Winter at Cottage Green – Evergreen Centerpiece and DIY Bird Treats

Twilight was closing in which was a signal to the Loons to begin their enchanting love calls over the lake.

Auld Lang Syne and best wishes for the brightest and merriest of new years! You know I haven’t written you since last year (; so I need to write about the last bit of our 2020 before I begin writing about the new year. Get comfy and pour yourself something warm to drink, and as a dear friend and I say to one another, “Let’s drink some tea and talk of happy things.”

It was a wonderful Christmas season filled with bustling and busy-ness, yuletide cheer, and enough merry making “to make the season bright.” Then on the night of Winter Solstice we all had the added excitement and wonder of the celestial 2,000 year phenomenon of Jupiter and Saturn coming so closely aligned in their orbits they appeared as “a double planet” and were nicknamed the Christmas Star. All-the-while, our days were intermingled with the holiness and awe of the season as we reflected on what Christmas truly means and marveled anew that Jesus chose to come down to earth as a little baby to be our Savior.

A thousand times in history a baby has become a king, but only once in history did a King become a baby.

As usual I ran out of time to do all I wanted to do. However, one fun project I did have time to do was to make a beautiful evergreen centerpiece. I wish I could share with you the wonderful, heady, fir fragrance that enveloped my greenhouse while I was making it! The beautiful winter day was fading into twilight, but it was still warm enough outside to leave my greenhouse door open to see the lake and hear the birds twittering as they enjoyed their evening meal together at the bird feeders, while I worked.

The fir boughs I was using I had saved and kept fresh in 2 big buckets of water in the greenhouse ever since Richard had trimmed them from our Christmas tree. I had plenty of branches to work with, but I still needed a little texture and color to mix in with my fir branches. Out into the backyard I went to forage with pruners in hand. I experienced a little thrill of resourcefulness when I found the perfect filler I needed…pointed, deep green, holly leaves with bright red berries from our very own holly bushes! I couldn’t help myself and began humming “The Holly and the Ivy” while I was clipping.

The holly and the ivy, 
When they are both full grown 
Of all the trees that are in the wood 
The holly bears the crown.

I was back in the Cottage Greenhouse, ready to make my arrangement, still humming, now on the refrain…

O, the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playin of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir 

All done, just in time with the last light fading away.

The holly bears a blossom
As white as  lily flow'r
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our dear Saviour

My simple arrangement looked elegant on our woodland table and red tapers and red votive cups enhanced the red of the holly berries.

Then the Christmas season blended into New Year’s Eve and our son and daughter in law asked us to spend the festive evening with them and our 2 grand babies. ❤ Our DDIL had prepared a Mexican feast for us and we had corn and flour taquitos served with her homemade sausage queso and pico de gallo, Chicken Enchilada Dip (click here for recipe) served with chips and veggies, and a delicious Key Lime Pie. We spent the evening just enjoying each other’s company, watching the antics of our grand children, and toasting in the New Year with some sparkling White Grape Juice.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year…This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Then, this weekend SNOW was forecasted for us! It was the perfect time for another fun winter project I always enjoy doing, especially on a cold winter afternoon during NFL Wild Card Weekend; I made treats to decorate a tree for the birds! Click on the highlighted link to see another one of my posts about DIY bird treats… “A Picnic for the Birds” Since reading all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was in elementary school, I’ve always wanted to string popcorn. Finally, after all these years, I decided to do it. Unlike Laura, who had to pop her corn over the kitchen fireplace, I conveniently got a bag of popcorn out of our cabinet and placed it in the microwave. While the kernels were popping, I set out some fresh cranberries I wanted to add to my popcorn string, found some cute red, green, and white cording to use for stringing, and a tapestry needle.

Helpful hints to make popcorn stringing easier:

  • Stale popcorn is easier to string than fresh, crispy popcorn. Pop your popcorn the night before and spread it out on wax paper so your popcorn will be easier to thread the next day.
  • Use a smaller needle and thread. A tapestry needle is blunt and much larger then a regular needle. It is a great choice if you have young children that are helping you that you don’t want to get hurt when working with a needle, however, it is harder for the large tapestry needle to go through the popcorn without breaking the popped kernel. After a few trials, I switched to a finer needle and just “doubled” sewing thread instead of using the thicker cording I had been using. I was amazed how much quicker and easier the stringing became!

After I got through stringing my popcorn and cranberries, I cut a grapefruit, an orange, and a lemon into thin slices to dry in the oven and hang as ornaments and treats on my bird tree.

Directions:

  • Slice your choice of fruits (I used 1 grapefruit, 1 orange, and 1 lemon) into thin rounds.
  • Pat both sides of fruit with a paper towel to dry and place the slices on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and bake fruit slices for 1 hour.
  • Turn slices over after the first hour and continue baking for another 1-2 hours, checking periodically to make sure the slices don’t burn
  • Total baking time, 2-3 hours, or until fruits are dried and transparent
  • Remove from oven
  • When cool, make a small slit in each fruit round near the rind to insert jute or yarn for hanging.

Next, I cut apple slices and used a mini cookie cutter to punch out heart in each apple slice. After the apple slices, I made sweet little orange cups and filled them with a mixture of peanut butter, corn meal, and bird seed.

Directions for Apple Slices w/heart cutout:

  • Cut apple in thin slices
  • Brush slices with lemon juice to keep apples from discoloring
  • Use a mini cookie cutter to punch out a heart in each apple slice
  • Insert yarn through heart and tie for hanging…or fill heart cut out with peanut butter seed mixture

Directions for Orange Seed Cups :

  • Cut orange in half and scoop out orange segments and pulp
  • Dry inside of both orange halves with a paper towel
  • Using a knife, make 3 holes near the cut edge of each orange half, making sure the holes are evenly spaced around the circumference of your orange
  • Insert jute or yarn into each hole and tie a knot to secure each strand to the orange, allowing extra length of yarn/jute for hanging (see picture below)
  • Knot the 3 strands of jute/yarn together at the top for hanging
  • Fill cups with birdseed or…I made a blend of peanut butter, cornmeal (adding cornmeal to peanut butter makes it easier for the birds to swallow) and birdseed to fill each orange cup

All the special treats for the bird feast were done and I hung them on what-had-been our Christmas tree. Strings of popcorn and cranberries, stained glass grapefruit, orange, and lemon slices, apple slices with little punched out hearts, and charming orange cups soon filled the tree. When I had finished, dear Richard, who always goes along with my whims, carried the whole tree up to the landing on our stairs where I could watch the birds from my chair. Just look how cute the tree looks perched up there!

