How to Keep Your Cut Flowers Fresh

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and giving flowers is almost as common as giving roses to your sweetheart on Valentines Day. But let’s face it: that arrangement is getting expensive! Your $25 or $50 isn’t buying what it used to get her. So let’s make whatever you get last as long as possible.
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Luckily, I grew up with a mom that had a turbo green thumb. Her gardens were huge and things grew everywhere. We lived in a DESERT people, and she had fruit trees, flowers, vegetables, berries grasses and in her home she had orchids and other plants that people said were hard to grow. She has a Christmas cactus that blooms all year. So, when I need advice about plants, she’s the expert I turn to. Here’s what she had to say about keeping your arrangements gorgeous: If you have a bunch of fresh flowers start at #1.  If you have an arrangement already done start at #5.

  1. As soon as you get home, put your flowers in a sink and cover their stems with cold water. Make sure they can drink it because they might be in there several minutes.
  2. Fill your vase with half COLD water and half ICE.  You read it correctly, ICE. Think about it: where do florists store their flowers? In a refrigerator! So if you want your flowers to bloom and die quickly, keep at room temperature. If you want them to bloom slowly and last, keep them as cold as possible without freezing them. Thus, the ice water.  If you have any florist food stir it in. If not, it’s OK. What flowers need most is fresh water.
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  3. Now, back to the flowers.  Take a pair of SHARP scissors or a SHARP knife and cut about 2 inches off the bottom of each stem on about a 45-degree diagonal and strip off any leafy-greens that will be underwater. Woody greens like thorns don’t matter. Then put the flower in your ice water vase. If you have a mix of flowers, try to start with the largest flowers first, moving to the smallest with the greenery last. Always do greenery last.
  4. BEFORE you put in the greenery, stop and think for a moment about where you want to put these flowers. Ideally you will want the top of the flowers at eye level or lower so you can enjoy all the flowers as they bloom. Once you’ve made your decision arrange your flowers and add your greenery.
    1. If it will be going in the middle of a table you will want to put the tallest flowers in the center, the smaller flowers in the middle and the greenery around the edges. Some people like having some greenery in the very top too. You decide.
    2. If the flowers are going to be on a sideboard or in a place where they will only be seen primarily from one direction, then place the greenery in the back spread out kind of like a fan, then tallest flowers to shortest. This is how I’ve done my flowers.
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  5. Place your beautiful arrangement where you will enjoy it the most and keep an eye on the water level.  Add in ice twice a day and more water as needed.  On day three or four, depending on when your flowers stop drinking water, dump the water in your vase and repeat steps 1-5 as long as your flowers last. My mom has had hers last over 2 weeks! You should easily expect a week-plus.

A few more EZ ideas to keep in mind when dealing with cut flowers:

  • Tulips like to droop. Don’t put them in a vase with a top that has a drooping edge – they will only droop faster. Stick with a straight edge for them.
  • Roses are weird. You know that cut I talked about? With them you HAVE to do it ALL THE WAY underwater AND have the scissors/knife under as well. Otherwise an air bubble goes up the stem and starves your rose to death. Sad, huh? That’s why some droop over almost immediately and never bloom. An air bubble killed them.
  •  Your flowers will last longer in a room with cool temperatures. Avoid displaying them in direct sunlight or near appliances that generate heat. You’ll also want to avoid areas like open windows, heating or cooling vents and ceiling fans as they can suck all the water out of your little darlings. You also shouldn’t display your bouquet near fruit. That’s right, ripening fruits release tiny amounts of ethylene gas which can slowly kill your fresh arrangement. Who knew?

Well, that’s it. Now you can get that Mother in your life a gorgeous bouquet and know that with your help it will be worth every penny!

 

Using Neutral Colors Effectively

We’ve seen the 2018 colors and you want to re-paint but splashing Behr’s “Spirit Warrior” or “Life is Good” all over your walls is just not you. You’re more the … neutral type.

Neutral doesn’t have to mean boring. Neutral colors aren’t all “builder beige.” Today’s neutrals are soft greens, grays, and blues with black, navy and white used as well. They may not make the same dramatic impact as walking into a room with turquoise walls and coral furniture (thinking about being in the Bahamas here — those colors work there all the time) but there are some real benefits to having neutral backgrounds.

If the background colors are neutral then you can use accessories like pillows, artwork, lampshades, towels and shower curtains to add your color and style. When you start seeing red over all the red you have in your house start swapping out some pieces for another color that suits your new mood. Towels and throw pillows are a lot less expensive then couches and so much less time-consuming than painting a room.

