Day 166: Reupholster Bistro Chairs


In early March of this year, I purchased a bistro set at the 2 Friends & Junk show. Although creating a space for it in my garden was still a month or more away, I loved the set when I saw it and gave it a temporary home in my bedroom. Today, for my first, I removed the old seat covers and replaced them with new outdoor fabric in a wonderful paisley print.

When I was a child, I’d come home from school and find that the living room chairs or sofa looked different. My mom had made new slipcovers while we were away. Or my favorite old rocker with the wooden arms would be sporting new corduroy upholstery. It was always a fun surprise. Mom was quite the seamstress, making all kinds of household items, sewing clothes for my sisters and me, and creating piles of doll clothes as well. The hum of her sewing machine was comforting and the sound still creates a cozy warm feeling when I hear it.

I, on the other hand, am not a seamstress. But I wanted to replace the fabric on the bistro chairs and since I could do so without any sewing, it seemed to be a task I could handle. I found the perfect outdoor material at Joann Fabrics, a pretty paisley print in teal, green, brown, yellow, rust and cream. Another outdoor project that is under way this week will feature a teal door, so I selected a pattern that brought that color to the far corner of the garden.

I didn’t need a sewing machine, but I did need tools. I gathered scissors, a screwdriver, a drill, the compressor, and a crown stapler. It was simple enough to remove the seats, saving the screws. I tore off the ruffles and using the seat as a pattern, traced around it on the new fabric. I added an allowance for pulling the fabric around the foam topped wooden seat, where I would secure it with staples. I encountered my first hiccup when I didn’t have enough staples to complete the job. Greg, bless him, checked a couple of stores before finding and buying more for me.

Fabric circles cut and ready to go, I stapled one to a seat and prepared to reattach the seat to the chair frame. Next hiccup. I realized the former owner of the chairs had made the seats a bit small and the original holes in the frame barely allowed a screw to bite into the wood of the seat. Greg again came to my rescue. While I finished covering the remaining seats, he drilled new holes in the metal frames, moving the holes further in. The screws now had something to sink into. I was able to quickly finish up. I got much better at handling the fabric and tools as I went along.

I am very pleased with the results! The chairs have a fresh, updated look. The colors are so perfect that I will most likely use them throughout the backyard. I placed the bistro table and four chairs on a corner of the brick patio. What a great place that will be to sip a morning cup of tea or have an outdoor meal.  I feel the satisfaction my mom must have felt when she finished one of her projects. Mom….look what I did!


Original seat covers



New paisley covers

Day 159: Apothecary Garden


When a window of opportunity opened this morning, meaning my area was in between storm fronts, I leapt through it. According to the weather app on my phone, I had 2-3 hours before the next rain shower arrived. My first for today was to plant an apothecary garden.

This section of my garden evolved over the past few months. I had intentions of creating an herb garden. As I read about apothecary gardens, that intention morphed. Essentially, they are herb gardens, with a few additional plants that are useful for healing. As with the other sections in my backyard, this will be a garden in process that will continue to grow and adapt over the next few years.

The quiet and fragrant beauty of an apothecary garden and the peaceful activity of caring for it can be healing in itself. The purpose of such a garden is to deliver a healing harvest useful for teas, decoctions, salves and tinctures. I also use dried herbs and flowers to make my own potpourri and bath products. I am very interested in continuing to learn to use herbs and flowers to create other health and beauty products.

The first healers were herbalists and the first medicines plants. The apothecary garden is steeped in history. These gardens were first grown in the Middle Ages and cared for by monks who studied plants and their therapeutic uses. In later centuries, physicians maintained their own healing gardens and stillrooms for growing and preparing botanical medicines.

Today, I planted an assortment of herbs in my apothecary garden. I included Platinum Blonde Lavender and Silver Anouk Lavender, East Friesland Sage, Russian Sage, and Garden Sage, Peppermint, German Thyme, Greek Oregano, Garlic, Lemon Grass and Lemon Balm, and the Basils: Cinnamon, Purple, Spicy Globe, Sweet and Thai. There are several other plants I’m searching for, including calendula, feverfew, German Chamomile, comfrey, Apothecary rose and sweet violet. I’ll add a container of aloe. It can’t survive the cold, so must winter indoors. There is an empty space between the purple sage and the silver lavender that is saved for a large black cast iron kettle that Greg’s dad is giving me. I’m excited to bring that home and plant more herbs and flowers within it.

I loved creating this space today. The rain arrived before I finished and I spent the last two hours in a gentle shower. That was okay. The rain and I are friends, after all. Greg was a tremendous help, using his truck to bring in two loads of mulch. He removed grass from the section I was planting in and spread the mulch after carting it into the backyard with a wheelbarrow. Until the rain started, the cats cavorted about, checking out each new plant.

I left my contact lenses out this morning, which meant I could see well close up, but not at distances. That had the beautiful effect of bringing my vision to what was immediately before me. The world beyond my fences blurred out and could not claim my attention. What I focused on was digging in the rich moist dirt and setting the plants into the earth, envisioning what they would become, but willing to journey with them over the next months and years as they mature and fill in their allotted space. With water and sunshine, these herbs and flowers will become what they are so wonderfully created to be, offering their beauty, scent, leaves and blooms freely to me. What an amazing shared journey it will be.