“Bon Appetit!”

Sweet apple rounds underneath an appetizer of popcorn and cranberries.

Everything for the next day was done; the fruit ornaments and festoons of popcorn strands were hung. A winter feast awaited my feathered friends and the only thing needed was the predicted and unaccustomed snow for our area in East Texas.

After taking some pictures, I was sitting on the upper stairs hoping to see some late visitors, though I knew it was unlikely at that hour. [Side note: Did you know that by 4:30 (here in East Texas) most birds have quit feeding and are already tucked away, safe in their nests? The cardinals are usually the latest birds to arrive at the feeders. My guess is they use the evening shadows to help diminish the visibility of their bright red feathers which makes them more vulnerable and highly visible to predators.] Twilight was closing in which was a signal to the Loons to begin their enchanting love calls over the lake. While I was enthralled and still listening to the Loons, 2 bald headed eagles flew by right above me, only 25 feet from where I was sitting! My winter evening came with gifts. ❤

And the next day, even earlier than predicted, our snow came!

The birds lined up in pecking order [which is a very important social order and strictly observed at our feeders!] Woodpeckers, with their strong, swift beaks are given the highest respect, with the Blue Jays next in line since they are bigger than most of the birds we typically see at our feeders. Regal Cardinals seem indifferent to all, but their own mate and cautiously watched from the snow covered branches eyeing and picking out which treats they wanted before they approached. The Junco’s, or Snow Birds as they’re commonly called and the Carolina Wrens happily ate the treats that fell to the deck, thus avoiding the wait and the line. The rest of the crew, the sweet, smaller birds, the Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees, all the Finches (the American Goldfinch, House Finch, and Red Finch) Warblers, and Titmouse stayed close by, flitting in and out, and rested on the branches between courses.

Beautiful, beautiful snow! I couldn’t get over it’s loveliness and how it felt falling “on my nose and eyelashes.”

or… thinking how clever God is to imagine and be so creative that He made what usually comes down as rain in other seasons, into something soft, fluffy, and fun to play in, just to soften the landscape and mood of winter.

Look how enchanting my Potting Cottage looks in the snow!

Well, I think that catches us all up. Our snow was a delight for the day, and the next day the sun was shining brightly and only the bravest and most stalwart of snowmen remained. Bemusedly, when Richard brought in the mail yesterday there on top of the stack of mail was my Burpee Seed Catalog, filled with the promise of Spring, zesty-mix zinnia’s, and Gloriosa Daisy’s!

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

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Christmas Tablescape “Not a Creature was Stirring”

This year we bought a real Christmas tree a “Noble Fir” for our downstairs living room! It is the first real tree we’ve had since we lived in Bad Kreuznach,Germany back in 1983-1986. Now, a brief visit from “The Ghost of Christmas Past”… When we lived in Germany, the boy scouts had an annual Christmas tree sale and fund raiser in December. The boy scout troop leaders (who were also soldiers in the Army) took the boys and a military cargo truck into the Black Forest where they spent the day cutting down Christmas trees. When the truck was filled with trees, they would drive back to the military base in Bad Kreuznach and set up a temporary Christmas tree lot where the American families could come and buy their Christmas trees. It was enchanting having a tree straight from the Black Forest, the storybook setting of many of the tales I’d read when I was little. The trees were so fragrant and the boughs were so dense, I always thought I might find a bird nest or something else “furry” hidden within the branches.

Porcupine nestled within the branches
A wise old owl perched high atop the Christmas tree
Little rattan angel made in Germany

I love having a real tree again, and didn’t realize until we brought the Noble Fir into the house that we were bringing in much more than a tree. As Richard slid fragrant, evergreen branches past the door frame, nostalgia and remembrance squeezed right in with them, and my mind was filled with sweet memories. Precious memories of a Christmas’ long ago: a memory of love I could actually see shining in my mother’s dear face when she showed me the doll Santa Claus had brought. just for me, when I was only 5…memories of our parents taking us to the Christmas parade in downtown Fort Worth where I shivered in my coat, waited and watched, and was thrilled when I saw Santa Claus high atop the last float, sitting in his sleigh loaded with toys, smiling and calling out “HO,HO,HO”…memories of Daddy bringing our Christmas tree in after he had been soaking it overnight in a bucket of water in the garage, and the wonderful way it filled the house with the fragrance of Christmas…memories of painstakingly hanging icicles 1 by 1 on the tree until my older brother showed me how fun it was to blow the icicles haphazardly all over the tree, much to the chagrin of my older sister…memories of trying to go to sleep when our “eyes were all aglow” on Christmas Eve and “there arose such a clatter” of crinkling paper and smells of celery, cornbread, and turkey wafting through the air which made “it hard to sleep that night. “Christmas memories of happy years gone by.”

"Christmas memories of happy years gone by
They come back to me and keep me warm inside
Still those memories make me cry"

Christmas Memories by Alabama

Well, it’s late on Christmas Eve and all this cheer-y tartan tablescape needs is a plate of cookies and a visit from St. Nick!

Open shutters look out into a midnight blue Christmas sky and draping patio lights…while inside, all is merry and bright. This antique minnow bucket, a gift from Richard goes perfectly with the rustic theme of the tablescape and the metal chargers under each plaid place setting. To make this simple arrangement, I cut the top part of a gallon milk jug off, filled the jug with water, and placed it into my minnow bucket. Then I simply filled the bucket with leftover boughs that Richard trimmed from our Christmas tree.

