Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Antiquing for Memories

I enjoy doing a little shopping on a Sunday afternoon. Don't you always find something that you or your parents owned when you were a child? Those old things really evoke some special memories. They can really transport you back. I love to go to a little antique store called "Red Queens Attic Antiques" in Rosenberg, Texas. Its quiet, the people are very helpful, the prices are outstanding and I always find something I must have. Now, I admit it, my tastes in antiques are a little strange.

For instance, I HAD to have this very cool vintage rusty metal lunchbox. Doesn't it look like something a construction worker brought to work every day for 30 years! Why do I like it? Because it is rusty. Because it has stories to tell. Because I'm pretty weird.

Earth Shoes
It kind of reminds me of the industrial gray plastic lunchboxes my mother sent us to school every day. We were the ONLY kids who brought their own lunch because my parents were on a healthfood kick. Yes, I wore those horrible clunky brown Earthshoes to school. Yes, we were those people. We decorated the outside of the ugly lunchbox with stickers which promptly came off. I remember my mom putting hot dog wieners in a thermos to keep them hot. They were healthfood dogs so they were brown. The thermos was just a little too short, so she had to bend them to get them in the thermos. By lunch, they were permanently bent. You get the picture of what it looked like. Lots of snickering in the lunchroom. Just imagine me taking this brown bent wiener out and putting it in a whole wheat bun while every eye in the cafeteria was upon me. Ugh... I think it scarred me for life. Stop laughing!

Well, I digress...I just had to have the lunchbox. It is magnetic so maybe it can hold all of my recipes inside and I can put the one I'm using to the outside set with a magnet. Or it may find itself the part of some Christmas decoration. Look for it in a blog in the future!

I also HAD to have a very old metal beater. I think it came from grandma's estate. No one wanted the old thing but Frazzled Mom absolutely needed. What will I do with it? Probably put it in a vinette of old kitchen implements of some sort.

I also found a very cute tea cup set to add to my growing Christmas vintage set. I host a Christmas tea every year and I want to serve all my guests in different cups. Cute huh? I almost have enough for all my guests.

At another little antique store in Richmond called "Antiques Around the Corner" I found an old cookbook. It is the same one that my mom owned when I was growing up. Just opening it up and looking at the pictures brought back a flood of memories.  I also found an old street sign for the boys faux brick wall. It says "20 MPH" and is bright orange. After the shop owner assured me it was legal for me to purchase, I snatched it up. The boys think it is pretty cool!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall plantings doing well

It's been pretty quiet in the garden until recently. I was watching seeds sprout. Now my hard work has finally paid off. All the fall plants are doing well with the exception of two cucumber plants which I yanked in frustration. I have one nervous cucumber plant that despite its appearance, produced a cucumber to prove its worth. It's staying for now, but I have my eye on it. The cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, green beans, onions, carrots, and tomato are all looking productive. I actually have tomatoes on the plants and the beans will be ready to pick very shortly. Let's take a walk through the garden together...
Green beans are almost ready!

My cucumber plant will be in a "pickle"
if it doesn't start producing! 

Overload of Louisiana Satsumas will be ready shortly


broccoli plant

Green beans vining up and flowering nicely

closeup of vining green bean flower - Beautiful! 

Trying my hand at growing onions this season. So far, so good!

tomatoes are showing their fruit

Sweet peas are a family favorite. We often eat them right
off the vine while standing in the garden. 

Fennel gone wild! 

more flowers for the butterflies

Ah ha! Found these beauties yesterday. My eggplant got its second wind!

