Happy Thanksgiving – Take Peace


I wanted wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and share a wonderful letter of encouragement that was written to a dear friend back in 1513.

Although it was written so long ago, the words still ring true for us today.

“I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep.

There is nothing I can give you which you have not got. But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instance. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy!

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty . . . that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it, that is all!

And so I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”

“Fra Giovanni, 1513

I want to encourage you today….
Take Peace
Take Joy
and Take Heaven

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Cottage Gardens and Roses

Three months later…

Cottage garden
From front to back: blue salvia, knockout roses, gaura/chiffon cloud

I wanted to share a pictorial update on one of the brand new cottage gardens, that we created this year.

This coming Spring, we will also add a front cottage courtyard, and a side garden filled with fruit trees and ornamental fragrant shrubs.

For this new cottage/rose garden, what I thought might take three years, has happened in only three months!

Here is the cottage garden just after we built the stacked stone walls & the cobblestone paths this June. It was quite a large task… but oh so worth it!

And as you know… I love to use creative ideas to achieve the look & feel that I want, but for much cheaper than what “normal” people might pay for the same thing! So as you can guess, almost every plant in our garden was purchased at a VERY nice discount price, or given to us by friends!

*** Also…be on the lookout for the next post, as I am excited to share my “top tips for getting your garden filled with plants for pennies on the dollar” with you! These are very easy things things that you can start doing right now to fill your garden with luscious beauty!

My Cottage Garden… at only 3 months old!

Cottage Garden
to the left: boxwood, wooly thyme, gaura/chiffon cloud, knockout roses

Cottage garden
left to right: boxwood, wooly thyme, knockout roses, gaura/chiffon cloud, foxgloves

Cottage garden
foxgloves, knockout roses

Cottage garden
knockout roses

Cottage garden
iris, knockout roses

Cottage garden
left to right: boxwood, White dwarf phlox, sedum, touran rockfoil saxifraga, knockout roses, iberis – tahoe, iris, ajuga

Cottage garden
lobelia, ajuga, armeria, sedum

Cottage garden
Knockout roses

Cottage garden
left to right: wooly thyme between rocks, boxwood, knockout roses, gaura, foxglove

Cottage garden
gaura surrounded by boxwood & pink knockout roses

Cottage garden
left to right: boxwood, gaura, foxglove, knockout carpet roses, dwarf phlox, iris, blue salvia

Cottage garden
lobelia backed up by armeria

Cottage garden
hardy hibiscus

Cottage garden

Cottage garden

Cottage garden

** Share your thoughts in the comment section below… I look forward to hearing from you!

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Create Beautifully Decorated Walls in 3 Easy Steps!

Recently, I had a reader ask me this question:

“We are a bit short of money, but I am tired of looking at the same old boring walls. I can’t really afford to buy anything (I’d feel too guilty even if I did). Is there anyway of making decorations at home?”

There are times in all of our lives, when money is tight & we are more conscious of what we spend. But, I am here to tell you… the amount of money that you have or don’t have never has to stop your creativity when it comes to decorating your home!

To be honest with you, when this question was asked, I had a flood of ideas that came to mind right away!

But, I know our minds tend work! We go into “decision mode” where we question everything so much, that we tend to just not make a decision at all! We start thinking thoughts like…

– I don’t know which is the “right” one to pick

– I don’t know if this is really a good idea

– What will my friends think of my choice

– Can I really make something look nice enough with little or no money

So… to help simplify things, and make sure that you act on your creative ideas, I wanted to pass along a few “proven ideas” that you can go create RIGHT NOW! That way, you & your family can enjoy them right away… and you won’t get trapped by overcomplicating the decision making process!

3 Simple Rules to Creating a Beautifully Decorated Wall

When decorating a wall, there are only 3 easy Steps to follow! It’s not rocket science, and you CAN do it… and do it beautifully!

And the most exciting thing? None of these concepts cost any extra money ;)

Rule #1 – Size

When you are considering ideas for decorating a “whole wall” remember that in order to get a pleasant visual balance, a larger item or collection of items is always better than one small item.

Reason? If you plop one small item in the middle of a large wall, your eye is drawn right to the small item, and your brain automatically says “wow that picture (or whatever is hanging there) is small”! Your wall is also left with a “never go around to finishing it” look.

