Dinette Makover

Does anyone even use the word dinette anymore? I haven’t heard it used in ages. Heck, I can’t even find it on google. But back in the day, dinette sets were really popular for small apartments as well as for eat-in kitchens. That’s what I had in mind when I put together a little table and four non matching chairs for my oldest daughter’s tiny dining room this past December. She rents a small house a few blocks away from us which is just the perfect size for her and a roommate.  However, her roommate of many years moved out at the end of last year and because the dining set was hers, she took it with her.  At around the same time, my daughter in law was getting rid of a little rustic sewing table that her mother no longer needed and I figured it would make a perfect temporary dining table for my daughter. At least until she got around to buying something nicer.

Even though it was a small table, it was unusually tall so I had to cut three inches off the legs to make it the right height.
Next I had to find some inexpensive chairs that were not too large or too beat up. That was going to be challenging here in Costa Rica where used items in good condition are often just as expensive as new ones and old beat up items are just a tad less costly. The stars and planets must have been aligned in my favor because after just a quick check online I found someone (down the street from me!) who had about 200 school chairs for sale in nearly new condition at $10 dollars each.  I purchased four of them and was delighted to see that they were strong and sturdy with metal frames and nice wooden seats and back rests.


Now that I had the chairs, I turned my attention back to the table. Some of the dark brown paint had started to chip and peel off in certain areas so I took it out to the backyard and sanded it to smooth down and even out the nicks.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself and everything was going according to plan, until it rained. Athough I had carefully covered the table with plastic after I was done sanding, it rained so hard that afternoon that the wind lifted up the plastic and pushed rainwater beneath it, soaking the entire table. The next day I woke up to a seriously warped and blistered tabletop that I knew I wouldn’t be able to fix. Thankfully my next door neighbor Elmer is a carpenter so I asked him for help. He was kind enough to nail/glue on a thin sheet of new plywood over the old tabletop and round off the edges for me.
As I debated what color to paint it, my daughter in law again came to the rescue and offered me several unopened jars of Americana Chalk Paint that she no longer needed as she and my son were getting ready to move back to Colorado and were getting rid of all their stuff. I was doubtful about the color at first. It looked sort of grayish in the jar. But hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth, right? I ended up loving the color once it was on the table. It’s actually a soft bluish green.
The table had an apron on all four sides that I decided to paint white, for contrast. I also had a bag full of left over resin appliques that I had made last year which I thought might look nice on the apron. They were mostly odds and ends and I was unable to find four matching pieces so I used two smaller pieces for the two ends of the table and two larger pieces for the sides.

I was tempted to leave the chairs as they were because they really were in nice shape and didn’t need anything done to them, but unfortunately they clashed with the color of the table so I ended up just painting the backrest in the same bluegreen chalk paint and leaving the seat unpainted.  As a final touch I decoupaged a floral motif on the backrests and on opposite corners of the table with a bit of modpodge. Everything then got a protective topcoat of matte varnish. I also bought a piece of thick glass for the tabletop to protect it in case of spills.

I loaded it up in the car and took it over to her house a couple of days before Christmas while she was at work to surprise her.  I was so excited about setting it up at her place that I completely forgot to take pictures of it in situ. So the only photos I have were snapped at my house.  Thankfully she liked it…you never know with kids. Yay.

 

Pink and Pearls Christmas Tree

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This year  I bought a flocked Christmas tree. I hadn’t planned on a flocked tree and I always assumed that I didn’t like them because I had seen some pretty fake looking ones over the years. I mean, artificial Christmas trees are artificial enough without the fake snow, right? But back in October I happened to stop at the local Walmart in search of some Halloween items and surprisingly they were already setting up their Christmas displays.

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Among the several trees that they had unboxed and set up, there was a lovely 7 ft, perfectly cone shaped flocked Blue Spruce at a perfect price. To my surprise it didn’t look as fake as most. If I didn’t live in a tropical country where pine trees are non-existent and it has never snowed in recorded history, this little tree could very well have fooled folks.  Well, maybe not. But I was smitten nonetheless.

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After about a week or so of thinking about it, I went back to Walmart only to discover that they had sold out of flocked trees almost immediately. Not that there were too many to begin with, I had only seen about 10 or 12 boxes of them on the shelf. It turns out that that was their entire inventory.  I should have known. The problem with Walmart in Costa Rica (and other stores here as well) is that they only import a limited amount of any particular item so when it’s gone, it’s gone and there are no rainchecks.  After calling their central offices, they were kind enough to locate a tree for me (the last one in the entire  country!) at a Walmart in a different province and they were kind enough to have it shipped to the store nearest to me at no extra cost. Hurray for their customer service!

