Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Flowers - Norfolk Pine

Every year I saw these pine trees in stores at Christmas decorated with red bows. I enjoyed their willowy branches and wished I had room for one. When I moved into a larger home, I decided I would buy one.  It was beautiful, exactly what I wanted, but in the end . . . my house was still not big enough. Within two years the tree was taller than me and I’m 6’ tall! 

But if you still want to try one on your own, I’d say go for it.  Its soft foliage makes a pleasant addition to any room.
Norfolk Pines are not grown on Norfolk Island off the east coast of the US, but grown on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific and reach almost eighty foot when grown in their natural habitat. They are best grown indoors where temperatures stay above 50 degrees. They need bright light, but never put them in the sun.  Drafts, extremes temperatures, and sudden temperature changes will affect the health of the tender pine.

Some keys to keeping them healthy:
               **Water about once a week keeping the soil moist, but not wet.

               **Turn the tree often to keep it symmetrical.
               **Do not prune a Norfolk Pine except to remove dead branches.

               **Avoid direct sunlight as the needles will brown and never be replaced.

If you want to use your Norfolk Pine as a Christmas tree – go right ahead. But remember to keep the soil moist and don’t leave decorations on any longer than necessary. 

The key to this pine tree is remembering despite its aggressive growth rate, it is very delicate.

Norfolk Pine Toxicity:

The ASPCA says the tree can be toxic to dogs and cats.  It may cause vomiting and depression if ingested.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Gifts - A gift for Grandma

Here is another idea I pulled from Pinterest that kids can help with. The same idea can be done on a t-shirt using fabric paints. Again, I take no credit for the design or the work.  I thought it would be a great idea to share.  You can check out the following link for more details: 

How to Paint Child's Handprints on Ceramics
To get started making handprint art on a ceramic dish, you will first need to gather all the necessary supplies and decide what kind of dish you are going to paint. Be sure the dish has been thoroughly washed and dried. You also need to wipe it down with alcohol and a paper towel to remove any hidden residue.

Before attempting to make the handprints, make sure to wash your child's hand. Dirt and oil from his or her hand could potentially affect the quality of the paint. Below are the supplies you will need and step-by-step directions for painting your ceramic platter.

    **  Ceramic serving platter
    **  Ceramic paint - green, blue, yellow, red, and purple
  **  Ceramic paint markers - black and white
  **  Letter stencils (optional)
  **  Paintbrushes
  **  Alcohol
  **  Paper towels


  **  Wash and dry ceramic dish. Wipe down dish with alcohol and a paper towel to remove any residue.

  **  After washing your child's hand, use paintbrush to cover the hand completely with desired color of ceramic paint.

  **  Press child's hand firmly down on the platter. The gloss on the ceramic platter makes it slippery but try to keep the hand from moving.

  **  Carefully lift up your child's hand. If satisfied with the print, move on to the next color of handprint flower. If you wish to start over, quickly wash platter with warm water or use alcohol to help remove paint.

  **  Once you have completed the handprint flowers, paint stems and leaves to bottom of the prints. Add grass to bottom of platter.

  **  Use a black ceramic paint marker to write "(insert name here)'s Garden" up above the flowers. You can also use letter stencils to help with this if you do not wish to free hand the title.

  **  To make the butterflies, cover your child's index finger with black ceramic paint and press firmly to platter. Once dry, add colorful wings, antennas to head, and cute faces to the butterflies.

  **  To make either the ladybug or bumblebee, use red or yellow ceramic paint to cover the tip of your child's thumb and press firmly to platter. Once dry, add black dots or stripes, antennas, legs or stinger, and cute bug faces. I used the black ceramic marker to decorate these bugs.

  **  Once satisfied with the design, set platter on baking pan. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes on 300 degrees. Do NOT preheat the oven. Let the platter gradually warm with the oven to prevent cracking or shattering.

  **  Carefully take the pan out of the oven and set aside in a safe area to allow the platter to completely cool.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Flowers - Poinsettia

For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a half-dozen or more Poinsettia plants decorating my home. I love their deep red flowers against the mass of dark green.  Although there are other colors such as white or pink, I still stay with the traditional variety.  But what stunned me most was when I went to Florida around Christmas to visit my parents and saw just how big they grew. Bushes up to thirteen foot in height loaded with red blooms were as prolific as Lilacs in Ohio. 