Plaid dinner and salad plates are stacked on top of metal chargers and Fitz & Floyd Christmas mugs are ready for hot cocoa. Remember when I dried these ferns and leaves ??? They made sweet woodland place cards and add to the cozy feel of the table. Bright red napkins are circled with jingle bell napkin rings.

Waiting for Santa.

A Santa boot planter is filled with buffalo check red and black straws. Red and white toile napkins in a rustic pine cone napkin holder add a nice contrast.

“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

Wishing you all a blessed and Merry Christmas!

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

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“On Days Like These” Pressing and Drying Leaves and Flowers

Summer's loss
Seems little, dear! on days like these.

~ Ernest Christopher Dowson

“On days like these” the leaves on our Redbud and Ash Trees glowed golden yellow in the sunlight and to our delight the double breasted cormorants that winter here glided into our cove by the hundred’s.

“On days like these” geese flew by in waves with the swoosh of their wings heard, before they were seen silhouetted against autumn blue skies.

“On days like these” leaves drifted by on wayward breezes and looked fetching against the green backdrop of grass.

Just look at all these glorious, autumn leaves I collected and preserved!

Scarlet Sweet Gum leaves, Burgundy Japanese Maple leaves, Burning Bush leaves, and yellow Redbud leaves
Burnt orange Sycamore leaves, yellow Redbud leaf, and burgundy Japanese Maple leaves

Our winter’s come delightfully late here in East Texas and our first freeze of the year wasn’t predicted until Monday night, the last night in November. That afternoon I carried my outdoor plants into the greenhouse where Richard was busy getting our heating system and thermometer all set up. After I got all the plants tucked away in their winter home, I went around the yard and clipped as many flowers as I could. Knockout Roses, impatiens, chrysanthemums, and Encore Azaleas were still blooming beautifully and the bouquet in my hands kept getting bigger and bigger, since I hated to leave any blossoms. I had lots to work with and made some sweet little arrangements to place around the house.

A cluster of azaleas drape over the edge of this pink and green sorbet dish. Richard bought this miniature violin for me. The strings actually pluck and are wound into the pegs!

Deep red-orange chrysanthemums look striking against the green of a Depression Glass sugar bowl. Look at this sweet little antique vinegar & oil caddy with salt and pepper shakers I recently found on a trip we took to Branson.

Take a detour with me for a moment and look at 3 more treasures I found on our trip…these green Depression Glass shakers! I’m keeping them in the Cottage Greenhouse; they’ll be perfect for storing seeds I gather from my flowers.

Back to leaf and flower pressing! (: The rest of my gathering’s I laid out on paper towels to press and dry beneath a pile of heavy books. It is so satisfying drying flowers, ferns, or leaves – and being able to use them later to decorate a tablescape, make a centerpiece, or use them in some other project adds another dimension of enjoyment.

How to Press Leaves & Flowers

  1. Choose leaves that are fresh and supple…and flowers that are NOT densely petaled
  2. Place items you want to press on a paper towel or newspaper, making sure the leaves/flowers do not overlap
  3. Place another paper towel or newspaper on top of the items you are pressing
  4. Place the sandwiched leaves/flowers inside a heavy book, or stack heavy books or objects on top of the paper towel “sandwich” and keep in a dry location
  5. In approximately 2 weeks the pressed leaves/flowers will be completely dry and ready to use

Next post I plan to show you a fun and easy project using some of my pressed leaves. Hope you enjoy these last days of autumn and have fun gathering leaves and pressing them.

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

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In the Cottage Greenhouse…How to Propagate and Transplant Moss

"At these times, the things that troubled her seemed far away and unimportant; all that mattered was the hum of the bees and the chirp of birdsong, the way the sun gleamed on the edge of a blue wildflower, the distant bleat and clink of grazing goats."  ~ Allison Croggon

Moss covered anything makes me a little dreamy and after I wrote the post showing our moss covered pathway and this sweet moss covered cherub in our birdbath, I had so many comments and questions asking how I get my moss to grow, I thought I’d write about it.

Some things you need to know about moss before you try to propagate it. Moss likes shady to semi-shady places, acidic soil, and moisture. Moss can grow on almost anything and doesn’t require dirt to grow. If you are trying to grow moss in an area where there isn’t any moss, you will need to have a moss “starter” since moss grows from spores, rather than roots.

Redbud blossoms sprinkled on our pathway of moss

Instructions How to Grow or Propagate Moss

  1. It’s fun hunting for the moss you’ll need to begin propagating your own moss. Collect moss from areas that already have live moss growing on them…from your yard, a park, moss that is growing on trees or structures, or ask friends or neighbors for a moss starter.
  2. Gather your moss in any container that is easy to clean and rinse out. I use a shallow terracotta planter.
  3. Break up the clumps of moss, using garden tools or whatever else you have handy. I use an antique pastry blender that I keep in the Cottage Greenhouse to break up and blend my “moss pies. (See picture below)
  4. To the collection of moss in your container, add equal parts of buttermilk and water, and mix together until your moss, buttermilk, and water is the consistency of a milkshake.
  5. “Paint” or pour your moss milkshake on the surfaces you want to cover with moss.
  6. Keep your new moss moist and “weed free, since weeds rob the moisture that is needed by your moss.
  7. It will take approximately 6 weeks before your new moss begins to spread

Terracotta planter and antique pastry blender I use for mixing moss

Cherub statuary in birdbath covered in moss

I just began re-growing this moss on our courtyard pathway this spring after we power washed off the moss that had been growing there. When moss needs moisture it starts looking dull and dried (like in the picture below.)

Now, look at the color of the moss in this picture. Notice that the moss is brighter and greener, but also that the moss is spreading, since it is getting more moisture.

Raccoons and other furry folk have a habit of overturning new moss beds, or pulling up chunks of moss to look for bugs. Don’t fret if this happens, just smoosh your moss back into place, and water.

More Redbud petals sprinkled on the moss beneath the tree

Lush moss bed along our garden path that I propagated.