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I wanted to give pastel tones a try this year. I rather like the soft toned down look of the tree. I used pearl garland rather than the ubiquitous tinsel one because I didn’t want the garland to overshadow the ornaments. Pale pink sparkly poinsettias filled up large spaces so that the branches wouldn’t look sparse.

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One definite advantage of a pastel Christmas tree is that the kitties seem to leave it pretty much alone. They aren’t attracted to soft toned ornaments as much as they are to the shiny glittery mirror type ones. Other years I would wake up to find at least half a dozen balls strewn all across the floor and the kitties playing soccer with them. Not this time.tree-9-765x1024

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Who knows, maybe next Christmas I’ll long for green, red and gold and I’ll return to more traditional holiday colors but for now this will do.
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This week I will be joining:

Inspire Me Monday @ Create With Joy

Inspire Me Mondays @ My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

Make it Pretty Monday @ The Dedicated House

Busy Monday @ A Pinch of Joy

Metamorphosis Monday @ Between Naps On The Porch

Tuesdays at our Home  @  Our Home Away From Home

LouLou Girls Linky Party  @ Lou Lou Girls

Creative Muster Party  @ Fluster Buster

Wow Us Wednesdays  @ Savvy Southern Style

Tuesdays With A Twist  @ God’s Growing Garden

Party in Your PJ’s @ The Cookie Puzzle

The Homemaking Party @ Classical Homemaking

Share Your Style Thursday Link-Up Party 

Home and Garden Thursday  @ A Delightsome Life

Sweet and Simple Fridays @ Rooted in Thyme

Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage

Friday Feature’s Link Party @ Oh My Heartsie Girl

Anything Goes Pink Saturday @ How Sweet The Sound

Best Of The Weekend Party 

Saturday Sparks Link Party @ Pieced Passtimes

Fragrances and Flowers

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Even though the rainy season has not officially begun yet, my roses have decided to get a head start and they’ve  been happily blooming for the past few weeks. I’m certain that it’s in response to the fertilizer I applied over a month ago.  They were quick to show their gratitude for the nourishment, bless their fragrant little hearts and I didn’t have long to wait before I began to see buds popping up on almost every single one of them. I honestly felt guilty for having been forgetful with the fertilizer lately. A couple of weeks ago I went out to the garden, scissors in hand and began to snip off bloom after bloom, tossing them into a water filled plastic bucket to keep them fresh under the blazing sun until I could get them in the house and into vases. I guess I must have gotten carried away because I didn’t realize I had cut so many until I brought them inside and began to separate them by colors.

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The best thing of all was the heavenly fragrance! The whole house was perfumed with a myriad of different rose scents some light and lemony, others more heady and intense. I am always in awe of the smell of flowers and can’t help being dissapointed when I come across one that has no fragrance.

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I was tempted to leave them all lying on the counter in a lovely disorganized mess but I needed the countertops for other things and they desperately needed water to quench their perpetual thirst.

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These went into a crystal vase and onto the round dining room table in the smaller dining room.

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These dark violet roses with a delightful lemony scent were placed on top of the piano in a goblet with a matching violet stem.

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Others were set atop the kitchen island

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Pastel colored roses were put into a little cut crystal Mikasa vase and set on a countertop

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The fiery orange roses were placed in a globe shaped container with dark blue glass pebbles for contrast

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This is the nearest to black rose I have ever seen. They didn’t tell me the name of it when I bought it at a local nursery but I think it might be Black Baccara. The blooms are on the smallish side but the unusual shade more than makes up for that. They aren’t really black, as there is no such thing as a black rose. But when the buds are closed most of them really do start out quite black. As they open, the petals begin to turn a deep dark blood red at the base, but the tips always remain black. I put it next to a couple of yellow Queen Elizabeth roses for contrast in a matching yellow stemmed glitter goblet.

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But it’s not just the roses that have been blooming. Other residents of the garden are flaunting their colors too.  These bright blue hydrangeas bloom year round here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them without any flowers and they seem to thrive in the humid foggy weather up at the mountain house. Sometimes when I get tired of blue I let the flower heads dry on the plants and then dip dye them in different colors.

