Archive for May, 2011

I had planned to do a post this week on planting tomatoes.  Our plants have been outside as much as possible this week and ready to go into their permanent home.  Alas, the weather is, once again, not cooperating.  Despite weather reports to the contrary, it has been pouring rain on and off all week-end.  And they are calling for thunder showers tonight, so our tender plants are probably better indoors for one more day. 

So what better to talk about on a dark and rainy week-end than shade gardening?

With our backyard backing onto a forest, several trees on our property, and a North-facing house, we have plenty of opportunities for shade gardening.  There are a wide variety of flowering plants and bushes you can plant that thrive in shady gardens.

When planning our vegetable gardens we tried to choose spots that received the most sun, as most vegetable plants need an optimal amount of sun to grow and ripen fruit. 

But we have one corner of our big garden that never seems to get enough, and no matter what we plant there, things just don’t grow.

So I’ve been doing research on shade gardening and discovered that there are some vegetables that can be grown in the shade!  (Experienced gardeners are probably laughing at me, but I really did think that all veggies required full sun to grow.)  I must mention that in all the sources I researched, it is important that the garden receive some sunlight throughout the day.  None of these plants will do well is there is no sun at all.  But if you have a patch with a few hours of sun, and shade the rest of the day, these might be good options!

In our shady corner we have planted: peas, bush beans, spinach, parsley, sorrel, and lettuces.  It’s a bit of an experiment to see what will grow best.  I’ll keep you posted on how well they do throughout the season!

Other plants that may grow in shady patches include:

arugula, cabbage, broccoli, swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, chives, onions, mint (grow it in a pot!), blackberry, currants, gooseberry and strawberries. 

When it comes to non-edible gardens, there are lots of choices both for full and partial shade.  Here are some of my favourites from my garden:


Hostas  (They come in a HUGE variety of types, have beautiful leaves and they flower.  The one downfall, they are a favourite moonlight snack for deer.)

Astilbe (Definitely my absolute favourite flowering shade plant.  The clusters of tiny blossoms are absolutely gorgeous.)

Forget-Me-Not (One of my favourite flowers.  I have them in blue and white.  They will grow just about anywhere, and some might say they grow like a weed as once you have them, they will pop up in unexpected places in your gardens.)

Ferns (this is a HUGE group of plants, but as they tend to grow on the forest floor, they are well-suited to shade gardens.  Most garden centers stock several varieties.) 


Lilacs (These bushes have beautiful strongly-scented blossoms in the spring.  Some varieties grow as big as trees, make sure you have lots of space!)

Red Twig Dogwood (We have two of these in our garden.  They have pretty green foliage all season and bright red stems all winter.  Unfortunately they have been a target for caterpillars in our garden.)


I am not a big annual planter myself, but I benefit from the green thumb of my mother-in-law who passes on her extra plants to me!  Over the years I have planted: Begonia, Impatiens, Fuschia, and Salvia in my shade gardens.   

This is, of course, by no means an exhaustive list.  I picked up a brochure from our local garden center that lists at least 100 plants of all kinds for deep shade and partially shaded gardens.  Too many to list here.  So instead, here are some web links you might find helpful if you are planning a shady garden:

Container Plants

Photo Inspiration for Shade Gardening in Containers

Bright Ideas for Shade – types of shade gardens and what will grow best

The best thing to do, of course, is to wander around your local gardening centre and see what they have available for shade gardens.  Even better if you visit a nursery where they grow the plants themselves, usually the staff there are knowledgeable about many types of gardens and plants.

Do you have any tips for shade gardening or favourite shade-loving plants?  Please share them in the comments. 

Don’t forget to visit our Facebook page and post your pictures, link to your garden-related blog posts, ask your gardening questions, or just stop in to say hi!  This week I posted an album documenting our seed planting, and will post pics when we get our tomatoes planted  (if the rain ever stops, that is!)

Happy growing!

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Everyone deserves a stylish ironing board.  Until two weeks ago I was still using the same cover my ironing board came with 6 years ago and it was in desperate need of a makeover.  I grabbed some of my most favourite fabric and got to work.  It’s actually a fairly easy project with a big pay-off: no more ugly ironing board!  

