stuff is happening.

Now that spring has finally sprung here in Minnesota, stuff is happening.  I have to admit, those last couple of months of winter were tough ones.  I’m going to have to adjust to being retired and figure out what to do with all of my time in the winter.  But that’s a (first world) problem for next winter.

Now that the weather has warmed up, the gardens are growing, garage sales are everywhere, and I can work out in my carriage house workshop … so, as I said, stuff is happening!

In fact, I have so much stuff to share with you guys this week that I’m going to post daily, at least on the weekdays.

First up for today, the garden.  I would say that this time of year is when my gardens are the most work.  I keep them packed full with perennials that don’t require much maintenance throughout the summer.  If I get everything pruned, weeded and mulched with compost now, before the plants get too big, the rest of the summer just involves occasional watering and deadheading.  If you want my top q tip for gardening, I think this is it.

If your plants take up every available space and you add a good layer of mulch, weeds have a much harder time taking over.

Here’s what my garden looks like once it has filled out (early June).

See?  Jam packed.

Of course, I know this isn’t easy if you’re starting from scratch.  Plants can be expensive (and the prices are going up this year, just like with everything else).  But you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg.  I recommend buying plants at garage sales, getting divisions from friends, or keeping an eye on Facebook Marketplace for people dividing their perennials.  You can often get them free, or in exchange for helping to dig them up.

My tulips seem to have done really well this year.  For the last several years, deer have treated my spring garden as a salad bar, munching all of the flower buds right off the tulips before they could even open.  As a result, I decided to give up on planting tulip bulbs again last fall.

So now, of course, we seem to be having a really good year for tulips.  The red ones in my photo above are tulips that I planted at least 20 years ago.  They literally hadn’t bloomed in years.

Now I wish I’d planted more tulips!

Here’s another q tip for you.  Take photos of your garden regularly throughout the season, and keep notes regarding where you’d like to add things like tulip bulbs.  I plan to get more in this fall, especially since my neighbor has one of those fancy garden augers to make planting easy.

But wait a minute, this post isn’t supposed to be about gardening.  It’s actually supposed to be about sharing last week’s garage sale haul.

I went out on Thursday with my friend/picker Sue.  Now that we are both retired we can take advantage of sales that start on Thursday.  We went to a small neighborhood sale around Como Park in St. Paul.  Not all of the participating homes were starting their sales on Thursday (some started on Friday, some were Saturday only), but we were able to hit up all of the ones that were.

Although I didn’t bring home a huge load of stuff, I did get some really cool finds.  Plus Sue had a box load of stuff for me as well.

I found the mini dresser on the left (below) at Como, Sue found the rest of the items in this photo including that really, really tiny dresser.

I’ve already added an I.O.D. white transfer to the tiny oil can.

It’s hard to judge the size of it from my photos, but in total it’s only 6″ tall, but the can part is only about 2″ tall.

I like to add little clips to these and use them as photo holders.

And of course I’m going to give both of the small dressers a new look.

I feel like the combination of the cup pulls plus the scrolly embellishments on this one is too much.  I may remove those embellishments.  Or, I could remove the cup pulls and replace them with little glass knobs. What do you think?  And of course I’ll be painting both of them.

I also picked up these things.

I thought Mr. Q might like to have the books, since he tends to be a Goethe fan, but no, he didn’t want to keep them, so I’ll be selling them on.

They are a nice looking set to add to someone’s décor, even if they don’t want to read them.

Sue spotted the glass vessel at one of the sales we visited and handed it over to me.

Neither of us really knew what this was, we just liked the ‘writing’ on it.

I googled it later and discovered it would have been part of a butter churn like this one.

Isn’t that kind of cool?  I think it would make a great vase, or one could fill it with pens and pencils on a desk, or use it to corral your paint brushes.

I purchased the camera from a guy who was a collector.  He was refining his collection and thus getting rid of some.

I’m not sure why this one didn’t make the cut for him.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to show you guys how these cameras work, and especially how to identify them if you see them and they are closed up (as this one was when I found it).

They really don’t look like much when they are closed, right?

There is always some sort of lever or catch that opens it up.  In this case, I had to ask the seller how to open it because it wasn’t obvious.  I was trying to slide that little lever on the lower right in the photo above, but you had to lift up rather than slide.

The case opens up and then the lens can be pulled out all the way.

So the next time you see a closed case like this, be sure to take a closer look.

Sue had also brought me a camera, along with this little train case.

Check out the back of this camera …

Doesn’t that look complicated?  Imagine having to putz with that before each shot.  We’ve got it so easy now!

