Thursday, October 22, 2015

a little help for cold season

Awhile back, in my net-surfing adventures, I found some directions for making vapor shower disks--like the ones that Vicks used to make. Knowing that cold season would be coming, I printed the directions out, and put them into my ticker file, resolving to make some up when one of us found ourselves in need of a congestion-buster.

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That day came this week, as my daughter found herself with one of those fall colds.

Following these directions that I found on beingfrugalbychoice, I took about twenty five minutes on a Tuesday night to mix up the ingredients. I let them sit overnight, and by bath-time on Wednesday (which turned into shower-time), I had a container full of fragrant shower disks. We popped one of them in the shower with my 7-year old, and within a few minutes, the bathroom was full of eucalyptus and lavendar vapors, and all our sinuses were much more clear than had been the case earlier.

Suffice it to say, we're fans.

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You'll need the following:

-2 or so cups baking soda
-enough water to turn that baking soda into a think paste--with a consistency that's kind of like putty
-15 drops each of essential oils--eucalyptus and lavendar (Sarah at frugal by choice also adds rosemary oil, but I didn't have any, so I left that out)
-A muffin tin (I filled up one of my 12-cups, and about half of another, but I didn't fill them full. If you fill the cups full, you won't need two tins like I did)
-Muffin liners

Place the baking soda into a mixing bowl. Slowly add the water until you have a thick paste/putty-like texture. Then add the essential oils.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin (filled with liners) and let sit out overnight, preferably for at least 12 hours.

I store them in a plastic container, as seen above.

*These disks are a little bit crumbly. Sarah has a set of directions to cover this, which involves baking the disks before adding the oils, and maybe I'll try that version when I use all of these. For now, I'm satisfied with the results I got here. Not bad for a little experiment.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

2015 Garden--a thrilling tale, to be sure

I feel like our 2015 garden was a real success.  I tried a few new things this year, and most of them worked out really well, though we did have a few unexpected snafus here and there.

We had an unseasonably warm winter this year, and while that made for some really balmy days, it also made it so that our cat didn't want to use the litter box nearly as much as she wanted to use the big dirt box (a/k/a the square foot garden box) outside. It was heaven from an emptying-the-litter-box point of view, but when I went out to find my square foot garden spot full of cat poop (sorry for the graphic mental image there), heaven isn't exactly the word that came to mind.

Not wanting to plant vegetables or things that we would actually eat in dirt that had been thus fertilized all winter, and having recently watched a documentary on the value of pollinators, I determined that we would transition our square foot garden into a pollinator garden. We planted flowers (they are supposed to be perennials, so I guess we'll see if they pop up again next year), and waited patiently for them to bloom.

By the end of July we were awash in flowers, and were seeing bees and butterflies as frequent visitors to our backyard. In short, our pollinator garden was a glorious success!

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As for tomatoes (which, along with fresh basil, is really the only reason I even have a garden), I think I finally got the right configuration--all of them along the side of the house where the sun is best and the dirt is deeper and the water is plentiful. I put the small tomatoes (Sweet 100s and SunGold) along the sides of the area, and put the full-size (Early Girls) in the middle. Next year I think I'll skip the Sweet 100s. In my opinion, nothing compares to SunGolds, so why bother with two varieties?

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I also ventured out to Home Depot (or was it Lowe's?) and following these instructions, I made a serious tomato cage as an experiment, assuming that if it worked out well, I would make more in future years.

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It did work out well, actually astoundingly so, but I won't be making more, because I found that I don't really have room for cages that are any bigger than what I've already got. But, I did go ahead and using stakes and zip-ties, shored up my remaining semi-inferior cages, and I found that this little adjustment helped with the stability of my plants.

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For herbs, we planted basil, cilantro, sage, rosemary, thyme and spearmint. Also, the chives from last year flourished in their same old area, and so I let them do their thing, using them throughout the summer in the place of green onions in many of my recipes.
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I finally got the hang of pinching my basil this year, and so rather than having tall weedy stalks with few leaves, I ended up with actual bush-like clumps of basil. It was marvelous. I made pesto, we had basil in our salads and pasta dishes, and between the basil and the fresh tomatoes, we practically lived on baguettes topped with fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and basil, broiled in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Possibly my very favorite meal, and well-loved by our whole family.