I already talked about using gray and brown so we’re going to skip those. (See “Gray is the New White” if you need to catch up.) Those are the most common neutral colors but they aren’t the only ones. Most of us don’t think of a soft blue as a neutral but look how beautifully it works in this living room.

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Again, here is a soft blue with crisp white cabinets in the kitchen. Very nice!

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One doesn’t often see neutrals in the bedroom unless the home is going on the market. We want to make the bedroom space very personal. Here a soft rose is being used. It feels fresh and feminine without being overbearing. A great neutral to use in a girl’s room. – but wouldn’t drive the boy that might be sharing it with her crazy.

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This living room is using a combination of ivory on the walls and white on the trim. It’s unusual but it works.

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Most modern rooms have very white walls. This modern living room is using a soft green instead. It highlights the modern furniture, the plants in the room and outside the windows, and the painting on the wall.

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This is a favorite of mine. Using soft blush in various shades is becoming a top neutral. It’s warm, clean and friendly without being too beige.

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I love this photo because you can see the neutrals used in three rooms: green, brown and yellow. Great job in all three!

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I hope this helps as you think about your painting project for this spring. Please let me know what you decide to do.

My Thanks to the folks at www.diyhomedesignidieas.com for the use use of their photos.

How to Clean in THIS Century

So most of you know I have fibromyalgia which means no energy, sensitivity to chemicals, scents, smells of any kind, loud noises, and temperatures. How exactly am I supposed to get anything clean around my home? Very creatively. Since my ways would work great for just about anyone I’m going to share them with you:

  1. Stop scrubbing things by hand. This was an absolute necessity for me. If I tried to scrub my bathtub or really yucky kitchen counters (think after making waffles) I was in bed after less than 10 minutes. So after a great deal of trial and error I found this scrubber that helps me clean things.
    CUH Cordless Power Scrubber
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    Here’s why:  The scrubbing pad is AMAZING on tub, tile, shower, counters, etc. The brushes work great in corners and on tougher surfaces. The handle is very comfortable.  No, it doesn’t have a super-extender but I don’t find that it’s a bad thing.  I like the control of the grip where it is.  This has been a lifesaver.
    If you do like a telescoping handle the most popular kind seems to be the Hurricane Spin Scrubber.
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    I did try this one. I loved the power it had and the way it got into crevices and corners where other devices never seem to reach, like the corners of your kitchen floor under your cabinets. The downside for me was that it didn’t have a scrubbing pad and I really wanted one.  You might prefer the telescoping handle over that. I personally think these two are the best ones out there.
  2. If it can go in the dishwasher, use the dishwasher.  I used to think dishwashers were only for well — dishes. Then I saw I spring cleaning show where this guy was  putting EVERYTHING in there he could. If it was dishwasher safe and it fit it went in. He put in the brushes from the facial cleansers in the bathroom, the soap and toothbrush holders (assuming it wasn’t liquid soap), any vases, platters, fruit bowls, the organizers for the flatware, the drawers in the refrigerator, ANYTHING that was washable went in. While it was washing he mentioned that these loads don’t have to be dedicated. You can — and should — put your kitchen sponge or scrubber in the dishwasher every day to sterilize it.  Facial scrubbers and shower puffs should be cleaned every week (unless you LIKE putting bacteria on your kitchen counters or body. Just saying.) Anything that goes in with the dishes will be cleaned as thoroughly as the dishes are. Since they all get cleaned and sterilized let’s use the space and water as efficiently as possible.
  3. Update your cleaning cloths/sponges. I’ve been using green scrubbers and regular microfiber cloths forever. But I found this sponge that is a scrubber on one side and next-gen microfiber on the other and it’s amazing
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    I can clean, scrub and polish just about anything with this and when I’m done I just toss it in the dishwasher and when it comes out it’s ready to go another round with me. It’s so great the manufacturer claims it can clean with only water. I haven’t tested that part out yet but it does make me feel better when I’m in a hurry and I don’t spray as evenly as I should.
  4. If it’s not here you don’t have to clean it. For the past couple of years I have been working on – and encouraging my family to – remove those things from the house they don’t need and don’t use. The hardest barrier to overcome by far I think is emotional attachment. I had a wonderful professional wardrobe but after I got sick (well, after like 2 years. This is HARD!) I realized that my previous full-time career was never going to be a part of my life again. So why hang on to clothes that someone else could be using? Boy, it was painful but my closet is now half the size it used to be and there is that much less to worry about storing, cleaning and taking care of. Most of us have WAY too much stuff and no time to enjoy it or take care of it. So take a few minutes each week to go through a drawer or box or corner and see what you don’t need or use anymore.
  5. Clean what you can, when you can. When I was growing up Saturday was cleaning day. We all had our chores but that was the day we made sure the house was clean for the week.  These days I don’t have a day to clean my house.  I don’t have a day to clean anything.  Schedules are so crazy we fit in what we can. I rely on my family to do the heavy stuff – vacuuming, mopping (you’d be amazed how much energy those take!) and I use my tricks to keep the germ goblins away as best I can.