Gardens 6, 7 & 8

Look who is living on my fennel plant! Beautiful Black Swallowtail caterpillars!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pick a peck of pepper predicament

We have had batch after batch of peppers this summer. Now that the weather has started to cool just slightly, the peppers have gotten the message to produce like crazy! The pile to the left is just one morning's pickings. Needless to say, I am begging people to take peppers! The Habanero are the small orange ones and they are unbelievably hot! My husband cannot cut into them in the kitchen when I am around or I start choking and my airway closes up immediately. Yes, they are that hot! I have been using them for my garlic fire bug spray but I still have tons and tons leftover. Maybe I should dip them in chocolate and sell them on the internet as a "dare" item! One thing I tell people is that bellpeppers freeze extremely well. You need to remove the stem and seeds and chop them up and freeze in ziplock bags for easy recipe use. If you put just enough in the bag to pat them flat, they are easy to stack and freeze and even easier to remove just what you need for a recipe. Planting Tip: Learn from my mistake...DO NOT place pepper plants near each other or they will cross pollinate and you will have a frankenpepper. I got a few crossed peppers this year. Now, if you like weird peppers, then go for it. I like to get what I planted, so I will be careful to separate them next year.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Homemade Disinfecting General Purpose Cleaner

I've been testing out various recipes for general purpose cleaners. I really want a good one that I can use everywhere and doesn't smell gross. This one removes grease and makes my stainless shine. It also works well in the bathroom. This recipe doesn't smell like vinegar but has a very light lemon smell. It's a keeper! I use True Lemon because it mixes in easily and is convenient. You can order it by the shaker from the website or buy it by the box at your grocer. I use True Lemon for cooking and in my water. It is inexpensive and has lots of uses! Do not use this on granite or marble because the vinegar can etch the surface. 


4 cups water
6 Tbls. white vinegar
3 tsp. Borax
1/4 tsp. True Lemon lemon powder 

Pour 4 cups of water into a glass measuring cup or other microwavable container. Heat for 3 minutes in your microwave. Add the vinegar, borax and lemon powder. Mix, cool and pour into a spray container. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

About Growing Stevia

Look at this huge pile of green. No, I haven't been weeding my garden. This is stevia harvested from my garden. I know, that stevia powder you get in the store is horrible. I hate the aftertaste. I decided to grow stevia sort of as a novelty. I decided to try and dry some and put it in my iced tea maker. I wasn't expecting much. Holy smokes! My iced tea was sweet without the aftertaste. I didn't have to put very much (2 pinches of dried leaves). I quickly went back to Nelson Water Garden and picked up two more plants. As you can see, I have a very nice harvest. The leaves are sweetest right before the flowers bloom. Keep your soil consistently most as stevia does not like dry soil.  Pick in the morning and hang upside down to dry. (you may have to explain to all visitors that nothing illegal is going on here. he he) Take all the leaves off and put in a jar for use.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Wonderful Example of Perseverance

My amazing husband has been in college for the past 13 years working on his civil engineering degree. Before that, he had never taken a college class, so he had to start at the beginning (including some remedial classes). He works a full-time job, is the world's best father and is a conscientious student maintaining a high GPA at University of Houston. Because of his work schedule, he is only able to take one class per semester. It just drags on and on. We sat down together this weekend and figured out how many classes he has left until he graduates. There were more than he thought and we both got really frustrated. For the first time ever, I told him he should just give it up. He was close to the end, but we had sacrificed so much family time in his pursuit of a degree. Was it even worth it? He initially agreed. By the end of the day, he looked me in the eye and told me he couldn't give up. He would keep pursuing his goal. It made my heart almost burst. This guy never ever gives up! I am so proud of him! One good thing that has come out of this is that our boys have seen his struggle. They both know that they must pursue their degree before having a family. They also know that they cannot complain about any hardships throughout college life. I am just so proud of the example my husband is to my boys. I love you Snugglebunny!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Falling in Love with Fall

Oh I fall in love with Fall every year. The temperature in Houston is cooler today. I can actually walk outside and look at my garden without getting drenched in sweat. Everyone that lives in the South knows what I mean. I loved being able to use up my homemade compost. I used up all three bins and I will need to supplement. That means I need to invest in some more plastic boxes with lids for additional compost. Hard to believe I had bins and bins of kitchen scraps that I would have just thrown out. I love that I kept that out of a landfill and reused it in our garden to feed our plants that will now feed us. What a beautiful cycle!
Baby French "Rolande" beans sprouted