To transplant moss…find and dig up the moss you want to transplant…keep it moist until ready to transplant…press the moss into the surface where you want it to grow (remember, moss doesn’t require soil to grow, but can also grow on other surfaces.) I spied this little clump of moss while Richard and I were gathering some walnuts along an old ferry road down by the river. Dear Richard dug up the moss for me to take home and the sweet little wildwood fern that was growing right in the center, came along with it! I kept the moss damp by wetting some paper napkins and wrapping the moss in it, placed the wrapped moss inside a plastic bag, and tied the top of the bag together until we got home. I can tell by their vivid green colors that the moss and little fern love their new location where I pressed this little patch of forest-floor into our gravel bed! (:

Let me know if you try propagating your own moss! And for more moss enchantment…click on Carrot Patch Cupcakes with edible crumb “moss” made out of graham cracker crumbs! (:

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

P.S. This past 6 weeks has been a series of emotional peaks and valleys for us. I had a wonderful and miraculous report from the doctor…then we got the heartbreaking news that my dear, youngest sister had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Every step of the way, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” Psalms 23:4 Oh, I am heartbroken that during this short lifetime on earth, I will never see my sister again, but I am overjoyed knowing we will be together again in heaven, since she and I both know and believe in Jesus. If you don’t know Jesus and do not have a personal relationship with Him, He is just a whisper away. The Bible says, If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 If you long for that security and relationship with the Lord where you “fear no evil for Thou art with me,” please go to the top of my blog and click on the page ABOUT ME …then click on My Faith in Jesus Christ. If you have any questions, or you would like me to pray with you about anything, please let me know in the comment section below, or write me at: cottagegreenonthelake@gmail.com

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Labor Day Weekend … “The Gang’s All Here!”

Hail, hail, the gang's all here, 
Never mind the weather, here we are together;
Hail, hail, the gang's all here,
Sure we're glad that you're here, too!

If you’re not barefoot, then you’re overdressed.

Unknown

Labor Day is the last big fanfare of the summer here at the lake and I’ve been getting ready for our weekend with “the gang all here!” I thought you might like reading and seeing some of the tips, preps, how to’s, menu’s, and recipes we use for our family get together’s and what we do here at Cottage Green preparing “4theseasons” and for our family celebrations. P.S. For those of you that don’t know … my Twitter and Instagram account is 4theseasons. (;

I love how summer just wraps it’s arms around you like a warm blanket.

Kellie Elmore

Since we’ll have several different areas set up for food and drink, I always like to have multiple caddy’s ready that are easy to carry and set up and hold all our cutlery and napkins. I use this rugged twig caddy often, since it’s so handy. (See it in the picture above when we had watermelon on the dock while watching the gorgeous sunset and (click here to see the same twiggy caddy in a Woodland Christmas Tablescape) I always tuck cloth napkins into the basket to line and soften the edges of the twigs, and to match the cutlery we’ll be using. Our color theme for Labor Day is red, white, and blue and a basket of red anchor napkins on a blue and white striped background will be whimsical setting on the dock table and will fit in perfectly with our lake theme, in just the right colors.

Next … this cute and showy rowboat caddy will be for our Farewell BBQ dinner. No frail paper napkins will do when finger lickin’ ribs and homemade barbeque sauce are on the menu! Red cloth bandanna’s are folded up to secure cutlery, then are wrapped around the bundle and festooned with red, white and blue wired tinsel.

Red, white and blue plastic sandwich baskets are lined with festive red and white checked deli papers. The baskets are sturdy and easy for small hands to carry even when their baskets are filled with ribs, cool pasta salad, and a little bean pot filled with (Delicious BBQ Beans – click here for recipe.)

Pictures and Instructions … How to Assemble Cutlery and Napkin Packages

1.Fold napkin into quarters. Place folded edge to your left side and open selvage of your napkin to your right. Fold up the bottom edge of your napkin, about 5 inches, if you are using larger napkins like these bandanna’s. If the napkins you use are smaller, fold up less material, according to size, but so you still have ample material left to pull up, cover and secure your cutlery.

2.Place a knife, fork, and spoon with the tips of the cutlery just beneath the left hand corner of your napkin and fan out so bottom of utensils are in line with the right hand bottom corner. FYI: Placing the cutlery beneath the edge of the material makes a prettier presentation and helps keep the utensils from getting dirty.

3.Now fold the left side of the napkin over the top of the utensils and fold the bottom right hand corner of the napkin straight up, over the top of the first fold. This secures your cutlery and keeps it from falling out when it’s picked up. Remember those unfortunate times all your silverware has fallen out when you were picking up your silverware bundle at a restaurant or cafeteria??? This tuck keeps that from happening!

4.Holding the left side of folded napkin and keeping the cutlery in place in the center (the cutlery will slide somewhat as you keep rolling your napkin, you can flare it out, again, if you need to, after you have secured the napkin bundle with your tinsel wire or cording) Just keep rolling your bundle to the right until all the material of the napkin is entirely wrapped around the bundle inside. When your napkin is rolled around in a concise package, hold or place the cutlery bundle down on the surface you are working on so it doesn’t unroll while you are getting your wired tinsel to secure the package. In the picture below I wanted you to be able to see how your bundle should look before securing. TIP: I usually have my tinsel or cording already cut and ready before I start my bundles so I can tie each place setting immediately, after I’m through rolling my napkin bundle.

5.Finished rolled cutlery bundle before cording.

6.I am not too exact when I am using tinsel wiring since I don’t like to pull out all the bends, plus any excess tinsel always looks cuter when there’s more! Each strand of tinsel wire I cut is approximately 13 inches long. Don’t worry if you don’t have any tinsel wire, I have made these bundles using colored raffia (click here to see Easter bundles made with smaller paper napkins and tied with raffia) silk red and green plaid ribbon with pine cone ornaments attached, rugged jute with white lifesavers dangling to mimic life preservers, and thin white macrame cording with anchor buttons; whatever tinsel or cording I’ve used, these bundles are always darling.

7.Center your tinsel or cording around your bundle so there is an equal amount of wire or cording on each side of the napkin to twist or tie.

