Friday Wrap: Gardening Edition

sunny friday

Happy Friday, friends! It’s been a scorcher out there. We’re talking full sun and temps in the mid to upper 90s. So what better activity than getting outside and overhauling your entire garden? Insert scarcastic emoji here.

This all started because we decided to pull and haul out more than 20 overgrown bushes from around our house last week. Here’s the “before.”

gardening makeover

I couldn’t exactly leave it be and risk getting contacted by our homeowners’ association garden & weed police. I swear it’s a thing. And you don’t want to upset them.

So, this week kicked off with a plant binge at the garden store. I love shopping – and plants. My heart was full. And after hours of blood (minor cut on my foot), sweat (from sweltering summer heat), and tears (from said sweat in eyes), my yard had transformed into a flowering bliss. At least more than its previous condition.

IMG_6011

Now that my plant babies are in the ground and growing nicely, I want to keep them strong. With that, I’m finally getting to my Five on Friday list – the Gardener’s Edition.

Five Things to Feed Your Plants

{ONE} Epsom Salt

This is made of Magnesium Sulfate, which are two minerals crucial to healthy plant life. To use, dissolve 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water, and substitute this solution for normal watering at least once a month. Genious – and inexpensive!

{TWO} Vegetable Cooking Water

Next time you boil a pot of brussel sprouts or other veggies, save the water for your plants. The water has tons of nutrients your garden thrives on. Wait for the water to cool before sharing with your plants.

{THREE} Crushed Egg Shells

Egg shells are a double-whammy in the garden. They not only provide a calcium boost to your plants, but also help keep the slugs away. So next time you make omelets, wash and save those shells. Your plants with thank you.

{FOUR} Bananas

When planting (especially roses), bury a sliced banana peel in the hole next to the plant. This provides much-needed potassium that plants need for proper growth.

{FIVE} Your Fingers

You don’t technically feed your fingers to your plants – unless you have venus flytraps. I included this on the list because it’s important to use your hands to pinch any dead blooms (called deadheading) and pluck surrounding weeds that could choke the growth of your plants. It’s like releasing the plants so they can feed on all of the good stuff you’ve provided above.

That’s a wrap!

Have a great weekend. Stay cool, and I’ll see you next week with some straight up organizational tips and other random musings.

-Kate

Fiveonfriday

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A Natural Spray to Keep the Mosquitoes Away

Remember the family reunion I recently told you about?

family tee

This is a picture of the cute t-shirts we received. #familyiseverything

The event gave me a chance to catch up with crazy-fun relatives AND walk away with the most amazing mosquito repellant. Kind of random, I know. But the location of our family gathering was in Minnesota where they say the state bird is the mosquito. Others call it Minneskeeta. It’s all fairly accurate.

State Bird

My cousins whipped up batches of homemade (and all-natural) mosquito repellant for the entire family.

Now that I’m back in Arkansas, where it has been raining since I returned, the mosquitoes are breeding faster than the rabbits. I’ve been using my spray almost daily and thought it was worth a share. (I’ll be making a fresh batch this week. See how low my supply is getting?!)

organic mosquito repellant

You can get these little spray bottles from Walmart near the travel-size essentials.

Below is the full recipe that’s also featured on our online family recipe book, which is tabbed neatly on our family website. (See where I get my Type-A tendencies?!)

mosquito repellent recipeIngredients

  • 15 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup witch hazel
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • Spray bottle

Directions

  • Combine first four ingredients in a 16 oz measuring cup.
  • Fill to the 16 oz mark with the distilled water (about 1 cup).
  • Stir and transfer to spray bottle.

I hope this is helpful. (It also smells really nice.) You’ll have to let me know how it works or if you have other recipes and tips for keeping those darn bugs away!

-Kate

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Friday Wrap

Hello and happy Friday! Sing with me, “Schoooool’s out. For. Summer.” The calendar might claim that June 21st is the first day of summer, but as soon as the final bell rings on the final day of school, which was on Monday for us, it’s officially summertime in the Andersen house. And this family hits the pool faster than you can say “cannonball” – no matter what the temperature.

pool time

It happened to be only 65 degrees on this day, and yes, we were the only ones swimming. #wearepartfish

In addition to swimming, this momma found time to dig up a few goodies to share this week. Check out my five faves:

{ONE} Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton

carry-on-warriorS

Watch a little video {via}

If you’re looking for a book that will crack open your heart and make you feel like your messy life is actually quite beautiful, then Carry On, Warrior is for you.

