Sunday, July 14, 2013

Low Light Flowering Houseplant - Clivea Miniata

I love houseplants but my house is not the best for the kind of muted bright light most houseplants need to thrive. There is nothing like an East facing window to keep most plants looking their best. My largest window faces North East and is quite dim in winter when the sun light moves South. So I am always on the lookout for plants that like low light conditions. 

Clivea in Bloom
Clivea Miniata is a beautiful flowering houseplant that fills the bill. In order to get Clivea to flower, decrease the light and lighten up on watering. Cool nights are a help as well. The combination of these environmental conditions create a rest period so that the plant can store up the energy it takes to bloom. 

After a 6 - 8 week rest period, allow the plant to get a bit more light. Of course if Clivea is in a North East facing window, this will happen naturally as the sun "moves" north in Spring. Increase your watering schedule and feed lightly with a weak liquid fertilizer. (I say weak because most fertilizers tell you to use more than is necessary) 

When you water any houseplant, use water that has been allowed to set out for at least 24 hours so that it can off-gass chlorine. (Funny how it's okay to drink the stuff)

The beautiful luminous flowers of the Clivea (also known as Kaffir Lily) remain in bloom for several weeks. After the flowers have faded, cut the flower stem off close to the plant. Even after the flowers are gone, Clivea is a wonderful plant with beautiful foliage. Dust off those deep green strappy leaves every so often. 

Clivea produces small shoots from its (rather unattractive) roots. Cut off a shoot and plant it. You may have to wait a few years for the new plant to produce blooms. This easy reproduction will give you the opportunity to have a plant to trade. I love free houseplants and trading is the cheapest way to increase your little houseplant community. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Shoes of My Dreams for $8.50

My Clark's shoes
Last year as my family struggled along under reduced circumstances, I did something that I swore I'd never do - I bought a pair of shoes at a second hand store. Previously repulsed by the PU factor as well as the idea of ruining my feet with the wear patterns of a total stranger (why, back in the day I wouldn't even wear my sister's shoes!) I suddenly switched gears and hit the ground running. 

When I was young, shoes were, as they are for many young women, a passion. But as I aged, shoe shopping became tedious. I bought a few good shoes for $60 - $80 at DSW; shoes that lasted for years and years. But as our income dropped and cost of living rose, it killed me to spend money on shoes. 

A friend confessed that she bought shoes at Goodwill. My locally A-list boss bought a pair of used sandals on ebay. I was frankly shocked. 

"You'd think nothing of wearing rented bowling shoes worn by hundreds of strangers, why not a pair someone wore once or twice?"

So I now look long and hard at shoes on the rack at my current favorite second hand shop, 2nd Ave. I scan the display for interesting shoes. Finding what I like, I inspect them for wear. Honestly, some shoes look brand new - clean lines on the sole, inner part and labels looking fresh and bright; that new shoes stiffness.

I wanted a pair of Clark's shoes. I just did. As happens to many of us, I fell in love 
 with a particular pair of Clark's. At DSW and several other stores that I visited in my quest, I found the ideal pair. But in black. This time I wanted brown. They looked like urban moccasins but with nice soles and cute little side zippers. 

And there they were, at 2nd Ave. In my size. In brown. With very little wear. (The scuff on the toe is my own and so it the muddy smear from my own back yard). The shoes of my dreams for $8.50. Life is sweet!

Update - sadly, on my last visit to 2nd Avenue, I noticed several pairs of Clark's shoes with prices close to $20.00. Shopping at thrift stores is not only a treasure hunt, but a way to save money and get a fine bargain. Used shoes, however the condition, are just not going to happen at that price. I hope that I am not the only one who feels this way and that they decide to take those prices down. 


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fixing Up Some Trash - My Free Settee

Settee found in trash
 I found this ugly little settee set out by the curb one day and carried it home thinking it would make a nice piece of extra seating when we had guests instead of the folding metal chairs with someone else's name scrawled in sharpie across the back.
It needed a redo, sad as it was, and I thought that I'd just cover the seat and give it a quick paint job. All sorts of fanciful ideas floated - silver paint with blue and gray fabric, antique white or French gray with a piece of grain sacking. Of course I put if off, stuck it in the basement with the rest of the projects waiting to happen.