In true Baader–Meinhof phenomenon fashion, I came across another stoneware pitcher.

If you aren’t familiar, the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon “is a cognitive bias in which, after noticing something for the first time, there is a tendency to notice it more often, leading someone to believe that it has a high frequency of occurrence.”

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that I found a similar stoneware pitcher at the thrift store back in April …

but we’ll see if finding these pitchers really has a ‘high frequency of occurrence’ this summer!

I’m still picking up nice copper pieces when I see them.  They seem to be selling like hotcakes at the shop.  If only I could raid my handyman Ken’s kitchen!  His wife has a serious collection of vintage copper … and when she originally purchased it, it was not vintage.  I’m sure those pieces have been in her kitchen since they built their house 50 years ago.

That gorgeous ironstone platter is one that Sue had and is now passing on to me.  It’s a nice big heavy one, and just check out the mark on the back …

I sometimes will hang an ironstone piece on the wall backwards just to show the mark because they can be so pretty.  I’m not sure if I’ll keep this one, or sell it on.  I have to look around to see if I have a spot for it first.

I’ve saved my ‘find of the day’ for last.

Now, I’m sure this primitive dollhouse made out of an Old Dutch Cleanser crate isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it totally charming.

I just love that someone made this out of simple items they had on hand, and they took the time to paint a couple of the ‘rooms’ in different colors.

And add those shaky looking windows painted onto the sides.

But I bet some little girl absolutely loved it and spent hours playing with it.

I’m not sure what the fate of this piece will be.  I may keep it, I may let it go.  Those little cubbies (rooms) could be used for all kinds of things …

I like the idea of using it on a potting bench.

Hmmm, yeah, I may not be able to part with this one.  I’m considering turning my photo cottage back into a potting shed this summer, so this is going to go in the pile of potential décor for the potting shed.

So tell me, what is your favorite from amongst my finds this week?  And if you’re local, did your tulips do especially well this year, or is it just me?  Also, are you OK with five posts this week, or will it seem like I’m flooding your in box with blog posts?  Oh, and P.S., there will be a giveaway included with one of them, so be sure to stay tuned for that!

the best laid plans.

One thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned about our recent trip is why we originally chose to visit Charleston in April.  The timing was supposed to coincide with the blooming of the azaleas.

According to my research, azaleas bloom anywhere from mid-March to late April in South Carolina.  I was never able to take a trip during azalea season while I was employed because that was also the exact timing of our annual audit.  So one of the items on my post-retirement bucket list was a trip to see the azaleas in bloom (another is a trip to the Netherlands to see the tulips in bloom, maybe next year?).

But as all of you gardeners out there know, the timing of spring blooms can be somewhat unpredictable.  The weather can have an impact, it can depend on how soon things start to warm up.  So even though we visited Charleston the first two weeks of April, we pretty much missed most of the azaleas, except for that little patch of them in Waterfront Park that I shared earlier.

  I suspect that the storm we flew in on (with torrential rain and high winds) didn’t help either.

My grand plan for viewing azaleas included a trip to Middleton Place, the oldest landscaped gardens in America.  The gardens were originally laid out in 1741 and they were inspired by the gardens at Versailles.

Here is how I was picturing the gardens at Middleton (photo borrowed from the web) …

And here is how they actually looked.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans …

And although I was disappointed to have missed the azaleas, I definitely was not disappointed with our visit to Middleton Place.

You have to remember that when we left home there was still snow on the ground, and actually, it was snowing when we returned home too!  So I was quite happy to wander around these gardens and just admire the green.  The fact that is was also a gloriously sunny day and around 70 degrees didn’t hurt either.

It was not crowded at all the day we visited.  Probably because most people were aware that the azaleas were done.  I suspect that when the azaleas are at their most magnificent, the place is packed.

There were a handful of azalea blooms here and there, and a few of the camellias still had flowers as well.  So I did see some color.

But Middleton Place is definitely worth a visit even if there isn’t anything blooming.

There are 110 acres full of paths, formal gardens, and secret gardens to explore.

Just beware that, as all the signs say, the gators are real.

Yikes!  I have to admit, those guys freaked me out a little.  But they pretty much seemed to be minding their own business, and we didn’t get too close to them.

Prior to the civil war, the house at Middleton Place consisted of a main center building with a ‘flanker’ on either side.  It was burned down by union troops in 1865.  The south flanker was the least damaged and thus was repaired and continued to function as a home until 1975 when it was turned into a museum.

It’s certainly a lovely building, but probably not quite what you picture in your head when you hear ‘plantation’.

You can pay extra for a guided tour of the inside (which is the only way to get inside), but we chose to forgo that.

