We’ve got two driveways and the banks next to the first one are steeply sloped, shaded and have horrible, clay soil. When we moved in 15 years ago, we planted several flats of variegated ivy on one bank hoping that it would scramble up the bank and cover it quickly. The ivy proved to be slow growing and while it has spread, it’s not doing the job.
We’ve planted vinca minor on a third bank and discovered vinca major growing wild at the other end of that same bank. It has mostly filled in, and is beautiful when covered in periwinkle blooms. Vinca has glossy, evergreen leaves and looks great year round. It is on the Virginia invasive plants list, but we haven’t found it difficult to control.
In an effort to cover the other two banks, I’ve been researching evergreen ground covers. The banks are steep enough that withstanding foot traffic is not a concern. This will likely be a multi-year project because both banks are large. The first one is 52′ x 10′ and is under an ancient, oak tree. We’ve successfully grown Solomon’s Seal there, but it dies back in the winter. The second bank is 125′ x 22′(yes, that’s 2,750 square feet!) and has the slow-growing ivy on it.
With such a large area to cover, we need a plant that is inexpensive and will quickly spread to fill in. Last fall, we transplanted about a dozen plugs of liriope as a test to see if it would tolerate the deep shade, extremely poor soil and root competition from the oak tree. Surprisingly, they survived and are thriving this spring.
This spring, we’re transplanting liriope from two other areas in our yard; an unruly border and the bed of black-eyed Susans. Aside from lots of sweat equity, this project is free. My favorite price!
Because the test plants grew well in our poor soil, we’re not amending the planting holes with garden soil or compost. With thousands of holes to dig, it would only increase the time needed to complete this project. And I don’t think the extra expense is necessary.
We’re transplanting the liriope bare root so that we do not have to move a lot of soil. This enables us to dig smaller planting holes, and to tuck the liriope in next to the tree roots without damaging them. We started by using a trowel, but switched to a hand weeder to dig the holes.
Until they are settled in to their new home, we’re watering the transplants daily. We’ll mulch the banks once the transplants are established. This project is slow-going, but we’re hopeful that this is the tough-as-nails ground cover these banks need.
Like most people, I’ve got enough stress and chaos going on in my life right now. Nothing I can’t handle, however. I’ve had a couple high blood pressure readings lately so I went to the doctor to get that checked out. Wouldn’t you know it, at the check-up my blood pressure was fine. The doctor wants me to keep an eye on it and also suggested that I try a ketogenic diet. So, I’m pinning keto recipes like crazy and dipping my toes into extremely low carb for the next few weeks before testing out full-blown keto. (Ain’t nobody got time for the keto flu!) I’m not entirely sold on this idea.
My hesitation with keto is: 1) All that fat. Blah. I like my veggies and fruit. 2) All that dairy. Dairy and I don’t get along. Right now we use cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese as a condiment and unsweetened coconut milk for most everything else. I really don’t want to increase my dairy intake. (First world problems, I know.) 3) I don’t mind using stevia as a sweetener; in fact I’m trying to grow the plant this year. But nearly every keto treat contains sugar alcohols, which gives me pause. I prefer a teaspoon of local, raw honey or organic maple syrup over a teaspoon of erythritol. 4) Mr. Arthurized Home is not joining me in this keto adventure, so I’ll fix different breakfasts and snacks for him like I did before he went gluten free. Again, with the first world problems. 5) What should I eat before and during running? I usually eat a piece of toast with peanut butter before a short run and eat a Larabar or Honey Stinger waffle during long runs. I have no idea how to fuel on keto. Some say you can’t do keto and strenuous exercise, others say it’s amazing for endurance sports.
The jury is still out on this decision. That said, here is this week’s menu:
Dinner: Southwestern Squash Casserole – My sister-in-law made this for Easter and we’ve gone slightly crazy for it. We substitute a gluten-free flour blend (not low carb) for the all-purpose flour. We also use 1/8 tsp of cayenne and leave out the jalapeno. https://12tomatoes.com/southwestern-squash-casserole/
Snacks: Hard-boiled eggs, Celery, Cucumber and Green bell peppers, organic guacamole from Aldi Pimento Cheese – Every good Southerner should have a favorite pimento cheese recipe and this is mine. I use Sir Kensington’s mayonnaise and finely grate the cheddar. https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/09/sauced-pimento-cheese-recipe.html Additional snacks for my hubby – Banana, Watermelon, Pineapple and Apples *sniff* I love you, fresh fruit.
