Happy Montage Monday | The Earth, The Sea and The Sky.

I hope you all had a swell weekend!

The weather was great here in central Virginia despite a little drizzle Sunday afternoon. I spent as much time as possible outdoors, either sitting on my back deck (meditating, sipping tea, eating lunch and, I'll admit, being on the computer waaaay too long) or walking my garden and Maymont's Herbs Galore.

Being in touch with the elements has left me feeling quite grounded and secure as I start off the week. This montage I entitled "The Earth, The Sea and The Sky;" it is inspired by nature's balmy, relaxing effects. The photos were taken at various times, and in various locals, over the past 9 years. Some were taken on film, hence the grainy, low res nature of a few shots.

May it be the salve to your work-week stress and find you amidst your paper piles and to-do lists happily day-dreaming.

Happy Monday!


Be Good to Mama | Mother's Day Inspiration

Up until my mid-20's everything I knew about gardening I learned from my mother (pictured above snorkeling in the Bahamas). She's no expert by any means, but she did teach me how to correctly plant store-bought impatiens, and tomatoes and that knowledge will get you pretty far.

My mother catching a snooze.

You don't just plop them in the ground. Oh, no. You carefully remove them from their containers by turning them upside down and tapping the perimeter and bottom of the pot until it is jostled loose, making sure not to "tug" on the stem. You massage the roots and then place them in a hole twice the root-ball size with a 1:1 mix of garden soil/compost and the dirt that's already there, plus a pinch of fertilizer. The roots should be fully sub-merged and level with the rest of the garden. The plants get watered immediately and the dirt gently compressed around the plant, as you would tuck in a toddler.

Mom, fishing in Grandpa Dursch's canal.
Gardening requires a gentle touch, finesse and patience. From the first time helping her in the backyard plant annual flowers along the woodland border, I was hooked.

Eventually my love for gardening, landscaping and the outdoors led me to help found an urban garden collective, sow my home-grown vegetables from seeds, and experiment with all kinds of growth habitats and plant species from shade container gardening (I love my ferns), to raised bed vegetable patches. I've never owned a home or cultivated my own land, but I've always had an outdoor garden and sitting area of some sort wherever I've plopped my bags. 

I think our love of plants and pretty-manicured gardens is genetic; my great grandfather, Frank Dursch, was a landscaper and gardener who maintained the Dupont's estate in New England. I never met him, but I did get a chance to visit his lovely estate in Pennsylvania (that our family unfortunately sold) complete with a full English rose garden, a hand-diverted canal stream with waterfalls, and canoe dock.

In honor of my humble beginnings in horticulture, I pay homage to my mother each year by treating her to a garden-themed Mother's Day. It is something special we share, and my little way of showing her how much she means to me.

A few years back I bought tickets to the 2nd Annual Mother's Day garden tour. Last year we enjoyed Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden's spring plant sale and walked the grounds. This year, albeit early, I took her to Fredericksburg for Historic Home + Garden Week. Over the course of the day, we visited 5 historic sites including Belmont, Snowden, Chatham and Kenmore Plantation.

The first part of the day was overcast and chilly, but by 2 P.M. the clouds parted to reveal a brilliant blue sky and bright sun. We had so much fun walking the grounds and peeking into the past through guided tours. Living vicariously through others is priceless, and while only one of the properties we visited still remained a private home, it was a thrill to the imagination to picture life on one of these estates; definitely worth the $30 price tag!

Whether it is a delivered flower arrangement with a special note, Sunday brunch or handmade slippers, make sure you be good to your mama this year, and show her just how much you appreciate her. After all, we wouldn't be here without 'em.

Mother's Day is May 12th; do you have your gift procured, your plans figured out?

If you have the time and want to bypass the pre-arranged florals this year, plan something fun and unique! How about packing a stellar picnic and heading to Maymont (*Their annual Abbey Mother's Day Tea is already full) or lunch and a container gardening class at Lavender Field Farms? Splurge on champagne brunch at The Jefferson, or if you're short on dough, head to Agecroft Hall on May 12th for free admission and evening concert by the Richmond Concert Band.