Rule #2 – Family

Think about your family. Even though each person is different, there is still something that holds you all together and makes you a unit. This is the idea that I want you to remember when you are making your decorating choices. So with that in mind, when deciding which items will have the honor of hanging on your wall for all to see, they don’t have to all be the same (although they could be if that’s the look that you are going for), but they need to still be related in some way… even if they are distant cousins twice removed ;)

Use items that are related in either of these 3 ways:

– Color

– Style

– Theme

Rule #3 – Balance

Your goal is to try to achieve some sort of balance, so that your wall decor will be pleasing to the eye. This simply means, that instead of randomly placing things here or there, try to think of how that item looks in perspective to the other items around it, as well as in relation to the whole wall.

And that’s it as far as “how to” decorate my walls, and now it’s on to the “what to” decorate my walls with!

I want you to clear your mind of the limiting thoughts such as… “what’s allowed to be used as wall decor”!

Why? Because when it comes to “what” is allowed to be used to decorate your own walls… there are no rules!

When trying to decorate with a limited budget, we need to think differently than the “spend to decorate” mindset.

What I want you to do is:

1. Take out a piece of paper & write down the things that you LOVE!

2. Take a walk around your house/attic/basement/garage and look at the items that you already have – jot down your favs

3. If there are things on your “love list” that you don’t have, is there a way to get/make those without spending?

Now lets go through those one at a time

1. What is it that you love?

– What are your eyes automatically drawn to when looking through magazines

– Collections

– Items that belonged to loved ones

– Childhood toys

– Animals

– Gardening

Just fill in the blank & really think about what it is that makes your heart smile when you look at it.

2. After you took a walk around your house & all the nooks & crannies… what did you find?

– Maybe grandma’s collection of aprons or hankies?

– Your childhood collection of baseball cards or sports items?

– A collection of small chairs that you really didn’t know what to do with, but you kept them because you loved them?

– Some pretty scraps of fabric that you planned to make into a quilt someday?

– Some old doors / windows that you found on the side of the road – had no idea what to do with them – but they are still with you?

You see, as you go through your own home, and ask yourself these types of questions, you will start to see a common thread. You will find some things that you hang onto just because you love them. They may be tucked away in a box, stashed in a drawer, or stored in the basement. You have no idea what to do with them, you just know that you keep them because they mean something to you.

3. There might be some things that are on your “love list” that you don’t currently have. Try to think of a creative way to possibly get a few of those things to use in our project.

– Could you make it from other items that you do already have?

– Maybe a friend has one & doesn’t use it anymore?

– Could it be found curbside on trash day?

– Maybe it’s listed in the free section of Craigslist?

– After sale giveaway (when a yard sale is over, most people want to find someone to come get all the leftovers!)

– $1 box at an estate auction (I have found LOTS of treasures this way!

– I bet you could barter either an item – or a skill/talent in exchange for it!

Look at these creative ideas to help get your ideas rolling!

These vintage hand mirrors are related by theme & color

vintage mirrors

This setting is not only related by theme, but by color as well.

mini clocks

I love this display idea, because you could change up the purses each season if you’d like!

purse collection

Just a simple shelf filled with some of your favorite bowls makes a beautiful display!

yellow-ware bowls

Use bits of paper & cover a wall like Pam did here – beautiful!

scrap paper covered wall

This beautiful wall speaks of size (scale).

vintage window

This wall will give you an idea of how to balance the display.

wall decor

How about displaying your garden tools – or other similar items?

vintage garden tools

I hope these ideas have helped stir your imagination & give you a new perspective of what is possible when you open up your mind to new creative ideas!


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Scenes From Cades Cove – Great Smoky Mountains TN

Covered Bridge - Cades Cove

Last week, I was able to go with my mom, my daughter, and a dear friend, for a day trip through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, TN. A big part of our day was spent enjoying an 11 mile scenic loop through a section of the park called “Cades Cove”.

You know how much of a romantic that I am! So… you can probably guess how I responded when our friend Candy shared a little known tidbit of information with us, just as we were entering the park.

She said… that this was the very place where they had filmed the movie series “Christy”! It’s a heart-warming romantic tale of the life of young Christy (played by Kellie Martin), as she ventures off into the backwoods to teach the Appalachian people to read & write. She encounters various & sundry obstacles along her journey, and has to lean heavily upon her faith and courage as she starts her new life in “Cutter Gap”.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch it, I highly suggest picking up a copy from Amazon or your local movie store.

