The making of a unique landscape quilt

I am perhaps the worst photographer known to man; I must ask your forgiveness at my  poor quality of pictures!

I wanted to document the process of creating a landscape quilt.

In the Texas Panhandle putting in flower beds is problematic at best, you can count on half the plants you pray over to survive. It is just the way it is in this region. In fact, after several failures Royce and I nearly gave up any hope of creating a lovely landscape here. But we are of the prescient sort he and I, or we are just plain glutton for punishment because when it comes to having a nice yard we won’t and can’t give up so easily. I began to think outside the box of what I was use to doing as a gardener. In other words I began to accept the arid and dusty landscape, to embrace it, to allow it to be what it is and stop fighting it. This meant a change in plant materials that will work here and trust me, those plants I am in love with and that will grow like weeds in North Carolina and Ohio aren’t the ones that like it here! I have to fall in love with grasses and other drought loving plants that will take this dry, windy, never-wet!, hot-sunny-land.

When I began to consider using less plant material and more ‘hard-scape’ material to create our beds my spirits lifted. The first thought that came to me was to do a hard-scape landscape quilt. I chose to do my first one in the shape of a tree — (although my mother-in-law Ms. Ruth thinks it looks more like an arrow) — Either one, tree or arrow, works for me as long as the few low growing plants I used live to see fall! I first began by raking out the area and was surprised to find that the grass came up easily. So much said for grass having deep roots in this yard, I guess. Poor Royce is working diligently on making a lush green lawn a reality.  I vote for easing his frustration and using pea gravel and lots of it! But, I know the suggestion will fall on deaf ears so . . . . he plants and I pray.

I was so delighted with this first attempt at a landscape quilt that I have two more areas planned for next year. I do believe this is the way to rock this yard!

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I had to deal with sand storms at first before I could even lay out my design. As you can see, the sand is plentiful where Royce tilled up the soil in this bed. First we laid down landscape fabric and then I used a few tiles we had laying around to give me a visual idea and them used some old wooden yardsticks to build the form.

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Next was to lay down some play sand to level out the area and plant the plants I wanted inside each of the four sections. Hens & Chicks in the lower section; creeping thyme in the top section; two more drought tolerant ground covers in the two middle sections. And then I began to play with rocks I had on hand. In this picture I settled on the tree trunk made out of medium sized black pebbles.

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When Royce bought 1/2 yard of pea gravel for this and other beds we are doing I decided to use only pea gravel around the tree form and 86 the other stones in that area; instead I placed the larger stones inside the tree form and around the plants. I know this picture doesn’t do it justice but it is really lovely. We have a frog on a stick that waves hello to  you.  I put Mr. Frog at the top of the tree. He has one hand up waving as a welcome to those who approach our front steps. I think he is happy to live there. Every tree needs a topper!

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A better view……….like I wrote I am the worst photographer know to man — or woman or beast for that matter!

Mothering Boys into Men

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The most reasonable thing to do is set back and let the natural process of a boy’s ‘manly development’ take its meandering course through childhood. As a mother of twin boys (now 31 years of age) I wasn’t reasonable.  I thought I could tweak into being what they would become by persuasion & suggestion. As it turns out — that wasn’t so true. A few times of big-eyed gasped surprises told me this. No matter what I did the boys would not skip a beat in embarrassing me to death.

This was never truer than the day I looked around to see who else was watching my boys climb the side of a downtown two story brick building —- Public beware my boys are near —- clearly, on that day, they were not what I’d desired them to be. Or the time they decided to unfasten their seat-belts as the car rounded a corner (thankfully, the car behind me stopped in time to avoid hitting them) and slid out onto the pavement—-bounce-bounce-bounce—-to the sound of my screaming. I didn’t sleep for two nights after that one! All I could see when I closed my eyes was them sliding off the seat and out the door. The following day their father finally fixed the faulty latch on the door, finally!

As the saying goes: Boys will be Boys —- I’m here to tell you that boys will be men some day so us Mum’s might want to 86 the notion that “he’s just being a boy” and get down and dirty with some fanny whacking time to insure that good men emeruge out of boyhood. I’m not one to advocate beating a child but a good whack never hurt any child, especially when the ‘whack’ realigns risky behavior. And my boys occasionally needed realigning whacks.

“What was that four?” one would say after a flick of my finger on the head; I’d reply “because you needed adjusting! Now stop giving high-fives to the grocery store isle signs, and other such things they would do”  Awe, to be the mother of twins. What one imagines two accomplishes.

