DIY & DECOR

Easy ways to add color to your patio

This post is sponsored by Monrovia, but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

How to add color to your patio

Easy ways to add color to your patio.

Spring has finally sprung here int he Mid-West, but that doesn’t mean that the flowers are blooming quite yet. In fact, I’ve only seen a few daffodils finally making their appearance, here and there but over all most of my yard and my neighbors yards are just seeing the shoots of early Spring flowers-to-be. Now, we just moved into a new house, literally last week, so I am excited to see what pops up around my house and will probably wait this season out to see what is already here before planning my garden and flower beds for next season.

But several beautiful things are already showing their little green faces. You can see some hyacinth just starting to peek out:

Container Gardening

Little baby hyacinth:

Container Gardening

There are also a few tulips starting to poke out, some lilies of course and daffodils. Now, waiting until next season to plant a garden has me antsy to get my hands in some dirty. I am not a very patient person and I just couldn’t stand going all Spring and Summer without planting SOMETHING. So, what better place to start than with out drab, boring concrete patio! Now, I’ve got some big plans for our patio. It eventually needs to be replaced, but that won’t be any time int he near future, so I knew that I had to get some container gardening going on out there. And what better way than with some beautiful perennial that I can plant this year and either leave containered or transfer into my garden plans next year.

I headed over to my local Lowe’s to seek out some of the hardiest and best grown plant out there – Monrovia.

Since we just moved in and I didn’t have access to all of my gardening tools I wanted to just create a small planter for the space next to the grill in our backyard on the patio. It would add a nice little pop of color until we could get things better planned for the rest of the season.

I first grabbed a trusty terra cotta pot, because I love the look of terra cotta, you don’t have to match it to anything else or worry about anything with your plants containered in them. At Lowe’s the selection was sparse as they were still just filling their outdoor garden section for the season but they had a beautiful selection of perennial options.

Now, when choosing items for a container it is always good to choose three different types of plants that serve different purposes. Follow this: One thrill, one to fill, and one to spill.

We were lacking on the spill part, but we got two thrillers so I was happy. I chose the Belarina Pink Ice Primrose. Primroses are some of my favorites. In addition to that I picked out an Alpino Rose.

Container Gardening

Whenever I am repotting something I like to make sure it has the nutrients it needs so I use an additive to help eliminate the shock of repotting. You can find therein the section of your garden center with other plant foods.

How to add a pop of color to your patioHow to add color to your patio

The last item I picked to round out my small container garden was a cool looking grass called Cool As Ice Fescue. This plant is a green-blue grass that will age to a golden blonde.

All in all I am happy with the outcome. A little pop of color on our currently drab patio. Container gardening is so easy and fun and with the beautiful options in Monrovia plants, your options are limitless.

Salt Dough Ornaments

Salt Dough Ornaments

Salt Dough Ornaments

Well Thanksgiving is in the books and the Christmas/Yule season is now in full swing. It is a tradition in my family to go get the tree on Thanksgiving day, so the fragrance of pine is already filling the house. We’ve been going to the same man to get our trees for more than 20 years now. Vern is a “Yooper” Or a U-Per, aka someone from the upper peninsula of Michigan, and his wife will tag the best trees every year with a little blue ribbon. So, when we get there the first thing we do is ask the guys there, which Vern’s wife picks are.

Christmas Tree Hunting

It warms my heart to see my father and my son, who is named for my late brother walking through the tree stand looking for the perfect tree. (I am literally tearing up just writing about it.)

So, now that we have finally pulled out the Christmas decor, it’s time to turn our full attention to all the greatness of the Yule season, including, of course, some super adorable keepsake crafts to help commemorate how little your little ones are.

If your kids are anything like my little toddler son, they are growing like weeds. And if the size of his mom and dad are any indication, my little one won’t be little for so long. So, I wanted to make some salt dough ornaments like my parents have of all of us kids form when we were little to try to remember, when he is driving me nuts as a teenager, how cute and tiny his little hands and feet are.