You don’t have to pay extra to explore the stable yards which serve as an open air museum with costumed artisans explaining the functions of the various buildings and the craftmanship of the era.

We chatted with the blacksmith who showed us how they made nails, the cooper who was making wooden buckets, the potter who was making clay pots, and the seamstress who was spinning wool.  All four of them knew a lot about their craft and it was very interesting to visit with them.

They also have livestock including cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and horses at Middleton.

Now you know I’m always keeping an eye out for furniture inspiration, and I found some in the candle making building.

Isn’t that an awesome chippy cupboard?  I love the zinc top that is nailed all around the edge.

Despite missing the azaleas, I enjoyed visiting Middleton Place.  However, if you’re looking for a more traditional visit to a “plantation” while in the south, this may not fill the bill.  There are a few other options in the area including Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantation.

Do you have any recommendations to share with others?  If so, be sure to leave a comment and let us know!

fake it till you make it.

I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that I am a bit of a floral snob.  Fake flowers just don’t cut it for me.  Especially the ones that people put outside in pots when everyone knows that hydrangeas aren’t blooming in Minnesota in May, and geraniums don’t survive here in January.

However, a recent trip to Bachman’s (my local nursery/florist) really made me rethink my aversion to faux stems.

As you locals already know, here in Minnesota it’s still too early for gardening.  Today’s forecast calls for a low of 25.  Ugh.  After seeing all of those gorgeous window boxes in Charleston, I just really needed to splurge on something green and pretty though.  So I decided to head to Bachman’s for some pansies.

Pansies are a cold hearty plant.  They can tolerate temps down to around 25, although if it’s going to be much lower than that you should cover them (I’ll throw old bed sheets over mine if the temps get any lower).  This makes them a great choice for us northern gardeners who just want to have something growing in early spring (and P.S. locals, they were 50% off at Bachman’s last Friday, not sure if they still are on sale this week though).

I found my pansies at Bachman’s, but I also found something else that I wasn’t really expecting; a huge selection of faux flower stems.

And honestly, I thought they weren’t at all fakey looking.  Plus they had what I felt were some unique choices.  Just check out this fake astilbe.

If anything, it looks even better than the real stuff.

I guess Bachman’s is faking it till they make it with lots of faux options before true gardening season starts.

As a sidenote, check out those green lanterns.  That’s almost the exact color of the Sweet Pickins’ In a Pickle, or Dixie Belle’s Kudzu.  I am really loving this shade of green lately, and it looks like I’m not the only one.

Lately I’d been wishing I had a few more fake flowers on hand to use when staging photos for the blog.  All I had on hand was some fake lavender.

Which meant I had to go out and buy real flowers whenever I wanted to use them in photos.

Not that it’s the end of the world, but I don’t always want to take the time to run to the florist.

I’d been looking at the fake flowers at the various thrift shops, and they tend to look a bit tacky to me.  Plus the prices often seem to be weirdly high on them.  I’d also looked at Hobby Lobby, but the day I was there they weren’t on sale and the regular prices there are also a bit on the high side.

So when I realized that the faux stems were 20% off at Bachmans, and the prices were actually fairly reasonable (their prices are often on the higher end too), I decided to grab a few to have on hand as photo props.

Just check out these grape hyacinths.

Aren’t they fab?  You guys are certainly going to see more of them in the future.

I couldn’t resist this columbine either.

Isn’t that lovely.

I had to have some white peonies.  The season for real peonies from the garden is always so short (although this year I will definitely be saving some buds in the fridge for later, check out my experiment with that from last year).

And then I grabbed just a couple of pink choices.

Some ranunculus and some cherry blossoms.

I’d been tucking my faux lavender in a french bucket that I keep on the top of the cabinet on my front porch.  That kept it handy for grabbing for photos.

But now that I’ve added a few more stems, it’s looking pretty good.

I may just have to display them somewhere more prominent so that I can enjoy them on the regular.

So what are your thoughts on faux flowers?  Are you a flower snob like me, or do you prefer flowers that don’t require any care at all?  Leave a comment and let us know.

the window boxes of charleston.

First up, congrats to Jill H.!  I drew her name at random to win my giveaway of paint from Dixie Belle’s new Desert Collection.  I’ve got a couple more giveaways planned for the next month or two, so if you didn’t win this time, don’t give up.  There will be more chances coming soon.

Well dear readers, I have to confess that I have pulled a fast one.  Mr. Q and I were in Charleston, South Carolina over the past two weeks.  I probably err on the side of caution, but I’ve always felt it unwise to broadcast it to the world when our house is going to sit empty … well, semi-empty anyway.  Our cat, Lucy, was on guard duty.  And Ken kept an eye on Lucy, and things in general, from next door.

