Friday, April 30, 2010

An Old Friendship

 "Beautiful and rich is an old friendship,
Grateful to the touch as ancient ivory,
Smooth as aged wine, or sheen of tapestry
Where light has lingered, intimate, and long."

~ Eunice Tietjens ~

*Miniature gluten-free banana & cinnamon muffins with pansy's and mint*

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Homemade Insecticide


1 tbsp. of baking soda

1 tsp. of dish soap (any kind)
1 gallon water

Place mixture in a spray bottle.  Spray three times weekly, making sure to get the underneath the leaves in order to
to remove the sticky residue from any bugs.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Worm Tea

I've been reading about worm castings and how they benefit the garden and have discovered some interesting things. It seems that worms just cannot get enough of worm castings. They are a rich, all-natural source of organic matter. They are full of the nutrients that makes plants grow lush and full. It seems that worms swallow more than their body weight in organic matter in one day. What's left over creates soil that is very rich in nitrogen, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, and potash. It's more valuable to the garden than the richest and finest topsoil. Castings are like a time-release fertilizer. Since they have an oily coating on them, they don't break down immediately, but slow-release over time. Unlike fertilizer, they can't and don't burn plants and can be used abundantly.

Worm castings can be used for:

1.) mixing with potting soil, creating a great environment for germinating seeds; use about 20 - 30% castings to sand.

2.) use as a soil conditioner (they release slowly over time) by placing equal layers of soil and castings in a container or flower bed; water and plant.

3.) use as fertilizer; sprinkle the castings over the base of plants, dig into the soil, and water.

4.) worm castings can be mixed with water to make WORM TEA and then sprayed on plant leaves or added to soil; to make worm tea, add a couple large handfuls of worm castings into the center of a piece of burlap or muslin.  Tie it closed and submerse into a bucket of water. Let it sit overnight, then pull it out, drain, and use the water as your WORM TEA.  The leftover castings are still beneficial to the garden, although some of the nutrients have been leached out into the water.  Use both the tea and remaining castings to enrich your garden.

So, out to the sidewalks during a warm rain, or set to work digging in the yard. Find all those worms and put them in your garden to make castings! Some people compost indoors using special containers that use worms to eat table scraps and compost -- that's a great way to make castings. If you can't find enough worms, watch for signs along the roadway.  Sometimes fishermen sell worms from home. Or check with your closest fishing supply shop.  They sell worms by the dozen.  Worm tea will do wonders for your garden!

*The iris in the photos are miniatures that I brought home from my mom's garden when we sold her home.  They were quickly planted in pots and have been there ever since.  They make such a beautiful bouquet for the back porch when they are in bloom!  I suppose it is time to divide them and plant some of them in an outside flower bed.

Lilac Heaven

Twenty-five years ago my mother-in-law gave us starts from the lilacs at her home.  Each start grew in our garden and now we have a long row of beautiful lilacs.  But, after so much time, they are very tall and most of the blossoms bloom at the top!  Clipping them for an arrangement is quite a challenge, but with a long stretch, a few can be gathered for a pretty centerpiece.  Walking under the lilac trees is a fragrant experience, and although most of the blossoms cannot be reached, the walk is worth the experience for its sensory effect on the nostrils!  Lilac season passes by quickly --- so if you have lilacs blooming nearby --- enjoy them while you can!  

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back Door Friends

Last week the summer furniture was moved from the garden shed to the back porch.  The days are becoming warmer and it's more comfortable to be outside.  The shade of the porch and the Norway Maple tree is a relaxing place to take afternoon tea.  Nearby, the Diana, Princess of Wales rose bush is growing long canes and vibrant green leaves.  Buds are starting to form and it won't be long until the fragrance of their blossoms fill the air.  Calli, our old cat, can be found sleeping soundly on the sheepskin in the big, stuffed chair.  Last night he spent the entire night there.  How do I know? I was awake several times in the night and saw him there.  It appears that he is not the only one who delights in time on the back porch. Several times last night a pair of friendly raccoons came to explore the back porch.   Casual, poky, slow, and comfortable, they made themselves right at home.  In search of cat or dog food, they could be observed exploring everything.  Our dogs do not like the intrusion! They think the porch is theirs, and they put up a racket from inside the glass patio doors.  The raccoons seemed oblivious to all the barking and ruckus, and casually continued their meandering and explorations.  Eventually, flashing lights, knocking on windows, and loud barking from inside the house sent them on their way.  But, not for long.  Back again, the scenario repeated itself at least once more during the night.  For such cute little critters, they can sure cause a commotion!  I wonder if they'd like a cuppa coon tea?

