Mary, Mary, quite contrary

Tyler has a little more time to devote to gardening pursuits this year than he did last year when he was hammering and assembling and sawing and sweeping like it was his job to turn the old church into a home.

He’s the one with the green thumb in our relationship. I don’t like the feel of dirt on my hands, what can I say. But he dives right into a pile of compost like it was bread dough.

We preserved the front garden of the church, a flower plot I showed off here earlier this week, but we destroyed four raised gardens in back last year when we poured concrete for the garage. I understand those gardens were used to grow vegetables for the food pantry that operated out of the basement before we acquired the property.

Tyler moved the vegetable garden to the far corner of the property under the flag pole. He planted a few tomatoes and peppers there last year, but he’s expanded it this summer. Earlier this week, he hauled in some fresh yummy compost (well, it’s yummy to the plants!) which St. Johnny was designated to spread around; Tyler acquired the compost from the mushroom farm not too far away and, if you’re a fan of dirt, it looks “rich and thick and chocolit” (thank you, Nestle Quik, for that jingle that rattles around the brain for decades).

back garden
 I wish I could name these plants for you, but plant names are like parts of a car to me: Incomprehensible and unmemorable. But you master gardeners know what’s planted here.

A number of benefactors have contributed flowers and plants and decorative grasses to the landscaping at Church Sweet Home (thank you, benefactors!), and a few of the gifts have found a home on the street side of the vegetable garden. Behind them, Tyler has begun planting a few vegetables, and he made room for a few more being percolated in a friend’s green house.

tomatoes

He also found some colorful tomato cages at our favorite home improvement palace, Home Depot. I find it amusing that an entrepreneur would paint tomato cages; they’re nice now, but before long, they will be so obscured by the plants that it won’t matter what color they are. To each his own.

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Today’s headline is the beginning of a Mother Goose nursery rhyme that is nonsensical, even to the nongardeners among us: Mary, Mary, quite contrary/How does your garden grow?/With silver bells and cockleshells/And pretty maids all in a row.

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Merchant Wednesday: Wells Spiral Stairs

As we have reinvested in home furnishings and decorations to style our Church Sweet Home, we’ve run across a number of amazing artists and vendors. Sometimes the vendor is a big-box-type store but more often it’s an online retailer or a local vendor. On some Wednesdays here on Church Sweet Home, I will share our latest find and reveal who provided it to help other interested home designers.

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spiral and railing

Next to the 20-foot-tall fireplace that replaced the red velvet curtain behind the altar in the former church, our spiral stairway is a focal point in our great room. It lends sweeping drama to the space, and I almost can’t believe I’ve neglected to mention its manufacturer, a spiral stairs maker just around the corner that’s been making distinctive metalwork for 70 years.

plant hanger
See that cute little bird feeder in the shape of a church? A gift from my mother-in-law for Easter. And the vintage aqua-green garden art standing there? Made by my mother.

But I was reminded of Wells Spiral Stairs this week when Tyler erected in our garden a plant hanger made especially for us by the spirals folks. It now stands in the little flower plot begun I don’t know how many years ago by the gardeners of the church congregation (and I’m still reaping the rewards of their efforts in the form of beautiful perennials; see the final picture of this post). Tyler hung a couple of planters he found buried in our cargo trailer (we moved in, you remember, as fall was descending upon us so luxuries in storage such as outdoor plant hangers were passed over in favor of the stuff we would actually be needing over the winter).

Despite having “spiral stairs” in the name, Wells will make just about anything out of steel that a homeowner could desire: Gates, arches, sign holders, furniture, spice racks, even vashu towers, hanging metal decks and yes, plant hangers. They made all the metal railings in our converted church including the balcony railing, the coordinating entryway railing and the handrails on the back stairway and two-step stairway of the balcony. The proprietress even sourced the unique ball for the top of our spiral stairway and had her foreman paint it inside and out.

spiral Ball
 A look at our stairway, from the top down.

Their stock-in-trade, though, remains the spiral stairways. Each one is sturdily built in one piece and customized exactly to the space it will occupy and the design required. With all the lakes in south Wisconsin and northern Illinois, you can imagine Wells Spiral Stairs makes a lot of deck spirals for lake homes around here. The compact design of a spiral is perfect for small spaces and places where real estate comes at a premium (like lake front). All you need is the height and diameter of your space, and you can get a quote in no time. We were fortunate to live nearby, but the manufacturer serves all of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois and is willing to ship anywhere in the country.

Wells Spiral Stairs is located at 162 Walworth St., Genoa City, Wisconsin. You can find out more at www.wellspirals.com.

tulip
A tulip in the flower garden, rising the occasion.

& U … light up my life

There are two kinds of people in the world: The kind who brag about how much they spent on something and the kind who tell you about the great deal they scored.

If you haven’t figured out by now, what with our frequent trips across country to pick up Craig’s List finds and our limitless willingness to piece together weird parts for a greater whole in our converted church, we’re the second kind. “Look at this amazing deal!”

For me anyway, I think it’s my Minnesota roots via Scandinavia. It’s common to compliment a Minnesota woman on her becoming frock and hear about the size of its discount on the clearance rack.

So, let me just say, “Guess how much this cost?!”

u-and-i.jpg

[Waiting expectantly for a low guess. But not too low. I want to wow you.]

