Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

What a Difference a Day Makes!

I was not home much this week, since we are in the middle of UIL Concert and Sightreading season. I spent 2 days at our middle school contest, playing the piano for our 2 choirs plus 4 others, then drove to Houston after the 2nd day, spent the night, and judged a contest the next. I try to walk around my garden and visit my plants every day, but I didn’t get to spend much Time out there. However, after I had been gone a full day and almost 3 inches of rain fell, I could really tell a difference!

English dogwood (mock orange) had exploded.

.English dogwood

Sugar snap peas and Little Marvel peas grew tall and started blooming.

Little Marvel peas Sugar snap peas

Louisiana iris began blooming.

.Louisiana iris

My potatoes grew way too tall! I’m out of dirt to hill up around them.


And the big news of the day– Hardy gladioli were barely budded out last time I saw them, then I came home to this:

Hardy gladiolus Hardy gladiolus


Around the Garden– March 30

Spring is definitely here in Southeast Texas, although we had a slight hiccup and some near-freezing temps early this week! I picked this little bouquet a few weeks ago- daffodils, narcissus, hyacinth, saucer magnolia (tulip tree), camellia, and some rosemary sprigs.


Early this season we visited the farm of a good friend and I got a load of manure and topsoil– if you are a gardener, you know how excited I was! Plus, I got to see several baby cows!20130129-154803.jpg

I planted lettuce for the first time– it’s looking beautiful! I planted more in the ground, and some more in a large pot, several weeks apart. I wish I liked radishes– they looks pretty but taste like dirt to me.

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I got an apple tree this year. As with any new bed, I like to lay down several layers of newspaper to kill out the grass and weeds. Mr X used a piece of twine as a handy little compass to make the brick border an even circle. Then “we” (there’s the “marital we” again) saturated the newspapers, then topped with a thick layer of leaf mulch, which we also saturated.

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I’m afraid the broccoli is about done. From what I’ve read, when the temps get about 70, they begin bolting to flower and seed. I put in some newer ones about a month ago, thinking that it was the age of the plant that made a difference, but they are flowering too.


Basil seedlings coming up. I need to pot them up!


I didn’t know that saucer magnolia would root where it touches the ground, like azaleas do. Here are 3 new ones that took root. I hope they will grow into new trees!


How is your garden growing?

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Auntie Em’s Open House

I used to wonder why some stores would have a grand opening several weeks after they had been in business. Now I get it- they want to get situated, get some kinks worked out, see what sells and what doesn’t. So, 6 weeks after the first Auntie Em post, you’re invited to Auntie Em’s Open House!

Since it’s a virtual, and not a flesh-and-blood open house, I’ll build my virtual house for all of our enjoyment!

Come on in! I’m so glad to see you! A few weeks ago, I examined myself and came up with some principles that I believe have helped me have a successful life, and I am only too happy to share what I’ve learned in hopes that somebody else can “read the textbook” and not have to “take the field trip!” A blog is the perfect medium to share, and I’ve had lots of fun, good mental stimulation, some serious Bible study, and I’ve met new friends. I’ve discovered that these bloggy friends are such nice people!

Please, come get someting to eat, then you can look around. I’ve borrowed my friend Carolyn’s gazebo and china service specially for today.

Courtesy of Carolyn at Aiken House and Gardens

My first post was Auntie Em’s Guide to Life, in which I gave a few guidelines that I at least TRY to follow! Now, finally, I have posts that elaborate on all those guidelines!

Be honest.

Examine yourself.

Know your rules; Know THE rules; Know the difference.

Be frugal.

Decide what YOU want.

I bet what you really want right now is to go for a little dip in the pool? Then we can get to the rest.

Let things go.

Extend grace.

Be kind.

Use real butter.

Plant things in places they will be happy.

Amend your soil and use mulch, and your gardens will flourish. (Again, both literal and figurative use applies here!)

Ask your husband what you can do to make him feel loved, and do it.

Make your husband your first earthly priority.  (not your kids)

Get a board of directors.

Read your Bible.

And that wraps up our tour! Thank you so much for dropping by, and this is the one time I will ask you to share this post with friends you think might like it; go “like” Auntie Em’s Facebook page if you haven’t already; follow me on Twitter and Pinterest (buttons are on the side) and follow my blog if you have enjoyed your visit! Leave a comment below saying hello and where you are from, please! Help me spread the Auntie Em love all over! And here is a little something for you to take home…


Dinnerplate Hibiscus- and a Ridiculously Excited Auntie Em

I know you’re not supposed to play favorites, but I think of all the beautiful flowers in my garden, I love this dinnerplate hibicus best! A friend gave it to me when I was teaching her son, about 10 years ago; it had sprouted up beside hers. She told me that these are very persnickety about propagation and rarely make babies.