But now we are back!  And we had an amazing time.  So, fair warning, you’re going to see a few Charleston themed posts coming up because I took a lot of photos.  Charleston has to be one of the prettiest places I’ve ever visited.  It has a lot going for it, gorgeous old homes, stunning gardens, delicious food, and lots of history.

I’ll be sharing more on all of those things, but for today I wanted to share something that I saw all over the place in Charleston … beautiful window boxes!

As you may know, we have several window boxes at our house.  So I was definitely scoping out the various combinations of plants to get ideas for my own window boxes this year.

One trend that I noted in Charleston were window boxes that included some perennials in the mix rather than just relying on flowering annuals.  The lime green heuchera in the box below is gorgeous combined with pansies and petunias.

Here is another box that used the same lime green heuchera.

I love how they used a lemon cypress to add some vertical interest in the middle of that one too.  I may have to copy that idea.

This next box includes a deep purple heuchera that contrasts beautifully with the variegated leaves of that tropical looking plant (I don’t know what that plant is, so if any of you are familiar with it please be sure to leave a comment to let us know).

That box is a great example of using foliage rather than flowers to make a statement.

I would guess that you can keep perennials alive in a window box year round in the southern climate of Charleston (hardiness zone 8).  Unfortunately, here in Minnesota our winter temps get far too low to keep most perennials from freezing beyond recovery unless they are in the ground.  The rule of thumb for a perennial surviving winter in an above ground planter is to choose a plant with a hardiness zone two times lower than your normal zone.  Since the twin cities are a zone 4, I’d need to find plants hardy to zone 2 before I could expect them to survive the winter in a planter.

Of course, I could also simply treat the heuchera (or any perennial) as an annual and replant it every year.

I saw a few other options for more permanent window box plants, like boxwood.

At least I’m fairly sure that’s boxwood (if any of you know differently, let me know).  There aren’t many varieties of boxwood that do well in my area, so I’m not that familiar with it.  But I love the idea of underplanting an evergreen of some kind with flowering annuals.

Here’s another example of a box using an evergreen.

There were a few gardeners who were really thinking outside the box (pardon the pun) when it came to plant choices for their window boxes.

I love the use of cyclamen in this one …

And how unique is the use of orchids in this next one?

Now, I’m not sure, but I believe that big round leafed plant is a leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum).  Apparently this plant used to be considered a ligularia, but has been reclassified.

Here is it in another box …

I saw quite a lot of this plant growing in the ground as well.  Clearly whatever it’s called, it does very well in the Charleston climate.

I would never have thought to use a calla lily in a window box, and here it is combined with more of that lime green heuchera and some yellow pansies creating an amazing bright pop of color.

I have to admit I’m not usually a huge fan of yellow, but that combination is gorgeous.

I’m going to go off on a tangent for just a moment and admire the green color on those shutters and how beautifully it works with the plant choices in the window boxes as well.

Around the other side of this same house, they went in a slightly different direction with their plant choices incorporating some purple tones.

I saw window boxes with more monochromatic themes in Charleston too.

Such as this one with white begonias, euphorbia and bacopa.

And this one in purply pinks.

I was thinking that tall plant is a mandevilla.  I’ve only seen mandevilla’s as a vine, but apparently they come in a mounding variety as well.  Or maybe that is a different plant entirely, does anyone know?

The cool color scheme of this next one with its pop of blue pansies and purple Scaevola aemula combined with white alyssum and snap dragons really appeals to me.

You’d have to swap out the pansies when the weather becomes too hot for them (they like it cool).  I’m guessing that the owner of this window box pulls them out and puts something else in for summer.

I was especially impressed by the combination of gerbera daisies and kalanchoe in this next window box.  Those pinks match each other almost perfectly.

And to cap it off, this one was decorated for Easter.

See what I mean?  There are little eggs tucked in here and there.  It’s subtle, and I love it.

As you can see, everywhere I looked in Charleston I saw gorgeous window boxes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them as much as I did.  I’ve certainly come away with a few ideas that I plan to use in my own window boxes this year (you know, once they finally thaw out).  How about you?  Do you have any favorite plants, or combination of plants that you like to use?  If so, be sure to leave a comment and let us know!

I also hope you’ll stay tuned for more posts about our recent trip to Charleston.

rusty garden stuff.

Over the past few months I’ve been trying to stock up on garden items while out thrifting and I’ve managed to put together a nice little pile of things.

