I have been scouring the internet for new recipes lately. There are so many new plants in my garden this year that I don’t even know what to do with 1/3 of them! Today I came across this recipe for Sparkling Lavender Lemonade at the website All Things Lavender.
It does not appear to be an active blog (her last post was last August from the looks of it), but there are several great sounding recipes that use lavender. This is one of them!
The lavender is infused in water and honey as though you are making a tea. After the mixture is cool you stir in a cup of lemon juice and 2 cups of sparkling water. I served the drink on ice.
Tea is probably my least favorite drink. Ever. I also don’t particularly care for sweetening things with honey. My husband, on the other hand, loves tea. Several of my garden plantings were solely for the purpose of making him fresh tea. He already tried lemon balm tea from the garden, which he said was like drinking a fresh cup of Pine Sol. Guess that wasn’t a success.
This drink, however, was delicious. The man of the house said he liked it, but he didn’t down the drink, as he usually does with food and beverage he really enjoys. I thought it was fantastic though! It was even better since I made it after sitting through another day of 90 degree temperatures in my house. That’s right, the AC system has still not been replaced. As a matter of fact, it is after nine o’clock at night and the guys are STILL in the attic working. I don’t foresee any cool air in my future this evening. :(
I am really looking forward to making this drink to have when friends come by and sit in my garden with me. It is a perfect spring or summer sweet spritzer. The only change I will probably make is to add less honey. I don’t think it needed the entire cup that the recipe called for. Next time, and there will definitely be a next time, I will only add 1/2 a cup and see how that does.
Today I am having a new HVAC system installed so I decided to take a break from the indoors projects and move outside. The rain finally subsided for a day and should be returning soon. I am taking advantage of this and getting a few things done in the garden boxes:
This is what my garden boxes looked like on April 29, 2013 after I sowed the seeds (24 days ago):
The garden is doing great! Only a handful of the plants are store bought. Over 2/3 of everything in those boxes was grown from seeds. I am so excited at how successful it looks so far.
Each day I spend about 5 minutes pulling out the little weeds and it has really paid off. With all the rain we have been having, I have only had to water a handful of times. My star performers from seeds so far are my squash, snap peas, chard, bush and pole beans, and radishes. My spinach, all different lettuce, carrots and marigolds also look fantastic.
My peas and beans are doing so well it was time to wrap some twine around the poles that will be used to trellis them. This is not a difficult process, and not necessarily cost effective (though not expensive either). You could easily buy a premade trellis, but they look exactly the way I wanted them to. The only concern I have right now is that the trellises will be too small. As I said, the peas and beans are really taking off. I fear they are going to outgrow their little home in their barrels!
Do It Yourself Pole Bean Trellis (makes one)
You will need:
- 5 – Five foot long bamboo poles (or desired number and length to suit your needs)
- Roll of twine
Place the poles equally distant in a circle in the ground. I sunk my poles about 10 inches. Gather the poles together at the top. Using the twine, knot the poles together with a lashing knot. Cut twine. Starting at the base of the pole teepee you have created, wrap the twine around the circle of poles, tying a knot around each pole as you go. Keep the twine taught as you move around the circle. Repeat as many levels of twine as necessary to support your plants.
Okay, let’s be honest, what have I NOT been doing the last couple of weeks? My house is still a disaster because I am still in the middle of remodeling. I would love to report that I have finished a few of my rooms, but alas, not a single one is actually done. They all have projects to complete before I can truly be happy with the state they are in. Not to mention, we have paid the DIY price on two of the bathrooms recently…
We realized we did not use the right wax ring on the toilet in the half bath downstairs so it has been leaking. UGH! We had to pull the toilet back out, rip out some of the sheetrock and baseboards, dry it for several days and then fix everything back up. It is a good thing I am getting so handy at replacing walls in this house. Why? Oh yes, I also had to replace a hole in the guest bath upstairs behind the bathtub. I had a total Tim the Tool Man Taylor moment while putting the “finishing touches” in that room. While replacing the shower head, bathtub handle, and tub downspout, I bent the gosh darn copper pipe that the downspout attaches too. I had to call my plumber who had to go into the wall behind it to replace it. More sheet rock to repair. Oh, you want to hear more mishaps? Well, we also learned the faucet in our downstairs bath was faulty – not our faulty, manufacturer faulty – and we had to rip that out too. The five of us have been sharing one bathroom for about two weeks now. Good thing we have two sinks in it now! This also all happened WHILE the laundry room was torn up for its remodel. Washer and dryer in the hallway, no ability to do laundry. I was not the happiest Mom the Builder.
