PVC Rattan Is An All-Weather Alternative To Western Red Cedar

January 23, 2015 5:00 pm
posted by Peter
Rattan Deep Seating Set--Cushions Shown May Not Be Available

Rattan Deep Seating Set–Cushions Shown May Not Be Available

Natural rattan is a vine-like palm plant with long, thin fronds. The dried fronds can be woven into many shapes but are especially popular for making patio furniture. Today, most rattan patio furniture is manufactured using a plastic resin called PVC which emulates the qualities of natural rattan—hence, PVC rattan.

PVC Rattan furniture has the appearance and color of natural rattan, so it maintains that traditional country garden look you’re seeking. But it is more durable and more affordable than natural rattan. Water does not affect it, and it withstands heat and cold, which makes it a material for all climates. In addition, today’s manufacturing methods include UV inhibitors to produce a rattan weave that is colorfast. So, you needn’t worry about your lovely PVC Rattan furniture fading from long exposure to the sun.

Thus, PVC Rattan is truly a material for all-weather outdoor furniture. With pieces of PVC Rattan garden furniture you won’t have to completely replace your garden furniture every two or three years. And the look of rattan is versatile: It may also be used in an enclosed porch, a sunroom or even your living room.

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Now Is The Time To Prepare Your Yard And Garden

January 15, 2015 3:12 pm
posted by Peter

January is a good time to review the design of your outdoor living areas, no matter what the climate is where you live.

49-Inch Garden Hutch

49-Inch Garden Hutch

While many of you may be creative at this, some of you might want outside help in planning your landscape and outdoor planting.

Web sites abound that address every aspect of gardening. You might try the Web site of the Royal Horticultural Society, the United Kingdom’s leading charity for promoting good gardening. It offers books, magazines and loads of gardening and how-to information. Another good source of information is the Complete Gardener Series by Time-Life Editors. The series comprises volumes devoted to topics like landscape design, ferns, shrubs and trees, and vegetables and herbs. Check Amazon.com and eBay to obtain these books. Don’t forget so-called coffee-table books on English- and American-style gardens. These are filled with color photographs that you can use as inspiration for your own designs. Finally, many popular magazines contain photos of homes and gardens as part of their feature stories or advertisements.

And why not include one of my 100 percent Western Red Cedar garden hutches to store your outdoor equipment in one convenient place? They are available in three sizes (27, 30 and 49 inches) to suit the needs of your yard or deck.

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How To Ring Around A Tree!

December 22, 2014 1:52 am
posted by Peter

Tree bench

You have this big, leafy tree that provides wonderful shade and a cool environment for enjoying an al fresco lunch or dinner or a glass of wine and a good book. But, you have a problem: How can you relax under your tree if there’s no comfortable place to sit?

You can spread a blanket or set up a lounge or beach chair. But these solutions usually aren’t very comfortable. The hard ground under the blanket bothers your legs and back…and your arms if you’re trying to read a book by lying on your stomach and leaning on your elbows. And the lounge chair or beach chair sometimes sits lopsided because of the tree’s roots or the unevenness of the ground at the base of the tree.

We have two possible solutions to this dilemma: our around-the-tree bench or our backless quarter bench (the subject of our next post). The tree bench provides five sides to choose from; so, you’ll always find a perfect spot to relax under your favorite tree. This bench is so practical and inviting and will fit around any tree up to 24 inches! It can also provide seating around a favorite statue or similar garden enhancement.

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Gather Family And Friends To Create Wreaths And Ornaments

December 8, 2014 9:01 am
posted by Peter
Holiday Wreath

Holiday Wreath

I’m sure many of you have placed your holiday decorations already. Even if you have, though, here’s a great idea for a holiday get-together for family and friends: a wreath- or ornament-making party. The first step is to gather the natural materials you’ll need: evergreen clippings, holly or pyracanthus berries, pine cones, eucalyptus leaves, mistletoe, poinsettia flowers and leaves, and sprigs of bay laurel. You might find these materials in your or an invited friend’s yard, or you or a friend could stop at a home store and purchase them. Or consider asking various guests to contribute the natural materials for the wreaths; ornament designs and materials; and tools like clippers, green wire or wire frames for the wreath frames, and glue or glue gun. This party is great to hold outdoors or in your basement. Remember to lay down some newspapers or a drop cloth around the work table, so glue and other dropped materials don’t mess up your floors or deck.

Creating the wreaths and ornaments isn’t very difficult and doesn’t require special techniques. You can find plenty of design inspiration online, or grab some green wire and start adding the natural embellishments. Set up a few bowls with diluted green, red, gold or silver paint so you can dip the pine cones or plain vine branches in the paint, allowing them to dry on waxed paper, to lend a variety of color to the wreaths. A different look can be achieved by soaking the cones in bleach for a day or two.

