Stone Walls, Cobblestone, and Terraced Cottage Gardens

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.

Hydrangea

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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Happy 4th of July

American Flag

Thank you to all of those who gave… and to those who gave it all…
for our FREEDOM!

Thank you God for giving us this beautiful country to live in, and for
the peace that we enjoy.

** This week… a brand new special post about hillside terrace gardening!

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Southern Fried Chicken Recipe

Here’s a great recipe for preparing Southern Fried Chicken!

After you marinate the chicken covered in buttermilk for 2 hours, coat with flour mixture – then in beaten eggs – then back in the coating mixture.

Ingredients for the coating mix:

2 cups all-purpose flour
(or enough to coat the amount of chicken that you are preparing)

1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Use approx. 6 cups of grape seed oil or canola oil for deep frying

Here are some different ideas that you could use as a side dish for your southern fried chicken:

- Fresh sliced tomatoes
- Grilled corn on the cob
- 3 Bean salad
- Baked beans
- Mashed potatoes & gravy
- Scalloped potatoes
- Steamed broccoli
- Deviled eggs

Yum! I can’t wait to make dinner!

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Easter Eggs – Elegant Ideas For Your Easter Eggs!

Have Some Fun With Your Easter Eggs This Year!

farm Easter eggs

I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s nothing like a pile of freshly boiled eggs and the smell of vinegar to bring back wonderful childhood memories of the day before Easter… around the table with my family!

And… because eggs are so inexpensive this time of year, you should take a few minutes around the kitchen table, to create some memories… and a masterpiece with your little ones!

The number of ways to decorate an egg are limitless, but I thought I would share a few of my favorites with you today.

Painted Eggs

To keep your eggs to use every year, blow the egg out, wash & dry, then paint with regular acrylic paints. You could paint them to say “spring” with birds, nests, trees, and flowers, so you could leave them up all season… not just for Easter. Look at these BEAUTIFUL examples!

painted Easter eggs

I love how these painted eggs were hung on a “blooming” apple branch!

painted eggs

Stick Ons

Decorate with stickers, stamps, or scrapbook notions.

Natural Dye

beautiful natural dye for eggs

This year, instead of purchasing a regular “same old, same old” egg dying kit, try using some of the food from your kitchen to color your eggs!

Spinach = Pale Green
Hibiscus tea = Green
Blackberries = Deep Purple
Red Cabbage = Robin’s egg Blue
Cranberries = Lavender
Beet Juice = Pale Pink
* The longer you leave the eggs in, the more the color changes

  • Decide what colors you would like to try
  • Depending on what color you’d like to try, add each item to it’s own small pot
  • Add enough water to cover eggs
  • Bring liquid to a low boil for approx. 10-20 minutes
  • Remove from heat & allow to cool slightly
  • Add 4 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • Gently add eggs and boil on low for 15 minutes
  • Turn off heat, cover, and leave eggs in dye bath until they reach desired color (can be 3 hours for deep shades)
  • Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place on rack to dry
  • You can use a paper towel dampened with a bit of vegetable oil to rub the eggs & give them a slight shine, but I love the natural finish ;)


  • Optional: If you would like patterns on your eggs… wet a leaf of your desired herb (or other pattern), apply to egg, carefully wrap egg in a piece of old pantyhose & secure with a twist tie before placing in the dye bath to keep your pattern secure. Then, carefully unwrap after you remove the egg (using the directions above), and remove the item used for your pattern to reveal your beautiful design.

    dark colored eggs

    These eggs were colored with purple cabbage.

    natural dye Easter eggs

    Yellow Onion Skins

    onion skin dye

    I love the natural red color that the onion skins give to these eggs!
    natural colored eggs

    Grandma’s Quilt Eggs

    Cut tissue paper into small squares – make sure to use lots of different bright colors. Dip the boiled egg in water to make sure that it’s wet – apply the pieces of tissue paper – allow to dry – peel off paper to reveal that the dye was left on the egg for a beautiful patchwork quilt effect!

    Kaleidoscope Eggs

    Pick out some of your favorite colored crayons & sharpen them. Save the shavings & lay them out on a plate. Boil your eggs. While they’re still hot, take them out of the water, then roll them into the wax bits. The wax melts & sticks to the egg, giving it a special kaleidoscope effect.

    Mosaic Art

    Keep those beautiful colored egg shells that you worked so hard on! As you’re peeling your Easter eggs, be sure to keep the shells in a bowl. On a thicker piece of card stock paper, glue the colored pieces of egg shells into a pattern. The picture will turn out looking like a tile mosaic. Now you will be able to admire all of that time spent coloring your eggs for many years to come! * The kids love this project!