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Hollyhocks were blooming in my city garden. That’s very unusual because I don’t think hollyhocks normally like tropical weather . But they seem to be oblivious to the heat and they have grown almost as tall as the house. I planted these from seed that I ordered on Ebay. I have never grown hollyhocks down here in my city garden before where it’s so much warmer than our mountain house. I wondered if they’d make good cut flowers. I discovered that they aren’t as long lasting as other flowers but they look pretty in a vase for at least a couple of days.

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These are ruffly hollyhocks in a darker shade of pink than the other ones. They are just beggining to bloom.

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My potted bougainvillea hadn’t bloomed in over a year and I didn’t know why. I fertilized it, watered it, pruned it, scolded it and still no flowers. Then I read that bougainvilleas need quite a bit of sun in order to bloom, so I moved it over to a sunny spot in the courtyard and within a week the flowers began to appear.

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Then there is the frangipani. Oh the intoxicating fragrance of this beautiful flower! It’s just impossible to describe it in words. Sometimes I go out to the patio on warm evenings just to inhale the delicious perfume that  hangs and lingers heavily in the air.  It’s so much stronger at night. The flowers burst forth in clusters, like little ready made scented bouquets just waiting to be put in a vase. I always thought that frangipani (or plumeria as it’s also called) was a hawaiian flower because it’s what leis are made with. But I was surprised to discover that its not native to the South Pacific at all, but rather to Central America, where I live. No wonder it thrives in my garden.

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These giant Amaryllis have been piled inside this plastic bucket without any soil for over a year. I dug up about 50 bulbs last year and replanted most of them in a different location but I got lazy with these last few bulbs and forgot about them. Much to my surprise, they bloomed anyway despite the neglect.

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This waxy ivory water lily with a yellow center grew from a seed that I ordered from China. Actually four of them germinated and grew into adult plants but as is common with seed grown water lilies the new plant is never the same as the parent plants. Two of my seed grown lilies have bloomed but I was dissapointed with the first one because it produced an insignificant little flower about the size of a quarter, barely visible among the giant pads. However, the second plant produced large showy cream colored flowers that look lovely floating gracefully on the tranquil surface of the pond and the leaves themselves are beautiful, speckled and multi shaded. Since it is a new and yet un-named variety of water lily grown from seed, I was free to name it anything I wanted. So I named it Samia Gamal, like the famous Egyptian dancer of the 1940s who also seemed to float gracefully when she danced.

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And that, dear friends is what has been blooming in my neck of the woods lately.-

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Joining:

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Saturday Show Off at Rose Garden in Malevik

Mirror makeover

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When I stopped teaching dance a couple of years ago, I converted the little dance studio behind our house into a guest bedroom. It came in pretty handy because we often have visitors who stay with us when they come down to Costa Rica on vacation. However, I didn’t really know what to do with all the mirrors that still hung on the studio walls. Although they had been a necessity in the dance studio, they now looked odd and out of place in a bedroom. They weren’t even pretty. They were just plain ordinary aluminum framed mirrors quite large in size, the kind you might find in a gym. Last year, after we renovated our kitchen and dining room I ended up with a large empty wall that I couldn’t think of anything to put on. Then I remembered the aluminum mirrors that were still hanging in the guest bedroom and decided to bring one of them into the house and hang it on that bare wall. It was a good fit and it filled most of the space, but it looked just as unattractive there as it had looked in the guest room.

Close up of the frame

Close up of the frame

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The frame was very narrow so there weren’t alot of options as far as updating it. I wondered if perhaps it would be possible to glue some appliques on it and then paint the whole thing a different color to hide the aluminum. I had a few left over appliques from a previous furniture project as well as an assortment of silicone molds and a huge bottle of resin in the tool shed. So after a couple of months of thinking about it I figured it was worth a try and surely it wouldn’t look any worse.

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These scroll like curliecues were just the right width

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It took me several days to make enough appliques to cover the entire mirror. I made roses and curlicues and cherubs until I was bleary-eyed. Then I began to glue them on with No more Nails, crossing my fingers that they wouldn’t fall off the slippery narrow frame. I think I used about four tubes of No more nails and thankfully they held fast. That stuff is good! I had given the frame a couple of coats of white paint before putting on the appliques because I knew that it would be very difficult, if not impossible to get into all the nooks and crannies with the paintbrush after the appliques were glued on.

I gave the mirror a couple of coats of white paint first because I knew it would be nearly impossible to get into all the nooks and crannies with a paintbrush after the appliques were glued on.

