Garden Makeover Begins!!!

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December 2nd of last year my husband and I received the keys to our first home.  It was a short sale that took us from July to December to close on and that was considered fast for this type of purchase.  Since this house was a smelly mess and left vacant for 6-12 months we had soooo much to do before we could move in.  I was 7 months pregnant when we got the keys to our new dump home.  It would take every weekend (including the previous weekend where we broke into the house to rip out the carpet before we got the keys) and a handyman working 6 days a week to get us moved in for Christmas weekend.

Now our son is 5 months old and life has settled a bit we are starting to focus on our projects list.  Our back patio is nicely paved and has a built-in barbecue that unfortunately was not taken care of and will need to be revamped as a later project.  The patio cover needs to also have some of the boards replaced and be repainted.  But I really wanted to start working on the garden.  I want some of the existing plants and palm tree removed which is being done this weekend so I could visualize what to put where.  I picture the garden to mainly be an edible garden and our front walk up a cutting garden.

Here is what the back patio looks like right now:Climbing rose to go on new lattice and the plant to the right is being removed.

Bye Bye palm tree!!!!  Blackberry vine to go in the ground

Succulent to go.  Eventually the barbeque will get a new hood, new doors and a new counter top.   Weed cleanup

Pretty messy right now.  There is a lot of dirt loss to make up for and nutrients need to be added to the new soil.  After this weekend it will be interesting to see how it all starts to come together! Sunday I will post pics of the progress made this weekend.

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How to cure a Black Thumb

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I have always dreamed of having my own peaceful garden and I would love to work on my new patio but my black thumb scares me.  I am determined to conquer this problem and think positive learning from my mistakes.  I can’t even count the number of plants that have died in my care over the last 12 years but its enough to where my husband is dreading the amount of money I plan to put into a garden he isn’t sure will survive.

Here is where I am at so far.  I decided to add nutrients to my garden by getting a worm composter.  I started composting using the Worm Factory on April 8, 2012.  Tray one is almost ready for the garden.  Tray 2 it being worked through pretty good.  And I just added tray three.

I have started a journal for the garden where I mapped out what is planted there now, what’s to stay, what’s to go and what I want to plant.  The palm and the corner plant I call an elephant ear, even though I KNOW it isn’t an elephant ear plant, are being taken out this weekend. I will also have the rose bush trimmed and reworked onto a new lattice.

I have a blackberry vine ready to go into the ground.   A basil plant to replace the one the local snails ate in 2 days. A spearmint, and a chocolate mint.  Due to the snail problem I will be releasing Decollate Snails purchased at my local Green Thumb. Then I will later work on edibles in containers and raised beds. My front entryway will be worked later so that roses, bulbs and a hydrangea will provide cut flowers for the house.

This is a long term project and I have already investigated many items from Pinterest to try and use.  It will be exciting to share this with you and have something to look back on that will either prove if a black thumb is curable or a disorder for life.

Operation Pinterest – Cake Batter Cookies (using Cornstarch and Simple Sugar Glaze)

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One of my girlfriends couldn’t stop talking about how she wanted to bake something and she was craving the cake batter cookies from Pinterest.  I told her since we were already getting together with her and her fiance for dinner lets bake the cookies that night.  We went to the store and gathered the few things we didn’t have in our mutual cupboards.  At the store she told me that she had also read a second pin that said that cornstarch in place of baking powder made fluffier cookies.  I thought well let try it and see what happens.  We then found that they didn’t have the type of sprinkles the recipe called for so we got the little nonpareil dots.  This would be our second adjustment to the recipe before even making it home.

Once home I started to put together the recipe by gathering all our needed items, the left over chocolate sprinkles I had, and a bowl to make it, a spatula, spoon and a whisk.

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I mixed the dry in the large bowl, used the cornstarch where the recipe said baking powder, and wet in a separate bowl.  We then added the wet to the dry and got this:

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In went 1 (yes I said one) bottle of sprinkles and the half bottle of chocolate sprinkles and got this:

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That looked like a lot of sprinkles to us so we decided to not add any more sprinkles even though the recipe called for a full cup, which would have been 3-4 bottles of the nonpareil.  I must warn that we did use different sprinkles so before you start tailoring your recipe keep that in mind.  In the interest of your budget these bottles were on sale for $2.99 a bottle so add slowly until you get the sprinkle ratio you want.

Onto the pan they went, using a soup spoon from my cutlery set (I think that’s what the large of the 2 spoons that comes in your sets is.)  The recipe says it yield 30-32 and we got 28 cookies.

