Saturday, June 9, 2018

Illusion vs. Reality in the Sweetwater Garden!

The lyrics from the classic Joni Mitchell song "Both Sides Now" began running through my mind as I started to tell you about the garden.
I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all
Now swap out the word garden for clouds and you have the tale of the Sweetwater garden.
Ahh....the illusion of perfection!
From afar the peony garden is perfection!
It is so lovely and colorful.

Alas....the reality is the many many weeds at the base of these lovelies!
We have such a crop of weeds (Snow on the Mountain) that we actually put landscape cloth down to kill it!  The problem is that we can't spray too close to the peony plants and there was no way to get to all of the weeds....I am simply not that patient.



Perfect Hosta

Regular visits from these creatures;
results in chewed off blossoms....
No matter how much repellent we spray....they still come!
Sometimes a deer will actually chomp off a blossom, realize it has repellent on it, and SPIT IT OUT!

A gardener needs to balance illusion/perfection with reality/imperfection.
I realize that when I pass by other people's gardens......the illusion I see is the beauty of the flowers.
I guess until I can afford to hire a gardener.... I need to look at my own garden the same way!

Have A Wonderful Day!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

We've Moved.....The Fairy House That Is!

The Fairy House or Gnome Home here at Sweetwater has good bones!

READ HERE about how to turn an old stump into a pretty fabulous Fairy Garden structure

That was a couple of years ago....

Just like any home, the Gnome home needs regular maintenance.

Well, this year instead of the usual spruce up of the property....I decided that it was time for the Gnomes to make a MOVE!

You know the real estate it is all about    LOCATION!

Instead of the busy intersection of driveway and front walk....the Gnomes deserve the woodlands and a pond view.

Luckily....the perfect "lot" was available!

Packing up to move is never any fun....but in this case it involved not just the furniture....but all of the landscaping materials....
The WHOLE house too!

 It is a good thing the move didn't involve too much distance....

The Sweetwater Grandboy was there to help with sprucing up the place with a newly painted roof.

The landlord wasn't so sure about the bright blue for the roof....but hey it suits a Gnome....

The process would have gone quicker....

The city utility workers showed up to flush out the water mains....and that diversion was way too interesting to miss!

So....after a short break...

The renovation continued!

As moves go, this one was pretty painless...I guess that is the magic of Fairies and Gnomes!

 I hope the Gnomes like the upgraded pond view!

Remember.....There's No Place Like Gnome!!!

Have a Great Day!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Goodwill Clothes Alteration Hacks

I haven't posted about thrift store shopping in awhile.
Never fear....that does not mean I haven't done any thrift store shopping!

This week I was perusing the selection of pants in my closet. is filled almost entirely with black pants and jeans leggings with some fancier pairs for dressier events.
I pretty much live in Yoga pants until it is time to go out.  Then casual is the rule. Ahh...the life of a retiree!

I headed to the thrift store this week with the goal of finding some summer pants that were not jeans or black!  It is usually a mistake to go to the thrift store with a specific item in mind.  Mostly that will be disappointing.

But the Good Will gods must have been watching over me this time.
I found not one, but three pair of summer pants.
AND.....a super cute summer sundress.

But here is the deal!
They were the perfect PRICE....but not the perfect fit.

Instead of passing these bargains up....I knew with very little time and effort I could cure what ailed them.

 I am pretty short so almost any pair of pants is going to need hemming up!
The red pants were the right length but were not tapered enough.....
The white pair and khaki pair needed hemming.....
The sundress hit the floor and then some on little me....and I wanted tea length because I know I will get more wear out of it.

Knowing how to do some basic alterations and/or tailoring is one secret for success at the thrift store.

If you think you have no sewing skills.....remember....the items you are working with cost less than a glass of wine in a restaurant!  You can take a risk and see what happens.

Here are my favorite alteration hacks:

  • Sometimes the easiest thing to do is just turn the existing hem under and do a few tacks with a needle;
  • Fusible hem tape is a great time saver if you don't feel like sewing.
  • Tightly woven knits like athletic leggings with lots of spandex can just be cut off with no stitching.  You will be amazed at how well the raw edge stands up to washing.
  • Alas...sometimes you need to do an actual hem....but don't stress with finishing with hemtape and all that.  Just cut them off....turn it up and stitch. 
  • So many cute tops and dresses have spaghetti straps.  When you try on an item....pull those straps up to see if the top looks better. It is an easy fix to tack the shortened strap to the inside of the back.  This trick fixes a couple of fit problems....saggy bodice, loose underarms, and in some cases, pulling the straps up makes the waistline fit better too.
Under the arm:

  • When you see a top that looks just a little too big, sometimes it is a matter of just taking in the side seam.  This works especially well with sleeveless tanks.  The added benefit here is that you can fit the underarm area and taper it to the bottom.  This gives a little more room for your bottom too!
Baggy Legs:

  • I like the look of fitted skinny legs on most casual pants.  These cute red pants are a great example.  By tapering the inside leg seam just 1/2 and inch, they went from way to "preppy" and hard to find shoes perfect casual with sandals or flats.

