10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

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As the month of April draws to a close, one thing stand outs to me. It’s planting season! Here in Missouri, which is zone 7 on the hardiness zone map, the beginning of May marks the end of temperatures that can dip below freezing at night. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the first part of May to plant in the ground. See what zone your region is in with this map.

Speaking of thumbs, not everyone has a green one. However, don’t let that perceived belief stop you from creating a garden. Whether you desire an expansive backyard paradise or a tiny butterfly garden, these 10 super easy perennials to grow will survive and thrive with little care.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

Perennials are plants that return year after year. They are the foundation of a lasting garden, as they only have to be planted once.

The following plants provide riotous colors along with interesting textures and amazing scents to your garden. Check out this post, Spring Garden Tips, for suggestions on prepping the soil and cleaning up your area before planting.

If you are creating a flower bed or border for the first time, remove grass, turn the soil to a depth of one foot and work in nutrients such as compost before tucking in plants.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
My southern border with Shasta daisies, coneflowers, garden phlox, Russian sage, black eyed Susan and coreopsis.

Coneflowers

Also known as echinacea, these plants prefer a sunny location and produce purple, white or rose colored blooms from early summer until fall. Coneflowers tolerate the heat well and grow up to three free tall, making them ideal for a southern border. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds. As a bonus, you can create health boosting echinacea tea from the blooms.

Garden Phlox

Related to but not to be confused with creeping phlox, this plant stands tall in the garden, growing to a height of three to five feet. Garden phlox loves the sun and blooms in shades of pinks and purples.

Coreopsis

These sun loving yellow flowers bring cheer to the garden. Growing up to 18 inches in height, the flowers appear on bright green delicate foliage. Extend the blooming time by removing flowers as they fade, a practice known as dead heading.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Sunny yellow coreopsis with coneflowers blooming in the background.

Russian Sage

This plant, which is closely related to the sage family, thrives during hot weather. Its woody stems grow up to four feet tall and produce small purple flowers and tiny leaves with a distinctive aromatic scent.

Black Eyed Susan

Producing masses of cheerful yellow flowers with dark brown centers, these plants prefer full sun and tolerate heat and drought well. They grow up to three feet tall. Cut back the plants after flowering to produce another round of blooms.

Bearded Iris

Irises put up tall stalks amid a fan of spiky leaves. The plants bloom in a wide variety of colors . Growing up to three feet tall, irises need a sunny spot in the garden. The leaves continue to show off after the spring flowers fade.

Day Lily

On the list of super easy perennials, the day lily ranks high. Extremely easy to grow, these plants thrive in a sunny location and do well in partial shade also. Their flowers vary from bright yellow to golden to orange. Although not absolutely necessary, day lilies respond well to a layer of mulch around them.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Clusters of day lilies near my ornamental grasses.

Sedum

Sedum, also known as Live Forevers and Stonecrop, ranges from hugging the ground to growing up to three feet tall. The beautiful foliage is gift enough. However in late summer this hardy plant offers clusters of tiny flowers in white, pink, yellow or rusty red.

Hosta

This well known perennial is great for the shady areas in the garden. Growing up to four feet tall and equally wide, this plant produces showy leaves in a variety of greens. Many hostas have variegated leaves. In late summer they send up tall stalks covered with white, lavender or pink flowers.

Coral Bells

Another shade loving plant, coral bells pair well with hostas. Their gorgeous leaves vary from shades of green to purple to reddish brown. The delicate flowers may be white or pink. Because my backyard doesn’t have trees, and therefore no shade, my hostas and coral bells thrive in a garden strip on the north side of the house.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Hosta and coral bells share space with a hydrangea.

Backyard Garden Series

I hope this 10 super easy perennials to grow post gives you ideas about what plants might do well in your own garden spaces.

I’m excited to present a series of posts over the next few weeks, offering gardening tips and ideas. Take a look at this post in the Backyard Garden Series, 13 Easy Herbs to Grow. And watch for upcoming posts about growing annuals, container gardens, creating a butterfly garden and easy vegetables to grow. I’ll have some fun gardening freebies for you too and ways to make your garden space uniquely yours. If you have questions about gardening, drop me a comment below. The answer might just become a featured post!

As my perennials push up through the ground, I’m excited as well to welcome them back. I’m ready to pick up new annuals and tuck them into place. It’s time to get my hands dirty.

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow
Russian sage with its wonderfully aromatic leaves.

 

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Find Your Keys with KeySmart Pro

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Thank you to KeySmart for sending products for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

How often have you misplaced your keys? It’s something I do occasionally, especially if I’m distracted or on the phone coming into the house. Rather than dropping them into their allocated place…in a pocket in my purse…I lay them aside. Later when I’m headed out the door I realize I don’t have my keys and the search begins. If I’m already short on time, finding keys becomes a major annoyance.

KeySmart sent me a very cool device that makes finding missing keys a snap. The company also included two handy multi-tools to try out as well.

Findy Your Keys with KeySmart Pro

The KeySmart Pro with Tile Smart Location

KeySmart’s goal to save the world from bulky, annoying key rings full of jangling keys resulted in a trim, lightweight design that’s easy to carry. The company offers a variety of KeySmart designs that keep keys organized and tucked with the frame.

The KeySmart Pro is the ultimate key organizer that features a Tile Smart locator.  That technology offers convenience and peace of mind. A lost set of keys is never a problem. With the free Tile app installed on a phone, keys can be tracked on a map. Or if the missing keys are within earshot, you can hear a song play to guide you in finding them.

