Sweep & Scrub

I’ve been looking at the front porch lately thinking it needs a little help. The daphne I bought a few years ago just isn’t thriving. I need to buy some flowers or some shade plants that would add just the right punch of color.

But did I get around to it? No. And then we were having friends over for dinner, and our front porch looked like this.

We had spider webs, and bugs, and all sorts of nasty. In an effort to keep the daphne alive, I’d does it with some worm tea that overflowed all over the porch and runner. This is not warm and welcoming.

With picking up around the house, and getting things together for company, I didn’t have time to wander around looking for a plant for the front porch, so instead I grabbed my broom and swept away the dirt and dust. One of those magic erase sponges worked wonders on the plant ring and the threshold stains. A good hosing of the outdoor runner helped get rid of the worm tea.

Is is perfect? No. Is it warm and welcoming? I think so.

That's Cocoa's thumbs up ear in the photo. She likes this place, too.

I still want to do a little shopping and find some flowers for the step, but this time I think I’ll go for annuals, so when they die I won’t feel like a failure. And maybe the pillow from the little bench remake would be a better size for the chair.

Baby Girl’s painting is getting a little worn, but I can always swap it out for another one she made. And the MR has been power washing the deck this week (think of all those white railings), so maybe I can ask him to power wash the runner, too.

So many things I could do, but for now I’m happy with my sweep and scrub.

When has a little elbow grease worked wonders for you?

You can check out other plants I’ve killed in the name of a pretty front porch here and https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/first-impressions/ and https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/not-any-other-way/






Dreaming of Spring

As the rains pour down, I watch the river spill over into the adjacent fields and dream of spring.

It’s just a little over a month away, and we’ve seen the signs. The bulbs are coming up in the garden, and the daffodils are starting to bloom along with this little beauty.

daphne bush

The sweet-smelling blossoms of variegated daphne are heavenly.  I picked it up last year at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, and it has done well even in the shade of the front steps.

daphne closeup

In a few more weeks, it’ll be covered in tiny flowers.

What signs of spring are you seeing?



Taking a Look Back at June

June means school’s out, the garden is in, everyone’s home, and we’re spending a lot of time outdoors.

The MR spent many hours at the beginning of the month up high Painting the Town, I Mean the Roof. Torch down roofs require maintenance now and then to keep them in good shape, and he’s gone through over 10 five-gallon buckets of coating but hasn’t quite finished the job. The MR says that he needs maybe one, or two, or three buckets more; let’s just say it’s a big roof. We can always use the leftovers to make a tin man costume.

Molten Metal

Next, we turned to a place most people will notice–the front porch where we make that First Impression. After I got all busy with new pots and plants, I was motivated to add even more stuff. Some lime green, metal hurricanes Sweet Miss bought last year add a touch of color, and I went ahead and bought a 10-foot runner in gray to cover some stains and add some softness. The rug looks awesome so far–no major muddy dog fiasco.

Front porch with rain

It’s a misty, moisty morning here with the valley lost in the fog. By happy accident, the flash was on, and I was able to catch the droplets in this photo of the front porch. The hose is out, because the MR and his dad are busy with another project. Just wait and see.

A few weeks later, the MR came home with a truckload of flowers and plants–Gotta Love a Man with Flowers.

Front Door Planters

At the moment, we also have a very large Bell sitting on the front porch. This is not its permanent home. We’ve been looking at all sorts of interesting ways to hang it. My brother’s worried that it’ll look like some sort of torture devise, but we’re trying to steer clear of that.

I was pleasantly surprised to see these lovely bells at the local Art In Bloom show.

Bell Stand Collage

If you’re local and you’ve never been, put it on your calendar for next year. The opening night cocktail party comes at a price, but the rest of the weekend is free. So take some time to stroll through the lovely Kokopelli Gardens, support local artists, and the Duvall Arts Foundation.

We’ve also been working on the flowers adjacent to the deck and driveway. The bundles I made in Daffodil Detail are turning brown and the lilies are looking great–we have a lot less slug damage with the leaves bound. Sadly, the dahlias and delphiniums from last year did not reappear.

Lilies up close and personal

While the Fresh Spring Spinach Salads are a thing of the past (all our spinach has bolted with the warm weather), we’ve been enjoy a bumper crop of broccoli. I wound up bringing bags of it to friends at church this morning. Good thing we have a great broccoli salad recipe that’s one of my family’s favorites. It’s All About the Dirt.