Here’s a story for all you  young parents who think some behavior is cute at two only to find out it isn’t so cute at twelve:

Once Upon A Time years ago, a Juvenile Court Judge in Miami County, Ohio, Judge Kay Wagner, whom I think was a long lost sister of Judge Judy (television’s Manhattan Family Court Judge Judith Sheindlin whom we’ve all grown to have a love/hate relationship with) and I became friends after my boys had a need to appear in front of her. During one of our respective rant-it-out times she hit the nail on the head with this statement that has stuck with me over the years. She said “It seems to me a lot of parents are turning a blind eye and becoming unaware enablers. So much so that sometimes, honestly, I’d like to send a few parents to Juvenile Detention instead of their kids. You know what Marilu, If the parents would tend to their children better I might never need to” I seconded that notion.

Although, truthfully, sometimes it is harder to tend to a wayward boy than you might think. Mine would look me straight in the eye, nod in agreement, and do as they pleased anyway. Some boys are more challenging than others, I guess. I finally realized that if I were to get anywhere with my twins I had to take them on one at a time, individually, never together  (because I swear to you that they could have a non-verbal conversation with each other right in front of me plotting their next move. I saw it in their eyes and tilts of the head towards each other.) 

What’s to do when you have a boy who thirst after all forms of risky behaviors as mind did. After my boys first run in with Judge Kay I thought that she was being too harsh on both of them. And, sad to say, I wanted to cuddle them because this is my nature, to fix, to cuddle, to love my kids. But, the thing is: you can not fix stupid with cuddles! Boys need to learn how to be good men, therefore, boys need to learn how to be better boys.

“When did you first think it was a good idea to taunt a police officer” ask Jude Kay “In who’s realm of reality does a fifteen year old think this is a good thing to do?”

No reply was given. Just a hung head awaiting her gavel and what was to follow by the court and by the home.

What had the boy done? Well, he’d spent the night with a friend. It was very hot that August evening and it was around ten thirty in the evening, maybe a little later. The boys were outside in the friends front yard. There is a curfew in the small Ohio town we lived in for anyone under a certain age to be inside or if outside to be within the property boundaries of their house after (I think it was ten o’clock in the evening) a certain time each night. On the night of the incident two police officers were foot patrolling the friends neighborhood and had stopped on the corner to watch the three boys in the front yard. I am sure the officers did this out of protocol when kids were outside during curfew hours. The boys saw the officers. Instead of waving, being friendly and showing the officers there was a non-issue with them — which is non-risky and reasonable behavior — one of my boys took it upon himself to walk up to the property edge and place one foot outside of it, and taunt the officer with it, which the officer quickly noticed. The officer approached and questioned my son. The boy was hauled off to the police station. I was called. Not only to pick up the offender but his twin as well for sassing the officer for hauling off his brother. Should the boys been taken to the police station, should one have been charged and given a court date to appear at a juvenile hearing or should the boys been severely reasoned with by the officers is any ones guess. I was not there. I can say this: when I got to the station to retrieve my twins they both were scared out of their wits, were sorry and did not have an attitude. If they had had an attitude with the officers it had certainly passed by the time I’d gotten to them. I suspect they did. I suspect this is what lead the officer to handle the situation legally instead of with a stern reprimand.

We appeared a few days later. And I thought this was the end of this behavior in my boys. A lesson learned. Over and done. I was wrong. I should have not thought Kay was being too harsh. I should have been harsh right along with her. Stood my ground. Not cuddled or coddled. I should have whacked the dickens out of them both. Therefore I got to see Kay several more times before I was done with seeing Kay, and not for bantering over coffee either. The next couple of years were simply awful for me but I cause a great deal of it myself —- so beware not to do the same.

Royce told me a story the other day about the day his father chased him with a switch for back-talking. I think the chase took a mile or so during the summer heat of the day in the Arizona dessert. In Arizona it gets pretty hot during the summer months! He told me that he was switched to and from and afterwards for sassing his Dad and as he licked his wounds in his bedroom after the ordeal, his mother came into the bedroom, not to give sympathy but to suggested that he should go outside and help his father in the field where he was planting stating that his Dad needed the help. She did not coddle, nor did she scold. Royce did as she’d asked. He said he and his Dad worked side by side without a word was spoken until the task was done. But, that silence spoke volumes to him, and he ended the day learning a lesson he’s never forgotten. It was days like this that fashioned who he became, respectful, hard working, honest. Royce is a good man and I think he was a good boy because his parents were not in any fashion enablers.

Not every boy is a challenge. Some are more than others of course and most all are a joy to raise. Mine were a joy to raise even if I did spend a little time during their growing years handling situations I’d rather not have had to handle. In the end I learned that (1) you can’t fix stupid with coddles (2) standing firm on some things is the best policy (3) and that no matter what you do to make your kids mad at you because you say NO WAY IN HELL they will still love you. Mine do and I’m blessed that they do.

I’m happy to say my boys have grown into amazing men, in spite of me.

