Category Archives: Decorating

Clematis…the Most Versatile Vine!

Hot Pink ClematisI have a thing for flowering vines.  I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always loved the idea of an arbor or trellis covered in beautiful blooms.  I’ve grown climbing roses, wisteria, even gourds over a trellis, and they have all been spectacular.  However, for me, the best climber out there is the clematis.

My love affair with clematis started early.  My grandmother had a purple variety that covered her porch supports for years, and it was always a great performer.  So, as I got older, they were a likely pick for me.

Sure, clematis are easy on an arbor or something that has thin supports for the plant to spin its tendrils around, but many years ago, I was curious if they would work on something less plant friendly.  When I was in college, I decided to plant some sort of climber on Purple Clematismy parents’ clothes line supports.  They are wooden 4x4s, in the shape of a cross. They aren’t the most attractive supports, but they do serve their purpose.  I thought it would soften them a bit and also make an impressive display if I could grow a flowering climber up the supports.

I decided I would give the clematis a chance.  I planted one clematis right up against the base of each support (I think they were the Vagabond variety).  The biggest concern I had was, because they are 4x4s, it was too big for the clematis to wrap around.  I knew I would have to help them along until they reached the cross pieces and could support themselves.  That first year, I helped the vine grow by tying the branches around the clothes line support as it grew.  Unfortunately, that first year, it didn’t get large enough to reach the cross beam, but I kept Closer Viewhoping.  Also, unfortunately that first year, the guys who cut the lawn got a little too close with the weed whacker.  Luckily, the roots were still strong and they came back the following spring.

After putting a little fence around the bottom, and for a few years tying the branches and helping them up the posts, they finally got big enough to reach the cross beam.  One secret was I didn’t cut the clematis back in the fall or spring.  The new growth would sprout from the old wood, so it would very quickly reach the height I needed.  And the old growth also acted as a support for new shoot to cling to as they climbed the support.

As you can see, these clematis put on a nice display for my parents every spring.  And it took a while, but they were one of the most rewarding ventures I had when I started gardening on my own.  I think they still look great today!

Close Up

Better Late Than Never…Getting the Table Ready for Easter!

I don’t know about you, but I feel like April is flying by.  I couldn’t wait for the warmer weather and sunshine, and now that it’s here, I feel like I’ve missed the passing of 2 weeks in the blink of an eye.  It’s already Easter on Sunday.

FabricLast summer, I got the idea of making a runner for my dinning room table out of patches of seersucker fabric.  I thought it would work well for the summer, and brighten up the dining room a bit.  I went to my local fabric store, and, sure enough, they had NO SEERSUCKER!  Unfortunately, at this point, I had it in my mind and there was no changing courses.  Eventually, they finally found a few colors, but I was really looking for reds, blues, greens, and yellows to highlight the colors of summer.  Sure enough, I finallyCutting found the colors, in November!  The good news was, I had plenty of time to sew a runner, right?  Wrong!  Even though I purchased the fabric then, I haven’t done anything for it until last week, when I thought it would make a good addition for Easter and spring.

Now, I have to admit, I am not a good seamster (again, I had no idea what the male version of seamstress was, but I looked it up…and this seems to be it).  I can barely sew a straight line, but, with the help of a sewing machine, I can usually get by.  I originally envisioned an elaborate patchwork of colors, but I quickly realized that was going to be well beyond my incredibly basic skills.  Instead, I settled for a Sewingsimple runner of 1 foot squares, alternating colors and directions of the lines.

To start, I cut 2 14 inch squares of fabric in green, red, blue, and yellow.  Actually, my nephews cut…I brought in some help for this one.  Then, I simply placed the fabric back to back and sewed a straight line across.  I alternated the directions of the stripes,Bad Side and I sewed the green to red, red to blue, blue to yellow, yellow to green, green to red, red to blue, and blue to yellow.  This made one long strip.  One thing to note, you want all of the “bad” sides on one side, so you have one clean side with no visible seams.

Next, I had to sew together some strips of white for the backing.  If you have a long enough piece of fabric, just cut it to size, about 98 inches by 14 inches if you sew everything with a 1 inch Ready to Sewborder.  I, of course, did not sew everything with a perfect 1 inch border, so I just patched the white together until I had a piece as long as the seersucker piece.

Once you have your similarly sized strips ready, you want to line them up with the good sides facing each other.  Basically, you want the seams for the seersucker piece and the seams (if you have any) for the white backing to face out, so you have the smooth, pretty pieces facing in.  The reason for this is you’re going to turn the whole thing inside out once it’s done, putting the clean sOpeningides on the outside.

