Tag Archive | winter

Grass Flip-Flops Brings Summer to Winter

When it’s cold outside and there’s snow on the grass… These grass-lined flip-flops sure bring back memories of summer.
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Brrr! Only about 4 more months till summer… Sigh.

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PS – (Added to post much later than above was originally written) To a keen eye or another Midwesterner… This photo was clearly taken over a month ago, back when there was actually snow on the ground. True. It’s been floating in my ‘Scheduled’ folder for awhile. I almost thought about pushing it off yet again, until there was some snow on the ground to exaggerate my point of needing these grass-lined flip-flops… After checking the forecast for the next few months… I feel there’s very little hope in seeing any decent amount of snow the rest of this winter. Oh. so. NOT. sad!!!! Seems we may have an early spring. I sure hope so. Toes crossed!

© Ilex ~Midwestern Plant Girl

 

Squirrel McDonald’s 

It’s another dreary day here in the Midwest. The clear, bright, new windows we had installed don’t make it look any more friendly outside. It’s February… In Illinois… what do I expect?

Although the day is dreary, I do enjoy watching the gray squirrels taking care of business in the front yard. There are many spruce and large trees in my area, which allows for a large population of these furry, funny entertainers.

February is an exciting time in a gray squirrel’s life… It’s MATING SEASON! Woo hoo! Time to frolic, play, tease, fight, love, share, chase, eat and all other forms of craziness!! You can easily identify the sexes without seeing their undercarriages during this time. The female is in the lead, with a dominate male directly behind here, if there are any other following in line, they are young, subordinate males… waiting for their chance.

Males will fight for dominance when there are no females around to chase. You’ll hear the “Chu-chu-chu” noise or see the squirrel stomping its feet and swishing its tail as a form of war dance! To adorable.

**Click here to learn how smart squirrels are**

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I have many bird feeders and perch areas to feed the wildlife at work. At my home, not so much. I do have a suet holder and otherwise, I only toss ‘left overs’ out to the wildlife I share my space with. Left overs can vary from bread to nuts to fruit to seeds, nothing I think is dangerous to the wildlife, nor anything I want out there that attracts unwanted wildlife, like skunks or ‘possoms. All approved items get thrown on the front lawn at dawn. The front lawn is devoid of crazy Border Collies and if thrown out at dawn, all trace of food will be gone by mid-day, thus won’t be attracting any nightlife creatures of the stinky variety.

As I know I might catch some flack from feeding the wildlife anything but proper foods… I did consult the ALL KNOWING INTERNET to back or deflate my decision to give my furries bread. Seems there are as many pro’s as con’s out there for feeding any type of wildlife (ducks, birds, squirrels…) bread. In my opinion, and how I try to live my life (mostly)… It’s all about moderation. Going to McDonald’s twice a year isn’t going to kill you, in the same as giving wildlife bread will kill them. I don’t share it that often and they seem to enjoy their Squirrel McDonald’s!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

 

Evergreen Winter Seasonal Pots 2016

It’s that time again!! Wiiiinter pots!!

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We pre-fab these at the office and the crews deliver these to the client’s homes. You can skip many of the next steps if you already have a prepared pot of soil. We make them this way so we don’t have to stand outside and do it! I think this almost falls into that category of, ‘Lazy man works the hardest!’ Ha!

We use nursery pots that closely fit the size of our client’s containers. Cut a plastic sheet to fit over the bottom holes. This slows or stops the water from draining and helps freeze the display in place. Next, add florist foam to the middle for stability of the larger ‘thriller’ items, as these could be rather large birch poles. Then fill the rest of the pot with a 50/50 soil/sand mixture. Be sure to really stuff that soil into the pot. The better packed soil helps hold the display in place from precipitation, the weight of snow and wind.

The design is the standard, Thriller, Filler & Spiller! The Thriller is that one large sprig/evergreen, center piece, or for this season, mostly sticks. Filler are those mid-range sized pieces of evergreen, or other material that is generally wider and less tall that the thriller material. Spiller is just that, floppy evergreen, weaker-stemmed items that hang over the edge of the pot.

