Monday, February 28, 2011
What did you do this weekend?
In this neck of the woods, we had two days of snow. The upside of bad weather is that it's an opportunity to put off errands and other chores and an excuse to stay home to read, watch TV, sew or cook without feeling the least bit guilty.
I was also rooting for Jeremy Renner for his role in "The Town" another film made in Boston and John Hawkes for his role in "Winters Bone".
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
This week’s House Plant Friday is a actually a project—Today we’re going to be building a terrarium!
Don’t panic—remain calm. I know this doesn’t sound like a BEGINNER’s project but I promise, it really IS and you’ll understand why by the time you get to the bottom of this post.
I went to a terrarium workshop at my favorite garden center last week. It was fun and a nice diversion from wistfully staring at the snow. This is a great project to do with kids and there were a number of them at the workshop. Best of all, It just felt nice to be in a heated greenhouse for a few hours and smell damp earth.
Trivia: Terrariums were popular in 19th century Victorian England. At that time they were called “Wardian Cases” named after a 19th century biologist, Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, One day he noticed a tiny fern growing in a glass jar while studying a moth. Dr. Ward was so fascinated with the plant which had managed to grow in a closed environment that he almost gave up his study of moths completely in favor of growing ferns under glass. He had a carpenter build a glazed case to grow ferns and later published a book which popularized the cases and allowed explorers and plant collectors of the time to bring back exotic species which would have otherwise died during long sea journeys.
If you’re a baby boomer or a hippie, you probably remember terrariums or glass gardens being popular during the late 60’s and early 70’s. Back then the container of choice was a large glass demijohn which was used to ferment homemade wine. They were pretty easy to come by then (I think you get the picture).
To make a terrarium, you’d use a funnel to pour some soil inside the bottle and then sprinkle seeds on top and cork the jar.
Well everything makes a comeback even in the plant world and the latest craze is again terrariums some are even being considered art forms, like the terrariums created by Paula Hayes. . Have you seen the terrariums she created for MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art in NY)? Here is a link to her website and a few pictures to inspire you. The containers she uses are custom blown glass and the finished terrariums sell in the thousands of dollars.
Don’t these look like little woodland gardens? I can picture miniature bunnies hopping around and little birds pecking for worms.. Isn’t this a great idea for an Easter centerpiece?
Are you inspired? Well let’s get started. Here’s a list of supplies that you need. Some of the decorative doodads are optional but fun to dress your terrarium up a bit.
We can do this in about an hour.
Tip: Remember that the larger the container, the more plants and material you need to fill it. Likewise a small terrarium looks better with just one or two plants than it does crowded with lots of plants.
- Work surface and newspaper to protect it.
- Clean glass container. Almost any glass container will work. goldfish bowls, apothecary jars with lids, mason jars, empty candle jars, even a cleaned out peanut butter jar works. Tinted glass containers must be able to have light pass through them. If you’re a beginner or if you’re doing this with kids I would stick with a container that’s wide enough to get my hands into and all the way inside.
- Wide mouth funnel - If you’re using a very narrow jar that you can’t reach inside, this can help.
- Chopstick and/or paint stirrer– for spreading soil and tamping plants.
- Regular potting soil mix – If your potting soil is very dry and powdery, It’s a good idea to add a small amount of water a day or two ahead of using it so that It’s easy to handle. I wouldn’t use soil that has fertilizer added to it. The nitrogen may cause algae to grow on the inside of the glass. About two to two and a half cups for an average container. If you have a larger container of course you’ll need more.
- Spray bottle or mister
- Paper towels, q-tips and a clean paint stirrer for swabbing the inside of the container, when you’re finished.
- Small pebbles or gravel (for drainage) make sure you rinse them off well if they come from outdoors. The amount depends on your container size but generally about a one inch layer.
- Medium size smooth stones, small twigs, aquarium gravel and /or small figurines for decoration.
- Very small amount of sphagnum moss. You need about a half inch layer to form a barrier between the potting soil and the gravel so your soil doesn’t wash down into the gravel.
- One or two tablespoons of activated charcoal to help prevent acid build up in the soil. You can find this in Wal-Mart in the Pet Dept. with aquarium supplies or in a Pet Store. It comes in a plastic jar that’s easy to store and it can be used for other planting projects.
