Easy Indoor Container Gardens

My daughter wanted to put in a garden. Now, this doesn’t sound so bad at first, but seeing as how impulsiveness is one of the symptoms of her disability I could see how this might turn out — she gets all excited and turns half my yard into a vegetable and flower garden then loses interest and I’m left with all the work of keeping it up for the rest of the summer and fall. No thanks.

Not that I’m against gardens – I love plants. I just know my limitations and I’m starting to know hers. So, with that in mind, I told her we would make her a great container garden for her room instead.

So, how did we do this?

Step 1. What kind of light is her garden going to get? Her room had a window that was facing the east, but also had a neighbor that blocked some of the light. So, definitely a shade-plant environment.

Step 2. How high maintenance was she willing to go? Some plants can literally survive on nutrients from the air, while others require nearly daily check-ins. My daughter leaned heavily towards the former variety.

Step 3. How much space did she want to give her garden? We needed to think not just the container, but the plants. I have a ficus tree in a container that is older than my marriage (we will celebrate 25 years this summer). The pot is only about 18 inches in diameter and maybe 2 feet high, but the tree is almost 6 feet tall and about 4 feet in diameter. Did she want a tree or a tiny flower?

Step 4: What kind of container did she want to put her garden in? Her container needs room for soil and roots, plus a hole for the water to drain away in the bottom.  Otherwise, it can be anything. I have seen people use ceramic or plastic pots, boxes, hats, vases, coffee mugs – just about anything. What is her style?

Step 5: Pick the plants. Remember they will get bigger, so give them room to grow. For my daughter we went with a couple of simple ceramic pots filled with succulents. These need very little care, do well in low light and can survive with very little water – a great choice for her. The ceramic pots also help prevent water evaporation. They brighten up her room and I don’t have to worry about going in and finding either a jungle run amok or murdered plants all over the place. It’s a win for everyone!

Send me some photos of your container gardens. I’d love to see them!

Outdoor Lighting

In my last post I told you about my parents house and their amazing back yard.  One of the things that makes it so special is the lighting.  Take a look at this arbor:


See the chandelier?  He can do this type of stuff because he’s a contractor by trade. If I wanted an arbor with a chandelier, well — I’d have to call my dad!

But that doesn’t mean we have to have our parties in the dark. There are TONS of options for the electronically impaired.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1.  String up some lights: there are a gazillion options to choose from – anywhere from soft globes to rope lights to icicles. Find what works for your style and budget. This one is a good starter option for most patios.
  2. Light your path: nothing is more irritating than stumbling around in the dark.  Solar stakes that charge themselves during the day and light your garden paths, deck, patio or driveway not only make your life easier but they do wonders for your curb appeal.
  3. Flood your back yard with light: adding in some floodlights make a HUGE difference to your back yard. It literally can go from night to day! If they don’t come pre-wired with your home, there are other options you can go with.
  4. Light your front step when you step on it: one of the best things I ever installed was a motion sensor light. I got so tired of trying to unlock my door in the dark! These are also great for just general security. The modern ones are set so they won’t go off if a cat or bunny hops across your yard but if a deer or a person wanders across your drive or up to your door, it won’t be sneaky anymore!
  5. LED bulbs are worth the price! As you shop for lighting you’ll see florescent, halogen, and LED. Florescent and halogen are very energy efficient but nothing compared to LED. These use so little energy that in come cases they will last the life of the fixture. They are more expensive but you will save so much more on your energy bill it’s totally worth it.

I’d love to see examples of your outdoor lighting. What works best for you?

