A How-To DIY Stunning Star-Spangled 4th of July Fresh Flower Arrangement from Grocery Store Flowers, Cheap! ($16 Bucks)

A Fabulous Star-Spangled Flower Arrangement for your Fourth of July Festivities…

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I love flowers. I was a floral designer for over a decade, and I think a home should never be without them. They just make you happy. I’ll use any excuse to bring them home…this week’s excuse is the Fourth of July! I created this Star-Spangled Arrangement for a mere $16 from grocery store bunches. (this arrangement would cost you about $65 (not including the vase) in a flower shop. I even managed to get a few stems free for a little bonus arrangement, but more on that later. Here’s the how-to for this one:

First, gather your “ingredients”. A vase of appropriate size, clear floral tape and a floral knife (available online or at most hobby shops), floral preservative packets (you’ll grab a few of these when you buy your flowers, they are free with purchase), and of course, your flowers. Here I am using one bunch (3 stems) of blue Hydrangea from Whole Foods, $9.99; a bunch (5 stems) of white Fuji Mums, $3 (on sale!) at Whole Foods, and a bunch (10 stems) of red Gladiolas, $2.99 (on sale!) at King Soopers (Kroger Market)

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The next step is to fill your vase with water, adding one of the packets of preservative. Then you’ll need to tape your vase. This is crucial to a solid arrangement! It gives the flowers structure and makes arranging them easy. First, tape across the top of the vase about 1″ apart, then cross over the other way (either a diamond or square pattern is ok, both work just fine) Then go around the outside top of the base to hold down your tape grid, making sure your tape goes over the edges of your grid, and tapes over itself at the end. This step is very important, or your grid will come apart when you start adding your flowers.

In this arrangement, I am using the 3 stems of hydrangea as a base, instead of the usual greens. I like this technique, it is a clean, modern look, and just 2-3 hydrangea stems fill the whole base of the vase and form a great structure to work off , as you can place other stems right into the hydrangea (they are great alone as well). They may seem like an expensive choice, but because of their size, they are good bang for the buck. Hydrangea can be a little tricky, as the stems must be cut underwater. If they are not, the stems suck up air and your flower will be a wilted mess in a hurry. Measure (by eye) where to cut your flower by holding it up against your vase. Cut the stems (with a sharp floral knife at a 45 degree angle) underwater, and hold them there for a minute, then place them quickly into your vase.

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Now it’s time for the tall stuff, the gladiolas. Start by removing any spent blooms as well as the leaves at the bottom. Again, “measure” the stem by holding it up against the vase to eye-ball where to cut, cut at a 45 degree angle (you don’t have to cut these underwater)  and add to your vase. Repeat this, starting with taller at the center and shorter and pointed more outward out from the center. Turn your vase as you work to check for “rounded-ness”. Don’t be afraid to place them right into the hydrangea, just be gentle.

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When you are happy with this stage, it’s time for the white fuji mums. Nothing says “fireworks” like a fuji! Remove all or just the lower leaves (depending on your taste, some people think fuji leaves are ugly) from the stems, measure your fujis, cut and place in the vase. Watch the “levels”, you don’t want your flowers all at the same height, stagger the lengths and fill in the “holes” around the vase. And…you’re done!

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A fun Red White and Blue arrangement, and everyone will be wow’d you made it yourself.

BONUS!

One of the things I love about Whole Foods is their top-notch customer service. If you are not happy, or they are out of something you need, they will often “sample-out”, or give you free, something equivalent. This happened for me when buying flowers for his post. They had one last bunch of white fuji’s, and it was short one stem (it had 4 instead of 5) their oh-so-nice floral lady gave that bunch gratis, and went to see if there was another bunch in back. There was! So I got my needed 5-stem bunch plus 4 extra stems free. It never hurts to ask! This is what I did with my Free bunch:

I grabbed my little vintage creamer and filled it with water and preservative. Then I clipped a couple fern fronds and jasmine stems from the yard, removed the leaves on the bottom (nothing fouls up the water faster than leaves), and added my 4 stems of fujis. They have a happy home here next to my “chalkboard chicken” in the kitchen.