I like to come up with creative ways to present gift cards and one of my favorites is giving a coffee card wrapped in a coffee cup. There’s no element of surprise about the contents, but it’s super easy and fun to do!
When buying a coffee card, I ask for a tall cup with a lid. The gift card fits down inside it perfectly.
For package filler, sometimes I use wrapped candies but today I’m using paper shreds. If you’re using candy, Lindt truffles are a pretty (and tasty!) option.
You can stop right here and you’ve got a clean, minimalist look to your gift wrap; or you can decorate the cup with messages and designs. Sharpie markers in bright colors work well for this. Another option is to add a reusable cup sleeve.
I’m going to make a cheater bow using two coordinating wire edge ribbons. I call it “cheating” because I’m not doing all the twisting and looping of traditional bow making. I’m using a striped “bow” ribbon and a sheer “tie” ribbon.
Start by laying the bow ribbon in a serpentine shape. The folds will become the loops of your bow, so make sure you have the same number of them on each side. I like to do two or three, depending on the length of the ribbon.
Cut the tie ribbon long enough that you can tie two knots and have plenty left over to drape nicely on the gift. Mine is two lengths of 15″ each.
Pinch the folded bow ribbon together in the center.
Using the tie ribbon, make a tight knot around the bow to secure it.
Then using the same tie ribbon, tie a second, loose knot to make the center loop of the bow. Fluff the center loop up slightly.
Trim the ends of the ribbon at an angle. I trim the bow ends pointing downward and the tie ends pointing inward, like the arrows below.
Adhere the bow to the top of the cup and you’re done!
We have five large Nikko Blue hydrangeas, and I’d love to create a long sweep of them in our yard. They’re planted just opposite my kitchen window and bloom from June through the first frost. Last fall, I layered them in the hopes of gaining loads of baby plants (layers) for free. I layered 20 branches and 16 of them have taken root.
The layering process is super simple and I hope you will give it a try. A note about timing: I do this at the end of summer, while the branches are flexible enough to bend to the ground without breaking. In Virginia, this means mid-late October. I’ve read that you can layer plants in the spring, but I haven’t tried it.
You will need:
An established, healthy “mother” hydrangea – ask a friend if you can layer theirs if you don’t have one
Rocks, bricks, small children or other heavy object(s) for weight
Shovel or trowel
Wintertime and patience
Find a healthy, lower branch of the plant. I select branches that are leafy, with no flowers. Without disturbing the leaves at the tip, break off the next lower set of leaves down to the branch. The place where you removed the leaves is the node.
Gently lower the node to the ground, loosen the soil under it and then pile at least an inch of soil on top of the node. Place a rock or brick on top to weight it down securely. Water the mother plant occasionally if needed.
Wait until Spring and check on your plants. New growth at the tip of the branch indicates that your baby plant has taken root.
Leaving the rock or brick in place, snip the branch between the weight and the mother plant as below and give the baby a few weeks of living on its own before transplanting. Be sure to water the layer baby daily until it is established, more often in hot weather. If the baby is very small, you might wish to delay transplanting for an entire growing season.
When transplanting small plants like these, I dig a hole about 12″ deep and 12″ across. Make sure the roots have plenty of loose soil to grow into. I like to mix in a little garden soil to lighten up our heavy clay soil. Once you’ve transplanted the babies, they will need some TLC. Water them each morning for a few weeks and then as needed until they are established.
I’ve only done this with hydrangeas, but I understand this works for other plants such as forsythia, rhododendron, azalea. I would love to know if you try it and how the process works for you.
We’re eating Easter leftovers for the next few days, so meal prep this week is super easy. I don’t think we will need five dinners, but two are simple salads that we can eat along side our leftovers. Here is this week’s plan:
Greek Salad – I left the black olives and feta out because Mr. Arthurized Home doesn’t care for them. This salad is just as tasty without them. We leave the pinch of sugar out as well. This recipe has been a favorite for several years and will be in regular rotation all summer long. https://www.spendwithpennies.com/greek-salad/
Breakfast for Dinner – Needs no explanation!
Snacks: Celery and Bell Pepper strips with Dill Dip, Cucumbers, Apples, Oranges, Bananas, Cantaloupe
“That’s an awful long way to drive for a race. I don’t know why y’all can’t find races that are closer to home.” – my 87 year old father-in-law
Settle in with an iced tea or other beverage of choice for
this tale of mountain adventure. Bonus points if you’re sipping from a mason
We’re always looking for ‘away games’ because the only thing better than race weekend is race weekend in a new locale. We learned of H&M through an online article and chose it because it offers hills for my husband and a historic route and unique finisher’s medal for me. We traveled with some adventurous friends, one of whom is a descendant of the McCoy family.