Making the Most of Your Bathroom Storage

I don’t know about you, but my bathroom items reproduce when I’m not looking. My shampoo and shower gel bottles give birth to smaller conditioner babies. On my counters, extra toothbrushes just magically appear. Contact lens solutions, eye drops, cotton balls — where do all of these things come from? The only things I can’t keep enough of are towels and toilet paper.  Those disappear every couple of days no matter what I do. Well, did. I have found a few solutions I’m happy to share.
  1. Keep only bathroom stuff in the bathroom. Medications belong somewhere else – the moist, humid environment is not good for their shelf life. Makeup is another item to store somewhere else. If you need to apply in the bathroom, keep it in a portable makeup organizer you can move back and forth and still access your items easily.
  2. Use every inch of space – especially vertical space. My favorite item of storage is an over the toilet étagèreThey come with shelves, drawers, whatever – but it’s a great place to store all those things you need to keep close by but off the countertop.
  3. I’m a huge fan of keeping all my shower things in one place. A shower caddy that hangs over the shower head can hold a ton of items, stays out of the way, and is easy to move when you’re ready to clean. No more digging soap bars out of corners!
  4. Toilet paper is something everyone is always running out of, so I upgraded to a coreless kind that stores use. You have to buy a special dispenser that cost about $2, but the good news is a case of this stuff lasts my family bathroom well over 6 months. I NEVER think about panicking when severe weather is coming!
  5. The last item that we never seem to have enough of are towels. I do an entire load of them, fill the linen closet, and in two days they are all gone — with very few in the hamper. Is there a black hole just for towels I don’t know about?  My solution – for now – has been to color coordinate my towels for each member of the family. My youngest son has a set of blue towels, my daughter gets red, and so on. This way, when they are yelling they don’t have a towel at least I can yell back that it’s their own fault for losing them.  If someone else has a better solution I’d love to hear it.  Thanks!

With one bathroom that has to work for four people these tips have saved my sanity – mostly. I hope some of them will work for you!

Updating Your Floors with Hard Surfaces

Several years ago we added on to our tiny kitchen.  Our new area was a dining / multi purpose room that included a laundry area and walk-in pantry.  Our old kitchen had about five layers of vinyl flooring (the home was built in 1954) and we wanted something new for our updated kitchen and extended room.

These days, just about every room’s floor is being replaced with a hard surface.  They are easier to clean, don’t attract allergens, don’t stain nearly as easily as wall-to-wall carpeting, and typically last much longer.  Back then, we had a few choices for hard surfaces that were reasonably priced and we thought appropriate for the kitchen.  We chose hardwood. Now, you have oodles of options:

  1.  Wood:  This is the old standard, but even here you now have tons of choices.  Do you want unfinished, nailed down, old fashioned?  How about pre-finished floating that you glue together?  Or engineered wood that that you can click together?
  2. Laminates:  these used to be really flimsy, with owners complaining that they were hard on the feet and noisy.  The updated versions are much more quiet, durable, and with the right under-layer, softer on the feet.  They come in a TON of options, too.  They aren’t as expensive as hardwood.  Even though they may not last as long, they do have a pretty long life – between 10 and 25 years.
  3. Cork:  this is an eco-friendly choice that is quiet, easy to clean, and comes in a variety of colors.  You can also choose from natural, pre-finished with urethane or vinyl covered. It comes in strips or tiles.  This product is fairly easy to work with, so it’s a favorite for DIY people.
  4. Tile:  tile is incredibly durable – we’ve seen examples of tiles hundreds of years old.  it comes in just about any color, size and shape imaginable.  As long as you keep the grout sealed, it’s extremely easy to clean.  The downsides?  Tile is very hard on the feet, and depending on what you choose, can be slippery when wet (think dangerous for children) and gets dirty easily — in other words, do you REALLY want white?
  5. Stone:  stone has most of the advantages and disadvantages of tile, except it is natural rather than man-made. The good news?  It will literally last almost forever.
  6. Vinyl:  though still probably the least expensive and will last the shortest amount of time, this has still come a long way.  You can now choose from planks (can last up to 10 years) sheets, or peel and stick tiles (good for quick upgrades). There are almost as many options here as you have with tile. If you want a colorful floor, this is the a fun option.

I hope this helps as you look at options for your home.  Please let me know what you choose for your home, and what room you install it in!