Friday, June 29, 2012

Pretty Petunias

Pretty Petunias

This is a flower from my childhood - I always remember my parents having these beautiful flowers growing among my dad's roses.  I just love the deep royal colors and the velvety look of the petals (see the picture below specifically).

These flower are quite easy to maintain .  Petunias are anuals - I have never grown them from seed so I always just buy plants from some of my local greenhouses.

As you can see I took these pictures when our Cottonwood trees were shedding their snowlike seeds

Tending Petunias:
There are different kinds of Petunias.  These are the traditional Petunias that require a bit more care than "Wave Petunias".  In the picture below and in the bottom left hand corner you will see a dried up flower.  To keep the traditional Petunias flowering all season you will need to "dead head" the old dried up blossoms. 

Simply snip off the dead flowers as seen in the picture below.

Simple and Pretty - ENJOY!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Peppermint Patty Pudding Pops

Peppermint Patty Pudding Pops
Peppermint and Chocolate somehow really does cool you down on a hot summer day.  I love my pudding recipe - it is made from scratch and tastes so much better than instant pudding (you may use instant if you prefer). 
In the picture above I have taken a bite out of the Peppermint Patty Pudding Pop but on the right is a plain Pudding Pop.

These are my Tuperware popsicle molds

1/3 cup corn starch                                         Printable Recipe
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
3 cups milk
3 egg yolks (slightly beaten)
dash of salt
2 tablespoons butter
5 or 6 Peppermint Patties (chopped)
Popsicle molds

In a medium saucepan - stir the dry ingredients (sugar, corn starch, cocoa powder & a pinch of salt) until combined.  (see all 3 pictures below) Slowly add the milk while stirring.  Now whisk in the egg yolks.  Place on medium heat and continue stirring until it starts to boil (you will notice that it starts to thicken just before it boils).  Continue stirring and boil for about 2 minutes (you might need to turn the heat down a little - so that it won't burn).  Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the butter until totally melted and combined.   

Now it is time to add the chopped peppermint patties.  There are 2 options:  you can either add the peppermint patty chunks to the entire batch of pudding or add some chunks into each Popsicle mold (the second option you can save a few Popsicle molds to be plain pudding pops) (Also, the second way makes the patty chunks to be more solid and chewy - it's up to your taste).  Place the filled molds in the freezer for at least 3 hours and then ENJOY!!

Note:  If you have any extra pudding then you may place in the fridge and top with some whipped cream to eat as regular pudding or wait until you have eaten the popsicles and then refill the molds with the leftover pudding (keep in mind that the pudding will only last 5 days when kept in the fridge - however in the freezer it will last for weeks).

VARIATIONS:  There are endless variations to this pudding recipe but here are some of my favorite ideas:
1.  Any other candy or chocolate bar can be substituted for the peppermint patties (eg - Peanut butter cups, snickers, mounds etc.....)
2.  If you like coconut flavor - then substitute coconut oil for the butter
3.  Add some instant coffee (about 2 tablespoons) for a Mocha Pudding.
4.  Add some jam or jelly (1/4 cup) - Raspberry is delicious!
5.  And my all time favorite - Chocolate and Orange - a wonderful combination - just add 1 tablespoon fresh orange rind to the pudding mixture before cooking.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Tools - High Wheel Cultivator

High Wheel Cultivator

This is my favorite garden tool.  There is no bending over or working on your knees - just simply walk behind this garden tool and push.  This was an anniversary present from my husband a few years ago..........yep - I'm strange - I'd rather have a tool like this as a gift instead of diamonds or bought roses.

There are a few flaws however, there are 3 different heights and it is not simple to change from low to high and since my husband is 6'3" and I am 5'5" - this causes a problem.  Also, there are different attachments for creating rows or for making a furrow and those are also not simple to change back and forth.

The good far out weigh the bad when it comes to the High Wheel Cultivator.

In the picture above - the right side has just been cultivated and the left side has not been cultivated.

Same idea as before - in the picture above the top has NOT been cultivated and the bottom has been cultivated.