Playlist | Songs for Driving Down an Old Country Lane

Spring is the perfect season for packing a picnic and heading into the great unknown.

Even better if you can take a quick jaunt to the countryside and relish in expansive views amid frolicking wildlife.

When you're a good distance from city-life and civilization, pick a road to turn down. Any road that screams at you in perfect quaint beauty will do, one with a rundown gas station on the corner perhaps, or a narrow winding dirt one lined with wild buttercups and thistle. Just take a chance and prepare for surprises at every turn.

This past Sunday, Ron and I did just that up in Nellysford, Virgina. The fist part of our country day-trip was prescribed by Virgina Garden Club's Historic Garden Week. After 4 hours of hiking the magnificent grounds of two woodland wonder-homes (Solliden + Knollwood), we picnic-ed on homemade sandwiches and Pickled Silly's Carrots (Check out their site; I did the cover photo styling and photography!) under a nearby Dogwood, then stopped off at Devils Backbone Brewery for celebratory libations and queso-smothered nachos (I just can't resist cheese!).

Ron obliged me on the journey back home–and we delighted our more adventurous sides–by turning  down an unmarked country lane. I spotted a deer, a woodchuck, a red squirrel, plenty of horses, pigs and cattle and a kity-kat that raced us a ways. The sun was beginning its descent and the mountains shone with a golden hue. I just wish I had this mix playing during the drive, then it would have been truly magical!

The Sunday drive inspired the completion of this playlist, and I share it with you lovingly, hoping at least you can enjoy the idyllic serenity of some country lane near you with it softly serenading the way. Some songs will fit the ambience of vast stretches of blue sky and green grass, others are meant for fast and furious curves through the holler.

Note: there will be banjoes, and whistling; it wouldn't be a true country mix without 'em.

Be Happy; Drive On!


Introducing...Montage Mondays

Monday, monday, can't trust that day
Monday, monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh monday mornin you gave me no warnin of what was to be
Oh monday, monday, how could you leave and not take me

Every other day (every other day), every other day
Every other day of the week is fine, yeah
But whenever monday comes, but whenever monday comes
A-you can find me cryin all of the time

~ Monday, Monday Lyrics, Mama & the Papas

From what i've gathered in my 30+ years of existence, no one really likes Mondays. Not if you have any semblance of a status quo life when there are only 2 days out of the week to look forward to. I'm talking about the weekend, and Monday signifies the veritable end of this weekly respite. The alarm clock rings and reality sets in: 5 more days till you can enjoy yourself again, drink wine past 8 p.m. or eat pancakes.

While I am not currently living any status quo work life (my hours are flexible and off-kilter, just the way I like it!), in hopes of bringing more sunshine to this dreary day (metaphorically) for the rest of you, I am instituting Montage Mondays here on oHo when I share a photo montage of simple shots to remind you of the little lovely things that make life grand.

I'll further help to brighten your day by posting the montage over on Facebook, so they will automatically show up in your news feed Monday mornings. If you haven't already, head over to my Facebook page now and like it.



BLOG UPDATE: oHo's on Facebook!

Thanks to a friend's recommendation, I created an On High Occasions Facebook page, where I'll be linking my blog posts and sharing treasured bits that don't quite fit into a full-length blog post. There is also a nifty Pinterest link where you can peruse my inspirational home, garden and spirit pins without leaving Facebook; there you'll find my hopes + dreams in bite-size images that I've been collecting since Pinterest was born. Try not to swoon.

You'll still have to click over to the blog to read full posts, but you definitely want to like my Facebook page and add it to your news feed or interest lists, because I'll be working on inspiring you daily, and if I can get it together, there might be some giveaways for Facebook fans!

Thanks for liking oHo in advance.


DIY Burlap Tomato Planter

It's tomato-planting time here in central Virginia! I promise you, there is absolutely nothing better than biting into a ripe-from-the-vine tomato still warm from the sun that you grew yourself. And once you are heavily-laden with summer's bounty, there are all those homemade recipes to try, like Restaurant Style Salsa, Strawberry Tomato Bruschetta, Heirloom Caprese with Balsamic Syrup, and Spicy Marinara... And what about those Doris Day dreams of canning your own Ketchup? It is time to get started!

