May 30, 2014

Picnic at the Bowl

by Shelly

Sooo glad it’s Friday! But man, anyone else notice how fast the weeks fly by? I can’t believe how quickly this year has been going.

I’m looking forward to a mellow weekend. The only real thing we have planned is heading to the Bruno Mars/ Pharrell concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday. SO EXCITED! We always try to see a few shows during the summer at the Bowl. It’s just such a fun venue!

I’m a sucker for a good picnic, so below I’m giving you my must haves for a concert picnic at the Bowl. Yes, box wine. It won’t break or roll or any of that. Take it out of the box and just put the foil bladder into your cooler. * *A little tip** Place the foil bladder on the VERY bottom of your cooler and pack all the food and whatnot on top. If the Bowl is not a sponsored ”Bowl” event, technically you are not allowed to bring in alcohol. BUT this trick works EVERY time we go! 

Happy Weekend Friends!

cooler

blanket

wine

chicken salad

sunglasses

kimono wrap

lip stain

 

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We tend to really switch our eating habits as soon as it starts to warm up.  I am a BIG fan of comfort food and/or anything I can possibly cook in my Le Creuset dutch oven!  But there really isn’t anything easier or yummier than grilled food in my opinion.  A friend recently asked what I like to cook once summer rolls around, so I thought I would share my top recipes with all of you too!

{via myrecipes.com}

Our very favorite…  Barbecue Roasted Salmon is a go to anytime of year.  During the summer however, I like to soak some cedar planks in water while the fish marinates and then grill the salmon on the planks instead of turning on the hot oven. This is a total winner! No joke…better than a restaurant. Definitely one for when you have company over for dinner.

{via instagram}

Another easy and oh so good recipe, Grilled Apricots with Arugala, Burrata and Country Ham.  I wing it a little more by sometimes using peaches or nectarines instead (whatever looks best at the store) and then I usually just drizzle good olive oil and balsamic on top. Oh and prosciutto…I always use prosciutto. Yum!

I’m married to a central Cali boy, so to say he loves artichokes is sort of an understatement.  This Grilled Artichokes with Creamy Champagne Vinaigrette recipe totally beats out any other way of cooking ‘chokes. Delicious!

 

 {via aphotographerscookbook.com}

I love making this dish when I really don’t feel like cooking or we’ve been at the beach all day and I’m absolutely beat. Roasted Shrimp with Orzo  is full of flavor and great to make for a large group of people!

And this one I’ve featured on the blog before, but Grilled Steak Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette is  SUCH a winner I had to share it again. My hubby demolishes this when I serve it and my kid actually likes it too and she doesn’t really like red meat or tomato!

 

{via Pinterest}

Oh and just a little something I pinned recently that has quickly become a morning staple in our house, this yummy Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie . Such a great post workout drink!

So, I hope I’ve given you some yummy new ideas for summertime eating! I’m sure I’ll be sharing more fun warm weather recipes in the next few weeks. 

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May 27, 2014

Backyard Dreaming

by Shelly

The weather has been absolutely lovely here in So Cal. Warm, but not too warm during the day and a nice cool breeze come evening. But the lack of a real place to hang out outside has been bothering us all. And we really, REALLY miss having a pool.

The last two homes we owned both had pools. Our first place had a 1960s classic, kidney shape pool with nothing but concrete and small flowers beds. And our ugly pool equipment was smack dab in the middle of everything. We remodeled the entire backyard eventually and it was really what we loved about that home the most.  We still talk about how much we miss that backyard. Below is a little sneak peek of the changes we did to that yard. We didn’t use a landscape designer, my husband and I designed out the whole thing ourselves.

 

Our last place, had an amazing backyard, but to be honest…it wasn’t quite us. A bit too formal and the layout didn’t really work. The covered patio area was far enough from the main house that it was a pain to entertain. And the previous owners who had remodeled the backyard had put an outdoor fireplace in the WORST area! It was next to the outdoor kitchen, but there was no room to put chairs by  it because it would block the bbq area. Poor design!