My SIL posted on Facebook that she downloaded this on Audible and found herself both laughing and crying while listening to this book on a walk. It was more of a PSA, really, for anyone who may have witnessed her emotional state. I was intrigued, and also in search of my next read, so I decided to download both Audible and this exact book. The next thing I knew, I was sitting poolside with tears pouring onto my towel and feeling thankful my SIL had shared her experience. This book is courageous, humble, funny and loving. The author makes you feel like you can be all of these things, as well. Truly a gift.

{TWO} Herb Markers

herb markers

See more {via}

Look at these adorable herb markers for the garden! Doesn’t this look like a fun crafternoon project? Just gather some rocks, white acrylic ink, a small paintbrush and go to town.

{THREE} Creative Classes

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 11.03.32 PM

If you have a hunkering to start a new hobby this summer, check out creativebug for hundreds of tutorials. No exaggeration. And there’s super basic stuff, too, like how to thread a machine. I just might take up sewing after all!

{FOUR} Preserving Your Herbs

preserving herbs

Get the directions {via}

I love this time of year when all of my herbs are thriving and jiving in the garden. Everything is so fresh and delicious, I just want to freeze time. The closest I can get is freezing the herbs. I guess that works, too. I like preserving them in fresh olive oil. This reduces some of the “burn” that herbs can get in the freezer. Since most recipes call for oil, you serve two ingredients with one little cube.

{FIVE} Mojito Time!

mojito

Recipe {via}

Speaking of fresh herbs…I have a rather large patch of mint growing in my yard. While some might see an obnoxious, invasive plant, I see the makings of many mojitos. Here’s a delicious recipe for you to enjoy.

Cheers to a wonderful weekend, my friends!

-Kate

Fiveonfriday

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How to Protect Your Garden Goodies

For the first time in my life I planted lettuce in my garden. I know, I’m gettin’ crazy. Well, I’m happy to report that it’s way easier than I thought, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised how quickly these seeds have sprouted. I’m talking just days ago I sprinkled seeds in the ground and now look at them!

lettuce crop

As I’ve been admiring my row crop, I’ve also noticed a few pesky critters starting to show up – like I’m going to be handing out forks and bibs. Um, no. I’m usually good about sharing, but I really don’t feel like giving up my tender lettuces to the wild rabbits, bugs and weeds.

What’s a gardener to do?

Well, this one called her one-and-only Mimi who knows a million things or two about gardening. She gave me a few ideas (all natural, of course) that I wanted to share. I also found a few ideas online to round out the list for us.

If you have wild rabbits, squirrels or other vermin:

Chicken wire placed carefully on top of your plants like a tent will physically keep animals away. They won’t be able to reach through the wires. The leafy greens can still grow through the holes, but at least you won’t lose an entire head of lettuce to an entire burrow of hungry bunnies.

chicken wire

Crushed red pepper…like the kind you find at pizza joints next to the sprinkle Parmesan. Spread this around the base of your plants to deter any nibbling animals. This spice is too hot for their little tongues.

Crushed-Red-Pepper01

If you have slugs or other bugs:

Beer traps. Yes, beer. Pour some into a plastic cup or Mason jar. Then tuck it down into the soil next to your plants. Slugs will be drawn to the yeasty smell and will crawl right into the container. Cheers!

beer trap

Crushed egg shells also work for slugs. Spread them around the edge of your garden and the slugs won’t cross the line, because it wouldn’t feel so good on their squishy bodies. “No shell up in here, baby.”

crushed egg shells

Liquid soap is the answer for aphids (those tiny whitish bugs you find under leaves and that make small webs). Simply put a drop of dish soap in a spray bottle with water. Wet the surface of all of your affected plants to get rid of these suckers.

liquid soap

Natural insecticide sprays can work well for pretty much any kind of bug in your garden. Here’s a recipe to try. To make homemade 2% insecticidal soap, mix together 5 tablespoons soap (like the Castile soap shown above) to 1 gallon of water. Then add one of the following items to enhance your solution:

how-make-insecticidal-soap-plants-2

    • Cooking Oil: To help the solution stick, add two tablespoons of light cooking oil per gallon of water.
    • Vinegar: This also targets powdery mildew. Add a teaspoon of cider vinegar per gallon of water.
    • Garlic or Pepper: To repel chewing insects, add a teaspoon of ground red pepper or garlic per gallon of water.