With the app, a missing phone can be located as well, by double tapping a button on the KeySmart Pro. How handy is that? Even if my phone is on silent, it rings so I can track it down.

Find Your Keys with KeySmart Pro

 The AllTul Multi-tools

Opening the package, I found the KeySmart Pro, a micro USB charger, step by step instructions and the AllTuls. While the KeySmart device charged, I read through the instructions and opened one of the multi-tools. These handy gadgets come in several fun designs, each with a variety of tools built in.

I opened the Dino AllTul, which is shaped like a dinosaur. The Dino features a letter opener, wrench, bottle opener and flat head screwdriver tip and a Phillips head. I also received a Raptor AllTul featuring six tools including a carabiner and steel cutter.

These small, flat tools are easy to carry on a key ring or in a wallet or purse. I intend to keep one in the car. They make great little gifts for the guys and girls in your life who are old enough to occasionally need a screwdriver or simple tool.

Find Your Keys with KeySmart Pro

Trying Out KeySmart Pro

Once the device was charged, as indicated by the little light turning green, I used the AllTul to unscrew the two screws holding the KeySmart Pro together. The kit comes with 12 spacers, making it easy to add keys to either end of the device.

I added five keys, two on one end and three on the other, to keep the device balanced. Finally I added the bottle opener, which is important I discovered, as it has a metal loop to secure my car key fob to. The five keys tuck neatly into the holder.

After downloading the Tile app, I was ready to activate my KeySmart Pro and have some fun.

Find Your Keys with KeySmart Pro

Find Your Keys with KeySmart Pro

Lost Keys, No Problem

Leaving my KeySmart Pro in the bedroom, I stepped into the other room and opened the app. Tapping the Find button on the screen, I listened for the alert. The key holder played a little tune. I laughed. That’s such an easy and stress free way to locate keys. What’s really great is the app pinpoints the location of the KeySmart Pro on a map. If I dropped my keys while out for a walk, I could find them even if I can’t hear the song playing.

Next I left my iPhone in the bedroom, and used the KeySmart to locate my phone. Double clicking the button on the device activated my phone and it rang, even though I had it on silent. This is so helpful. Although I rarely lose my phone, I’ve misplaced it a few times, creating mild panic. I love that I can easily locate it, using KeySmart Pro.

One other feature I like is the flashlight included with the device. Pressing a tiny button sends out a beam of light to illuminate a pathway in the dark or find the keyhole on the front door!

Check Out KeySmart Online

I highly recommend KeySmart Pro. It’s a smart way indeed to keep track of a couple of very important items. The company offers other wonderful products through GetKeySmart.com. Check out all their accessories, urban wallets and the totally awesome Urban 21 Commuter Backpack.

I can see one of the backpacks in my future, accompanying me on my travels! In the meantime, I am enjoying my new key holder and the multi-tools.

Find Your Keys with KeySmart Pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

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Last month I shared a post titled 13 Easy Herbs to Grow. I’ve enjoyed fun conversations with other gardeners about growing herbs. One question I’ve had repeatedly from those new to gardening is:

“What can I do with those herbs?”

It’s a good question. I use herbs primarily for tea, potpourri and cooking. However, there are many other ways to benefit from growing and harvesting herbs.

Using last month’s post as a guide, here are 13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Using each of the easy to grow herbs from last month’s post, here are additional ways to benefit from these medicinal plants.

Basil

A favorite herb in Italian dishes, basil has powerful antibacterial properties that help to heal acne. Steep basil leaves in hot water for 30 minutes. Remove leaves and allow liquid to cool. Use a cotton square to dab basil water on acne.

Dill

This fragrant herb does more than flavor potato salad. Chew on the flowers or prepare a weak tea to use as a mouth wash for bad breath. Drink dill tea to relieve indigestion.

Mint

People love the distinctive aroma of mint. However, mice hate it. Keep mice out of the house by drying mint leaves, crushing them and sprinkling them along baseboards.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Thyme

With its antibacterial properties, thyme makes an excellent household cleaner.  Steep sprigs of thyme in very hot water for 30 minutes. Remove herb and allow liquid to cool. Pour into a spray bottle and add a small amount of plant based soap, such as Castile Pure Organic Liquid Soap. Use to clean hard surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms.

Chives

Pour boiling water over chive flowers and leaves and allow to steep until liquid cools. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. Spray plants in the garden to prevent mildew and mold.

Lavender

This versatile plant has so many uses. Steep lavender flowers and leaves in hot water. After liquid cools use lavender water to soothe skin irritations such as burns, scrapes and cuts. Lavender’s antiseptic qualities relieves itchy bug bites as well. Store leftover water in refrigerator for additional cooling effect.

13 Estraordinary Uses for Herbs

Chamomile

The anti-inflammatory properties in this soothing herb makes it great for skin irritations as well. Pour boiling water over chamomile flowers. Allow to steep as water cools down. Remove flowers. Use chamomile water to wash wounds and rashes and heal pink eye.  Use chamomile water as a mouth wash for gum irritation.

Lemon Balm

Create lemon balm tea by steeping fresh leaves in hot water. Use tea as a mouthwash to heal canker sores and ease the pain of toothaches.

Bee Balm

The antiseptic qualities in bee balm heal mouth and throat infections, including gingivitis. Brew a strong bee balm tea by steeping leaves and flowers in hot water. Gargle with tea and rinse mouth with it several times a day.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Lemongrass

This lemon scented herb makes a great rinse for dogs, after a bath. The compound that gives lemongrass its citrusy scent repels lice and ticks. Steep lemongrass leaves in hot water. Strain after cooling and pour over dog’s fur as a final rinse.