On to the Silpat and into a oven set at 350 degrees (I have a convection oven so it automatically resets to 325)

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While they cooked I got a brilliant idea to make a sugar glaze for an icing.  I Googled simple sugar glaze and picked the first one listed.  Got out my pot and saw it needed powdered sugar and water and took everything to the stove.  It said to use a cup of powdered sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of water.

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Well I put the sugar in the pot glanced back at the recipe and saw it required no cooking.  Lovely, I must learn to read instructions BEFORE starting. So I used the pot as a bowl, added a tablespoon of water and got this:

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I slowly added a little bit more water at a time (I’d say 1/4 tsp- 1/2 at a time) until I got this:

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Looked good to me.  Cookies baked for 10 minutes I pulled them out added glaze to half of the first batch.

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In went the second batch and we tasted the first.  They were perfect for my girlfriend but seemed slightly undercooked to me so I decided that 14 minutes for the next batch would be perfect.  Welllllllllll, the cookies stayed in for 18 minutes.  I’m a mom who is entertaining people and a 5 month old so cut me some slack. The top cookies are batch #1 bottom is batch #2:

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At 18 minutes they were a bit crispier and had a golden color to them.  I LOVED THEM!  I would probably set them for a 15 minute cook time in the future but these were really easy and so good!!

Cake Batter Cookies:  The Pin  The Website

Cornstarch Tip:  The Pin  The Website

Simple Sugar Glaze:  The Pin  The Website

Operation Pinterest

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Ahhh Pinterest, the never ending boards of things I love and want to do but will never end up doing.  Ok screw that, my new mission is to try to recreate the things I have pinned. Whats the point of having a Pinterest if I never take those ideas and put them to use?

According to Pinterest I can become an amazing chef, a crafty interior designer, a creative gift wrap expert, party planner on a budget, all while wielding a saw and making my own bed frame.

Did I mention that I once screwed up instant mash potatoes?  INSTANT.  Like from a box. No joke.  (I partially blame my family for that, who serves instant on a holiday?????)  I have come a long way since then but just to warn you what we are working with here.

Introduction

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Slowly over the years I have become more concerned about my health and the health of my family. In the past few years I have read numerous articles about how we live and how it effects our earth, our homes, and our health.

Years ago I saw author Michael Pollan on the Today show promoting a book and he said one of his Food Rules was “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” This made me laugh at the time and I yelled back “There goes my entire diet!” and went on getting ready for work.  But for some reason this stuck with me all day long.  I really began to ask myself what I eat that my great-grandmothers wouldn’t recognize and honestly it was a scary 80-90%.  Then I began to wonder what they think about my kitchen in a general since there is SO much they would never have used.  From my food storage bags and plastic containers, to the nonstick coating on my pans, and even the plastic cooking utensils I use.  So much has changed to make our lives ‘easier’.

From this point on an uneasiness settled as I began to wonder about what we use to put food in our mouths.  I thought about that article I read that warned of BPA in plastics and canned goods.  I considered the chemicals they talk about in air freshers as well as all my cleaning products, you know the ones that leave you with burning eyes and a sore throat.  I Googled articles that said my pans with nonstick coating can be toxic.  Toxins, carcinogens, hormone interrupters, on and on and on!  They were in EVERYTHING I used.  Was easier  going to slowly make me sick?

After my initial panic subsided I thought about those great-grandmothers again and how they used glass jars for canning, and storage.  Cast iron and open flame for cooking.  And mostly homemade cleaning products. I’m sure nothing ever went to waste in their houses either.

This made me feel so frustrated and scared, so I cleaned house.  Some things got tossed right away other things I used up and replaced with what I felt were safer alternatives.  I don’t feel we can hide from everything.  I can’t control my friends or neighbors, some things I can’t get away from using due to my own personal lifestyle and other things I selfishly do not want to give up at all.  What I decided I can do is to try to reduce my exposure to potentially harmful things.

I always say I am far from perfect and will always be a work in process.  I do recycle, which I have with bottles and cans for years, but now we are on a larger scale thanks to our waste management company.  I use cloth diapers 85% of the time but I am aiming toward 95%.  I buy organic, hormone free, and local whenever possible.  I have also worked to switch to safer food storage, cooking and cleaning items.

I am however, a walking contradiction.  I want to reduce toxins and chemicals in my home but I dye my hair, I am obsessed with makeup, and I love my nail polish. I want to lower my impact on the earth but I am constantly scolding myself for wasting water and electricity.

Everyone’s journey is different and if you can look past my occasional spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as my periodic contradictions, I invite you to share in mine!