Yes, my 11 year old son walks around singing the theme song to Bob the Builder, but instead says Mom the builder.
The downstairs bath is now fully functioning again, and the laundry room is done! Okay, as I said before, not done, but close enough! I still have a few additions for it. However, my master bathroom has looked like this:
for several weeks now. Those other projects are going to have to wait until I get my bathroom back!
You may have seen my first laundry room post where I showed you how I cleaned out the room in preparation for its remodel. Since then I have been busy working on everything from tiling (which I have officially decided I hate doing with every ounce of my soul), to refinishing cabinets, to hanging shelves and closet rods.
Here is the before picture, after I already cleaned it out:
Refinishing the cabinet I bought at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for $25, and painting the hardwood plywood I purchased to create a countertop.
Everything ripped out: and ready to go:
There are few things I like better in a house than a fresh coat of paint!
And, the “final” product… (is it just me or does that picture of naval aviator wings up top look like a menorah?)
I LOVE having the countertop to fold laundry on. Things I still need to do: I need to add a middle support to the folding counter and put an “apron” on the front of it. It sags slightly in the middle and I don’t like how it looks with such a thin face. I also still need to buy new boxes so they will match my new paint job. I just haven’t had time to make it to the stores for that yet. Last, but not least, I need to hang the doors back up. I am going to be transforming my bi-fold doors into French doors. Maybe I will make that into Laundry Room Part III! But first…on to the master bath!
My slow-cooker and I have a serious relationship. I adore my slow-cooker. I love that I can put a meal in it during the day and then I have a full meal when it is time for dinner. Gooseberry Patch sent me one of their latest cookbooks, Slow Cooking All Year Round. I usually use my slow cooker in the winter for soups and chili but I used my slow cooker the rest of the year for convenience and so I don’t have to turn on the oven.
I have wanted to try lasagna in my slow-cooker ever since a friend told me about it. I just never got around to it. When I saw a recipe for it in the book, I knew I had to try it.
1 lb lean ground beef
2 26oz jars chunky tomato, garlic and onion pasta sauce
1/2 c. water
1 T. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
2 T. grated Parmesan Cheese
16 oz. container small-curd cottage cheese
8 oz. pkg oven-ready lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
***I made a few changes to the recipe so that I was able to use what I had on hand. Instead of cottage cheese, I used ricotta.
Brown beef in a skillet, remove from heat and drain. Stir in sauce, water and seasonings. In a bowl, combine Parmesan cheese and cottage cheese. In a lightly greased slow-cooker, spread some of the sauce mixture. Layer with noodles (break them if you need to), cheese mixture and both kinds of mixtures. Repeat layers and end with shredded cheese. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until noodles are tender. Let stand with slow-cooker off for about ten minutes before serving.
I have to say that don’t feel like cooking the lasagna in the slow-cooker was any less work than cooking it in the oven. The only step I was able to skip was boiling the noodles.
Both of my kids gobbled it up. We had more than enough for leftovers so I ended up freezing it for another meal on another day. The book is full of recipes for all four seasons and we have been having fun trying them out. Bananas Foster is next on the list!
Do you want to win a copy of the book for yourself?
How to Enter
We will be giving away ONE copy of the cookbook to one lucky winner. If you would like a chance to win, leave us a comment in this post and tell us about your favorite slow-cooker meal. Leave your comment before May 18, 2013 at 9:59 p.m. CST.
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I have a serious case of crazy Spring Fever. The projects I have going on right now are countless. I am desperately trying to turn my house (that I have already lived in for almost four years) into a home. I am trying to get my garden and backyard in order. I am finishing remodeling my guest bathroom. In the middle of remodeling the master bathroom. Building cabinets. Replacing the roof and HVAC system (of course I’m not doing that myself…I’m not THAT crazy). The list goes on. Part of my bathroom remodels have been to rip up the ugly, ten year old, linoleum flooring, and replacing it with ceramic tile. The same ugly linoleum is in our laundry closet, so guess what? Yep! That’s got to go too!