Once it’s lined up, and I did pin it to make sure it stayed together, you want to sew a 1 inch border all around, but leave a few inches open at the bottom.  To do this, start sewing maybe midway on the skinny end, then go all the way around the whole thing, leaving a 1 inch border, and stop when you get maybe 3 inches from where you started.  Now, cut out any excess fabric that is along the sides that you don’t need.  This isn’t imperativeTurn Inside Out, but it helps to make a clean finished product.  Then, reach in through that little 3 inch opening you left, grab the other end, and pull it through.  This will take some adjusting to get it looking nice, especially with the corners, but it’s pretty easy to do.

Now that the good sides are facing out, you can smooth it out and iron it so that the edges are nicely creased.  That’s it.  I know it Ironingmay sound complicated, but it’s really pretty easy, and I love how summery the seersucker fabric looks, especially with the colors.  I added to the table some white egg holders and a white bowl and filled both with plastic eggs.  I think it turned out pretty good.

Oh, and just to prove that I’m really not good with the sewing, you’re supposed to now hand sew the opening you pulled the fabric Openingthrough.  Instead, I just fold it under and hit it really good with the iron.  As you can see, there’s still an opening, but the great thing is, no one will ever know…well…at least no one besides you! 🙂

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter, or is having a wonderful Passover!  And I hope you’re having great spring weather, where ever you are, too!  Enjoy!

A Rainy (or Snowy) Day Activity-Painting Paneling

The weather finally seems to be getting warmer, even though it’s a rainy day in my area.  But, sometimes, a rainy day is perfect.  It’s a great day to actually tackle some of those indoor activities you keep putting off.  For me, a recent rainy day was a great day to finally paint the wood paneling in my kitchen.

PicturesA few years ago, I was given prints of a fork, spoon, and knife that I wanted to hang in my kitchen.  My kitchen is pretty dated.  Even though I know at some time in the future I’ll redo it, for now, it will have to do.  The one thing that drives me nuts about it though is an area of paneling in the kitchen.  Years ago, the house originally had a side door, but that was covered up, and paneling was used to hide the space.  And, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s paneling.  While I would have loved to pull it down, that was a little beyond my rainy day project.  So instead, I painted the paneling to better match the rest of the kitchen and the great prints I had.

TapingThe biggest part of any paint job is the prep.  If you prep the area and make sure you’re ready, the painting will be simple, and clean up will be as well.  The first step was taping all of the edges with painters tape.  Then, I had to start sanding.  Because I was painting paneling, and the paneling had a smooth finish, sanding was important.  You want to be sure there is a rough surface for the paint to adhere.  I simply took a sanding square and went over the whole surface to Sandingrough it up.  This also helped even out any imperfections in the wood.  Once the wall was rough, I was ready to paint.

Because it was the kitchen, and it will probably need a lot of wiping over the years, I used a Behr eggshell finish.  And because it was a small area I was painting, and with the grooves in the paneling, I decided to use a hand-held brush.  I could have used a roller for most of the wall, but, since I still would have had to use the brush to get into the grooves, I just used the brush for the whole project.  I painted the wall with smooth, long strokes, going down the grooves first, then Paintingcovering the main surface.  I worked in about a 1 foot square area, then went to the next, always brushing up and down, with the grain.  It didn’t take long to cover the whole surface.  I ended up putting a second coat on just to be sure the paneling didn’t shine through.

One thing to note, I’ve struggled with the painters tape in the past.  If you let the paint dry completely, and then you pull off the tape, if there are any sections that had the paint pretty thick, the tape just pulls the paint right off the wall.  The way I avoid this is I take the Finished Producttape off as soon as I’m finished painting.  This way, the paint isn’t completely dry, and so I just pull off the tape, not some of my hard work!

Once the wall dried, I was able to hang my new prints.  I have to say, I’m very happy with the way the wall turned out.  I love the light mocha color, it makes a huge difference for the kitchen, and the prints really add something to the wall.

So, what do you like to do on a rainy, or snowy day?

Amaryllis, the Perfect Flower for…Valentines Day???

I will admit, I love amaryllises (and yes, I got the plural right…but I’ll admit, I had to look it up).  Those giant bulbs, the perfect green spears, and finally, that amazing, huge, showstopping bloom!  It’s the perfect flower, and, like many others, I love to use them at Christmastime.  But, I’m sure you’re wondering, why am I talking about it today, Valentine’s Day?  Well, sadly, I didn’t have much luck this year…my amaryllises are just blooming now!