Every one of these alterations can be done with a straight stitch with the sewing machine or a few simple hand stitches.
It is definitely worth remembering when you find something wonderful at the thrift store that has "possibilities"! can call a friend who sews :) can find a tailor shop.

AND....all of the above also works for any bargain shopping you do.  If you find a good deal....but the fit isn't good....think of the possibilities for a quick alteration.

Wishing you a wonderful day!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hydrangea Tricks and Tips

Everybody loves Hydrangeas!
They put on a wonderful show in almost any floral arrangement.
These pretties also have a reputation for being almost impossible to keep for any length of time.
It used to be that I dreaded getting a request for Hydrangeas in our floral work.
Not anymore......I know "Hydrangea Stuff" now!
AND I am going to share that stuff with you!

On Thursday the wonderful folks at Koehler and Dramm delivered 125 Hydrangeas Sweetwater.  Yikes....that is a lot of flowers.
What ever would I need 125 Hydrangeas for? make popcorn centerpieces for the Chaska Rotary Circus Themed Gala of course!

Popcorn boxes from the dollar store were stuffed with white Hydrangea to mmic popcorn.
The gala decor is the genius work of the Sweetwater Daughter.....and I got to help!

I think she nailed it.....
Enough bragging on my kid...

I am here to share some tips that will ALMOST guarantee success and a long vase life for Hydrangeas.

TIP #1
HMMMM.....did you know that Hydrangeas take in water from their petals?
So...when I unpacked the 125 flowers....I immediately plopped them all upside down in bucket (or in this case the bathtub) of cold water.

Each flower comes with it's own little baggie of water. This keeps the flower stem hydrated while the flowers soak.

If your flowers don't have this, you can concoct one with by bunching the stems and wrapping a water filled baggie around them with a rubber band. really can submerge the whole flower stem and all in the water.

I didn't take photos of my here is an image from the Flower Muse
I soaked these overnight.  You really only need to do this for a couple of hours.
Give them a fresh diagonal cut when you take them out of the water.  Immediately get them in buckets of water.
The flowers will be really wet when you take them out...DUH! they will need to dry off before you arrange them.

TIP #2

Alum Dip

When you cut hydrangeas they can form a sticky substance over the cut that prevents the flower from sucking water up through the stem.  There are a couple of ways to prevent that “sticky stuff” from forming: dipping the stem in boiling water....putting the end of the stem in an open flame....OR this! Dip the freshly cut stem in ALUM(A common ingredient used for pickling, find it in the spice aisle.) 

French Country Cottage

When you are arranging your hydrangeas re-cut the stem  about an inch above the previous cut and immediately stick the bottom 1/2″ of the stem in the alum to coat it, then arrange as usual.

 I learned this trick at a workshop given by a wedding designer who does those really spendy weddings that budget upwards of $15,000 for FLOWERS.
I figure that if he relies on this method, it must be pretty fool proof!

TIP #3

Finishing Spray !
This is my new favorite "secret sauce".  Once this is sprayed on your Hydrangeas or other flowers, it keeps them looking fresh for a really long time.

It might seem like a lot to spend.....but if it keeps your expensive flowers looking good for more than a is worth it.  A little goes a long way too.

Tip #4

You can revive a droopy Hydrangea!  Sometimes all the tricks don't seem to work and a flower will wilt anyway.  It is worth trying to revive your have nothing to lose!  Just cut the stem again and fully immerse the flower head and stem in cold water for a few hours.  In many cases, the flower will perk right up!

So the proof is in the photo....right!?

Here are the Hydrangeas from the Gala last weekend.
They were arranged on Friday....
Now it is Tuesday.....
They look pretty good and probably will for at least another 4 or 5 days!

 Now....go buy yourself some Hydrangeas and enjoy them with no worries!!

Link Parties
Happiness is Homemade


Thursday, April 12, 2018

DIY Marble Look Serving Tray

You all know how I am all about "using what I have".

Well...when we redid the bathroom, there were a few of these pretty 12 x 18 tiles left.

I knew that one would make a lovely oversized serving tray.

I checked out retail stores to get some ideas.  These looked the way I envisioned the tray I wanted.

As you can see....the prices were all over the place.  But I figured I could make one cheaper than even the least expensive one....and....I already had the tile just sitting around.

I looked for tutorials for doing a project like this.
House of Wood 
has a nice one......pretty much exactly what I wanted to do.

I bought some drawer pulls at Home Depot.....I got out the tile....and then I made my FIRST mistake!

I asked Mr. S for advice about the type of glue that would be best and if we had something around home that would work.

Mr. S:  Why wouldn't you actually drill the holes and screw the handles in?
Me: Sounds like a lot of work and I don't really want this to be a big deal.
Mr. S: I would be happy to do it.
Me: Go For It!