Anyway… as we drove around the cove, I started to recognize many of the mountains, open pastures, babbling brooks, and historic buildings from the lovely tale, which made being in those gorgeous surroundings that much more romantic!

Here is a glimpse into our special day.

There are approx 1,500 black bear in the Smoky Mountain national Park – and many live in and around Cades Cove

Black Bear - Cades Cove

I LOVE the mixture of stone, moss, and rocks while walking through the forest

Stone Wall - Cades Cove

You can spy many different waterfalls around the park. Wouldn’t you just love to spend the day in the pool beneath this one!

Waterfall - Cades Cove

There’s something so heart-warming about seeing a farmer “putting up” provisions for the upcoming winter months

Landscape of Cades Cove

I love the workmanship of this log & stone home

Historic Building - Cades Cove

This tree was begging for some attention ;)

Porch Historic Building - Cades Cove

Steps Stone Wall Historic Building - Cades Cove

The historic mill is still in use, as they demonstrate the ways of yesteryear

Historic Mill - Cades Cove

Tools of the trade

Moss Covered Mill Stones - Cades Cove

I love the workmanship on this stone chimney!

Historic Farm - Cades Cove

The little settlement in the cove

Historic Farm - Cades Cove

Farm Building - Cades Cove

I just had to get a closeup of this moss covered shake roof!

Shake Roof - Cades Cove

Historic Farm - Cades Cove

I love the way this creek flows right over the crossing!

River Crossing - Cades Cove

Another cute little guy ;)

Black Bear - Cades Cove

There’s no cost to enter the park, so it makes for a nice family day trip! Here’s a link with some more information – Cades Cove

Here is a video, so you can take the tour with me :)

The next time you watch Christy… be sure to think of me ;)


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Living Wreath – How to make a living wreath with succulents

As I was browsing around my favorite local garden center, I spied a brand new shipment of BEAUTIFUL succulents that had just arrived! (I try to stop in often so I can jump on any unadvertised sales, and to see what’s new.)

Well… as I was taking in the beauty and intricacies of each little plant and trying to find a way that I could use them in my home decor, I came to the conclusion that it is time for me to try my hand at creating my own living wreath!

Because you build a living wreath out of different cuttings and not whole plants, it won’t be extremely expensive to create. I will be very careful to buy only those plants that will produce several cuttings for me to work with, which will also help to keep my costs at a minimum.

The types of plants, shapes, colors and sizes that you choose to work with are all up to you & your particular tastes, so you will be able to create something that you will truly love & enjoy for years to come!

Soon, as your living wreath begins to grow, you will be able to take cuttings, which you can then share with a friend, or use to create new wreaths to give away as gifts!

Here are a few pictures to help give you some ideas on how to create your own living wreath.

living wreath

succulent living wreath

living wreath 2

succulent wreath 2

Video – How to make a living wreath using succulents

What is your biggest question about creating your own living wreath? Post it in the comments below, and we will try to answer it for you!

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Stone Walls, Cobblestone, and Terraced Cottage Gardens

Stone wall and cobblestone steps

When we started working on the landscaping for our cottage in the woods, we were unsure of how to handle the hill that joined the side of the house with our country lane.

Initially I really wanted some stairs leading up to the front door, otherwise we would always have to enter the house through the garage/basement… unless we walked all the way around the hill & up to the front door.

After looking at the size of the project, the price that it was surely going to cost, not to mention not knowing exactly how to go about accomplishing the project, I was afraid that we were going to have to settle for something less that what we really wanted.

But… after going through lots of pictures, and discovering some new ideas to build a set of stairs ourselves, we finally had a new option!

You see, initially we tried to build the steps from stone that we gathered from around the property, but no matter what we did, we couldn’t get them to lay even. Because we didn’t want anyone to catch their toe & trip while climbing the stairs, we had to find another solution.

And we finally it!!!

We would use manufactured cobblestones to build the steps themselves, then use the stone from the property to build the sidewalls of the steps, as well as the walls of the terrace garden.

This would not only allow us to have nice even steps and still give us the look that we wanted, but the cost would also be very low, because most of the supplies would be coming right here from the land!

Lest you have the idea that the job was going to be an easy one… I wanted to start from the beginning to show you what we started out with (of course the land was initially all wooded & my husband & I cleared it ourselves – so even this picture isn’t from the “actual” beginning ;)

You can see where my husband grabbed his trusty shovel and starting roughing in the steps into the side of the hill. You can also see all of the rocks that he was pulling out & putting aside for later use.

