Friday, March 30, 2012

Candytuft: An Easy Year-Round Garden Beauty

Candytuft: an evergreen perennial with white flowers

I have a flowering plant recommendation for you: Candytuft.

Whether you love to garden, or you can't be bothered and just want to put something into the ground and forget about it, Candytuft is a plant you should pick up this season at your local nursery or home improvement store.

filling in a bare garden spot with perennials
I wanted to plant something in the circled area that was no-fuss.
(photo taken in June 2011)

Candytuft: an evergreen perennial with white flowers in early Spring
Candytuft was the perfect solution!
(photo taken March 2012)
Why?

Candytuft is one of the first plants to light up the garden each Spring in a blanket of white. I like to describe it as "Alyssum on steroids" as the impact is a much larger and more vibrant blanket of white than Alyssum can provide. You can plant Candytuft in full sun to partial shade. In full sun, make sure plants have enough moisture; in full shade there won't be as many flowers.

Candytuft is a perennial. This means that once you plant it into the ground, it will return year after year: a good choice economically than all those annuals you've been buying every year. (Although don't get me wrong: annuals have their place too, but for long-term enjoyment, I prefer perennials.)

Candytuft is evergreen. When we think of evergreens, most of us think of pine trees (or similar needle-type trees), right? Well, Candytuft is also an evergreen, meaning that the plant leaves stay green year-round. This is especially nice to see in the dead of winter, when most things are... well... dead or dormant.

Candytuft: an evergreen perennial with a mass of white flowers
Candytuft is a perennial. I describe it as "Alyssum on steroids!"

Candytuft spreads in a behaved way. Ever have plants that spread like crazy? At first it's always fun to dig up a few of the spreaders and plant them elsewhere. But eventually you can feel as if your entire landscape will be taken over with the nonstop transplanting or dividing of plants. Not with Candytuft. It fills out nicely and spreads in a subdued way that you will appreciate.

Candytuft reseeds by itself. Most gardening books I've read mention that the original plants purchased will eventually die out after maybe 5 or 6 years, but you won't really notice this because Candytuft will reseed itself (i.e. drop its seeds right there around itself) and generate new plants. This means enjoyment for many years to come.

Some experts recommend that you give Candytuft a light shearing after the initial bloom period is over or remove the seedpods as they appear, if you have the time and patience. Doing either of these things prevents the plants from getting leggy. You want the plant's energy to be spent on the plant, not on developing its own seeds. I left some of the seedpods on, however, for possible new plants to sprout up this season.

Candytuft: an evergreen perennial with a mass of white flowers
These Candytuft flowers are already bushy, at just one year of age!

Candytuft stands up to heat and humidity. We live in southern New Jersey, where Summer is hot and humid. Candytuft seems to tolerate heat better than Alyssum, which can wilt easily if you have hot, sunny days in the latter part of Spring. I planted our Candytuft last Spring, and even during the hottest parts of the Summer months the plants continued looking almost perfect. There were a few yellow leaves that showed up when the  plants needed some water, but those were few and easily picked off. 

Not just one bloom period! Candytuft will often rebloom in the Fall. Although the Fall blooms are nowhere near the flowering abundance of the Spring blooming period, the Fall blooms are still quite pretty. There are several cultivars of Candytuft that will rebloom; check the plant information accompanying each plant when shopping.

Candytuft flowers
Candytuft is a blanket of pretty flowers every Spring!

Did I convince you? Let me know!

Oh, and just so you know: all of the pictures of the Candytuft were taken this week. Please pardon the dead leaves, the bird poop on the stone wall, and the obvious need for me to do some tidying up in the garden. (This is some sort of a disclaimer, but I'm not quite sure what I'm disclaiming!)

~Laura

PS -- Most garden books seem to agree that Candytuft is considered a perennial in zones 3 - 9.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Blog Links: Decorating Eggs (Part 1)

Easter Egg Decorating Crafts Roundup

Ah, Thursday again so soon? Not soon enough! This week I'm excited about how fast the week has gone by! Why? Because tomorrow is the semi-official date when I can resume normal activities, after waiting patiently since my February surgery to recover and heal. I'm apparently still healing inside and can't go nuts, but I can begin - finally! - to clean up the yard and garden! Of course there's rain scheduled in the forecast, so if I'm rained out, I've got several sets of magnets to make, which I'm equally excited about after finding more great vintage floral images and patterns!