Do you want to give your ironing board a facelift too?  Here’s how to do it.


  • a piece of cotton fabric a few inches longer and wider than your ironing board. (I used quilting weight, although I am sure a heavier weight would be even better.) 
  • Your old ironing board cover.

1.  Remove the old cover from your ironing board.  

2.  Pull out the cord from the old cover.  You are going to reuse it in the new one.

3.  Use your old cover as a pattern for cutting the new one.  Lay it on the fabric, and then draw around it a 3/4 of an inch away from the edges.  You can now bid a fond farewell to your old cover!

4.  Cut out your fabric along the line you just drew.  (Check out how brown that cover is!  I don’t think I’ll be repurposing this fabric….)

5.  Fold over the edges of your new cover 1/4 inch and press. (Ha, ha!  This is the point when you will realize that you don’t have an ironing board to iron on at the moment.  After the initial “oh…..right….” moment,I covered mine with a towel and motored on.)  Then fold them over again another 3/8″.  Press and pin.

6.  Allow the fabric to buckle around the curves.  No one will know.

  7.  Sew around the whole thing, close to the edge, to make a casing for the cord.  Leave an opening about an inch wide on the straight end so you will be able to feed the cord into the casing.  Backstitch on both sides.

8.  Tie one end of the cord to a safety-pin, and use the pin to move the cord through the casing.  Pull the threads so they are even.


9.  Prepare your board for its new cover.  If you need new padding, use the old as a pattern to cut yourself some new.  The photo below is of the original, but I cut myself a few layers of cotton quilt batting to use instead. 

10.  Now for the fun part.  I found that this took two people, but if you are more talented (or patient?) than myself you might be able to handle it on your own.  Pull the cords to slightly gather the cover and slip it over the board and batting.  Pull on the cords again to tighten it over the board and use your fingers to ease the gathers around the sides until the cover is on tight.  Tie off the cord.

11.  Stand back and admire your handiwork! 

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We Have a Winner!

Thank you to everyone who participated in Giveaway Day!  I enjoyed reading each and every one of your comments.  I appreciate all of your kind remarks about my shop, and yes, the quilts were included in the giveaway (every quilt deserves a loving home!) 🙂

I can only pick one winner, but I have a little something for everyone.  From now until Monday, you will receive 10% off everything in my shop with the coupon code “GiveawayDay” 

And now….

the winner is…….

True Random Number Generator:



Elizabeth!  Who wrote:   love the brown piggy! :)
your other things are lovely, too, but the piggy is my favorite!

Congratulations!  I’ll be emailing you sometime today with the details.

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Still Alive at Week 5!

Looking for Giveaway Day?  Click here!

I was the winner again this week – yahoo!  Thank you to everyone who voted. 

With this pattern as the starting point, here is what I came up with:

A blue dress with added dark blue accents.

A floral print dress with a smaller flower on the top, two straps, and a matching bag.  The bag pattern (minus the flower, of course) is from the book, Sew Liberated. 

Then I really decided to mix things up and created tops from the pattern instead of dresses, in woven fabrics instead of knits.  I kept with the two shoulder straps and left the flowers off altogether.  Then I made some shorts to match for a complete outfit. The short are from an old Butterick pattern I have, and then I added a little trim to the bottom of the first pair. 

Now, since I don’t have any little ones at home, I decided to attempt some adult-sized outfits, too.

First, a knit skirt, created by lengthening and widening the pattern.  I added a ruffle on the bottom, too. 

And finally, a sundress.  Once again I lengthened the pattern and then added the two straps on the top. 

What a fun week!  I have never done any shirring before this and I am hooked!  It’s so easy and so much fun!  I’ll definitely be doing more of it in the future.  And…the best part is….after this week of sewing I was able to get rid of an entire box of fabric!!  One less box to trip over in the sewing room!  Hooray!

And now….on to the final challenge!  We have two weeks to work on this one – wish me luck!  I’m off to sew! 🙂

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It’s Giveaway Day!

This giveaway is now closed.  Thanks to all who entered!

Welcome to everyone who is visiting today from Sew, Mama, Sew!  I know it’s a busy day of blog-hopping so I’ll keep this short.

