Gardening Therapy

Since we have another 30 day quarantine under executive order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus through the whole month of April, I have been trying to think of ways to stay productive in order to stay sane.  Thankfully, we have had some warmer, sunny days here in South Carolina this last week.  There’s no better time to get busy gardening. IMAG1419 (2)

My first flower is in bloom.  It is a purple clematis that I planted near the front entryway back in February.  I know the picture shows a blue flower but trust me, it is purple.  It is cheerful to see it here every time I come and go through my front door.  The hostas and purple heucheras or coral bells are growing nicely and give the corner next to the walkway a shot of color too.  I plan to plant some boxwoods near the front wall as I don’t want anything to grow too tall there and block our view of the garden from the front porch. IMAG1420 (2)

My husband has been planting some foundation shrubs and trees. It has not been an easy job. Each time he has dug a hole, he has hit mounds of large gravel or mostly rocks.  Honestly, builders seem oblivious and careless regarding plans for gardens around new homes.  We have uncovered deep gravel pits within four feet around the entire foundation of the house as well as within four feet of either side of the driveway.  Obviously, these are the prime locations for specimen plants.  My poor husband has been diligently working each weekend for the last month. Each session only ends up with three plants in the ground.  We are deterred but are not giving up.

Here are some plantings so far. Hopefully, the plants will live.  We have tried diligently to improve our horrible planting conditions.IMAG1422 (2)

We found two beautiful Japanese maples at a local nursery. They are called coral bark maples. They provide winter interest as the bark shows off its pretty red branches throughout the cold months. IMAG1424 (2)Along one side of the house, I am starting a bed with a small maple and some dwarf mugo pine shrubs.IMAG1427

I have pots of zinnia seeds starting to sprout near the front door.  They will help me stay motivated as I can see new life emerging and the plants growing a little each day. They will provide a time marker, so to speak, to carry me through the long days of the next month.

James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.



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Creative Quarantine Cooking

Have you been missing your favorite dishes at local eating establishments? Are you unsure what to eat? I am like most of you. In pre-Coronavirus days, I confess to being  lazy at times regarding cooking.  Life often sped at a frantic pace. Too often it left me finding short cuts to meals and frequent excuses for spending money eating out.  Now that we are all under quarantine, there is plenty of time to cook and plan meals. However, we may not find what we want on the grocery store shelves. Where is that pioneer spirit of our ancestors? They survived much worse than this.  We need to develop creative alternatives and substitutes in our cooking.

Here are a few ways that I have gotten creative with my cooking lately:

One day, I rummaged through my freezer and found some frozen chicken breasts.  I daydreamed about chicken dishes that I enjoy”ed” in dining establishments. What made them taste so good? Cheese and bacon! So, I made baked barbecue chicken. In the last 15 minutes or so, I layered cheddar cheese and bacon on top of the chicken.  Voila! It was a tasty new way of preparing chicken!

I longed for delicious salads like those at restaurants.  What made them so delicious, I questioned ? The dressing, of course! So again I began experimenting, with salad dressing. I started by adding different vinegars from my cupboards to Italian dressing. It has made my plain old salads much more scrumptious, I have discovered.

What about that sweet tooth? That is an easy one. I put a store bought chocolate chip cookie in a dish then zapped it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. I added a scoop of ice cream on top, using whatever I had on hand.  It began to melt so I took a bite while it was warm. It finished melting in my mouth. Delicious!

I think we are onto something. What are some successes that you have had with cooking experiments? You share yours and I will keep sharing mine as they come to me…

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How I am Spending My Quarantine At Home

I have been trying to stay busy at home during the Corona-Virus quarantine. Two great stress-relievers I have found through the years are decorating and gardening. Neither are expensive. I enjoy repurposing things or using thrifted items for my home. I like to replace cushions, make pillows or window treatments with reasonably priced fabric found at a local fabric outlet. Also, I frequent local nurseries and home stores at the beginning of each planting season to see what new and interesting plant varieties are available to add to my garden.  It helps me stay positive when I am productive and I get great satisfaction in doing things myself.

My most recent decorating projects include some window treatments for my kitchen and office windows.  I found some inspiration for these on Pinterest.  I made simple swags with ribbons for the kitchen.  I found some Waverly fabric with a floral motif online.  I think the grey and beige color goes well in the kitchen as it matches the putty grey countertops. I like the updated look of the design in the fabric which is neither traditional nor modern.IMAG1408 (3)

I wanted to mimic some roman shades for my office but don’t need to raise or lower them for privacy so made the faux version. I used black and white ticking fabric from an old shower curtain that I already had.  This past week I decided to put something over the top of the short windows to elongate them and bring height to the room.  This is what I ended up doing when I unpacked these galvanized planters from my boxed décor. I had saved the black frames and decided they would be perfect to frame out the planters.IMAG1416 (1)