 

Our current home was a DISASTER…which you may already know if you have been reading the blog for a while now. There was not one inch that was good. Not the interior of the home, not the exterior, not the front yard, and not the backyard. NOT. ONE. INCH.  We still would like to redo the entire exterior of our home and possibly add onto it a bit, but our first priority has been getting the backyard a bit more visually appealing. Seriously, it was a WRECK when we moved in.

What did I tell ya? Yuck.

Umm…the patio, I guess.

The side of the house looking into the backyard. Hey, at least there were nice fruit trees!

Little by little we have made some changes. We removed the ugly DIY awnings over the windows that the previous owners had made.  They blocked out a ton of natural sunlight into the bedrooms and made them dark and sad. So those termite infested things came off quickly! We also demolished the somewhat “paved” patio area with the metal pergola which was missing it’s cover and the chainlink dog run fence.

Last year after a bit of coaxing, the husband finally agreed to have our lawn resodded. And when I saw lawn, what I really mean is green weeds and crabgrass that from afar APPEAR to be a lawn. It was not grass really. So, we had our gardener put in sprinklers, flower beds, new sod and a row of privots to create a hedge wall for privacy. My inspirations are very East coast classic, Hamptons feeling.

With this home I want a formal meets cottage garden design.  Just enough boxwood for symmetry, but enough pea gravel, white roses, hydrangea, and jasmine to feel cottage.  Although we’ve put in sprinklers, sod and all that, we do plan on putting in a pool and hot tub sometime in the next year or so. We plan to keep the beds we’ve already created and just move the sod and sprinklers to the front of our home when the time comes. I’m crossing my fingers that this all happens by next summer. Eek!

For now the pups are enjoying the backyard the most, chasing squirrels and birds and rolling around in the grass. The humans enjoy it mostly for it’s slip and slide capabilities!

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When Ellie was just a bit over two years old, I decided (prematurely now that I look back) that she should have a big girl room. Stupid. Stupid. I moved the guest room full bed into her room, ran out to Pottery Barn Kids and decorated her room in like one weekend. It wasn’t great, but I was SO excited to have her out of the crib. She was after all a total chunky monkey and lifting her in and out of that crib was bruising my ribs. NOT KIDDING.  I hated the room about two months later. Why did I rush? It looked like a page out of the PB Kids catalog. Can you say cookie cutter?

So all this time I’ve wanted to redo her room, but the timing never felt right. I wanted her room to reflect her personality, her likes, her passions. And I really don’t think Ellie’s style and taste developed until about this year. While we were in Australia she and I both were enamored with the laid back, beachy, exotic style we saw everywhere. I’ve always been a total SUCKER for tassels, exotic and block prints, and bright colors and those elements were everywhere we looked Down Under!  Ellie started taking notice too and my design soul smiled everytime she and I would walk past a design store or a cute restaurant that was decorated nicely and she would comment or stop to take a look. We bonded on that trip in so many ways, but we really had fun noticing the design details all around us.

After we got back I decided  her cookie cutter bedding and the full mattress had to go! Her room isn’t very big and the bed just takes up way too much of the floor space. Ok, I’m going to stop yapping to just show you the room….

The pic above was taken a couple of months after we moved into the ugly duckling. This isn’t exactly how the room looks now…there are bamboo roman shades, white frames over her bed, the room is laid out totally different and a striped Dash and Albert rug is on the floor. But you get the general idea…cookie cutter bedding, tons of kid toys and crap everywhere and a dresser that looks messy and doesn’t hold enough clothes. Oh and pink. It was what she wanted when we moved her three years ago, but she loathes it now. Small doses are ok, but she’s all about the cool tones now. Like her momma!

So here is the new plan…

1. The bed will be replaced with an upholstered daybed with trundle (since sleepovers are inevitable at her age). This will free up floor space big time!

2. Her favorite color is now turquoise, or aqua, or any shade in between. So I’d like to find a vintage, over dyed rug in her fav color to anchor the room and give her something soft to play on.

3. Over her bed we are going to put this fantastic print I found at Ikea a few weeks ago! I was so excited because it was perfect for my little surfer girl and only $20 bucks. I couldn’t find the exact print, but the one on the storyboard is similar. On either side of the print we are going to put in some sconce lighting as well.

4. The bamboo shades may stay, but we are definitely adding these fun tassel draperies from Serena and Lily to add softness to the windows. The tassels remind us of all the clothing in Australia. They are everywhere. As they are quickly becoming a thing here too.