Sage

This aromatic herb has powerful antiseptic properties as well. Pour boiling water over sage leaves and let liquid cool. Strain and use sage water to bathe wounds, skin irritations and scrapes.

Fennell

Chew fennel seeds after a meal to freshen breath. Or prepare a weak fennel tea and use as a mouthwash.

Rosemary

For shiny healthy hair, free from dandruff, prepare a rosemary hair rinse. Pour boiling water over sprigs of fresh rosemary and steep for at least 30 minutes. Remove sprigs and allow rosemary water to cool. Pour over hair after shampooing.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Extraordinarily Helpful Herbs

There are so many wonderful ways to incorporate herbs into daily life. I’ll be posting a series of articles with DIY recipes and ideas as the growing season gets underway.

Herbal essential oils are available and they are excellent to use. However, growing your own herbs is fun and the health benefits and household uses make them so beneficial. I am grateful for nature’s bounty and the goodness that grows in my herb garden.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

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Front Porch Reset Using Vintage Metals

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Over the past week, I created new vignettes throughout the house, celebrating the arrival of spring. I love the creative process of decorating with what I have, combined in fresh new ways.

The front porch patiently waited its turn for a new look. This afternoon, on a balmy, breezy day, I completed a front porch reset, using vintage metals.

I knew I desired a very different look on the covered front porch. The spring décor I’d used for several years no longer “sparked joy”. A collection of vintage metal pieces DID spark joy and piqued my interest as well. My daughter Elissa gifted me recently with a vintage metal tray and two old toolboxes, that she no longer wanted. These new-to-me items became the focus of the front porch reset.

Front Porch Reset Using Vintage Metals

Start with a Blank Canvas

Here is my step by step process, for creating an interesting new look on the front porch. I did not purchase any new items, preferring instead to use what I already own. It’s a game I play, a creative form of having fun while accomplishing a necessary task.

Play along with me!

I cleared the entry way table near the front door. Greg brought home this table from a job site. The owner no longer wanted it and the table sat forlornly, waiting for trash pickup. Greg added a brace at the bottom, for stability. This free piece began as a red table, moved to my daughter’s house for a time, then returned to me, and became yellow.

This afternoon I wiped it down and added a woven table runner, to break up the surface. Above the table I hung a gardening sign painted in the colors I wanted to feature.

Front Porch Reset with Vintage Metals

Create Central Vignette

Here’s how the creative process works for me. I look at the item I’m working with, and allow ideas to pop up. It’s actually more of a mental download. I “see” what the finished project looks like, then move step by step toward the outcome I desire.

The metal tray, with bits of scruffy blue paint still intact, became the focal point.

In my mental image, I could see the tray filled with a variety of metal and glass containers, suitable for holding tealight candles. After gathering containers and playing with arrangement, I wrapped a rusty metal star garland around the tray.

Front Porch Reset with Vintage Metals

Add Additional Elements

Once I completed the central vignette, I looked through my vintage metals for additional elements to add. Typically I use the “rule of three” for groupings. In this case, I added an old blue toolbox at one end of the table and partnered it with a stone bird candle holder.

On the other end of the table, I grouped three metal items together: a vintage gas can, a small decorative bucket and a mesh candle holder. These items anchored either end of the table and completed the table top.

Front Porch Reset Using Vintage Metals

Let There Be Light

Pleased with this unconventional display, I stepped back to get the overall effect. I realized opening the lid of the blue toolbox would allow me to accomplish two things: the open box created height at that end of the table, and I could drop candles inside the interior.

Light is an important element in all of my vignettes. I find ways to include unscented tealights primarily. Lighting the candles as twilight falls brings a coziness to my home. That’s the hygge element that I love. Read about the Scandinavian custom of hygge here. And get spring hygge ideas here.

Front Porch Reset Using Vintage Metals

Bench Vignettes

My daughter also gave me a rustic wooden bench. I’m excited to cluster potted plants on it and around it,  in a couple of weeks. This afternoon I created simple vignettes on either end of the bench.

The old copper container, repurposed into a flower pot, is empty now. Soon it will cradle flowering plants. I drilled a hole in the bottom of the pot, so water can drain. The old southwestern style flower pot, a special piece from my childhood, came out onto the porch today. I placed it near the bench, in a sheltered spot to protect it.

The metal scoop belonged to Greg’s grandparents. Grandma Ruby painted it, making it perfect for this grouping. And next to the old green toolbox is an antique bulb planter that I still use.

Front Porch Reset Using Vintage Metals

Steps to Creating with What You Have

To create your own unique vignettes follow these simple steps:

  • Make creation a playful game. Whatever you create is perfect and an expression of who you are.
  • If you so desire, only use items that you already own. I find this challenge to be fun. The process causes me to think outside the box, and use pieces in fresh new ways. There’s nothing wrong with buying items. Watch for after season sales, flea market finds or visit yard sales to pick up amazing pieces at low prices. Here’s a great buy on Bell mason jars, which I use for many purposes.
  • Pick a theme based on colors, elements such as wood, metal or glass, or a season such as spring. I typically start with color. Every item I choose, as I add pieces, supports the theme or complements it.
  • Look through all your items and collections, with the theme in mind. I wander around my house, thinking. I have a closet full of small items that I rotate in my décor. However, I’m not limited to using those pieces. I may “borrow” a piece from the living room, the creative studio or even the backyard garden. Think big!
  • Gather all items that might work and play with arrangements. Let your imagination guide you. What you create is an extension of your wonderful creativity. No vignette is wrong. All that matters is that you enjoy it!
  • Once items are placed to your satisfaction, congratulate yourself, take a photo of your creation, and enjoy the fruits of your efforts!