- Plants – My garden center had a large variety that were growing in 2 inch pots (see pics). Supermarkets and stores like Target sometimes have small houseplants that will work too. Pick plants that are different heights, have different leaf colors and textures for interest. They should also have similar light and moisture requirements. You can use flowering plants like mini African violets but they will need more light to bloom. Some good choices are mosses, ground covers, begonias, pepperomia, aluminum plant, African violets, dracaena, small spider plantlets, peace lily, miniature ivy, trailing ficus, baby’s tears, small palms, lipstick plant, fittonia, and ferns.
I didn’t use the tall spathylophylum (peace lily) in the picture on the left because it was too tall for my container.
Let’s Get Started!
- Place about an inch of your drainage gravel on the bottom of your glass container and spread it in an even layer
- On top of that take some of your sphagnum moss and crumble it a bit. Now spread that on top of the gravel. You need about a half inch of so spread evenly.
- Add a tablespoon of the charcoal and sprinkle it randomly on top of the sphagnum moss. NOTE: At this point, I lightly tamped everything down a bit before the next step.
- Add about a cup of soil and spread it around with your hands or the paint stirrer. If your container is large enough, you can create small slopes or hills that mimic a miniature landscape. When you’ve finished, visually check your glass container. The fill level should be no more than one-third of the container height.
- Now take your plants out of their containers and decide on placementnt. I put my tallest plant, the aluminum plant (pilea cadierei), in the center because my container was so small and because I only used three plants, but in a larger container I probably would’ve put it at the back. The baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) which is a small ground cover, roots very easily if it even contacts soil, so I broke it in half and placed one on either side of my container. The last plant that I used was a trailing lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus lobbianus. It will bloom and add some color to my tiny landscape. There were two rooted cutting in the pot so I was able to place one at the back of my terrarium and one at the front.
- Before planting, give the root balls a tender squeeze to compact them, Add a little more soil to your terrarium and press each plant into the soil where you’ve decided to place them. Use your paint stirrer or chopstick to backfill soil around each plant’s roots and tamp them in gently. If you still need more soil add it a little at a time. The planting depth should be the same for each plant as it was in their pots.
- After you’ve got your plants in place and like how it looks, use your spray bottle to wet everything down well. You should NEVER pour water from a watering can directly on your glass garden. If you got some dirt on the inside of the glass (hard not to) you can wipe it with a moistened paper towel or wrap a piece of towel around your chopstick or paint stirrer, spray it with a bit of water and swab the glass. Q-tips work pretty good for this too.
- At this time you can start some decorative landscaping by adding things like a little gravel path or miniature clay pot with a small bit of moss tucked inside, larger rocks or crystals to represent a stream, even figurines. I used a tiny Wade bunny that came in a box of Red Rose tea bags and a few large smooth rocks. A tiny bird’s nest or tiny colored eggs would look cute for spring too.
Once you put the lid on your container you are creating a closed environment that will, for the most part, take care of itself without much help from you. See, this is why I said this is a great beginner’s project.
Where you place your terrarium is very important though. NEVER place it in direct sunlight or you’ll end up with a hot wilted salad bowl. Terrariums should be placed on a table or shelf where they receive a couple of hours a day of indirect light from a window or a fluorescent fixture. A north facing room is fine if there are enough windows to make it bright for several hours a day, but east or west light is better.
Trivia: In Victorian England terrariums were the equivalent of our big screen televisions today. Entertainment sometimes revolved around making visits to view a friend’s plant collection housed in a Wardian Case that might be room sized!
If your terrarium doesn’t have a lid, you’ll have to watch the moisture a little more carefully than you will if your container is covered. Just be careful not to overwater and use a spray bottle to add moisture. You can also make a cover out of plastic wrap.
To do this simply cut a square of cling-type plastic wrap and fit it over the top of your container. Now with a utility knife light trace just under the lip of the container and peel off the excess plastic. This won’t be as smooth as you may like, but it works and will mean less checking and watering.
After a couple of days you’ll notice some condensation forming on the inside. Don’t be concerned. This is supposed to happen. The condensation will run down the sides of the container and water the soil, providing humidity and moisture for a perfect little plant world!