5. I’m not totally sold on this particular dresser, but she wants something reclaimed or washed/rustic looking. I like this one because it’s a bit fem. But we’ll see.

6. Another fab Serena and Lily find. This rattan mirror is just so beachy and boho. Ellie loves it too. So it’s a must.

7. Then there is the bedding. The plan right now is to keep the bedding for the most part white. Then we are going to add tons of pillows in her fav aqua tones. We both LOVE Rikshaw Designs, so of course a few pillows will be from there. And then I might have some custom pillows made out of vintage batik fabric I have lying around.

8. And the one thing she demanded on was a poof….gold poof to be exact. My little tomboy does have a girly side after all! So we’re going to add two possible for when friends come over.

9. Last but not least…actually it’s probably the first thing that will change…the walls. I’m probably going to paint them a warm, slightly sand colored white and the ceiling is going to go glossy aqua. We may do stripes. This remains to be seen.

So there it is. Ellie’s new Australian, surfer girl, glam, boho bedroom. I kind of want to sleep in here with her when it’s done. The bed comes in a few more weeks, so I will be a mad woman getting it all together in time for her birthday the beginning of July!

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Somewhere along the past few months I decided to become a triathlete.  I know, crazy right?!  After starting a new work out routine with the best group ever back in September, I decided to sign up for the Los Alamitos Race on the Base that took place this past February.  After I announced my decision to my husband, he surprised me completely when he said, “Hey, I’ll do it with you! Sign me up too.”. What the what!?  I was shocked.  My husband WAS once a triathlete back in high school and actually did an Ironman race.  But it had been 20+ years for him and he was most definitely out of shape.  I’m proud to say though, that he jumped into training with both feet and hasn’t looked back.  I would actually say he’s been more into the whole thing than me. He’s a stud!

Well, we both did the race back in February…and finished…actually finished! I don’t know why I’m sooo surprised. Well, I’m not surprised that he did well, but I am surprised that I did pretty well and actually went through with the whole thing!  I wasn’t exactly the athletic type in my younger years, but now just around the bend from being 40, I am in the best shape of my life!  It feels great!

{me at the ROTB Sprint Tri, Feb. 2014}

So of course I’ve gone and done what everyone does after they do one sprint tri….they sign up for three more! No?  They don’t do that? Well, I did and so did the hubs.  And I bought a road bike and gear…and well I guess I’m doin’ this shit! Yikes!  Can you say addicted?  But it’s nice to have a goal and to have something exciting to look forward to and train for. Needless to say it has totally consumed our lives. We sort of live and breath, running, cycling, swimming on a constant basis. That, combined with the normal daily schedule has made my life very full as of late.  I’ve actually backed off from work just a bit to focus more on our family and personal life and I feel blessed to be able to do that. But some new projects have dropped in my lap, so hopefully I will have some fun stuff to share with you all soon.

Ok, enough with the exercise crap. I’ve been very into some stuffs lately and here it all is for ya. A little this, a little that. But if you ignore most of this list, please DO NOT pass up watching Extra Virgin! Especially if you love cooking, or Italy, or Debi Mazar or pasta.

1. Extra Virgin had me hooked after just one show. I love the chemistry between Debi and her hottie, Italian hubby Gabriele Corcos. And the food…damn it…so good! I’ve already made a few dishes from the show and they are all delicious.

2.I’m not sure where my love of monograms comes from. I’m a Southern California beach girl through and through afterall, but somewhere along the line (I think it’s Martha’s fault) I developed a deep love for monograms on pretty much anything. My blogger friend Grace is the purveyor of all things monogram and I was beyond thrilled to see that she’s taken her hobby of monogramming and opened up a shop! Rest assured that I will be purchasing one or two…or three things for my own home.

3. While shopping for new lipgloss I happened upon this lovely fragrance by Bobbi Brown.  Beach is hands down what summer smells like to me.  The smell of the ocean, mixed with jasmine just does it for me.

4. A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to meet Sarah Richardson at the Laguna Design Center’s Spring Market.  She is quite a lovely person and her new fabric line for Kravet is just as lovely.  I am DYING to use a few of the fabrics in some upcoming design projects.  They are fresh and pretty…just perfect for spring!

