Category Archives: gardening and landscape

Natural Rock Soap Dish

The last day of our trip to the U.S. was pretty special.

First, we got to spend the morning playing with friends. Can’t go wrong there.

After that, I ran into my very first piano teacher. There are a few people God gifted with a sweet spirit and an abundance of talent and she’s one of them. You really need to see her portfolio of oil paintings.

(image: Nathelle Norfleet)

Then, my son got a lesson on how to operate the tractor bucket. Apparently, he now thinks that makes him qualified to help Grandpa make hay next year. He’ll be 8.

Finally, we capped the day off with a trip to the creek with Grandma.

It was a hot day and the creek felt really, really refreshing.

Not “I’m going to submerge my whole body” refreshing, but “put my feet in” refreshing.

Plus, I “forgot” a towel.

And if you can’t throw giant rocks at the creek, where else can you do it?

While I was sitting there enjoying no whining from my kids soaking it all in, I noticed a rock with an interesting shape.

Not just an interesting shape. The PERFECT shape. For a soap dish.

It was as if, over decades, the creek crafted that particular rock for that particular purpose.

(Don’t ask me what happened to this photo, but it’s the only evidence I have, so it’s here.)

When I got home, I should have been packing for our return trip to Ireland, but I have my priorities.

I really wanted to see how soap would look in my newfound treasure!

So I convinced The Junk Whisperer to drag out her handmade soap collection. She doesn’t make it, but she knows some talented people who do. Handmade soap smells the best, doesn’t it?

Then I went outside to see how it would work!

Yes, I went outside.

Partly because The Junk Whisperer has THE most beautiful landscaping.

But mostly because the lighting inside makes me look really good was terrible at that moment.

You get the idea though, right?

In the right bathroom – or near an outdoor faucet – this natural rock soap dish would be amazing.

Nature always does it best.

And I’m so happy she shared this gem with me.

Living in Ireland: Spring Flowers in Our Yard

Can you believe it is April already? Time sure is flying!

Last April we visited Ireland for the first time. It was rainy, windy and miserable. To which we said, “Yeah! Let’s move here!”

Now that I have an Irish winter under my belt, I can say spring in Ireland means the rain is…a little bit warmer. Ha!

There are nice days too. More than you’d think. One thing I’ve learned is that the Irish do not squander a nice day or a nice hour. I’m a quick learner, so I try to follow their example!

Sunday was super nice here (upper 50s Fahrenheit – practically summer weather), so I spent some time pulling weeds in the garden. “Yard” is not a word folks use here. I rarely hear “lawn” either.

Here’s our backyard. Garden! Dang it. Garden. Back garden? Whatever.

My communication struggles are real, but the teenagers here like my American accent. So I’ve got that going for me.

I took this gem while hanging out our bathroom window. You’re welcome for that visual.


It really is THAT green and not all of the trees have leafed out yet. I should also say the sky really was that blue. It happens, people. Blue skies happen in Ireland. Don’t everyone move here at once.

This tree is going to be fun to watch as it blooms and leafs out.

I’m still trying to forget the gazillion leaves it dropped in November though.


We have several firethorn bushes.

I just Googled that. Don’t think I’m an expert or anything.


We also have this purple beauty.


This one smells divine.


Our daffodils bloomed in mid-February.

By last week, they had almost all died. But these two are still hanging on.

Have you ever seen an all white daffodil? I saw a patch of them at the park for the first time a few weeks ago and I still regret not taking a picture.


The flowers in the next few photos are located next to my killer rose bushes.

I accidentally pricked my finger on a rose thorn last fall and I swear I almost lost the digit. Huge swelling. Gross bubble. Major melodrama.

But Madge, the receptionist at the doctor’s office, told me I wasn’t dying. Because Madge is qualified. She’s raised like 10 kids and sees sick people come into the doc’s office every day. She told me I didn’t need to waste money seeing the doc. I just needed to get some disinfectant at the pharmacy. Employee of the year.