Next, I have been anxious to get outdoors and start planting a garden at the new house. The area near the front door is what I want to focus on first. It has looked pretty empty since we moved in before Christmas.  I began positioning potted plants to figure out an arrangement before planting them. I am slowly putting in a few plants at a time. Here is how it looks so far.  It is pretty shady so I am having to stick to things that do not need sun. Emerald green hostas and burgundy heucheras went in near the corner. I put in some candytuft along the edge of the sidewalk. I had this gate/trellis so I put it by the side of the house and tucked in a purple clematis so that it could begin to climb there.  This miniature birdbath is a temporary fix with a fern to fill in this empty space.  This weekend I added the planters and outdoor rug to make the porch area look more cozy.  I have a ways to go, but this is how it looks so far. IMAG1414 (1)IMAG1411 (1)I would love to know how you have been spending your quarantine time and how you are staying encouraged.  I welcome suggestions on things to add to my garden space or ways to decorate.

Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

What an appropriate scripture that I found in the bible today.  Keep praying and stay positive!

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The Tarheel House


The Tarheel house was so named because it was sky blue like the colors of our alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill. The original owner had been a graduate of UNC and had painted it this color.
We felt fortunate to have found this house during a bad economic time at a good deal. It was outdated in certain ways. It only had eight feet tall ceilings throughout the original parts of the house. The three and one half baths had old fixtures, cabinets and countertops. One upstairs bath had a jarring chartreuse green toilet and double sinks with navy blue laminate counters. The other two plus the half bath had busy floral wallpaper. There were five bedrooms in all with one master upstairs and one downstairs. A negative feature was that the laundry room was upstairs to accommodate the four original bedrooms.

The kitchen had an ancient original built in stove with attached microwave that I was afraid to use. There was an original Jennair cooktop on top of the tiled island. The nice feature of the kitchen was that it had a beamed ceiling, cottage-styled cabinets with vertically panelled doors and a big picture window overlooking the back yard. The almost acre sized yard had a park-like feel with an expansive lawn in the back. One side was wooded between the next house. The back of the lot was beside a creek whose bubbly waterfall sounds could be heard after a heavy rain. The down side of the yard was that the house was on a considerably sloped hill from front to back. Parking in the driveway was challenging though the garage was level.

The desirable features of the house outweighed any negative. A more modern master bedroom was added to the lower level at some point. It included 9 foot ceilings, hardwoods, two walk-in closets plus a lovely master bath with shower, tiled garden tub, vanity and his and hers sinks. In addition, features that attracted us included shiplap in the dining and living room, built in bookcases, a window seat, an office above the garage and a huge walk-in attic for lots of storage space.

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Living With Mother Squirrel

Recently, we have been living with my mother. We began building a new house last fall and had to finally pull the plug to sell the house we were living in to avoid an extended period of paying two mortgage payments. As of the first of October, our home is still not complete so we moved in with my mother.

It has been a fairly stress-free transition as we have an upstairs suite to ourselves in her condo.  We are thankful to her for putting up with us this long. She has not complained about the extra laundry, dirty dishes in the dishwasher and general invasion to her space with overcrowding of extra clothes and boxes to her upstairs closet and storage room.

She has rather enjoyed having our company since she has lived alone in her condo for around six years.  She has also been happy to have our Cavalier, Delilah, around since she lost her beloved Sheltie two years ago.  She has enjoyed taking her on walks and is slowly beginning to spoil her as she has made room for her on her sofa and has discovered her napping on her bed.

Although we have taxed her going to and from her condo to check on our building project each day, she remains a great encourager with a constant cheerful disposition and positive outlook on life. We have laughed together and at each other.  Here are a few of the comical things that have happened during our stay so far:

I have discovered old items in her pantry and refrigerator and have tried to gently encourage their removal.  From her “old-school” and thrifty generation, she resists throwing away things but at the risk of her poisoning herself, I have insisted when the expiration date is way over due.
One evening, I was trying to prepare something edible from items on hand. I decided upon a potato salad.  The mayo was “safe” but I wanted to add some pickles.  I discovered a jar of dills.  When I opened it up, the pickles were a muted shade of green. When I checked the expiration, lo and behold I discovered a faint date from 2008! Out they went! Another jar of pickle relish was dated 2014.  I threw them out also. I decided to do without pickles for my dish.

We have had several sightings of clothing articles hanging from odd and unusual places. One day I came home and found my husband’s shirt hanging on the back deck from a plant hook. At other times I have found my bras hanging on door handles in the laundry room. I have reminded her to please not embarrass me by hanging any undergarments on the back porch. She does not like to tax her dryer so she often removes things from it before they are completely dry. She misses the days when people used clothes lines but it is not allowed in her condo development so she has had to adapt.