Saturday, April 24, 2010


“I have climbed several higher mountains without guide or path, and have found, as might be expected, that it takes only more time and patience commonly than to travel the smoothest highway”  

Henry David Thoreau

Friday, April 23, 2010


Aren't these beautiful chocolate bars?  I discovered them at a coffee & tea shop in town.  Each is a unique work of art and heart.  Replicas of old postcards, rubber stamped verses, ribbon, and sequins artfully decorate a chocolate bar wrapped in pretty paper.  I love chocolate, but these are the kinds of candy bars that I would keep forever!  I do have that tendency, you know.  A beautifully wrapped piece of chocolate is enjoyed in its wrapping for so long that the chocolate inside turns hard and white before I open it.  By then it is not good to eat.  It's actually a point of discussion in our family.  The others think chocolate should be opened and eaten immediately.  How sad is that?  They miss the enjoyment of having and enjoying the wrap.  Enjoy your day and go find yourself a piece of delicious chocolate to unwrap!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Art of a Campfire

The art of a campfire is. . .

~ knowing how to move around the campfire as the wind shifts ~ learning to appreciate the smell of smoke in your hair ~ enjoying the romance of sharing the atmosphere with ones you love ~ seeing pictures in the flames and imagining things of fancy and adventure ~ relaxing to the snap, crackle, and pop while mountain wood burns ~ appreciating the view from the fire while sipping on a cup of tea ~ dreaming of the future while living in the moment ~ realizing that just like a campfire, lift is always in transition and always needs stoked to keep things interesting ~ appreciation for the gift of life, ever kindled by God's love.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where is Spring?

As spring arrives in the valley, gardens are planted and flower beds tended.  The flowering fruit trees are all in bloom.  A day of temperatures in the mid-seventies earlier this week convinced us that spring really was here.  For the past five or six weeks we have been wishing to take the trek to the cabin, but each time we set aside to go to the mountains, they seem to get more snow which makes access impossible.  Earlier this week we decided to try again.  With picnic lunch and warm clothes, we headed mountain-ward in our truck.  Soon it was obvious that spring had not really arrived on the mountaintop yet.  The earth had a trodden look because heavy snows have packed down plants.  The wildflowers were not yet in bloom, and mud and snowbanks made the journey challenging, to say the least.  Our road to the green gate was full of deep, soggy snow.  So, we parked along the road and walked in.  The little green cabin was waiting, just as we had left it last autumn.  It is always reassuring to find that a tall tree hasn't fallen on it, or that deep snow hasn't collapsed the roof on the bunk house.  The capped chimney was still wrapped to prevent moisture from seeping inside.  Winterization will be reversed next trip to the mountain.  This was only an exploratory journey.  Mountain breezes stirred up a chill that was in the air, and without a fire inside, we decided to wait to open up the cabin and simply picnic outside by a campfire.  Hot tea, sandwiches, and crisp Fuji apples were enjoyed by a crackling fire as we appreciated and enjoyed the view of the watershed canyon and the next mountain ridge.  The first trip to the cabin each spring is always a milestone that is much anticipated and enjoyed.  Happiness.  

