O. M. G. Check out my friend Sandra’s amazing dessert table

Did I say HOLY COW yet?

Did I say HOLY COW yet?

Holy cow, check out the dessert table my friend put together for another friend’s wedding. Sandra Denneler did Rachel Farha’s big day right. She has set the bar and I now fear the girls will expect something as good for their Barbie and sleepover parties in the coming months… Sandra, come help!

http://www.projectdenneler.com/2011/06/you-are-sweet-to-my-salty. html is the link!

A better centerpiece

I have this fantastic, custom-made dining table. I’m not bragging, it’s the only piece of furniture that was worth anything my husband and I have invested in. We special ordered it from an English craftsman. It’s old barn oak salvaged from Northern England, shaped into a 7-foot-long football with two drop leaves that make it the perfect, 2-foot-wide rectangular buffet. Parties rock with it, as I can really decorate it as a buffet and then pull in the folding tables for seating. It’s huge and I can seat 10 people at it – 15 if they are kids. And since it’s made with reclaimed wood that is more than a hundred (or two!) years old, I have to say I don’t panic about a scratch here and there. Oh, and the finish is to die for…

So, the table is perfect. But, I have no clue how to dress it. Oh, at Christmas it’s fantastic. I have this enormous 2-foot tall abstract-y metal reindeer in red and gold that slides under the chandelier and is absolutely perfect. I generally puddle some green netting at his base to protect the table and soften things. At Halloween, yep, I have that covered with a giant fake pumpkin full of seaonal, dried and preserved flora. It lasts through Thanksgiving.

But the rest of the year… blah…You see my dilemma though, right? Dining table of my dreams, it needs some oooomph.

Not this…

It usually at least has not-dead flowers in it, but it was the end of this bouquet's life when I took this. You can see the size/scale though.

It usually at least has not-dead flowers in it, but it was the end of this bouquet's life when I took this. You can see the size/scale though.

I wanted something grand, but then I’m not a huge fan of silk flowers. Real is good. Real is also out of my little budget. You can buy flowers at Aldi for about three bucks a bunch, but it would still take a small fortune to supply a large centerpiece every week.

And, sadly, I’ve been obsessed with the following dining room since it appeared in Traditional Home. And I have set the bar at this gorgeous, show-stopping, heart-breaking centerpiece in Heather Christo’s home. (She’s a fellow blogger, give her a click!)

The perfect tablescape for a lovely Sunday dinner.

The perfect tablescape for a lovely Sunday dinner. Click the image to see more of her lovely home and blog!

Yeah, see how I managed to set my expectations far, far too high? You should see the rest of her house. Let’s just say my husband is a social worker and hers is an Internet marketing guru. (In fact, when I first read about Heather, I already knew who her husband was and felt incredibly well-read, being the Web-head that I am!) Anyway, Heather has a champagne display here and I have a Kool-Aid budget. But, I bet even with this specatcular dining room, she doesn’t feel the need to rock something that big and bad every day, so I shouldn’t feel too badly about my Kool-Aid budget. Kool-Aid Fizzers rock, after all. Right? Smaller can be tasty.

Let’s see, I digress. I have spent a year or so looking for something that gave me the same feeling as the “Heather flowers.” No dice. But, I picked up Better Homes and Gardens this month and I found something that might be a nice substitute. A living, succulent centerpiece.

It’s living.
It’s got some scale, since it’s in a pedestal bowl.
It’s got visual interest from the different textures and colors.
It’s not cheap looking (although it was).
And it’s -hopefully – going to stay around for a while.

Here’s an example from their Web site that inspired me…

Isn't it pretty?

Isn't it pretty?

They actually have nearly 30 examples of using succulents in containers on their Web site. I think I might have to try another one or two for the back deck – it’s hot and needs something tough and spikey, since it’s dog territory. Here is the link: http://www.bhg.com/gardening/container/plans-ideas/succulent-container-garden-plans/

And here’s my version…it’s an old pedestal bowl from PartyLite Candles. I had a three-wick candle in it, but just never really liked it. I tried putting potpourri around it, beads, sparkly stuff – but it just never looked right to me. So, one big $4 container of healthy looking hens and chicks, two bags of polished stones from Dollar General ($2) and about three minutes and I have a centerpiece. The color is good, the scale isn’t bad – I may go find some taller succulents to add in, now that I think about it – and I really like that it is “alive” and not some dried or silk arrangement.

The new centerpiece.