If you’ve never made salt dough before, it is incredibly easy and something you can literally whip up in an afternoon with no prep or thought.

Salt Dough Recipe

1 Cup Salt
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Water (or just enough to incorporate the other two ingredients into a soft dough)

Instructions

In a large bowl, add salt and flour and mix to combine.  Gradually add the water, using only enough to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead until smooth. Roll out to about 1/4″ – 1/2″ thickness. Remember if you want to be able to hang them, the thicker they are the heavier they will be so roll to thickness accordingly.

Once you have it rolled out to desired thickness, cut with cookie cutter or into any shapes you would like. If you would like to hang them, take a nail, pencil, or wooden skewer and make a hole to string your ribbon, rope or cord. Allow to sit and dry out a little bit before putting in the oven. This is a little trick I found make a difference in helping your dough not puff up like you’re backing bread instead of staying crisp and holding it’s shape. Once it starts to dry out a little bit, preheat oven to 180* or as low as it will go and bake. The amount of time it takes for them to completely dry out will depend on how large and thick your ornaments or shapes are.

You want to basically keep your oven as low as possible and just allow them to dry and harden. If you try to do it too fast on a higher heat the dough will “bake” and puff up. I will even some times bake them for a while and then turn the oven off and leave them in the oven to continue to harden for several hours.

The shape you make them is entire up to you! I choose, last year, to make a hand and foot print of my then two-year old. I made a santa out of his hand and a reindeer out of his foot.

Salt Dough Handprint Ornament Salt Dough Reindeer Ornament

This year I want to make something like this, which I saw on Pinterest and was posted here.

Salt Dough Keepsake

 

DIY Birdseed Ornaments

How to make Birdseed Ornaments

DIY Birdseed Ornaments by Ruffled Feathers Birdseed ornaments are a fun, easy project you can do by yourself or with kids as small as toddler age! They are great for decorating a special, “Critter Tree,” as my father-in-law calls it in the yard for the birds, and they make great gifts for teachers, neighbors, and co-workers!

 

Just a few easy ingredients, you might have most in your cupboard already!

You’ll want to follow these steps pretty closely, though, so that you get nice firm ornaments that aren’t too dry to hold together.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C water
  • 3/4 C flour
  • 3 TBS corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (such as Klox)
  • 4 C birdseed

Additional tools:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • cooking spray
  • cookie cutters
  • skewer or other implement for making string holes
  • twine or other natural string
  • rubber spatula

Cookie cutters work best if they are at least an inch thick, so that the ornaments are thick enough to be stable and easily hung. Cookie cutters that are very intricate aren’t ideal, either as they are hard to pop the hardened ornament out and maintain the detailed edged.

DIY Birdseed Ornaments

DIY Birdseed ornaments Ruffled Feathers

DIY Birdseed ornaments Ruffled Feathers

DIY Birdseed ornaments Ruffled Feathers

DIY Birdseed Ornaments Ruffled Feathers

11IMG_7571 11IMG_7579 111IMG_7567

Instructions:

  1. Spray the cookie cutters with nonstick spray. Arrange on wax paper. Set aside.
  2. 2. Combine water, corn syrup in a nonstick saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  3. 3. Reduce heat and add gelatin, whisking continually until entirely dissolved. Clumps may appear, but as it gets hot enough, and you continue to stir they will disappear. This is the mixture, which will bind your ornaments together so you do not want to cook it down too much or they will be too dry to hold up.
  4. 4. Transfer liquid to mixing bowl and add flour. Stir the mixture until it is well combined, it will be similar to a thick batter and there should be no large clumps.
  5. 5. Add birdseed and mix until all the seed is well coated. It will be thick and stiff.
  6. 6. Spray your hands thoroughly with nonstick spray and fill each cookie cutter, pack tightly to the top with the birdseed mixture.
  7. 7. Be sure to press firmly into every corner of the cookie cutter, loose or not firmly packed ornaments will fall apart easily. The mixture will dry out quickly, so it is important to work quickly.
  8. 8. Form balls with any extra birdseed mixture.
  9. 9. Create the holes with your lollipop stick or skewer. Make sure your hole goes all the way through. Wiggle the skewer around to be sure the hole is large enough for your twine, and press down the birdseed again before removing the skewer.
  10. 9. Allow ornaments to dry on a wire cooling rack (or just on the wax paper). Wait several hours, or until they are firm enough to remove from the cookie cutter molds.
  11. 10. String the ornaments with your twine or other natural fiber string that will be ok to leave and allow the birds to reuse for their nests once the ornaments are gone!