Today I am giving away one item from my shop.  That’s right, ANY item.  Winner’s choice.  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me which item you would like if you’re the winner.  That’s it! 

The giveaway is open to everyone, everywhere.   I will pick and announce a winner at 7 am (ADT) on the 26th of May. 

Thanks for dropping by!   Have fun entering all of the other giveaways today!

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Happy long week-end!  Planting days have finally arrived.  The seeds you started indoors have turned into beautiful little seedlings and you’re ready to garden.  But wait!  You can’t just take the plants you started indoors and plunk them outside.  The poor things have begun their life in a sheltered environment and will be shocked if set out into the elements without warning.  Which means it’s time for….

Hardening off.  Hardening off is the process in which you take your tender indoor plants (pampered with a consistent temperature and light) and slowly acclimatize them to an outdoor environment (where the may be battered by wind, rain and strong sun.)  It takes about a week to ten days and is pretty easy to do (so long as you don’t forget ab0ut them….not that I would ever do something like that…)  🙂

For the first few days you are going to set out your plants for only an hour or two at a time.  Find a sheltered place where they will be protected from wind and sun (under the deck is our choice spot) and let them be.  Each day leave them out for a little longer.  It’s ok if you skip a day here or there, especially if the weather isn’t cooperating. 

As you work up to longer and longer outdoor exposure, you are also going to want to expose your plants to more and more sunlight.  After the first few days of shade exposure, you can do this at the beginning or end of the day when the sun isn’t so strong.  Some experts also suggest that you water them less during this time as well (but still don’t let them dry out.)

After a week or two of this process your plants should have worked up to spending the whole day outside and can be safely planted in your garden!

I go through this same process with the potted herbs that I overwinter indoors.  After tripping over herb pots all winter long last year, I only kept a select few this winter.  They are starved for light and I can’t wait to get them outside so they can flourish again.  I’ve been setting them out on the deck for a few hours at a time on cloudy days and will work them up to sun exposure (should the sun ever decide to shine.)

Are you planting this week-end?  Due to another wet week we are still behind schedule, but tomorrow is supposed to be sunny so I hope to get the dirt worked in and our early seeds planted. 

Do you have any tips for hardening off plants?  Please share them in the comments!  Then drop by the Facebook page to share your photos and gardening  journey!

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This week was a pattern show down.  I was a little worried about it when I first saw the pattern, but in the end, I had a lot of fun with it!  We definitely all did something a little different.  Please hop on over to take a look and vote for your favourite!  The two winners from this week will compete in the final round!

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I think I have mentioned this before, but I am working really hard this year to actually use all of the produce I dutifully pile into my freezer each fall (instead of squirreling it away for some later date and then frantically try to clean it out before stacking the new stuff in). 

I have done really well this year in that the only thing left in my freezer right now are two bags of zucchini (and I have that solution!) and about eight jars of green tomato mincemeat.

Other than pies and tarts (which I haven’t made any of this year and now it just seems like the wrong season for them) my favourite way to eat mincemeat is in Mincemeat Oatmeal Bars.  Although they are good straight out of the pan, they are also decadent warmed up and served with ice cream or whipped cream.    I also use the mincemeat in yogurt parfaits (hubby likes his drizzled with chocolate sauce) for a different kind of dessert.

But this week, staring at those frozen jars, I realized it’s time for a new recipe.  So I went on a search for mincemeat muffins.  And I hit the jackpot.  These muffins are so good, and so moist, that they are still nice and soft even after being stored for a few days (although it is hard to get them to last that long.)

I based my muffins on this one, but made several changes (of course!)

Marvelous Mincemeat Muffins

  • 2 cups flour (I used whole white flour)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup honey (I’ve also used half honey and half maple sugar – yum!)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup orange or apple juice
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 1/3 cup mincemeat (I have also heard you could replace this with orange marmalade!)
  • 1 diced apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl combine the remaining ingredients except for the apple and nuts. 

Stir the wet into the dry ingredients and fold in the apple and nuts until just mixed. 

Spoon into greased tins and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.   Cool on wire racks.

Makes 16 medium-sized muffins. 


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Let’s Go Fly A Kite….