Luckily, if you've enough sun (6-8 hours+) anywhere in your yard, you can grow tomatoes yourself. Short on space? Does the idea of tilling the yard make your back ache just thinking about it? Well, I've got your solution: grow your tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets!

When I was a child, my mother grew her tomatoes in large terracotta pots lining the deck, interspersed between pots of marigolds and geraniums. She was most fond of Beefsteak tomatoes–because one thick slice perfectly covered her homemade burgers–but I don't think they produced well in the pots, so she eventually gave up.

Nowadays, however, there are a gazillion heirloom and hybrid varietals that are perfectly suited for container gardening, like Jet Star, Patio Hybrid and Bush Beefsteak, just to name a few. For your best harvest potential, look for determinate or "bush" varieties; they grow to a  certain size/height so are much easier to "contain." Here is a helpful heirloom list I came across.

Our yard is mostly shade, but our upstairs neighbor has generously donated portions of his deck for the cause (for a percentage of the harvest, of course). Because it wouldn't be like me to have unsightly 5 gallon pickle buckets ruining his second-story view, I'm dressing up the make-shift pots in up-cycled coffee bags and jute rope. I think they are rather beautiful, in a rustic, shabby sort-of-way.

I got the idea from an image I pinned on Pinterest, and followed the chain back to the source(?), a Scandinavian design inspiration blog called "Purple Area." (Thank heaven for Pinterest!) I was inspired to give this look a try considering I had all the materials already on hand.

Ron used his connections in the local food industry to score some old pickle buckets, but you could also purchase them new at your local hardware store for about $4 each (Make sure you get a light-colored, food-grade plastic; black buckets will cook the roots); still way cheaper than terracotta, and lighter and easier to move. I also had tons of burlap coffee bean bags left over from my Ernst & Thistle days and the rope from experiments in coiled rope basket-weaving. You could purchase coffee bags online or ask a local roaster if they could part with a few. Some roasters throw the bags out because they don't want to deal with the re-sell, but many eco-conscious ones already have a network of local crafters they sell to or even give out free. Check around in your area.
What you'll need
  • Food-grade 5-gallon buckets
  • Used coffee bean bag, one for each bucket
  • Jute rope
  • Scissors 
  • Drill
  • 3/8" drill bit 
  • 18 quarts organic potting soil per bucket (NOT garden soil)
  • Tomato plants
  • Broken pot bits or newspaper to line bucket
I cleaned each bucket (mmm...pickle juice), drilled several holes in the bottom for water drainage and then plopped each bucket inside a coffee bag. (Don't worry, the back is supposed to be way wider and taller than the bucket; this is a no-fuss, no sew solution.) I then folded the coffee back down until about 6 inches was left hanging over the top of the bucket rim. At this point, I turned the bucket over on it's side and synched it to bottom and one side of the bag, folding the excess burlap over and around the perimeter of the bucket. Turn it right side up, keeping the excess burlap tight against the side of the bucket and carefully fold down the remaining 6 inches, which will hold the excess fabric in place. (The third photo above shows the back of the bucket, once these steps are completed.)

Last thing to do is tie a nice chunk of jute rope around the top of the bucket and line the bottom with newspaper or use broken pot pieces to lightly cover each drainage hole. Fill with organic potting soil and plant your tomato. Position your buckets in a full sun area and water regularly, fertilizing every 1-2 weeks. In no time you'll have a bevy of lush fruit to slice, dice, chop and chomp.

[ I'll share pictures of my planted tomatoes in position once my foot heals and I can finally carry them up the deck stairs! ]


Transforming Straw Into Gold, Part 2.

I was still concerned about our plans to sight-see the following day. The stark reality of me NOT being able to walk Georgetown amid blossoming cherry trees as I had been envisioning was quickly setting in. No random stopping into cute shops or grabbing a quick bite in a street-side cafe. And taking in a museum or two on the Mall was out of the question.