Making DIY Birdseed Ornaments is a great way to spend a chilly winter’s day with the kid before heading out for a walk in the woods or to your own backyard (and then back inside for some delicious hot cocoa, of course!)

How to Make a Book Tree for Christmas

I know I know I know… it’s not even Thanksgiving, so give it a rest with the Christmas post already. But this is just TOO cool not to get excited about. I know you’ve seen them on Pinterest and floating around the internet and if you really want to do it, it’s going to take some planning on your part (and unless you are a book hoarder like me… some serious book buying between now and then!)

So… first of all, gather all your books. I am lucky enough to have an extensive library of several thousand books and after buying the entire tree still didn’t even crack open all the boxes I had in storage (much to my husbands dismay!).

book christmas tree

The first thing i did after I collected all my books was find the largest and heaviest to start the base. I made it about 4 or 5 feet around, ensuring that it would be plenty tall.

Then you simply start stacking!

Finding the right books that will fit in your space is like a giant game of Tetris. The only piece of advance I can give is to separate books into small, medium, and large so that you can easily see what you are working with.

Note: I also have several hundred pre-1900 books that I didn’t want near the bottom (where little baby hands and dog noses might bother them), so I made sure those were used in the second half of my tree.

Book Christmas Tree

I left the middle open and just stacked closer and closer little by little and it worked it’s way in just fine.

Book Christmas Tree

After about 5 hours of stacking, I had a 5′ tall beauty of a Book Christmas tree! I wrapped some lights around it and basically just stared at it every time I could. It really made working in my office hard.

Book Christmas Tree

Book Christmas Tree

25 Books for Christmas on the cheap!

Looking for an amazing Christmas tradition to start that won’t cost you an arm and a leg? Try this one out:

In our house we have a tradition. And given that I am a HUGE bibliophile and it is fairly safe to say that I am addicted to books, several of our traditions are centralized about… you guessed: BOOKS! And cheap books at that!

The cutest and most exciting thing about our Yule traditions are the countdown ones. I posted about my homemade, DIY Count down to christmas advent calendar last year, which is not only adorable and super fun for the kiddos every year, but we do a book a day, count down to Yule, too. I have taken to scouring used book stores and goodwills in all the towns around where I live to find cute, out of the ordinary or just plain awesome holiday themes books for my little one to open every day until Christmas day!

25 Books: A Countdown to Christmas

I started early in the year and began looking in every goodwill and used book store for Christmas and holiday books. Look until you have a total of 25 books. I especially keep an eye out for interesting, off-the-wall, different takes on classics and of course, the classics to round out my collection. It didn’t take very long, you generally find a lot of holiday books at goodwills. I’m not sure why, but I did at least. All-in-all, I spent probably less than $40 total on the books. At goodwill, children’s books are $.79 and then used book stores, children clearance books are about $1 a pop.

25 Books: A Countdown to Christmas 25 Books: A Countdown to Christmas

The next step once you have all your books is to wrap them! I am pretty easy-going in the holiday wrapping paper department so I tend to buy whatever is left at the end of the previous season and use that. So I had a collection of paper and sat down with a warm cup of coffee and went to town on my stack of books!

Then viola! You’ve got a beautiful stack of Christmas books that you little one will be THRILLED to open every day.

Christmas book tradition

We put ours under the tree and let our son pick one each day before his nap time and he loved being able to tear open a present every day.

