Monday, August 24, 2015

Finally, An Effective Mosquito Repellent

Here we are almost at the end of summer. Sorry it has taken me so long to share this with you, but better late than never. Thanks to one of my husband's coworkers, we learned about an excellent product that repels mosquitoes extremely effectively. It is Thermacell mosquito repellent. The product line includes appliances (like the one above), lanterns and torches. One device covers a 15 x 15-foot (225 square foot) area. They are great for use at home or camping.

We own two appliances in the Woodlands Camo print. The product has no open flame, is portable, easy to use and odorless (though I can detect the slightest odor, which is actually pleasant smelling, in my opinion). The best thing is that Thermacell WORKS!

Thermacell products have received numerous awards and are used by the US government for troops on military bases around the world.

Thermacell products are powered by a single butane cartridge, which provides the heat that activates the patented repellent mat. Both the cartridge and mat are refillable.

The repellent is allethrin -- a copy of what that naturally occurs in chrysanthemum flowers -- which repels mosquitoes, black flies, and no-see-ums. It is safe for humans and pets.

Ever since we started using Thermacell, we've been able to enjoy summer days and evenings outdoors without the bother of biting mosquitoes. This is especially nice at dusk, when mosquitoes are particularly active. Living in the south, we deal with mosquitoes several months out of the year. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have this product because it allows us to enjoy more time on our porch and in our yard during the dreaded "mosquito months." We even took it last evening to a jazz concert held in a heavily wooded park, and we didn't get any bites -- and neither did the people around us, I'll bet!

This is not a sponsored post. The opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cleaning Vases

I've been using my mini vases quite a lot this summer, with all our wonderful dahlias for cutting. When water sits in the vase for a period of time, a film develops at the water line and it doesn't come off with normal washing.

A good, easy way to remove hard water stains like this is to fill the vase with a 50/50 combination of plain white vinegar and water and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then take a soft brush and scrub a little, then rinse -- the stain is gone.  

This little bottle brush is handy for cleaning vases and things you can't get a wash cloth into. I think I ordered a set of three brushes in different sizes years ago, and now I can't remember from where. The tip of this brush is a soft cottony material, and the bristles provide just enough friction without scratching. The result is a sparkling clean glass vase!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Perfect Linens: Special Offer

Not long ago I wrote about some new sheets I had purchased, and received quite a few comments (sometimes I'm surprised  by the topics readers find interesting). Then, about a month later, I was contacted by Perfect Linens asking if I would like to try a set of their Second Skin sheets. Realizing the sheets I had just purchased would probably not be very long-lasting, I readily agreed to give their Second Skin sheets a try.

Perfect Linens sells sheets, and only sheets. They pride themselves on describing their sheets in terms of weight and feel (rather than strictly by thread count or other somewhat confusing terms). They offer customers a unique way to select sheets that are right for them. I have to say, I've never thought about sheets in quite that way. 

They divide their products into three categories: light, cool and supple. The Second Skin sheets I received are described as their most supple, made of durable, enzyme-treated 400-threadcount Egyptian cotton. They come in white with a choice of three decorative embroidered borders. I chose the fern pattern, which my husband and I really like!

I washed the new sheets (using the special sample-sized bottle of Linen Wash that came with them) and made up the bed. The first thing I noticed was how much more substantial they are than the sheets I had just purchased and wrote about here. They feel great to sleep in, and have become softer with each subsequent washing. The flat sheet is substantially longer than most, allowing plenty of room to tuck under at the foot and turn back at the head of the bed, to show off that pretty embroidered pattern. I can honestly say these are the nicest quality sheets we've had on our bed.

As a special offer to readers of My Little Bungalow, Perfect Linens is offering $50.00 off your purchase of Perfect Linens when you use the discount code LittleBungalow50 at checkout.

Learn more about their products and what makes them unique at

This is a sponsored post, but the opinions I have expressed about the product are my own. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Strawberry-Watermelon Pops

Look who showed up at the photo shoot! Ella and Henry were very interested in what I had to photograph -- a delicious strawberry-watermelon popsicle -- and they were hoping for a taste. These fruity pops are a delicious summer afternoon treat, though I did find the prep to be a bit labor intensive, particularly the blending of the fruit. My blender doesn't work very well without liquid (I would love a Vitamix blender, but maybe they need liquid also in order to work well?). If I make these again, I might try a food processor. I also did not discard all of the fruit solids because I wanted a bit of it in the popsicles, for substance. I hope you give these tasty pops a try before the summer is over!

Strawberry-Watermelon Pops

  • 2 pounds seedless watermelon, diced
  • 1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
1. Working in batches, puree watermelon in a blender. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl (discard solids). Puree strawberries; add to bowl. Add sugar and lime juice and stir until sugar has completely dissolved.  
2. Pour mixture into ice-pop molds and insert sticks. Freeze until solid, 2 1/2 to 3 hours (or up to 1 week).

Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer Weekends in Pictures

These pretty yellow dahlias from our garden are perfect for cutting ...

This Salvadoran cabbage relish, called Curtido, is made regionally and sold locally at the most charming farmers market in our city (cobblestone streets and beautifully displayed produce, baked goods, cheeses, coffee, cold-pressed juices ... need I say more?). The seller had samples of this type and a few other varieties to try. So yummy!

I also bought this beautiful Swiss chard, perfect for making a stew with lentils and garbanzo beans, at the same farmers market ...

This trio of vintage, rusty fence finials, which we bought at an antiques store years ago, graces our kitchen windowsill, and caught my eye as I photographed the dahlias ...

Insalata caprese: slices of fresh mozzarella and ripe tomatoes with some fresh basil from our garden, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper ... the perfect Saturday lunch with a few Kalamata olives on the side.