We were in-fact late to the party anyways, as the Yoshino cherry trees along the tidal basin were already past prime; the bright pink blossoms that have folks from all over flocking to Washington had given way to green leaves, and the petals still clinging to branches were dry and shriveled without any luster of their former glory.


Highlighting the Positives, Part 1.

On Sunday, Ron and I drove up to DC to accomplish a three-fold mission: Visit with the Stradone side of his family, catch the tail-end of the cherry blossoms, and enjoy some sort of a well-deserved romantic getaway.

Missions #2 and #3 were almost thwarted by a nasty piece of glass that lodged itself, quite deeply, in my left foot this very night. Had I not been one of those "make the best out of everything" kinda girls, the whole trip could have been ruined. We'll start at the beginning, and I'll share my mastery of highlighting the positives (Part 1) and how to turn any "bad" thing into a good thing (Part 2).


Songs for Spring, a Playlist.

In honor of my favorite season, I've compiled a medley of melodious ditties here for your enjoyment. I just couldn't help myself.

So grab your shovel and don your sandals and sunglasses and head outdoors to enjoy the beauty and bounty of Mother Nature. Listen while sitting in the sunshine or enjoy a cook-out with friends while it softly plays in the background. Melodies that birdsong blends well with. Songs to soothe and invigorate. Sounds to watch seed puffs float by to.

Stream it here or head to my Grooveshark page.

Okay, enough already...just take a listen:

April Flowers

Spring is in high form this year!

Despite a few unseasonably warm days, it looks like we are going to have a real, official and full season of Spring. Everything is late blooming but seems to be putting on more of a show than in years previous.

I like to take strolls through my neighborhood to admire gardens alive with color. On my block there are a profusion of plants putting forth their best effort to lure potential pollinators. Saucer magnolias' fuschia blooms, yellow forsythia sprays, creeping carpets of phlox, aromatic cherry blossoms and the varied green hues of brand new buds bursting towards the sun all pop against the tawny earth and dilapidated fences in afternoon sun.  It's no wonder Spring is my favorite season.

Below are my favorite shots from this past week. Enjoy! 


DIY Bamboo Curtain Rods

Since we are running headlong into seasons of warmer weather, I am going to be turning my attention from the inside of my home to the outside where I can play in the sun, breeze and dirt!

We've got our work cut out for us with projects ranging from a new terraced veggie patch out front to installing a slate walkway to designing an outdoor potting area, not to mention the fact that we will be "farming" over in a friend's full-sun yard this summer because of my 'mostly shade' one.

While the mornings are still a chilly 40˚ and the soil in the new garden bed is resting after last weeks tilling and while the sweet potato slips are sunning in the window yet to be submerged in earth, I have a few indoor tasks left to tackle.

Indoor Task Area #1: The Living Room

     1. Revamp window dressings
     2. Lay new area rug + restyle room
     3. Make/Purchase new art
     4. Hang new art
     5. Create wood shelf for radiator

Let's just take a stab at #1 shall we? That, below, is what my current window dressings look like: ivory scrim fabric draped over a found birch branch, hung via mono-filament.

Creative, sure. Inexpensive, you bet (Total cost $0). But this is just not cutting it for me anymore. I actually like the curtain material and the price. I even like the rustic feel of the rod, but I have to get onto a step stool to open or close the curtains. I never hemmed them, so I'm afraid to wash them in fear of shredding them to bits. Naturally they are covered in years of dust! YUCK.

I am not ashamed at my ill attempt at decorating on a shoestring. I've actually received compliments on the use of found materials in my decor style. In honesty, this was just a quick and super cheap alternative when I moved in five years ago, when I was self-employed and just getting by. But, I'll admit, it is time for my window dressings to grow up! I just don't want to pay an arm and a leg and another arm for good style...And you don't have to!