Here’s another recipe…mix 1/2 cup brown sugar to one gallon of boiling water (to dissolve sugar). Let the solution cool and pour into a sprayer to apply on your plants. So simple. I haven’t tried this one, but it had raving reviews. Doesn’t hurt to try, right?

If you have rascally weeds:

Dig by hand right after a rain, when the soil is good and loose, to pull the invaders all the way to their roots.

hand-garden-tools-300x300Natural weed killer is also good if you’d rather take the “spray and pray” approach. A simple recipe is 1 gallon of vinegar, 1 cup of table salt and 1 tablespoon of liquid soap. Mix together, pour into a bottle, and spray carefully onto your weeds. You don’t want to kill everything, including your prized petunias.

natural weed killer

That should cover most of your gardening nightmares. Let me know if I missed anything, or if you have other natural tips to try. Here’s hoping no matter what crawls, hops, or flies into your garden that you enjoy your time in the great outdoors!

-Kate

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DIY Moss Planters

Okay, so earlier in the week I shared a few easy Easter flower arrangements. One of the pictures showed a darling moss-covered planter.

moss pot

I researched how to do this and found a variety of methods. Most of the DIYs involved a concoction of buttermilk and live moss mixed in a blender and then painted on the side of a terra cotta pot. While I appreciate this natural approach, it sounded kind of gross thinking about a dairy-based anything growing on the middle of my table. I mean, would it begin to smell? I have a super sensitive sniffer. It’s borderline bionic. I can’t do weird smells or anything close to rancid or my gag reflex kicks in. Needless to say, I opted for the easy and safe/non-smelly route.

All it required was a few items:

Moss planter supplies

L to R: Raffia, terra cotta pot, moss ribbon, glue gun

The key was this moss ribbon I found at Hob Lob. It was super easy to work with, and it wrapped around the pot very nicely in strips.

Moss ribbon

Moss ribbon is thin and the back is lined with mesh that makes it easy to hot glue to any surface.

My pot was taller than the moss, so I hot-glued two strips of moss ribbon around the pot and trimmed the excess along the bottom with scissors.

Moss pot

This was my first strip of ribbon.

Tip: Wear garden gloves when you work with the glue gun so you don’t burn your fingers when you pat down the moss. Hot glue hurts like the dickens.

Once you’ve trimmed the edges of the moss, you can wrap a few pieces of raffia around the pot to cover where the two pieces of ribbon came together.

Finished moss pot

My moss pot is finished, filled with soil and ready for some flowers already!

I chose pansies for this pot. I plan to make another one and give these as Easter gifts to my mom and SIL tomorrow. Shh! They’ll be a surprise.

Finished moss planter

Ta-da! It is ready to give as a surprise little gift.

I hope you found this easy to follow – and much easier than the buttermilk madness. Let me know what you think. Have a super Saturday and check back tomorrow for a special Easter message.

-Kate

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Easy Easter Flower Arrangements

It’s almost time to break out the Reece’s peanut butter eggsJelly Belly Beans and Peeps! That’s right. Easter is a just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Ever wonder how some of the traditions, like dyed eggs and the Easter Bunny, started? This interesting article from Real Simple helps shed light on some of the folklore, such as the term Easter itself. Some claim the word derives from Eostre, a goddess of spring and fertility. I never knew that.

Okay, so other than treating myself to a bit of extra candy this time of year, I enjoy decorating the house with spring flowers. And when I say enjoy, I really mean L.O.V.E. Not many things brighten my day like a bundle of fresh, spring flowers from the garden – other than my sweet family and fuzzy bunnies.

Here are a few simple, yet beautiful arrangements to try on your Easter table this year.

Eggs Three Ways 

Easter arrangement with egg planters

I made this grouping of planters out of hollowed out egg shells and other items I found around the house. Keep reading to see how I pulled it together.

{1} Egg Cups

Check this out, I bought a set of egg cups at a flea market several years ago and have always found interesting ways to use them – outside of holding poached eggs, which I have never made. Here’s one of my faves: make egg planters.

Egg cups

Hollow out an egg (just crack the egg on the pointy end, drain the egg through the small hole at the top, and scramble for breakfast), let the egg shell dry, then fill it with soil and add your plant. Now it’s a mini flower pot! It might sound a bit fussy, but it really isn’t. Pinkie promise. And it will look so cute on your table.

{2} Nest Egg

For idea number two, display an egg planter on something unique that you have around the house.

Nest egg Easter flower arrangement

This adorable nest is actually a candle holder my SIL gave me one year. I filled it with a piece of moss and nestled my egg planter inside.