Only 5 bucks!

I know, right?

As I mined the clearance racks at the various home stores I frequent looking for interesting tchotchkes with which to style my shelves and tables, I found this lighted rustic I and U. Apparently, little baby Ulysseses and Ingaborgs are rare so mommas decorating their baby rooms passed over these gems. The only other letter on the rack was a D, and who wants a DUI? They had the perfect shabby modern look I’m going for in Church Sweet Home. They were only a dollar each (batteries not included).

To me, they weren’t lonely letters but a statement about me and my hubby: U & I.

U & I!

All I needed was the ampersand.

I love ampersands. They are so much more interesting that the word and.

So I cruised the craft store until I found a galvanized ampersand for only $2.95!

I was so pleased.

When I got home, I assembled my little statement on the shelf at the front of our sanctuary. I flipped the switch and ta, da! Instant glamour and romance.

What a deal!

u-and-i-in-context.jpg

Tribute to moms

The oldest letters in the box I inherited when we bought the church are white letters on a black background. The rest are black letters on a white background. The old letters came in handy when I updated the church sign for this weekend. Do you see it?

I chose these adjectives because they describe my mom and Tyler’s mom pretty well. Sometimes, when we’re behaving at our best and drawing on our good ancestry, they describe us, too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who are good role models to their children. Have a great day!

Let’s root for pom-poms!

The old motto, “Strike while the iron is hot” applies to the iron of creativity, too.

While I was meandering around Pier 1 the other day admiring the springtime displays, I happened upon a table runner on the clearance rack. Its little pom-poms attracted me (so did the price). I thought, “I could use that on my dresser in the master bedroom.” The purchase inspired me to take action.

table runner
Aren’t those pom-poms cute? I liked that the runner had texture but no color because the dresser itself sports a rainbow of colors.

My poor dresser. When we moved in, I stacked a bunch of beat-up boxes and jewelry cases on it and otherwise ignored it. It needed styling desperately.

dresser before
BEFORE: The arrangement on top the dresser looked unfinished. Because it was.

The treatment required a low profile to accommodate the television above. I fiddled around with a few vases and books, invested in a few more artificial blooms, and ta, da! Even Tyler said the dresser looks very pretty now.

dresser after
AFTER: I went for a asymmetrical look.

As I was paying for my purchases, the cashier remarked that a pillow matching the runner was also on clearance. I snapped it up, too, and tucked it among the pillows on my bed.

matching pillow
The pom-pommed pillow is on the left. The other decorative pillows on the bed were a gift from my sister for Christmas.

Good times

Remember this?

TNT box

We found this sturdy wooden box when we were excavating under the extremely dusty eaves on the second floor of this 127-year-old Methodist church. Demolition yielded a lot of interesting artifacts we let go of (read: sold, donated or trashed), but Tyler took a liking to this old box that once held dynamite.

Back when our little church was coming together, the village was also home to the junction for two major rail lines. I imagine dynamite was used to dislodge bedrock in some locations to keep level the train tracks under construction. The bedrock where our village is located is probably made of shale or possibly dolomite, which in any case cannot be shoveled. It must be blasted.

Tyler cleaned up the box, sanded it and applied a couple coats of polyurethane. Then I added a few issues from my vast collection of magazines, and ta, da! A magazine rack for the great room in the church we now call home.

magazine rack

It looks dy-n-o-mite, don’t you think?

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Alert readers may realize today’s headline is a not-so-veiled reference to the 1970s television sitcom “Good Times,” which starred Jimmie Walker whose character was known for the catchphrase “Dy-no-mite!” There’s a look into how my mind works, folks: History, geology, arcane TV references and home decor all come together in one place.

Merchant Wednesday: Everything under the sun personalized

As we have reinvested in home furnishings and decorations to style our Church Sweet Home, we’ve run across a number of amazing artists and vendors. Sometimes the vendor is a big-box-type store but more often it’s an online retailer or a local vendor. On some Wednesdays here on Church Sweet Home, I will share our latest find and reveal who provided it to help other interested home designers.

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It’s the gift-giving season—Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, communions, weddings—and today I’m sharing a meaningful house warming gift we received that might inspire you.

serving-paddle.jpg

We invited a couple we’ve been friends with forever to check out our sound system, and they showed up with this beautiful personalized serving paddle. The husband of the couple played guitar at our wedding, and the wife is a fan of this Church Sweet Home blog, so they knew us well enough to customize the perfect gift for our new abode. I just love how it says “Food Family Fellowship,” a spot-on description for what we’re trying to accomplish when we entertain.

paddle in entrywayThe label on the back reveals it’s from PersonalizationMall.com, and that’s where I learned it’s a serving paddle (“Family Kitchen Personalized Whitewashed Walnut Serving Paddle” if you’re doing a search). We’re using it as decor; it’s hanging in a place of honor in our entryway.

This website has only about a million items that can be personalized for just about any gift recipient (and they claim to offer a turnaround time of only 24 to 48 hours). Wall hangings, robes, pillows, garden stones, rosaries, coffee mugs, aprons—you name it, they probably have one on which they can put a name or message.

Of course, we’ve treasured the historical photos and pictures some people have shared with us, and we never turn down a bottle of wine or whiskey, but this gift will last as long as we live in this church. Thank you so much, E & P!

Click here to check out PersonalizationMall.com.