Williamson, WV/KY has just a few options for lodging, and those fill up over a year in advance of the race. Not to worry, there is a nice West Virginia State Parks Lodge nearby in Logan. It’s just over 30 miles away and an easy drive to Williamson. We found Chief Logan Lodge to be sparkling clean with beautiful, rustic architecture and friendly, accommodating staff. The views from the Lodge are amazing! We ate at the Lodge restaurant the first night and while the food was a disappointment, our server was fantastic and we had a window seat with a pretty, mountain view.
The second night there, we asked an employee where we should go for a nice dinner. He named Arby’s and Taco Bell in Logan. When pressed for a date night suggestion, he told us that we would fare better if we drove to Williamson, that “ever since they put in the by-pass, there’s no reason to stop in Logan.” His sad comment reminded me of Radiator Springs in the movie “Cars”.
Parking at the Lodge is convenient, which we appreciated as we hobbled back to our room after the race. A post-race soak in their hot tub felt amazing.
The race expo was in a high school and was very well run. We were greeted by Devil Anse Hatfield and Ol’ Randal McCoy and had our picture made with them. Packet pick-up was efficient and we were able to try on our shirts and exchange one of them.
We shopped the expo for awhile and then headed to the pasta dinner in the cafeteria. When I registered for the race, I inquired about a gluten-free pasta option and I was told there would be one. There was a miscommunication and the very apologetic ladies running the kitchen did not know they were supposed to provide g-free pasta. They said there were other runners looking for it as well. We found a nearby steakhouse and ate dinner there.
On race morning, we drove to Williamson, parked and rode a shuttle bus to the start line at Food City just across the state line into Kentucky. The store was open for the runners to use the restroom and they had coffee available. Devil Anse and Ol’ Randal were there for photos; the people-watching was fantastic!
The community pride is palpable here as is the Hatfield/McCoy family pride. When you meet a descendant of either family (and you will) they will announce that fact within the first few minutes of your conversation.
The Full Marathon, Double Half and Blackberry Mountain Half
all started from our location. None of the races have a time limit, and the
announcer at the start said “you have all day to finish it, but we would prefer
that you finish sooner!” Shots were fired (to begin the race, not another feud)
and we were off!
We headed out onto US 119 under heavy fog, which gave way to sunny humidity. A quick double back and we were soon running on neighborhood roads. Folks along the race route sat on their porches enjoying their morning coffee, cheering and watching the parade of runners go by. After a few miles of rolling hills we began our ascent up Blackberry Mountain. Running gave way to walking this steep stretch of the race. The course was open to traffic, and we hopped in the ditch at one point to let a wide load through. Just a slight delay of game! Once we made our way down Blackberry Mountain, the rest of the course was mostly flat with occasional, small hills.
There were water stops and cheer stations every mile with cups of ice, popsicles, sports drink and cold towels. We appreciated all of it; it was SO hot! The water stops were hillbilly themed, some outrageously so.
There are loads of photo opportunities along the race route. We stopped off at the site where the McCoy cabin was burned down in a raid by the Hatfields, the cabin where the hog trial took place, visited the Hatfields Miniature Horses and passed the banks of the Tug River where the McCoys were killed at the Pawpaw trees. After crossing the Tug, we took a short jaunt through downtown Matewan, WV to the finish line. There was cold fruit on offer along with water and sports drink. Ice-cold watermelon never tasted so good!
We rested awhile, then boarded the shuttle bus for the wild, mountainous ride back to Williamson. Our bus driver was so generous! She stopped at our parking lot, waited for us to get our shower bags, and drove us to the gym for showers. (We were glad that we packed towels and flip-flops in our shower bags because this is a gymnasium, not a spa.) Our driver was going to lunch, so she gave me her cell phone number in case we wanted a ride over to the finish line downtown. We’ve never experienced hospitality at a race like we did here!
After showering, we walked the few blocks to the finish line to find something to eat. Instead of the requisite post-race-cold-pizza-that-we-can’t-eat-anyway the H&M does things a little differently. Your bib is a coupon and you can choose from a list of restaurants that will honor it. We made our way over to 34:Ate which we chose for the Yelp reviews, and it exceeded our expectations. I ordered a Turkey Bacon Blackberry sandwich on a gluten free bun and gulped down (what seemed like) gallons of their peach tea. The cost for my lunch was $1.50, plus tip.