Tip: Look around your house for inspiration and get creative with how you display things!

{3} Egg on a Pedestal

Egg planter on a candlestick

I spray painted a clear candlestick holder from Dollar Tree with white gloss paint to give it a cohesive look with my egg cups. Then I used the holder as a makeshift egg cup! It adds height to my overall grouping. I actually used all three of the ideas I just shared on my table this year. I created multiple groupings and arranged them down the center of the table on a burlap runner.

{Bonus} Egg Cup Vases

I couldn’t help myself. I had to give you at least one more idea for jazzing up your egg cups. It’s not that often we get these things out of our cabinets.

Fill a hollowed out egg with water and tuck in a few dainty blossoms like lily of the valley, lilacs, and violas. Several of these would be gorgeous lining the center of your table. You could add a few tealight candles and sprinkle some jelly beans between each of the vases to give it an added Easter touch.

Moving on to other fun types of planters and arrangements…

Moss Pot and Pansies

I love the look of moss. It adds such a woodsy feel to any pot of flowers. This one uses a combination of ferns, English ivy, pansies, and violas. I’m actually going to be making a moss-covered pot later this week, so check back for the DIY instructions.

Rustic Hydrangeas

Isn’t this charming? For this rustic look, cut 30 to 40 twigs to the height of a glass vase. Hot-glue them to its surface and finish with some twine tied in a bow. The flowers featured are Queen Ann’s lace and white hydrangea blossoms. This would be gorgeous as a centerpiece or on an entryway table.

Daffodil Delight

This is probably the easiest way to Easter-up your table. Snip several bunches of daffodils from your yard – or the yard of your very kind neighbor who who will let you have some in exchange for Peeps. Arrange several vases in the center of your table. Egg cups work, too! Be sure the vases are varying heights, but all the same color so the look is more of a “collection.” Then fill each vase with as many daffs as you can stuff in there. Remember not to mix them with other flowers.

Carrots and Daisies

Why, yes. This arrangement just screams Easter – in a lovely kind of way. Find yourself some big, juicy carrots with their tops still on and stand them upright in a vase with a bit of water. Add a fresh bunch of Shasta daisies (mums would work, too) for an instant arrangement. I totally love this. I could wash the carrots and feed them to Rosie the rabbit after Easter!

I hope some of these ideas inspired you to try some fresh flowers on your Easter table this year. Let me know which one you like best or if you have another favorite bouquet to share. I’d love to see it.

As always, wishing you the best day, yet!

-Kate

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How To Force Bulbs for Winter Blooms

Adding a pop of color and “life” to your home in the winter can be as easy as growing a few pretty plants. In fact, last week I posted pics of my paperwhites. There was some interest in having me share a tutorial on how to grow them, so I’m excited to share this with you!

Forcing paperwhite bulbs

It took about two weeks to grow these pretties on the right.

While I’m currently growing paperwhites, there are tons of other options to choose from. I’m talking amaryllis, hyacinths, crocus and even daffodils. {Hello, little bundles of spring.}

BlueGrapeHyacinth

Blue Grape Hyacinths

DoubleDaff

Double Daffodils

Crocus

Crocus

The cool thing about growing these flowers indoors is you get to observe them up close as they bloom. Cool thing number two is that it’s super simple to do. There are a few tricks of the trade I’ve learned from my Master Gardener mom, whom we lovingly call Mimi. So I’ll share a few of Mimi’s magic tips to ensure you can force bulbs like a champ.

How to Choose the Right Bulbs

Any garden store should have bulbs this time of year. I shop at Westwood Gardens because they are incredibly helpful and general superstars.

Tip: When shopping, be sure to choose bulbs that are plump and firm.

Most bulbs will need a rooting period of 12-15 weeks. This means storing them in a mesh or paper bag in a cool place (like your refrigerator or cold garage). This is called prechilling. Many of the bulbs for sale right now have already been prepared for forcing. So you can head straight to the directions below. Be sure to check, though.

What You’ll Need

Gardening Supplies

The line up: A container (vase or flower pot), soil or rocks, flower bulbs and water

Two Ways to Plant and Grow

{ONE} Force Bulbs in Water

Any tall, narrow vase will be great. You don’t have to have a special forcing vase to make this work.

Planting Bulbs in Water

I like using a tall, clear vase so I can watch the roots grow. Also, the sides of the vase serve as natural “stakes” for the plant as it grows.