 

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I added a small rose to the center of this curlicue applique

I added a small rose to the center of these scroll appliques

Two sweet little cherubs quietly watch over the dining room from the top of the mirror.

Two sweet little cherubs quietly watch over the dining room from the top of the mirror. I placed one on either end.

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After the appliques were set in place I allowed them to dry completely for a couple of days before applying a final coat of white paint.  In the empty space between the top of the mirror and the molding  I hung a few blue and white plates that I had stored away which matched the blue and white plate collection on the other wall.

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It’s a very tiny dining room, it actually used to be my daughter’s bedroom right off the kitchen. That was a sort of weird Costa Rican floorplan. Or lack of floorplan, I should say. The previous owners of the house had added on rooms wherever they had fancied a new room without giving any thought to the logic of the layout. So there was this fourth bedroom that could only be accessed through the kitchen. How weird is that. When my oldest daughter moved out last year, my youngest daughter moved into her bedroom and I turned her “kitchen bedroom” into a little secondary dining room, which made so much more sense.

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I think the mirror helps make the dining room look a little larger than it really is.

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Joining

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

AND

Abracadabra

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We’ve had a welcome respite from the rain these past couple of weeks. I love warm sunny days when I can go out in the garden at any hour without worrying about menacing thunder clouds lurking on the horizon. But it’s literally the calm before the storm and I know it won’t last. In just a few days time, the break will end and the daily downpours will resume once more.

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 This week some of my Abracadabra roses were in various stages of bloom.

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This is one my favorite roses. I’d been coveting one for the longest time but I was unable to find any nurseries that sold them. The only place I had ever seen Abracadabra for sale was in Australia. That was a tad too far for me. I regularly checked all the major rose vendors in the U.S. and Europe as well as on Ebay and even Google but I had no luck. Apparently not too many sellers carry Abracadabra because it’s a very unreliable rose as it doesn’t always produce the same color of blooms. Some plants produce the desired burgundy blooms splashed with bright yellow, however other plants can produce solid burgundy blooms with no trace of yellow. Or yellow blooms with no trace of burgundy, or half yellow and half burgundy. The combinations are endless.

Isn't this crazy?

Isn’t this crazy?

Additionally, the same plant can produce both solid and striped flowers. You never really know what it’s going to do.  I had pretty much given up on finding any for sale and had accepted the fact that this rose was about as elusive as El Dorado. Then one day I noticed a post on a Facebook plant group in my area where someone had posted a picture of an abracadabra rose. I snickered. Surely nobody could possibly be selling these in Costa Rica of all places. A few days later, there it was again. The same photo. This time I asked if they had them for sale and to my complete surprise, the seller responded that indeed he did. For just four dollars a plant.

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So after getting vague directions from the seller over the phone, I drove out with one of our store employees to a run down old farm that was pretty much out in the middle of the jungle and perched on the edge of a deep ravine. I have to say that I was more than a bit uneasy, but my yearning for that rose superseded all caution. I half expected to be greeted by someone who was a cross between Freddy, Jason and Hannibal Lechter but instead I was greeted by a very gentle and kind older gentleman with graying hair tied neatly in a pony tail, who’s hobby it was to putter in the garden and to experiment with rose grafting. He explained to me that a friend of his had given him some cuttings of Abracadabra some time ago which he had rooted. It was from those plants that he had begun grafting his own cuttings and selling the them (as well as other rose varieties) to earn a little extra income. I bought four baby plants which are now thriving in my garden.  Several other roses are blooming as well.

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Lady Banks Rose

Lady Banks Rose

Julio Iglesias

Julio Iglesias

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This is the blackest rose I've ever seen.  Before the buds open, it looks quite black. After they open, the rose is actually a very deep blackish maroon.

This is the closest to black rose I’ve ever seen. Before the buds open, it looks quite black. After they open, the rose is actually a very deep blackish maroon.

Purple Sage

Purple Sage

As I looked out over the central valley, I spied a faint rainbow, one of it’s ends sprouting from the the middle of a nearby field. Can you see it? It’s right in the center of the photograph. I could have sworn I saw the glimmer of gold among the bright green grass.

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Even though I always feel guilty cutting flowers to put in vases, I wanted to be able to enjoy them inside the house as well.