    Also… you might like this article that I wrote called, how to boil the perfect egg.


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    Victoria Magazine – Helping a reader find a past issue




    I receive so many requests for ideas, help, how-to, etc., from our readers, that I’ve decided to start sharing some of those requests & my answers, with the hope that I can help many others in the process.




    Here is a recent request from a reader:

    Hi Pearl,

    I am desperately trying to surprise a dear friend of mine with a back issue of Victoria Magazine that he lost. I see that you were a big fan of all the old magazine which is why I am reaching out to you.

    All he can tell me is that there is a section on all things cream, and that there is a wonderful oatmeal recipe in the issue.

    Can you help me?

    Thank you in advance for anything that you can do.

    All my best,
    Amber

    Added Note from Amber: I worked at the magazine in 1996 and 1997 and feel very strongly that it is in those years. Please add that information to the post as readers may have those issues and be able to find it.

    …………………………………………………………………………….

    Answer:

    Dear Amber,

    Thanks for taking the time to write.

    Because your friend does not remember exactly what issue the magazine was, these are the ideas that I have come up with to still help you find it.

    First of all, does your friend have any idea what “year” his beloved issue was published in? If so, you could pick up the collection for that year for $19.95. That way, even though you’re not sure which “issue” it is, you will still be sure to have it, when you pick up the whole year’s worth of issues…and $19.95 is not a bad price…plus the fact that you’ll have lots of other nice magazines as well!

    For example, here is the nov/dec 07 – nov/dec 08 collection

    If he remembers what the front cover looks like, you look through front covers of the back issues here.

    I tried looking up the issue based on the 2 items that he remembers, but
    unfortunately, they do not have any sort of contents listed for each issue
    on the website. BUT, I am sure they would have that info in customer
    service.

    You could call customer service & describe the issue to them:
    (877) 675-5361

    Another way to go is…ebay! You can pick up a whole “lot” of magazines very inexpensively. This would be perfect if he could recognize the front cover – or knew what year the magazine was published! In any case… if he is a “Victoria” lover, you can’t go wrong by picking up a bundle of past issues ;)

    ** Readers – do you have any help for Amber? Do you remember an issue of Victoria with lots of info about “all things cream”, and a special oatmeal recipe? If so, post your thoughts in the comments below!

    Amber let us know how things turn out!

    You can subscribe to one of our favorite magazines
    Victoria Magazine by Clicking Here

    Editor Update: Victoria Magazine Found!

    Here is a note that I just received: from an ebay seller that I contacted to see if she could help us:

    “Hello Dear Pearl,
    Finally! I have a friend who runs a Victoria Magazine fan forum, and she had all of the “girls” looking. It is November 1997. I have verified in my personal collection, and see the theme was oatmeal and cream. There are a few oatmeal recipes, such as oatmeal scones..

    I hope this helps!

    Victoria”

    * Thank you so much Victoria! And… to all of you Victoria lovers out there, check out Victoria’s ebay store, she carries MANY back issue of Victoria Magazine! How wonderful that you have the opportunity to pick up so many GREAT issues that you might have originally missed out on!

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    Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits – Easy & Cheap to Make at Home!

    I think I can speak for anyone who has had the privilege of enjoying a meal at the Red Lobster restaurant by saying… their Cheddar Bay Biscuits (or garlic & cheddar biscuits as some call them) are one of the most delectable items on the menu!

    Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits
    So… today I thought I would share a quick & easy recipe with you, to show you how you can enjoy a similar treat at home for your family dinners.

    First, I wanted to include this how-to video from Kraft, to teach you how to make a really nice “basic” cheddar biscuit… just in case you don’t like garlic.



    Ingredients:

    1 cup flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
    1/4 tsp. sugar
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/3 cup milk
    1/4 cup (or 1/2 stick) cold butter, cubed
    1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    * Add ¼ teaspoon garlic powder if you want the Red Lobster version

    TIP: If you would rather use Bisquick, you could substitute the first 6 ingredients with 2 cups of Bisquick & ½ cup cold water.

    Mix dry ingredients together, cut in butter and add cheese. Pour in milk a little at a time. After you pat out the dough & cut into squares (as in video), place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 450 degree preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

    For the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit version, also add this topping:
    2 tablespoons melted butter
    ¼ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
    ¼ teaspoon Italian Seasoning
    ½ teaspoon garlic powder
    a small pinch of salt, and a pinch of Old Bay seasoning if you wish

    Mix together these ingredients & brush on top. If you like a softer biscuit, brush heated topping on after you cook them. If you like more of a crunch, brush mixture on before you bake the biscuits.

    ** I at least DOUBLE this recipe for my big family ;)

    Enjoy!

    Pearl

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