5. Training and working out as hard as I have been the last few months has definitely come with some benefits! My legs are taking on quite a nice shape….which basically comes down to…they are SKINNY!!  This is a huge thing for me. I have never really had skinny legs, or muscle tone, or legs I even felt like showing off. But I do now! This romper by Yumi Kim would be great for summer date nights and for backyard cocktail parties if I dress it down.

6. I have a strong love for lime green. Our family room has some hints of it and I have been looking for a throw that brings more of that color into the room. This one fits the bill and has cute pom pom detailing, which I love!

7. We recently stopped by this burger joint on our way back from a trip to Legoland. The Riders Club Cafe rivals Umami Burger and in my honest opinion…wins all the way!  Great burgers and great beers. Definitely a go-to for your cheat day!

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February 25, 2014

Design Crush: Cynthia Childs

by Shelly

I spend far too much time on Pinterest, but it truly is where I find so much inspiration for my design projects, what I wear on a daily basis, what I cook, etc.  How did we live without it!?  Recently a girl friend pinned the above fabulous outdoor sectional, so I headed over to architect, Cynthia Childs’ site to see more.  Beautiful work. All of it. This home in particular takes the cake for me, especially since I’m a sucker for great outdoor spaces!  I love the hardscaping material used for the patio and walkways, along with the mix of succulents, ferns, iceberg roses and boxwoods.  The concrete and large clam shell fountain is awesome too!  I think we may need to recreate this in our own backyard. It’s really different!  Head over to the site to see more pics, including the inside of the home.  It’s stunning!

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It’s dreary.

And gray out.

Bleh.

But it was a good weekend. Hope yours was too!

The boy did quite well for Valentine’s Day.  He got me a pretty darn good gift, which I’ll be sharing below.  Then we had a very low key meal, sitting in the bar at one of our local haunts.  Followed by a night of music with an incredibly talented music artist, that is just BEGGING to make it super big!

The rest of the weekend was spent training for the big event hubby and I have next weekend. God, I am SO freaking out!!!  We are doing the Los Alamitos sprint triathlon, Race on the Base .  My husband used to do tris way back when and has even done a half Iron Man or some crazy crap like that.  I am NOT going to end up doing Iron Mans I can tell you that. This was just one of those items on my life checklist.  At the ripe age of 37 I am feeling fitter than ever thanks in major…MAJOR…part to this girl!  I actually kinda like my thighs for the first time in my life. That’s big folks! If you are local to the Seal Beach, Long Beach, Los Alamitos area you need to come take a class. Oh, ladies only unfortunately. Sorry fellas.

In any case, I  have been in serious like with a few things this month and in an effort to better your life I think you should try some of these out. Even if it’s just the yogurt. Ok, on to the list….

1. Good Lord, seriously I about died when I had my first bite of Australian yogurt when we were there.  It blows DOORS off Greek yogurt. Sorry Greeks.  Noosa Yogurt (which is actually the name of the city we stayed in while there) is actually inspired by the Mediterranean variety.  But they sprinkle pixie dust or something and add all natural fruit purees.  It’s freaking delicious and I am heavily addicted now.

2.  The Getaway debuted on the Esquire channel back in September of last year.  I apparently had my head stuck in the sand or something, because I didn’t know anything about this show which was created by one of my favs Anthony Bourdain.  The show features travel- loving celebrities who know some of the World’s greatest cities inside and out.  It completely marries two things I love, travel and food. Which is why I’m such a fan of Bourdain, but this series has a fresh, fun feel. And seriously, as if I didn’t already love Seth Meyer!

3. This jacket had me instantly!  The Veda Denim Jacket for Madewell is very rock and roll and just the right amount of different from your everyday denim jacket.  It totally reminds me of the quintessential biker look we see on patrons of our fav dive bar, Mother’s in Sunset Beach.  My boy got me this for Vday. He rocks!

4. I’m addicted to Pinterest just like everyone else I suppose.  And I’m constantly looking for inspiration for our backyard remodel, which at this rate is years away still. But in any case, I can do hanging baskets.  And I just LOVE the way these look. Now if only I can keep them watered….