Well, there you have it.  A snapshot of my dysfunctional life and how we try to survive anyway.  I know from talking to my family and friends that many of you are in the same boat.  You may not have my disease but you have your own problems and they bring their own challenges. I hope these tips help you a bit and if nothing else, help you feel that you’re not alone in your struggles to keep your home and life clean and organized.  We just do the best we can — and that’s good enough!

Please let me know if you have any cleaning tips or other comments. I’d love to hear from you!

2018 Ideas for Home and Gardens

It’s winter and we’re looking around the house and yard and thinking “this could use an update!”

Let’s face it – 99% of us do not belong to the 1% club. We actually HAVE budgets and bills and timelines so tearing out everything we don’t like and starting over just isn’t an option. To help you know how to get the biggest bang for your buck here are the biggest trends in 2018 in home and garden design from the experts all over the world:

  1. Bolder Colors – unless you’re about to sell your home go ahead and get dramatic with those colors. Here is Behr’s 2018 color pallete:
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    Blues and grays are big this year with a few reds thrown in too. But you don’t have to keep to these colors. If you want a sunshine yellow bedroom, go for it!
  2. Mixed metals everywhere – move over brushed nickel, stainless steel and rose gold. This year just about anything can be used anywhere.  Black is big in kitchen fixtures because it’s dramatic and doesn’t show fingerprints. Gold seems to be the trend in bathrooms. Copper is seen everywhere from walls to sinks to lighting fixtures. If you see something you like go ahead and use it.  There are no rules this year!
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  3. Flowers anyone? – Florals seem to be everywhere. Couches, pillows, walls, bedding – there is definitely a trend to bring the garden into your space.
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    And speaking of gardens….
  4. Turning homes into greenhouses – there is a definite trend for more plants in the home. People these days are saying goodbye to grandma’s fern and hello to fun and functional plants like aloe, aluminum, indoor herb and salad gardens and creating terrariums. With all the benefits plants bring to a home this is a great trend to embrace. Just make sure the plants you purchase are child/pet safe if that is a concern in your home.
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  5. Wallpaper – this has been an emerging trend that is hitting big this year. Forget the tiny patterns and stripes of the 1900’s. Today’s wallpaper can be customized to  be anything you want. Florals are huge (of course) but so is using wallpaper to create an agate focal wall. Very cool!
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  6. Extending living spaces outdoors – our homes can only be so big so the trend is on making our yards more functional by providing outdoor living rooms, dining rooms and compact kitchens. None of these have to be big or expensive – in fact, this may be the best way you can update your home.
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  7. Groundcovers – there is a plant that grows in my area that has round green leaves and purple flowers in the spring. It has replaced about half my lawn. I’d love to say it was intentional but this is a horrible weed nicknamed “Creeping Charlie.” Why am I telling you this? Because the trend this year is to replace some or all lawn space with groundcovers – low growing plants that permanently protect the soil and look good. I’ve tried to pass this weed off as a “groundcover” but I don’t think anyone is buying it.Time to plant some phlox. It will look so much better than the Creeping Charlie!
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  8. Creating quiet places – the trend for water features is still hot, hot, hot but it no longer requires you to create a waterfall, stream and koi pond. The trend this year is on smaller water features, often homemade, in a place in your yard that is off the beaten path (if there is such a thing.) Adding a bench or chair may finish off this space and make it a place you would like to retreat to.
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  9. Edibles, bouquets and more – This year’s trend seems to be all about practicality. We are growing more of our own food. If you like fresh flowers in  the home you are planting tulips, gladiolas, lillies, dahlias and coneflowers. You are thinking about bees and planting flowers you love to pollinate. Plant milkweed for butterflies. Gardens are much more earth-friendly and sustainable this year.
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  10. Bring character to your space – gardens these days are becoming personalized, transformed beyond a lawn and border of flowers and trees. Homeowners are introducing unique water features, sheds, play houses, decks, gates, arbors — whatever you can imagine.
    whimsical-playhouse-garden-playhouse-garden-design_12188Purchasing many of these custom items can very expensive but if you are just a little bit adventurous you can learn to build just about any wooden item or structure you like.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these trends. If you’ve found inspiration for a project this year, please let me know. I’d love to year from you!