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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Heaven is like Yeast

"He told them still another parable:  'The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.' "

Have you ever made bread from scratch?  I have and the yeast is the most important ingredient  - it is a living organism - without it the bread would not grow, it would not rise.  The yeast touches every grain of flour in the dough and works together with the other ingredients to make a loaf of bread. 

I believe this verse symbolizes not only the Holy Spirit working in us as Christians - working in every part of our being (mind, body and soul).  But also, it symbolizes all of us working together to make up the church - the kingdom of heaven.  Without that yeast (our heavenly Father, Jesus our savior and the Holy Spirit) we are nothing - we are just a pile of flour blown away by a draft.  This yeast penetrates every part of the dough and transforms it into a delicious and nutritious staple. It's the same with our life - we must allow the Holy Spirit to work through every aspect of our life and transform us into an image of Jesus.

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children" Ephesians 5:1

When making bread - there have been times when I did not follow the directions exactly or maybe the temperature was not perfect and the bread was a flop - it did not rise or bake up correctly.  It is the same with our life - there might be 1 area of our life where we are not following God's instructions, 1 area that we have not allowed the Holy Spirit to infiltrate.  Even though it might only be 1 problem area - that is enough to affect our entire life in a negative way. 

Let us allow our heavenly Father, Jesus our savior and the Holy Spirit to enter every aspect of our life so that we will be able to rise to any problem that comes our way.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Freezing Fresh Strawberries

Freezing Fresh Strawberries

Another easy and tasty garden fresh item to preserve for the winter - Strawberries.  If you use a
"Vacuum Packer" (like I do) then, in the middle of winter, your frozen strawberries will taste as if you just picked them from the garden. 

Wash, drain and hull your strawberries.  (There are many "experts" that say that you cannot wash any berries before freezing.  Well, I try to be as "organic" as possible and the farm where I bought these berries was not an organic farm - I wash my berries before freezing and I have never had problems).  Spread your prepared strawberries on a wax paper lined cookie sheet (see picture above).  Place them in a freezer for about 3 to 4 hours (or until strawberries feel frozen).  Freezing the berries first will help prevent them from sticking together in the bag.

Now fill your baggies - I put 2 cups of frozen strawberries in 1 bag. I use a vacuum packer but using ziploc baggies is also an option.  

Then seal each bag according to the manufacturer's instructions. Label and then it will be ready for winter usage. 


Freeze before vacuum packing! - If you seal before freezing then you will have strawberry juice all over the counter and inside your vacuum packing machine (and the bag will not seal properly).


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Basics - Blueberry Lemonade

The Basics - Blueberry Lemonade
Nothing is as refreshing as a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade on a hot summer day! - Why not make that delicious summer drink even better with some of your
 Home Canned Blueberry Syrup?

7 cups water (preferably filtered water)
2/3 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste but remember - the blueberry syrup has sugar also)
1/2 cup Blueberry Syrup

Before squeezing the juice from your lemons - I always make sure that they are at room temperature and just before cutting them in half - I press down with the palm of my hand and roll the lemon on the counter for just a few seconds (this will help you get the optimum juice from 1 lemon) (see picture below).

Now, in a large pitcher, stir all ingredients until the sugar is totally dissolved.  .

Chill or serve over ice and ENJOY!
If you have some frozen blueberries - add those instead of ice!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One Year Blog Anniversary Linky Party

I started this blog 1 year ago today - June 19th, 2011.  What makes a blog (in my opinion) is YOU - the readers and followers - so THANK YOU!!! 

To celebrate this first year I am having an
Anniversary Linky Party

I am sharing my top 5 posts - the posts that I had the most fun writing & creating.........and then below that is the "linky party."
I have had such a wonderful time and I look forward to a second year.

Here are my 5 favorite posts from my blog - feel free to click on the title for more details:

2.  Spiritual Fruit of the Month Club
This is a nine part Series - I have finished five parts and there are still four more parts to come - the first Sunday of each month.