Front Porch Reset Using Vintage Metals

Front Porch Reset Using Vintage Metals

I’m happy with this front porch reset. As darkness fell, I lit the candles and smiled.

My front porch looks fresh, whimsical and fun. This is a totally different look, one I’ve never done before. And doing something new, as often as I can, is one of my things.

I love going beyond the ordinary. How about you?

Front Porch Reset Using Vintage Metals

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Foraging for Tea

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My interest in the medicinal value found in plants led me on a couple of foraging expeditions last summer. I enjoyed walking around my yard and garden, identifying 18 edible wild foods growing there.

I made a mental note last year to watch for the return of early spring flowers. Although today’s temps stayed on the cool side, the sunshine lured me outdoors this afternoon where I could prowl the yard, foraging for tea.

Foraging for Tea

Foraging for Tea

I identified six flowering plants, suitable for brewing a refreshing cup of tea.

A word of caution. When foraging for tea and for consumption, identification becomes extremely important. I checked out foraging books from my local library last summer and spent time examining and identifying the plants growing in my yard.

The following list of wild plants, suitable for tea, are common plants readily available in most of the United States. Some wild foods, however,  like mushrooms, require careful examination, as there are poisonous varieties that look similar to the edible ones.

Lilac

My lilac bush, a start that my grandfather gave me years ago, is in full bloom. The scent is seductively sweet, inviting me to lean in toward the fragrant flowers and inhale deeply.

Lilac leaves and blooms are edible. And like most herbs, they have healing properties. Lilac tea soothes the digestive system and helps to lower a fever.

Use freshly picked flowers to create a delightful tea.

Place 2 tablespoons of lilac flowers, stems removed, in a mesh tea ball or strainer. Place the ball or strainer in a mug and pour in boiling water. Cover and allow tea to steep for 15 minutes. Remove ball or strainer. Add a few lilac blossoms to float on top of tea.

Fresh lilac leaves may be used as well. However they produce a somewhat bitter tea.

Foraging for Tea

Redbud Tree

The redbud tree announces spring’s arrival with bright purplish pink flower clusters. This beauty is my favorite tree and two of them grace my front yard. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered the tiny flowers are edible.

Redbud blossoms are high in vitamin C and offer antioxidant properties, making the tea helpful for inflammation and for boosting the immune system.

I carried my mesh strainer out to the bigger tree and easily gathered approximately 3 tablespoons of blooms from the branches. Boiling water added and the mug covered, the tea steeped for 15 minutes.

The redbud tea had a light green color and a refreshing and delicate flavor, reminiscent of dandelion tea. I enjoyed this soothing drink for afternoon tea time.

Foraging for Tea

Dandelion

Although most people consider dandelions a weed and a great nuisance, the entire herb contributes to health and wellbeing.

Full of nutrients such as vitamins A and B, manganese, iodine, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, silica and chlorophyll, dandelions energize the body, prevent illnesses and fight off diseases. The flowers, which are the least bitter part of the plant, cleanse the stomach and intestinal tract.

Pick flowers before they begin to go to seed. Place in a tea ball or mesh basket and drop into a mug. Add boiling water, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. For even greater health benefits, include a couple of leaves with the flowers.

Foraging for Tea

Violets

The common blue violet, which is actually a purple color, is considered a weed. It appears in yards, along sidewalks and in gardens in early spring. The leaves and the cheerful flowers are edible.

Violets are high in vitamins A and C and they have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They are cooling and moisturizing and cleansing for the blood and lymphatic system.

Snip off blooms with scissors, to brew for tea. Add 2 tablespoons of violet flowers to a mesh basket or tea ball, drop into a mug and add boiling water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes.

Foraging for Tea

Henbit

This herb, a member of the mint family, springs up in yards as a harbinger of spring. The tiny pinkish purple flowers attract bees and hummingbirds. The plant is so named because chickens love this herb. The entire plant is edible, for chickens and humans.

Henbit, which is often confused for Dead Nettle (see below), is a nutritious wild food, high in iron, vitamins A, C and K, and fiber. Henbit offers digestive support, boosts energy and reduces fevers. Don’t overdo with this wild food, as it can have a laxative effect. An occasional cup of tea or adding the leaves to salads is fine.

Gather the plants, stem, leaves and flowers, and add to a mesh basket. Pour boiling water over the Henbit, cover and brew for 15 minutes.

Foraging for TeaHenbit on the left and Dead Nettle on the right. These plants often grow together in the yard. Notice the differences in the leaves.

Dead Nettle

Related to Henbit, Dead Nettle belongs to the mint family as well. The different leaves help to identify which plant is which. Dead Nettle is an important plant in early spring, attracting bees awakening from their dormant winter phase.

Dead Nettle offers support to the digestive system, boosts the immune system and relieves menstrual issues for women. For that reason, Dead Nettle should not be consumed by pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant. Like Henbit, this herb is high in iron, vitamins A, C and K and fiber.

Add Dead Nettle stems, leaves and flowers to a mesh basket, drop into a mug and add boiling water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. For fun, Dead Nettle and Henbit can be combined when making tea.

Foraging for Tea

Spring Teas

My foraging for tea today was successful. I enjoyed the redbud tea this afternoon. And tonight, after dinner, I gathered Henbit and Dead Nettle and brewed a second cup of tea. The combined Henbit and Dead Nettle created an earthy, flavorful tea that reminded me of greens such as kale with hints of sage or oregano.