We planted our string beans. They are the  "haricot vert" thin delicious ones that are so expensive at the grocery store. I purchased them from Renee's Garden Seeds here . They are called Bush, French, "Rolande". They did very well this spring. The only problem was that I just couldn't get enough of them! I also am trying the pole "haricot vert" variety from this same site called Filet, "Emerite". Here are the bush ones pushing up from the earth. I'll soon trim the weaker of the two seeds that sprouted. There are nine plants and I planted three squares of the bush plants. I planted eight plants of the pole beans in two squares. That should give me a fair amount of beans. I had to laugh that at the beginning of the Spring season I panicked that I wouldn't be able to fill the 128 squares in my eight gardens. Now I am eyeing things to pull up so I can put in more cabbage!! I am waiting a bit to plant carrots but they are coming soon. 

In the meantime, I have planted three kinds of tomatoes including my favorite sweet millions cherry tomatoes. I have also planted lots of broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower and a few greens and cabbages. All are doing well in the fertile soil provided by the compost. The peppers are getting their second wind and taking off. The habanero peppers are beautiful! 



Habanero Peppers - someone help me eat these!

We also have lots and lots of friendly lizards to keep the bug population down. 
Look at this cute little guy! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Nelson Water Garden - Where everybody knows your name

Yes, I left some for you!

I woke up this morning and nearly skipped out of bed. This is the day I would get to finally purchase my fall garden babies at Nelson Water Garden. I'd been calling for a few weeks trying to pinpoint exactly when they would get their fall vegetable plants in. I knew I would have to pounce on them immediately or they would be gone. I am also anxious to get my garden started. Fall feels like it is coming early this year.

I had made a huge batch of Chewy Ginger cookies yesterday (recipe here), so I brought a dozen to Cramer, my favorite gardening guru at Nelson's. He is always so sweet and helpful and greets me by name every time I walk through the door. People that can do this amaze me because I am just awful with names.

Colourful cauliflowerI made a beeline for the veggies and started loading up. I have 33 empty spots that I have to fill and I wanted a LOT of that to be broccoli. It seems we never had enough last year. They also had some cool "cheddar cauliflower" that is orange. It is not the result of genetic engineering, but came after decades of traditional selective breeding. Check out the purple and green ones! I want purple cauliflower too!

I got some different kinds of cabbages too that I'm really excited about. I'm keeping my eyes open for kale and spinach now. Sometimes kale is labeled as ornamental cabbage. I love to put it in my front garden. Showy and delicious! If you have never gone to Nelson Water Garden, plan to make a visit. So much to see and do. Your kids can even feed the Koi in the ponds.
Cramer - my gardening buddy at Nelson's!

All the winter veggies ready for choosing

Lots of variety in the tomato section

Best herbs anywhere!

Beautiful ponds and atmosphere

Friday, August 24, 2012

Save money with your own cleaning products!

Every time I shell out money for dishwasher detergent or laundry detergent, it makes me cringe. I saw an awesome recipe posted on Cheapskate monthly for washing machine soap and thought it might be worth a shot. There is no grating or boiling. It is a simple recipe that I was willing to try. I have used it for all my laundry this week and I am thrilled with the results. I also found on another website a recipe for dishwasher detergent. Every since the government meddled and companies had to change their dishwasher detergent formulas, dishwashers haven't been the same. I've run several loads and I'm happy to report that everything has come out so clean! My glasses sparkle!

Here are the recipes:  

Dishwasher Detergent

1 Tbl. oxygen bleach (like Oxi Clean)
1/2 teaspoon POWER CLEAN Dawn dish soap
1 Tbl. Lemi Shine ($3.66 at WalMart)
1/2 cup white vinegar (poured into a bowl or cup on the top rack of the machine) (this is optional)

You put the first three ingredients right in the detergent cup of your dishwasher right before you start the load. No premixing! Do not use more than 1/2 tsp. of Dawn or you will have a bubbly mess. There are bubbles during the washing cycles. Don't worry, they all rinse away at the end.