And a book I'm reading about a border collie named Orson by Jon Katz (I'm a sucker for any story that's dog related) ...

How have you been enjoying your summer weekends? Please share! I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Inspiration: Landscaping

If you've been following my blog for some time, you may recall the work we've done to our yard, including replacing a chain link fence with a 6-foot wooden privacy fence, removing a large tree and taking out a stand of overgrown privet. 

Now we have a blank slate to work with, which means I'm always thinking of ideas for landscaping our small backyard, both with both plantings and hardscape. Here are some photos of nicely designed small yards that provide inspiration for those of us with limited space.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Thyme Lemonade

As promised, here is an excellent recipe for lemonade that I made recently. The sugar water is infused with fresh thyme, which I am growing in the garden this year. To make it into a grown-up cocktail, add some gin (but my preference is without). Homemade lemonade is the quintessential summer drink! It's a little bit of effort, but totally worth it.

Thyme Lemonade

1) Squeeze about 10 large lemons to get 2 cups of lemon juice. Make sure to remove all pits. I like some pulp in my lemonade, but you can strain the juice to remove pulp and pits, if you wish.
2) In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of water, 1 bunch of fresh thyme and 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. 
3) When cool, transfer sugar water to a large pitcher. Add the lemon juice and 6 cups of cold water. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour and up to a week.

If making into a pitcher of cocktails, add 1 cup of gin in step 3 when adding the lemon juice and water. Or, you can add 1 ounce to an ounce and a half of gin per serving, keeping the rest of the lemonade alcohol-free. Serve over ice, garnished with thyme sprigs (which I forgot to do when photographing my drink).

The thyme infused simple syrup would be delicious in other cocktail recipes too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lemony Tuna-White Bean Salad

Summer and lemon go hand in hand. In the hot summer months, lemon desserts, lemony salad dressings, and a cold glass of lemonade are so refreshing (I have a great thyme-lemonade recipe I'll be sharing with you soon!).

This lemony tuna-bean salad comes from the cookbook Weeknights with Giada, which I borrowed from my local library. I made a couple of small revisions to the recipe, which is absolutely delicious! No stove top or oven cooking is required, and the dressing has a surprise ingredient.

Lemony Tuna-White Bean Salad

1) In a large bowl, combine 1 (15 ounce) can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed; 1/4 of a red onion, cut in half and very thinly sliced; and 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together the finely grated zest of one large lemon, the juice of one large lemon and 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil until smooth. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper to taste; whisk well.

3) Pour the dressing over the bean mixture and toss until coated. Drain one or two 5 oz. cans of chunk white tuna in olive oil. Using a fork, separate tuna into 1/2-inch chunks and add to bean mixture; toss gently. Serve tuna-bean mixture over arugula or, as I did, a mixture of arugula and baby spinach. Pour a little of the dressing over each serving, and top with freshly ground pepper.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Inspiraton: Fire Pits

There are two things I am drawn to: fire and water. In this post, I featured some beautiful, inspirational pools. Today I'd like to share several inspirational fire pits. Besides the fire pits themselves, I like the furniture surrounding them and the locales and/or homes. Some are traditional in style, some contemporary, some rustic. But each is a place I'd like to spend an evening with good friends and a glass of wine. Do you have a favorite?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter

Have you noticed how many nut butters there are now in the grocery store? I was checking out that section when I noticed all the new brands and varieties of nut butters. Call me odd, but I've never joined the Nutella bandwagon (I try to avoid certain ingredients, such as palm oil and artificial flavor, when I can). But there are several other brands that incorporate chocolate into their nut butters. One example is  Wild Friends. I decided to try their Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter. 

Made of only five ingredients -- peanuts, coconut, organic agave, unsweetened dark chocolate and sea salt -- Wild Friends has a wonderful balance of flavors. It's not too heavy on the chocolate, not too heavy on the coconut, not too heavy on the peanut butter. You can read about the two young women who founded the company here

Their website also has a link to some delicious sounding recipes. I made the Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter Smoothie for breakfast and it was yummy!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Inspiration: Pretty Porches

I'm so glad we have a front porch. We enjoy spending time there, especially when the weather is cooler. The front porch is an extension of our living space, a place to read, eat supper or just sit and enjoy a glass of wine on a balmy summer evening. Porch time is a great way to meet your neighbors, too.

Here's some pretty porch inspiration for your viewing pleasure. Some are decorated like an outdoor room (note to self: find a storm door like the one below) ...

Some have ceilings painted light blue, an old superstition thought to keep away restless spirits of the dead, which I wrote about here ...

These porches are lovely, aren't they? If you had to pick one, which would you choose? Okay, two -- one for your main house and one for your weekend getaway! Leave a comment and let me know your favorites.

Monday, July 6, 2015

New Faces in the Dahlia Garden

Here's what's happening in the dahlia garden these days. Pretty amazing. Our weather has gone from bone dry and scorching hot to rainy, humid and cooler. Some of the dahlias seem to like the change; others aren't as happy. I've been deadheading lots of rotten blooms and buds thanks to all the rain. Who's that hiding under the leaves?

Why, it's this beauty! Such a splendid color.

Our old peach dahlia is perking up, and her color is looking more lovely since the weather has changed. Thank goodness.

This gorgeous white-tipped scarlet red flower might just be my new favorite!

Then there's this drama queen, with her spiky, vibrant orange petals!

This dahlia garden my husband planted sure is making me happy. I thanked him again today and told him it's worth all the work of staking and watering. Dahlias are amazing, aren't they?

A note about the photography. These photos were shot with my husband's Nikon D40 camera, which I've been experimenting with lately. I'm liking the results.
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