How about you? What's on your schedule for the weekend?

Today's edition of my Thursday Blog Links brings you eggs: specifically crafty ideas to decorate eggs for Easter, for Spring, even for year-round decor. You have a little over one week until Easter, and many of these projects don't take much time at all. Get your kids involved and make it a fun family project, just keep the pets away from the crafting activity lest they become decorated too!

Faux Robin's Egg Tutorial from The V Spot
A Faux Robin's Egg Tutorial, from The V Spot

Just look at that before-and-after image above. Isn't that an amazing transformation? Well, after Vivienne - of The V Spot blog - posted this tutorial, the producers of The Martha Stewart Show contacted her to demonstrate this technique on their show. Although scheduling didn't work out, that is still pretty darn impressive! Did I mention that Vivienne says this project costs under $5? Uh-huh. Click the link above (under the image) to head over to The V Spot and get the details.

German Glass Glitter Egg DIY from The Graphics Fairy
Make a German Glass Glitter Easter Egg, from The Graphics Fairy

Karen from The Graphics Fairy is ├╝ber-talented! Not only does she maintain her successful blog sharing vintage graphics, she also runs a store called Fleurish, in the Washington, DC metro area, selling beautiful vintage and vintage-style finds. (By the way: Karen's blog is mentioned in the April 2012 issue of Country Living, in a DIY for... wait for it... how to decorate eggs for Easter!) When I saw this elegant German glass glitter egg on Karen's blog, I knew I'd be sharing it with you and adding it to my pile of "crafts I must do!" Click the link above (under the image) to check out Karen's tutorial.

Bright Paper and Ribbon Eggs from Mod Podge Rocks
Bright Paper and Ribbon Eggs, from Mod Podge Rocks

One of my daily go-to blogs is Mod Podge Rocks. I don't know how Amy comes up with so many fun projects using Mod Podge, but I'm not surprised that she has a book on the subject coming out in June. (You can find more info about the book on Amy's blog and can pre-order from there too.)

Another awesome thing about Amy's blog is that she often features crafty bloggers who have made amazing things using Mod Podge, and the above tutorial is a great example. This egg decorating DIY comes from Sharon of Styrofoam Crafts, who was a guest blogger on MPR this week. I love how the colors on these eggs are just right: the perfect Spring hues in strong shades. Click the link above (under the image) to learn how to make these.

And speaking of Sharon...

Spa Eggs with Crayola Model Magic from Crafts 'n Coffee
Spa Eggs with Crayola Model Magic, from Crafts 'n Coffee

Sharon is currently devoting an entire week to egg decorating on her own blog Crafts 'n Coffee, with a new egg craft idea every day! The image above is from yesterday's egg DIY, and I just love this idea. Why? Because I see these type of eggs everywhere in home decor stores, usually done in stone, sometimes ceramic or wood. This version is made with styrofoam and modeling clay, and I think that's so awesome!  Click on the link above (under the image) to read the step-by-step, and definitely check out the complete "Eggstravaganza Week" while you're there.

Faux Finish Alabaster Eggs by Mural Maker and More
Faux Finish Alabaster Eggs, from Mural Maker and More

Don't these eggs look like the pretty foil-wrapped chocolate eggs you see in the candy aisle every Spring? I love them for that reason alone! However, that's where the "faux paw" - in the tutorial's title - comes in. You see, Colleen, of Mural Maker and More, set out to produce a selection of eggs that would look like they were made of alabaster. What she says she got instead was more like the candy. Maybe it is because I love chocolate, but I just adore the way these eggs turned out! Click on the link above (under the photo) to learn how Colleen made these eggs, and while you're there check out her other crafty Spring projects too.

Will you be decorating eggs this year? Let me know in the comments!

Want more ideas? Then check out Part Two of Egg Decorating here!

Easter Egg Decorating Crafts Roundup

Have a creative weekend!

~Laura

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Typo Tips for Creative Bloggers

Image by spike55151, via Flickr Creative Commons
I am a Typo Hunter.

Yes it's true! I hunt down typos and vanquish them to a space somewhere in a cloud. No, not "the" cloud - that's different.

There are a few steps that I take before publishing my blog posts. I also use these steps when listing a new item in my Etsy shop, updating my website text, and even when proofing my outgoing emails too.