Day 149: S’mores Around the Fire Pit


In spite of the mass of dark clouds looming to the southwest, my sister Linda, Greg and I gathered around a blazing fire in the backyard, to make the first batch of s’mores using the new fire pit. This was Linda’s idea. Recently during a family gathering around the fire, she lamented that I didn’t have the ingredients to make s’mores.

Tonight, she brought the marshmallows, chocolate candy bars and graham crackers. I supplied the fire…and the drinks. She had a peach margarita while Greg and I sipped on cold Angry Orchard Ciders. The clouds lumbered on without shedding a drop of rain. The stars came out overhead. And the crackle of the fire enchanted us. We were ready to make s’mores.

I looked up the origin of this classic campfire treat, popular in the US and Canada. According to Wikipedia, s’mores is a contraction of the phrase “some more”. The first recorded version of the recipe was found in the publication Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts, in 1927, and remained in girl scout publications labeled as Some Mores until 1973. Merriam-Webster marks 1974 as the first use of the word s’mores.

We prepared our chocolate pieces and graham crackers and then, using long forks, toasted marshmallows. There is an art to marshmallow toasting. Hold them too close to the fire and they blaze up, charring on the outside but remaining cool inside. Patience is required to slowly brown the outside, allowing the inside to become warm and gooey. Once the marshmallows were evenly browned and starting to sag a bit on the fork, they were ready to slide off onto a square of chocolate, which in turn rested on a larger square of graham cracker. Topped with another piece of chocolate and another square of cracker and they were ready to eat.


The treats tasted great. Except Linda ate her first one and realized she forgot the chocolate! We decided it wasn’t really a s’more, but a marshmallow treat. She, of course, had to make another. Like me, she has been limiting her sugar intake, so while the s’mores were very tasty, they were also very sweet. One was all I wanted.

It was fun to sit around the fire pit, laughing, talking, munching on s’mores and watching the fire. I could sit and stare into those flames for hours, fascinated by the twisting, leaping tongues of fire. I’m glad Linda thought of this first, and the fire pit has now had its s’mores initiation. Coming up in the near future….a hot dog roast! It’s going to be a fun summer.


Day 130: Meditation Garden


Today was a beautiful day to spend time with my mom and sister in an early Mother’s Day lunch and a beautiful day to spend time in the garden. For my first today, I purchased and planted a Japanese Maple in the garden and added panels, clematis vines, and uniquely potted plants to the meditation garden.

Abram L. Urban says, “In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.” I love that quote! My garden not only contains my dreams, my garden IS my dream right now, or at least, it is the first step in a series of dreams. Part of the purpose in having my backyard garden is so that it will be a beautiful sanctuary for thoughts and more dreams.

The southwest corner of the yard has been designated as the meditation garden. This is a small, intimate area, partially screened off from the rest of the garden. It is intended as a place for one, or at the most two, to sit and read, relax, sip tea or meditate and pray. A gently curving path will lead to this corner and the interior will be simple, peaceful and beautiful. I have a couple of wooden chairs that my grandfather made a long time ago. They are not in the best shape. If they can be repaired, I will use those in this quiet corner of the yard. If not, I’ll look for plain yet comfortable wooden chairs. A small wooden or metal table will provide a place for a drink or snack. There will be an assortment of plants, both in the ground around the screens and in various containers within the space. The soothing sound of water is a must so I will have a large basin or hollowed out stone resting on the ground for water and later, when an electrical line has been run, a water feature.

Greg came up with the perfect screens for the meditation garden, panels of welded wire attached at right angles to the wood privacy fence, creating a small outdoor room. I love the look of metal right now and these repurposed panels will create intimacy while allowing air to flow freely through the space. I planted four clematis vines today, to trail up the wire panels. I also bought my first Japanese Maple and planted it near the meditation garden. To the north of the meditation garden will be the Japanese garden. It seems a fitting location as the two types of gardens complement each other well. My grandson Dayan will be designing and helping to plant the Japanese garden. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him on this project!


I had fun adding flowers to more unique containers, including a small metal bucket, another wonderfully shaped metal watering can, and an old metal minnow bucket! Thanks to Greg for bringing me these great items from Arkansas! Hopefully, dark brown mulch will go down tomorrow, along the path to the meditation garden and within that space as well. I have more flowers, grasses and shrubs to plant. It will take time for the flowers to grow and fill in and time for me to find the right pieces to occupy this soulful place, but that’s okay. This is a process, not a race. I will enjoy the journey. I can stand in the center of the yard and see my dream taking shape, see the vision manifesting as reality. I am very excited and joyful about that!


My painted chair added for effect!

Day 124: Plant in Metal Containers


Another beautiful day meant another day working in the backyard garden. Record high temps, in the mid 90’s, made me grateful for the wind though. Today, for my first, I enjoyed grouping together metal buckets, a watering can and an old wash tub and filling them with flowers.