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A Note on making your flowers last: The most important thing you can do to make your flowers last is change the water, daily if possible. This is where your extra preservative packets come in. Add one each time you change the water. Your flowers will thank you! Pull out any dying or dead flowers right away. You’ll notice some flowers last longer than others, and you can re-cut those and create a smaller arrangement from them. I’ll be creating many more Flower How-to posts in the future, so subscribe to the blog using one of the links to the right and you won’t miss a thing!

Have a flower question? Ask me in the “Leave a Reply” sections and I’ll be happy to answer it.

Find of the Week – Giuseppi Zanotti & Ann Taylor

It’s time for another installment of FIND OF THE WEEK!

This week’s finds come from Goodwill. Of course the biggy is the gorgeous pair of Guiseppi Zanotti red jeweled heels (only $6.39! These are a size 7, alas, too small for me, so I have listed them on Ebay http://www.ebay.com/itm/121134146969?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649 ) and a near-new pair of navy patent leather Ann Taylor heels ($8.79. I know, the Zanotti’s are far more valuable, but the prices all depend on who is doing the pricing of the items. I find the variations interesting!) The Ann Taylor heels are perfect for my Fourth of July Festivities!

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Find of the Week – June 29, 2013…Giuseppi Zanotti & Ann Taylor

So get out there and hunt for some treasures! I’d love to hear about your finds in the Leave a Reply section. Have a great weekend!

4th of July Fast & Easy Outdoor Decor on the Cheap

It’s one week till the Fourth!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love to decorate. Any holiday will do, it’s just plain fun. I did up the front of the house today for the fourth. Here’s what I did:

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Let the fireworks & BBQs begin…we’re ready!

Here’s what the front of the house looked like before I started:

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Front of the House – Before

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Front of the House – Before

I like things to be quick and easy, and reusable whenever possible. I’ve been using the same fabric bunting now for 4 years, and it’s holding up great. I have four of them and they are from Oriental Trading for $5.99 ea (they have sales from time to time so get on their mailing list!) I picked up the simple flags at Target, on sale after the holiday for a couple bucks, and reuse them each year. I grabbed the 8″ flag ribbon at a close-out sale for a couple bucks, and the “fill-in” white tulle comes from my favorite fabric source, Distinctive Fabric, and can be reused for other holidays. My tool of choice for this project was my trusty staple gun with 1/2″ staples for the gate, and 1/4″ staple for the fabric.

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the “Ingredients” – Flag Ribbon, 4 Pieces of Bunting, 6 Medium Flags, 6 Small Flags, & White Tulle.

I attached the 4 pieces of bunting first, just eye-balling the spacing. Then I filled in the spaces in between with a large square of white tulle, bunched up at the ends and draped. Then I added the same white tulle to the gate, stapled the 6 small flags onto the gate, and placed the medium flags in the two pots up on the patio. The 8″ wired flag ribbon I tied up in multiple bows and simple hooked on a cup hook on the front door. That’s it! Easy-peasy, and only took about a half-hour. I’m sure I’ll add more bunting in the future as budget allows, but for now, this is fun and festive, and best of all, since I already had everything it didn’t cost a dime (original cost for everything 4 years ago was about $30)

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Front of the House, Ready for the Fourth

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Front of the House, Ready for the Fourth, Side View

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Front of the House, Ready for the Fourth – Gate

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Here’s how I attached the flags – 6 staple and a steady hand.

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Front of the House, Ready for the Fourth – Porch

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Happy Fourth Everyone!

I’ll be doing more Fourth of July Posts this week, so SUBSCRIBE to this blog (links in the sidebar)and you won’t miss a Patriotic thing.

How are you decorating for the Fourth? I’d love to know! Tell me in the comments section.