A tropical flower bouquet

A tropical flower bouquet

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A rose bouquet. The orange ones are called Miss Amber

A rose bouquet. The deep orange ones are called Miss Amber

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Joining:

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Saturday Show Off at The Rose Garden in Malevik

Three Mini Chairs And A Patio

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I’ve had these little mini chairs in my garden since forever and over the years they’ve seen sun and rain as well as several different colors of paint. My neighbor Elmer, who is a carpenter made them for me to hang on the wall as plant holders but they’ve been used for many things, mostly as junk holders where I would place garden stuff that had to be kept out of the reach of children and of pets. When my youngest daughter was little, she used to make me take them down off the wall so she could play house with them.  A few weeks ago I decided that it was time to repaint them once again because they were looking very faded and weather worn and I also wanted to refresh my patio garden with new plants and a new coat of paint on the walls.

I can't remember the last time I painted them but obviously it had been years.

Before: I can’t remember the last time I painted them but obviously it had been years.

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I have to admit that I’ve neglected the little courtyard garden at our city house.  It’s such a small space after all and there isn’t really alot of room for plants unless they’re potted.  I usually spend more time in the much larger garden up at our mountain house but this rainy season I’ve decided to  pay a bit more attention to my little patio and thus spent a good part of the week weeding, fertilizing and planting new seeds. I mostly went with climbing plants because the space is small and the walls were bare. I planted Morning Glory seeds, Sweet Peas and Moon Flower seeds as well as three Clematis vines and even a few pumpkin seeds which will hopefully yield pumpkins by Halloween, unlike last year when I planted “fungus resistant” pumpkin seeds up at the mountain house only to have them ALL succumb to a woolly white fungus just as they were beginning to set fruit! Maybe they’ll do better in the city, it’s not as humid. Keeping my fingers crossed this time.

Suha and Giza think the pumpkin seedlings smell lovely.

Suha and Giza think the pumpkin seedlings smell lovely.

The three little chairs got a complete makeover which meant new paint and a bit of decoupage. I sealed them with a thick coat of polyurethane varnish so that they’d be sun and rain resistant….at least for a couple of years.

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Much better!

Much better!

I’ve had to put a wire mesh around and above my seedlings as well as more stones in some of the larger flower pots because my naughty kitty girls love to scratch the bare soil and use it as a litter box. I’ve seen them completely bypass their fresh clean litter boxes and head straight for the planters.  The mesh will keep them out until the plants grow in and there won’t be so much visible soil, then I can remove it.

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These solid violet colored morning glories grew from seeds dropped by striped morning glories.

These solid violet colored morning glories grew from seeds dropped by striped morning glories. These keep reseeding themselves and I find myself having to yank out new seedlings every so often, otherwise they’ll just take over the garden.

Some of the seeds did produce striped flowers that looked like the parents.

Some of the seeds did produce striped flowers that looked like the parents.

These are Grandpa Ott morning glories. I've never tried this variety before.  The color is so intense.

These are Grandpa Ott morning glories. I’ve never tried this variety before. The color is quite intense.

This is a lavender flowered Clematis that I got on Ebay. It's an unamed variety that the seller grew from seed.

This is a lavender flowered Clematis that I got on Ebay. It’s an unamed variety that produces huge blooms. Apparently the seller grew these from seed.

My orchids are beggining to bloom. I have several varieties. Most of them are heavily scented and they make the entire courtyard smell like vanilla.

My orchids are beginning to bloom. I have several varieties and they’re actually really easy to grow. Most of them are heavily scented and they make the entire courtyard smell like vanilla.

This is another heavily scented flower. The perfume is absolutely intoxicating.  It's Frangipani also known as Plumeria.  I always thought Plumeria was Hawaiian, but it's actually native to Central America.

This is another intensely fragrant flower. The perfume is absolutely intoxicating. It’s Frangipani also known as Plumeria. I always thought Plumeria was Hawaiian, but it’s actually native to Central America. It’s a tall tree like shrub and it’s one of the few larger plants that I have in my little garden.

Bougainvillea. I have this one growing in a large pot.

Bougainvillea. I have this one growing in a  pot right outside the patio door.

Here's a red Bromelia.  This one's native to Costa Rica. I've got several of these as they reproduce quite easily.

A red Bromelia. This one’s native to Costa Rica. I have several of these growing in pots. They reproduce quite easily.

Here's a potted Hydrangea. They grow everywhere here in Costa Rica, even on roadsides.  I've never seen them in any other color around here though. They're always varying shades of blue and even the ones that open white, eventually turn blue. I've never seen a pink hydrangea in Costa Rica. I wonder if it's the soil.