Of course, as quite often happens, yesterday morning during breakfast I noticed yet another typo on TV, in the headline text on a cable news channel: Refuisng instead of Refusing. This morning, on the same TV channel, the word "gaffe" was spelled "gaffee" - yep, they made a gaffe, didn't they? (And is it just me? Or do you also notice how, more and more often, there are typos in those news tickers at the bottom of your TV screen?)

I mentioned to my husband that I was going to share my tips for typo reduction.

Husband:  Like what? Like Don't misspell because it will irritate me.?? 
Me:  Funny. And no. 
Husband:  Here's my list for avoiding typos: Two words: Use Spell check. 
Me:  Well, um, Spell check isn't always correct as you know. If it doesn't recognize a word, it will underline it as wrong. 
Husband:  Two more words: Pay attention. There. Done.

Although my husband has very good - and succinct - advice, I still think I have a few easy-to-do tips that will help you cut down on the dreaded typos. And for my fellow creative bloggers, what better way to tackle typos than to use sight, sound, and yes: your creative skills too!

But first, I want to talk about the much-loved and much-hated auto correct and spell check. The best part is that they can catch and correct your typos such as when you should be using "an" instead of "a"; the bad part is that, as mentioned above, they can take correct words and tell you those words are wrong. And in the case of auto correct, and no doubt almost all of us have experienced this: when auto correct fails miserably it can result in some funny or bizarre writing. No worries, however, as the following tips come in handy to successfully combat auto correct incorrectness too.

Before publishing blog posts, hitting the "send" key on emails or texts, pushing the "publish" key for an Etsy listing, or updating your website, try these 4 steps:

1.  Read out loud.

Yes, this takes time, but reading your words out loud not only helps you with typos, but also with the flow of your written words. We tend to notice our written voice more when we take the time to read our words out loud. Fix your typos. Notice anywhere that you falter or hesitate while reading out loud because you might need to switch some words around or slightly alter your sentence. When we type our thoughts, quite often our minds are faster than our fingers which results in leaving out a word, or merely having a sentence that is awkward. Fix those sentences. You want your writing to reflect who you are, and any phrases that are not easily rolling off your tongue when reading aloud probably need to be tweaked in some way.

Oh, and I'm not suggesting that you read your private thoughts out loud during your morning commute on the subway, or while standing in line at the grocery checkout area. Because that would be weird.

2.  Print out and look for repeated words.

This is more for longer pieces of writing, not a simple two-line text message. Most of us tend to use the same words over and over, yet don't realize it until we can literally "see" how often those words show up in a single paragraph. Print out your document to read - just use the back of a saved piece of scrap paper that you are going to recycle anyway. Go sit down somewhere, away from your computer monitor, and read your writing silently to yourself. Really read it, don't just gloss over the words because you already know what you've written. What you may notice is that certain words keep popping up. Circle those words.

Let's take the paragraph above as an example:

Print out and look for repeated words. This is more for longer pieces of writing, not a simple two-line text message. Most of us tend to use the same words over and over, yet don't realize it until we can literally "see" how often those words show up in a single paragraph. Print out your document to read - just use the back of a saved piece of scrap paper that you are going to recycle anyway. Go sit down somewhere, away from your computer monitor, and read your writing silently to yourself. Really read it, don't just gloss over the words because you already know what you've written. What you may notice is that certain words keep popping up. Circle those words.

(Cue the Missing Persons song from the 1980s: "What are words for? When no one listens anymore...")

I use "words" six times in that paragraph. Are there any other words (yikes!) that I can use instead that readily come to mind?

3.  Use a Thesaurus if stumped.

I have a much-used paperback Thesaurus that I refer to, and also use the online Thesaurus.com. You don't need to change every instance of a repeated word, but changing a few is a good idea to keep your writing fresh.

Here's the paragraph after I consulted my Thesaurus:

Print out and look for repeated words. This is more for longer pieces of writing, not a simple two-line text message. Most of us tend to use the same expressions over and over, yet don't realize it until we can literally "see" how often they show up in a single paragraph. Print out your document to read - just use the back of a saved piece of scrap paper that you are going to recycle anyway. Go sit down somewhere, away from your computer monitor, and read your writing silently to yourself. Really read it, don't just gloss over the words because you already know what you've written. What you may notice is that certain terms or phrases keep popping up. Circle those.

See what I did? I changed two instances of the repeated word, and eliminated two others. This makes the writing just a bit more interesting because the reader's brain doesn't get stuck on the repeated words or phrases, which can impact how much your reader appreciates what you have to say. This is true whether you are writing a DIY tutorial with lots of pictures and minimal text, or writing a long, not-quite-a-chapter-in-a-novel-sized blog post.