OK, wait a minute … the ‘Eat’ sign isn’t really garden related is it?  But I’m going to give some of the garden items a patina finish, and I’m doing the same with the ‘Eat’ sign so it got thrown into this mix.

Now that it’s April and gardening season is nearly here, it was time to pull these items out and get them ready for the shop.

If you aren’t familiar, Dixie Belle has a line of products called The Patina Collection.  It includes patina paint that has real metal flakes in it that react with the patina sprays creating a genuine aged finish.  If you want to learn more about how to use the patina paint and spray, click on the image below to see my how-to post.

Pairing the Iron paint with the Green Spray will create a rusty finish, and that is my favorite of the looks.

First up for a makeover is this stone pot that someone had painted in a flat black paint before I picked it up at the thrift store.

The flat black wasn’t really adding much to the pot, but it saved me the step of painting on a base coat before starting with the patina paint and spray.

I simply added one coat of Iron paint, let it dry, followed up with a 2nd coat of Iron paint and while that was still wet, I sprayed it with the Green spray.  Don’t expect your patina to develop immediately.  I usually give my pieces about 24 hours and then check back, but even after 24 hours the rust will continue to develop.

But if you feel like you didn’t get enough patina, you can always add more paint and spray again.

I hadn’t even noticed the cool details on either end of the pot until after I started painting, and a little bit of rustiness really brought them out.

Next up are these two items.

Both of these are things that could be used inside, but I also think they would be nice just popped into the garden somewhere.  So I gave both of them the rusty treatment too.

I didn’t bother with a base coat on either one of these pieces, although it is recommended for metal pieces that might continue to react over time with the spray.

Somehow the rusty look makes these pieces look more authentic to me.

Although I originally planned to give this next piece a patina finish, I ended up deciding it looked good ‘as is’.

I think the manufacturer did a pretty good job of giving it a faux mossy sort of look.

I have patinated a similar item before using the Green spray over the Bronze paint and it looked pretty fab though …

I don’t know … should I have done it again?  I guess we’ll see if it sells first, and if not, I’ll take it back and give it some patina.

And that brings me to that ‘Eat’ sign.  I really just wanted to play around a bit with adding some patina on this one.

I started with the Iron paint and Green spray.  Then I dabbed a little of the Bronze paint here and there and added more Green spray.  And then I went back and added more Iron paint and Green spray again.  That’s one of the fun things about this product, you can just keep playing around and dabbing more paint here and there and re-spraying.

This would be fun to hang near your outdoor kitchen or dining space.

I have found that exposing these patina paints to the elements just allows them continue to develop and look even better over time.  I did not top coat the rusty planters that I painted back in July 2019, they sit out year round including during our Minnesota winters, and they still look great.

However, if you would prefer to protect your patina paint job you can add the Patina Guard that Dixie Belle sells.

I have to say that I personally did not like the way that the Patina Guard changed the look of the garden pedestal I used it on though.

It adds a bit of shine, and takes away some of the textured look of the rusty finish.

But if you like that look, go for it.  I also think the Patina Guard is a good idea if anyone is going to be sitting or leaning on your rusty piece.  Much like any authentically rusty item, the rust may rub off on clothing if it doesn’t have a top coat.

Another option for a top coat would be any sort of matte spray sealer.  That would retain a bit more of the matte look of authentic patinas.

Have you used any of the patina paints and sprays?  If so, I’d love to hear how they worked for you.  Be sure to leave a comment and let me know.

Thank you to Dixie Belle for providing me with their Patina Paint products!

garden china.

Thanks so much for all of the fabulous comments on Friday’s post!  If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, I’m giving away some paint from Dixie Belle’s new Desert Collection.  You have until Friday, April 15 to leave a comment to be eligible to win.  So go back and do that if you haven’t already.

If you’ve followed me from years back, you’ve seen this before … so I apologize if this is a repeat for you.  But I like to make what I call ‘garden china’.

It’s a great way to use some of my stash of pretty dishes.  Especially the ones that are too crazed to be used as actual plates anymore.

Please note that it is not safe to eat off china that is crazed, ie. has tiny cracks all over the surface like the plate above.  Those cracks can harbor tiny unseen bacteria that no amount of cleaning can remove.  So, don’t ever use crazed china for food.

I simply add words that I cut out of adhesive vinyl on my Cricut to the pretty dishes and then use them in flower pots.

I’ve been known to do the same thing on other items too, like orphaned enamelware lids.

Or other enamelware pieces …

If you don’t happen to have a Cricut for cutting your own vinyl words, using the Classic Vintage Label transfers from re.design with prima work great for this too.

Back in the days of the occasional sale that my friend/picker Sue and I hosted, we had LOTS of pretty china.

