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May -There’s a First time for Everything

It's true, isn't it? Whether it is your first time strolling in a new neighborhood, flying across the pond or delighting in the taste of something never tried before; there is quite definitely something special about the first time. Be it novelty or dream embarked upon take a moment if you will reflect on those "FIRST" moments that came for you.

Creativity

I remember the first time we had a blooming orchid in our house; at the time it seemed quite exotic and because I had heard that the flower could be quite difficult to grow, I was very impressed that Michael had the magic touch with them. I still marvel at them as their petals unfold to reveal their pretty patterns and bursts of unexpected color.

I quite vividly remember my first house and the first wild strawberry growing freely in the grass. There was something about that moment that set me on an ever-unwinding garden path that I continue to live until this day. Sowing the first seeds of a food I've never grown before and seeing how it develops is pure joy for me. Last year the plant was okra which I actually had grown once up north but this was the first time to the south. I was truly amazed at the difference of growing the same variety of seed in one location versus the other. The vegetable just kept producing and the more I picked it seemed the more okra it made. This year I have already had my first decent crop of rapini which is an Italian brassica (in the broccoli family). Michael sautés it with some olive oil and garlic and I will often add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to mine.

Back To Nature

The tote bag shown in the picture below is one that I created for last year's farm markets in hopes of spreading the word about the importance of bees as they reflect the health of the environment back to us as well as the vital role they play in growing the most nutritious foods we can eat: fruits and vegetables.


A few discoveries that I think are worth a share when it comes to the topic of nature. Documentary - The Pollinators was as eye opening as it is educational about the intertwines of bees, food crops and the health of the environment and what we can do about it.

Although we had considered and discussed a screened in porch off the patio for now, I remain dedicated to spending time out of doors whenever possible. Adding these screens to the backyard fence allow us to retreat into privacy in the back patio and garden area which for us is always a work in progress. Eventually our plantings will create the privacy from the road behind our home but for now this provides us with the beauty of a blue sky and our neighbors beautiful trees. The trellises are made from bent rebar and will provide a climbing structure for the Eden roses planted in the tallest urns. * Urns and tropical plants available thru Kroger.

Bird of Paradise- Yes, it's another first for us to have one of these in our home.

Check out this top view as the outstretched leaves unfold.

If you aren't familiar with the 4Ocean story I suggest that you dig right in. Intrigued by the story of two surfers who embarked on a long--held dream of surfing in Thailand only to be greeted with pollution led to a decision to do something about the trash in the ocean crisis. What I find so magical about their story is the fact that they recruited retired navy captains to sail the boats needed to embark on the challenge of cleaning up the ocean. You can see the tremendous impact they are making and unfortunately the magnitude of the problem on their feed, but it is truly inspiring to see the difference and progress their crew is making. Hats off to this magnificent team of dreamers and doers and those like them who are taking part in tackling this environmental issue with all hands-on deck. Literally and figuratively.


Planting the Seeds of Creativity in Children

Having the opportunity to work with many creative professionals over the course of my career also gave me insight into their unique process. One of the most memorable was a creative friend who did speaking engagements and was often asked, “How did your parents encourage your creativity?” As Mother’s Day is upon us, I thought it would be fun to share an article written on this same topic. As helpful as it is for a parent encouraging creativity in a child we can use many of the principles to refresh creative thinking and process in ourselves.


Another first is discovering and learning about many tropical plants such as yucca canes and others that have an opportunity to live indoors with us.

Although we had considered and discussed a screened in porch off the patio for now, I remain dedicated to spending time out of doors whenever possible. Adding these screens to the backyard fence allow us to retreat into privacy in the back patio and garden area which for us is always a work in progress. Eventually our plantings will create the privacy from the road behind our home but for now this provides us with the beauty of a blue sky and our neighbors beautiful trees. The trellises are made from bent rebar and will provide a climbing structure for the Eden roses planted in the tallest urns. * Urns and tropical plants Click on available thru Kroger.com from the Noble House brand. Smaller pots were passed on from family or collected many years ago and have been traveling from house to house with us. Privacy screen curtains (from Target and Kroger) were made from shower curtains in a selection of black and gray tones to coordinate with the gray brick on the house.

The tote bag shown in the picture below is one that I created for last year's farm markets in hopes of spreading the word about the importance of bees as they reflect the health of the environment back to us as well as the vital role, they play in growing the most nutritious foods we can eat: fruits and vegetables.


Loo

king for something special for Grandma this Mother's Day? How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Ragan is a darling gift from a wee one to grandmother.


What is this Outrageously Practical Style Dress all about? When a neighbor contacted me recently to see if it was possible to transform a consignment dress into a red-carpet style gown by changing a hem line, repairing a bit of torn lace work and a missing bead by using one from the top of the back neckline. I was happy to oblige so her daughter could wear the dress she had to opt out of wearing last year for an event. A lovely young woman and story about reusing a special occasion dress.

May is all about Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day and the birthdays of friends and family members. This display of produce was gathered for a recent Mexican fiesta and the fresh fruit usually makes its way into a glass of sangria.


Are you Cinco de Mayo Fiesta ready? New Guinea Impatiens and Begonias will add a burst of color to a front porch, patio, balcony and doorway. Hens and chicks have been planted in the rocks in front of our house which we will delight in seeing these succulents spread into new areas of the front garden.