The wild teas are soothing to sip on and healthy for my body. The act of foraging for tea brings its own benefits as well. I love walking outdoors and feeling connected to nature as I look for the plants and gather a few for my own use.

Plus foraging greatly increases the variety of teas I enjoy this time of year. As my herbal garden grows and wild edibles appear in the yard, I have a wealth of health boosting plants available to choose from.

I am so grateful for the healing power in plants. They truly are my medicine.

Foraging for Tea

Check out my Amazon Storefront for a variety of tea supplies such as tea balls and mesh baskets, and mugs with covers.

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program is designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Review: Five Feet Apart

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

My granddaughter Aubrey spent the night with me Saturday. We enjoyed girl time coloring, watching Netflix and chatting. Sunday morning, when asked what she wanted to do before returning home, Aubrey suggested a movie at the theater.

I loved that idea! Aubrey and I share an appreciation for movies. We enjoy the entertainment aspect, however we also perceive the deeper messages within each film. I allowed my granddaughter to select the movie.

This 10 year old now prefers live action films over animation, a sure sign she is nearing her teens. And her matinee choice certainly demonstrated that. After scanning a couple of reviews, Aubrey chose the teen romance, Five Feet Apart.

Movie Review Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart Cast

This drama romance stars Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Claire Forlani, Emily Baldoni and Gary Weeks. Directed by Justin Baldoni, Five Feet Apart is based on the book by the same title, written by Mikki Daughtry, Rachel Lippincott and Tobias Iaconis. The film carries a PG-13 rating, for mature themes and mild language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 56 minutes.

Movie Review Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart Storyline

Stella (Richardson) enjoys being with her friends and creating videos to share on social media. She seems to be a typical teenage girl. However, Stella has cystic fibrosis, a genetic life threatening condition that makes breathing difficult and requires frequent stays in the hospital.

Stella’s best friend, Poe (Arias) also has CF. The two met in the hospital as children. They encourage each other through the daily routines, meds and procedures, and both are on the wait list for lung transplants.

Nurse Barb (Gregory) watches over her CF patients with the fierceness of a mother and the compassion of one who has cared for many sick children over the years.

Spending so much time in the hospital, it is perhaps inevitable that Stella creates deep friendships with other CF kids…and that she falls in love with a young man who shares her disease.

Movie Review Five Feet Apart

Will Meets Stella

Will (Sprouse) not only has cystic fibrosis, he carries a bacterial infection in his lungs that makes him ineligible for a lung transplant. During his hospital stay he undergoes experimental treatments in an attempt to clear the bacteria from his lungs. Charming and artistic, Will covers feelings of hopelessness and resignation with humor and nonchalance. He is intrigued by Stella, who long ago took charge of her own health routines and meds schedule. Will gets to know Stella by watching all of her online videos that detail what life with CF is like.

Stella, however, is initially unimpressed with Will. His lack of interest in improving his health baffles and then frustrates her. With Poe working as a mediator between them, Will and Stella gradually become friends. As Stella creates a strict health schedule for Will, and joins him via facetime chats for treatments, their friendship deepens into something more.

Movie Review Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart

Cystic fibrosis patients must observe very strict rules of engagement with each other. The infection in one patient’s lungs can make another CF patient very sick or even cause death. Precautions are necessary. The patients can be around family or healthy friends. However, when in the presence of another CF individual each person must wear gloves, a mask and remain six feet apart at all times.

Because of that rule, Stella and Poe have never hugged or touched each other during their long friendship. As Will and Stella develop feelings for each other they long to hold hands, embrace or share a kiss. Nurse Barb goes on alert when she realizes the teens have fallen in love. She vows not to lose a patient on her watch, and strongly discourages the relationship.

But the teens have experienced enough loss in their short lives. Will’s father left when his infant son was diagnosed with CF. His mother (Forlani) uses all the resources she has to help her son survive. And yet she is emotionally cool and distant, perhaps as a protective measure.

Stella’s mother (Baldoni) and father (Weeks) suffered the heartbreak of losing another daughter, not through cystic fibrosis but because of a tragic accident. That loss and Stella’s illness strains their marriage to the breaking point. They have recently divorced.

Grieving her sister still, and her parents’ breakup, Stella decides life has robbed her of enough. It’s time to take something back. She and Will shorten the distance between them to five feet…five feet apart as determined by a pool stick. Keeping their growing relationship hidden from their parents and Nurse Barb, Stella and Will share their thoughts and feelings about life, illness and death. And they discover that when life keeps you apart, you fight for every inch.

Movie Review Five Feet Apart

My Thoughts on Five Feet Apart

This is a sweet, tender movie that deals with very difficult subjects. I’m glad Aubrey selected this film and that we watched it together. Parts of it are heart wrenching as the characters deal with typical teenage angst plus the heaviness of a serious, life robbing disease.

Five Feet Apart is, over all, an uplifting and hopeful film, with occasional challenges added that create edginess and concern about the outcome. After watching the film, I read that cystic fibrosis patient Claire Wineland worked as a consultant on the film, coaching the young actors in their roles. Richardson, Sprouse and Arias give authentic and moving portrayals of CF patients, thanks to Claire. Sadly, she died in September 2018, suffering a stroke after a successful lung transplant.