So last spring when I saw this little baby peeking up near the big bush, I held my breath and waited…

When it reached about a foot tall, I dug it up, potted it to grow a bigger root system, kept it over the winter, then gave it to Sis this spring for her garden. She kept me updated and we were so excited when it finally bloomed! Here it is:

And another unusual thing happened last summer- Since I will reuse potting soil if a plant “bites the dust” (HA- usually that’s exactly what happens; I don’t water enough and it dies of thirst!), sometimes random plants come up in newly-potted plants. I sometimes recognize what they are; sometimes I debate whether they are weeds or something desirable, and wait it out; and sometimes I have no idea! Last summer I had 2 babies which looked like hibiscus come up in a pot. I posted the picture to Facebook and asked friends what they thought it could be– hibiscus? Watermelon? I hadn’t planted any dinnerplate seeds in a long time… a few years back I had, but they never germinated.

What do you think?

I put them in separate pots and kept them alive all through our horrible drought last summer, then this spring planted them in the ground.

One died. But one thrived. I kept watching, holding my breath, and hoping it would be a dinnerplate… and finally… TADAAA! I was so excited you would have thought I’d have bred a Kentucky Derby winning horse!

Such is the life of a frugal gardener!


Gardening on the Cheap– Passalong Plants

One of Auntie Em’s Guides to Life is to BE FRUGAL. If you love having a beautiful garden it can get expensive, but it doesn’t have to! I like low-maintenance plants… the law of the jungle applies in Auntie Em’s garden– the survival of the fittest. No divas here!

The good thing about passalong plants is that they usually propagate (make new plants) easily. The other fun thing is that then you have a plant with story! I’ll share some that I’ve had success with, and how I did it. Most of the time I cut a tender stem (not a hard woody one) and put it in regular potting soil. Sis usually roots in water; experiment to see what works best! Some really hardy plants can go directly into the ground, especially if you water regularly.

I took a snip off the top of Sunshine’s coleus. I stuck the stem in a pot, but there were some big leaves too. I pulled this one off and tucked it in among a hibiscus, not knowing whether or not it would root that way. It did.

Here is the pot where I put all the little babies. It will grow into a beautiful accent; then I can pinch off more! Coleus is a wonderful, versatile plant that is available in many different colors, and does will in pots or in the ground, in sun or in shade.

This althea (Rose of Sharon, in the mallow family) came from a cutting from my mother-in-law (Granny of Granny’s cornbread). I actually thought it was a hibiscus (They are cousins.) and put it in a pot, and by the time I realized it was althea, it was too late to put it in the ground. I’ll do that this fall after the weather cools off.

This exotic-looking trumpet shaped flower is called  alstromeria, or Peruvian lily. It has a fancy cousin that is often used in cut arrangements, but this is anything but fancy! I got this one from Granny too, and have given away tons of it. If it’s planted in a happy place, it can become invasive, spreading by seed on top and tubers below ground. Be sure to cut the seedpods off to slow it down.

I got this hardy gladiola from a lady that went to our church for much longer than I have. She was there when Granny and PawPaw took Mr X and his brother and sister as children, and she has passed now. But every spring, when these come up again, I remember Miss Freddie and how she shared what she had with whoever needed it!

I got this gorgeous angel wing begonia from my friend Nedra. We’ve shared lots of cuttings and snips over the years. This one actually started life at Granny’s house, then Nedra got a snip, so mine is sort of like a grandchild!

I discovered Persian shield this year, and I LOVE it! I bought 4 overgrown, leggy, 4 inch pots; put 3 in the ground and one in a pot to see where it was happiest. The ones in the ground died quickly. I pinched off several pieces from the one in the pot (here is one; it rooted almost overnight!) and it was a good thing, because I let the pot dry out and it died! Fortunately, I still have the new one. 

The lantana was a seedling from my piano teacher. He always keeps a beautiful, well-manicured lawn, and I love the way the lantana looks like a party! The butterflies love it. Seedlings come up easlity, but they aren’t invasive.

Here are some more that I’ve shared, or that reseed easily and come back year after year. Sometimes, flower colors will change from one year to the next (as with the vinca, which started life 3 generations ago as lavendar) but that’s just part of the fun.

Don’t let frugality keep you from having beautiful flowers!

Portulaca- reseed easily, and root from cuttings.

I wish I knew what this was called. Granny gave me some from a plant from her mother’s funeral. I love it!

Sis got me an Easter lily one year at her church.

Miss Winnie has shared daylillies with many people from our church.

Crinum lillies are old-timey because they are dependable, no-care flowers! Their pink or white blooms come in late summer.

AHHH agapanthas, or Lily of the Nile. A lady at school gave me some.