Our Little Yard Guest

yard guest

We are in the process of redoing my mother-in-laws front, back and side yards. And there is a ton of work to do, after years of neglect due to age and health, Royce and I have tackled something we may not be prepared to do. But, we’re totally committed so new fences to new grass and plants are going in over three growing seasons. There is so much to do it will take that long! This year is the first season of our renovations for her. We are beginning by focusing on the lawn. In the Texas panhandle this is a tall order, apparently, especially when her old lawn has laid dormant for nearly ten years. The only spot to show any old growth after a month of watering is this small patch in the middle of the back yard. We are still waiting for the grass seed to sprout (fingers crossed it does — we’ve had more than the average amount of sand storms this season so our neighbors just may be the proud recipient of a new lawn!) This morning Royce mowed this one little patch of grass and this afternoon an extremely plump bunny settled in and feasted on the clippings.  I think I’d best put a fence around the newly planted garden!

garden Yes, folks that is red clay and sand in them there rows! But we have corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, sweet basil, peppers, okra, red onions and even some flowers here and there.

I’m also putting in a few flower/hardscaps beds in around her long front porch and upgrading some furniture she has out there. Early mornings and late afternoons, Royce and I love setting on her front porch and watching all the birds and rabbits — that our dog Spike chases out of the yard — enjoying each others company and the ever present Texas plains breeze.

 

Re-Purposing Unused Items to the Garden

Sometimes gardening ideas which are “outside the box” (so to speak) strike me as being a bit silly but here are a few I just ran across which aren’t silly at all, in fact, I consider these to be very smart indeed.  It’s called re-purposing and I think this is the greatest idea I’ve ever seen. After all, why toss out perfectly good rubber boots into the trash bin when you can give them new life in your garden by placing potting soil inside planted up with some posies. It adds a bit of whimsy to the garden to have a row of lined up boots hung on a gate. In fact, wouldn’t this be an inspiring addition to the fence itself? Can you imagine the smiles this would bring! Oh how I love the whimsical side of a gardeners life.

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Speaking of fences: Not long ago we had a chipped slat on a fence, right at the top of the slat and right in the middle of the row of pickets. (My mind is always one slight swing away from ”’unusual”’) Seeing these boots hung in the picture above made me think (why I can’t say) that if I were to have taken turned upside down pots I’d painted in colours of gum drops and placed on top of the pickets, wedging them down tight, that the fence would have looked spectacular and the unsightly chipped slat picket would have been perfectly camouflaged.  What do you think?  (wish I could find a picture for you but sadly, I don’t have one)

Of course, if your boys (or girls for that matter) have grown tired of playing with trucks and such, placing them in a flower bed (planted up, of course) would bring a smile every time. I’m sure of it.

Here are a few examples>>>6b1bHere is an adult version>>>3b

 

Easter’s Coming in a Big Way to my House

If you’re like me, you want Easter to be a little extra special. From choosing the meal to serve, setting the table and choosing the dinning table center piece I want it special for the folks I love. I even go a few steps further when it comes to holidays! Door baskets to welcome guests filled with flora fitting the occasion; entry-way table decked out in holiday glee; special touches added around the house make me feel very celebratory.

The meal: This has always been an issue for me. Turkey. Ham. Chicken. Sides. Desserts. My mind whirls around like a whirligig. —- can you say: Order Out Please —– Not that I do not like to cook. I just see little advantage in wearing myself out preparing a huge meal that everyone eats in under thirty minutes, burps, pats their bellies, slides bums in chairs away from my lovely set table to set on the porch (or worse in front of the television) while I clean up the mess created. Think I’d like to pass on this scene. So, what I’ve come up with for most of my holiday meals is more simple than not, more like a barbeque/picnic meal that I can begin up to two days ahead. Good eating. Simple. Easy. And I’m joining the folks on the porch for more conversation. A-Win-Win.  (of course the trick is to gauge the amount of food so you do not have a lot of leftovers to store and little clean up after the meal is finished. Putting a few plates and glasses plus eating utensils in the dishwasher is a snap as opposed to hand washing pots and pans stacked to the roof — usually five to seven minutes and I’m out of the kitchen! I like that :))

Some pic’s of what I plan on making for the big day:

take two rounds of cake and make a bunny cake! Exactly! Good me, huh.

take two rounds of cake and make a bunny cake! Exactly! Good me, huh.

A second cake is a Rainbow Cake. Get out the flavored Jello and go for it! I need two cakes for Easter so....I'm going for this one and the bunny cake.

A second cake is a Rainbow Cake. Get out the flavored Jello and go for it! I need two cakes for Easter so….I’m going for this one and the bunny cake.

Just a suggestion but if you can find cupcakes at your local bakery --- I suggest you go for that as well. Make your life simple this Easter.

Just a suggestion but if you can find cupcakes at your local bakery — I suggest you go for that as well. Make your life simple this Easter.