A party isn’t a party without refreshments. Provide a table laden with hot cocoa in different flavors in thermoses or jugs, and various add-ins, like marshmallows, whipped cream and candy sprinkles. Plates of cookies, brownies and fudge are great, too. A bar providing stronger beverages … seasonal ales, bourbon punch (see my last post) and wine … rounds out the offerings for an afternoon or evening of family fun. Happy Holidays!

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Try A Few New Ideas For Holiday Entertaining

November 23, 2014 9:59 pm
posted by Peter
Cherry Wood Wine Rack

Cherry Wood Wine Rack

The holiday season is fast approaching, so here are a few new food, drink and party suggestions for holiday entertaining. Try this “gothic” pattern from Better Homes and Gardens to carve pumpkin lanterns to light your walkways and holiday tables: http://www.bhg.com/videos/m/96042975/carved-pumpkin-lantern-a-dramatic-way-to-carve-a-pumpkin.htm?q=Thanksgiving+pumpkin+lantern. Create an instant centerpiece by filling a decorative bowl, vase or pitcher with fall foliage, flowers or berries (like pyracanthus or bittersweet).

Place large kettles of spiced cider, mulled wine, and seasonal soup or stew on your grill or next to your fire pit. Remember to use oven mitts to grasp the ladles when serving. Recipes abound on the Internet for these seasonal beverages and culinary delights. Need a tasty cold beverage? Stir the following in a large pitcher: 3½ Cups chilled white wine, 2 Cups cranberry juice, 1½ Cups bourbon, ⅓ Cup lime juice and 12 oz. lemon-lime soda. Toss in a handful of frozen grapes. Serving cheese balls? Why not shape your favorite recipe into small pumpkins or apples? If you’re providing a cheese-tasting board with a variety of cheeses, don’t forget the cheese toppers, like chutney, jam or honey in addition to an assortment of bread and crackers. Create labels so your guests will know which type of cheese is featured in each ball or on your cheese board. Popcorn is an excellent munchie, especially when tossed with nuts, dried berries, and powdered blue or cheddar cheese.

Finally, dress up candy apples by layering chilled apples with melted caramel, white and dark chocolate, and butterscotch. Find recipe details at BHG.com/CandyApples.

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Turn A Pumpkin Into A Beer Keg

October 31, 2014 2:12 pm
posted by Peter
Pumpkin Keg

Pumpkin Keg

Your Halloween party checklist seems to be complete: pumpkins, food, keg. Wait a minute! Why not turn one of your pumpkins into a keg? First, you’ll need a large pumpkin, one you might be able to put a small child inside (but don’t do that to check the size!).

To fill the pumpkin: a generous serving of a beer that doesn’t require chilling: an IPA, stout, pumpkin beer or English-style cask ale. Andy Farrell, beer director for City Tap House, Washington, D.C., and creator of the beer-o-lantern, says the pumpkin won’t impart much flavor, especially if you scoop it out well. But the finished keg will surely put last year’s punch bowl to shame. Here’s what you need to create your pumpkin keg:

Very large pumpkin, Sharp carving knife, Large spoon for scooping, Trash bag for seeds, Flathead screwdriver, Hammer, Cask spigot (available at home brewing stores, online or from a local beer bar if they’ll trust you to return it), Candle, Beer (of course!), Plastic wrap

Instructions:

1. Pick a pumpkin

Select a fresh one without bruises, as well as one that lies flat instead of tilting.

2. Get scooping

Cut off the top, creating a hole large enough to thoroughly scoop the seeds and inside flesh. BE VERY THOROUGH, since stray debris can clog the tap. The inner wall should be as white and gunk-free as possible. If you want, retain the seeds. They can be used in many recipes.

3. Cut a hole for the spigot

This is tricky, like executing a dainty jack-o-lantern nose. Carving shapes in pumpkins with too much force can crack the outside. Measure the diameter of the spigot, then draw it on the gourd’s surface a quarter of the way from the bottom so the beer flows nicely. Soften the flesh around the spigot’s perimeter by gently pounding a flathead screwdriver with a hammer. It may be best to lay the pumpkin on its side on the table during this step, depending on your angle.

4. Insert the spigot

Once the area around the spigot has been thoroughly loosened, pop it in. If the flesh cracks or the hole is too big, drip candle wax around the exterior to seal-in the spigot. Black candle wax creates a more festive look.

5. Fill the “Keg”

Pour the beer into the top hole, making sure the spigot is turned to the off position. Again, use a brew that doesn’t require chilling.

6. Seal Up the “Keg”

Cover the top with plastic wrap and place the pumpkin lid on top. If you wish, seal the top with more candle wax and cut away any loose plastic wrap.