4.  Sunflowers

Now it's your turn -
 What is your favorite post from your blog? - Please share it with us - anything from recipes, DIY projects, crafts, inspirational stories or post something from your online store.......anything (all I ask is that you keep the content decent please).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mustard - The Smallest of Seeds

"He told them another parable:  'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.' "
Matthew 13:31 & 32

I have never seen a mustard tree up close but I have read that they can reach 20 feet tall and are as wide as they are tall.  It is a very beneficial tree (besides the mustard that we all know and love) - it is used as a toothbrush in some rural areas and has antibacterial properties.  The seeds, fruit and roots are all edible and are very nutritious. 

What does all of this have to do with our spiritual life and growth?  It implies that so much good can come from something so small and little..........If we share the gospel - maybe just a 5 minute conversation - planting that seed of Jesus' love can grow into a new believer and therefore eternal life for that person.

I wasn't sure what "the birds of the air" represented in this verse so I looked that up in a Bible commentary and it stated that this reference symbolizes "the Gentile Nations."  Which means that this seed and this tree is for everyone!  Jesus' love and salvation is for all - for everyone!

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  Galatians 3:28

It may seem small and insignificant but Jesus' love (in all forms) will grow and grow and grow.  Let's not hesitate to plant these "mustard seeds" daily. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Themed Blog & Shop Hop - Summer Berries

WELCOME to the fourth
"Themed Blog & Shop Hop"
June 15th 2012!
I'm so glad that you stopped by!

For those of you who are not familiar with "Hops" (a.k.a. Linky party) - a Blog Hop &/or Shop Hop is an event where viewers/followers can upload links onto my blog......Links to their items in their Etsy shops or links to their Blogs. And then we can "hop" from blog to blog or shop to shop.

The theme this month is:
"Summer Berries"
Anything having to do with berries - strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, elderberries ......  .

So, that means if you have an item in your shop that has anything to do with "berries" - or - if you have a Berry blog post.  A recipe, how-to-grow, or an item for sale - anything that remotely touches this topic - then please share it with us.

Although I would love it if everyone joined my blog or became followers of my blog - that is not a requirement to participate in this "Hop". All I ask is that you keep your submissions decent - no offensive content please.

Well, actually there is a second rule:
only 2 submissions per person please.

If you do not have a blog or a shop then please still stop by and take a digital walk through our virtual mall.

I will be having a "Themed Blog & Shop Hop" once a month - the middle of each month. Next month's hop will be on:
JULY 13th, 2012


To Etsy shop owners - please only upload links directly to the items that you would like to share with us - not a link to your entire shop - Thanks.

To Blog writers - you may submit any post that fits into the theme - it can be an old post from many months ago (it does Not have to be a recent post). Also, please submit the link directly to the post and Not a link to your homepage - Thank you!

I will be "tweeting" about the submissions throughout the week to come and if there are enough submissions I will be making an Etsy treasury also.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

May Blog & Shop Hop - THE RESULTS

I would just like to thank all of you again for either visiting or participating in my third "Themed Blog & Shop Hop" - I had so much fun and I hope that you did also!

Now - The Results (If you haven't already - please checkout both of these wonderful blogs):

The most "likes" goes to:
Lynette at "Sweet Posy Dreams"

at Ozzie's Greenhouse, north of Hinckley

The most "clicks" goes to:
Sandi at "Holland Paper"

Buy Handmade: Purple Pansies Invitations

Click here to view the Etsy Treasury List from the May Shop Hop.

Please join us tomorrow for the fourth Themed Blog & Shop Hop!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Arugula, Cranberry & Cashew Salad

Arugula, Cranberry & Cashew Salad

Until just recently, I absolutely despised the salad green Arugula.  In my opinion - when eaten plain and with no other ingredients - Arugula tastes and smells like a combination of skunk and rubber gloves.  However, when prepared correctly and accompanied by the correct dressing, it becomes scrumptious and this salad is now one of my favorites.  Arugula is like a diamond in disguise. 

Arugula Plant in my garden.

My husband & I just discovered a new gourmet store in the "Westfield Franklin Park mall" in Toledo, Ohio: Bumble Olive Oil Company  (They are unfortunately no longer in business).  This unique store has inspired my husband to open a "Scotch Tape Boutique" (Saturday Night Live reference) or a "Meatloaf Bar" (my husband's own dream.....hahaha). 

