go into the jars.  Note: I didn’t slice the oranges, per the recipe, because I wasn’t sure when people would make their potpourri.

Once the jars are filled, I wrote messages on black scrapbook paper and cut the paper into oversized circles to place over the top of the jar seal, and then finished with the Ball jar rim.  I tied the printable around the mouth of the jar with baker’s twine.  Your older kids could write the message in gold paint pen.

Now, pile the jars into a basket and take your little ones with you for deliveries.    Your friends and family will delight in seeing their faces bring a gift to fill their home with the smells of Christmas that was made with love!

Gingerbread Project: A Sweet Way to Celebrate the Season

One of my most favorite projects to-date was the time I built a gingerbread retro-camper from scratch!  I wanted to share this story with you.  It was alot of work, but oh so fun.  Enjoy!

My friend Jessica invite me to be a “celebrity” participant in her sorority’s 16th annual Cookies and Castles charity event benefiting Cook Children’s Medical Center. Since 2001, the Gingerbread Extravaganza, has become a holiday tradition cherished by many in Fort Worth.

I love a challenge, and of course the first place I went for inspiration was Pinterest.  Representing Home with a Twist, I wanted something special that told a story and represented me.  As soon as I saw this idea I went to work on my plan!

Sugar and Clothsugar-and-cloth-retro-camper posted this retro gingerbread camper on Pinterest last Christmas.  I grew up going camping in my parent’s motor home and I thought this would be the perfect way to pay tribute to my childhood, but with a modern twist.

I took my calling card shopping with me to find just the right fondant colors to complement my blog’s color scheme.  I settled on red, teal and white for the camper and pulled in the Kelly Green for the trees.

This post is less about how to construct it because Sugar and Cloth gives you a template including the recipe for making the gingerbread.  But, I will hit the highlights in case you think you want to make this project.

  1.  The funny thing about this project is that when I told Bestie we were going to make a gingerbread house, she thought it was going to be one of the ones you purchase at the store and assemble during a Michael Buble Christmas special.  An hour tops.  This took 45 hours to plan for and construct.
  2.  I could not have done this without help.  While it was fun, it was intense.  Mainly because we didn’t know what we were doing and had to wing it.
  3.  Help was Mr. Bee, Miss Bee, my bestie, her husband and teenage son (who is like a son to me; I can boss him and he either tunes me out or doesn’t mind).  He was our engineer on the project and helped to reinforce the structure inside the camper so it didn’t collapse.  Bestie was the maker and baker of the gingerbread.  The husbands chimed in every once in while with tips or suggestions.
  4. There was a lot of strategy that went into this.  We had to think through each step, the “what ifs” and develop a timeline of what needed to bake when, what was next and we had to allow time for the royal icing “glue” to set up.  It was like mission control at NASA.
  5. We started on Friday afternoon and finished about 9 p.m. Saturday night.
  6. I took about 3 days to shop for candy and think of what I needed to make each of the parts.
  7. I kept having to say a famous phrase coined by my friend Terry…”we aren’t saving lives here people, we are just crafting.”
  8. No glue was used.  Everything was assembled using royal icing (which is made of powdered sugar, meringue powder and water).

I used belt candy to resemble a Saltillo tile front porch — cutting out each section, arranging a pattern, and adhering it to a piece of cardboard with royal icing.  I bordered the sides with red and green dot candy.

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I put Garrett in charge of creating the campfire.  He used scraps from the gingerbread, crushed ribbon candy and red belt candy.

I made the lounge chairs from scraps of gingerbread, belt candy and Bestie cut pieces of candy canes for the base and lumbar pillows.  I also put Bestie in charge of (yes, I did do things, but mostly I was the project manager and bossed people around) making the little packages around trees and by the campfire.

We took pieces of ribbon candy and German candy called “hamburger” I found at World Market and Bestie tied red and green twine around them to create the look of wrapped presents.  She then glued sugar candy decoration on top like a gift tag.

Miss Bee made the Rice Krispie treats and shaped them into trees, a wreath and the shrubbery.  She also designed the Christmas trees which are sugar cones with tinted royal icing.