Thursday, February 24, 2011
First off I want to say “thank you” for all of your comments about what you’re looking forward to when spring comes. I’ve read each and every one of them and my consensus is that we all just want to GET OUT THERE!
I’m entering all of your wonderful comments on an Excel spreadsheet in the order that you commented and assigning a number to each person who comments. On Monday evening, I’ll use the random number generator and pick a winner. Then I’ll check to see if the winner answered the bonus question and if they did, they’ll receive an additional surprise fabric from Studio E.
So hint, hint, make sure you answer the bonus question!
Hope’s Garden Raffle Quilt Status.
Wanted to share a progress report with you.
Some of you may already know that I’m going to raffle off my Bonnie Hunter RRCB mystery quilt to raise funds for the Avon 2-day walk in May which I’m doing with two of my daughter’s college friends.
After two days I now have the inner borders on the quilt. I ended up taking off the side borders and re-sewing them because they went wavy on me. (I now think it was more me hallucinating they were wavy than the borders actually being wavy).
I also didn’t plan on buying fabric for the inner borders because I have a ton of dark greens left over from my Baltimore Album days in the ‘90’s, but none of them auditioned well with this quilt so I caved and bought a tonal green that’s in between fern and cooked spinach (I love spinach)
As I sat on the floor pinning the borders It occurred to me that “Hope’s Garden’ is the perfect name for this quilt. So many of the small prints are representative of all the things that cancer patients hope for—a future filled with family holidays; watching children and grandchildren grow up; spending time and travelling with loved ones; looking forward to the seasons and enjoying the beauty of nature.
I like this quilt more now that I’ve decided to give it away.
I have a time slot at Bits and Pieces on March 4th to quilt it on one of their long arms. I’ve already had a consultation and been told that it will take up to six hours to learn the machine and finish the quilting—basically a whole day.
I’m a little nervous because this is my first experience using a long-arm machine and I know I’ll have a dream or two about it before next Friday comes. lol.
Tomorrow is House Plant Friday and I have a fun project and some plant trivia for you!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I’m very excited but a little embarrassed too.
I planned on doing my first give away last month on my blog’s six month anniversary, but that came and went and I missed it! Duh! Then I thought—”Well I’ll just do it on my 50th blog post” but I’m past that point now, so I had another brilliant moment of inspiration and thought, “I’ll do a President’s Day give away, but as you can tell, I’m late again [sigh].
So I think I’d better strike while the iron’s hot and call today, February 22nd, “Blog Follower’s Appreciation Day”! Please realize that I have absolutely no power or authority of any kind to declare such a day, unless notary publics can declare holidays, but what the hey…
I hereby officially declare February 22nd, 2011 as Blog Follower’s Appreciation Day (on my blog).
So in honor of Blog Follower’s Appreciation Day, I’m giving away this very pretty stack of fabric from Studio E’s “Road to Marrakesh” and “Soho” lines.
I picked this fabric especially because it just felt like spring. The Cool blues, spring greens, chartreuse, yellow, & soft tangerine all reminded me of sunny spring days, daffodils, crocus, grass and new leaves.
I tried my best but I don’t think these pictures do the fabric any justice.
BTW, There are six half-yard cuts in this bundle. I was originally going to give away five but I felt bad about missing the give away dates so there’s six now. That’s a total of three yards of fabric—see I told you this give-away would be a doozey!
To enter the drawing just leave a comment. If you’re a gardener, tell me what you’re looking forward to the most when spring comes.
If you’re not a gardener tell me what new project you are most looking forward to doing that’s spring related.
Answer the bonus question, “What kind of project would you use this fabric for?”, and receive another surprise half yard of fabric from Studio E.
I’ll pick a winner on Monday night February 28th and announce it Tuesday morning. Good luck and spread the word.
Monday, February 21, 2011
I think I could’ve done more walking too but I didn’t walk last Wednesday or Thursday (babysat) and Friday was a short walk. I’ll share that story with you on a future house plant Friday--hint.
This is how my road looked at the beginning of last week.
And this is what I had to wear in order to stay upright for my training walk.