4 to 5 cups chopped Arugula (washed & drained first)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup salted cashews (chopped)
1 1/2 tablespoons Blood Orange Olive Oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Cranberry-Pear Balsamic Vinegar

Prepare the arugula as listed above.  In a serving bowl - Mix the cranberries, cashews & Arugula.  Drizzle the Olive Oil & Vinegar on the salad separately and then toss.  Serve immediately. 
NOTE:  I did not add any extra salt because of the salted cashews - but if you desire you may add salt to taste.

© (2012)


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Monday, June 11, 2012

Garden Gazing Globe

Garden Gazing Globe

Anything sparkly and colorful always attracts my eye - my husband says that it's a good thing that I'm not a trout.  This gazing globe is exactly that kind of sparkly thing that I can't resist.  We have always had this ugly metal block sitting in the middle of the yard (it's the well water cap - I think), so a few years ago I set out to disguise that cap.  We had the stand to a bird bath (the bird bath itself had cracked years ago) and it happened to fit perfectly over the well cap.  There you have it - I planted flowers around the base.  The final touch was a gift from my husband - they are these wonderful solar globe lights that change color (see the last picture).


The flowers are still young but will fill in nicely later in the season.

It's not exactly centered - but close enough for me.
My night photography skills are not great - as you can see by the fuzzy picture above

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Reap What You Sow

"Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction;  the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."  Galatians 6:7 & 8

These verses are all about our motives.  Before you plant a crop you must decide what seed you will be planting and what kind of harvest you desire.  If you are planting tomatoes you will reap healthy food that can be preserved to last for years to come and the seeds can be saved and the planting and harvesting of tomatoes could go on forever.  If you are planting Poison Ivy or Poison Oak - you will reap a raging rash, bubbling boils and torture. 

What drives us, what is our intention, or our purpose for living?  Do we want to harvest personal gain?...Or is our goal to glorify our heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit?
Our motives can never be hidden from God.  Our heavenly Father "cannot be mocked" - He cannot be hoodwinked into opening the pearly gates for those of us who "reap destruction."

Are you planting Tomatoes or Poison Ivy?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Blueberry Syrup - Homemade and Homecanned

Blueberry Syrup - Homemade & Home canned
I think that Maple Syrup and Blueberry Syrup are tied for first place in the "pancake topping race" and as always - nothing is as good as homemade.
My Blueberry Syrup recipe can be used in many other ways:  ice cream, pancakes, waffles, flavor lemonade for a blueberry lemonade (I will have this in a post later in the month), in batter (eg blueberry muffins), in frosting, in homemade Popsicles (also a future blog post), in yogurt or kefir.......etc

NOTE:  This syrup is on the thin or runny side but for certain uses - such as pancakes, it is easy to thicken with a little corn starch (see "thickening recipe" at the end of this post).

8 to 9 cups whole fresh blueberries (washed and drained)
Juice from 2 lemons (used at different times)
4 cups water (preferably filtered water)
3 cups sugar

Prepare the blueberries as described above.  Place the blueberries, lemon juice and water in a large stock pot and bring to boil.  Simmer for 1 hour (in the 2 pictures above you can see the difference in the color - before and after boiling).  Now you will need to strain the juice to separate the blueberry pulp from the liquid (see the picture below - Oh how I love that deep color).  Allow the juice to drain out of the colander for an hour.

Discard or compost the blueberry pulp and pour the blueberry juice into the large stock pot.  Add in 3 cups of sugar and the juice from the second lemon - stir until dissolved. 
Gather your canning jars, lids and rings (you will need 6 or 7 half pints):
Canning Basics - Jar SizesAlso, gather all other canning supplies:
Other Canning SuppliesStart the water boiling for Jar sterilization: Sterilizing Jars & Lids.
Now bring the blueberry juice mixture to boil (stirring most of the time) and then turn down the heat and simmer for 1/2 hour. 