Next, we strolled the downtown area which had rolled out the red carpet for its weekend guests. The shops were open, there was a car show and craft vendors on both sides of the street. We briefly visited the coal house and then it was time for us to cheer on our friends as they finished the Double Half Marathon.
It’s difficult for me to put into words how unique this race is. I think it’s something you just have to experience for yourself. Why should you add Hatfield & McCoy races to your short list? For the opportunity to be a part of something special, and because the community pride in these mountains is the same pride of home we all share. The area truly is God’s Country, and these hospitable Mountaineers want to show it off a little while showing you a good time. This race is hilly, hot, humid and ALL heart.
My husband is crazy about rhododendrons. He loves them because they are showy, easy care and grow well in deep shade; which we’ve got in spades. I suspect he also loves them because in order to really see them in their splendor, you must be in the woods; his happy place. Last fall, we planted four PJMs and carefully tended them while they were settling in to their new home.
A few months later, we noticed the leaves turning yellow and falling off. It was an extremely rainy fall; did they get too much water? Maybe we planted them in the wrong area? Were they getting too much sun? We had no idea.
Shortly after that, we saw to our horror, that the neighborhood thugs (also known as deer) had come through and eaten the ends off every single branch of all four plants! They’d shown no mercy. It looked like we had wandered through the yard picking up sticks after a wind storm and decided to shove them into the ground instead of the burn pile.
Deerscouraged – Yes, it’s a word. I just invented it. deers·cour·aged/dirˈskərijd/adjective having lost confidence or enthusiasm for gardening in deer country; disheartened.”she must be feeling pretty deerscouraged”
Dejected, we paid a visit to the nursery where we purchased the rhododendrons, looking for a glimmer of hope for these little guys. The owner guessed that the wet weather had contributed to the leaves falling off. She encouraged us to leave them alone and wait until spring to see if they came back.
Well, this story has a happy ending (or middle?) because the plants have budded out and are blooming today. We’re hopeful that healthy leaves will return this year.
UPDATE: A few weeks later, the leaves have returned to the PJMs, they’re growing like crazy and seem to be very healthy!
My husband decided that his first full marathon should be America’s toughest road race, the Blue Ridge Marathon with its 7,430 feet of elevation gain/loss. I’m very proud to say that he successfully completed it, so we’re taking it easy on meal prep today. We’ve planned a few tried and true meals this week.
Breakfast: Berry Smoothies – Frozen berries (we like strawberries and blueberries), coconut milk, a banana for sweetness, a small handful of baby spinach and/or a half an avocado. Add ice cubes if needed and blend. If you like a sweeter smoothie, add honey to taste.
Lunch: Chicken Pineapple Curry – This is an easy favorite that we’ve made for several years now. It’s creamy and mild, but you could certainly add some heat if you like. Use one can of coconut milk if you prefer a thicker sauce. We usually serve this over cauliflower rice, or brown rice. https://www.5dollardinners.com/chicken-pineapple-curry/
Dinner: Bowl of Doom – Don’t let the name deter you, there is nothing ominous about this breakfast hash. Simple and satisfying, this recipe feeds two and you can arm-wrestle over the leftovers for lunch the next day. Or fry a couple more eggs, add a veggie side and you’ve got a nice dinner for four. I give the sweet potatoes a 1/4″ dice; and use either ground beef or Jimmy Dean Natural sausage, depending on what’s on hand. If using sausage, I do not add salt. http://www.vicariouslypaleo.com/bowl-of-doom/
Shepherd’s Pie Beef and Vegetable Filling: 1 lb. ground beef 1 T. coconut oil 1/2 c. diced onions, optional 3 – 4 large carrots, peeled and diced 1/2 bag of frozen peas, thawed 12 oz. tomato sauce 1 t. garlic powder salt and pepper to taste 1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated – for topping
In a large pan over medium heat, thoroughly brown the ground beef. Remove beef from the pan and set aside. Melt the coconut oil, then saute the onion and carrots until tender. Add the beef, spices and tomato sauce. Mix well, then fold in the peas.
Mashed Potatoes – Two real food options: Bob Evans Natural Mashed Potatoes are made with the same ingredients you would use at home; Potatoes, Milk, Butter and Salt. OR Homemade: 8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed 1/2 c. plain sour cream 8 T. unsalted butter 1 c. milk salt and pepper to taste Add the cubed potatoes to a large pot of boiling water and cook until fork tender. Drain the water and return the potatoes to the pot. Add the sour cream, butter, milk, salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher to desired consistency. Add more milk if needed.