So I walked down the block to the pharmacy and explained what I was looking for and why I needed it. I show the pharmacist the finger I was about to lose, but that Madge said was fine. Not that I’m melodramatic or anything.

“An older lady at the doc’s office told you this? Was it Madge?!” *deep sigh* “Madge told you that? Ugh, Madge! She shouldn’t say that!”

More deep breaths by the pharmacist.

I got the distinct impression this wasn’t the first time Madge had sent someone straight to the pharmacy. But Madge was right. My finger did get better after I pickled it in that nasty disinfectant.


Here’s another flower I know nothing about.

The next time I talk to The Junk Whisperer she’ll tell me what all of these flowers are and how to properly care for them. She’s a master gardener. And I will nod my head and pretend like this information is going to stick around in my cerebral cortex.

But it’s not.


I do believe these next flowers are called Snowdrops and we have THOUSANDS of them. Even after my son keeps kicking a football (aka soccer ball) through them while showing me how to “drift” the ball.

My tulips are just now starting to bloom, which seems to be later than my neighbors’ tulips. I blame it on these guys taking up all the sunshine and soil nutrients.

Just a theory. We’ve established that I know nothing about this stuff, but it seems like something Madge would tell me.

Always listen to Madge.


This is the view out my bedroom window to our front garden.

NAILED THE LINGO!

Stil more weeding to do out there. Oh, and I’ve been trimming those hedges on the left by hand. Talk about an arm workout. Wow.

Well, that’s how spring is shaping up around our house. I hope yours is looking bright and colorful too. I am so happy about the weather forecast for the rest of the week. It looks dry for the next few days. That means we get to play at the park after school and it just might be the highlight of my kids’ day.

P.S. Spring in the Republic of Ireland starts February 1. No joke.

The Tale of 3 Houseplants

I bought a houseplant.

Yay me.


It’s still sort of alive a month later.

Yay me?


It’s not looking good though, which is a shame because I had to carry it home from the grocery store like this.

People don’t even look at you strange here for carrying home a plant on the train.


I’m not confident the plant is going to survive. Something weird is going on with the soil. And the stem. If we’re going to be thorough, then fine. The leaves too.

As for the obvious question, yes, I have watered it.

And not just that one time.

I have dutifully followed the directions that came on its tag. All 4 lines of the directions, which was considerably more information than I received for the other living things in my care…humans. And they seem to be doing just fine.

So I decided to buy a backup plant.


This one is doing better.

Probably because it survives well with benign neglect.

And it doesn’t seem to mind being shot with Nerf bullets.


But I’m still not convinced it will survive either.

So I did the logical thing and spent €1.49 for a backup to the backup plant.


He’s been home for 6 days and still needs a permanent planter to sit in, but I’m afraid to jinx it.

Keeping indoor plants alive really shouldn’t be that hard. The weeds outdoor plants in my garden seem to be quite happy and robust after all.

Oh, the harsh sting of irony.

Should the first plant perish, I found some good advice on what to try next from this HGTV article about indoor plants that like low light. Except, my house does get a fair amount of light, so I might need to do a little more research.

Maybe I’ll just plant a dandelion. I can’t seem to kill those even when I’m trying.

Shovel Head Owl Art

It’s hard to find an appropriate title for “she took a rusty old shovel head and a bunch of random metal scraps and made something cool.” But that’s what happened.

As you might have guessed, this is a Junk Whisperer project. Who else do I know that would turn a shovel head into a funky, awesome piece of outdoor art? No one.

The Junk Whisperer had the vision for this shovel art project, but she used the mad welding skills of my uncle to make her vision come to life.

shovel-head-face-1
Interestingly enough, my uncle is quite the talented guy, as are many of my relatives.

He made my first car – a Plymouth Duster. Literally made it. To give you the overly simplified story, he welded two wrecked cars together to make one complete, unwrecked car and finished it off with a snazzy new paint job and interior.

Unfortunately, I wrecked it.

Teenagers.

shovel-head-face-4
The Junk Whisperer hung her shovel art on one of the barns on the family farm.