Thankfully this week has been sunny and much warmer so there’s been a lot of melting but it looks like we’re headed back into snow country tomorrow—I so need spring [sigh]
I’ve updated my personal page on the Avon 2-Day Walk website and posted the link here. You can read about my reasons for doing this walk, see a few pictures and make a donation by clicking on the pink “donate” button.
I plan to update the page every couple of weeks, so check back often and see how my fund-raising is going and what I’m up to, LOL.
I know this is a tough economy to be asking for donations so I’m very grateful for every dollar that I collect. To date I’ve raised $150 but I still have 85 days and $1600 before I can make my goal of $1800.
So…I’ve decided to put some “fun” in my fundraising efforts and raffle off my “Roll, Roll Cotton Boll” quilt which has been re-named “Hope’s Garden”. Stay tuned for pics—very soon. The quilt is now assembled and headed for quilting.
This is a free raffle for everyone who makes a donation to the Avon 2-Day walk for breast cancer through MY Avon page which you can find here. Did you know that donations are tax deductible and that you can make your donation in installments? That’s how I made mine last year when I supported another walker.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my first give-away—it’s a doozey (did I spell that right?).
Saturday, February 19, 2011
I started to post this last night and guess what? The power went out! 18,000 residents in my neck of the woods were without power last night from 8PM on and there’s still quite a few people that don’t have power. Fifty percent of the customers in my town lost power but we got it back at 4:15 this morning. Last night out came the candles and the iPhone—what did we do before all these electronic gadgets that let us connect? Without the iPhone, I would’ve been in the dark (no pun intended) about what was going on with the power outage. My phone battery was low, though, a few more hours and I would’ve really been in the dark!Guess, I’ll have to be more proactive about keeping it charged.
I was really excited about writing this post because the first flowering house plant that I can remember from my childhood is the African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha). My grandmother grew them in every window that faced east or had good morning light. To say she grew them is doing her a disservice for she carefully tended and coaxed them into amazing displays of bloom that I’ve never seen the likes of since.
African violets are members of the gesneriad family which includes gloxinias and streptocarpus. They are not related to any of the plants in the violet family which includes pansies and violas. The “violet” name was given to them because of the flower’s dark blue color and because they look a little like the wild wood violets that grow in the forests of Europe.
A lot of people don’t like growing African violets because they wrongly think they’re “finicky” plants, but they’re really no more finicky than any other flowering house plant and if you follow a few rules you shouldn’t have any problem growing them.
What are the BASIC rules?
- Don't let them dry out.
- Always water from the bottom with warm (never cold) water.
- Use a humidity tray or fill a drip pan with pebbles and water
- Daytime temps of 70 to 75, night time temps no cooler than 60 degrees
- Morning sun, east window or filtered sunlight (through a sheer curtain) or fluorescent lights.
- Feed monthly with a special African violet plant food only
- Use special potting soil formulated for African violets
Granted, they're not the type to plant you can forget about watering. It doesn’t take long for them to pack up and leave town, but there’s so many colors, shapes and varieties of AV’s that if you do want to put in a little effort caring for them you’ll be surrounded by almost continuous living bouquets.
Soil- African violets (AV’s) need a very rich potting mix that has a large amount of peat moss and other organic material. A lot of collectors mix their own potting soil and then they sterilize it in an oven to kill any pests or weed seeds but you can buy a bag formulated for AV’s anywhere that sells potting soil and that’s so much easier.
Repotting/Transplanting – African violets (AV’s) are the exception to the rule of going up only one pot size. They tend to like “loose shoes” but the soil has to be very fast draining too. The crown of the plant (the section of the plant where the leaves sprout) should always be planted just above the soil line.
My plants are potted in plastic pots which have their advantages (don’t dry out as quickly as clay) and disadvantages (sharp edges that bruise leaf stems). My grandmother used to wrap tin foil around the edge of the pot to prevent the bruising but that’s not the most attractive solution. Clay pots are better but dry out quicker so you have to keep checking the soil moisture. Glazed pots solve both problems the best. You can buy special AV pots which have are two-piece ceramic pots. The bottom section has a well, that you add water to and the top section that contains your AV has an unglazed bottom which wicks moisture as the plant needs it. (See picture on right)
Temperature – AV’s like house temps that are on the warm side—70 to 75 degrees during the day and about 60 to 65 at night, any lower and they’ll hunker down and go on strike, refusing to bloom.