5. Anti-gun. Pro-gun. Doesn’t matter.  This shirt is funny and I wish I had ordered it in time to wear during the sprint tri!  But I may just have to bust it out during my workouts! Oh and this one is pretty funny too.

 6. She’s beautiful right?  Well she’s not just a pretty face. In fact she’s quite the badass.  Conway is her stage name and she is going to be HUGE…I just know it!  Kassia Conway (her real name) was the opening act for the show we saw on Friday night and I am SO glad we didn’t miss them. Normally we skate in just before the main act goes on if we don’t know the opener. Read this review and you’ll get a good sense of what she’s like.

And check out this video.

I love her!

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Tonight my wonderful husband lined up tickets to see one of our new fav musical artists and we even lucked out with an available sitter!  We usually stay home on Vday and I cook a really nice meal, so this is a treat for sure.  St. Lucia is a one man band fronted by Brooklyn artist by way of South Africa, Jean-Phillip Grobler.  We first saw them live when they opened for another fav band of ours Two Door Cinema Club and I was instantly hooked!

The sound? A little tropical, a little electronic and his vocals sound a bit like George Michael circa Wham!  The music is very catchy.  And he’s just a doll…he had me at his rolled pants and espadrilles. So here a few favorites that I think you’ll enjoy!  I hope you have a wonderful weekend and if you’re celebrating Valentines Day, I hope it is extra sweet!

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Weekday mornings are usually a crazy whirlwind.  I jump out of bed, after hitting the snooze on my iPhone twice and quickly go through my routine…..

Brush teeth and hair

Turn on kitchen lights and tv news softly (just to wake myself up more)

Run out to kitchen and start coffee

Feed all the pets

Make Ellie’s lunch (If I didn’t already do this the night before)

Start Ellie’s breakfast (More like assemble because she only wants cereal usually)

Go wake her up…throw off her covers, open roman shades, turn on light and then carry…yes carry her highness into the dining room for breakfast.

Then from there it’s a mad dash to clean up, get her dressed and packed up for school, get myself dressed (Thank God for workout clothes!), rush out the door and get her to school on time. If it’s a workout morning I sneak in a yogurt and/or banana before we leave.  But it’s the days I have just a little more time to myself after dropping her off that I relish.  It’s usually a day that I have lots of office work to get done and no client meetings. Those mornings I like to treat myself to a nicer breakfast. And this one fits the bill perfectly!

Serves 6

(I only used one egg and then adjusted the rest accordingly since I was the only one eating it)

Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

6 large eggs

2 bunches pencil thin asparagus

Canola oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

2 cups torn country bread

extra virgin olive oil

aged balsamic vinegar

fleur de sel

Poach eggs. Bring 6-8 inches of water to a boil in a deep saucepan. Prepare an ice bath.  Add the vinegar to the boiling water and reduce heat to a simmer. Crack 1 egg into a small cup or ramekin. Using a wooden spoon, stir the water at the edges of the pan twice in a circular motion to get the water moving. Then add the egg to the center and simmer gently 1 1/2 minutes or until white is set but yolk is still runny. With a slotted spoon, transfer egg to ice bath. Skim off any foam that has risen to the top of water and repeat with remaining eggs, one at a time.

Peel or trim asparagus stalks if necessary. Spread asparagus out on a platter or baking sheet and drizzle generously with canola oil (I used olive oil) and season with salt and pepper. Grill asparagus on an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan. I used a cast iron skillet because I was only making it for myself and the skillet was easier to manage. It worked fine.  Cook 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side.

With the grill or pan still hot toast some of the torn country bread. This was very easy to do in the cast iron skillet. There was still oil at the bottom, so the large chunks just toasted off of that. Worked  great! Takes about 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Lower the cooked, poached eggs into the simmering water for about 30 seconds, just to reheat. Blot on paper towels after. Note..you can cook the asparagus first, then the eggs so that the eggs don’t get cold. This works if you are only making this for one or two people.

Arrange some asparagus on plate, then some prosciutto and croutons. Lay an egg on the asparagus then drizzle all with olive oil and balsamic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. SO GOOD!