Easiest. Bread. Ever. Part 2. Rustico Olive Bread Recipe. So good, even you won’t believe you baked it…

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Rustico Olive Bread – Baked, Sliced, and Ready to Devour

 

(adapted from the New York Times No-Knead Bread Recipe)

I’ve been making the Simple Bread Recipe for months now, and wanted to try some new versions. I made this Rustic Olive Bread last weekend, and it came out fantastic! Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
2 Cups Bread Flour, plus extra for dusting
1 Cup Wheat Bread Flour
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast (yes, only 1/4 tsp!)
1/2 cup Sliced Pitted Olives, preferably Greek or Sicilian
1/2 tsp Salt
Cornmeal
A cotton kitchen towel (no terry cloth, or you’ll have a huge mess on your hands!)
(Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf)

The actual labor on this bread is about 30 minutes, but here’s the rub: it has to rise 12-18 hours. I usually mix it up in the afternoon, let it rise over night, then finish it the next morning. You just have to plan ahead a tad.

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Olives Sliced and Ready to go in the Mix

1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups tepid water (about 115-120 degrees), 1/2 cup sliced olives, (I used a combination of Greek & Sicilian Olives from the Whole Foods Olive Bar, and sliced them myself) and here’s my big secret, add about a Tablespoon of the oily olive water. (If you choose not to do this, up the water to 1 5/8 cup and the salt to 1 tsp) Mix the ingredients together until the all the dough is incorporated and it looks “shaggy”. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place (70 degrees-ish) undisturbed for 12-18 hours.

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Mixed and Ready to Rest for 12-18 Hours

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Doubled in Size and Bubbly after Rising

2. When the surface of the dough is all bubbly, you’re ready for the next step. Lightly flour a work surface (I use a large wood cutting board) and roll the dough out onto it, and sprinkle it with more flour. Roll the dough over on itself a couple times, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit about 15 minutes.

3. Using enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, gently roll the dough into a ball (don’t get too crazy, just a ball-ish shape is good enough) Now coat the towel really, really well with the cornmeal (regular flour works as well. I like to use a combination of both flour and cornmeal) Place your dough ball on the towel, coat with some more of the flour and/or cornmeal. Cover with another towel (or if the towel is large, fold it loosely over the dough) and let it rise for 2 more hours. I find it easier to then put the towel full of dough in a large pot, preferably the one you are going to bake in. (you’ll see why in a minute) When the dough has about doubled in size it’s ready to bake.

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After Second Rising, Ready to Bake

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Going in the Oven…

4. About a half hour before your dough is ready, pre-heat the oven to 450. Now here you have two options. Option 1: Place whatever you are going to bake the bread in the oven and heat it up. (use a heavy baking dish or pot. Cast iron. enamel, pyrex or ceramic) When the oven reaches temperature, just slide your hand under the dough and flop it over into the pot. It’s ok if goes in messy, just shake a bit to straighten it out, and it will straighten out the rest of way as it bakes. Option 2: Just pull the towel out and flop the bread gently back into the pot it was rising in. Honestly, I have done this both ways, (pot pre-heated and not) and I see very little difference. Cover the pot with it’s lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes until loaf is nicely browned. Remove the loaf from the pot and let cool for at least 10 minutes on a wire rack. (this is the hard part, it smells so good you’ll want to dig right in! But your loaf is still baking on the inside, so let it cool)

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Cooling on the Rack – Golden Brown Deliciousness

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Rustico Olive Bread – Baked, Sliced, and Ready to Devour

Note: This recipe works great even at altitude, and I find up here at mile-high I do need to bake for the full hour. Things just take a little longer up here.

* Depending where you buy your flour, your olive loaf will cost $1-about $1.50 a loaf. I buy organic flour at Costco in bulk and the biggest yeast I can find, so my loaves are on the cheaper side.

Easiest. Bread. Ever…A Simple Bread Recipe that will make you look like a Hero. Or at least, a baker.

Easiest. Bread. Ever.
(adapted from New York Times No-Knead Bread Recipe)
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When I first saw this recipe, I was skeptical. No kneading? Seriously? But it’s true. It’s simple, easy, and delicious. Not to mention, costs about .50 a loaf* The same loaf at Whole Foods would cost you about $4.50. Make it, and you’ll look like a hero.