These are 3rd or 4th generation vinca. I bought a flat one year and have had them every year since. If I were a better gardener, I’d move them to optimum places, but I just let them come up where they will! They began life lavendar, but are usually pink. These white ones are the first I’ve seen!


Auntie Em’s guide to life

Hello Dearies; I’m so glad you are here! Auntie Em has learned a thing or two along the way and is happy to share them with you, so you don’t have to learn the hard way! (And now I’ll switch to first person!)


Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things. Who can understand it?” Surely everyone knows your life will be easier if you are honest with other people. (Who can remember what they told to whom? Not me!) The trick is to be honest with yourself. People were fooling themselves back in Jeremiah’s day and we are still doing it. Have you seen women of a certain age wearing Spandex when they shouldn’t? Singers on American Idol who thought they were good? What about teachers who make a big to-do list at the beginning of summer, and when school starts, it’s still undone? (OUCH!) Deceiving ourselves can go from the frivolous (like Spandex or size 6) to much more important issues, like our weight’s effect on our health, or addictions, or bad relationships. Once you uncover your warts– a painful process– you can deal with them honestly. You might decide to still eat the brownies. But you’ll do it with open eyes.


As long as we’re talking about honesty, this is a good time to say- examine yourself. Have you thought about why your dad’s not telling you about his out-patient surgery hurt your feelings? (My “rules” say you must share health concerns.) Have you been cranky and not known why? (I’m cranky when I’m cold. I get colder than a lot of people, so I know to bring a jacket, or if I’m on a car trip with Mr X, a blanket too.)


My rule: My girls had to have dresses that I made at Easter when they were little. (This caused some stress for me!) THE rule: They need to be in church on Easter (and regularly) and it really didn’t matter even if it’s a new dress or not! Don’t get too hung up on YOUR rules.


The “Tightwad Gazette” (Amy Dacyczyn) has had a significant influence on my financial life. In our world, “frugal” means getting the value that YOU determine is valuable. You save where you can, intentionally, so that you can decide what you want to do with your money. (We did piano lessons for 2 children from grades   1-12 but didn’t have cable TV until the youngest was 9 or 10.) We are also Dave Ramsey followers- don’t borrow money except for a house.

DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT (Don’t fall for advertising.)

Contrary to what TV ads say, every woman does not need professionally colored hair, salon nails, a tattoo, a fake tan, and the latest shade of the color-du-jour shoes. And it really IS possible to live on one income while caring for preschool children. Now I have a very fashionable friend who likes to buy inexpensive, trendy accessories, but she saves her bigger money for wardrobe staples. And I have some friends who don’t want to put a hold on their careers and feel like their career/child situation is in balance (usually with the help of a lucky grandma!). But your money (or time, or energy) can do only one thing. YOU get the facts and decide.


You have control over one thing. You.


I love 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.  “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (v 7) So very often, my students get all upset because of something a friend did or didn’t do, or say, only to find out later that their friend was preoccupied, or didn’t see them because they didn’t have their contacts, or were upset because their parents just announced a divorce. If we can jump FIRST to the conclusion that some offense is not about us, we will be much happier.


I don’t know why I’m still surprised when I find out that somebody who appears to be fine is actually dying inside. I’ve seen it so many times. Be kind to people and give them a break. You never know what’s going on in their lives.

USE REAL BUTTER (and the best ingredients possible)

Self-explanatory. Except it holds in all other areas. I have Wusthof knives and will never need to buy any again.


Azaleas will get big, and they have a natural shape. Don’t try to make them small hedges. You’ll work yourself to death and they won’t reach their potential. (This theory works with children too.)


Fertilizer won’t help too-sandy soil. And the Texas sun will dry up your beds in a day if you don’t mulch. Weeds will spring up too. (Good relationship rule too, with kindness and love being both the amendment and the mulch!)


Guys are weird different and sometimes hard to understand. Reading books like John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Gary Smalley’s The Five Love Languages will give you lots of insight, but you still need to be a student of your husband and ASK him.


They will leave. He will not. (hopefully both) They will also be set up for good relationships when Mom and Dad have a good one.


Swallow your pride and pick some people you admire. Let them mentor you. HINT: They don’t even have to know they are doing it; in fact they might not even be alive! Look at different areas and see who you admire- fashion, decorating, spirituality, marriage, child-rearing, etc.


You will find many mentors in the Bible. Even if you are not a believer, you can’t go wrong! Love one another- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you– The borrower is slave to the lender– Don’t let the sun go down on your anger– etc. You’ll see lots of guidance on what to do, but also plenty of “what not to do” (David did what?), and how God will forgive ANY sin and still use you in marvelous ways.

So there you have it. Auntie Em’s guide to life.

I’m linking with The Alabaster Jar


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