Category: Books

Faux Mercury Glass Challenge

I love DIY projects especially when you can upcycle something that’s an ordinary household object like a jelly jar. Just recently my friend and modern pioneer, Georgia Pellegrini, challenged me to add my own twist to a DIY project from her latest book Modern Pioneering.

When I saw her painted mason jars I thought, “What can I do to give these a little Moss Mountain Farm style?” And I came up with just the pioneer ordered, a stylish mercury glass look. You see in the mid-1800s in America mercury glass was used as an affordable alternative to silver. My version of Georgia’s project is an inexpensive and easy way to recreate this 19th century life hack.

Materials for Making Faux Mercury Glass
Clean mason jars
White Vinegar
Spray bottle
Paper towels
Looking Glass® spray paint

Directions for Making Faux Mercury Glass:
To begin fill the spray bottle with 1 part water and 1 water vinegar and shake.

Set the nozzle of the spray bottle to a fine mist setting.

Gently spray a fine mist of the water vinegar mixture on the outside of the mason jar. The objective is to create small droplets of water that bead up and do not run.

Immediately follow up with an even coat of the Looking Glass® spray. Allow the paint to dry for just a minute and then apply a second round of the water vinegar solution. Wait about two minutes then gently blot the beads of water vinegar solution with a paper towel. Don’t rub the surface very hard or the paint will streak. A gentle pressure is good enough to achieve a realistic mercury glass look. Repeat the process three to four times rotating the jar from resting on its base to the top so you can get full coverage.

The paint needs about three hours to dry completely before you use the jars.

So now that I’ve completed my challenge I’m kicking the ball back over to Georgia and asking her to recreate a project from one of my books. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see what she does and post pictures of your own DIY projects for a chance to win Georgia’s book Modern Pioneering and my cookbook, Seasonal Recipes from the Garden. When you post your picture tag @pallensmith and @georgiapellegrini and use the hashtag #modernpioneering.

Add These Books to Your Child’s Reading List

I’m always on the lookout for books geared toward kids that encourage them to check out what’s going on outdoors. Books after all are great at sparking the imagination and once a child begins to picture the possibilities she is more likely to head outside to investigate. And to me a kid excited about out in nature is a good thing.

I was thrilled to meet Arkansas author Dawn Denton while I was speaking to the Bentonville Garden Club. Dawn is a garden designer and former teacher who combines her dedication to preserving and appreciating the outdoors with her expertise with children to create the wonderful Guest in the Garden book series. The Last Leaf, Ruby and Rocket, Oliver the Toad and Betzy the Bumblebee relay life lessons, garden and animal facts in light-hearted, entertaining tales, perfect for the young children you’re shopping for.

The Last Leaf
Click here to buy The Last Leaf from the author.

The Last Leaf

From the authorThis picture book is geared for young children ages 2-6. With rhyming words, your child will explore all the emotions that you might feel as the last leaf on a tree in the fall. (From the author.)

Ruby and the Rocket
Click here to buy Ruby and the Rocket from the author.

Ruby and the Rocket

A beautifully illustrated children’s book about a brother and sister hummingbird who discover a backyard garden. Come along with Ruby and Rocket to learn fun hummingbird facts, flower facts, and a life lesson of learning to be friends when you are siblings. (From the author.)

Oliver the Toad
Click here to buy Oliver the Toad from the author.

Oliver the Toad

This delightful story will take your child on a journey through a vegetable garden where they will learn toad facts, vegetable facts, and the life lesson of responsibility. (From the author.)

Betzy the Bumblebee
Buy Betzy the Bumblebee from the author.

Betzy the Bumblebee

Beautifully illustrated children’s book that introduces your child to bumblebee facts, wildflower facts, and the life lesson of learning to love being you. (From the author.)

Coffee Table Books Make Great Gifts

I’ve always loved the gift giving tradition of the holidays. We have a large family so we tend to stick to simple and thoughtful pieces, and one of my favorite gifts to give is coffee table books. They are elegant and cost-effective and with so many quality ones to choose from, you can really personalize this gift to the recipient. I’ve recently discovered two books written by dear friends that I can’t wait to wrap up and place beneath the tree, Empress of the Garden by G. Michael Shoup and Natural Companions, The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Combinations by Ken Druse.

Empress of the Garden

Text and Photographs by G. Michael Shoup

200 pages with color photographs

ISBN: 0-9678213-2-0

$39, available for purchase online or at the Antique Rose Emporium

Empress of the Garden tells the story of antique roses and is bold in every sense of the word. Behind its square cover lies an immense library of stunning photos and descriptions of the ancient roses that Shoup has spent the last 25 years breeding and researching. He identifies these roses under a variety of types of women like Drama Queens, Captive Spirits, Tenacious Tomboys and Big Hearted Homebodies and his brief but detailed description of each breed includes adjectives about each of their personalities. With his intimate knowledge of the history and lineage of these old garden roses, Shoup seems to have a personal relationship with each of them. Whether you’re looking for the perfect rose for your garden or simply looking to be inspired, this is a coffee table book deserving of the many fine adjectives that its author assigns to his roses.

Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Companions

By Ken Druse, Botanical Photographs by Ellen Hoverkamp

250 pages with color photographs

ISBN: 978-1-58479-901-6

$40, available for online purchase Amazon or Abram’s Books

Natural Companions is equally stunning, and where Empress focuses solely on roses, Natural Companions explores the entire plant kingdom. Garden writer Druse shares his immense horticulture knowledge to show recipes for the perfect plant pairing for every yard and experience level. His simple, streamlined style presents different ways to plan your garden to have diverse species that complement one another and bloom at the same time. From color to fragrance to type of plant, there is a how-to for every gardener. And even the blackest thumb can be inspired by the full-page images of gardens across America. This coffee table book is sure to capture the eye of gardeners and designers alike.

Who’s Got the Best Strawberries?

The Fruit Gardener's Bible

Congratulations to Fran Danner! You’re the winner of The Best Strawberry Giveaway. Your cautionary tale of eating strawberries that you should be saving for shortcake made me laugh. I’m sending you a copy of The Fruit Gardener’s Bible.

Thank you for all your comments. It was a joy to read each of them. There’s something comforting in the fact that so many of you can remember the taste of an exceptional strawberry from 20, 30 and even 60 years ago!

It’s so close to strawberry season I can almost taste the strawberry shortcake. I’m a little biased but I think the best strawberries are grown right here in Arkansas. Care to challenge me on that? Tell me about the best strawberries you’ve ever eaten for a change to win a copy of The Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry. If you’re interested in growing fruits of any type this is a handy reference to have around.

Strawberry Tip from The Fruit Gardener’s Bible

  • Everbearing and day neutral strawberries are the best choice for growing in hanging baskets.
  • Plant strawberries with the crown sitting at soil level. Too deep encourages disease; too high and they’ll dry out.
  • Alpine strawberries, Fragaria vesca, produce small, intensely flavorful berries all summer. They spread by seed and don’t produce runners. Great for partial shade.