Rolling Out the (Soda Pop) Carpet

As the weather warms up and the days grow longer, I look forward to setting up the outdoor furniture. We bought a cute little set from an import store a few years ago when we added a front deck. The furniture is comfy, cozy and easy to keep clean. Setting it up feels like playing house. I’m not sure I ever really grew up. 😉

At the time we bought the set, we also picked up a grass-styled mat to unify the pieces. After three summers of outdoor-living, the mat is looking tired. We could certainly make do for one more year, but while shopping for summer dresses I found this:

striped garden mat

Outdoor Rug by Gaiam

The mats are hand-woven from strands made with recycled plastic. They’re reversible, too! The materials mean they are rot and mildew-resistant. Simply clean them with a hose.

The all-weather ‘rugs’  come in five different styles and two sizes. I hemmed and hawed over two of them, but finally settled on Tropical Stripe. Woodland Forest was the first-runner up.

Unexpectedly, the mat arrived with a burlap storage bag. I have a thing about bags, so it tickled my knees when it slid out of the box. It really is the little things that make our day, don’t you think?

I can’t wait to roll out the soda-pop mat, then gather our furniture around it. All summer long friends and neighbors stop by. I linger on the deck to open the mail or to read my book. We sit out there in the evening with a glass of wine or tea.

Counting the days…

What symbolizes the changing season for you?

Shade Sail: A Patio Favorite

I discovered shade sails in a catalog over a decade ago. It was love at first sight. Shade sails are a durable, practical and stylish way to shade your patio or deck.

Umbrella Heave-ho

Our first patio table came with the typical center hole for an umbrella. We dutifully purchased a canvas umbrella attached to a pole and called it shade.  Ho-hum.

This system of shade is inefficient as well. The umbrella canvas is unstable, generally fading, fraying or deteriorating within a few years. If you want to move your table, you have to drag the heavy base along with it, then re-orient the umbrella. You can’t use a traditional tablecloth because you have a big pole in the middle and for those of us that like to entertain, a pole in the middle of your table does not a centerpiece make!

Shade Sails Soar

I’m a Canadian living in California with a British Aisles complexion. In other words, I take my shade seriously. The shade sails rock!

Shade Sail Back Yard

Shade Sail Triangle

Shade Sail Closeup

Shade Sail Close-up

We purchased a 16 foot triangular sail in dark green for our garden patio. It’s the perfect size for the space. My sailor husband rigged turnbuckles and sailing rope to two corners of the house, creating anchors for the sail. He improvised the third anchor using a steel pole attached to the back fence.  We hoist the sails when the weather turns warm, and leave them up through October.

Shade sails are made from reinforced knitted polyethylene fabric.  They don’t rot, mildew, shrink, fade, fray or tear and they are resistant to UV-degradation.  We’ve had ours for seven years now and it still looks new.

From a design perspective, they are a lot of fun.  We attached patio lights along the edges and hung the sail high enough that it creates the feeling of an outdoor room.  All this for $150 bucks!

Shade Sail Over Deck

Shade Sail Rectangle

Shade Sail Rectangle

Shade Sail Rectangle Close-up

When we installed a deck in our front yard a few summers ago, we added a rectangular sail shade in light green.   We leave it up through Halloween so we can put our “scary” inflatable spider on top, then take it down for the winter.

In addition to shading the patio and deck, the shade sails keep our house cooler.  Is it any wonder it was love at first sight?

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

  • Check out some of the creative installations at Google Images.
  • Available here in a variety of colors and sizes ranging from 9 to 18 feet (2.7 to 5.5 meters).
  • Shade Sail Outlet offers bargain prices, but a more limited selection of size and color.

Front Garden Remodel Turns Two

Two years ago this month, we “remodeled” our front yard.  For years we talked about adding a front deck or patio.  We live on a neighbor-friendly block with kids galore so we were often out front socializing.  We chatted with friends standing in the driveway or sitting on chairs in the garage.  We eventually added a bench and then a swing, but what we longed for was a full-sized patio or deck.

Around the same time, it was becoming more and more difficult for my sister to access our home.  Our entry way consisted of two concrete steps, original to the 50-year-old house, and her MS made it difficult for her to come and go.

We hired the talented team of Bergez and Associates and Natural Bridges Landscaping, to create our suburban paradise.  We’ve found so much joy with our outdoor room!  My sister can come and go unassisted, a boon to her independence.  We also realized that the ramp will allow us to age in place since the house is now easily accessible.

It’s amazing to look back at the newly installed garden.  The plants established beautifully.

Here’s a look:

Garden and Deck, June 2012

Garden and Deck, June 2010

Near the Magnolia: 2010/2012

Kitty Corner, With Special Thanks to Candace

Friday Already?

Progress?  It’s my middle name.  But…still much to do.


The swing needed a good cleaning so I scrubbed it twice to remove the winter muck.  It looks and smells better, but now it’s wet and drying in the sun.

Swing Cover:

In between scrubbing, I took measurements and cut the fabric for the swing cover.  Instead of re-upholstering the entire swing, I’m making a slip cover that will fit snugly but remove easily for cleaning and off-season storage.  Imagine my delight when I found wide elastic in the two colors I need, green for the front and tan for the back.  The plan is to secure the cover by crossing straps over the back and around the middle, like a belt.  I’m going to experiment with a few scraps of elastic to give it a more upholstered look by stitching it to the back side of the seat cover to emulate tucks.

Fabric and Trim

Garden Bench/Buffet:

My former garden bench now serves as a buffet or side bar, sitting next to our outdoor table. I’ve considered sanding and repainting it, but I’ve grown fond of the bench’s slightly battered charm. The earthquake kit resides inside the bench, but the top is the perfect surface to set up drinks. I found three inexpensive place-mats at Target, that when placed side by side, make a perfect surface cover. They can be wiped clean and stored off-season as well.

Side Board with New Place Mats

Close Up: I like the matching chevron

Fairy Garden Redux:

Back in April when we planted the back garden, my son wanted to add a small fountain nestled in the rocks near the fairy garden. He was gracious about it, suggesting we relocate the fairy garden to the other side of the yard. The big rocks were the ideal location for a fountain, he reasoned, and I agreed. Since the wee garden was more about creative expression than any thing else, I let him go ahead and experiment with his own creativity.   He used the small water pump from one of his building kits, an old Tupperware bowl and a trash bag, creating a trickling waterfall and a fountain.  Just as quickly, he lost interest.

Earlier this week I removed the sheet of black plastic used for the fountain, unearthing an ant colony. Hundreds of ants scattered everywhere. I waited for the nest activity to settle down  Then I pulled a small clay pot and a plant saucer from the side yard, added a few Impatiens and created a portable fairy garden in its place. I reused the hydroponic clay and the “stepping-stones” from the earlier fairy garden to create a mini patio.The table stand is a peat pod draped with a fern table-cloth, accessorized with a pair of magnets. The chairs are part of a stacking game.

Portable Fairy Garden

Fairy Garden Close-up


Mike brought home a bouquet of mixed flowers yesterday, and to my delight and surprise, there are exactly two, long-stemmed yellow blooms! They’ll look great in the cobalt blue beer bottles I set aside, along with the pink flowers tucked into one of my soy candle jars.

My sewing machine awaits!