We’re talking the hey day of shabby chic here.

I don’t have a stash quite as fabulous of that these days, but I did have a pile of floral china from garage sales last fall or recent thrifting.  So I pulled them all out and whipped up some garden china.

Most of them got Cricut words, but I did use a Classic Vintage Label on this pretty platter.

I’ve priced them ranging from $8 to $14, the $14 belonging to this fabulous ‘welcome’ platter.

That one would be perfect in a flower pot next to your front door.

I took these in to the shop last week, and I’m hoping to find some more pretty plates in the coming weeks to add to the basket.

One last note, if you’re wondering whether or not the vinyl words and/or transfers hold up outdoors, they absolutely do.  I have several plates that have been outside for several years and still look great.

In fact, my house number plate has been hanging outside all year round, including our frigid winters, for at least 7 years or more …

and it still looks just as good as the first day I hung it.  And yes, that is the same adhesive vinyl cut out on my Cricut machine.

Also, not to worry, if you ever want to remove the vinyl or a transfer you can scrape them off using a razor blade.  So, no china was harmed in the making of this blog post.

how to dress for cold weather.

I was googling up some good cold weather quotes to use for this post and I saw this one:

Funny.

I never follow that advice though.  If I did, I’d probably have to stay in bed for about six months out of the year here in Minnesota.

I was exchanging emails with one of my readers over the past weekend and I mentioned to her that it was 11 below zero here.  She’s from Los Angeles, and she was wondering if anyone goes outside when it’s that cold (yes, I’m talking about you Connie!).

So the next day, when my sister, niece and I decided to go to Como Park for the afternoon I was thinking about Connie’s question.  As it turns out, yes Connie, we do go out when it’s that cold.  Sometimes we even go to the zoo.  We just have to dress accordingly.

That’s my niece Kris, my sister Debbie, and then me on the right.  I have to mention, that hat I’m wearing is the warmest hat I’ve ever owned.  It’s fleece on the inside and faux fur and knitted on the outside, and you can wrap those furry tails around under your chin to keep your neck warm.  Super toasty.

I found it rather comical that masks were required even in outdoor areas at the Como Zoo.  Do you think Covid can live in sub-zero temperatures?  Does anyone know?

Well, no matter.  The masks were great for keeping our faces warm.

One of the big benefits to going to the zoo on super cold days is that you have the place practically to yourselves.  Pretty much none of the benches are taken.

Another benefit is that the polar bear is really active.  He (she?  I don’t know which polar bear this was and the zoo has three of them) was in and out of the water (just look at that steam coming off of him), rolling around in the snow and trying to get that frozen hunk of meat detached from the ice.

And also apparently posing for photos.  My sister took that photo.

Other animals that seemed oblivious to the cold were the reindeer, the arctic foxes, the wolves, and the bison.  They were all out and about.

But for those humans that don’t happen to be cold weather lovers, you can always head inside the conservatory.

Once inside you’ll find lots of tropical plants …

not to mention lots of people trying to pretend like they live in a tropical climate in January.  I saw one girl meditating in the lotus position on a bench in the fern room.  I’m fairly sure she was chanting in her head “I’m in the Bahamas, I’m in the Bahamas, I’m in the Bahamas” or something like that.

But really the main reason I like to go this time of year is to see the poinsettia display.  I almost missed it, but it runs through January 9 so we made it in time.  They had an interesting display for 2021 with red, orange and yellow ones.

The red one in that photo is a new variety called ‘Christmas Mouse’ because of its more rounded bracts that resemble the shape of mouse ears.

I love that they change it up every year, but I have to admit that this particular color combination was not one of my favorites.  It was very cheerful and colorful, but I’m just not a a yellow and orange girl.  And definitely not for Christmas.

As we were heading out after our visit to Como Park, all three of us agreed that our favorite part of the day was having the outside mainly to ourselves.  I guess all three of us are truly Minnesotan’s at heart.  Not only do we prefer cool temperatures outdoors, but we also prefer cool colors in our poinsettias.

a little june in january.

Well, the hubbub of the holidays is over.  I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who take down and put away my holiday decorations starting December 26.  Except this year I didn’t start until December 27, because I had family over on December 26 to celebrate my nephew’s 40th birthday.  He was visiting from Philly, so it was fun to have him here for his big birthday.

But now I have all of my indoor decorations down and stored away for next year.

As for the outside stuff, well, that’s a different story here in Minnesota.  We had some sub-zero temps over this past weekend and there’s no way I’m braving that to take down decorations.

Plus, the bulk of them are frozen in place under a layer of snow now anyway.  They won’t be coming out for a while.