That’s why the angle on some of these photos is a little funny and why I photographed them in their natural element – cobwebs and all. Let’s keep this real. It’s a farm after all!

I had to climb up the railings of the cattle chute and precariously lean over to get the photos against the red barn. I could have gotten out a ladder, but that seemed like…um… a lot of work. Besides, then I wouldn’t have a reason to tell you about a cattle chute.

A cattle chute is a paneled pathway where you lead cows when you need to load them into a trailer or give them medical treatment. Don’t you feel smarter now?

Ironically, when I was hanging off the cattle chute taking the photos, the Junk Whisperer noticed that one of the owls was missing the shiny bead for its eye. So being the perfectionist that she is, she got out the ladder so she could take the shovel head down and fix it.

Of course she did.

Other than the fact that I cannot relate in any way, shape or form to the Junk Whisperer’s perfectionistic streak, we get along great!

shovel-head-face-3
I’m not sure at what point in cleaning out an old storage shed (or three) that the Junk Whisperer decided to turn rusty shovels and random junky metal pieces into art, but it’s really cool. Especially if you like owls. And who doesn’t?

See what I did there? Yes, I crack myself up. All the time.

What I call “random junky metal pieces,” she calls “treasures.” It’s all in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? I love that.

Not everyone has access to a welder, so The Junk Whisperer and I had a lively conversation about whether or not you really needed a welder to make this project come to life. Pros and cons were debated. Spreadsheets were crafted. Chocolate was consumed. Well, I consumed chocolate.

Here’s what we theorized. If you were using a super strong epoxy or metal glue, you probably wouldn’t need to weld them on. However, welding the metal pieces to the shovel head makes them more permanent or perhaps weather resistant if you are displaying the art outside. So pick your poison.

Also, someone with a welder is probably going to have access to other tools in the event that you want to bend any of your metal pieces. Some of that occurred for this project.

shovel-head-face-2
The moral of this story is twofold. First, take a hard look at the materials most people would overlook. It could be the beginnings of your greatest project yet. And wouldn’t that just make you beam with happiness? Second, don’t be afraid to collaborate on your projects. To quote the famous saxophonist and composer Steve Lacy, “I think it is in collaboration that the nature of art is revealed.”

P.S. To see more Junk Whisperer projects, click here.

Riveter Tool Turned Hanging Flower Basket Holder

(House hunting in Ireland has commenced! Updates coming soon! If you’re just joining me today, I wrote about why we are in Ireland on Monday.)

If chippy paint makes your heart skip a beat, then consider yourself warned.

Heart palpitations may follow.

Behold the machine I call Red the Riveter. (Rosie was already taken.)

riverter-flower-pot-3
This gorgeous, chippy red hunk of equipment is an old rivet press.

At least, that’s our best guess. It would have been used to make rivets in leather and textiles.

riveter-flower-pot-2
Now it stands tall and proud in the backyard of the Junk Whisperer’s home. (The Junk Whisperer is my stepmom and she really needs her own page on this blog.)

We’re not sure how long the press has been out-of-commission. Decades probably. Now it has new life as a unique hanging basket holder.

In true Junk Whisperer fashion, this isn’t your average hanging flower basket. Oh, no. She planted yellow pansies in an old metal bucket and it works so, so well.

riveter-flower-pot-4
Finding a practical use for old industrial equipment can be tricky. More often than not, the equipment is either scrapped or forgotten when new technology takes its place.

When someone comes up with a cool way to salvage a piece of equipment, I always say, “why didn’t I think of that?” Then I steal their idea and make it my own. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery…or something like that.

riverter-flower-pot-1

Unfortunately, I did not pack a rivet press or a metal bucket in my suitcase when we moved to Ireland. I guess I’ll just have to live vicariously on this one. This is such a bright, happy spot in the Junk Whisperer’s backyard. I’m so glad I was able to see it in all of its glory.

My Childhood Bathtub

We arrived safely in Ireland (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this post) and are recovering from jet lag. We’re also waiting for our luggage to arrive, but that’s not the end of the world. Enjoy this post while I try to figure out what time zone I’m in. 