Here’s a potted Hydrangea. They grow abundantly in my area, even on roadsides.  They always seem to bloom in varying shades of  blue however, and even the ones that open white will eventually turn blue. I’ve never seen a pink hydrangea in Costa Rica. I wonder if it’s the soil.

Leyla is looking longingly at the flower bed. There's mesh all around it but it's mostly hidden between the greenery.

Leyla is looking longingly at the flower bed. There’s mesh all around it but it’s mostly hidden among the greenery.

Semsema likes to lay in the flower pots. I guess the damp soil and cool rocks are refreshing on a hot tropical afternoon.

Semsema loves to lay in the flower pots. I guess the damp soil and cool rocks are refreshing on a hot tropical afternoon.

This is a little shady spot where I keep the staghorn ferns and some of the orchids. Notice the mesh over the planter. That's so the kitties won't scratch the soil around until the seeds germinate.

This is a little shady spot where I keep the staghorn ferns and some of the orchids. Notice the mesh over the planter. That’s so the kitties won’t scratch the soil around until the seeds germinate.

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Most of the seeds that I planted a couple of weeks ago have sprouted and are growing nicely thanks to the abundant rain but there is still so much to do in the garden.  I’m thinking of buying some miniature roses ….or maybe even some hanging roses, more water lilies for the pond and perhaps some quick growing ivy to trail up the stark walls.

Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Joining Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Joining Saturday Show Off at The Rose Garden in Malevik

Random Saturday

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Rainy season is almost upon us again and the sky has become a swirl of puffy white clouds edged with ominous darker gray ones which bring with them a telltale drizzle and cool humid breezes.  April marks the transition into rainy season and although we still have dry sunny days, they will steadily become fewer and fewer throughout the month until they are gone completely. This year I’m kind of looking forward to the rain, I never thought I’d say that but my garden is suffering a bit  and things are starting to look dry and thirsty no matter how much they’re watered with the hose. I think that too much sun is about as bad as too much rain. Only a few of my rose bushes have blooms on them now and most of the water loving annuals including the zinnias and marigolds have dissapeared. It seems that this dry season has been uncharacteristically harsh. I was going to re-seed last week but I figured I might as well wait til the end of the month when the rains return and I won’t have to worry about watering them every day. Two things that seem to be thriving are the sweet alyssum and the hydrangeas, bless their dear hearts. Hydrangeas are practically indestructible around here and most houses have several bushes growing in their gardens.

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A few of my roses are blooming, though not as profusely as they usually do. This orange and yellow blend is almost always in bloom come rain or shine. I wish I knew what it was called but most nurseries around here don’t provide the real names of roses. I thought it might be Charisma, but it’s anyone’s guess.

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This pink edged white rose reminds me of strawberries and cream. It’s called Princess De Monaco.

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This russet colored rose is one of my favorites. The color is somewhere between terra cotta and cinnamon.  In case you’re wondering, the white residue on the rose leaves is a fungus spray, it’s the only way to keep blackspot and downy mildew somewhat under control in this humid climate.

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My fig tree is doing surprisingly well. I had this tree in a large clay pot for about 12 years where it dutifully produced 5 or 6 figs per year. It never grew more than 2 ft. tall.  When we bought the mountain house I brought it up here and took it out of it’s clay pot and put it in the ground. I am amazed at how much it’s grown in just a couple of years and how many figs it’s producing now. Fig compote (with cheese!) is one of my very favorite desserts.

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I just wish my grapevines were doing as well. They’ve been in the ground longer than the figs but they are really putting up a fight and refusing to grow. They’re just scraggly and tend to lose all their leaves during the wet season. I have no idea what’s wrong with them. I had hoped to be eating grapes by now but it seems that they take one step forward and two steps back. I’m guessing that they prefer a drier climate.

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The giant passion fruit is looking nice and green. I had to build a trellis support for it. No fruits in sight yet though.

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I don’t know what these black berries are but they look terribly poisonous. They’re hanging from the palm trees. I’ve already cut several of these palm trees down but they just keep coming back.

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Sweet alyssum are springing up all over the place and their scent is simply heavenly. It overpowers even the fragrance of the roses.

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Dwarf Goblin Blanket Flower in a pot.