Jelly Bean Art

Sometimes unusual decorating discoveries are made in the most unusual places.  In this case, jelly beans were used as part of the decor in a coffee & tea shop restroom.  They created a colorful "splash" of color that was vibrant and stunning.  What a simple way to add interest and color to a space.  The creator used large, lightweight tiles or squares and added a hanger to the back.  Then, they carefully glued jelly beans over every square inch of each tile.  I must say, the result was surprising and effective.  This is a great project for everyone, but if you have kids in the family, I'm quite sure that they would be delighted to participate in creating this tasty craft idea.  One for the board. . .one to eat. . .one for the board. . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bird's Nest Soup

Bird's nests have become popular in home decor.  Little ones from craft stores are frequently tucked into accent spots on tabletops, a little shelf, or bookcase.  Larger nests can be combined with eggs, twigs and feathers to stand out as a focal point in any room.  Sometimes they are hidden under a cloche which can magnify objects and provide them with a sense of glamour or mystery.  It's always fun to see how others take this now-common addition to home decor, giving it a new or unusual twist.  Recently I discovered these pretty porcelain teacups made into tiny nests.  Lined with moss, they were adorned with flowers, ribbon, and lace, and had tiny eggs tucked inside.  They made a sweet presentation when added to a pretty vignette.  How interesting to see one displayed with a saucer that was securely glued to a crystal candlestick.  A single, speckled egg at alone on the plate, accenting the bird's nest theme.  Little bits of nature, twigs and eggshells working together to add texture and interest to home decor.    

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pinky and the Plants

Karleen invited me to look for herbs and vegetable starts at the plant nursery this afternoon.  It was a warm and sunny day.  Beautiful blossoms greeted us as we walked through the street entrance.  The fragrance of herbs was enticing as we rubbed their leaves between our fingers, searching for the most fragrant and flavorful varieties.  Dill, stevia, oregano, rosemary, tomatoes, peppers, and more filled the baskets in our cart as we carefully choose just the right plant for our herb pots and vegetable gardens.  But what was the most fun of all?  It was finding Pinky and friends, hiding under the check-out table.  Thanks for a fun afternoon, Karleen!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Welcoming Touches

Welcoming touches throughout a home tell family and friends "I am so glad you are here".  I frequently think of home decorating as a process of layering.  Decorating happens from the structure of walls, windows, and flooring, to the necessary elements like lighting and window coverings.  The next layer are the furnishings that fill the spaces of the home.  This becomes the palate for the elements that make your home uniquely you --- the finishing touches that create welcome and personalize each space.   Starting at the front door, wreaths or baskets of blooms can welcome the guest.  They don't have to be elaborate or fancy; a simple or rustic arrangement will do.  Throughout the house, pretty plants or floral bouquets can be tucked in corners or added to small tables here and there.  A chalk board in a kitchen center, a pretty tin of pencils, a gathering of objects by theme, and candles grouped by height on a pretty tray can exude "welcome" to those who enter into your home.  Look around the space where you live.   Is there a cozy throw nearby that someone can curl up with to read a book?  A board game in view that can signal old-time, slow-paced, relaxing fun. Even an ottoman can signal to guests that you would like them to stay awhile as they put up their feet and read from the interesting magazines set in a basket nearby.  Tiny touches.  Welcome!  

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bring Nature Indoors

Spring is the perfect time to add touches of nature indoors!  Home decor that welcomes gifts of creation becomes organic, restful, and interesting.  Driftwood, rocks, pine cones, twigs, sea shells, seed pods, egg shells, plants, and flowers are only a few of the objets d' nature that help us celebrate the ever changing colors and patterns found right outside our front door.  Nature objects found on a vacation or get-away week-end remind us of an experience we shared with someone we love.  Given a focal point in a room, they connect us with the loved ones we shared the place and time with.  How much more meaningful is that than buying a trinket from a gift shop?  Sea shells can be stacked in a jar, set on display in a crystal bowl, or glued in a unique design in a velvet-lined picture frame.  Twigs can be clustered into bundles and wrapped around tin cans with raffia to make unique vases, or twisted around an old chandelier to create an effective and beautiful new one!  Succulent plants become elegant centerpieces when planted in a low dish or bowl.  They require little care, yet bring a touch of freshness to any room.  Take a look around your living spaces, then take a walk outside and see what you can find to bring some 'down to earth' freshness into your home decor! 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Smile, and Drink Tea

I smile, of course, 
And go on drinking tea,
Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall
My buried life, and Paris in the Spring,
I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world
To be wonderful and youthful, after all.