Like a lot of people, I grew up in a house with one bathroom.

We had a bathtub and no shower.

It was super awesome.

Want to see what that bathtub looks like now?

bath-tub-planter-3
Trust me. This is a MILLION times better than the bathtub used to look.

I didn’t even know the bathtub had those awesome feet, as the tub was sitting in a circa 1980s tile surround when I used it for bathing.

At some point during a remodel several years ago, the legs were separated from the tub. The Junk Whisperer (aka my stepmom) found 3 of the legs.

To most anyone else, this would present a problem. For the Junk Whisperer it was an opportunity to make a cool stone base for the tub so that no one would even know a leg was missing.

Until now. Oops.

bath-tub-planter-1
I realize this type of planter is not everyone’s style, but not everyone lives in a farmhouse on a working farm.

The Junk Whisperer does and she’s got mad skills! Taking junky stuff and making it look like it belongs is her sweet spot.

bath-tub-planter-2
Being as this is a farm, dirt and manure are in plentiful supply. So this bathtub is actually full of dirt, instead of having some sort of filler at the bottom.

One tip if you decide to use a bathtub as a planter. Leave the drain in the bottom of the tub open and that should solve all of your drainage problems!

bath-tub-planter-4
Did you notice the fence right behind the bathtub? Well, there are actual cows living right there.

This guy is Buddy, but his name might as well be Hamburger. He was watching me the entire time I was taking photos of the bathtub planter.

I guess he wanted credit for fertilizing that soil. Nice work, Buddy.

cow-on-farm
I’m not sure if the bathtub’s transformation would be called a makeover or a make under. Whatever it is, I think it works for the space and I’m happy the Junk Whisperer was able to turn a castoff into something beautiful and practical.

Bowling Ball Lawn Orb

What do you do when your local bowling alley is getting rid of old bowling balls for free?

Uh, jump for joy?

Not while holding the bowling balls though.

I’ve heard bowling alleys often end up with cracked or damaged bowling balls and they’d rather give them away to DIYers than fill up their garbage cans. I imagine the garbage man likes it a lot better too.

I’d like to know if this is true in places other than my small hometown. Let me know!

bowling-ball-orb-4

One thing you can do with an old bowling ball is make a decorative lawn orb. It’s easy to make one, but it does require a wee bit of patience.

First, procure a bowling ball. Size and color don’t matter a whole lot depending on how you want the orb to look when you are finished.

Next, sand the surface of the bowling ball with the sandpaper of your choice. You can do this by hand. You don’t need an electric sander. Your goal here is to rough the surface up a little so the stones or whatever you want to decorate the ball with will stick better.

The next step is very important. Unless you want to make a home for creatures, caulk the holes of the bowling ball shut. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth because you’ll be covering over the holes anyway.

bowling-ball-orb-5
Finally, it’s time to decorate! The Junk Whisperer (aka my stepmom) made this lawn orb using stones she found at the Dollar Store. Small glass gems from the craft store would be pretty too.

Using clear Liquid Nails (or another equally tough adhesive) work in a small section at the top of the ball and begin glueing your stones on. Wait for that section to fully dry before you rotate the ball to work on another small section. (The Junk Whisperer used almost 2 tubes of 5.5 ounce clear Liquid Nails All-Purpose adhesive.)

If you don’t wait and start to glue stones down the side, gravity is going to cause the stones to slide. That’s going to mess you up!

Patience (and a strong adhesive) will pay off. This ball has been outside all winter and spring and the stones have stayed intact.

bowling-ball-orb-1
Let’s talk bowling ball color.

This ball started out as a dark purple. Between the sanding, the rocks, the glue and probably a little bit of dirt you can’t really tell. If your ball is neon orange, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you’d need to cover your ball really well to make sure the orange color doesn’t show through. If you decide to decorate the ball with glass gems, keep in mind that the ball’s color will also be more evident depending on the opacity of the glass.

bowling-ball-orb-2
This DIY lawn orb is such a fun, creative, low cost way to jazz up your landscaping. In my case, anything that distracts your eye from the weeds is a very, very, very happy thing.