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I thought she did an amazing job adding the sprinkle accents of white and red to all the trees.  She free handed the wreath by the front door and added sweet little white pearls.

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The wheels are discs of gingerbread with a Necco wafer and sugar cookie sprinkle.

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The best part is that the windows of the camper are melted butterscotch candies for a stained glass effect. Garrett placed battery operated lights inside so the windows glow as if someone is inside the camper!  It was Bestie’s idea to use a battery operated ornament necklace for the lights hanging around the camper.   Shredded coconut surrounds the snow scene. It’s all just so sweet (literally) and life-like.

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We all agreed our favorite part of the scene is the snowman that Miss Bee created.  She used white chocolate malt balls and stacked them using royal icing.  Red gum drops cut in half were fashioned as the ear muffs, and an orange sliver of a gum drop his nose. A black edible pen finished off his buttons, eyes and smile.  We wrapped red twine around his neck for the scarf.  Raspberry candies circle him as the base for stability with his tiny gingerbread sidekick.   Isn’t he adorable?

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I hope the person that bid on this project enjoyed it as much as we did creating it.  I’d love to make another gingerbread project again someday.  Anyone want to help (I think Bestie wants a pass)?

A fun way to RePurpose Thrift Store China

On a recent getaway, I stopped into a home decor consignment store.  I have been on the hunt for blue and white dishes and I found an English cream and sugar set. The creamer has a little chip and I knew right away I would plant a succulent in it.  The sugar bowl is in mint condition so I filled it with raw sugar and put it on the coffee station tray next to my Keurig.

I stopped into Calloway’s Nursery for a bag of potting soil specially formulated for cactus, succulents and desert plants.

And I found two varieties of succulents for $3 each.  They put them down inside the cutest little brown paper bag.

I filled the creamer with potting soil.  If you wanted to you could fill the bottom with small pebbles, but the nursery lady told me I didn’t need to if I used the Black Gold brand soil specifically for cactus.

I nestled the succulent down inside, filling the sides with the cactus soil.

Then, placed green moss (from the craft store) on the top to cover up the soil.

I gave it a light watering.  The main thing to remember about any cactus plant, is you don’t water them.  About once a month, give the soil a light mist of water, but really they don’t even need that.

So next time you see mismatched china in the thrift store, consider giving it a new beginning as a vessel for a low-maintenance succulent.  What a fun gift to share with someone.

Just a Minute Centerpiece

I have an easy Valentine’s Day centerpiece to share.  You could do this for any occasion, like a birthday party, ice cream social, baby shower or July 4th by changing up the colors of the flowers.

What you’ll need:

Carnations — I love Carnations and I think they get a bad rap.  They are fragrant, inexpensive and can go a long time without water which is perfect for this centerpiece project.  I bought three bunches at $3.99 each from Central Market.

Red Hots — I bought several scoops from the bulk bin at Central Market, or you could buy a large bag in the candy aisle.

Ice Cream Sugar Cones — I used nine cones which was one box.

Glass Cylinders or Vases – You can find these anywhere.  I just used ones I had in my vase stash.

I cut the carnation stems short enough to fit in the ice cream cone so the bottom petals of the carnation set just around the rim of the cone.  I put all one color in each cone.  As it worked out, I had enough to make three cones for each of the colors.  A rule of thumb, tablescapes always looks better in odd numbers — in this case three vases, three cones per vase.

I filled the bottom of each cylinder with red hots.  You don’t need to measure, just pour enough in each vase so it looks even.  Then, nestle the cones down into the vase.  That’s it!

The carnations went without water for 24 hours, and I put them into water the next day.  They are still fresh a week a later.

I styled the vases on top of cake pedestals I found last year in the dollar section of Target along with sweets we had.  My milk glass collection is always a perfect backdrop for the yummy treats from McKinley’s Bakery. The cute little chalkboard menus are from the Container Store.

These centerpieces would be so cute lined up on an ice cream sundae bar for July 4th, a baby “gender” reveal party or birthday!  If you put love into it, everything turns out amazing!

Try it Tuesday: The Accidental Centerpiece

I usually purchase my flowers at Albertson’s, my local grocery store.  They are inexpensive, have a great selection and last a long time.  I especially enjoy their Debi Lilly line of containers, florals and candles.