The water from the dishwasher cycle collects in the cup with the vinegar and spills over into the dishwasher making the perfect rise for your dishes. No, your glasses don't taste like vinegar!

I am so thrilled to never, ever again have to buy dishwasher detergent! It works better than the expensive Cascade Complete I was buying! Yipee!

(Update 8-1-13 - I've been using the LemiShine Rinse agent for a few months now. It works very well and I've noticed that my glasses are even shinier! I switched from the original Dawn to the Power Clean Dawn and my pots and dishes are coming out even better.)

Laundry Detergent - concentrated version

(Note: a few people have asked if we can double the strength of the original recipe and use half as much. I have tried it and it works just fine. The updated concentrated version is below)

6 tablespoons borax
6 tablespoons washing soda (I found "Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda" at Kroger)4 tablespoons Original Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid (I used the concentrated Dawn)

Add 2 cups water into a microwavable bowl or measuring cup. Microwave for 3 minutes. Add the ingredients and stir until dissolved. Pour into a gallon container. Fill with cold water. To use: Add 1/2 cups to each load of laundry depending on the size and soil levels.

I have an HE machine and it works perfectly.  

It is so watery, but it works perfectly! I tried it out on a very dirty white clothes load. It took the ground in dirt from the socks right out! Super easy to make!

Expect to spend about $12 for all the ingredients and depending on your laundry use, you can expect to get about 4 months out of them. I do at least one load of laundry every day. This costs about 1 cent per load! Wow! I purchased my initial ingredients in August and they lasted me through December.

I found a 2 1/2 gallon slimline water dispenser container at Wal-Mart. I make a double batch and it lasts me about a month.

Feeding Teens on a Budget

Check out my guest post on Living Life at Home about how to feed hungry teens on a budget.

Start gardening this Fall! Just do it!

Beautiful curly kale. Beauty and nutrition!
Fall is a great time to start a garden in the Houston area! Some of the best things grow in the fall: broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots… You can start a raised bed garden in any amount of space. Our tiny backyard has eight 4 x 4 gardens and we grow most of the fresh produce we eat as a family there. The benefits of a garden are many! Here are a few:

1. It creates teachable moments for our kids (you could create a teaching unit around the garden including science, history, nutrition, cooking, agriculture, literature… Free one here)

2. Encourages adventurous healthy eating. Kids tend to eat what they plant and care for.

3. Helps us be more self-sufficient. How fun it is to go out back and pick fresh broccoli for supper.

4. Encourages good stewardship of the planet God gave us.

5. Many spiritual applications between gardening and our life in Christ. God speaks when you garden!

6. Makes friends when we share from the excess of our produce.

7. Saves money. It’s fun to pass up the produce aisle at the grocery store.
8. Gets us outside to work and exercise in the fresh air.

We have doubled the size of our winter garden this year. We have two beds (1 and 2) that are too shady in the fall to plant anything in. They mostly contain our herbs that will do just fine through the winter there. Six gardens will be planted with all the fall garden goodies we can fit. We are sprouting broccoli seeds inside and they will be ready to go into the ground in a few weeks. It isn't too late to build a few beds and purchase some good quality plants at your local nursery. We purchase some very good quality plants locally from Nelson Water Garden or Cornelius Nursery. 

Broccoli is a plant that keeps on giving. Once you cut away the main head of broccoli, smaller heads will sprout around where you cut. It will keep giving all winter long. When it starts getting warm, it will be too hot for the plant and it will quit producing.

Cauliflower will not resprout once you cut away the main head. You need to pull the plant once the head is picked.

Cabbage and Kale are just like huge roses growing in the garden. They add beauty but are edible too.

While our Harris County planting schedule does not list it, many gardeners plant tomatoes in the fall. We planted some last fall and they did OK. We are going to give it a try again this fall and see if we do better.

Cabbage growing in the garden last fall

This year we will plant tons more cauliflower

Fall is a great time to plant lettuce

We couldn't get enough fresh broccoli last year

Beautiful head of cauliflower growing in the garden


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