The Beginning of Our Terraced Cottage Garden

After the steps were laid, we starting laying out the stone walls on each side to keep the soil from falling out. We also decided that it would be wise to lay landscaping cloth behind each row of stacked stone, then pile the dirt up behind it. This would keep the soil from simply washing through the front of the walls each time it rained.

Stone walls, cobblestone steps, and terrace cottage garden in progress!

Now the steps were pretty much laid in and the bottom retaining wall was well underway. You can also see that we were FINALLY able to rake down the soil on the hill in the background – remove all of the stones – and cover it with a layer of top soil to prepare it for planting grass seed.

Stacked stone wall

I love this close up of the bottom retaining wall as it was going up! Don’t you just love the character that stone gives!

Stone wall and cobblestone steps

The work of laying out a stone wall is not some sort of science, but you do need to take your time & be sure that everything is sturdy & sound.

I love a more natural look to the garden, and wanted things to appear as though they had been there for a very long time!

So… we picked the rocks that would be visible very carefully.

I also LOVE to visit different garden centers & look through the clearance racks for special deals. Last year, I found 20 large boxwood plants for around $1.25 each! I decided to plant some of them between the steps & the cottage garden for a bit of color and structure. You can also see how I started tucking small plants into different cracks and crevices here & there that we left for that purpose. There are so many different varieties of little ground covers, herbs, and sedums that you can use for that purpose.

Terrace Garden Steps

The ivy was another great find! Only $3 per flat, and what’s not to love about ivy & stones together!

Terrace Garden Cobblestone Steps

After lots of hard work, you can finally start to see things taking shape. I’ve designed the garden to have 4 different planting areas.

Level 1. Shrubs such as hydrangeas (the very top)
Level 2. Cottage Perennials – Foxgloves, poppies, garden phlox, etc.
Level 3. Ground covers & low growing plants – sedums, mini phlox, ajuga, etc.
Level 4. Hardy hibiscus (ground level)

Terrace Garden Spaces

We loaded up some of my plant stash to take up to the planting beds. You can see that the wagon is filled with some of my favorite cottage garden plants!

Terrace Garden Plants

Finally time to plant!

Phlox in front of one of the stone walls

Behind each stone wall, there is also a nice bed of carpet roses. They will bloom all season long, and in no time at all will be approx. 4ft X 4ft… also draping over the stone walls just a bit!

Terrace Garden Roses

Have I mentioned that Foxgloves are some of my favorites!

Terrace Garden Foxgloves

In the next tier down, I planted some miniature garden phlox. I’ve never heard of minis, so I’m really excited about these! I’ve also added some small iris for their nice color & shape.

Terrace Garden Plants

Another bunch of roses peeking out from behind the moss covered stones.

Terrace Garden Roses

The large hardy hibiscus were another GREAT deal that I picked up this Spring. We stopped at a local plant sale, and because it was later in the day, they were trying to get rid of things that they still had left (nice tip for you… go to plant sales both in the morning – then go back later in the day ;).

I saw a big box of roots – marked hardy hibiscus. I asked her the price… normally they are selling for $4-$5 each because they are such nice big roots, but we will give you the whole box for $10! Sold! So… I bought the roots in the Spring, but because the garden wasn’t ready to plant until later, the shoots had already started growing – which explains their legginess. Next year… they will be nice & full!

Terrace Garden Walls

A few close ups of some of my plants
Saxifraga – my first ever… and I’m in love! The aroma is heavenly!
Saxifraga in the cottage garden

Ajuga – some people say…. oh be careful, that plants spreads so much… and I say… that’s exactly why I love it so ;)

Ajuga in the cottage garden

A couple of my pretty ladies (hydrangeas) from the upper level.


Because I am only planting shrubs in the upper level, I decided to mulch around them to keep the weeds down.

Hydrangea - Pink Mop-heads

Another shot of the lower level

Terrace Garden Lower Level

Our special visitor…

You might remember turtle girl from last year… yes… she’s back again!

This little lady comes to our hill each year to lay her eggs, and this year was no different! Hopefully we’ll see little babies coming out to enjoy the garden soon ;)

Terrace Garden Visitors

Even though our garden is only a few months old, we already see such growth in the plants, and we are all enjoying it immensely!

Was it worth all of the heavy work? You bet it was!

I will be sure to keep you up to date as to how this garden is coming along, as well as the other gardens that are currently under loving construction throughout the forest ;)

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