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A Blooming Bargain

Not every house has window boxes, so if you’re lucky enough to have window boxes you really ought to use them. Don’t you think there’s something sad about empty window boxes during the growing season?

Until the other day mine were sad and empty, but that’s because I’m slowly slogging away at painting the exterior trim (whenever weather and time allow) and wanted to paint the window boxes, too.

For some reason, the brackets supporting the boxes were painted brown to match the siding, so while I had the paint out I painted the brackets white, too. I think it makes the window boxes stand out a bit more. (This is when I wish I’d thought to take before & after shots.)

It was also time to replace most of the potting mix in the boxes (I only remove about 2/3 of the soil since the old dry dirt and bits of broken clay pots help with drainage), so I bought two 16-qt bags of potting mix at $4.99 each along with flowers for the boxes and three flower pots:

  • 3 white Geraniums – 88¢ each
  • 1 flat (half flat?) of 12 plum-ish Petunias – $7.99
  • 2 6-packs of white Impatiens – $1.58 each
  • 2 6-packs of mixed Portulaca – $1.58 each

Last year the portulaca did really well in the gorgeous strawberry jars my brother’s family gave  me, but I’m down to one now, so I moved that to side of the porch that gets the afternoon sun. I put the rest of the portulaca and geraniums in terracotta pots and set those on each side of the stoop where the strawberry jars were last summer. Here’s the strawberry jar, but the other pots look scraggly so no photo of those until they fill in:

Hey – check out how great Mark’s new porch rail looks with a couple coats of brown paint!

Best part of all? With a $15 store rebate on the paint and $9.17 worth of unused, unopened merchandise I returned, the grand total – tax and all – was just $3.74.  Don’t you love a bargain like that?

If  you’re lucky enough to have window boxes, too, what did you plant in yours this year? If not, what are some of your favorite summer flowers?


Grandma was cool

Grandma never had any type of air conditioning until she sold her home and moved into a seniors’ high rise when she was about 90. Even then the temperature had to be higher than her age before she’d turn the air conditioner on.

Growing up, we never had air conditioning either, so thankfully Grandma taught us a lot of tricks for  keeping the house cool. With a record breaking 98-degrees recorded by 2:00 this afternoon and a broken air conditioner, I’m putting all of Grandma’s common sense cooling tricks to good use this weekend.

In no specific order:

  • Only open windows if the outside temperature is close to or lower than it is inside the house.
  • Only open windows at night and early morning and use fans to pump in the cooler air.
  • Close the curtains and drapes during the day to keep the sun out.
  • Position fans to keep the air moving through the house.
  • Drink plenty of cool water (she never used ice, but I do).
  • Don’t use the stove, oven or anything that generates heat.
  • Avoid heavy meals.
  • Slow down.
  • If it starts feeling hot in the house, step outside in the real heat for a moment and the house will feel much cooler when you go back inside.
  • Take a cool bath or shower.
  • And Grandma’s favorite: Always have ice cream in the freezer.

My own tip? On a really hot day, there’s not much more refreshing than some watermelon slush. It’s delicious and healthy, too!

What are some of your best tips for beating the heat?

An extra bit of polish

Everyone who knows me knows I’ve had a life-long fascination with wild and crazy nail polish. Before wild polish colors were the norm, I’d seek out bizarre colors. In second grade, another girl and I had an unofficial contest to see who could find the weirdest nail polish. One day I came in wearing dark blue glittery polish only to find her wearing a frosty mint green.

In high school and college every so often I’d pull out every color in the polish box and paint a different design or pattern on each nail – using toothpicks, not an airbrush. Amazing what things someone can find to do when trying to avoid homework.

These days, I don’t always have time to get too crazy with my nails, but after a celebrity (Mindy Kaling, if you’re curious) tweeted a photo of her sparkly fun nails I realized I already had all of the polish, even if not in the exact same exact colors. Before I tried it, a friend borrowed some polish to do her nails and said the combo wore really well. So when I did my nails last week, I gave it a shot – four days later (which included a flea market, cleaning, yard work and lots of typing) I only see one chip.

It’s a bit blurry, but you try taking a photo of your own fingers – chances are one or both hands will wiggle a bit. My nails looks kind of stubby at this angle, but it took about 20 tries to get a halfway clear shot so this will have to do.

If anyone’s curious, this is what I did: On top of a good base coat I applied 2 coats of “For Audrey” by China Glaze. After that was dry, I used Orly’s “Dazzle” on the tips – I actually went nearly halfway down each nail, but love the accidentally rakish angle on the center finger above (next time I’ll do that intentionally). After that dried, I brushed on My Generation’s “Silver Fever” which is clear polish with random size bits of glitter (it’s so old I had to add more clear to the bottle to get the glitter flowing again) and followed that up with a clear top coat.

The great thing about adding the glitter is it blurs the line between the colors, so you don’t have to worry about a straight line or arc like you would with a fussy French tip. (I’m not a fan of French tips, which make even real fingernails look fake and make toenails look severely overgrown.)

I wish the photo were clearer – this polish combo is really fun for summer. It’s so much fun that I did something I seldom do and painted my toenails to match, but limited the silver “Dazzle” to a sun-catching dot on the smaller toenails.

Yeah, this photo is even blurrier than the one above, but with my crooked toes, bug bites and irritated skin, you really don’t want to see a crisp clear shot of my feet.

I know I’m not the only person who enjoys nail art. At least one reader has sported images on her toenails, another likes crazy colors as much as I do, and a couple of you have been known to get creative with nail polish at family gatherings.  What are some fun and funky things you’ve done with your nails lately?

Mika Doyle

Writer, Journalist, Poet

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