T.S. Eliot

Photo:  Palouse Falls on an April day

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


You know spring has arrived when the brown hillsides turn a lovely shade of light green!  The soothing color is just starting to paint the hillsides with its green grace.  Promise.  Spring is here!

Sweet Ginger Tea

"She could not imagine that Heaven was better than being where she was, slowly growing warm and comfortable, sipping the hot, sweet, ginger tea, seeing Ma, and Grace, and Pa and Carrie, and Mary all enjoying their own cups of it and hearing the storm that could not touch them here."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder ~

Teacup ~ from a teacup swap friend
Delicate napkin ~ embroidered by mom

Friday, April 09, 2010

Blue Ring Bling

Earlier this week I shared pictures of the 'gold collection' of napkin rings that I made from simple gold napkin rings and assorted vintage jewelry.  Today I am sharing a picture of the 'silver collection'.  These napkin rings were some that have been stuck away in a drawer for years and rarely used.  Once quite plain, they now are an eclectic set of napkin rings in shades of blue.  I'm looking forward to pairing them with some vintage blue china and a few favorite blue teacups and saucers.  They are a bit 'outside the box' when it comes to proper table decor, but I think they'll set a fun and interesting table, just the same.

We're Back!

And. . .we are back!  A blogging glitch happened when a change was being made to a more reliable registrar for Gracious Hospitality.  I apologize for the inconvenience.  If you are linked to Gracious Hospitality on your blog, please do not change your settings.  The change back to the Blogspot URL is a temporary change and the regular URL for Gracious Hospitality will be working again in a few more days.  In the meantime --- an attempt at regular posting will continue as before.

Thank you for your patience!  I appreciate all the message inquiring as to what happened to Gracious Hospitality!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Creating Napkin Rings with Bling

Napkins are always a part of proper table setting.  The more formal the meal, the plainer the presentation.  Always folded, the napkin can be set on the plate or to the left of the fork on the table setting.   Very formal meals always have fabric napkin, but paper napkins have become more and more acceptable over the years for most table settings.  Fancy folded paper napkins are never considered appropriate for a formal table, but they sure are fun for a casual one!  At times a napkin ring can be a part of a proper table setting, but those with "bling" should be reserved for a whimsical or casual table.

You might remember the beautiful napkin rings that my friend, Tari, gave me recently.  I posted about them here.  She found them when on a trip to North Dakota and knew I'd love them as part of a vintage tea table. 

Today I decided to try my hand at making a few more.  I gathered together several plain napkin rings and raided my treasure chest for an assortment of old broaches, earrings, beads, and pendants.  Most were old yard sale finds (as in before my time) with enough bits of tarnish to make them more interesting.  Little bits of "bling" all worked together to make pretty metallic circlets made to hold napkins.  I attached the "bling" individually or in groupings of three or four items.  Some of them matched (if I had two vintage earrings for a napkin pair) but the rest were created by themes of like colors, sparkle, texture, or bead.

It was a relaxing and creative way to spend an afternoon.  Who needs retail therapy when you can create to your hearts content?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Covering and the Art of the Table

The best part of preparing for dinner guests is setting the table!  The art of the table is a form of expression and through it seasons, foods, and personalities can be exhibited.  Linens, candles, flowers, and tableware all work together on the palette of the table, creating a picture of beauty, charm, or whimsy.  From traditional to quirky, a tablesetting is only limited by one's imagination.  Although an 'anything goes' approach is preferred by some, the proper principles of tablesetting are designed to facilitate service  for the comfort and enjoyment of each table guest.  