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A major dissapointment in my garden has been the pond. I had envisioned bloom after bloom of fragrant tropical water lilies delicately rising above the water to display their colors amid the water hyacinths and the Louisiana Iris. Everything would have gone according to plan if it hadn’t been for those pesky koi fish. They are like eating machines and they devour everything in sight. Now my pond looks like nothing more than a muddy murky hole full of water and dying plants where monster fish lurk like sharks waiting for any tidbit to fall in so they can eat it. These fish actually climb up on the rocks and out of the water so they can get at the plants that are out of their reach! I find them frightening. I had been quite hesitant about buying koi because I’d heard that they were incompatible with plant life. I had intended to buy goldfish instead but hubby beat me to the punch and went ahead and bought the koi. Not just any koi but 15 inch long koi who had about a million babies in my pond within a week of their arrival.  I’ve decided that I’m going to call up the breeder who sold them to us and beg him to take them back. Free of charge. Heck, I’ll pay him to get those pests off my hands. Maybe my water lilies will recover.

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The Hibiscus bushes that line the property look quite happy. Hibiscus always does well here. I’d love to get some of those really exotic colored hybrid varieties that I’ve seen online.

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Another pink variety. This one is more ruffly.

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The lantana bushes are full of bright little flowers. These guys will need a good pruning before the rain starts or they’ll just take over the garden.

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Even though there weren’t very many long stemmed flowers in the garden today, nature always has a way of providing something to use in a bouquet, even if it’s the tiniest of flowers. I cut what I found growing…toadflax, catchfly, alyssum, and I was still able to enjoy the sweetest fragrance from these miniature bouquets.

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Joining The Rose Garden in Malevik for Saturday Show Off 

Sunny Saturday in the Garden

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Last Saturday I was up at the mountain house and I was more than happy to see that my roses are finally looking green and healthy once more. It has become a yearly battle. Most of the blackspot and downey mildew that always plagues them during the rainy season has dissapeared for the most part. Diligent spraying seems to have put these pesky diseases under control for the time being. Many of the bushes are heavy with blooms and all the rest are full of buds that are ready to burst open. I love warm sunny Costa Rican summers when the soft tropical breezes blow and gently rustle the leaves on the trees. Plants have a chance to recover from the downpours and they begin to show off their best colors.

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This little hydrangea sprung up here next to the fence posts. It has more flowers than leaves.

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My peach tree is full of tiny little peaches, which is surprising because I was sure that the rains had washed away all the blossoms a couple of months ago, but I guess some of them hung on tightly and survived.

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Here’s something that baffles me. I had a beautiful white climbing rose at our city house that was killed by leaf cutter ants who stripped it bare and sent it into a leafless shock that it was unable to survive. But not before I took several cuttings and rooted them. I planted all the cuttings along our property line at the mountain house thinking that the beautiful white roses would look lovely climbing over the fence. But much to my surprise, many of the cuttings bloomed pink! No idea how that happened. They are identical in shape and size to the white mother plant, but some of them bloom pink and some of them bloom white. How crazy is that. The one above is a white bloomer, but you can see that the rosebud is tinged pink. However, when they open up they are all white just like the mother plant.

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This pink rose is a cutting from the same white climbing rose, but it blooms pink. Not a trace of white.

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Climbing Blaze seems to have woken up from it’s slumber and is beggining to produce more blooms now. It still has a long way to go before it reaches the top of the trellis.

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The catnip is doing really well in the cool shady area behind the house. Every evening all the neighborhood cats come over and roll around in it. It’s a real kitty treat for sure.

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Fuchsias in a pot

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A tropical water lily in the fishpond. I’m not sure what this variety is called but it’s so colorful. It’s a night bloomer, which is why it’s only half open in this picture which was taken during the day.

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The pink climbing rose bushes were so heavy with blooms that I couldn’t resist cutting some and bringing them inside to enjoy.

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Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Joining Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Joining Saturday Show Off at The Rose Garden in Malevik

 

 

Surprise Tomatoes

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A humble little tomato plant sprang up among my Amaryllis bulbs recently. I have no clue who planted it, I know I sure didn’t, so I was pleasantly surprised when I spied the little plant last month even though I was doubtful as to whether it would set fruit or not. But set fruit it did! I’ve counted 35 tomatoes so far and they’re still coming.