Mothers Day Mix - One of the sweetest Mother's Day Gifts I've ever heard of was a son who installed a garden for his Mom in the backyard while she was traveling for business. Make it an easy maintenance task for her by using some pots which will help keep down the weeding while giving her beautiful blooms. Or if your Mom loves to do her own gardening surprise her with this super sweet selection of flower seeds such as this collection from Renee's Garden.

Give Mom the gift of a garden whether you plant it or just help her with her plans.

While the wedding season is upon us- supply the bride and groom with the Bride & Groom First & Forever Cookbook. Beautifully created by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening-Whitford.

Looking for something special for Grandma this Mother's Day?

How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Ragan is a darling gift from a wee one to grandmother. Outdoor Brunch in Benton

Can't wait to take in the Outdoor Patio of a new great local restaurant find called Blue Heaven. They had us at the outdoor fireplace, not to mention the gorgeous coy and goldfish pond, plantings and pavilion.

Blue Heaven - For locals in Benton, Arkansas: off Highway 30 on the frontage road. 15228 I-30, Benton, AR 72019 Antipasto is the new charcuterie



It’s also one of my favorite ways to eat on the go or when taking a break from cooking a big meal and another night of washing dishes needs to be on the schedule. Recently I learned that a restaurant in our local area will do me one better by “opening the jars“ for me and serving me up my favorite “no time to deal” go to meal. Awaiting the arrival of a new taste of Tuscany in our local area called Rober (pronounced like sober with an R rather than Robear). Charcuterie boards and cocktails. To read more about Heather and Craig, restauranteurs give a click on the photo below and be sure to check out their next-door neighborhood restaurants: Vahalla for amazing pizza among other dishes & Baja Grill for gourmet Mexican. Check out their schedule of events at Vahalla for live music on Thursdays.



Who knows you just might become an artist yet! This year I am doing what I can to put paint brush to paper and create my own cards for the holidays and celebrations that come our way. If the hobby relaxes you; I say go with it. In today's world we can all use a little more calm.

HOMEGROWN STYLE Whether you find your favorite blooms at the grocery store or in your neighbor's garden- indulge yourself in a floristry class - I'm looking forward to Willow Crossley on Create Academy followed by House and Garden UK and our friends at Renee's Garden Seeds. Check her out @WillowCrossleyCreates.



For us the one that got away in Tuscany was Borgo di Sotto learning about it on Instagram more recently we look forward to the first time experience. Looking for another perspective on places to visit in Italy?

You never forget the first time you ride a Vespa!

Or see the house of your dreams.

You definitely never forget the first rustic country cottage you rent on a farm in Tuscany with pomegranate fruit growing in the garden.

You never forget the first time you self-publish a book and the journey that it took you on. This delightful armchair travel book can still be ordered through our website and on Amazon.com


As much as I love flowers right now, I am bringing the spring green of the trees budding outdoors into the house. Another easy way to surround ourselves with green. A new addition to the living room space is a desk which houses my laptop and a few essentials. It's interesting to me that one simple piece of furniture can allow us to freely have overnight guests and allow me to continue with my computer driven work for publishing the blog/e-zine, social media, research, home, garden and graphic design projects.

For many years, I have been using branches inside the house as a way to let the outdoors in- Mike cautions me about being careful of the insects so they do not disturb the orchids that he has painstakingly nurtured which is something I completely understand. I was reinvigorated to find an oversized tall vase for adding tall branches into the house after seeing a few of Athena Calderone's EyeSwoon decorating videos. Found this metal midnight blue beauty at our local Goodwill.


FANCY THINGS WE GET FROM OUR MOTHERS

A couple years before seeing the trend of prep coming back into style, and with it more tailored, structured looks and slightly more formal than the boho looks we've been seeing for a while; I had a collection of jewels passed to me through family. Knowing not what to do with them I decided to have an on-line estate sale and frankly, I think my timing was terribly off. But what became of the project were a fun series of photographs mixed with graphics and over time I have found that I truly enjoy popping on a piece every now and again. With prom and special event season upon us; all of a sudden it seems like someone needs a gown hemmed, beads replaced and lace repaired; or a full-length dress shortened for an upcoming celebration. I thought it would be fun to share some of that estate sale jewelry here. A few of my alterations clients have appreciated having access to the "crown jewels" for their very special events. While I get the practical skill and passion for sewing from my Mom and some aunties, I know I get the love of dressing from my Dad who often took me specialty clothes shopping when I was a girl. If you have a need for alterations work I'd be interested in hearing from you about your project.

For Alterations Inquiries: You can reach me at yourfriends@italylittlebylittle.com or thru instant messenger on Instagram (@italylittlebylittle) on Facebook (Italy: Little By Little).

Here are a few of the photos from that project:






Finding unique ways to use ornate antiques in a house created in the era of minimalism has been an interesting exercise. Although I appreciate the clean look of our home’s design, I can honestly say I appreciate the intricate sculptural florals in these Italian ceramics. Another art form made with attention to detail and by hand.

NOWNESS

This remarkable series takes you inside the residences of architects, artists and designers all around the world.

Cooking Per Tutti

Some evenings we are just ready for simple fare and a picnic in the backyard. To appreciate the sound of the birds chirping and looking at the blue sky and treetops as you enjoy a Pesto chicken salad and a bruschetta salad with croutons made of