Ingredients:
3 Cups Bread Flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast (yes, only 1/4 tsp!)
1 1/4 tsp Salt
Cornmeal
A cotton kitchen towel (no terry cloth, or you’ll have a huge mess on your hands!)
(Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf)

breadingredients

The actual labor on this bread is about 30 minutes, but here’s the rub: it has to rise 12-18 hours. I usually mix it up in the afternoon, let it rise over night, then finish it the next morning. You just have to plan ahead a tad.

1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 5/8 cup tepid water (about 115-120 degrees). Mix the ingredients together until the all the dough is incorporated and it looks “shaggy”. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place (70 degrees-ish) undisturbed for 12-18 hours.

breadmix1 breadmix breadcovered

2. When the surface of the dough is all bubbly, you’re ready for the next step. Lightly flour a work surface (I use a large wood cutting board) and roll the dough out onto it, and sprinkle it with more flour. Roll the dough over on itself a couple times, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit about 15 minutes.

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3. Using enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, gently roll the dough into a ball (don’t get too crazy, just a ball-ish shape is good enough) Now coat the towel really, really well with the cornmeal (regular flour works as well. I like to use a combination of both flour and cornmeal) Place your dough ball on the towel, coat with some more of the flour and/or cornmeal. Cover with another towel (or if the towel is large, fold it loosely over the dough) and let it rise for 2 more hours. I find it easier to then put the towel full of dough in a large pot, preferably the one you are going to bake in. (you’ll see why in a minute) When the dough has about doubled in size it’s ready to bake.

breadflopintopot breadreadytobake

4. About a half hour before your dough is ready, pre-heat the oven to 450. Now here you have two options. Option 1: Place whatever you are going to bake the bread in the oven and heat it up. (use a heavy baking dish or pot. Cast iron. enamel, pyrex or ceramic) When the oven reaches temperature, just slide your hand under the dough and flop it over into the pot. It’s ok if goes in messy, just shake a bit to straighten it out, and it will straighten out the rest of way as it bakes. Option 2: Just pull the towel out and flop the bread gently back into the pot it was rising in. Honestly, I have done this both ways, (pot pre-heated and not) and I see very little difference. Cover the pot with it’s lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes until loaf is nicely browned. Remove the loaf from the pot and let cool for at least 10 minutes on a wire rack. (this is the hard part, it smells so good you’ll want to dig right in! But your loaf is still baking on the inside, so let it cool)

breadbaked breadsliced

Note: This recipe works great even at altitude, and I find up here at mile-high I do need to bake for the full hour. Things just take a little longer up here.

* Depending where you buy your flour, your loaf will cost .50-about $1 a loaf. I buy organic flour at Costco in bulk and the biggest yeast I can find, so my loaves are on the cheaper side.

Use What You Have, Get What You Can…A Free Garden Make-over, Before & After (+ 2-Month Update)

2-Month UPDATE! (see original post below)

The Garden Make-over in the front of the house is now two months old, and it’s filling in nicely. About a month after I posted this, a friend gave me some hardy strawberry plants and a few Datura from her overgrown garden, which I added into the front planting. The day-lilies haven’t grown much, but they are alive and well and I am confident they will come in great and bloom next year. The chicks-n-hens, fool-proof little darlings of the garden that they are, are getting bigger and sending out lots of babies already. Most of the plants that I divided and re-planted are doing well (I did lose one or two vinca transplants). I admit to spending $8 on some pansies to add a little color, and I may get a few more (on sale at Home Depot for $1.99 a 4-pack!) but to date that is all I have spent on the ground planting. The biggest delight has been the  Nicotiana sylvestris that I got for the pots by the front gate. They’ve gotten HUGE! 3-4 feet tall and flowering like crazy. I did pay $7.50 each for these 2 plants (4″ pots when I bought them) at Country Gardens, but they have been worth every penny. Only $7.50 to fill a big pot? Awesome. They grew FAST and filled in the pot in less than a month, then they just got crazy tall. I am collecting seeds to start more for next year. (you can see the Nicotiana in the before and after picks below.) And, I added a nice little birdhouse I snagged for $2 at a yard sale to the top of the tree stump to the left.