So if you, like me, love to bring them home or enjoy passing them off as a gift, here are a few suggestions.

**Poinsettias are a tropical plant that enjoys temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees F.
**So if you need to carry them out into inclement weather, wrap them up, but make sure you unwrap them as soon as you are in to reduce the amount of damage to the leaves.
**Poinsettias can last long into winter months if kept by a sunny window and away from drafts (hot or cold). And don’t let the leaves touch the cold window.

Poinsettias will flower again next year with a little TLC. 

     **After flowers have died off (February-March timeframe), cut each of the stems back to 4 to 6 inches in height, leaving one to three leaves on each branch. Keep the plant in a sunny window and fertilize every two weeks.

     **In late spring or early summer after all danger of frost has past you can plant it in a shady area outside and water frequently.  Then in August prune the branches again like you did in late winter.

     **Before first frost take it inside, keep fertilizing every other week.  In September make sure the plant is kept in complete darkness from late afternoon until morning.  Do this until red starts showing in the leaves.

Poinsettia Toxicity:

On the whole toxicity from Poinsettia plants is overrated.  However, Irritation to the mouth and stomach, can sometimes causing vomiting. From what I’ve read it would take eating many leaves to cause a reaction.  I would, however, error on the side of caution.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Gifts for Bird Lovers

I am always on the lookout for inexpensive gifts to make around the holidays. This is easily made for the bird lovers on your Christmas List.  What makes it even better is you can get the kids to help you!  I take no credit for the idea and I recognize the efforts of the person who wrote the blog. I found this on Pinterest along with some other inexpensive gift items and thought you’d enjoy them. You can look it up at
·        2 packets Knox gelatin
·        2/3 cups water
·        2 cups birdseed
Other things you’ll need
Cooking spray
Cookie cutters
Wax or parchment paper
·        In a small saucepan, mix gelatin and water. Turn on a medium heat and stir until the gelatin simmers.  Add in the birdseed and mix thoroughly.  Pull pan from burner and let cool slightly.
·        While cooling line a pan with the wax paper.  Spray the sides of each cookie cutter, then spoon in birdseed mixture. Insert a straw to make a hole for hanging.
·        Cool in the refrigerator for about an hour.  Remove straws and tie with twine.
·        This recipe makes 2 cookies about 4 inches across.

For something slightly different, spoon seed mixture into muffin pans sprayed with cooking spray.  Place the straw in the center.  Cool and tie as above.

Here's another idea:
For another birdfeeder idea, check out this site.  Its great for all those mis-matched pieces of china in your cupboard.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Flowers – Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)

As the Christmas season approaches we sometime purchase plants for neighbors, friends or ourselves to brighten up the holidays.  So, for the next few weeks, I thought I’d cover a few of the more common ones and a few things you should know before buying them.

Christmas Cactus or Schlumbergera as it’s known by its scientific name grows in a jungle and prefers semi-shade. Unlike desert-dwelling cacti, it prefers a well-lit and humid atmosphere. You can increase the local humidity by placing the pot in a gravel-filled saucer.

Christmas Cacti are easy to grow and non-toxic to dogs and cats. It comes in many colors—red, purple, pink, and white. And it is fairly easy to grow.  It requires little to no pruning, but removing a few of the oldest stems will increase the foliage.  Remove whole leaf segments and root them for additional plants.

Problems associated with Christmas Cactus:

***Shriveling stems:  caused by the plant being in a too hot and sunny situation. However it is often due to root deterioration cause by over or under watering.

***Discolored and damaged stems:  caused by the plant being placed in a situation that is too hot and sunny. Although it is a cacti, it’s natural habitat is a woodland setting with dappled shade.

***Non-flowering:  the plant must experience conditions to mimic autumn changes such has shortening days and a drop in temperatures. 

***Flower bud dropping:  is caused by fluctuating temperatures or overwatering.