8.Wrap the 2 strands of your tinsel or cording around your bundle to meet in the middle and twist together, or tie in a simple knot if you or using cording . When I use tinsel wiring, after twisting the tinsel to hold in place,I twirl first one end and side of the wiring loosely around my index finger, then I slip my finger out, which leaves the tinsel in loose coils. Then I gently pull the coils out to the desired length I want … then I do the same thing to the opposite side of the tinsel.

One more caddy finished and one to go for our Sand Pail Ice Cream Finale (click here for pictures of our Fun Summer Tradition)

Gotta go, the Gang’s Almost Here! Hope you have a wonderful and safe Labor Day Weekend … AND I hope you liked this post. I’m planning on this being a new series of blogs I share with you whenever “our gang” is coming! ❤

From my cottage to yours  ~  Trenda

I’d love to hear from you!  Please ask any questions you may have or post any comments, below. To have all my posts delivered directly to your email address, just click on FOLLOW in the post above … or click on my site: cottagegreenonthelake.com

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In the Cottage Greenhouse … DIY Nature Place Cards

~ Trenda

Look at the latest sparkle I’ve added in the Cottage Greenhouse! I found this quaint and quirky vanity tray mirror covered in a layer of dust at a local Thrift Store for only $1.00! When I found it, I had no idea where I was going to put it, but I couldn’t bear to leave it there forgotten and forlorn.

Now, look how perfectly charming it looks in The Cottage Greenhouse!

Instead of the usual cosmetics and perfumes that sit on a vanity tray, I loaded my Greenhouse vanity tray with a few of my antique metal floral frogs and a tiny silver platter with ruffled edges I topped with a chunky cloche. A crystal watering can fits in perfectly with this garden vignette.

Pretty DIY place cards are propped up on the prongs of antique floral frogs. They look fetching in this greenhouse setting, but they’re especially sweet when I use them in a Nature themed tablescape!

To make this flower place card I cut an image from an old garden book that I was lucky to find at a library sale for only $1.00! I cut the flower image into a smaller rectangle and rounded the corners of the card to soften the edges, then inked the edges. Complete instructions for all Nature place cards below.

To make this little card under the cloche, I photo-copied a favorite vintage green and white crocheted table runner onto cream card stock, then cut the paper copy into small cards. I punched out a round tab from an old book page and distressed it by inking along the edges. Then I stamped the tab with a letter “T” and stapled it onto a bit of lace.

I love the look of this unique and layered place card and made it by first laying a lace handkerchief on the copy machine. Then I placed a cloth napkin on top of the lace handkerchief, closed the lid on my copy machine, and copied the layered cloths onto cream colored card stock. Look at the beautiful texture on the card below and how the photo copied lace looks like actual lace overlapping the card.

Instructions for DIY Nature Place Cards

  1. Instead of using decorative papers or colored card stock for this project, I used an assortment of materials … a page from a garden book, a vintage green and white table runner, a lace handkerchief, and a floral napkin. I love the look and visual texture of materials photo-copied onto cream colored card stock. So use your imagination when making your place cards and have fun looking for the textiles or other images you want to photo copy for your place card backgrounds.
  2. After making your photo copies, cut the paper copy into the shapes you desire for your project. I cut my photo-copied paper into petite rectangles to fit in my antique floral frogs.
  3. For variety, I left some of the corners of my cards square, other’s I rounded using a corner punch I have. If you don’t have a corner punch, you can round the edges of your place cards with scissors.
  4. No inking is necessary, but if you want to add an antique or aged look to your place cards, ink the edges of your cards using a blending tool and stamp pad. I used Tim Holtz’s mini ink blending tool and Tim Holtz’s Distress Ink Pad, Color: Vintage Photo
  5. To add stamped images to your cards, you will need cling or acrylic stamps or wood block stamps. I used an acrylic bird image stamp, an acrylic bumble bee stamp, and a set of wood block miniature alphabet letters I bought at CVS for only $1.00. (Seems I’ve found a lot of good deals for only a $1.00!) I used the alphabet set to stamp the letters at the top of my card to spell PRETTY.
  6. Punch or cut out round tabs using old book pages and staple them to the card on top of a bit of lace … or use buttons and glue the lace to the button and attach both to the card.

A little embellishment for a lot of charm!

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In other news … my dear Richard cleaned out and organized his sprinkler pipes, fertilizers, and tools that were in the Cottage Greenhouse and he built two more sets of shelves for my bedding plants and greenhouse accouterments. ❤ Now I have twice as much room for planting and playing in the Cottage Greenhouse! Coming soon … pictures of my new addition, plus a Greenhouse tablescape using my Nature place cards!

WELCOME SEPTEMBER!

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

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Pink Lemonade Pineapple Punch Recipe made for Outdoor Tablescape and Garden Drink Station

In my last post Outdoor Tablescape and Garden Drink Station I wrote that I’d made a big container of “punch … for our hot summer afternoon.” Since then, I’ve had requests asking what punch recipe I used. So … today I am sharing the recipe for Pink Lemonade Pineapple Punch! I first saw this recipe on “The Frugal Girl’s” and made a few changes. Now, it’s one of my favorite punch recipe’s! It’s so easy to make and really is just a matter of pouring and stirring all the ingredients together.

Pink Lemonade Pineapple Punch – Ingredients:

  • 64 oz Cranberry Juice 100% juice (not Cranberry Juice Cocktail)
  • 46 oz Pineapple Juice
  • 12 oz can frozen pink lemonade concentrate (thawed)
  • 2 liters Ginger Ale
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

Pink Lemonade Pineapple Punch – Instructions:

  1. Chill all ingredients, except sugar before making
  2. In a punch bowl or other large beverage container add Cranberry Juice, Pineapple Juice, thawed concentrated pink lemonade, and Ginger Ale
  3. Add sugar to juice and lemonade mixture
  4. Stir together until sugar is dissolved
  5. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve

This recipe makes a lot of punch (approximately 18 – 2 cup servings) and even a week after being made, tastes delicious when kept in the refrigerator. The combination of fruit juices and lemonade are so refreshing whether we’re working in the yard or playing on the lake.

I’ve felt indulgent every time I’ve drawn up 2 glasses of punch for us.

Remember in last week’s post this picture of my miniature birdbath? I wrote, “If you look carefully you can see the last line from the song “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” inscribed around the edge of the birdbath, “And I Know He Watches Me.

Well … this little darling slammed into our window yesterday and landed in an unconscious heap, right below the window where I sit and write my blog! ):

At first we could see her heart beating very rapidly, then it got slower and slower. When her body began to twitch, Richard quietly told me, “you might not want to look any longer, she isn’t going to make it.” (.: I was dismayed and had already been praying, so I continued, knowing the Bible tells us that the Lord is aware of every sparrow that falls. At least 20 minutes went by and the baby cardinal still lay their unconscious, but Richard could still see her heart beating very slowly. All of a sudden and startlingly, the little birdie’s head popped up! We were thrilled, but since she made no further movements we were still concerned. Another 15 minutes went by when unexpectedly she spread her baby wings and flitted her tiny tail (which were hardly big enough for accurate navigation) and flew off! Our little fluff-ball blessing of the day and a beautiful reminder of this scripture, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31 Like my little birdbath says, “His eye is on the sparrow (and the baby cardinal!) and I know He watches me.”

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Look for all those benefit’s and fluff-ball blessings God gives us each day! Try the punch … serving punch any day, makes you feel like your having a party! (:

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

Thank you for reading my blog. To have all my posts delivered directly to your email address, just click on FOLLOW in the post above … or click on my site: cottagegreenonthelake.com

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Outdoor Tablescape and Garden Drink Station

Yesterday, while I had on my “rose-colored glasses” I saw this charming spot winking and beckoning from the shade of our Oak Tree. The secluded corner and the panorama view of the lake kept enticing me until I was inspired to set up a drink station for the big pitcher of lemonade and pineapple punch I’d made for our hot summer afternoon.

One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.

Iris Murdock

This little drink oasis looks so refreshing and is aesthetically pleasing “amid and amongst” the surrounding landscape. It makes me smile just looking at it.

Doesn’t this make you want to grab a punch cup and put it under the spigot? It’s just what I had envisioned in my “mind’s eye.” (:

This little desk once set in our son’s bedroom. When I gaze back at remembered times, I can still see him bending over his desk drawing pictures, gluing airplane models, or working on homework. ❤ I could never bear to part with it, and now it’s keeps me company inside my greenhouse. It was so convenient to open the greenhouse door, pull it out and transform it into an impromptu beverage cart!

I love the juxtaposition of the chunky little desk setting against the cedar fence background mixed with the crystal and delicate lace. The lace and ferns soften the look of the cement bird bath and angel statuary.

Beautiful visual textures … the smooth clay of the terracotta planter, feathery wispy ferns, the grooved lines of the punch cups and crystal biscuit barrel, and the woven lines of the lace.

This miniature birdbath nestled between the Plumosa and Asparagus Ferns usually sits under our Japanese Maple Tree. If you look carefully you can see the last line from the song “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” inscribed around the edge of the birdbath, “And I Know He Watches Me.”

A terracotta duck planter filled with Creeping Jenny sits below a desk drawer that has a bit of lace and an Angel Wing Begonia tucked inside.

The whole time I was arranging this garden drink station, the melody of Ricky Nelson’s song, “Garden Party” was wafting through my mind. I had so much fun putting this all together and the punch seemed to taste even better in it’s garden party setting! I can tell we’re going to be using this little spot for all kinds of al fresco enjoyment … serving hot apple cider in the autumn … pumpkin latte’s in winter(click here for recipe) … even holding a tureen full of soup for cozy afternoon’s spent around the bonfire! (click here for Stuffed Pepper Soup recipe) (click here for Tuscan Tomato Soup recipe) … and (click here for Easy Potato Soup recipe)

"I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again ..." 
 ~ Garden Party by Ricky Nelson 

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“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” Isaiah 61:11

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

Thank you for reading my blog. To have all my posts delivered directly to your email address, just click on FOLLOW in the post above … or click on my site: cottagegreenonthelake.com

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Summer Days at the Lake and Recipe for Smashed and Loaded Skillet Potatoes

Summer days at the lake served with lemonade and a side of Tiger Lilies.

Today the sound of locusts chattering from tree to tree took me back to sweet, remembered days of … screen doors slapping shut and nipping at the back of my heels … sitting and playing jacks on cement porches that felt cool against my short clad legs … lovely, rackety sounds that came from our bicycle tires after we clothes-pinned playing cards to the spokes of our wheels … taking turns drinking warm, musty water out of the hose … and days of playing “Red Light, Green Light” “Freeze Tag” and “Mother May I” until the lightening bugs came out.

Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

Henry James

Summer days at the lake served with lemonade …

… and a side of Tiger Lilies.

Breakfast enjoyed on the deck is hearty and befitting lake days and outdoor appetite’s. Look, the first Smoothie (Blueberry & Banana) our grand daughter made without Grandma’s help. (:

Darling, dimpled, smoothie-maker takes her turn on the Gladiator.

Two of Grandma’s heart throbs. ❤

This picture makes my heart brim as I look at these sweet faces … one jubilant, the other, a little timid, but a great sport! ❤

A beautiful early-rising full moon over the evening lake.

A parting gift from the setting sun.

The loveliest moonlit path led us home.

Such stuff as dreams are made on …

William Shakespeare

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Now, the recipe I’m sharing with you today is “Smashed & Loaded Skillet Potatoes. If you cook your potatoes in a cast iron skillet, you can prepare it alongside whatever is cooking on the grill … or toss a quick salad and stuff your potatoes full of all kinds of goodness and this side dish transforms into a delicious and hearty meal.

However, before we begin on the recipe for Smashed and Loaded Skillet Potatoes, I want to share another cooking gem with you … my favorite way to make baked potatoes, using a crock pot! Whenever I make baked potatoes I fix a whole batch in my crock pot so I have extra’s ready in the refrigerator for making potato salad, dicing and adding to a pot of green beans, or for making this easy recipe. Crock Pot baked potatoes have a delicious “in-depth flavor” and because they’re cooked slowly, they have a dense and perfect baked potato texture.