Light – In order for them to bloom AV’s do need a lot of light but it doesn’t have to be from a window source. They will happily grow and bloom under artificial light. Grow light fixtures are nice to have but can be expensive. Another alternative is to put your plant under a fluorescent light fixture. My plants sit on an east-facing windowsill during the day and at night I set them underneath several fluorescent under-counter fixtures. I put them on an overturned pot or two so that they are no more than 8 inches from the light source. The advantage of using a special grow light fixture is that you can raise and lower it to the proper height but this alternative works for me.
Tip: You can tell if your AV isn’t getting enough light—the leaf stems will be elongated and raised up or pointing in the direction of the light source. It’s a good idea to turn all plants every couple of days to keep growth even.
Trivia: The botanical name “Saintpaulia” honors Baron Walter von Saint Paul who brought the plants back to Europe in 1893.
Water—Now here’s the tricky thing with AV’s. Don’t be tempted to water them from the top—EVER. Water does not roll off an AV’s furry leaves like it does off a duck’s back! One drop of water, especially cold water, equals one spot. It’s best to water them from the bottom by soaking their pots in shallow pan of warm (not cold) water. Wait several hours and check the top of the pot with your finger, if it’s moist—put the AV back on it’s drip tray. If the soil isn’t wet, then add more warm water to your pan and check again in 30 minutes.
Humidity – AV’s like a lot of humidity. They’re natural habitat is the steamy jungle so since you can’t spray them with a mister, grouping several plants together on a drip tray filled with stones and water is the best way to provide the most humidity, short of turning your house into a sauna.
Tip: Because the AV leaves last so long before being replaced by new ones, the hairs on the AV’s collect dust and make the leaves look duller than they actually are.. You can clean them by using a small paintbrush to gently “dust them” Don’t use a spray bottle or any water though.
Cultivation – My grandmother didn’t drive, but she managed to share and swap her AV’s with friends who lived in different parts of the state. She did this by taping leaves from her favorite plants onto a sheet of note paper and sending them through the mail for the recipient to root.
African violets are fairly easy to propagate though it takes about six months to a year before you’ll get a plant that’s blooming size.
Cut several good leaves that are blemish free from your plant leaving about a one inch stem. Stick it into moist potting mix (not wet) burying about 1/2 inch of the leaf, lightly firm the soil around the leaf and put the the pot in a plastic bag, tie it closed and place it in a warm area where it gets indirect light. Check regularly but it usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks to see any new growth. Keep the plantlets in the same pot until there are 3 or 4 leaves but remove from the bag. At that time you can repot them into a larger pot.
Trivia: True violets, the namesake of African violets are the symbol of love and fidelity. Violets are also the February flower of the month. Since true violets only bloom once a year in spring, African violets make a great substitute for February birthdays or just to say thanks to a special friend.
Monday, February 14, 2011
I love pockets and I like to add pockets to the back of pillows that I make for kids. Depending on how old the kids are, they can use them for tooth fairy pillows or to hold secret treasures, even letters to Santa and small toys. How about tucking in a gift card to Toys-R-Us or Babies-R-Us? I also make my kid pillows “mom friendly” with removable covers (shams) so that they can be turned inside out and laundered…just in case!
Here’s my not-so-brief tutorial on adding a pillow pocket sham.
IMPORTANT: Please read the supply list and directions all the way through before starting.
- Sewing machine w/ zigzag (overcast stitch is not req’d but great to finish the seams)
- Machine needles for sewing through multiple layers.
- Buttonhole foot or attachment for sewing buttonholes (optional)
- Rotary cutter,
- Straight Ruler w/ 1/4” markings
- Curved ruler or compass for drawing curves.