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Front Yard Project – Today, 2 Months Later

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Front Yard Project – When First Completed 2 Months Ago

Here are a few more images of the front:

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I do hope to add some more color soon, maybe more pansies, and some ornamental kale or cabbage for the Fall would be nice…

____________________________________________________________________________

Here is the Original Post:

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Front Yard Project – After

I’ve been itching to fix up the front part of our yard (as you can see in the picture below, it was a MESS!), but was waiting to have some extra funds, which just isn’t happening, so I got creative!

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Front Yard – Before (yikes!)

I started with the pruning. The tree on the left was overgrown, and the poor forsythia bush on the right was half-dead and in desperate need of a heavy chopping. Then I pulled out all the weeds, thinned the overgrown plants, and divided the existing vinca to spread them out. Next came the digging…

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Thinned out, weeded, and ready to dig…

As you can see here, the terracing had been started (on the left) but never finished. So I took my trusty shovel and and finished the digging, then I relocated some big rocks from other parts of the yard to finish off the terracing. I had a big stack of terra cotta saucers (another free alley find) in the garden shed that I’d been looking for a use for, and decided to add them as a decorative element on the bottom row. Next came the planting…

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Almost there, time to plant!

I had been scouring Freecycle and Craigslist for free plants (both great sources of usable freebies!) and was lucky enough to find a super nice lady giving away a bunch of day lily divisions and a couple rudbeckia as well (those went to another part of the yard). The day lilies are perfect for this part of the yard, as they do well with any soil and are drought-tolerant for our arid Colorado climate. So I took all the day lilies and the divisions of vinca I dug up earlier, as well as some extra chicks and hens from the back part of the front yard (they’ve been growing like crazy this year!) and replanted them. It’s looking good! It will look great once the plants grow and fill in. So using entirely what I had, and some gifted plants through Freecycle, I have a new yard, free! The whole project took about 5 hours. I do hope to come across some flowering plants to add in this area, or perhaps a really good sale on some pretty annuals. I will update this post as I find new goodies and add to the yard.

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Front Yard Project – Completed

Do check out Freecycle, the Free listings on Craigslist, and even posts on Facebook and Twitter as sources for free garden plants. People do a lot of dividing in the garden this time of year, and most want to find good home for their plants. Happy hunting!

Did you do a gardening project over the weekend? I’d love to see it! Tell me about it in the comments section.

Found (Free!) Vintage Folding Chair Fast Restyle Make-over

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Vintage Folding Chairs RESTYLED

I’m always amazed at what people throw out. I found these cute vintage wooden folding chairs next to a dumpster on one of our daily walks a few weeks ago. They still function great, and considering they were made in 1964, look great too. There was a little wear on the finish, what looked like water stains on the bottom of a couple legs, and ugly fabric covering the seats.

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Vinatge Folding Chairs BEFORE: Cute, but in need of a little help.

I liked the light wood finish (it works well in the living room) so I didn’t want to do too much on the chairs. I first removed the seats (super easy, just 4 screws in each) and gave the chairs a light sanding with fine sandpaper. I wanted to cover up the stains on the bottoms of the legs, so I decided to give the chairs “socks” by painting the bottom 6″ of the legs white (of course I could have used any color, I choose white to keep them looking “light”). I just measured up 6″, marked the measurement with a pencil, and used blue painter’s tape to mask it off. I had some white semi-gloss latex paint on hand, and used 2 coats of it. I also covered the seats using a staple gun and a couple scraps of magenta Ultrasuede I had leftover from another project.

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Covering the Seats with my Trusty Staple Gun

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I let the white paint dry overnight, and the next day I brushed on 2 coats of clear gloss Polyurethane.  (they are already looking cute with their little white socks)

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All Poly-coated and Drying in the Backyard

And finally when the clear coat was dry, I reattached the seats. They look great in the living room! Just what we needed, didn’t cost a dime, (I had all the supplies on hand) and the whole project only took a couple hours.

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Vintage Chair Make-over Completed

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Chairs Finished – Morning Shot

 

What projects did you work on over the weekend? Tell me about them in the comments section, I’d love to hear!