Christmas book tradition

The trick to keeping this from getting out of control each year is to ONLY take out the holiday books for this tradition then pack them away with the Christmas decorations to bring out the next year. This way you don’t have to look for new books every year AND your little one gets to be doubly excited about seeing his or her favorite holiday books again in another year without burning out from the same old books the whole year. This allows them to get excited about them all over again every year!

How to Rock Your Halloween Costume

How to Rock Your Halloween Costume (and not feel like a dork). A life lesson about owning your own style.

Everyone loves Halloween. And honestly what’s not to love?! The decorations, the costumes, and most importantly the candy! If it were up to me, we would ditch a few of those other holidays and add more celebrations that require costumes into the mix. But along with dressing up comes the stress of deciding that to wear! Women these days have a hard enough time deciding what to wear every day, let alone for special events. Societal pressure around halloween can make deciding what to dress up as not so much fun, and when guys get a pass on the sexy and get to basically do whatever they want, it can make it even more stressful. Let’s be honest… I saw a “sexy mechanic” costume the other day and just about flipped out at the store. So, when you DO finally choose a costume, you can end up feeling silly, looking out of place, or down right like a tool. It doesn’t have to be that way!

Halloween is a great time to toughen up that outer layer of skin. It is a great time to build your confidence and step out of your comfort zone. It is more than just a silly costume, it is a time to find out what you are really made of. One of my life mantras is that if you own it, wear it, do it like you SHOULD be doing it, no one will even notice anything out of the ordinary! Love a hat but think you aren’t a “hat person,” throw it on your head and strut like you were born in hats. I guarantee you that not a single person you encounter that day with this your new accessory looks out of place. Own it. And my advice for not looking like a tool on halloween is the same! Commit to your costume, it’s fun! So have fun!

It doesn’t matter your age, if you have kids, if you are going trick or treating or if you are staying home to give out candy – you NEED a Halloween Costume! Here are some of my favorites I’ve seen around the internet so far. Some silly, some smart, some goofy, some original, some sexy, and some just plain badass. What is your style? Which is your favorite?

Here is a quick round up from some awesome blogs and website for want-to-copy, some but not all last minute, pretty awesome Halloween Costumes. Check them out, and click through to the sources to find EVEN MORE inspiration!

Easy DIY Halloween Costume Snow White

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DIY Easy Hermione Granger Halloween Costume

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DIY Rosie the Riveter Halloween Costume

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DIY Halloween bank robber costume

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DIY Halloween Costume Where's Waldo

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And for those of you who have the steady hand to do some killer, yet remarkably simple make-up. Check out these!

Easy DIY Sugar Skull Halloween makeup

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Easy DIY Vampire makeup

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Easy DIY Scarecrow Halloween Costume

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6 Tips for Growing the Beautiful Succulents

Ruffled Feathers Growing Succulents

6 Tips for growing succulents:

I am a total sucker for an interesting, unusual, visually appealing houseplant. My poor husband has to tear me away from garden centers and when friends and family see my collection of succulents and cacti, I am often asked how I get them to thrive so well and grow so large (and/or how I have so many!). Let me start off by saying I am a novice, and relatively new to the houseplant game, but I’ve got the green thumb bug and it has hit me hard. I am no expert, but I thought I would share my tips and things I have either read other places or that I have found work best for me and my plants. And if you are looking for a wellspring of information on all things plants and gardening, check out my Pinterest board:

Green Thumb Betty

Through trial and error, I have found there are three main factors to consider when: soil, light, and water.

Ruffled Feathers Succulents

The first thing to make sure you understand is what type of soil succulents like. They need, love and will thrive in well draining soil. Most garden center will have a good quality cactus and succulent mix, I would start there. It is a great place to start. But if you find that your soil is drying out too quickly you might want to make some additions to this soil. Mixing in some moisture control potting soil is a great idea as well as some sand. Putting stones or pebbles in the bottom of your container with a drain hole isn’t necessary (you might want to just include a little bit of screen or something to keep the soil from washing out of the bottom. However, if you are anything like me, just about everything you look at you can see as a planter, so not everything will have a drain hole. In this instance, you will need to put down a layer of rocks or pebbles for drainage.