Most tablesettings start with a clean table.  Sometimes gleaming with polished charm, a lace, voile, or net cloth is placed over the table without pad or underlayer.  This allows the natural wood of the table to show through.  At other times, a pad (sometimes called a silence cloth) is placed on the table first and a full-size table cloth is placed over the top.  A proper overhang of the edges of the cloth on table are 10 to 15 inches, but can be even greater if a very large table is used.  For casual dining and entertaining, the more formal, full-size tablecoverings are usually replaced with something more casual.  Smaller luncheon cloths or placemats have become the norm for this type of entertaining.  

Table linens range from simple damask to colorful, embroidered pieces.  Each sets the tone for the table, enhancing and complimenting the china and accroutrements it displays.  

What's on your table today?

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Centerpiece, a Focal Point

There are some things each of us consider essential in our homes.  For me, one of those things is a centerpiece at the dining room table that becomes the focal point in the room.  Fresh flowers are always best, although a potted plant, sea shells, whole fruits, nuts, whole vegetables, evergreens, or polished agates also grace the table during times when cut flowers are unavailable.  The best fresh flowers are not those that come from the florist or the grocer's floral department.  Instead, they are the ones that come from your own garden.  Starting in early spring, it's fun to take a basket and shears outside on a walk through the yard, looking for what may be blooming.  Sometimes whatever is blooming dictates the rest of the table decor.  But when there is more than one type of blossom available, choices can be made that allow for spontaneity in table decor.  Simple is always best, since flowers always speak for themselves. Having several simple vases available in varying sizes makes floral design easy and fun.  Yesterday's brunch was casual and brown stoneware was the acceptable service.  As I walked around the yard, still a bit scant in the flower department, I realized that the Thundercloud Plum tree was in full bloom and that the sprigs of branches within my reach would complement the table decor.  Four or five simple snips of the shears, and the casual arrangement of these graceful twigs resulted in a dainty and non-imposing centerpiece.  These delicate flowers set the tone for the table scene and lifted the stoneware from a boring brown to a cozy hue.  

A centerpiece is an object of art that centers the table and draws guests in.  Because it is there, it relays a message of "you are special" to those who sit at your table.  A centerpiece reflects the taste and imagination of the hostess and establishes the theme of the occasion.  Usually, a small decoration with simple lines is much more attractive than one which crowds the table.  Care should be taken in choosing colors that blend, harmonize, or contrast with the china and table linens.  Although magnificent,  the large centerpieces that are frequently featured on the glossy pages of magazines are usually too large for proper table use.  The height of a centerpiece is considered very important in table etiquette.  It should be low enough so that even the shortest person seated at the table can see across to others seated there.  Generally, this means that the maximum height of a centerpiece should be no more than 12" high.  

A centerpiece sets the tone for a meal, promoting quiet elegance, cozy comfort, and personal appeal.  Go see what you have in your yard that could bring some of the sunshine inside to your own dinner table!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Vibrant Easter Menu

Holidays are a great time to spend with family and friends, and Easter is no exception.  The colors of spring are expressed delightfully in flowers, textiles, and food.  The chill in the air is enhanced by a gentle breeze that sends it to every corner of home and garden.  Although chocolate bunnies and jelly beans speak of this holiday, so do fresh and vibrant vegetables.  They are the perfect centerpiece for an Easter menu.


Romaine with Strawberries and Walnuts
Raspberry Viniagrette
Steamed Carrot Wedges with Earth Balance and Dill
Mashed Potatoes and Golden Gravy
Tofurky with Tamari Glaze and Roasted Root Vegetables
Brown Rice and Vegetable Patties in Savory Sauce
Whole Wheat Rolls & Earth Balance
White Grape Juice

Orange Oolong Tea
Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake
Canary Iced Shortbread with Sprinkles

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sweet Treats!

This week I'm posting healthy candy recipes over at My Cozy Kitchen.  If you are interested in delicious, sweet alternatives to sugar-coated candy, please stop by.  I'm posting with your children's and grandchildren's Easter baskets in mind!  See you there!

Abounding in Joy

A divine Presence engulfs us unexpectedly and we abound in JOY.

~ John Bowen Coburn ~