A few often overlooked hints and tips:

  • Fresh cut ALL of your greens right before sticking into the pot. It does make a huge difference as to how long the greens will stay green and especially how long the holly berries will stay on the branches.
  • After you have created your masterpiece, wet the display down well. It will freeze and hold all the stuff in place. It will also give some moisture to the cuttings.
  • Before using hydrangea, pre-treat them to a blast of clear spray paint to help them keep their form.
  • If your display becomes covered in snow, be sure to clear it by hitting the branches in an UPWARD motion. If you push too hard on them downward, they may break. A broom does a great job.

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© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Another DIY – Evergreen Holiday Pot in Bucket

After making my gold / brown pot for my front door, my husband loved it so much, he wanted me to make one for his boss. Oakey-dokey! I can do that!!

If you’ve already read my DYI post for my last pot, most of this post is going to be plagiarized from that one… If you don’t want to read how to put this together, just look at the photos =-)

Instead of me using a liner for his pot, as I did not know if he had an existing pot to use, I used a shiny steel bucket. This time I did not have any soil, so I filled the bottom with a few rocks and cut the foam to fit in the bucket. This serves three purposes, better water collection for the greens at first, then for it to freeze the greens in place with little expansion, and lastly, a heavy base so the design won’t fall over in the wind and snow.

First, place your sticks (birch poles here), or the largest diameter things first. You’ll know right away if your foam is going to hold, nothing like making your whole design, and then placing your sticks and busting the foam!! Arrrg! >:-O Yes, I have learned the hard way!

Think about where your pot will be displayed. Will they be on the sides of your door? On top of a pier? On top of your mailbox? Or on just one side of the door, like this one. I set my sticks a bit to one side (the back) of my pot, so more bling can be added to the front and sides. If you’re pot will be able to be viewed from all angles, I’d center them. If you’re having one on either side of your door, I would mirror-image the bling on 3 sides of the pot.

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I like to get a ring around the bottom next, as you can be sure that there is a sufficient amount of greens around the bottom. Again, think of where your pot will be displayed. This one will be on the ground, so it will be viewed by looking down on it. Some folks have piers or taller areas where their pots are going, these pots will need to have a nice lower row, as this is what you may see when viewing up at it. I’m using Scott’s Pine for my bottom. I love this material, as it already has pine cones attached! Don’t worry if it sticks up a bit, as you add more to the center, it will flatten out.

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My next filler is a variegated boxwood. I love the variety of colors it brings to the mix. I’m not a huge fan of a straight green pot, although I can appreciate the simplicity. Don’t fill it to the brim, there needs to be room for other ingredients, and you can always add more boxwood later.

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Next I added some magnolia. It will take up a lot of space, which is always good as you will save on materials because of it. After that comes the eucalyptus and dried hydrangea. I usually harvest these (for free!) from the large limelight we have in the yard at work. If your display will be out in the elements, I would give them a quick spray of clear enamel. This will stick them together and help stop the wind and snow from taking their toll. I also used grape vine balls sprayed lightly with white paint, for some natural-looking balls to bring together the round, flashy ornaments that are the next step.

imageAnd now for the fun part…. the bling! The large balls were ornaments that I removed the hanger from and stuck a stick in the hole. You may need to use hot glue to steady it on the stick. The small ones came in a one-piece clump, which I cut apart. I then added the little silver glitter sticks. Voilà!

I chose to go with a silver / white theme here, as it can stay out past Christmas without looking too tacky. If I had to total my materials here, I’d guess-ta-mate it would be about $50.00 without the pot. Right now, Hobby Lobby has all their Christmas stuff on sale for 50% off! I was also able to pick-up the white/mirrored ornaments at the dollar store, SCORE!!

Happy Creating!!

 

 

 

 

 


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

5 Steps to a Fabulous, Blingy Winter Container

I have been bangin’ out winter pots for our clients all week for delivery before Thanksgiving. I will have a post on all of those soon, as they have not been delivered to the clients yet, and they look funny not in their pots! However, if you’re Jonesing for some to look at, you can visit these past posts: 20152014 & 2013.