As mentioned before, my mother loves animals. She has especially developed a love for squirrels. She saves stale bread and peanuts to place on the railings of her deck so that she can watch them dine from her kitchen window. They have become very tame as they don’t run away when we come in or out of the back door. They seem rather pesky to me as they gnaw on the deck floor when she forgets to put food out.
Last week we had an interesting experience. We drove up in the driveway and discovered a baby squirrel on the pavement moving slowly as if injured. Mom quickly ran to examine him. She prodded him off the pavement into the vine-covered bed along the driveway. She brought a neighbor by to look at it. It was not moving but was still alive several hours later. Near nightfall, the squirrel was still in the same spot. Mom decided she wanted to try to rescue him. She got a box and pair of gloves out of the garage. Wearing the gloves, she picked him up. He scared us by making a loud squeal. I was afraid he might bite her. He had blood coming from his mouth and appeared pretty lethargic.
I did not think he would make it through the night.
We decided to fill the box with newspapers and food. We placed it on the deck in a protected corner near her back door. We covered the squirrel with an upside down basket so that he could breathe but could not get out. He was safe from predators overnight up on the deck. We had done our good deed and prayed for the best.
The next morning when I bounded down the stairs to check on the squirrel, Mom greeted me. She had already checked on little squirrel. Miraculously, he had survived through the night and had regained strength. He jumped out of the box when she opened it. He followed her and tried to come inside the condo. She was tempted to keep him for a pet but decided it would be better to let him go. She was encouraged that God had nudged her to save the little creature, she obeyed and he survived and thrived.
Whenever I see squirrels now at her feeding station, I look carefully for wistful signs that one particular youngster has come to visit “Mother Squirrel.”



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Taste, touch, hear, smell and see

There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy life. I have been convicted lately of not taking enough time to slow down to appreciate simple things.

Life has a way of speeding up into a chaotic frenzy and bubbling over into a meltdown from stress unless we hit the pause button or unplug our devices.

I am guilty the last nine months. We have had no vacations. Fall, winter, spring and now summer are quickly fading away. Why, you might ask.

Because, what began from our good intention of moving into a smaller home to downsize and simplify life has turned into a long drawn out stress-inducing list. There is an endless list of things to do when 1. selling an existing house and 2. building a new house. These things include but are not limited to :purchasing a lot, drawing up house plans, choosing a builder, packing, donating, pitching, staging, showing, meeting with subs, shopping for windows, cabinetry, flooring, lighting, plumbing fixtures, creating wish lists, etc, etc, etc.

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! It must be noted that the Lord wants us to use our senses to experience His goodness( the other senses must be inferred as well.) Psalm 34:8

When was the last time I sat quietly just to listen to a beautiful symphonic piece of music or watched fireflies twinkle in the yard while listening to the sounds of crickets, or smelled the sweet scent of a rose after a summer rain that left its petals dappled with raindrops? Or savored a long quiet dinner at dusk on my back porch? Or run my hands through the leaves of a patch of rosemary and thyme then sniffed the lingering smell on my fingertips?

Here are a few images to help focus on the senses…..


Hear the tinkling and gurgling sound of water from a fountain.

Master Gardening1

Feel squishy dirt between my fingers while planting a flower in a pot.


Smell the sweet scent of roses in the garden.

Life is filled with challenges and I know that God allows things to happen one way or another for a reason but in all of it, we must still be willing to slow down to experience His goodness if we are to SURVIVE and THRIVE!


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Feeling Especially Loved

I have been feeling a little sad and discouraged lately but on this Valentine’s Day, God sent me a special reminder of His love. I thought it was worth mentioning as a way to encourage others who may be struggling.

This morning, my husband surprised me by leaving some roses on the counter with a Valentine’s Day card before he left for work. Before opening his card I got busy signing the card that I had purchased for him and decided to embellish the envelope with some hearts. I was going to deliver the card with some candy to his office later in the day. I drew two hearts with arrows then entwined two more at the top to symbolize how the two became one. Moments later I opened his card to me and read a very similar sentiment as the card that I had sent him. It reiterated that no matter our ups and downs, together we would get through life. What amazed me was that two identical entwined hearts were found on the front of the card. At the office I showed Ken the two cards. We both were amazed over our Valentine’s Day miracle.

I sat down to do a little bookkeeping while I was there and clumsily spilled some coffee that I had brought on my red turtleneck sweater.  I got a paper towel, dampened it and began to blot out the spill to avoid a stain.  As I blotted and looked in the mirror, I saw the image of a heart forming on my sweater. I quickly took a photo with my phone to prove the evidence that not once but twice in the same day I had witnessed a miracle. I took these reaffirming signs to be a message directly from the heart of God that His love for me is real and is quite evident during times when I need it most.



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