While there are moments of hilarity and joy, this is a movie that tugs on the heart emotionally. Aubrey told me after the credits rolled that only two films have made her cry. One was A Dog’s Life. The second film is Five Feet Apart. A few years ago, I would have avoided a movie like this one. Allowing my heart to feel strong emotions and my eyes to fill with sympathetic tears was good for me.

Conversations Around the Movie

In the car I took the opportunity to discuss the film and its themes of life, death, illness, friendship and love with my granddaughter. Aubrey shared her thoughts openly and beautifully and asked questions about cystic fibrosis. We discussed the importance of living life to the fullest, now, and enjoying every moment. And we talked about big topics such as gratitude, anger, sacrifice and acceptance.

Movies are what one makes them to be. They offer entertainment, for sure. And for the open heart and mind, they offer so much more. Aubrey and I left the theater with fresh appreciation for life and love and hope.

Order the book that the move is based upon, by clicking on the photo below:

 

 

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Stomp Rocket®️: Outdoor Fun for Kids

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Stomp Rocket®️ sent me product for review. All opinions are entirely my own.

As warm sunny spring days arrive at last, kids are aware of two things: the school year is almost over and they can get outside and play.

When Stomp Rocket®️ offered to send me one of their rocket packages to try, I knew who I could tag for product testers. Three of my grandchildren volunteered to run, jump and stomp and launch these rockets into the sky!

Stomp Rocket Outdoor Fun for Kids

What are Stomp Rockets?

Created by aeronautical engineers, Stomp Rocket’s stunt planes and rockets are designed to keep kids active and engaged while learning STEM principals.

STEM is defined as an educational approach in which academic concepts are combined with real world lessons as kids apply Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills.

Using Stomp Rocket®️ planes and rockets, kids learn about concepts such as gravity, force, trajectory and air power. As you will see, playing with the rockets also fired up creativity for my grandchildren, which is an important factor as well. When play sparks creativity it becomes high level of learning.

Stomp Rockets are 100% kid powered, no batteries required, with minor assembly necessary for the stand. They are portable, making them easy to take along to a park or family gathering. Stomp Rocket®️ offers a variety of packages suitable for ages five and up, with junior packages available for kids as young as three.

The company has entertained children for 25 years, winning numerous awards from industry experts. Check out their website Stomp Rocket.

Stomp Rocket Outdoor Fun for Kids

Run, Jump, Stomp

Stomp Rocket®️ sent me the Ultra Rocket LED. The package contains four rockets that light up when launched, and a stand with the kid powered pump. My son assembled the stand and the kids were ready to give the rockets a try.

We had a bright sunny day with very little wind. Son Nate and I snapped photos while Papa Greg cheered the kids on and helped to fetch rockets as they plummeted back to earth. Carl the dog just wanted to be where the action was!

My Product Testers

Aubrey, age 10, proved girls can run, jump and stomp while wearing flip flops. Look at her concentration!

Stomp Rocket Outdoor Fun for Kids

Oliver, age 11, is my most active grandchild. Look at that jumping form!

Stomp Rocket Outdoor Fun for Kids

And Joey, age 12, is a few months shy of becoming a teenager. He already looks like one in his photo!

Stomp Rocket Outdoor Fun for Kids

The kids had fun with the Stomp Rockets. They quickly discovered that force determined how high the rocket shot into the air. These three are competitive, which added to the fun.

The empty field across the street inspired a game.

As one child launched the rocket into the air, the others ran out into the field, attempting to catch it as it fell. That game progressed to each child trying to catch their own rocket after it launched.

Carl the dog even got in on the action. With the help of his boy Joey, he sent a rocket into the air too.

My Thoughts About Stomp Rocket®️

I enjoyed watching my grandkids play with the rockets. These technology minded children use cell phones and computers with ease and play their fair share of electronic games. It was great to see them running and playing and laughing outside. My son and daughter-in-law provide equipment that encourages outdoor play and most importantly, they join the kids in activities. The Stomp Rockets are perfect for this family.

I loved, too, that the kids got creative and made up their own games. A toy or product that’s adaptable and sparks imagination gets high marks from me. Grandson Oliver even felt inspired to make his own rocket out of paper and tape. How great is that? He tried out designs and adapted his until he could test it on the launcher. His paper rocket worked incredibly well, shooting into the air and travelling great distances, due to its light weight. That’s what a good educational product will do…inspire learning and encourage play that begets invention or art.

Stomp Rocket Outdoor Fun for Kids

This burst of creativity carried over into a fun video that two of the grandchildren created, after I left. My son went outside as the sun set, to find Oliver and Aubrey creating a marketing “commercial” for Stomp Rocket®️. Take a look at their humorous video. Can you see how much fun they are having?

Thank you, Stomp Rocket®️, for the fun and for the learning experiences.

Stomp Rocket Outdoor Fun for Kids

Click on photos below to order your Stomp Rockets!

 


 

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Ecological Garden Hacks

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Warm days full of sunshine and occasional showers are teasing my garden into life. I’ve completed early spring gardening tasks. Soon I’ll tuck new plants into the warming ground and celebrate each perennial as it pushes through the rich dirt.

I’m a mindful gardener, with an awareness of the importance of taking care of my little portion of the earth. I don’t use commercial weed killers or pesticides. To do so endangers the beneficial insects, toads and spiders that call my backyard home. It’s also important to me to reuse and repurpose items as much as possible, rather than buying new.

It’s a journey and a process that I expand upon every year. Each spring, as the garden awakens, I read back through a little book I purchased several years ago. I’ve learned great ecological garden hacks from Trowel & Errorby Sharon Lovejoy, and I’ve come up with a few of my own.