7. Now, Party Down!

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Welcome Witches And Warlocks To Your Home On Halloween

October 27, 2014 7:09 pm
posted by Peter

Looking for some Halloween decorating tips? Well, here’s an idea you and your children can create in no time at all! Convert your home (or at least a front room) into a witches’ den. Begin with flickering candles to illuminate the way. You could use a star-shaped craft punch to dress up the candleholders or trace star, skull and bat shapes onto black, orange, yellow or white construction paper and cut them out. Attach to tumbler-style glass candles and line your walkway with them.

You can create a cauldron that bubbles by using a large black pot (cast iron if you can find it) and filling it with spray foam. Let the foam dry, then paint it a proper yucky color like gray or pea-soup green or dingy yellow. The kids can perfect the brew with rubber spiders, toads, and other critters. Use the cauldron as a centerpiece on a table indoors or place it on your deck or porch. Arrange glass jars near the cauldron or on a shelf or the floor to display the ingredients for your witch’s brew.

Witches and Martha Stewart are not compatible! Change your house number sign to something devilish … like 666 Witches Way … with appropriately colored cardboard, cutouts or rubber stamps. Establish a parking area for brooms. Make your own by wrapping twigs and grass around wooden dowels. Light windows to set a backdrop for your spooky silhouettes cut from black craft paper. Now, your witches … and warlocks will feel right at den (er, home)!

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More Oktoberfest Formats, Staging And Food Pairings

October 11, 2014 4:49 pm
posted by Peter
Teak Oval Extension Table

Teak Oval Extension Table

Previous: Oktoberfest Beer Tasting (10/9/2014)  I mentioned the vertical format (one brand, several varieties). Other formats include blind: one style, several brands with guests tasting and naming which brand is which. Another is microbrews from lightest in color and alcohol to darkest in color and highest in alcohol. Or several brands of one style appropriate to the season (Oktoberfest, summer ales, etc.)

Set up a large table anywhere as the stage for your tasting. Since guests will be swallowing and not spitting out their beer when tasting, provide water to rinse tasting glasses and a “swill” bucket to empty them between each beer. Guests should have a clear tasting glass, glass of water, and pen and paper to take notes. If available, provide beer guides or style books for your guests’ convenience. Also handy is a beer menu: each beer tasted (in order), brewer, style and other relevant information.

Cheeses, fruits, and breads and crackers, maybe some deli meats and patés pair well with beer. Or pair your food to the style of beer. Oktoberfest beers pair with German food but also with baked ham, barbecued beef or pork, pizza, grilled veggies and chicken, and steak.

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Stage An Oktoberfest In Your Home Or Garden

October 9, 2014 9:00 am
posted by Peter
20-in. Planter with Trellis

20-in. Planter with Trellis

Celebrating Oktoberfest can get expensive for you and your friends, especially with cover charges for live entertainment. Instead, invite friends to your home for a beer tasting!

Beer tastings are gaining popularity. They can be less expensive than wine tastings, although some craft beers and microbrews can be pricey. Create a budget covering the costs of the beers you select plus food. Plan to serve at least four varieties (at 3 ounces per guest) for the tasting plus additional beer (of any type) for post-tasting enjoyment. Add seasonal lights to my 20-inch planter with trellis and it’s a decorative cooler for the beer.

One tasting format is the vertical tasting: one brand, several varieties. For example, Samuel Adams has different beers for assembling a good “flight” for your tasting. Its Web site has sample flights assembled by others and provides a way to choose your tasting’s beers. One sample: Sam Adams Boston Lager, Oktoberfest, Maple Pecan Porter and Harvest Pumpkin Ale. Many local liquor stores might not stock many varieties, but they might steer you to stores that do or will special order them for you. Next: Another Tasting Format plus Food for Your Tasting

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Gardening Tips For Preparing Or Repairing Your Fall Garden

September 5, 2014 3:08 pm
posted by Peter

 

5-pc. Planter Set w/ Trellis

5-pc. Planter Set w/ Trellis

Planning on reseeding your lawn? Try a dethatching rake to cultivate soil and cut back weeds like clover, strawberry and crabgrass. Dig out violets and similar weeds. The grass seed requires good soil contact and daily watering. Need to totally renovate a weedy lawn (not merely overseed your existing lawn)? Use an herbicide first to kill the vegetation. It may take two or three applications of non-selective herbicide, such as glyphosate, Wait at least a week after last application to sow the fresh lawn (follow label directions). 

Hedges “tired”? Shrubs overgrown? Plan now to clear beds and select fresh plant material. Match your replacement plantings to soil and light conditions and size of space. You may find that perennials are more appropriate for a particular space than another woody plant. Deadheading improves a plant’s looks, prevents seediness and may promote reblooming. Remove the flower to a healthy set of leaves or entire stalks, if necessary.

Harvest your herbs for drying and storing. Pick thyme, oregano and basil leaves in early morning. Harvest mint at midday; oils are at their peak at that time. Plant fall-blooming perennials to give your garden a pop of color. Chrysanthemums, asters and goldenrod are great for beds, borders and containers.

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