4.  Leave it for awhile, then go back and read it.

Go do something else, take a break from your writing. Whether it is five minutes or an hour, when you return to read your writing again, it will be with fresh eyes and mind. First read your words silently from your computer screen. Next, read them out loud from your computer screen. Think you caught everything?

If you're writing a blog post, hit your "preview" button in your blog's dashboard and view exactly what your post will look like. First, read it through - again I find doing this out loud most helpful - from beginning to end. Notice any words jumping out at you? Any oddly spaced sentences? Any extra spaces between sentences? Next, look at the entire post (still in the preview mode) to check for proper spacing between your text and images. Check that your images are all the same or a similar size, and make sure any links work.

I think you're ready to push the "publish" key.

Conclusion? Robots aren't as fun as we are.

Yes, these steps add time to our already-over-scheduled agendas for ourselves, our blogs, our online shops. But spending this extra bit of effort will improve your writing, and make it just that much more enjoyable for your readers and customers too.

And finally, what happens when I do all of these steps diligently yet still end up having a typo or two sneak by me? I can't beat myself up about it, nor should you. Remember that we are human, and that's what makes us fun and interesting to each other, unless of course you have a thing for robots.

Do you have any additional tips? I'd love to know, so please share them here in the comments.

~Laura


PS - Kudos to the reader who found a typo IN my post above, and boo's to me for missing it! Yep, I might know how to spell, but apparently numbers are a big challenge for me. LOL Now it is corrected, but I'm still laughing at the irony!


PPS - You do realize that the picture at the top of this post shows a horrible example of a typo, right? Somehow - and this is an actual sign found in a dry cleaners - the word "alterations" came out all wrong, yet someone decided to hang it up anyway. Amazing . . .


Weekend Bloggy Reading

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday Blog Links, March 22, 2012

Daffodils are already blooming in our gardens!

Let's see . . . It's Thursday, almost the weekend, and your mind is starting to daydream about what you will do this weekend. Gardening? Yardwork? Crafting? Laundry?

No matter what, I hope my weekly blog links will give you a little break every Thursday, whether you work in an office or in your home, and inspire you in all things crafty, creative, and bloggy too! (Is bloggy a word? No? I didn't think so either. I was just trying to be cute. And there was the mistake: trying to be cute, instead of just being myself!)

And without further delay, here are this week's links to read and enjoy and try, all while sipping your favorite beverage. For me this morning? A wonderfully large mug of Irish Breakfast Tea!

Rustic Peeps Bunny Garland Tutorial, from The Country Chic Cottage 

Angie, of The Country Chic Cottage blog, says she came up with this idea because although she loves the shape of the traditional bunny "peeps" available around Easter, she wanted a more rustic version of that shape. I think she created a fantastic garland, definitely rustic, definitely something that is pretty while not falling into that category of being overly-cutesy. This garland is like an Easter decoration for grown-ups! Click on the link above to learn how Angie made this.

Pea and Moss Balls, from Sand and Sisal 

If you're looking for an inexpensive way to pretty up your space for Spring, check out this tutorial by Kim of the Sand and Sisal blog. I can't get over how easy her tutorial is, probably because she does such a great job of clearly explaining the steps and showing you awesome step-by-step pictures too! We have a gorgeous antique copper bowl that we keep on our dining table, filling it with different things depending upon the season. I know these green balls would look great in the copper bowl, but I am truly loving how they look against white. Click on the link above to learn how Kim made these.

Army Party Camo Cupcakes, from Somewhat Simple 

Stephanie, of Somewhat Simple, came up with this cool cupcakes idea. These army camouflage cupcakes would be a hit whether you made them for a little boy's special birthday party, or made them for a friend who is in the military. Not only do they look cool, they are apparently super-tasty too. I have a Pinterest** board called, "Recipes if I baked or cooked" where I pinned this recipe. And that speaks volumes because I don't collect recipes, and I don't do well in the kitchen. Trust me on this. Click on the link above to see the recipe and yummy pictures, and then go make a batch for someone special.


Facebook Business Pages

If you don't have a business page on Facebook, then you don't need to read any further. But if you do, you probably have heard or seen that the business pages will be getting a new look very soon. I'm one of those people who still needs to work on my business page to get it ready for the change which will happen on March 30th - just eight short days away. Here is an article that should help you - and me - get up to speed fast.