Instead of me using a liner for my personal pot, I chose the pot I would be displaying my creation in and filled it with 3 floral foams and a 50/50 mixture of topsoil and sand. This serves three purposes, better water collection for the greens at first, then for it to freeze the greens in place with little expansion, and lastly, a heavy base so the design won’t fall over in the wind and snow.

First, place your sticks (birch poles here), or the largest diameter things first. You’ll know right away if your foam is going to hold, nothing like making your whole design, and then placing your sticks and busting the foam!! Arrrg! >:-O Yes, I have learned the hard way!

Think about where your pot will be displayed. Will they be on the sides of your door? On top of a pier? On top of your mailbox? Or in a corner, like mine. I set my sticks a bit to one side (the back) of my pot, so more bling can be added to the front. If you’re pot will be able to be viewed from all angles, I’d center them. If you’re having one on either side of your door, I would mirror-image the bling on 3 sides of the pot.

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I like to get a ring around the bottom next, as you can be sure that there is a sufficient amount of greens around the bottom. Again, think of where your pot will be displayed. Mine is only going one foot off the ground, so it will be viewed by looking down on it. Some folks have piers or taller areas where their pots are going, these pots will need to have a nice lower row, as this is what you may see when viewing up at it. I’m using Scott’s Pine for my bottom. I love this material, as it already has pine cones attached! Don’t worry if it sticks up a bit, as you add more to the center, it will flatten out.

image     image

My next filler is a variegated boxwood. I love the variety of colors it brings to the mix. I’m not a huge fan of a straight green pot, although I can appreciate the simplicity. Don’t fill it to the brim, there needs to be room for other ingredients, and you can always add more boxwood later.

image     image

Next I added some magnolia. It will take up a lot of space, which is always good as you will save on materials because of it. After that comes the dried hydrangea flowers. I usually harvest these (for free!) from the large limelight we have in the yard at work. If your display will be out in the elements, I would give them a quick spray of clear enamel. This will stick them together and help stop the wind and snow from taking their toll. I also used grape vine balls for some natural-looking balls to bring together the round, flashy ornaments that are the next step. As you can see, I always have Oreo there offering to help me.

image     image

And now for the fun part…. the bling! The large balls were ornaments that I removed the hanger from and stuck a stick in the hole. You may need to use hot glue to steady it on the stick. The small ones came in a one-piece clump, which I cut apart. I then added the little curly-q glitter sticks and gold berry sprigs. Voilà!

I chose to go with a gold / brown theme here, as it can stay out past Christmas without looking tacky. If I had to total my materials here, I’d guess-ta-mate it would be about $55.00 without the pot. Right now, Hobby Lobby has all their Christmas stuff on sale for 50% off!

Happy Creating!!


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

How to Roast Chestnuts in an Open Oven….

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

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Chestnuts can roast in a kitchen oven also!

My first experience with roasted over a fire chestnuts was last year while going on a steam train ride in Georgetown, Colorado. They were reeeally good.

So this year, when I spotted a big bin of chestnuts at the local human feed store… I had to try them! I’ll admit, I had done a bit of online research before I jumped into making them. When choosing your chestnuts, pinch each one to be sure there is no give whatsoever in the shell. Around here, I was paying about $4.99 per pound. There are types you can buy are in a jar, however I didn’t try them.

Wash and dry them so they aren’t slippery when you go to cut them. I did read many opinions about which way cutting them is the right way. Many sources say to cut an X on the flat spot. I found this quite dangerous! I decided to put the flat side down and cut perpendicular to the ends. I found using a serrated steak knife to be the easiest to cut with. And they opened just fine!

I then soaked them in salt water for about an hour. This step can be skipped. I just wanted to be sure they were moist.

There are many directions you can go here. My first batch I boiled for 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes (spread on baking sheet) in a 350 degree oven. The second batch was only in the 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Honestly, I could not tell the difference in taste or texture between the different preparations. They both tasted the same and pealed the same, which was quite easy. Although, just like relatives, some are easy to deal with, some aren’t!!

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They are much easier to cut with the flat side down. I read in many places that the X was not an X, but a cross.

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The shell pealed quite easily. Out of about 25, only 3 gave me issues.

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Mmmm! Yummy, healthy snack.

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© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl