Category Archives: Home&Garden

Growing Daffodils – Early Spring Flowers

I love early spring flowers, especially Daffodils.   Daffodils make early gardens cheery and bright. The first showing of daffodils in the spring gives me assurance that warm weather is just around the corner. Yea!

So why are there no daffodils popping up in my yard?  Maybe it’s because because I forget to plant them in the fall.   Actually,  daffodils  don’t enter my mind until I see them popping up in my neighbors yard… and she has a bunch of them.  Looking at her yard reminds me,  “Oh Oh… I forgot to plant my daffodils.”

The truth is…daffodils use to grace my garden, until  every bit of top soil had to be removed  from my flower beds because it tested salty and was killing all my shrubs and plants.  (That’s a whole other story.)   So, the daffodil bulbs went the way of the dump.   But,  I really do know about growing daffodils… I just have to remember to get in them the ground.

  • Choose a well-drained, sunny place, with slightly acidic soil.
  • Plant your Daffodils so that their top (pointed end) is at least two times as deep as the bulb is high (top of a 2″ bulb is 4″ deep).
  • Plant bulbs deeper in sandy soil than in clay.
  • High-nitrogen fertilizer should be avoided.
  • Daffodils need lots of water while they are growing.
may-daffodils1

Growing daffodils is fun… and there are so many varieties.  There are many  different shades and sizes of yellow daffodils to choose from. They’re sturdy little things and will last in the garden for about three to four weeks before the blooms are completely withered.

Once the bloom is gone, however… there is a temptation is to cut down the leafs and stocks in preparation for planting your summer flowers. Don’t be too hasty. The green foliage needs to die and turn yellow before it’s trimmed to the ground.

3yellowdaffodils

By permitting the daffodil foliage to turn yellow on it’s own, it allows the bulb to regenerate its own food source for the next year. If the foliage is cut too prematurely, the blooms will be limited next year. The stocks and leaves  should be ready for cutting by the end of May into the first of June.

whitedaffodile

So… hide the shears until June. If you’re really anxious to plant those summer annuals, just nudge them up close to the daffodil foliage until you can cut it back.

Till Later

Kathryn Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S. The same foliage rule applies to tulips and other bulbs.
P.P.S. Oh… I thought of another excuse why I don’t grow daffodils in my yard…. My mom didn’t have daffodils in her garden.    We knew Spring was approaching when Mom brought daffodils home from the grocery store and put them in a vase.

Pansies Take A Bum Rap

I think Pansies take a bum wrap.  How in the world did the word “Pansy” get tagged as being effeminate and weak.  The pansy is one of the boldest and strongest of flowers.  Pansies that are planted in the late fall, face winter  snow, wind and hail, and survive to lift their faces to the sun in the early spring.   I was just pulling out of Wendy’s and noticed a bed of Pansies that were in full bloom… despite our off and on again warm weather.   Yes… Spring is around the corner!

pansey11

When I was growing up, our neighbors, the Barlows, grew Pansies.  My mom was a Petunia lady… no Pansies at our house.  But I loved them anyway… their little faces fascinated me.   I especially love the orange ones… and so when I purchase Pansies, I make sure there are plenty of orange ones in the mix.

The flower is traced back to the 4th century B.C. in France and was named “Pensee”   The French word means thought or remembrance.  However, during Elizabethan times, the word became a disparaging term for a man or boy who was effeminate.    (Perhaps, that’s what caused the tiff between France and England.)   Anyway… I think Pansies get a bum wrap.

pansy-cup

My grand daughter Ella’s birthday is March 4th.  A take home prize for each of her tea party guests was a potted tea cup filled with Pansies.  Actually, I think the mom’s loved them more than the girls did.  The kids probably would have preferred a little bag of candy.    Katie, my daughter, picked up the cups and saucers at a thrift store and we filled them up with Panseys.  Purple was the favorite of the day.   Of course, in the cup, they don’t last forever… but it is a bright ray of sunshine sitting on the window sill after a long cold winter.

Give it a try!

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana.

P.S.  Pansies like rich soil.. so fertilizing them will give you lots of blooms.  If you plant Pansies in areas that will become shaded when the trees bear their leaves… they will last longer into summer months.  Pansies are a cool weather friend… so protect them from the direct sun.

How To Prevent Weeds In Your Flower Beds

It’s not to early to prevent weeds from popping up in your flower beds in the spring and summer months.  Yes, gardening shops will say it’s too early… but according to my expert gardening friend, it’s not.

I’ve been watching my neighbor, Linda, tend her beautiful yard for several years now.  She is a master gardener for sure!  She spends a lot of time in her yard, planting, watering, clipping… but not weeding.  Weeds were a constant garden challenge for me, until she shared her “weeding” tip with me.

Preen Weed Preventer is her answer.  You can place the Preen in your flower beds, ground covers and around trees and shrubs and those little pesky weeds simply will not appear.

You can’t wait to apply the Preen after the weeds has surfaced.  It will not kill existing weeds.  For it to be affective, you must apply it before the weeds germinate and peek their little head above the soil surface.

Linda claims that folks wait too long before applying the preventer.  Once the weeds begin to appear…. they start dropping little seeds for the next go around. Her special secret is, “You need to nip them very early,” says Linda.  The nurseries say wait until April or May.  But, Linda says that’s to late to prevent weeds from coming up in your tulips and daffodils. “Get a handle on it early.”

Linda likes to apply her Preen when the snow is still on the ground.  February is not too early, she claims.  Weeds germinate about 1/4 inch below the surface of the soil…so when the soil heats up…here they come.  Sprinkle the Preen over your flower bed areas and let the melting snow settle the preventer into the soil…. no early spring weeds.  Because you’ve eliminated the early weeds, they don’t have the opportunity to drop their seeds which creates problems later in the spring and summer.

Now, I like to turn, or cultivate my soil and add mulch to my flower beds… and that can still be done after the last frost in in May.  After turning my soil over, I rebroadcast the Preen before planting my flowers.  You can reapply the weed preventer a couple of times during the summer months but I’ve found if I start early enough in the spring…it’s not necessary.

Now the disadvantage to Preen is, you can’t plant flower seeds… because they… like the weeds…they won’t germinate.  However, if you purchase your plant starts through the nursery or you’ve grown your own, you won’t have a minutes trouble.

The weather man has predicted the “white stuff” for the end of the week.  I have my Preen ready to apply.  Since it’s yellow in color… I can easily see where the granules fall on the surface of the snow.

Till Later,

Kathy
Insightful Nana

P.S.  There are other brands of Weed Preventers, but I’ve found the the brand Preen to be the most effective for preventing weeds in your flower beds.

Your Furnace Air Filter

When was the last time you changed your furnace air filter? If you forget to change your furnace filter, you’re bound to reduce the operating efficiency of your furnace which could eventually damage the motor.

This warning comes as a, “do as I say, not what I did,” bit of advice.

January has been snowy and cold.  In the mornings, I head to my home office, shut the door, and flip on a small electric heater for just a few minutes to add a bit of additional heat to what my furnace provides. I stay toasty warm.

For the past several weeks, when leaving my office, I noticed the rest of the house seemed a bit chilly. I thought it was because the outside temperatures were so cold and the fact that my office was so warm, that the other rooms of the house felt cold.

Last Saturday, while working in the rest of the house, I noticed how really cold it was. Putting my hand over the heat vent and feeling very little air flow, it dawned on me what the problem was.

Bolting to the basement, I tried to remove the furnace filter to no avail. I tugged and pulled, tearing one end off before it became loose enough to remove. It was so full of dirt, the blower had forced it up against a side wall trying to push air through. What came out looked like a gray fur bearing animal.

In shock, and I tried to remember the last time the filter had been replaced… sometime around Halloween flashed in my mind… or was it Labor Day? Once the filter was removed, my house warmed up in just a few minutes and the furnace did not run continuously. I can just imagine what my fuel bill is going to be! Yikes!

Some dealers recommend that filters be changed once a month. Others say that every three months is sufficient. However, during the coldest months of the year, the filter should be changed more frequently because the furnace is running for longer periods of time, filtering out dust and other contaminants.

Learning from this experience, I’m marking my calender in advance, as a reminder to “change the filter.” On a three month rotation, the first day of every season might be a good idea. Every other month is probably a better idea…better safe than sorry.

Again… “do as I say and not what I did.” Run now and check your furnace filter so your furnace will function more efficiently and you’ll say warm.

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

PS Don’t forget, most air conditioners filter the air through the furnace. Changing the filter often will help keep your summer fuel bill reasonable. On second thought… is there ever a reasonable fuel bill?

Kitchen Pantry Organization

Seven months ago, my Kitchen Pantry was organized by professional organizer, Laura Lawrence, from “Harmony Within”, using the STACKS method.   Now it is the time to report whether this kitchen pantry organizational method has been effective over a period of time.  I’m happy to announce….I’m well pleased.

In June, I attended a class on organization that was taught by Laura.  During the class, she ask for a volunteer that would allow her and other class members to view a cluttered, unorganized pantry… and use her method to get it into shape.  My hand went up immediately… “No vanity here…. I was desperate!”  They came and confronted the hodgepodge in my pantry.  It was a miracle transformation.

Now, after seven months, I took these photos of my kitchen pantry.  I promised I did not rearrange anything before the photos were taken.  I am actually surprised how well I have done in keeping my kitchen pantry up to the “Harmony Within” standard.  No doubt… a few things have been put back into the wrong place and it looks like it needs a bit of straightening… but nothing disastrous.

So…. even though my kitchen pantry is not perfect… it’s darn sight better than it would have been had I not had it organized well in the first place…especially after the frantic holiday cooking.

It only took me about 15 min. to put a few misplaced items back into their proper place… and feel in control again.

Watch the video… and learn what Laura did.  I’m really impressed with her methods of organizing a kitchen pantry.

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S.  This organizational method can be used in any room of your house.

Winter Snow Removal

Winter snow removal is not a welcome part of my winter scene.  I have to admit… “Let It Snow” is not a part of my vocabulary.  And, skiing or snowboarding is not my idea of winter fun.  Curled up by a roaring fire eating popcorn with a cold Diet Coke is more my cup of tea.

At this time of year… I envy those of you who enjoy warm winter days in a mild climate.  However, here I am… living at the base of the Wasatch Mountains… what else could I expect.

Living alone…winter snow removal has become my inevitable responsibility… like it or not.  After a few years of shoveling snow… I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade…

Here are 7 tips to remember when you have to shovel show.

1.  Wax the blade of your snow shovel.  It will help the snow come off your shovel blade faster and cleaner.

2.  If you shovel a path down the center of your driveway you will create a path from which you can push the snow to the edges of your full-width driveway.  If your driveway is wide and long… like mine is… this method will save your bacon… or should I say your “back.”

3.  Shovel the snow as soon as possible after a snowfall and the snow can be moved easily.  Driving or walking over areas that need to be shoveled compresses the snow and it will quickly turn to ice.  Block off the end of your driveway to discourage traffic until you get the area cleared.

I become a bear… when folks drive over fresh snow in my driveway.  I’ve been know to park my car out in the front of my house and let it get covered with snow, rather than park it in the garage, where I might be tempted to drive down my driveway before I’ve cleared the white stuff.

4.  Concentrate on exposing as much of the pavement as you can.  “Get to the black.”  Areas that are exposed attract the warmth and sun.  You’ll notice the areas surrounding expose pavement will melt faster.

5.  Slush and standing water need to be removed. Snow that has melted, or soften will turn to ice after the temperature drops in the evening.  After snow removal, Halite or ice met can be used in areas that don’t dry out but freeze instead… because they are not exposed to sunlight.

6.  When possible, use a snow pusher rather than a shovel.  It saves bending and straining your back.

7. Invest in a snow blower.  You might consider pooling resources with neighbors and purchasing one together.  You’ll save your back as well as hours of time if your have a great brother-in-law, by the name of Dew Atwood, who gives his sister-in-law, a snow blower for Christmas.

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  I no longer dread looking out the window, to discover little white flakes of snow hit the ground.  I bundle up.. plug in my new snow blower, push the electric start button and away I go.  Instead of it taking four hours to clear my driveway, garage pad, and walks… it only take me an hour.

Thanks Dew!

After Christmas Storage Tip

After Christmas organization and storage is made easy with all of the storage containers for decorations that the stores carry.  I love the plastic boxes that are long enough to store long gift wrap rolls and the like.  Those see-though storage containers sure beat card board boxes and they make organization easy.

Over 30 years ago, I was given a crystal candy dish… which is not stored with the Christmas decorations that end up under the stairs.  It’s placed on the top shelf in my hutch, where it will be protected until the next Christmas.  Since it’s used only once a year…it collects dust and it has to be washed before use.  At least that’s how it use to be… until I learned this little storage tip.

I now place the dish and all other small collectibles in a plastic bags before I put them away.

When the holiday season rolls around again, off goes the bag and the dish is clean and ready for use.

Keep this little storage tip in mind when you put those infrequently used items away in the “black hole” of  those hard to reach corner cupboards or the cupboard over the fridge.

Till Later,

Kathy
Insightful Nana

P.S.  This organizational tip can be used all year round. Place any silver plated items in plastic bags.  It retards the tarnishing process.

Decorating For Christmas Nell Hill’s Way

Decorating for Christmas took on a whole new meaning for me and my two girls… after I took a business trip to the Midwest.   I came home excited to share what I had discovered.  Christmas decorating could be easy, simple, yet elegant.   Emily and Katie, my two girls and I, went immediately shopping… to revitalize our Christmas decorations.

The pictures in this post are from Emily’s home…inspired by my trip and the book, “Nell Hills, Decorating for Christmas.” by Mary Carol Garrity.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Northeast Arkansas was the final business destination for me and my two friends, Marie and Jill.  But, we took a little detour to Kansas City Mo. to see a few historic sites we were all interested in.

Before we left, Lisa, a good friend and a fantastic home decorator, told us of a store that… with out a doubt… we should not miss seeing.  She said, perhaps it was the best merchandised store she had ever seen.   With that recommendation …it was a store we weren’t going to miss.

“Nell Hills” is a store owned and operated by Mary Carol Garrity about 50 miles west of Kansas City, Mo…in a little town on the bend of the Missouri River called Atchison, Kansas.

Now I want to tell you… this place is out in the “boonies”….no freeway running by this place!  When we crossed the river from Missouri into Atchison, we all looked at each other like… “You’ve got to be kidding.”  “What could be in his little town… out here in “no-where”?

Wow! Were we pleasantly surprised!  It was a Monday morning… the third week in October…and you should have seen the line standing at the door waiting to get in.  “Where did all these people come from?”

When the doors opened, we were greeted by a smiling face… Mary herself… inviting us to look around, feel comfortable, and if we needed help, please ask.  I was so amazed at what was before my eyes… it took me a minute to realize I was actually in a store.  It was a Christmas decoration fairy land, a decorator’s dream, a home furnishings mecca.

Shopping baskets were placed in our hands and away we went.. moving from room to room… filling them to the brim with Christmas decorations, gifts and home decor items.  When our baskets were full, a sweet little lady offered to take them to the check-out area…as she placed new baskets in our hands.

At the check-out area, our baskets lined the wall like the Union Pacific.  “Did we buy all that?”  We started to load our rental car and realized there was no room for our bodies.  So…back into Nell Hills to have it shipped home…which they were more than willing to do.

While there, we purchase Mary’s book “Nell Hills Decorating for Christmas”…which she graciously signed.  What a read… or  should I say…what a look.

If you ever get out to the Kansas City area… don’t miss going on a little drive in the country to Nell Hill’s home decor emporium in Atchinson, Kansas.  You’re in for a treat!

Thanks Em… for letting me take photos.

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  This little out of the way place attracts 75,000 visitors a year. Most of Nell Hill’s Kansas customers come from 50 to 100 miles away.  That says a lot for service and fantastic merchandise.  Christmas decorating could not be more easy and elegant Nell Hill’s way.

P.P.S.  Here are Nell Hills books… Each one is a jewel.

Dyson, The Carpet Mucher

I was excited to have new carpet in my home. Little did I know that my Dyson Vacuum would eventually be accused of being “The Carpet Muncher.”

To make a long story short…Several years ago, I had a kitchen fire in my home the day before Mother’s Day.  (Don’t leave bacon cooking while you go with your brother-in-law to the neighbors to discuss tearing down a fence.)

After the many months of turmoil dealing with clean up,  insurance agents, carpenters and painters, the last workers left. I was happy to settle in and enjoy my new kitchen, new wall paint and new carpet.  Little did I know, a “Carpet Muncher” was hiding in my closet.

I had selected a shag carpet and the strands were about one inch long. I understand that when a carpet is new, the carpet will shed a bit and, you will get a fair amount of loose fibers in your vacuum canister.  But, for only a short period of time.  However, I become concerned when I couldn’t get through the entire house without having to empty my Dyson Vacuum canister several times.  I began to save the carpet fibers when I emptied the vacuum and by Thanksgiving I had almost filled a 30 gallon plastic bag. The ends of the carpet had “bloomed” and flared. There was some serious carpet matting in the traffic areas.

I took the bag of fiber to the carpet dealer (who was also my disaster clean-up company.)   They were surprised to see the contents of the bag.  “Wow, I think something is the matter here.”  They called the manufacture, who was Shaw Carpet, and told them of the problem.  Shaw had never heard of anything like it before.  An independent adjuster came to my home to evaluate the problem.

Several weeks later, Shaw Carpets informed us it was not a faulty carpet… it was my vacuum.  “No, No, it couldn’t be… I owned a Dyson Vacuum.”  My carpet dealer didn’t agree with the decision and went to bat for me. In the end, Shaw Carpet agreed to replace the carpet.

I think I just came under the wire, because shortly after that, I learned that Shaw does not guarantee their shag carpet if your vacuum has a beater bar.  (You know… that little brush that goes round and round.)

I selected new carpet and, it came into the dealer’s wear house over a year ago.  The new carpet was just installed a couple of months ago.  (They had to fit it in between disasters… flood and fire. They’ve been busy folks.) In the mean time, I vacuumed rarely but, when I did, the canister always filled up quickly.  The Carpet Muncher was at work.

During the last year, I’ve seen the same carpet shag in many homes.  No where in the Shaw Carpet sample book does it warn against using a vacuum with beater bar or a Dyson.  So Beware!  Check with your dealer concerning the guarantee.  I love my Dyson… but it looks like I’ll be trading it in…. “for a Shop Vac?”

My new selection is a short nap carpet… I’m through with the shag.  The carpet installers said the the Dyson Vacuum is probably not the best vacuum to use. It’s suction is too strong and you can’t adjust the beater bar.  (In other words.. it does too good of a job.)

My advice:  Make sure you do your homework before you buy carpet of any brand!

Till later,

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  My carpet was such a mess, I’m convinced it was defective and the Dyson vacuum didn’t help matters.  The dealer and carpet layers agree.  Apparently Shaw Carpet must have agreed also… for which I’m grateful.  Thank you!  And… I like my new carpet.

P.S.S.  That little pile of something in the picture… is some of the carpet fiber from the very last vacuuming

Smelly Odor In Your Washing Machine

If there is a smelly odor in your washing machine, it’s coming from mildew, fungus and mold. If you have a new HE front loading washer, you will eventually have a tendency to have a stale or foul order come from your machine. Older top loading machines often have the same problem. Once the washer has a build up of mold, it’s nearly impossible to have fresh smelling clothes… especially towels and rags

The gals who have front-loading HE machines love them because they can do a batch of laundry in no time at all and… they claim, their clothes are cleaner. However, some gals complain their towels eventually begin to have a moldy smell, which does not revel itself until they dry off after a shower and the towel becomes damp.

The density of the fabric is what makes the difference. The more dense and heavy the fabric, the more it holds mold spores. Personally, I’ve found my micro-fiber rags are the worst. Even though the rags are thin… they are very densely woven.

Regular clothing doesn’t seem to have the same problem… at least not in the beginning. However, if the problem is not nipped in the bud, in time, all of your clothing will have a bit of a moldy smell.

There are several reasons why this problem occurs in the new HE machines.

1. Water gets trapped between the washer drum and intricate parts of the washer. Some models are more predisposed to this problem than others. The seal around front-loading washers can be very tight and water gets trapped under the seal and can’t dry out.

2. A build up of fabric softeners and detergent under the seal and other parts of the washer become a breeding ground for mold and fungus… which leads to smelling clothing.

Prevention:

1. Remove clothes from the washer as soon as the cycle is over. Leaving wet clothes in the washer over night or for long periods of time can begin to create mold spores.

2. Reduce the amount of detergent you’re using. Several sources say you can use ½ of the HE detergent suggested on the container and still have clean clothes. Use a dry detergent rather than a liquid. Liquid detergent has properties that cause build up.

3. Avoid fabric softeners. I know, you want wonderful smelling clothes… but fabric softeners are the biggest culprit for builds up. Use dryer sheets… but wash your dyer filter often.

4. Leave the door ajar after doing a batch of wash. This will allow the interior of the washer a chance to dry out. On a top-loading washer, this is especially important.

Solutions:

1. Pull back the seal to examine whether you have a built up of detergent, softener and mold. Remove build up with a solutions of water and bleach.

2. Run a 1/2 cup of Cascade Complete through a hot water cycle…no clothes of course. (Top loading machines only)

3. There are products that you can purchase on line which are effective in helping over come this odor problem. Affresh.com claims their product is for front-loading machines. SmellyWasher.com seems to be recommended the most. These products will run you about $20.00 and will provide around 20 cleanings.

4. After you’ve cleaned your washer… add a couple of teaspoons of soda to your wash and it will keep your clothes and towels smelling fresh. Borax is also wonderful… because it whitens as well as gives your clothes a fresh aroma.

5. If your smelly washer problem persists, call the manufacturer’s hotline or service department. I wouldn’t go though the store where you purchased the washing machine. I really don’t think salesmen know how to remedy the problem anymore than you do. If you feel apprehensive about using any product, always call the manufacturer of the product first.

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S. On the Q.T. In my research, the Whirlpool, the Bosh, and the LG… in that order… had the most consumer complaints in the smelly washer area. Kenmore had the least.

P.S.S. If you have any suggestions or homemade remedies that work for smelly washing machines and towels… give us a comment. We welcome all of your ideas.