House remodels would go so much quicker if you could just get to work putting the new items in. Unfortunately, before that can begin, there is a lot of clean up and sometimes demolition. Do you have an area in your house that just always remains disheveled and dirty? I am usually a pretty clean person, but for me that room is my little laundry closet. It is always dirty, and dusty. There are dust bunnies hanging from the rafters, semi-dried up detergent everywhere. Isn’t it lovely?
Agh! Poor Pooh Bear couldn’t take it anymore so he hung himself. So sad. Before I was able to start demolition for my remodel, I needed to to get this area cleaned up!
Here is how to clean up your laundry room/laundry closet…in less than one hour and for free! (time will vary depending on how much junk you have to clean out)
- Remove EVERYTHING from the space and put it in the hallway or another room. This is a great way to clean and declutter ANY room. Once you see how beautiful it looks empty, you won’t want to put all that junk back.
- Take a damp sponge and clean off ALL surfaces. This includes those crazy dusty walls and ceiling and, in my case, all parts of the wire shelving. Have a clean, dry towel handy to wipe up the water.
- Take the time to pull out the washer and dryer and clean under and around them.
- Throw away all the trash or items that you have not used in the last six months and that cannot be donated.
- Fill a box of donations with the rest of the items that you have not used in the last six months. Don’t think you can bear to part with them quite yet? Put the box away in another room. If you haven’t gone into the box in the next month, take it to your local thrift store!
- Make sure all the items leftover actually belong in this space. If they don’t, put them away, of course! As you can see in my picture above, MANY of these items did not belong in this area. My baby got Pooh Bear back, the sleeping bags went in the linen closet (that was also recently cleaned so there were THREE empty shelves), the paint to the garage…you get the point.
- Organize the remaining items into containers and label them. The containers you see below are from my kids’ old toy shelves. I have a stack of them sitting in a closet exactly for purposes like this. When I remodel I will be purchasing new ones to match the space and labeling them.
My washer and dryer sparkle now and the room is practically empty! This is not a show just for the picture either…everything is truly cleaned up and put away elsewhere or in the trash. The blue box is only the detergent, bleach, and fabric softener. The middle pink box is holding the iron and starch. The pink box on the right is holding spare light bulbs, and the red bin has tea lights and tart burners. The trash can is for the lint, and I will also be adding a container of wet wipes to wipe the machines off EVERY TIME I use them from now on. I suppose I should also try to make my own laundry detergent like Debbie just posted the other day!
What room would you LOVE to tackle for spring cleaning???
“We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.” ~ E.B. White
I know that the directions to make your own laundry detergent are all over the Internet (I just did a Google search — 3,000,000 results!); but, I thought I would take a few moments to share my own experience. Jen got me started almost a year and a half ago. The price of laundry detergent is RIDICULOUS!!! When I heard about this frugal “simple” solution, I decided to it a try!
Super Washing Soda ($3.24/box)
Fels-Naptha soap bar ($.97/bar)
Grate the soap. For each bar of soap, mix in one cup of each of the dry “ingredients.”
Store in an airtight container, along with a tablespoon convenient for measuring. Use one heaping spoonful for each load. Works well in the newer High Efficiency clothes washers. If you’ve got a particularly dirty or large load, you can always throw in another spoonful (although Jen keeps trying to convince me that isn’t necessary, it makes me feel better).
About once a quarter I drag out the “tools” and spend a bit of time watching something mindless on T.V. while grating soap before mixing all of the “ingredients” together. I could throw the soap into the food processor, but there is actually something therapeutic about investing a bit of effort into the process (Full disclosure — I also enjoy ironing and doing dishes by hand … totally “unconnected” and time to think!).
I usually make three batches at a time to fill my container. The contents will settle over time so give it a quick stir or shake it up once in a while. I’ve spent less than $25 to date and have made enough laundry detergent to last more than a year. Best of all — it works! Everything looks clean, and smells clean, too!
I sold my home last fall, put most of my belongings into storage, and moved into a small cottage in a historic downtown area. I don’t miss the mortgage, the yard work or the cleaning, but I do miss my garage and my big kitchen! I went from a kitchen with all of the “conveniences” (e.g., garbage disposal and dishwasher) to a kitchen “wall”!