Ecological Garden Hacks

Ecological Garden Hacks

These hacks are friendly to the environment and beneficial for the garden. Many of the supplies needed are already in your kitchen pantry or they are easily obtained.

DIY Insect Repellents

Rather than using commercial products that damage the environment and destroy beneficial insects as well as troublesome ones, try one of these DIY repellents.

  • Add a handful of basil leaves to 1/2 gallon of water, crushing the leaves slightly. Brew in the sun for a couple of days. Strain and pour into spray bottles, adding 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap. I like Seventh Generation chemical free dish soap. This solution repels aphids, cabbage loopers, mites and cucumber beetles.
  • Add 2 tablespoons ground red pepper and 6 drops of liquid soap to 1 gallon of water. Let sit overnight. Stir and pour into spray bottles. Use to spray all plants in the cabbage family…cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower…once a week.
  • When trimming or cutting back herbs, drop clippings into a gallon bucket. Fill with water and let sit for a week. Strain and add 2  tablespoons of liquid soap. Spray directly on pests.
  • One of the easiest ways to control pests, including Japanese beetles, is to keep a bucket of soapy water nearby as you weed or work in the garden. Pluck off pests as you find them and drop into the bucket. I’ve not tried this next step, however I’ve read that you can strain the liquid after a week and use the dead bug concoction as a repellent. I must try this garden hack out this summer.

Create Houses for Garden Allies

While keeping a watchful eye out for pests and invaders, create habitats for insects and animals that feed on harmful insects.

  • Turn clay flower pots, with drainage holes in the bottom, upside in sheltered areas of the garden. Spiders will take up residence inside, feeding on insects and larvae.
  • Place shallow pans, bowls or discs on the ground near tall grasses or woody plants. Dragonflies are drawn to the water and like to rest on grass stems or twigs nearby. A dragonfly eats up to 300 insects a day.
  • Dig a shallow hole in the ground and create a toad house with two small rocks or bricks and a large flat rock laid across the top. Leave the front and back open.
  • Fill a half barrel with water to encourage frogs to gather. Watch the water however. Without frogs, mosquitos will lay eggs in the water that will hatch.

Other helpful allies include praying mantis, ladybugs, birds, snakes, large garden spiders and bats. You want these helpers in the garden. Create a supportive environment for them.

Ecological Garden Hacks
One of two toad houses in my garden.

Create Willow Water

The leaves and tender branches of the willow tree contain powerful compounds that stimulate growth and development in plants. Collect small twigs and spring leaves and cut them into one inch pieces. Drop a couple of handfuls into a bucket of water and steep the mixture for a week. Strain and pour liquid into canning jars. Store in the refrigerator.

Use willow water to propagate plants. Dip the end of the cutting in the water, letting it soak for a few minutes, then tuck the new plant into the ground. Water with the willow mixture. Use willow water to water around freshly transplanted plants and seedlings.

Garden Hacks from the Kitchen

Use those left over kitchen scraps to benefit the soil and plants in the garden.

  • Coffee grounds, egg shells and banana peels can go directly into the ground without composting. Sprinkle coffee grounds on top of the ground. Rinse egg shells and allow them to dry for a few days. Crush and sprinkle around tomato plants. Chop banana peels and work into the soil with a spade or turning fork. As they break down banana peels add calcium, magnesium, sulphur, potassium and sodium to the soil, enriching it.
  • Create a compost pile. Add kitchen scraps to it daily. Do not include meat or dairy products. Water every few days and turn the pile once a week or so. In a couple of months you’ll have rich dirt for the garden.
  • Use left over tea to water plants and sprinkle dried tea leaves on the ground. Save tea bags after use, cutting them open and emptying contents onto the ground.
  • Empty lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit rinds make excellent seed starter pots. Transplant the whole thing into the garden when the seedlings are big enough.
  • Water the garden with cooled vegetable water, left over from cooking. And although this isn’t exactly a kitchen item, stinky water from the fish tank is great for watering plants as well.
Ecological Garden Hacks
Adding chopped banana peels to the garden.

Uses for Epsom Salt

This product has so many uses in the garden. It contains magnesium, which is important to plants. Epsom salt speeds up plant growth, deters pests, increases the flavor of veggies and fruits and improves overall plant health.

  • In the garden, sprinkle 1 cup of Epsom salt per 100 square foot, mixing it well into the soil before planting.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to the bottom of the hole when planting. Cover salt with a thin layer of dirt before adding plant.
  • Water around the base of plants with mixture of 2 tablespoons Epsom salt and 1 gallon of water.
  • Improve yield and flavor of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers by watering every two weeks with 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in 1 gallon of water.
  • When planting roses, soak root ball in water containing 1/2 cup of Epsom salt. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt into the hole before planting rose. Once a month during the growing season, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt, per foot of plant, around the base of the rose and then water.
  • Use Epsom salt as a weed killer by mixing 2 cups with 1 gallon of water. Add a tablespoon of liquid soap and pour into spray bottle to use. Spray weeds while avoiding flowers and vegetable plants.

Repurpose Containers and Objects in the Garden

Rather than purchasing new containers every year, add interest to the garden by repurposing a multitude of items. My garden contains an eclectic mix of clay pots, metal pieces and other repurposed items.

I use metal buckets, washtubs, watering cans and tool boxes to hold flowers and herbs. This is one of the magical elements in my garden…it’s filled with unusual yet practical containers. Wire baskets, attached to the privacy fence, serve as shelves for an assortment of flower pots. Colanders cradle plants. A vintage minnow bucket holds tea light candles.