Sunlight

Succulents like to have a lot of light, but indirect sunlight. They are pretty hardy plants so they can withstand varying amounts of sunlight, generally. But you don’t want to either burn or deprive them. Six to seven hours of indirect sunlight a day is a good number to shoot for. If your succulents are not getting enough sunlight, they may become “leggy” or “stretched,” which is what happens when you see them growing long and spread out or even bending towards the direction of the sun.  In the event that your plant does get too stretched out, you may want to think about propagating it (free plants!!!).

Water

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the care or cacti and succulents is about watering.  How much you should water, when you should water are all problems I often hear people have. It is a misconception that succulents don’t need a lot of water. And while it is true that they shouldn’t be left standing in water AND that they can go long periods without water, they don’t generally do best in drought-like situations.  What you should aim to do is allow your succulent to dry out completely between watering (up to several weeks). You can gauge this by seeing if the soil is wet or dry around two inches down into the soil. Then when you DO water, you want to give it a thorough soaking, allowing water to run out the of bottom of the pot. If you have the correct soil make-up it should hold the right amount of water for your plant. (Note: if you have a pot without drainage, you’ll not want to soak it quite as much as it can’t run out of the bottom). One of the ways the folks kill succulents is over-watering.

If you are having difficulty getting your succulents to grow and thrive here are a few reasons other than sunlight, water, and soil that might be killing your succulents.

Ruffled Feathers Succulents

The planter is too small

If you planted it in a cup tea-cup while it was small, that’s fine! But if it has been in there a while, it probably doesn’t have enough room for it’s roots. Try repotting it in something larger and see if it makes a difference.

They aren’t warm enough

Succulents like it warm! Move them away from drafty windows and doors. Also, they don’t like to be moved around a lot, so find a place to park them and let them get comfy.

Your soil isn’t right

This doesn’t just mean well draining soil, this also means the soil is nutrient deficient. You can either feed them monthly during the warm growing season or a better option is to stir in some organic material  or plant them in a planting soil mix when transplanting or potting them.

 

DIY Advent Calendar

DIY Advent Calendar – Count Down to Christmas

DIY Advent Calendar

Thanks to Pinterest, I had a real hankering to make a DIY Advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas (and maybe sneak in a little extra chocolate, because who doesn’t need that around the Holidays…)

So I started pinned. I came across things like these and was seriously covetous.

DIY Advent Calendar

Credit

DIY Advent Calendar

Credit

DIY Advent Calendar

Credit

Ultimately, I like the look and style of this one the best and thought it would look best in our living room.

DIY Advent Calendar

Credit

I set out at first with the intent of finding a stick like the one in the photo, but was raining and had been snowing in the days leading up to this crafty creation and I wanted to get it done at least near the beginning of December 😉

So, I settled for a nice branch cut form the bottom of our Christmas tree. My father, husband and I (and now my son) always go the day after Thanksgiving to get our Christmas tree from the same wonderful people. They show up just before Thanksgiving and come to our little corner of Lake County from way up in the UP (upper peninsula) in Michigan. His name is Vern and my father love this man. I feel like it really turns from Fall to Winter once we see Vern setting up his shop.

So, I grabbed a few nice looking branches from the pile of trimmings and clippings to use for our DIY Advent Calendar. Once we got home, I put them all up against the wall to see how they were going to hang, which ones were symmetrical enough or looked the best. Once I found the perfect one, I used a small gorilla hook to put it up, you can’t even see it.

Then I set out to get small gifts, trinkets, ornaments and of course sweets to fill  the calendar with. I already had some small and medium sized brown paper bags and some festival red and white twine, but both were picked up at Michael’s during some other crafting time. I got some Hersey Kisses, M&Ms, candy canes. Then I supplemented those with some nicer treats from World Market.

Then I put it all together! My toddler loves picking out that days bag and tearing it open.

DIY Advent Calendar RUFFLED FEATHERS DIY Advent Calendar