But, size is no excuse not to cook and eat well! I’ve got my box of recipes, a couple of favorite cookbooks, Kitchen Aid mixer and food processor, Rival Crockpot, and a bread maker. I’ve made big pots of soup, breakfast casseroles, and even made a small ham for Easter (actually cooked it on Saturday so I could get a head start on the sandwiches!) and stollen at Christmas. I try to spend a bit of time every weekend doing some cooking so that every dinner during the work week is NOT a bowl of cereal!
April is almost over! Here in NW Florida spring is in full swing (not so much for Jen who is expecting snow early next week). I made my first trip of the season to the Farmers’ Market downtown. It is still a bit early for most vegetables but there was asparagus, fresh herbs, honey, strawberries, fresh eggs, and many baked goods.
I adapted this salad recipe from something I cut out of a magazine several years ago. You can take advantage of the relatively lower price on asparagus this time of the year, and this salad is a nice meatless alternative with the pine nuts and beans contributing some protein. And, best of all – it tasted great!!
Two cups cooked white beans (I used two cans of Great Northern Beans)
2 cups orzo
½ cups cooked asparagus
½ cup pine nuts (raw or toasted)
¼ sweet onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ olive oil
Steam the asparagus for about six minutes (cooked but still bright green and crisp). Rinse in cold water to stop cooking process. Prepare the orzo per package directions (I used the water leftover from steaming the asparagus). Rinse and drain beans. Combine all in a large bowl with pine nuts, onion and basil.
Combine dressing ingredients and mix well. Add to salad and toss. Refrigerate.
I meant it when I said I am getting my backyard ready as soon as possible! This morning we went out and bought the materials for our garden boxes. I purchased enough material for 4 – 4’x8’ garden boxes: 36 cedar fence pickets, 2“ screws, and 1” screws. Easy as that!
I L-O-V-E this website. I have always had an interest in building things and I was trying to convince my husband I could build new kitchen cabinets. That was an interesting conversation! Not too long after, my cousin started posting pictures of these AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL items she was building – beds, dressers, all sorts of things! How in the world was she doing this??? She gave me a helpful “things you must have” list and pointed me to Ana White’s website and I haven’t looked back since.
I don’t even have anything funny to report about this build. I still have three more boxes to go though, so we’ll see. The first was really easy, but a little slow-going since I had to adjust the plans to my measurements. The boards are already cut for the other boxes so I am expecting to finish them during the baby girl’s nap time tomorrow. It is SO exciting! We are going to have so much space to grow some terrific veggies this year!
Here is the cut list I used to make one 4’ x 8’ box:
Using 9 boards, Cut List:
- 4 – 1×6 Fence Pickets @ 71 3/4″ (Side Panels, I trimmed the dog ear off)
- 8 – 1×2 Fence Pickets @ 11″ (Corner Posts)
- 4 – 1×6 Fence Pickets @ 46 3/4″ (End Panels)
- 2 – 1×2 Fence Pickets @ 71 3/4″ (Top Trim, I used the non-dog-eared ones from the center of the cuts)
- 2 – 1×2 Fence Pickets @ 48″ (Top Trim, Ends)
I did as she suggested in the plans and ripped down one of the boards to get the trim pieces (so instead of 1x2s, they are actually 1 x 1 1/4). I was able to cut one 48” trim and two 11” trims out of one 1×1 1/4. So all the trim pieces came from one board. I have several leftover 24” 1×6 boards from cutting the short sides (48” boards). I am going to use these to make some smaller, taller planter boxes. Yay!
Well, SUPPOSEDLY spring has sprung. I’m sorry, but Phil lied. Here in southern Virginia it SNOWED yesterday. I don’t live in the mountains…rather close to the beach, actually. Yet, snow. SNOW!!! And I think it is supposed to snow again next week. Geesh!
Regardless, I am sitting around planning for my vegetable garden. In fact, I am sitting knee deep in seeds and graph paper as we speak. Blogging about it is my “break” from the grueling process of organizing my plants on paper! Notice the required water glass and dark chocolate to get me through this process!
I feel like I am getting a late start this year. I do all of my gardening from seeds and it is about time for me to have them sown indoors. That is going to be an important task for me this week. After creating my plan tonight though, I have figured out I only have about 1/3 of what I need. Hopefully I will be able to find all the other seeds I need this weekend.
We have decided to GO BIG OR GO HOME! this year with our garden. I am SOOOO excited! We are going to have quite the set up out back if I don’t kill everything I plant. I used some pre-made vegetable garden plans I found at Better Homes and Gardens and adjusted them to work for my own space and food needs. They gave me great ideas about arranging plants and adding beautiful flowers to the mix!
