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Kick Ass Pick Axe

My new favorite tool is the pickaxe. This is a recent acquisition. – how I didn’t own one before I have no idea.  Probably because I’ve never found one at a garage sale. Clearly anyone who’s ever owned one realizes how awesome these are, and are never giving it up. I paid retail for mine.

How did I find this garden miracle tool? Three doors down from mine, I observed a landscape crew digging a trench for a sprinkler system. At the time – I didn’t know they were using a pickaxe – I just thought they were much stronger than me and more persistent. I asked Johnny, the head honcho, over for a sprinkler quote for the backyard. This led to a conversation about that weeds were flourishing back there. I mentioned about renting a rototiller or perhaps maybe even a sod cutter to remove the top layer of crappy dirt and weeds. Johnny told me the best way to get rid of the weeds and is to use a pickaxe to turn the earth and pick out the weeds.
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Then I realized that a pickaxe was just what I needed, not to turn the soil, but to dig up a border around the front lawn. The nice family that runs the local chainsaw repair shop were nice enough to help me pick one out, although they were pretty sure that 6’3” Dr. Malibu should be using it instead of 5’ me. I assured them I’d be fine.  Sure enough, the pick axe kicks ass! Easy to use, it makes short work of removing the thick sod and breaking up the soil. It’s my new favorite tool!
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Weeds will take advantage of the freshly exposed dirt but a pot of boiling water makes quick work killing them and their roots. Carting boiling water outdoors can be a little dangerous but the danger far outweighs putting chemicals in the soil or getting the toxic stuff in your eyes or skin.  And there’s something really satisfying watching the gardens arch nemeses boil to death.  Sometimes the weeds are persistent and require more than one boiling – but you can see the damage caused by just one application from a week earlier.
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Because the valley is renowned for its clay soil, I loosened the remaining soil, added a little bone meal and compost.  Again, the pickaxe earned it’s keep.  Now I have a nice, nutrient rich bed to plant my favorite bulbs – narcissus, daffodils and naked ladies.
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Naked ladies? Yeah – there’s nothing more fun than saying I see some naked ladies on the front lawn! But that’s the common name for a flower more commonly known as Amaryllis Belladonna. Most of the year it looks like a small agapanthus with it’s lovely green foliage.  Right before summer, all that green dies away and the plant sends up magical rubbery shoots that bloom into gorgeous lily like pink blossoms. (Note that the plant is poisonous). I also decided to try some Freesia and alliums. Not sure why I’ve overlooked these before in the bulb department but this spring is sure to be a show stopper!
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Here’s the flower bed – all ready to go with a nice thick layer of mulch spread over the top to discourage new weeds.  Pretty unimpressive right now.  I’ll have to plant some annuals to add some color – but the hard work – thanks to my kick ass pick axe is done!
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Crafting For Christmas

Traditionally, I make a few things around the holidays.  Most are for people that made it onto my Christmas list.   But I have learned the hard way to be prepared. I prefer to avoid that “Oh Crap” moment which happens when someone unexpectedly stops by (especially when they have brought YOU a gift) or you get a last minute invitation and have no time to shop.  So, while you are making the gifts for the ones that made the cut….make a few extra for back-up.  I like to force Paper White bulbs.  (I sound so brutal)  My old house had a yard that blessed me with forced bulbs from the past.  After the paper white bulbs have bloomed and grown, their leaves turn brown and it’s time to put them in the ground…. and forget about them.  Two years later, they are popping up, on their own schedule and blooming fragrantly!
Paperwhite Bloom
Paper whites are wonderful to give in small glass vases (I get them cheap at yard sales).  Fill the vases with rocks, glass beads or decorative sand.  Position the bulbs so that they will stay secure on the top and add some water just to the bottom of the bulb.  Their little roots will sense the water and start growing, and green stalks will be sprouting outward!

Everyone loves scented candles and you can have a blast making them with your kids.  Last year, my daughter and I had fun making candy cane candles.  Using two wax forms from ye local craft store we first filled the center candle form and scented it with the closest scent we could to peppermint (in this case vanilla, I couldn’t find peppermint oil for candles).  Once this set up, we removed it from it’s form and then placed it in the larger form.  This leaves a gap that we filled with peppermint sticks.  Fill in the remaining void with wax.  GORGEOUS!
Peppermint Candle
Get creative!   We also used cinnamon sticks, cranberries & mistle toe.  The most popular version was inspired by a friend who gave me a bag of coffee beans deemed “not worthy of drinking”.  I had coffee scented oil and you could almost burn one instead of drinking your morning latte….ALMOST.   These were very popular last year and I think we’ll have to make some more.

This year, as you know, chalkboard paint is all the rage.  Have you seen those wine glasses in the stores with the mini chalkboard on them?  You can write your guests name on them (or some other  nonsense).  They’re kind of expensive.  Besides, I prefer the stemless kind.  All the “real classy” wine drinkers (like my friends) use these because they’re easier to hold when drunk and less likely to spill.
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Enlisting the help of Thing 2, we got started making sets of these for gifts and to use at home.  Here’s what we did…

I wanted the edges of the chalked area of the glass to look distressed so I took blue painters tape and applied it to a Fiskars paper edger.  Trust me when I tell you its best to put more of the tape on the ruler and tear off the part you aren’t going to use.   The thinner strip tends to tear into pieces too small to be usable (but if you got skills… you might be able to use them…)
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Then we applied the edged tape to the glasses lining up the straight side of the tape to the top rim so the “distressed” part creates the frame.Photobucket

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Thing 2 busy with the chalk paint

PhotobucketNext we shook up our can of chalk paint, and painted the taped off section.  Let it dry – and re-coat.  When it’s all dry – peel off the tape.  Any “oops” areas can be scraped off with a fingernail or xacto knife.  Easy!

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Chalked Wine Glasses with a message from Thing 2

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Taped Vases of Paper Whites

I got a lot of satisfaction from this project but it was almost a little too quick… hmmm, what else could I paint?  Spying the bulbs I’ve already started to force I found my answer!  The vases were quickly taped and painted before you could say Narcissus!  Cute!

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Forced Paper White Bulbs in customized Vases