Spread the beef mixture into a buttered 9″ x 9″ casserole dish, and spoon the mashed potatoes over to cover. Bake at 350° for an hour, covered. Uncover, sprinkle cheddar cheese on top and broil for two minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serve.
This dish can be assembled up to a day ahead of time, refrigerated and baked just before serving.
Cumulus Spiced Eggs – Such a simple and tasty dinner! We tried this recipe for the first time last week; my husband loved it and suggested that we put it on the menu this week. This comes together so quickly! I had dinner on the table in under 20 minutes, start to finish. I used two teaspoons of coriander, a jar of organic marinara sauce and added a smidgen of crushed red pepper flakes. I knew that trying to sneak goat’s cheese past my husband would be a step too far, so I used shredded cheddar on top. https://thestonesoup.com/blog/2012/07/24/the-5-most-common-dinner-mistakes-and-how-to-avoid-them/
I love this time of year because I get to select flowers for the planters around our yard and on the porch. If you’re filling planters too, I’ve got a plant-saving, back-saving, money-saving and waste-reducing tip for you. One simple tip that has four different benefits and might not even cost you a penny? That’s a gardening win!
Save your aluminum beverage cans or ask family and friends to save them for you. For gallon size planters you will only need 3-4 cans. For really large planters, you could use 30+ cans.
Then without disturbing the filter(s), start filling the planter about halfway with empty aluminum cans. Make sure that the cans are laying on their sides or upside down so that they don’t fill with water over time.
Carefully place potting soil on top of the cans, tuck your plants in and fill the planter with soil to about an inch from the rim. This is a great tip for people like me who tend to over-water plants. The cans provide excellent drainage so the roots don’t sit in water. The planters are easier to move because they weigh less than they would if they were filled with soil. You’ll save money because you won’t need as much potting soil to fill the planter. And it keeps the cans out of the landfill.
Note: I have used this tip very successfully with annual and perennial flowers; I haven’t tried it with herbs or vegetables. If you try it with foods, use fewer cans and plant shallow – medium rooted crops. Hmm. Maybe I’ll experiment with lettuces and herbs?
This Hoosier cabinet is a kitchen workhorse. It’s been a pantry, storage for extra dishes and large pots but most often it has been a display area for seasonal decorations and collectibles.
Several of the items in here have sentimental value; a memory tied to an experience, found or given to us by family, starting with the Hoosier itself. A gift from my sister.
This bird nest was part of the decor at my Indiana grandma’s 90th birthday party. The china belonged to my grandma in California and was lovingly shipped here by my aunt and uncle. Other items were collected over time from the flea market, thrift stores and yard sales. Some pieces are new, purchased at a discount.
The bunnies are new pieces, the leaf plates are a gift from my mom. The vintage table linens below were collected over time, mostly gifts from my sister-in-law.
“Chocolate” bunny found at TJ Maxx.
This apron was sewn by another sister. She chose cherry fabric for me because at the time we had nine cherry trees on our property.
The Fiestaware is a reminder of my Indiana Grandma and her colorful kitchen. She used Fiesta as her everyday dishes and had a glass front cabinet in her kitchen chock full of it.
These chick vases were found on a shopping trip to Dixie Pottery in Abingdon, VA with my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. They are new pieces with a vintage look.
This cookbook holder with illustrations cracks me up! If you need an infographic for how to hold a cookbook open; perhaps the cooking is best left to someone else?
My husband bought this little teacup for me. It’s hard to read the message, but it says “Be always happy”. I imagine the original owner drank her tea from it and her thumb resting on the cup wore off the word “always”.
The lemonade pitcher and glasses were a birthday gift from my sister-in-law.
Here are some tips for displaying your collectibles:
Decide on a color scheme/theme. In this case, I’ve used all pastel and Spring/Easter items. You could go with brights, all white, monochromatic, etc.
Group like items together. Odd numbered groupings look best.
Vary the height of the pieces on each shelf. Try to arrange vignettes of triangles and inverted triangles. This creates movement and helps to guide the eye through your display.
When decorating shelves or bookcases, group colors and stagger them from right to left in a vertical zig-zag pattern.
Most importantly, use what you love! From the outside looking in, this may seem like a strange group of unrelated pieces, but nearly every item reminds me of an experience or someone I love. And that is the real story of my home and yours.