The tray is absolutely beautiful!

Now....for the other side of the story!

Drilling porcelain tile is a b***h!
It took more than a couple of hours and several destroyed drill bits to finish the project! almost free tray actually ended up costing as much as the least expensive retail one!!!

Oh quote Mr. S:  "at least now you don't have to worry about the handles coming off when you are carrying something."

And....I have a really pretty tray and one less leftover tile!

 Have A Great Day!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Dollar Store Spring Wreath

Did you know....that florists no longer call "fake flowers" fake or silk or artificial?
These flowers now have the much more elegant title of "Permanent Botanicals"!
Sounds so fancy.....
You know how much I love real flowers....but sometimes the permanent botanical route makes sense.

Here is my the wreath on the Sweetwater front door!

 The wreath itself is the Trader Joe Boxwood wreath that I bought for Christmas.
I used the information from Julie Blanner's lifestyle blog to preserve it.  You can read about that here:
I am amazed at how well it has lasted.

The flowers are from the dollar store!

Yup....$4 for enough flowers to fill the wreath nicely!

I use "permanent botanicals" from the dollar store a lot.

Here I used little white blossoms and yellow carnations with some preserved magnolia leaves.
I think the little bird nest is a nice touch.
And...seriously...I wish I could keep the bunnies caged up like this to "preserve" my tulips.  PUN intended!

I had some time to do a little looking around for good looking permanent botanicals:
Take a look at this site: Shop Silk Flowers Online at Afloral.comThe flowers are really great looking...definitely not dollar store!
I loved the tutorial for the DIY peony arrangement.  It even tells you how to make the acrylic "water".

In doing the "research" I found a couple of really simple tricks to use is you want your artificials to look more real:

  1. If you don't have the time or inclination to make the acrylic water....put some real water in the vase. (duh)
  2. Don't leave the artificial arrangement in the same spot for more than a couple of weeks...or about the same time as real flowers would last.
  3. Mix flower blooms that are artificial with foliage and fill greens that are real.
  4. Use flowers that are familiar.....and that would maybe come in a florist bouquet.
  5. Take the price stickers off :)

I will leave you with some inspiration!

 Lilacs are so hard to keep looking fresh.  These would stay pretty a long time. I would miss the scent though.

These tulips might serve me well when the bunnies do their damage !
Well...wishing you a day filled with flowers whether they are "permanent" or natural!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

In Praise of Expertise Part 2...Almost Done!

The bathroom reno is nearly finished.
All that is left to do is choose window treatments and accessories.
When I walk in.....I just look around and smile!
While My last post was all about using experts to help choose the components for our bathroom remodel.....
This one will be in praise of the people who actually made it happen.

 I almost feel guilty sharing all about the new space since we really didn't DO anything ourselves. 

It kinda feels like I am doing one of those...."look at me" deals.

So this post will NOT JUST be about how gorgeous the new space is.
It will be about....why it made sense to (gasp) spend money to get this done!

  1. Remember that Mr. S just had his ankle replaced less than 6 months ago?  Can you even imagine him trying to go up and down the steps as many times as would have been necessary.
  2. Our contractor did an amazing job of scheduling.  Because all of the people that he worked with had a relationship with him, they came when he asked and made adjustments when necessary. THAT SAVED TIME!
  3. We were able to use the discounts available to the contractor for many of the components of the project. THAT SAVED $$$$ !
  4. There were many things that needed specialized skills that we would probably have had to hire done anyway!

ANYWAY.....during the month long process....I don't think a day went by that we didn't say "THANK GOODNESS we are NOT doing this ourselves.  

So in good old renovation show's time for the big reveal!

Ahhh....the freestanding soaking tub that I have been dreaming about since we started is every bit as beautiful as I imagined! Taking out the old surround for the whirlpool tub that I never used freed up an enormous amount of room for the shower.  There used to be a soffitt over the shower.  Removing that makes the shower seem even bigger.  The custom glass is seamless.  The "experts" were able to install this in less than 2 hours.  

We found these tilting mirrors on Amazon of all places.  They look just like the ones in the lighting store where we found these great fixtures.  When the contractor actually "complained" about how difficult the installation of the mirrors was....I knew that a DIY session would have been extremely painful for Mr. S.!

I love the squared off under mount sinks.  The glossy white counter is a dream compared to the old molded "marble" that it replaces.  This really big vanity was another reason we were glad we had experts to rely is 78 inches long and came in one big piece.  Imagine us trying to haul that fro,

We still need to find window treatments and some towel bars and other stuff...and I imagine there will be some DIY with those things....

Less than a month total time....
Little or no hassles..... 
It really was worth the expense to save time, headaches, trips to Home Depot, arguments etc. etc. etc.

But the REAL proof of value....
The Sweetwater Grandboy gives his seal of approval!

Have A Wonderful Day!