Broccoli Collage

I made Baby Girl pose with the broccoli, so you could see just how big it is. We’re harvesting the side shoots now, and they’re a little scraggly but still quite tasty. If some crazy lady shows up with a basket of broccoli on her arm, don’t worry, I’m harmless.

Along with broccoli, we’ve been picking currants and the onions I planted to keep the animals away have gotten huge. I thought they were just green onions. Oh well, I may be making the rounds with a basket of them next.


My beans, cucumbers, pumpkin, and squash are all being eaten by slugs or bunnies or birds, so I’m celebrating the victories. In Mixing It Up, I told you we were putting our hopes in more plums next year on a skinny little stick of a tree. While the asparagus roots have yet to show any growth, the Santa Rosa weeping plum has started leafing out.

View framed by new growth

You know and I know I was taking a picture of the new foliage, but my camera thought I was taking a picture of the valley. You get what I’m talking about, and we’ll just say I was trying to be artsy with a little rack focus going on.

I have faith that we’ll have more than two plums next year. I’m watching the Shiro plum tree to make sure we don’t lose the lonely pair we do have to the birds or beasts.

After all the other projects our Handyman (aka Papa Larry) has been busy looking for a guy to do baseboards, hanging hooks in the guest bath, taking the leaf blower to the driveway, painting planters, and other messy, fun jobs, most people would never ask their guest to do.

We did manage to find time on a rainy Saturday to go wine tasting in Woodinville. It’s not all work and no play around here. We’re doing our best to show MeeMee and Papa a good time.

MeeMee & Papa

Finally, I have been practicing my technique and not letting my Perfectionism Hold Me Back. After removing all the adhesive from the stencil, I’m taking it slow to avoid smudges and using a lot less paint. Sometimes it helps to read the tutorial. I hope by the end of the week, the painting will be done, and the books will be back in place.

Here’s a sneak peek at how it’s going.

closeup of stenciled area

Still not perfect, but so much better.

What’s been going on with your June?

First Impressions

When people drive up to our home, I want it to be warm and welcoming.

Me and my design team, we were watering plants and looking at the front door with a critical eye.

Front Door Before

OK, maybe they just like to sit there with their tongues hanging out, but I know in their hearts they agree with me. We are missing the boat; this front porch area could look amazing.

For the last month, I’ve been in a quandary. How do I make it say, “Wow, we’re so glad you came; come on in”? The cement steps are a little paint spattered and far from warm, an undersized outdoor chair doesn’t say sit down and stay awhile, and that doormat is way too small.

My first thought was an outside rug runner to add some color and life to the doorstep. But then, I started thinking…always a problem.

My assistants are good company but horrible decorators. They are wild beasts who bring me all kinds of weird things, and they love dirt. Just look at Cocoa’s mud-loving smile.

Crazy Muddy Dog

The dogs have taken to exploring this spring, and they come home looking like this. Leaving dog body prints all over the newly power-washed deck.

Cocoa and her body print

If I bought a colorful runner for the front porch, would it soon be black with mud? And if I bought an outdoor rug that all the reviewers wash down with a hose, would it look cheap rather than fun and welcoming? Would it be better just to buy two doormats to better fill the space?

I’ve been at a bit of a standstill for a few weeks now–shopping outdoor runners online and then holding back. Sometimes I can’t make a decision to save my life.

I haven’t let the porch totally languish. I decided a few pots and some bright blooms would add color and warmth. The pots were a screaming deal from Ikea, so I splurged at the local hardware store and bought a bunch of brightly colored shade plants to fill them.

Large pot with chair

With fuschias, azaleas, begonias, lobelia, and coleus, these pots are brimming with color.

two pots

I can’t wait till the lobelia is trailing down the sides of the pots. Now when I take a step back, it’s still lacking a little somethin’-somethin’.

Porch Pots from Afar

Don’t worry I still have my crack design team working on the solution.

Cocoa Snoozing

Maybe they’ll promise never to come in the front door again, to always wipe their paws, and to never dig holes in the flowerbeds on hot days so they can lay in the cool dirt. A girl can dream can’t she?

What do you think? Should I buy a runner? Add a slip cover or pillow to the chair? Paint the cement steps? Add more pots? Add some knick-knacks for color?

How does your front porch say welcome?