Kitchen WindowIn my kitchen, I have a perfect spot for flowers.  The sink is angled and in the corner, and above the sink are two huge windows.  There is a perfect triangular spot for flowers, and I love to swap those out during the year for the seasons.  A few years ago, I had the brilliant idea of planting amaryllis bulbs and paper whites.  I ran to my local Home Depot, color coordinated the blooms, planted, and waited for them to come.  Sure enough, they were perfect!  I had some buds showing by Thanksgiving, and by Christmas, they were in full bloom. Needless to say, I was proud!

Buds StartingSo, being the optimist that I am, I thought, I need to save these bulbs, because I can do it again next year!  And I did just that.  I cut the leaves and stems off, shook off the dirt, and put them in my shed.  And then, come October, I potted them up (as I had read, about 8-10 weeks before you want them to bloom).  They started to sprout right away, and I was thrilled.  Those leaves shot up, and more leaves, and more leaves, and, well, that was it, just leaves.  No buds ever came.  Realizing I had either underestimated the re-blooming process or overestimated my gardening skills, I did some research.  What I found out was you have to keep them growing and feed them into late winter, spring, and summer.  So last year, after the holidays and my sad leaf display, I re-potted the bulbs (after all, I had to rotate in some spring flowers for my kitchen display), kept them watered and fed, and eventually, when it was warm enough, I moved them to the porch.

Making ProgressI can proudly tell you, after following these guidelines, I was the only house on the block that was sporting huge amaryllis blooms in June!  That’s right, after I re-potted them and once they started growing, several sent up blooms.  I’m sure it was because I didn’t give them the nutrients they needed to develop the buds, but once I kept them going, they finally had blooms.  So, keeping with my research, I read that you should keep them going all summer, then, in mid-August, stop watering and move them to a dark, cool location.

AlmostBeing the rule follower that I am, I did just that.  I moved them to a cool, dark part of the basement and stopped watering them.  It lasted for 8 weeks.  After that time, in October, I re-potted them and began to water.  Sure enough, there was growth, and I was thrilled.  But the problem was, my timing was still off.  While I had growth, and eventually buds, I was a few months off.

I’ve watered these buds, and talked to them, coaxing out a bloom, but I wasn’t rewarded until now, about 2 months after I wanted the show.  But, I have to say, I’m still relieved that they bloomed this year, and not in the summer.  Maybe this year I’ll move my timing up a bit, but hopefully the bulbs are now getting back into the routine after I messed with them for a while year.  We’ll see!  Hopefully you have more luck.  I’d love to hear how you’ve succeeded (if you have).

So, for Valentine’s Day this year, we have beautiful amaryllises.  Hopefully you have some lovely flowers today also.  Happy Valentine’s Day!Blooms

Simple Holiday Decorating Idea…in January!?!

OrnamentI know, I know, it’s January 10th, why am I talking about holiday decorations?  But as I think about taking down the Christmas decorations (and yes, I said “think about” not “start” or even “remember” because I keep delaying and delaying, I hate the take down part), I wanted to share a simple decorating idea I did last year.  I think it’s really easy, but I can’t tell you how many people commented and complimented!

The first thing I did was search for the branches.  Even though I thought this would be the easy part, this actually took some work.  The yard failed me…nothing was right.  I wanted something think to showcase the ornaments, and it had to be stripped of leaves.  So then I thought I would just buy them, but after going to Michaels, A.C. Moore, and Jo-Ann Fabric, with no luck, I was starting to give up. Finally, a neighbor cut down a huge old tree, so I snipped some branches off the top and was all set.  Honestly, I think finding the branches was the most difficult part.

SuppliesThe next hunt was for a vase. I needed something that would hold the branches in place.  I settled on an old vase that was my grandmothers.  You can see how small the opening tapers to from the picture.

For the balls, I had these 24 ornaments for years.  I used to put them on the tree, but figured I’d try something different.  And I felt like I had too many ornaments for the tree anyway!  I like the matted finish of these too.  But use whatever you have or whatever you like.  And if you are like me and think 24 is way too many…you’re wrong.  In the end it was barely enough.

Bare BranchesOnce the supplies were together, the tricky part was getting the sticks in place.  It took some trial and error, and probably cursing, but in the end, it worked. Then just get those ornaments up and you’re set!

Like I said, pretty easy and great results.  You could even spray paint the branches white, or use ribbon instead of the hooks to hang the ornaments, but hey, I went for easy!

So…January 10th with a tree up, lights, everything.  I guess I should start taking things down.  I mean it is after the Feast of the Epiphany…the official end to the Christmas season…or at least that’s what I remember from my 12 years of Catholic school!  When do you take you’re stuff down? Or did you already…don’t judge me!