By now your jars should be sterilized and ready to be filled. Take the jars out of the boiling water (I use my jar remover and make sure that the water is drained out of each jar). Pour the hot Blueberry Syrup into each sterilized jar and fill each jar up to the jar "threads" (about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of head space).
Wipe the rim of each jar with a damp cloth making sure that any syrup residue is gone (any residue left on the rim can stop the jar from sealing). Place a sterilized lid on each jar and then tighten a ring on each jar.
Place all jars in a "Water Bath Canner" and process (boil) the jars for 10 minutes (make sure that the water level in the Canner is 1 inch above the tallest jar)
Remove the jars and place them on the counter or table to cool (I always place them on a cloth because there have been a few times when a jar cracked and then the jam oozed out making a mess - the cloth will help if that happens). You will hear the wonderful popping sound of your jars sealing.
Allow the jars to cool for 24 hours and then store in your pantry or in your fruit cellar until the winter and then ENJOY a little bit of summer.

Thickening Recipe:
1 cup Blueberry syrup (cold or room temperature)
1 tablespoon corn starch
With a whisk - stir the corn starch & Blueberry syrup until combined (with no clumps).  Pour into a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil - stirring all the time.  You will know when it is thick enough by the color - The key to thickening with corn starch: the syrup mixture will be cloudy when you start , then after it has boiled - it will be transparent (blue but still transparent).

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Basics - Optimizing Your Garden Space

The Basics - Optimizing Your Garden Space

Over the years, my husband & I have found 3 ways to Optimize Your Garden Space:

1.  Timing
This is the second genius garden idea that my husband had this year.  Pay attention to the length of each crop - then you are able to plant at least 2 different crops in 1 space per year (more than 2 crops if you live in a warmer climate).  For example - in the picture above we just planted our sweet potato sets in the furrows/hills (you can barely see them because we literally just planted them).  In between the furrows we have planted cool weather crops like: radishes, peas, spinach and other greens.  By the time the sweet potato plants are large, creeping along the ground and taking up space - the cool weather crops will already be finished growing and harvested.

2. Mix & Match
Pay attention to size.  For example - in the picture above - we have planted our rose hip bushes and our rhubarb plants together.  The rose hips grow very tall (well, they are young right now but in a few years they will be many feet taller).  The rhubarb is low (comparatively speaking) and bushier.  Planting every other one - rose hip, rhubarb, rose hip, rhubarb..... etc   The lower space is filled in by the rhubarb and the taller area is occupied by the rose hips.

3. Outside the Box
Be creative and think outside the box.  Just as I explained in detail a few days ago - use space that might be used for some other purpose.  Example (click if you want more details)-Growing Potatoes in a Compost Pile.  Other examples:  you might live in an apartment but have a sunny balcony - why not try a planter garden?  Or maybe you have discovered hammock gardening with all the swaying beauty ........(JUST MAKING SURE THAT YOU WERE PAYING ATTENTION    ;-)  (Seriously though - if you can figure that out I think Hammock gardening would be so cool).


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Planting Potatoes in a Compost Pile??

Planting Potatoes in a Compost Pile

My husband has had 2 genius Garden ideas this year - I am sharing the first one with you today and the second one I will share with you on Thursday. 

For years we have had a large compost area behind one of our grape arbors - this compost pile consists of leaves and grass clippings.  Our kitchen scrap compost is in a compost bin.  Compost is very important in building up a healthy soil but we always felt that this area behind the grape arbor was always wasted garden space.  This year my husband thought - "why not plant potatoes in the compost heap" - genius!! 

First you  must prepare your seed Potatoes before planting (click on
"seed potatoes" to see how).

Plant each prepared seed potato about 4 inches deep and about 6 to 10 inches apart (see the pictures above and below).  Cover these seed potatoes with compost (or dirt) and water - it will take about 2 weeks before the plants start peeking through the compost.  You will need to add more compost throughout the summer.

NOTE:  If you are planting in soil - then you will need to mound or plant them in hills/furrows - similar to Planting Sweet Potatoes.

We planted 3 rows with about 10 to 12 inches space in between each row (see picture below).

I'm not sure how big these potatoes will be at harvest time but so far the plants are thriving and I can honestly say that I have never grown such healthy looking potato plants before this year's crop.


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