I’ve made it through another week of the sewing challenge!   And I was the winner this week, too! 🙂  This was one of the hardest weeks yet as other commitments kept me out of the sewing room, but I still managed to use 10 yards of fabric! (Were you able to guess which projects were mine?  Or perhaps you just recognize my deck and kitchen floor, which always seem to be the backdrop for my sewing photos! ) 🙂

First up for a kite-flying theme – a kite, of course!  I used this tutorial with a few modifications.  The red and yellow quilt squares were found in my grandmother’s scrap bin (which is now my scrap bin), and were leftovers from a quilt she made for one of my cousins.   I used scraps from other projects to fill in the gaps and I love how bright and colourful it is.  In keeping with the colourful theme I sewed together all of my bias-binding scraps to bind the outside.  The kite is strengthened with wood dowel and I tied some grosgrain ribbon on the end. 

I’m not sure how well it will fly – but it’s pretty to look at!

Next came this “springy” fleece vest.  The idea came from “Sew What! Fleece” but I learned from my last attempt at vest-making and added a much deeper neck-curve at the front, curves on the sides, added a proper hood, and lined the whole thing.   The hood lining is the only thing I saved from the failed project I mentioned last week (a beautiful Ottobre coat that ended up a size too small…) and I love the blue and green together.   This vest reminds me  just how far I have come as a seamstress – I lined it, added lined pockets, changed the hood, and put in a zipper without a pattern or instructions.  The mere idea would have freaked me out only a short year ago. 

And finally, I created a kite-inspired picnic quilt!  This started as a completely different kind of quilt altogether, but it just wasn’t working the way I though it should, so at the last minute (6 hours before I had to submit my photos!) I scrapped it and started all over again.  The quilt is backed with a heavy wool fabric, which gives it a beautiful weight that I think will be perfect for laying on the ground.  The quilt is a good size (60 x 72) which leaves lots of room for the picnic basket, cooler, and stretching out with a good book.  The kite is appliqued, the skite tring is hand-embroidered, and the quilt is tied together (which I don’t normally do, but I thought it was fitting for a picnic quilt.)  I am really happy with the way it turned out and can’t wait for the warm weather to come so we can test it out!  Not bad for an evening’s work…. 🙂

So now it is on to week 5.  This week is a pattern show down.  All the contestants have been given a copy of the same pattern and we have a week to make it our own.  Time to put all my new sewing skills to the test!   Thanks for all of your votes and support!

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Frost dates are important.  A wise gardener pays attention to weather forecasts and is careful to wait until there is no risk of frost before planting.  Around here, that all important “no more frost” date is accepted as May 24, or the Victoria Day week-end.  Although we are excited about getting the plants in the ground,  there have been a few years (and this will probably be one of them) where we plant a week or two after this date, for one reason or another,  and we still seem to pull in a good harvest before the frost begins again in October.

But there are some plants that you can plant now.  These cold-loving plants don’t mind a little frost, often thrive in cool weather, and the earlier you plant, the sooner you will be eating out of your garden!

So, how do you know what to plant now?

If you’re planting seeds, look for seed packets that say in the planting instructions “plant as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.”   If you’re buying plants, you can ask at the gardening centre, or refer to this handy-dandy list!  (I know, I don’t live anywhere near Denver, but I love the thoroughness of this list and used it when I decided what to plant early last spring.)

Last year I planted peas, onions, fennel, spinach, swiss chard, kale and garlic in late April and early May. 

This year, due to constant rain, we don’t have anything planted yet, but I do have a number of plants popping up from last year, including leeks, a variety of onions, garlic that we planted last Spring and never saw again and thought was lost (I love garden surprises, don’t you?) rhubarb and strawberry plants.   I also have chives and lemon balm flourishing in the herb garden.     So if you’re itching to get out in the garden, and your soil is ready for planting, go on and plant some early seeds! 

What’s growing in your garden?  Have you done any planting yet?  As always, please share your gardening ideas in the comments, feel free to include links to your own gardening posts.  You can also share your pictures, join in the conversation, or ask your gardening questions on our Facebook page  (if you had trouble accessing the page before I think I fixed the problem so please come and join us!)

Happy growing!

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