As for the center pieces: Over the years, I’ve done elegant to simple center pieces for my table but the ones I have enjoyed doing the most are the whimsical ones, clearly whimsical spikes my whimsy-mode, so each year I look for something new to ignite my whimsy ways.  This is just the way I roll. I like the weird things in life. Always have.

This year I think I’ll keep the table setting on the simple side as it will be only the three of us, Royce, Mom and Me setting down to the table but it will be whimsical!  Still, I would love to do something unique as a centerpiece. I’m thinking ”green-grass-in-a-jar with jellybeans and some posies with a kaleidoscoop-eyed bunny grabbing onto the side” — if that doesn’t get Royce’s attention to my being a little weird at holidays I honestly don’t know what will. :)

[Note: According to celebrity cooking show host and author Sandra Lee, I should say: Tablescapes but she’s not Southern and I am! So, I’ll just call it what it is: a table setting and a centerpiece on the table]

Here are a few pictures of tablescapes — Ahem, table settings & centerpieces — I found on the good old Internet to share with you…..enjoy.

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I’d never do the dog out of ‘whatever that is’ but I like the colour orange so much (ask Jude) that I’d definitely do the rest of this scene.  Looks like a fun inside picnic to me.

For the crafty-challenged souls out there just tie some ribbon around dyed Easter eggs and your crafty-challenged self can do a victory dance around the table. And this one is rather cute.

 

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This is the perfect table for the kids and it even comes with a coloured Easter egg on each place-mat. What could be more fun.

Something a little more upscale (and blue) is this one. Just make sure the kids eat the veggies first before emptying out the birds nests!

This one for the kids is a little more upscale (and blue). Just make sure the kids eat the veggies first before emptying out the birds nests!

Now we come to the adults. This is simply beautiful. Clean and festive.

Now we come to the adults. This is simply beautiful. Clean and festive. Each plate has placed in it a little gift box of sweets to enjoy with coffee or tea after the meal.

A small gathering?

A small gathering? Place a cherry table cloth on the kitchen table and decorate a nearby side table with the centerpiece!

This one is too adorable for words. It is for a very young child, as you can tell. So why not have a small table near where Mommy or Daddy sets at the big table for the tiny tot. Well. I'd do this in a heartbeat. Keeping Moms & Dads happy is always a great idea.

This one is too adorable for words. It is for a very young child, as you can tell. So why not have a small table near where Mommy or Daddy sets at the big table for the tiny tot. Well. I’d do this in a heartbeat. Keeping Moms & Dads happy is always a great idea.

take it outside to the patio! Enjoy the out of doors for your Easter meal. Why not is what I say!

take it outside to the patio! Enjoy the out of doors for your Easter meal. Why not is what I say!

Speaking of "tablescapes" and Sandra Lee .... yep! Over the top kind of thing to do and not my thing but the devil made me include it here for your gaze. Sorry Sandra, just not my thing but sure is festive.

Speaking of “tablescapes” and Sandra Lee …. yep! Over the top kind of thing to do and not my thing but the devil made me include it here for your gaze. Sorry Sandra, just not my thing but sure is festive.

 

 

 

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Life

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Got some small troubles? Got some ”small issues” but are doing the best you can? Then kick up your heels and dance the small troubles away because life is too short to let the small stuff get in your way of enjoying your life.

Oh how I use to worry over silly small things. Things that didn’t make a difference to anyone, including me, the next day. Let it go! Enjoy every minute you have and don’t sweat the small things that come your way.

The dishwasher didn’t get emptied? Well, I’m sure the dishwasher police will be there soon to issue you a failure to operate citation, right? Not going to happen is it. So why do we put so much importance of these things which really, in the short of it, take away our joy.

One thought is that we, as humans, like to measure up to others. I say this in all honesty because soon arriving at my doorstep will be a first greet and meet with my new daughter, Yvonne. I am looking forward to her visit. I’ve talked to her on the telephone a couple times and we’ve messaged back and forth on (of all places) Facebook. (Yvonne’s father and I will marry the end of May, 2014) She sounds wonderful and I can not wait to set down and talk and really get to to her during her short stay — shopping, can anyone say s-h-o-p-p-i-n-g. — as she’s flying in for the only the weekend.

But, because I rarely listen to my own good advise I have been sweating the small stuff. Although, I’m certain she will not snoop in closets, drawers, shelves, or under beds I have been busy making certain ever nook and cranny of this place is in order.  And, in the Panhandle of West Texas, with the March dust storms, this is a tall order! Yesterday a sandstorm stopped me from window washing. Today I had double duty to get things done. Thank Goodness for Royce my second pair of hands. The man is a true helpmate, and a Godsend.

I hope Yvonne likes me as much as I am prepared to like love her.