I love how the backyard transformation is progressing. This morning a new back gate was installed, offering privacy and security. This afternoon I spent a couple of hours browsing at local lawn and garden centers, searching for the right plants and flowers for the assortment of metal containers that I collected on a recent junkin’ expedition. When I’m in creative mode, I carry a mental plan and as I search for items, I am continually matching what I see with that picture I carry in my head.

Sometimes, though, a new plan develops or the mental image shifts slightly. That was the case today as I looked for flowers in hot colors such as reds, oranges and yellows. As I added selections to my shopping cart, I realized the colors had shifted to pinks, whites and purples. Once I put the yellow flowering plants I had picked out back on the rack, the new color plan rapidly came together.

Back home, I got to visit with my son, Nate, his fiancé, Megan, and my granddaughter, Aubrey. That allowed time for the temps to fall slightly as the sun began to sink toward the horizon. When I carted all my newly purchased plants into the backyard, it was perfect planting weather!

I love getting my hands into the dirt and gardening. I also love creating vignettes and groupings, so what a delightful evening for me! I am so drawn to gardening. I think my Scottish ancestry has something to do with my deep love for the earth and green things. I truly am most at peace, most blissful, when I’m creating in my garden and moving among living, growing trees, plants and flowers.


I had fun grouping my metal containers on and near one corner of the brick seating area. The wash tub I purchased at a flea market was a little wobbly on its legs so Greg graciously made it secure by attaching copper wiring to each leg and bringing the wires together in the center, beneath the wash tub. It is very secure now. I had searched and searched for a couple of old metal wash tubs. I was thrilled to find one at the Fancy Flamingo Flea Market at a great price. I’d like to have at least one more.

As the sun was setting, I completed the plantings in all the containers. Stepping back for a look, and mentally comparing what was before me with the image I had carried in my head, I was pleased! The plants and flowers are young, however, in a few weeks the containers will look wonderful. In each container there is at least one upright plant and at least two trailing plants. I look forward to seeing the plants grow and fill in. It will be beautiful!


I enjoyed relaxing on the brick patio as darkness fell. My eyes often glanced over at the new grouping in the corner, and I smiled, feeling content and satisfied. As the wind stirred the plants, a mixture of delicate scents drifted by. That was the other part of the plan that shifted today. I realized as I shopped that I was picking up plants that smelled wonderful. How amazing it will be to sit on the patio in the mornings and evenings and not only delight in how the plants look as they mature, but breathe in deeply and inhale the fragrances of lavender, petunias and sweet William. Bliss indeed!


Day 122: Create a Fire Pit


On this bright and glorious spring day, I enjoyed spending the afternoon and early evening outside, working diligently in my backyard. The brick seating area was recently completed, thanks to Greg! Today, for my first, I built the fire pit.

As I’ve drawn up plans and sketches of the backyard transformation, this section was designated as the gathering area. I wanted a patio or courtyard big enough so that friends or family could easily sit together to visit or eat. I can also practice tai chi or yoga here or even hold a small class in this spot. I am very grateful to my friend, Kevin, for donating the brick pavers that he salvaged after his business building was destroyed by the 2011 tornado. These pavers have character, and a history, as Kevin bought them years ago after a building in St. Louis, MO was demolished. Greg has spent many hours in the backyard working on the seating area, with some help from a good friend, Tim. As I stand or sit on these sturdy bricks, I love that they have come through a demolition and a powerful storm, intact, and have now been placed into service again, as a gathering place. I love that Greg, Kevin and Tim all played a role in creating something so beautiful and functional.

I had the fun role of building the fire pit. Greg picked up the blocks, but I asked him to let me assembled the ring by myself. He was okay with that! It wasn’t difficult at all, yet I felt a great sense of satisfaction in laying those blocks. A metal fire pit that got banged up during the tornado found new life inside the circle of stone.


I can sit quietly and stare into flames for hours. The crackle and warmth of the fire, the woodsy scent, the way the flames move and shift and dance, all captivate me. There is an almost hypnotic quality to flame watching as the mind turns inward, in a reflective state. I could hardly wait for dusk. Later, sitting there on those softly hued bricks, watching the flames leap into the air as darkness fell, I felt blissful. This is the beginning of my backyard Rivendell, which will offer peace and joy to all who enter.

I look forward to the weekend and spending more time in the yard. As Greg builds a gate for the back portion of the fence, I will be laying out pathways and starting to plant around the brick patio. The metal buckets, wash tub and containers I picked up a couple of weeks ago, while out junking, will be arranged around the brick seating area, filled with soil, and then planted with greenery and flowers. In the next week or so I’ll add seating and small tables.


I’ll also begin detailed plans on the next section of the yard that will be developed, the Japanese/meditation garden. While the gathering area is designed for a few or many, the more intimate meditation garden will be for solitary use, intended for reflecting, reading, meditating or sipping tea. I’m excited about the transformation, and while I look forward to spending time in the finished garden, the joy is in the journey and the fun is in the creating.