So I focused on a few indoor painting projects this past weekend instead, including this rather giant toolbox.

I don’t think that photo above does a good job of showing the size of this one, but here is the toolbox along with a few of the other things I purchased last summer.  Seeing it in relation to the chairs puts it in a little more perspective.

It’s really quite the beast.  And in its original state, it was also quite heavy even while empty.  I honestly don’t think I could have even lugged it around when filled with tools (or anything at all for that matter).  When you opened it, two layers of trays opened up accordion style on either side.

As much as that was pretty cool, I asked Ken to remove them for me.  For one thing, they added considerable weight and for another they would have been nearly impossible to paint without resorting to spray paint.  They also would have limited the possibilities for future use.  Sure, you could have used it for your fishing lures, or your socket set, but as you’ll see in a minute, I don’t think the new look screams tackle box or toolbox.

After it was gutted, I cleaned the toolbox with Dawn dish soap.  Once dry I painted the outside in Dixie Belle’s Sawmill Gravy, and the inside in their Silk paint in a color called Hampton Olive.

I chose this color for a few reasons.  First of all, it’s very similar to the original color of the interior, so I was paying homage to that.  Second, I thought it worked well with both the transfer I planned to use as well as the Sawmill Gravy.  I wanted to use a Silk paint because the sealer and topcoat are built in.  I thought I’d save myself a couple of steps this time around.  And this was the best option out of the colors of Silk paint that I had on hand.  Finally, I liked the idea of toning down the girly-ness with a more masculine color on the inside because as you’re about to see, this one is plenty girly on the outside.

Yep, I went full on floral for this one, with a few cherubs to boot.  That is the bottom half of the June, Ode to Henry Fletcher transfer from IOD.

I’ve had this transfer for a while and I really wasn’t sure I’d ever find the perfect piece for it, but it worked beautifully on this toolbox.  I love the way it has a bunch of flower names listed at the bottom.

I’m guessing that these are all flowers that bloom in June.  Does Jasmine bloom in June?

I added the wording on the top of the toolbox from a couple of other IOD transfers.

The “Les Roses” section is from their Petit Rosier transfer, and the “Les Fleurs” wording is from their Label Ephemera transfer (and in case you were wondering, yes, you can layer transfers in this way).

Once the transfers were applied, I sanded lightly along any edges and corners to give it a more distressed appearance.

Finally, I added a coat of clear wax.

I don’t know about you, but June feels far away to me just now.  So I thought I’d bring a little bit of June to January.

You could store all kinds of fun things inside this baby.  Art supplies, gardening tools, hats and mittens … lots of possibilities.  I am listing this one for sale (see my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details), but I have to price it a bit higher than usual.  Those IOD transfers are not cheap (but they sure are gorgeous).  In the end, if it doesn’t sell, I bet I’ll get over it and find a spot for it at my house.  If any of you locals need to bring a little bit of June into your January, be sure to email me at qisforquandie@gmail.com.

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle Paint Co for supplying the paint used in this project.

one year later.

In preparation for my year end post, I went back and reviewed 2020’s wrap up post.  In that post I promised that you would see more of certain things in 2021.  Let’s see how I did.

Here are the things that I was sure you’d see more of in 2021:

Black and white.  Because let’s face it, they are classic and never go out of style. – Done!

This dresser that I painted in Miss Mustard Seed’s Typewriter back in July was one of my favorites in 2021.

But I also shared quite a few pieces painted in my favorite Dixie Belle Drop Cloth too.

Signs made out of old cupboard doors.  Now that I know how easy these are to find at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep making lots of them. – Done!

I painted quite a few cupboard door signs, but I think these General Store signs were some of my favorites in 2021.  And hey, they were black and white too!

Stenciling on unpainted wood.  This was an experiment for me recently, but I really love how it turned out.  I think you’ll see more of this look from me in 2021. – Hmmm, yeah, I dropped the ball on that one.  I don’t think I stenciled a single piece of unpainted furniture in 2021.  I did add a transfer to unpainted wood though, does that count?

Thrifted items given new life with paint, stencils and/or transfersI just love taking a worn out item and giving it a fresh new life.  It’s so satisfying! – Done!

I think toolboxes count, right?  Because I gave a lot them new life in 2021.

I painted a couple of tiny dressers in 2021 as well.

I refreshed a few other thrifted and garage sale finds in 2021, but I’m hoping to do more of that in 2022.

In addition to those items that I felt sure would remain in 2021,  I was also hoping that the new year would bring more of the things that fell by the wayside in 2020 due to Covid:

Great hauls from neighborhood garage salesBecause surely the awesome neighborhood sales will be back in business for 2021, right? – Well, not so much.