A few weeks back I purchased some curtain tie-backs and clips from Tuesday Morning which were priced 66% below retail. This week I found a thick piece of previously foraged and cut bamboo lying around (It seems to grow everywhere around here) and stained it a mix of Bombay Mahogany and black acrylic paint to match (Thanks Lynn!). I hung the tiebacks as the rod supports on one of the windows just to try it out and voila!

I think that is a vast improvement, don't you? Total cost? A real bargain at only $25 per window and it rivals any pottery barn look. See detailed breakdown at the end of this post.

(Now for all you interior decorators out there, let me just give a slight disclaimer. I am a renter; I am not allowed to paint or put screws of any kind into the plaster walls. I know how to hang curtains the right way; I'm just limited by 1. my lease and protective landlord, and 2. the height of my step ladder.)

The rest of the bamboo is curing and won't be ready for several months (bummer). In the meantime I did, however, wash the curtains and lay out the new rug. This handmade jute beauty I bought from RugsUSA.com for a mere $99 fits much better in the space than my smaller estate-sale oriental. And to my surprise, the curtains did not shred in the laundry machine, or knot together, but came out much softer with a tighter weave! I'll hem them eventually...

Tasks #1 (part 1 of 3) and #2 complete!

Total cost breakdown per window (x 3 windows):
bamboo - free
stain, borrowed from neighbor - free
paint, on hand - free
curtains - free
tiebacks - $9.99 for 2 ($30)
clip rings - $14.99 for 14 ($45)
Total project cost - $75


DIY Strawberry Hanging Basket


No matter how it rolls off your tongue, strawberries taste like summer. And right now, the beginning of Spring after any fear of frost, is the time to prepare your patch.

This year I am going to grow BIG, LUSCIOUS, SWEET, DELICIOUS strawberries for the first time. I am going to successfully thwart the sneaky squirrels living in the mimosa tree and the industrious birds on the block by growing said berries in a hanging basket. Mark my words: thwarting will be successful! (Even though my neighbors strawberry hanging basket was decimated last year by the very same thieves). I have confidence folks. And confidence, as women everywhere secretly know, will get you everywhere.

After plenty of web research (What is the difference between a June-bearer and an ever-bearer strawberry?) and procuring the necessary materials (15" hanging basket with coconut fiber liner, 15-20 young strawberry plants, organic potting soil, pruners, plastic bags) I got to work on my aerial strawberry patch. I bought three varieties of strawberries from a local nursery: Ozark, Sequoia, and Eversweet. I have both June bearers and ever-bearers so I should have, if all goes according to plan, a crop of red, ripe strawberries from June through August.

I'll take you through my process step by step:
1. Using your pruners or scissors, make 10-15 small 1/2" or so holes in the basket liner, alternating high and low spots as you move around the basket. We are reserving 5 plants for the top of the basket.

2. Add soil to the bottom of the basket, up to the first hole.

3. Cut a small hole in the bottom of a plastic shopping bag.
4. Add the plant, root-side first, into the bag and thread the roots halfway through the hole. (The green part of the plant should be IN the bag.) Twist the bag carefully while holding the bag to the rootball, until the end of the bag is nice and tight.
5. Thread the bag through your pot holes from the inside of the basket out. Tug gently on the bag to get all of the stem and leaves to the exterior then carefully remove the bag. If the hole in the bottom of the bag gets too big, just use another bag.
6. Repeat with the remaining holes.
7. Add soil around the root balls, gently pushing soil around and up under the roots.
8. Add the remaining 5 plants equal-distant apart to the top and fill with more soil. Give them a good dousing with water and hang in full sun!
 9. Water regularly, especially through the hot summer months as potted plants dry out faster than those in the ground. Every once in a while turn the plant on the hook to maintain even sunshine distribution and cut off any runners for a more productive plant!
10. Thank the plants in advance for their strength, vigor and abundance and be positive. In a few months (or even weeks depending on your climate) you'll have your first harvest.

Now i just need to ask my upstairs neighbor if I can hang this on his deck. He has plenty of sun up there, while I am sequestered in almost full shade. Crossing my fingers that he'll acquiesce with a bribe of a few choice berries from my haul.

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