 

 

There you have it. Super easy!  And it would also be a nice weekend breakfast. Of course the kids probably would want nothing to do with it. Their loss. Oh…and this is also a really nice light dinner.  It goes really well with a chilled white wine!

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February 3, 2014

Drought Tolerant Gardening

by Shelly

Living in Southern California my entire life, I have grown accustomed to hearing how we should conserve our water and cut back our use.  Even when a year seems particularly “rainy” and wet, it seems we just never have quite enough water for the mass amounts of people that live here.  This year unfortunately, as those of you who live in the area know, we are in a real bind .  We’ve gotten some rain the past week, but given we are so late in the season it is doubtful that we will catch up to the rain needed to meet our needs for the year.

As an avid gardener, the threat of water shortages does not bode well with my soon to be spring time planting!  Looking over my sad, winter-barren yard the other day, I started to scheme up some ideas on how to make my yard look nice this spring without the need for lots of water to keep it looking good.

My garden tends to lean towards country English/formal English. I’d probably say it’s more semi-formal English…not that it exists in the gardening world, but that’s close to what it actually is. In any case, I like lots of roses, boxwoods, ferns, hydrangea and gardenias.  These aren’t all the best for times of drought. So I’m thinking of repotting all our hanging baskets and pots with succulents and ornamental grasses and replacing some of the water heavy plants (once they inevitably die) with lots of lavender, white shrub roses (which I already have a ton of actually), and herbs.

The goal is to make the yard more Mediterranean feeling for the time being and who knows, maybe I’ll start to like it better! Above our some of the ideas I found for pots, etc.  Definitely more of a Napa feeling no? Below are some ideas on what, where and how to plant a drought tolerant yard or patio.

 

Hedges or Privacy Screens: 

{via daves garden}

1. Pacific Wax Myrtle

Great screen or hedge plant. Tolerates wind. Sun to partial shade.

 

{via sf gate}

2. California Bay Laurel

One of my very favorites! Aromatic with yellow flowers December to May. Can use the leaves for cooking, although it is a bit stronger than regular bay.

 

 

{ via this old house}

3. Privet Ligustrum

Another fav! We actually just planted a long hedge of this in our backyard to gain some privacy. Classic look..think Hamptons! Tough as nails and very tolerant of air pollution. Perfect for So Cal unfortunately.

 

 

Container Plants and Hanging Baskets:

1. Verbena or Lantana

Hardy and easy to grow. Heat and drought tolerant. Full sun! Makes beautiful, cascading baskets for your patio!

 

2. Lavender

This can be used in pots for a Napa wine country feel or just grow straight in the ground. Either way looks beautiful and grows so easily! Smells amazing. Use dried flowers in sweater boxes as insect repellant or just to make your home smell wonderful!

 

(via valeaston}

3. California Poppy

So, so pretty and colorful! These work anywhere…containers, hanging baskets or straight in the ground. Flowers spring to summer. A great place to buy poppies is here!

 

 

Grasses:

Often overlooked when selecting plants for the garden, grasses add so much….dramatic backgrounds,

soft edges, interesting foliage colors and textures ranging from spiky to soft and silky. These varieties are very
drought tolerant.

1. Sheep Fescue

2. Deer Grass

3. Purple Needle Grass

4. Giant Wild Rye

 

 

Best All Around:

Last but not least, everyone’s favorite plant of the moment, succulents. They seem to come back around every 20 years or so. I remember my mom being big into them when I was just out of high school. Now here we are, exactly 20 years later (my big 20th hs reunion is this year eek! ) and she is all over the succulent trend again. They are great in just about any application….containers, wreaths, wall hangings, hanging baskets, or in the ground.  I like to mix these in with other plants like herbs, roses, or citrus trees when doing pots. They give a nice modern edge to a container.  The trick is to make sure the soil is very well drained. They don’t like to sit in wet dirt. So, make sure you are mix your regular potting soil with a good amount of gravel mix before dumping into a container. Once you plant the succulent into the mix, it looks nice to top the soil with decorative stones or aquarium gravel. It gives the pot a nice finished look!

 

 I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how to make your yard or patio garden pretty this spring, even during this horrible drought.  Please share any other water saving yard ideas and plants with me!  I love to learn new gardening tips!

 

 

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