We will have four, yes, four boxes that are each 4 feet by 8 feet. They will be filled with just about every vegetable possible, including:
green bell peppers, swiss chard, red cabbage, lettuce, radishes, oregano, onion, pole beans, rhubarb, broccoli, parsley, carrots, cucumber, snap peas, basil, chamomile, bush beans, zucchini, eggplant, lavender, spinach, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, spearmint, sweet potato, jalapeno peppers, roma tomato, purple tomatillos, yellow squash, and butternut squash.
Quite a list, huh? It’s actually pretty darn intimidating and I just don’t know if I have that green of a thumb. All of the bold veggies above are items I have never grown before. Notice many of them are root vegetables. I was scared to death of root vegetables until I tried radishes last time I had my garden. They were a wild success and I am ready to conquer more now! Some of these plants may change. I am not sure about the butternut squash. They spread pretty far and I just don’t know if I want to give up that much space for one vegetable.
So, that is that! I would also like to do a bit of landscaping along with my garden beds. Here is the plan I have right now.
The boxes are on the left, a fire pit area with seats and benches in the middle, and a mulched area with a swing set and fort on the right. The gray area around the boxes and fire pit are pebbles. None of it exists right now except those two green trees off to the right! We are getting the swing set from a friend tomorrow.
How ambitious is it to hope that the mulch and pebbles will be in by next weekend? Who knows!? Probably WAY too ambitious!
Have any of you gotten the spring gardening bug? What do you do with your veggies after you harvest them?
Each year, my husband and I throw a St. Patrick’s Day party. It is our big bash of the year and has become its own monster. Our guest list is nearing 200 this year (proof we have lived in one area too long and it is time for the Navy to ship us elsewhere!) and we are SUPER excited about it. We are hoping beyond hope that the weather holds well enough for us to use some of our outdoor space for the event. If not, there is going to be one wet, lonely bounce house in the middle of our backyard. :/
We have almost outgrown using our house for the party and it is very possible that next year we will have to hold it at an event space (o.m.g). This started as basically a big neighborhood party and now includes friends from all over the city as well as my husband’s office. Planning a party for over 100 people takes a lot of time and effort. There are a few things we were willing to relinquish control of this year – mainly the food. We decided it was worth it to have the event semi-catered, to take the stress of food prep off of us (now, if I had my DREAM kitchen I TOTALLY could have done it myself….are you reading honey???). I will still be making the desserts and veggie plates, etc., but we will have BBQ and sides from a local butcher. The healthy eating is totally being thrown out the window this weekend!
We had to move a great deal of furniture around to allow for extra standing room, and the kegerator is out on our back deck. The keg-er-what??? Kegarator. A refrigerator for a keg. Only my husband would know where to borrow one of those from!
When it comes to decorations, we tried to keep it minimal. 97 cent plastic table cloths from Wally World. Green bows to tie back the curtains. I even wrapped ribbon around the cupboards…I haven’t decided how much I like that. My two favorite decorations though, are my sign that says, in Gaelic, “St. Patrick’s Day Blessings Upon You,” and the clovers hung from the ceiling.
To make the sign I used a green sheet to cover a large 4×4 foot existing painting on our mantle. I stapled the sheet onto the backside of the canvas frame using a staple gun and I painted the saying on the front using white acrylic paint. It is simple, and I think I have hideous painting penmanship, but it definitely adds some Irish flavor to the room.
We found a tutorial for the clovers here at Hands On As We Grow and they were super easy to make. They were a GREAT project for my seven year old daughter to do almost completely on her own.
1. Cut strips of construction paper , lengthwise, into 1.5 inch strips.
2. Fold the paper in half.
3. Bend the non-fold edges over to create a heart out of the paper. Stable the two edges together.
4. This makes one heart. Repeat the process to make a total of three hearts.
5. Create a stem by putting two folds in the middle of one strip of paper.
6. Staple the non-folded edges on either side of one of the hearts. This is your middle heart.
7. Staple a heart on each side of the middle heart.
Now you have a great three leaf clover decoration! My daughter helped me make SEVENTY-FIVE of these to hang from our ceiling and she loved every second of it. Especially since her hearts looked better than mine!!! We used fishing line and white thumb tacks to hang the clovers.
Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day!