*CROCK POT BAKED POTATOES

  1. Clean and scrub the number of potatoes you want to prepare and lay them on paper towels to dry.
  2. Prick the skins of the potatoes with the tines of a fork to prevent the skin from splitting, then rub the skin of each potato with butter. Butter softens the potato skins and makes them more flavorful.
  3. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder on each potato and wrap them individually in aluminum foil (dull side of the foil, out) and place them in your crock pot, no more than 2/3’s full. For easier clean up, place the wrapped potatoes into the bottom of your crock pot with “folded seam” of the aluminum foil up.
  4. Place lid on crock pot and cook on high power, for 6 hours (I always use medium sized potatoes.) Cook time will vary depending on the size of your potatoes. To see if potatoes are done, use a sharp knife and pierce your potato through the foil. If the knife does not go through the potato easily, additional baking time is needed.

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SMASHED AND LOADED SKILLET POTATOES

Ingredients for 6 servings:

  • 6 potatoes, already baked
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced mild, sweet onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped red & green bell pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon salted butter
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  • baked potato toppings (butter, cheese, sour cream, finely chopped green onions)
Instructions:
  1. Cook and stir bacon in a large skillet, until almost crisp. Add onions and bell peppers to the same skillet and saute until vegetables are tender and bacon is to desired crispness
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet and melt to cover pan and add to bacon and vegetable mixture
  3. With a spatula, push the bacon and vegetable mixture to one side of the skillet leaving room to place the baked potatoes in the same skillet.
  4. Add baked potatoes to the skillet to heat
  5. Smash or flatten each potato by using a heavy spatula or a small bowl. Do not smash the potato so much that it breaks apart or looses it’s shape!
  6. Sprinkle outside of potatoes with salt and pepper, if desired
  7. Cook your potatoes until they are heated throughout, turning over to heat both sides.
  8. Spoon some of the bacon and bell pepper mixture into each potato, add salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and sprinkle cheese into each potato
  9. Cover skillet with a lid and cook 3-5 minutes, or until cheese melts.
  10. Remove lid and add a dollop of sour cream to each potato and chopped green onions before serving.

For a heartier meal, these potatoes would be delicious stuffed with broccoli and covered with cheese … or for winter meals, top them with Chili con Carne. I hope you’ll try them, I think they’ll become a family favorite!

Yesterday for lunch, Richard and I had our first “Sugar Kissed Melon.” Before even tasting it, I loved it because of it’s name! (: According to the tag, the Sugar Kissed Melon is the sweetest of the melon family. The Sugar Kissed Melon looks like a cantaloupe, though it is a little smaller … the outside skin wasn’t as deeply textured and veined as the cantaloupe … the pulp and seeds in the center of the melon looked the same as a cantaloupe. I cut it into pieces and served the Sugar Kissed Melon the same way I do a cantaloupe. It was sweet and delicious, a new favorite that lived up to it’s name.

It’s the little things that add enjoyment to each day. Plan a picnic in your own backyard, work a puzzle, read a good book or magazine while enjoying a glass of iced tea, burn the favorite candle you’ve been saving, get a drippy snow cone, lay in the hammock and take a nap, sit outside and look at the stars, and relish this last half of summer!

Time flies whether you’re having fun or not.

Claire Cook

I hope that reading my blog and about the things that go on here at Cottage Green on the Lake brighten your day. I know these are uncertain and troubling times, but read this wonderful reminder that Jesus said, telling us not to worry.

Whatever may be, it is such a blessing knowing that God is in control. Jesus said these comforting words in the Bible, in John 14:1 … “Do not let your hearts be troubled” and in 1 Peter 5:7, Jesus says for us to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” What wonderful words of reassurance during these stressful times! If you don’t have that peace and blessed assurance that comes from having a relationship with the Lord, please don’t leave this page before writing me so I can pray with you and answer any questions you may have … or go to my “About Me” page and read “My Faith in Jesus Christ.” Don’t let another day go by without knowing that Jesus is your Savior and your Friend.

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

Thank you for reading my blog. To have all my posts delivered directly to your email address, just click on FOLLOW in the post above … or click on my site: cottagegreenonthelake.com

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In the Cottage Greenhouse … DIY Plant Markers and Propagating Hydrangea

It was a delightful day for working in the cottage greenhouse.
Breezes from the north swept past the greenhouse door and I could see the lake winking at me while I worked at my garden desk.

I love hydrangeas and each spring I look forward to the gorgeous purple-blue blooms that fill our bushes. However, between the weather and furry folks, my hydrangea hedge has dwindled down to one lone bush. When I looked on-line to order more hydrangea’s, the nursery selections were limited and costly. With both those incentives, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to propagate some hydrangea cuttings from my Mophead Hydrangea … something I’ve wanted and meant to do every summer. It was a delightful day for working in the cottage greenhouse. Breezes from the north swept past the greenhouse door and I could see the lake winking at me while I worked at my garden desk.

Before beginning my propagation project I ordered a set of peat pot trays, though I could have used a pot or any other container for my cuttings, provided they had good drainage. My seedling trays came with a set of bedding plant markers. I was disappointed when I opened my package and saw the plant markers were made of plastic and were stark white. I had envisioned something a little more “earthy” and rustic for my first greenhouse project. Undaunted, I went out in the yard, gathered up some twigs, and whittled my own set of charming plant markers!