The florists were cleaning out their bins to refresh the inventory with new arriving florals and this bunch of hydrangeas were headed for the trash.  I took them home and placed them in a vase I already had on hand.  I harvested some small branches of yaupon holly berries from my garden for a pop of color and set the vase on top of a tree slab base my nephew made for me.

As I was moving things around one day, I needed a place to stash my extra large glass dome — also known as a cloche — and wondered what it would look like on top of the centerpiece.  It took it to a whole new level adding texture, height and interest.  Its almost like a terrarium-like atmosphere for the flowers.  Two weeks later they are still as fresh as the day I rescued them!

I’d call this a happy accident.

Easy DIY Succulent Pumpkin

20161030_182727If you look on Pinterest or Facebook, you might have seen that using succulents to decorate your pumpkins is really trendy right now.  Now that Halloween is over, don’t throw away those un-carved pumpkins. Use them for your Thanksgiving table setting.  This easy DIY took me about 30 minutes.

The succulents are easy to find. If you don’t think you will try to re-pot them once Thanksgiving has been celebrated, Walmart is an affordable place to purchase the types of succulents you need. I had two succulent topiaries left over from Mr. Bee’s birthday party in June.  My florist, Bryan, constructed them by putting sticks through the center of each succulent and then inserted them into a floral oasis ball.   Most were still alive so I just moved them from the foam ball and placed them into the grey pumpkins I had purchased at Sprouts.

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Two gray pumpkins meet a succulent topiary ball…

20161030_173851I got out my cordless drill and used a 9/64th size drill bit to make each hole.  Since my succulents were on sticks, that’s why I needed a drill.  You could make this totally easy and just hot glue your succulents to the pumpkin. But, if you do that, the likelihood of being able to transplant them into soil afterward is pretty slim.

I then inserted the succulent stick into each hole.  I repeated this process until I had the number of succulents and look I was going for.

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I finished by stuffing the empty spaces with moss (easily found in craft stores).  I used floral pins to secure the moss in places, or you could use hot glue.

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I designed one pumpkin to have a “cascade” of succulents coming down one side.  The other pumpkin I just placed them on the top.  I used a marble cake pedestal to elevate one, and grouped them together with candles and a lantern.

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It was fun afternoon project and something unexpected for the table.  I’m really excited to incorporate this into my Thanksgiving centerpiece.  I’ll be sharing ideas with you, too, for setting the table.  Stay tuned.

The Art of Modern Calligraphy

2016-10-18Calligraphy is defined as “the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner.”  This penmanship style has been around for hundreds of years, but has seen a resurgence in popularity recently with a modern twist.

20161008_095545I had the chance to take a modern calligraphy class recently with Molly from Poppy Cox, Inc.  This was the real, honest to goodness calligraphy using a nib — a sharpened point dipped into a pot of ink!  Molly had each person’s place set with their own personalized pumpkin and hot pink clipboards with all our practice pages.

She reviewed the basics and started us with the pen.  Here we are practicing holding the nib in our hand. Can you see the tiny metal tip – that is supposed to spread out as you apply the ink to the paper.

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Molly sent us home with a supply kit filled with the basic tools and a few of her favorite supplies.   It was really fun to trace the letters and watch the ink flow out the pen. The above photo shows how the ink was still wet. I felt like Martha Washington penning a letter to George.

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We all agreed we have a much better appreciation for the time it takes for someone to hand-letter envelopes or pen invitations –something I would love to be able to practice to do for Christmas cards and invitations.

poppy-cox-incI had so much fun I decided to partner up with Molly to offer a private class in my home on Saturday, October 29 at 10 a.m. The class fee of $75 (a $25 discount for my readers) includes tools, tips, supplies and practice time, plus a yummy breakfast casserole featuring Salty Pig sausage, my famous cinnamon rolls, mimosas and coffee. If you are local to Fort Worth and would like to join us, comment with your email address and we will send you an invoice to register your seat.  This is a perfect way to learn the basics for the holidays — think gift tags, menu cards and chalkboard lettering!

Molly and I hope to see you there!