A rusty wheelbarrow became a fairy garden. And an old wooden chair holds an enamel bucket full of annuals. Greg repurposed old wooden pallets into a potting bench.

When the big old maple tree had to come down, after being damaged in a storm, I used portions of the trunk and large branches to create natural flower pots and plant stands. Eventually these planters will deteriorate and return to the earth. I consider them gifts from Maple Tree and I’m honored to have them in the garden.

Before I toss any item that no longer fulfills its original purpose, I consider what new life it might find in the house or garden. I love discovering new ways to use things.

Ecological Garden Hacks
Gifts from Maple Tree fill my garden.

Moving Toward Zero Waste

I am learning about and desiring to practice zero waste. In my home, in my kitchen and in my garden, living with less waste saves me money and allows me to do my part to ease the burden on the earth. Watch for upcoming posts about ways to live greener, limit one time use plastics, reuse and repurpose items and practice zero waste.

I hope these ecological garden hacks help you to enjoy your garden and feel good about what you are doing as you care for it. I’d love to hear about your garden hacks and tricks, in the comments. Happy gardening!

Ecological Garden Hacks
Can you spot all the repurposed items in this section of the garden?

Order Trowel & Error by clicking photo below:

 

 

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Series Review: The Twilight Zone

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Tonight CBS All Access rolled out their newest series, which is a reboot actually. The original Twilight Zone premiered in 1959. Hosted by Rod Serling, the series built its seasons and its popularity on a very basic and powerful human emotion…fear.

Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone explored our fears of nuclear annihilation, space travel and what might lurk out there, inanimate objects that moved and talked, war and technology that ran amok.

At its core, however, Twilight Zone exposed human nature, with all its frailties and sometimes its strengths. The series delved into collective fears and also pulled back the curtain on our single greatest fear: that we are each of us alone in the situation we find ourselves in, and our words and thoughts are not believed.

Series Review: The Twilight Zone

You Are Now Entering the Twilight Zone

Twilight Zone scared me as a young child. I missed the deeper messages initially. The talking doll and the evil ventriloquist dummy birthed more nightmares into my already fear soaked little life. Years later, watching reruns, I realized Serling’s stories sought to reveal rather than terrorize. And if the unexpected twists and turns created goosebumps, that was an added perk.

I came to appreciate the bold and creative story-telling of Rod Serling. I’ll never forget the classic episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” featuring a young William Shatner. His character, with an intense fear of flying, is not just terrified by a monster on the wing of the plane. He is terrified because no one else can see it. He alone bears the crushing burden of knowing the plane is doomed by a menace only he can see.

Tonight CBS All Access released episodes one and two of The Twilight Zone, created for a new generation and narrated perfectly by Jordan Peele, who is also the executive producer.

Series Review The Twilight Zone

Episode One: The Comedian

The premier episode stars Tracy Morgan, Kumail Nanjiani, Diarra Kilpatrick and Amara Karran. Owen Harris directs The Comedian, which has a run time of 1 hour. The fantasy/drama carries a TV-14 rating, for very strong language. This episode, at least, is not suitable for young children.

Samir Wassan (Nanjiani) struggles to get the laughs as a stand up comic in a nightclub. His colleague and competitor, DiDi (Kilpatrick), brings the house down with her routine. However Samir, who wants to reveal truths while making people laugh, bombs night after night. His long suffering girlfriend Rena (Karran), a successful lawyer, provides for both of them financially.

After a particularly dull performance one night, Samir meets legendary comedian JC Wheeler (Morgan). He tells Samir that no one wants to hear him make political points. Wheeler challenges him instead to tap into his only true resource, his own personal life.

When Wheeler asks what Samir most wants, the younger comedian realizes that beyond making a difference in the world, he wants the fame, the fortune…and the laughs. Wheeler warns Samir that once he offers from his own life, and the audience connects with it, the material will be gone forever.

In this “be careful what you wish for” story, Samir discovers the high cost of fame.

Series Review: The Twilight Zone

My Thoughts on The Twilight Zone

I appreciated this first episode. Having only seen a brief trailer for the series in general, I kept expectations in check and didn’t read up on the premise before watching The Comedian. Interestingly, in reality I dislike watching stand up comedy. It troubles me and creates low level anxiety if the comedian doesn’t get the laughs.

So how bizarre that this first episode features a comic who isn’t funny. And yet he longs to be, more than he longs for anything else in the world. The whole situation created tension for me, adding an unsettling element while watching the story unfold.

I loved Jordan Peele’s opening and closing narrations, so reminiscent of Serling’s. And while the plot proved a bit predictable…perhaps because I’ve seen so many episodes of the old Twilight Zone…the characteristic twists at the end brought a smile. And I confess, I experienced a bit of a creepy chill in the closing moments . I so enjoy when that “oh wow” surprise sneaks up on me.

A Promising Twilight Zone

I look forward to watching episode two later this week. Called “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet”, this episode offers nods to the famous William Shatner tale. I’m willing to enter into this new Twilight Zone experience…and see what truths I can discover there.

The Twilight Zone airs on Thursday evenings, when it returns April 11, exclusively on CBS All Access. You can sign up for a free 7 day trial by clicking the link below. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can add this streaming service for an additional monthly fee. Start a free Amazon Prime Video Channels Subscription trial HERE.

All Access airs CBS programing and original shows, including my favorite, Star Trek Discovery.

Series Review The Twilight Zone

 

CBS All Access: Full seasons of classic CBS shows, ad-free. Try it now.

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