These plant markers made from twigs are just what I had envisioned, they are so rustic and winsome … AND so simple and fun to make! The only thing you’ll need for this project is twigs, a pocket knife for whittling, and a permanent marker. Are you ready? (: …. Go outside and pick up some twigs that are all about the same length and diameter, and that are reasonably straight (though some crooks and knot holes in your twigs add character!) Then sit down and begin whittling away the bark at the wider end of your stick. Carve enough bark away on your twig to expose the smooth wood underneath. You’ll only want to whittle away enough of the rough bark so you can easily write the names of the plants or seeds on your twig marker for identification. In the little red pail below, are ALL of the twig plant markers I made. I wrote Hydrangea and Morning Glory on 2 of them and I left the other markers with empty “nameplates” for future projects. Before I made these plant markers, I had never whittled anything in my life. I found the task mesmerizing and had to stop myself from carving away too much of the twig! P.S. – See the white plastic marker that came with the seedling trays that I placed next to my twig plant markers! (:

PROPAGATING HYDRANGEAS … SUPPLIES NEEDED:

  1. seedling trays or other container w/good drainage
  2. Potting Mix (I used Miracle Gro)
  3. pruners
  4. container of water
  5. rooting hormone (I used Garden Safe Rooting Hormone)
  6. Sharp stick or pencil

The best time to take “cuttings” from a hydrangea is around the first day of summer. The first day of summer is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and is also known as Summer Solstice … and this year Summer Solstice is today, June 20th! Around this time is when the leaves of the hydrangea are lush and green and it’s also the fastest time for the hydrangea to begin generating roots. Starting your hydrangea cutting’s at this time allows enough time for the cuttings (also known as strikes) to develop root systems before the hydrangea’s go dormant in the fall. Look for new, tender green limbs, known as “soft wood” on your hydrangea, as opposed to the brown, rigid woody sticks known as “old growth.” Cut 3″- 5″ stems, making the cut right below a leaf node (leaf nodes are horizontal segments on the stem where the leaves grow out) and include 3 leaf nodes in the stem you cut.

Carry a cup or container of water with you as you make your cuttings and place your hydrangea cuttings in the water so they won’t become taxed or wilted.

After you have as many cuttings as you want, trim your cuttings, taking off all the leaves except for the top 2. If your leaves are very small, you can leave them whole. However, if you are propagating large leaf hydrangea varieties, cut these leaves to about 1/4 of their original size so the cutting won’t be strained trying to supply water to the large leaf. Return your cuttings to the water after cutting the leaves. Fill your seedling trays or other container with potting mix and use a pencil (I used the the sharp end of my new whittled twig plant markers!) to poke a hole into the potting mix … 1 hole for each of your cutting’s, then dampen your potting mix before inserting your hydrangea cuttings.

Dip each wet hydrangea stem into the rooting hormone and insert cutting, coated with rooting hormone into your prepared potting mix. At least one set of leaf nodes, preferably 2, need to be covered in the potting mix since the nodes and stem are where the new roots will begin growing.

Gently push the potting mix around the cutting to hold it firmly in place, and continue until all cuttings are planted, then water thoroughly until the water flows freely from the drainage hole. If you use peat pots or trays like I did, I watered my cuttings until the sides of the tray were sodden. Keep your cuttings in a bright, warm place, but out of direct sunlight, and make sure your potting mix is moist at all times.

Don’t disturb your hydrangea strikes and continue to let them grow in your container or trays, making sure they are kept moist; I watered mine once each day. In 4 weeks your hydrangea cuttings, or strikes, should have produced new roots. At this time you can transfer your hydrangea’s to a bigger container. When you feel like your new hydrangea plants have become strong enough, or they have outgrown their container, they can be planted in your yard. This method of propagation works for all varieties of hydrangeas. I planted 10 hydrangea cuttings which hopefully will grow into 10 more Mophead Hydrangea bushes for our yard. Did you know a 1 gallon plant of Endless Summer Mophead Hydrangeas cost $29.99 on Amazon?!!! Go get on your garden gloves! (:

I love puttering around in my cottage greenhouse and below I have included some pictures of some of the knick-knacks I’ve added for some greenhouse charm. This wrought iron chair under my garden desk ~ is 1 of 4 that belongs with a beautiful glass topped garden table that my grandmother always had on her covered front porch. My mother gave the cherished table set to me and Richard sweetly sanded it and gave it a new coat of white paint. Now, I keep the table inside and use it in my music/craft room. I have dear memories of my grandmother and me sitting on her porch as she worked with her plants, sitting in this very chair! ❤

An Angel Wing Begonia looks beautiful tucked in a planter until I have the time to transplant it to an antique washtub outside my Potting Shed. See the sweet antique planter with the little bear sitting on top of the log? I love to find and collect these whimsical planters when we go antiqu’ing, and I have them in all kinds of unexpected places, not only in the greenhouse!

A grapevine wrapped pencil cup holds carved colored pencils and a chunky votive burns citronella and vanilla candles when I’m in the greenhouse. Here’s another one of my antique planters … a sweet little birdhouse with a red roof and a little birdie perched by the front door.

An old handmade wheelbarrow holds a spool of jute and scissors ready for tying up plants and other garden projects.

I love this tiny little flower vase with the kissing birds and I love to tuck tiny flowers inside. The colors of the birds and the coral-orange of the impatien’s bloom match perfectly with the box of wildflower seeds.

This is the canvas I told you about in my post “Charcuterie Charm” (click here to see) that my dear friend, Patricia made from the picture I sent her of the metal table I covered with broken pieces of blue and white pottery. Patricia told me she had this canvas made for me to hang in my greenhouse. I love it (and the giver) ❤ Doesn’t it make a great backdrop for my folksy handmade windmill with adjoining planter that holds an Asparagus Fern?

This miniature bistro table belonged to our daughter when she was little. ❤ The tabletop was always set with her Beatrix Potter tea set, ready for impromptu Teddy Bear Tea Party’s. I couldn’t think of parting with it, or the memories of sweet days gone by. Now, I love seeing it on my garden desk with a nest propped on one of the bistro chairs, a little bird keeping watch from the feathery fronds of a Plumosa Asparagus Fern, and another planter topped with little frogs, and filled with carved colored pencils.

Hope you enjoyed your day … your Summer Solstice, and the beginning of summer! Look who obligingly walked right into the picture below as I was taking our beautiful sunset. A Great Blue Heron we’ve fondly named Whiskers. He comes to our backyard buffet every evening, looking for dinner!

From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

Thank you for reading my blog. To have all my posts delivered directly to your email address, just click on FOLLOW in the post above … or click on my site: cottagegreenonthelake.com

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