Facebook Giveaways

I'm not one to do giveaways on my Facebook Business Page, and one of the reasons is that I have never quite heard the same story twice on the correct rules and regulations that Facebook has regarding giveaways. And then I came across the following article which not only clears up any confusion, but also spells out everything a business owner needs to keep in mind for giveaways in general.



Have a creative weekend!

~Laura


** If you would like to follow me on Pinterest,  just click on the Follow me on Pinterest button in my sidebar on the right side of this page - just scroll up a bit to find it. And if you would like me to check out your Pinterest boards, please feel free to leave your link in the comments below. Thanks!



Weekend Bloggy Reading

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Ureter Hurts! How many people can share THAT as a status update?

Hi everyone! As most of you know, I had kidney surgery on February 13th, already 3 weeks ago, which I keep telling myself to bolster my mood about my recovery. My early February post - Surgery Hair and other random thoughts about the upcoming surgery - was a bit more positive about things than reality turned out to be.

Rest assured, my surgery was successful. But my naive idea that I'd be wanting - and able to - care about using my facial creams, dry shampoo, I even brought a book to read, was oh so wrong. Like I'd be living in nice, calm, feeling-great hospital surroundings after major surgery? Yeah, I was big-time wrong on that front! Which is rather funny, being that my husband predicted as much: 

Husband: You won't open this bag even once to use any of these products.

Me: Yes I will.

In reality, I was in way too much pain and discomfort to give a "bleep" about anything except well, the pain and discomfort. And the nausea. Not pretty.

I'm still primarily in bed these days, as I still have two more weeks to go until the stent (tube) in my right ureter can be removed. This is so that the ureter - which was detached and then reattached around an offending blood vessel that had been "kinking" the ureter - can heal on its own. So all "liquid" runs from my right kidney through this tube into my bladder. The stent is attached with a hook-type thingy on each end in the kidney and the bladder. One wrong move, and ouch! I'll leave it at that, but will share a pretty picture so you can see what I'm dealing with:

This shows a left kidney, but is otherwise what the stent looks like. Image via Wikipedia
Lovely, right?

So long story short, mornings are mostly good, afternoons it starts to kick in, and by evening look out, the pain train has pulled into the station! I had to go back to the surgeon last week to make sure there was nothing wrong, as the pain was pretty unbearable. But this type of discomfort and pain is normal, so I pop the pain meds when needed and it at least takes the edge off. Well...that's what the surgeon said. I'd say the Percocet more or less dulls the edge but doesn't quite remove it.

You feel like you have to pee 1000 times a day. And it burns sometimes. And there's a bit of occasional bleeding. Taking showers - actually miserable to do right now. Can't lift anything. And they mean it. Because I lifted a simple plastic water pitcher the second week (not thinking) and tweaked one of the incisions badly.

I've got almost two weeks left until the stent can be removed. March 16th is the day and yes I am counting down the seconds until this thing gets OUT!

Oh yeah: my five incisions look like bullet holes all over my abdomen. I'm laughing as I'm typing this, so don't feel badly about it. I haven't truly ever seen actual bullet holes in a body, but I'm betting they look like these do. And no, I won't share a picture and don't need to see any pictures either. (But thanks for thinking of me!)

I've been catching up on reading - ordered some awesome craft books. Also reading Drood by Dan Simmons, a historical fictional mystery about Charles Dickens, which is a bit ghoulish in spots, thus creeping into my Percocet-induced dreams at times. The other night I dreamed I was pulling my tongue out of my mouth while chatting with friends and family at some sort of gathering. And it was graphic. And gross. 

Hmmm. I can't end this post on such an odd note. Let's end with something good. 

My husband has been taking awesome care of me. Our cats have been like two human water bottles snuggled next to me in bed. (Aliza's "hole" she was scratching from stress is almost healed.) Oh - and my "surgery hair" was definitely the right move, because I still have no energy or desire to fuss with it at all. (And THAT is how you know I'm not 100% yet. Ha!)

I'll share more soon. Typing on my iPhone isn't the easiest thing in the world.

Oh - and most importantly: thanks and huge hugs to all of you for your emails, cards, care packages, flowers, prayers. These loving gestures have always seemed to arrive just when I most needed a boost.

~ Laura

PS - Enjoy these two close-ups of flowers I received, a pretty dose of Spring color!

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