Then a party loomed and I was in the mood! The fast, emergency chair redo went like this:

Rummage through the fabric scraps to find something big enough

Clean off the wood and wicker

Glue loose parts with wood glue (I just tied it all up with rope for support til the glue was dry)

Cover bench seat - wrap like a gift, tack, and staple (whoops, the bench seat was cracked so I just filled the crack with glue then taped over it)
Cover the seat with fabric

Spray the fabric with Scotch Guard

Screw the seat onto the frame (through the screw holes below)

Once I popped the covered seat onto the frame I realized that it looked just fine without a paint job. The wood that had looked so horrible was now perfectly acceptable paired with the attractive new fabric. 
It looks so refreshed!

I was so happy with the quick change!
My family likes it too! They want to keep it upstairs instead of relegating it to the basement to bring up for company. My son no longer accuses me of stealing chairs from the people whose names were on the backs of the old ones. 

Instead of sitting on cold metal, ugly folding chairs left behind (or purloined) my honored guests can sit on a cute little settee that I pulled out of my neighbor's garbage!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ice Candle

When the days are cold and the nights even colder, you can make one of these beautiful ice candles. Or you can make a lot of them. They are practically free! Brighten up winter nights or illuminate a pathway with these luminaries created with a block of ice and a tea candle. 

Here's how to make an ice candle:

  • Grease the inside of a bucket. 
  •  Fill the bucket with water.
  • Set outside, away from the house (it's usually a few degrees warmer close to the house).
  • Make sure the ice bucket will not be sitting in the sun.
  • After 2 or 3 days (depending on how cold it is) upend the bucket. The water freezes from the top and sides, leaving a  hollow at the bottom. 
  • Set the ice block on top of a couple of bricks, or raise it from the ground some way. You want it elevated so the fire gets oxygen.
  • Set a lit tea candle below the concave bottom of the ice block. 
When the ice melts, water droplets follow the ice walls down and do not drip onto the candle. 

Of course, it must be below freezing for this to work. Temperatures just slightly above 32 degrees F during the day should not melt the ice. If the temperatures are not freezing, or in warmer months, you can do the freezing in a large freezer. Wouldn't that be pretty in summer?

Ice Candle

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Beautiful Art in Every Day

Every New Year, I try to think about some way to improve myself. As many of us do, I ponder all sorts of resolutions. The problem with New Year's resolutions is that most of them fall by the wayside within a month or two. So this year, I thought, how about a real easy one! A resolution with little or no real commitment. Something that costs not one red cent. Something that will not deprive me of any pleasure. 

For the year 2013, my resolution is to look up at the sky every day. Go ahead. Laugh. But how often do we look up into the sky? Look at that photograph. Nothing special about the day. Nothing special about the area. Just a beautiful damn sky. In fact, I can't think of anything that could be more gorgeous and there it was, right over my own humble home. 
The Sky

You can try this yourself! Every single day, pause and take a good long look up. Clouds put on a crazy show. And a plain blue sky, one huge swath of blue, it's incredible and serves to show you how little your stupid problems are in the grand scheme of things. It's so relaxing!

Now I could make all sorts of demands on myself. I even thought it would  be a neat idea to take a picture of the sky every day, sort of an art project, something that I could easily fail at. But no. Keep it simple. Just look up. You may surprise yourself by realizing that you don't really look at the sky at all. 

Last week, I came down with a case of the flu and spend most of the week laid out on the sofa under a pile of blankets. Well, there goes the sky, I thought, then had the brilliant idea of opening the curtain! It wasn't easy. And believe it or not, there flew a Bald Eagle right over my house! No doubt about it, the big white head, the huge wing span. 

The beautiful art of every day is right there over your head.