A few of them came back, but definitely not as many as I’d like.  We did check out one that was new to us as a result, Columbia Heights.  But as you can see, I didn’t have super impressive hauls from either one of these.  There were a handful of goodies though, so I shouldn’t complain.

Travel postsPlease, please, please let there be travel in 2021. – Done?  Sort of?  Not exactly what I had in mind though.

At the end of 2020 I was still hoping that our European cruise would take place in the coming fall.  That didn’t happen.  It has been re-booked once again to fall 2022.  We’ll see how that goes.  But we did get in a little more travel in 2021 than we did in 2020, mostly in the form of visits to my mom’s house and trips to Disney parks.

Garden postsEven if the world opens back up again, I still hope to keep up on my gardening. – Done!

I definitely focused more on gardening in 2021 much like I had in 2020.

And I’m looking forward to having even more time for that in 2022!

Home toursBecause everybody enjoys an awesome home tour. – Done!

OK, well to be fair, I didn’t really get to this one until the very end of the year.  Still, I think I can count it since I did end up sharing two home tours; mine and Amy’s.

Now that I’m retired, I plan to do more home tours throughout the year in 2022.  Those posts are fairly time consuming, but I’ll have time for them now.

And speaking of retirement, that is surely something that I did not see coming back at the end of 2020.  In fact, if you had told me I’d be retiring in the coming year back on December 31, 2020 I wouldn’t have believed it.  But here I am, and I plan to make the most of it in 2022, so I hope you’ll continue to join me here on the blog.

Let’s all drink a toast to continuing improvement in 2022, Happy New Year!

the garden Christmas tree.

Do any of you remember the free Balsam Hill Christmas tree that I found back in the spring?

The photo above shows my haul from the White Bear Lake Trash to Treasure Day, where residents leave items at the curb for anyone to take.  The tree is in two boxes at the back.

At the time, I knew enough to know that the Balsam Hill brand is generally good quality, and I googled this particular style and found that it was their most popular seller.

And it was free.  So I grabbed it.

It’s a pre-lit tree, and I had a sneaking suspicion that the lights wouldn’t be working properly.  Why else would someone be getting rid of an expensive faux tree?  So I can’t say that I was surprised when I got it all set up and plugged in and only about 1/3 of the lights worked (although I was maybe just a tiny bit disappointed).  None the less, I still thought I’d use it in my living room until I dragged it in there and realized that it was really too big for my space.  I’ve mentioned a few times here that our house is not large.  It’s a 1904 farmhouse, and back in 1904 they didn’t see the need for huge rooms.

At that point I debated just boxing the tree back up and putting it at the curb with a ‘free’ sign on it, but then decided why not use it outside?  I’ve done this before and really enjoyed having a Christmas tree in the garden.  So I lugged it out to the garden and Mr. Q helped me weight it down with some sandbags (crucial for an outside faux tree, to avoid having it blown over in a storm).

I knew that trying to remove the non-functioning lights would be a frustrating, time consuming exercise, so I opted to just add new lights on top of the old.  Then I set about decorating the tree with garden items that I already had on hand, including most of my watering can non-collection.

I didn’t attached the cans with anything, I just basically tucked them in between branches.

And by the way, I should throw in here that one of them has an IOD transfer, and one of them has a re.design with prima transfer, and both brands of transfer have held up perfectly on these watering cans that I leave outside year round.

Most of the decorations, including the big galvanized snow flakes, are just tucked in.

I harvested dried flower heads from the garden and tucked those in here and there too.

Along with some birch logs, vintage garden tools, and even some clay pots.

I topped the tree with a rusty crown that usually lives in the garden.

I really wasn’t sure how this haphazard approach to decorating the tree was going to hold up outside, but we had a fairly blustery storm a few days later and nothing fell down, or fell off.

So I think it’s good to go.

I do like the spot I put it in, it’s outside my kitchen window and it’s fun to see it out there, especially at night when it’s lit up.

All of the preceding pictures were taken before our big snowfall last Friday.  Now the tree looks more like this …

Still pretty, but a lot of the smaller details have been lost under the snow.  It does make me realize what a good choice those bigger items such as the watering cans and the big galvanized snowflakes were for outside though.

But I’ve been thinking that maybe next year I’ll put the tree in the photo cottage.  If I left the top half of the door open, you could see the tree inside there all lit up.  Hmmmm.  Well, I have another year to think about that idea.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the tree where it is.

Do you put any Christmas trees up outside?  Or decorate ones that are already there?