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And now for a little snafu. See that plant on the right down there? That's Catnip, regrown from plants of last year. I mistakenly thought it was spearmint, and offered it to friends, neighbors, and co-workers for use in recipes and drinks. The opera contingent were particularly grateful, and it was only when one of them mentioned to me that this particular mint had a different flavor than any she'd had before that I got looking at the plants closely and found my error. No big deal, Catnip is a member of the mint family after all, but still, I doubt I would have gotten as many takers if I would have "sold" it under its real name. Ah well, live and learn.
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I love a little zucchini, but let's face it, with our minuscule garden space, we really don't have room for hugs squash leaves spreading out all over the place. So, this year, I tried growing a plant in a tomato cage. Success!
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 I do think that next year, I'll follow the example suggested here, and stake the tomato cage upside down. This should allow more room at the bottom, where the leaves are biggest. We'll see how it all works, I guess
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I planted strawberries along the fence, by our compost pile, where we rarely get a whole lot of sun. We didn't get a whole lot of strawberries, but my purpose was mainly to put in some ground cover, to dissuade the weeds from cropping up there, as they generally like to do.  I think I'll see how the plants do over the winter, and maybe add a few more next year, to see if I can't get a bona fide patch growing. The low sun conditions might be a problem though. We'll see.

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So, that's what happened with my garden this year. I leave you with this shot of my daughter's little corner of dirt--an area she fixed up to be a potato-bug habitat.  (They like to hang out under the rocks, and she likes to lift up the rocks and bother them.)
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All told, it was a good year for growing. Now on to 2016!!

lions from sea to shining sea (and across the sea as well)

After a loooong drought of lions lately, I have a full-on cloudburst for you today! Enjoy!!

Orem Utah--taken by Harmony Packer
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Avila, Spain--taken by Cherie Sparks
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d'Orsay Museum (in Paris, France), also by Cherie Sparks (oh look! There she is!)
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Avila Spain--another Cherie special
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A cemetery in Paris, France (again--thanks to Cherie)
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We've seen these lions before on the blog, but never with such an adorable model in the mix. Salt Lake City, temple grounds.
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presented by Heather Albee-Scott--though I forget where these two fine felines reside. My guess is Michigan, since that's where Heather resides.
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(this one is kind of grumpy, no?)
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And finally, three beautiful specimens courtesy of my niece Kaylee, and her trip to the Eastern area of the U.S. I'm not sure if these were taken in Washington D.C., or New York, or both.
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this one is so fascinating to me
Kaylee's mom came along and deigned to pose for this one.
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Whew! Hopefully I'll be a little more on top of this for the foreseeable future!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Graveyard Dessert

Last Halloween, my friend Candace invited us to her house for a pre-trick-or-treating meal, and asked me to make a "spooky" dessert for the festivities.

I thought a bit, wanting something that was spooky, but not gross, and remembered a pudding cake that I had tried many years ago called "dirt and sand", some kind of pudding combined with oreo and vanilla wafer crumbs, topped with plastic flowers. Thinking that something like that could easily be adapted to a spooky theme, and thinking that in this "Age of Pinterest", someone had surely already adapted it and put step-by-step instructions online, I did a little google searching, and found . . .

This post at !!

I modified the decor a little bit according to my whim, and took it to the party, where it was a massive hit.
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So friends, in keeping with the spreading the love vibe that I received from doing my own search, here is the recipe, complete with my own helpful hints for Halloween Graveyard Dirt Dessert:

Halloween Graveyard Dirt Dessert

1 pkg Oreos
8 oz cream cheese (lower fat is fine)
1 cup powdered sugar
3 1/2 cups milk
2 small chocolate instant pudding boxes
1 small container Cool Whip
3-5 gummy worms
3-5 Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies
Wilton Sparkle Gel in Black

Mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar together. In a separate bowl, blend pudding and milk together. Fold the Cool Whip into the pudding mixture, then blend in the cream cheese mixture.

Chop up the Oreos in a food processor or blender. Add half of the Oreo crumbs to the pudding mixture, and spread the mixture into your serving dish. Now you can either sprinkle the other half of the crumbs over the pudding mixture to make a layer of dirt, or you can mound it up in little graves. I chose to do half and half, making three graves on one side and a worm garden on the other. To make your headstones, write "RIP" or whatever you want in sparkel gel on your cookies, and stick them into your pudding graves.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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