- 8 1/2” x 11” piece of paper (I use graph paper for patterns)
- Buttons or Velcro (optional)
- Greeting card envelope opened up flat about 5 & 1/2” wide by 9” long (see picture below)
Fabric for pillow back– measure the height and width of your pillow front and add 3 inches to the height, divide that measurement by 2 and cut two pieces of fabric that measurement. EXAMPLE. Your pillow is 20 inches wide x 15 inches high (15 + 3 =18) Divide 18” x 2 = 9”. Cut two pieces of backing that are 20” wide x 9” high
Fabric for pocket: I won’t go into the directions for string piecing since everyone has their own method of doing it. Whatever fabric you choose, you’ll need a piece of fabric that is about an inch longer and wider than your card envelope and a piece of lining fabric the same size. A fat quarter is plenty big enough.
1. Trace your open envelope on a piece of graph paper. I like to put a weight on the envelope and use a ruler to trace around it. Using the ruler mark the center line of the envelope. Be sure to draw in the fold lines too.
2. See the bottom of the envelope that I drew. I didn’t want a V-shape which would have been hard to turn after sewing, so I used my curved ruler to draw a curve on the end.
3. Draw a 1/4 inch seam allowance around all of the edges of your pattern and cut it out.
4. Pin your pattern to the strip piecing fabric and lining and cut both out
5. Sew the envelope and lining together right sides together. I started on one long edge and left about a 2 inch area unstitched so I could turn it right side out again. .
6. Turn your envelope inside out and trim the corner and points, then clip the curved seam allowance every 1/2 inch. I used a wooden points turner to push out the points and then press, press, press. You can stitch up the opening you left for turning either by machine or hand.
7. Remember the fold lines on your pattern? Well now’s the time to fold your fabric pocket using those lines as a guide and check the fit. See mine on the right? I miscalculated and didn’t leave enough room at the top of the pillow back (more on that later in the tutorial). Just make sure yours fits and you still have 2 1/2” between the top of the envelope and the top of your sham. I could have moved mine down closer to the hem, but I’d already added the buttonholes.
8. If you’re going to add a button closure or Velcro to your pillow pocket now is the time to do it before you attach it to the pillow back. I added a buttonhole because I have a lot of cute buttons that I want to use up!
I’m not jumping ahead here, I just forgot to take a picture of my pocket BEFORE it was attached to the sham but if you want to “oooh” and “ahhh” now go right ahead, LOL.
9. Fold up each long edge of the two back pieces 1 1/2 “ inch and press. You can finish the raw edges with a zig zag or overcast stitch if you want to or you can fold the raw edge under another 1/4 inch. Now stitch a hem close to the finished edge. If you’re adding buttonholes do it now before we attach the back to the pillow front.
10. Center the pocket on the top half of your pillow back and pin it as shown below with the flap OPEN. Using a water-soluble marker draw a faint stitching line where the fold line for the pocket flap is and stitch through the flap and the pillow back.
11. Now stitch the sides and bottom of the pocket to the pillow back making sure that the pocket is straight and centered on the pillow back. (Hint: I fold both the pillow back and pocket in half to find the center and mark them with a pin and then line up the pins).
12: Pin the pocket flap down and match up the two halves of the pillow back so that the top portion overlaps the bottom. Now baste the two halves together about 1/2 inch from the end, just to make them easier to handle.
13. Pin the pillow back to the front (right sides together) and check the fit, make any adjustments. Make sure that the pocket flap is pinned down and isn’t caught in the seam allowances. Now stitch the front and back together using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
14. Trim corners and turn right side out. Remove the basting stitches. Using an edge guide to top stitch through all layers about 2 inches from the edge. Make sure not to catch the pocket in your stiches or you won’t be able to open it. Sew on your buttons or Velcro, if you’re using them, insert a pillow form and…Voila, you’re done!
Take a look below. I didn’t have enough room between the top edge and my pocket to top stitch so if you look closely you can see where I had to stop the top stitching skip over the pocket area and then start stitching.again.
I call this pillow shape a “lozenge” pillow. It’s like a neck roll only FLAT. I made a custom insert for it but I used a standard purchased pillow form for the Santa pocket pillow shown above.
Need ideas? You can make some cute pillows with the pre-printed panels, orphan blocks or coloring book applique. Try different sizes and shapes for your pillow too, like round or heart shaped or how about a large pre-printed doll panel?. Whatever you use as a pattern for your pillow can be used to make the custom pillow insert to fit inside and fill it out.