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My courtyard at our city house has red brick pavers set on the ground and there are only a few small patches of soil where I have plants that will tolerate alot of rainfall. The rest of the courtyard plants are in pots. A couple of months ago I had to enclose the area around my Amaryllis bulbs with garden mesh because my kitties insisted on using it as a litter box. The mesh effectively stopped them from going in there anymore, but I have the feeling that that’s why that lone tomato plant is now going overboard with the tomato production. It had lots of  kitty fertilizer. I also kind of have the feeling that that’s how the seed got in there in the first place. Ewwww.

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Today when I went to pick a few of the tomatoes that had ripened I discovered that a large green spider had woven a beautiful web right in front of the two largest, ripest ones. I didn’t have the heart to disturb him. He seemed so watchful, holding perfectly still just waiting for his lunch to fly by. So I left those two tomatoes for another day.

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I did get some nice plump ripe ones from a neighbouring branch, which  quickly became part of a delicious spaghetti sauce.

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Antique Cabinet

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First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a happy 2015. I’m spending New Year’s day alone with my two kitties up at the mountain house and enjoying the peace and quiet away from the firecrackers and revelers down in the city. My family loves the ruckus and fireworks so they stayed at our city house and partied. I guess I must be a party pooper at heart but I  figure I filled my quota of partying on Christmas. So here I am, relishing the silence while planning and plotting DIY projects to keep me busy during the next couple of months and trying to organize them in order of importance. Among the things I’m going to work on (as soon as I figure out what I want to do with it) is this gorgeous antique cabinet that we bought last week from our good friend Richie. A couple of years ago, Richie inherited his mother’s house along with everything in it. He promptly organized a garage sale and sold most of the stuff off. At that time, I bought several furniture items from him and I also spied two beautiful antique cabinets full of gorgeous vintage crystal. One of them was this particular cabinet, but to my dissapointment he wasn’t sure if he wanted to sell them or not.

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Shortly afterwards he closed up the house and went back to the States. Fast forward two years. Richie came back a couple of weeks ago to spend Christmas in Costa Rica and he sold the house. That meant that he had to decide quickly if he should sell the remaining pieces of furniture that had been locked up for two years and he invited us to go take a look to see if we were interested in anything. Was he kidding?? I’d been coveting those cabinets since 2012. I was there the next morning at 9am. Sharp. The two cabinets were still there, standing in the same spot where I’d last seen them and I wanted them both. Unfortunately (for me) he decided at the last minute that he was going to keep one of them as it was over a hundred years old and it had belonged to his father and to his father’s grandmother before him.  But he WAS willing to part with the other cabinet which had beautiful beveled glass inserts as well as a beveled mirror and a set of skeleton keys that opened all the doors. It also happened to be jam packed with his mother’s crystal. I felt a fleeting pang of guilt for buying another woman’s cherished treasures, but I silently promised to take good care of them for her. Then came the mandatory haggling. He asked for $500 dollars for the cabinet including all the crystal inside of it, plus two antique ceiling lamps and a 7 foot artificial Christmas tree (which he evidently was anxious to unload on the first unsuspecting victim) Hubby counter-offered $200 dollars. I cringed with embarassment. Richie came back at $400. Hubby raised his offer to $300. They settled on $350. Whew!

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The following day we packed up the crystal which ended up filling five large cardboard boxes and lugged the cabinet home. It’s so heavy that we needed five men to bring it up the narrow stairs. I’ve temporarily put it in the dining room until I decide what I’m going to do with it. I had originally planned on adding several ornate furniture appliques to it and painting it white. I might still do that. But I’m debating whether to cover up that lovely antique wood with flat white paint or not. Would that be sacrilegious? I’m usually not fond of shabby-chic, let alone distressed furniture, but maybe if I can call it “cottage style” and hold the distressing it will look nice in white. It already has a couple of pretty carvings. Or maybe I should just have the wood re-stained? I don’t know.

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The finish looks pretty beat up in a few spots. I don’t know how difficult it would be to re-stain it. Maybe I’d have to strip the entire thing first, which sounds daunting.  I think it might also need new drawer pulls, these look sort of dented and kind of thin and flimsy on such a heavy cabinet. On the other hand, I’d really prefer to keep all the original hardware. Decisions.

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Here’s a view of the heavy beveled glass inserts.

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We also bought this vintage 1930s Art Deco vanity for $40 dollars.

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It’s solid, very heavy wood and all the hinges and pulls are in perfect shape. I’m pretty sure I’m going to paint this one a pale gray. Or maybe a soft yellow. Maybe I’ll paint it white and then decoupage some roses over it……decisions. Gah.

 

Joining Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Joining Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home