The new centerpiece.

A closer look.

A closer look.

Do any of you have succulent gardens or containers? What is your favorite succulent plant? Do you have recommendations for others?

Front Porch Fix-up, Part Duex

Short front porch update, just the post box… it needed a facelift:

Icky mailbox.

Icky mailbox. Poor mailman.

Yuck, right?

So, (sorry I didn’t take in-progress photos like I should) it was lightly sanded, the hardware removed and then it took a few coats of plain old white spray paint. I should probably care more about low VOC, and I tend to inside the house, but for this project – nope. Set up shop on a plastic tarp outside on a windy day and sprayed my cheapo $2 white gloss to my heart’s content.

Then, a little bit of sticker magic … and it was ready to hang!

Better.

Better.

Oh, and congrats to my winner from the last drawing for the Stella and Dot earrings! I wasn’t sure how to announce it as I had entries on facebook and here. I’ll streamline the process more next time, but for now, I hope MollyMom is enjoying those rockin’ earrings!

I love my garden!

Lovely squash blossom!

Lovely squash blossom!


Last year, we dug up and tilled a small patch of earth at the back of our yard for a garden.
Miracle Gro

Miracle Gro works! So much for going all organic, eh?

The Great Sewer Line Replacement Hell of 2010 destroyed much of the work we had done and we only managed to rescue a couple tomato plants. And of course they were those teensy-tinsy tomatoes that seemed so cute when I bought them, but were very sad as the sole, destroyed garden survivors.

This spring, we decided to do two raised gardens instead. The thought was that a raised garden was a big “pot” and we could possibly move some plants if we ever needed to. Plain old Kansas soil went in the bottom of the reclaimed fence-board gardens, topped off with Miracle-Gro soil with moisture control. Then went in the veggies.

A view of the raised beds, from old fence boards, made by my lovely hub.

A view of the raised beds, from old fence boards, made by my lovely hub.

My lettuce was planted in three “rounds” a week or two apart and my first batch is still going strong – we have given away a bunch and still have plenty for ourselves. It’s a bit bitter and is wonderful with blue cheese dressing. Yum.

Crunchy lettuce, which is home to many ladybugs, much to Bethy's joy!

Crunchy lettuce, which is home to many ladybugs, much to Bethy's joy!

Then there are the onions, I planted a whole row of them, 3-4 across and have been thinning them as I use the sweet little green onions in salads and pastas and potatoes. I plan to leave a few through the summer to grow and get sweet – they might get steamed as a side dish for Thanksgiving. If I can wait that long. Behind these onions is a little foot-square batch of garlic. I’ve never grown garlic before. I’m winging it. I’m hoping the plants will let me know when they are ready. But, I have to tell you guys – a green garlic stem chopped up in sour cream mashed potatoes is NOT a bad thing. Can I say yum again?

Little forest of solid, tasty onions.

Little forest of solid, tasty onions.

My tomatoes are doing very well, also! And not just the dinky ones that can get lost in a cavity. Two “Early Boys” have nearly 20 little green dudes between them, my “Big Boys” have half a dozen and the dinky ones (grape tomatoes) are starting to bloom. We’ll see if any of them ever get to be red – as my favorite food, my last meal request, the best thing I ever ate — is fried green tomatoes. Oh, yum, I’m drooling as I type and resisting the urge to go grab one of those too-small green orbs of love and fry it up for breakfast. C’mon Miracle Gro, get those tomatoes goin’!

Some of the Early Boy 'maters!

Some of the Early Boy 'maters!

And then there is the squash. Every morning for the past week, I’ve gone outside to a riot of color in one bed. Sunny little blossoms smiling at me and promising lovely zucchini to be steamed, baked and fried. I have so many blossoms on my three plants that I have been tempted to cook some squash blossoms, I even looked up a recipe or five: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/tips-techniques/five-ways-to-eat-squash-blossoms-087564. I am especially intrigued by the quesadilla recipe at that link! But, since I’ve never grown squash before and I don’t know how well they will actually produce – I’m going to hedge my bets and stick with letting them fruit. But, any new blossoms that come on after the Fourth of July? They are fried. Literally.

Another sunny little squash blossom.

Another sunny little squash blossom.

So that’s a tour of my little gardens. They are a bright spot in a still-somewhat-destroyed backyard (thanks to sewer guys and one large dog), and there is something almost primal about being able to feed your children food that you’ve grown with your own hands and hard work.