Rusty Machine turned Bird Bath

Have you ever heard an artist or songwriter being interviewed about their latest work of art or song? The interview always asks them to tell the audience what their creation stands for or how it should be interpreted.

I keep waiting for someone to say, “I ate a messy cheeseburger, wiped my hands on the canvas and then decided to see if anyone would pay for it.” No one ever says that! Instead, many of them will be super ambiguous about their creations and want to leave it up to the viewer or listener to form their own impressions of said art.

Well, that sort of happened to me this week.

Not the messy cheeseburger part…

wishingwell3
Here’s how a phone conversation with the Junk Whisperer went down.

Me: Junk Whisperer, what’s the machine thingy in your yard called that you use as a wishing well?

Junk Whisperer: You mean the BIRD BATH?

*DOH* 

wishingwell1
Then because I just couldn’t let it go, I had to ask the follow-up questions.

Me: It’s a bird bath? Huh. Are you sure? I mean, have you ever seen any birds in it?

Junk Whisperer: No, I don’t think so.

Me: AHA!

Still, I didn’t let it go. 

Me: Why do you have the coins in there if it’s a bird bath and not a wishing well?

Junk Whisperer: Well, I heard that it keeps the water cleaner longer.

wishingwell2
Because I’m an expert at looking things up on Wikipedia, she is right about the dirt part. In fact, one theory on wishing wells is that people accidentally discovered how to make their water healthier by throwing actual copper and silver coins into the body of water. The copper attracted dirt to the bottom of the pool of water making the water on top less germy. Also, over time, the copper broke down in the water and copper is a trace element essential to health.

P.S. I’m not an expert on any of this, I’ve just been Wikipedia-ing.

wishingwell4
Back to my original question, what is that machine thingy? Well, the Junk Whisperer thinks it came from some sort of blacksmith forge.

But is it now a bird bath or a wishing well?

In this case, I think whoever created it gets to decide. Not the idiot who calls her asking all these inane questions. I really don’t know why she keeps taking my calls!

At the end of the day, be like the Junk Whisperer and create something that makes you happy and brings you joy. Don’t do it for the birds. Don’t do it for other people. Do it for you.

Okay, if you’re going to help the birds, that’s actually a pretty good reason to do something too…

Where’s Your Happy Place?

The Junk Whisperer has a “this is my happy place” sign on the outside of her potting shed.

It does beg the question. Where is your happy place?

Have you ever thought about it?

pottingshedhappyplace2
I’m guessing a lot of people would say the beach or the mountains or the lake is their happy place.

I used to think my happy place was standing outside the car for that 5 seconds of quiet after you buckle your screaming toddler in the car and shut their door. Of course, that 5 seconds and a few deep breaths does go by so quickly before you have to open your car door and get on with the joy of parenting. 🙂

See, there’s no right or wrong answer!

pottingshedhappyplace5

I think your happy place should be where you can go to recharge. Where you feel safe, loved and confident. Where you can let out that big, metaphorical breath you were holding and finally relax.

Lately, my happy place is at home. That’s why this blog is called A Pretty Happy Home. There’s no comma to emphasize it’s pretty AND it’s happy. It’s just pretty happy.

pottingshedhappyplace3

While I do like things to be pretty, the real focus is on being pretty darn happy. We’re not “high on the laughing gas” artificial happy. This is real life, after all. For the most part, however, we try to look on the positive side, keep everything in perspective and enjoy the small things.

This past weekend (other than my solo trip to the grocery store) we did not leave our house for 2 days straight. It was glorious and so comforting to be content with where we were. Yard work, games, cleaning, reading, cooking, playing. Well, not so much the actual yard work, but the result was pretty amazing.

pottingshedhappyplace1
It got me to thinking that my happy place is less about a physical location and more about who I’m with. My husband. My kids.

It’s probably why moving around the country doesn’t phase us too much. Moving is an adventure, but our togetherness is what keeps us centered and happy. Oh, and in case you are wondering, we have no moving plans – at the moment. Ha!

pottingshedhappyplace4
So, do you have a happy place? How often do you get there? I hope it’s regular enough to feed your soul.

P.S. I found a cool “this is my happy place” sign on Amazon.

For more pictures of the Potting Shed, here’s Post 1 and Post 2.

For more stories about the Junk Whisperer, here’s one on Outdoor Junk. Here’s another one about a Tire Planter. Oh, and she’s really good at decorating flower beds.

A Little Bit of Yard Work Does Wonders

I might actually enjoy yard work if it wasn’t for the weeds. The ones that you pull and they keep coming back. Except now they are larger and they grow faster and I’m pretty sure they are mocking me.

After a summer of battling the weeds in our front flowerbeds, I decided it was time to take more drastic measures.

And, no, that would not be hiring a landscape maintenance company. (Although, that would really, really, really make my day.)

I decided it was time to try laying down landscape fabric. (There is no “before” picture. It was too depressing.)

For those of you with a green thumb, avert your eyes.

flowerbed5
I spent a fair amount of time procrastinating on pulling my ever-growing and out-of-hand weeds by researching the pros and cons of landscape fabric.

I determined it was worth a try for one major reason: I’m not planning on planting anything new in this area anytime in the near or distant future.

Remember, I’m the lady who can’t even handle the plants she does have.

flowerbed1
I raked the old pine straw out of the beds and did a pretty thorough (for me) job of weeding before I laid down the landscape fabric. The hardest part of this whole project was actually just getting started. HA! How’s that for some irony?

Even with my not-so-great grass and my didn’t-quite-make-it-through-summer flower pots, it looks so much better.

Pretend I cleaned off my front porch for you too, okay?

flowerbed2
I don’t know the name of these bushes growing in our flower beds, but they are all over our property and they are BEASTS with crazy tree-like roots. So, if the landscape fabric prevents the soil in this area from getting all of its nutrients, I’m okay with that because these plants need to slow down.

flowerbed3
I went against southern tradition and did not reinstall pine straw as a flowerbed covering. I’m not a fan of the stuff. It looks nice and fluffy for about a week, but once it settles, it’s not so great. And forget about trying to rake leaves out of it.

I know pinestraw is plentiful in the South and therefore, more economical, but I’m still not convinced of its superiority.

I also put my children’s rock collection to good use near the down spouts. I think there might even be a rock in here from our cousins in Alaska.
flowerbed4
While I was working on the front flower beds this weekend, Handy Hubby was clearing brush behind the house.

That semi-circle of dirt you see around the patch of ivy used to be filled with 8-foot high bushes that blocked our view. Slowly, but surely we are clearing this patch of land so we can see the lake better. (I was standing on our back patio area when I took this picture.)

We still have a solid 3 or more days of brush clearing left before we get to the wood chipping portion of this project. At least, right now, that’s how we plan to dispose of all of the brush. Oh, and by “we” I mean Handy Husband. Last weekend I helped out and my legs are still covered in bites, which grew into welts. Even the parts of my legs that were fully covered were not safe. I thought they were mosquito bites, but between me and Google, I’m pretty sure they are chigger bites. Not cool.
brushremoval1
While mommy and daddy were working in the yard, our supervisors were watching from their play area which is just to the right of where we are clearing brush.

By the way, would somebody please come and adjust that red birdhouse? Quite a few birdhouses were here when we moved in and this one hasn’t bothered me until I snapped a picture and realized it was crooked. *twitch, twitch*

2015_8_28-Kids-swinging
When the kids want to conduct a thorough quality inspection, they do a little tree climbing.

They can’t wait for the water level to come up again. As if climbing out over this portion of the water isn’t exciting enough!

2015_8_21-kids-tree-climbing

I am so happy and thankful that we can put our stamp on this little piece of earth.

My realistic self is going to sit back now and enjoy the 5 minutes of weed-free flowerbeds that I’ll probably get before Mother Nature does her thing and drops some leaves or a weed finds it way through. It’s only a matter of time…