Three simple steps:

  1. Fill your container with rocks or pebbles. You only need to fill about 3-4 inches.
  2. Add water right up to the top of the rocks.
  3. Tuck your bulbs down in the rocks. Plant as many as your container will hold. They can even be touching.

Tip: You only want to cover the root portion so the bulb doesn’t rot in the water.

{TWO} Force Bulbs in Soil

You can either use a vase or regular gardening pot. I’m planting crocus, which don’t grow very tall, so I’m going with this lovely white pot.Planting in SoilThree simple steps:

  1. Fill your container with soil. I like to pre-wet the soil a bit so it’s not as messy when you add water at the end.
  2. Plant your bulbs about halfway into the soil. Part of the bulb will be visible.
  3. Water the bulbs and keep the soil moist as they grow.

More Helpful Tips

Nurturing Your Plant Babies

There really isn’t much to do once your bulbs have been planted, other than watching the water levels and replenishing, as needed. Just sit back and watch your babies grow! The average growing rate will vary, but here’s a rough guide based on planting pre-chilled bulbs.

Plant Chart

Compliments of The Neat Nook

Keeping them Tall and Proud

Even though I grew my paperwhites in tall vases, they still toppled over a bit because their stems are so “leggy” as Mimi calls them. Here’s a pretty way to handle this situation. Gather the stems and secure with a ribbon.

Paperwhite Stake with Ribbon

I chose a sheer ribbon since it’s so delicate – like the flowers.

Tip: The tighter the ribbon, the more secure the stems will be.

If the stems are still toppling over, add a bamboo stick or even a nice-looking stick from your yard for added support. Tuck it all the way down into your rocks or soil to keep it sturdy. Then tie a pretty ribbon around the entire thing.

After the Bloom

Once your bulbs have finished blooming, it’s not time to be sad. You can cut off the flowers at the base and store the bulbs in a cool, dry location until spring. If you’ve planted in soil, you can keep them right in the container. Once spring hits, you can plant them outside.

I hope you’ll try this at home. If you do, be sure to take lots of pictures. Maybe we can create our own little community garden on Instagram this way? I’m @Katejandersen on both Instagram and Twitter.

Happy planting!

-Kate

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It’s a Friday Wrap

Happy Friday!! Despite my son nearly breaking his wrist playing indoor soccer (x-rays came back clean, thank goodness), it’s been a pretty good week. The weather has been beautiful, so we’ve tried to play outside as much as possible – knowing wicked winter weather is bound to be on the heels of this warm spell.

With that, here are a few highlights from the week:

{ONE} Explored the outdoors of Crystal Bridges

Exploring Crystal Bridges

This is a quick pick of the girls resting their legs on a rock bridge that spans across a little creek. The day was absolutely gor-geous!

Crystal Bridges Museum is a wondrous place to visit whether you live here or ever plan to visit beautiful Northwest Arkansas. It has taken the art industry by storm with its all-American art collection. (I should be a docent for them or something.) Anyway, curving along the edges of the museum’s gorgeous landscape are several hiking trails, which are sprinkled with sculptures and other fun art displays.

Kids playing with art

This giant frame is found along the Tulip trail. Can you tell which famous pieces of art they’re portraying? (Answer guide: Scream, The Thinker, American Gothic) I should remember this for Halloween!

The kids were out of school on Monday, so we decided to spend the day hitting the trails. We also stopped for a few laughs, because we’re goofy like that.

{TWO} Jazzed up the door with decorFront door wreathOur front door has been naked ever since we removed the holiday decorations! It seems too early for a Valentine wreath, too. Sometimes transitions are hard. When I found this adorable wall hanging on sale at Hobby Lobby, I thought the laurel pattern felt kind of wreathy. I decided to hang it outside, tie a white burlap ribbon from the back hook, and add a bow for some pop. What do you think? Will this get me through until heart season?

{THREE} Started the paperwhite watch

Forcing paperwhite bulbs

Left: What I planted two weeks ago. Right: What it looks like today!

The indoors also felt a tad bland. I thought it would be fun to force paperwhite bulbs for some color – and life. I wasn’t exactly sure how long they’d take to bloom. I started two weeks ago and have been watching these suckers grow like crazy. The first blooms popped open Wednesday. It was like a little party in the vase.

I’m thinking about growing some to give as Valentine’s gifts. If you want to do the same, I’d recommend planting them by early next week so they bloom in time. I’d be happy to post a “how-to” on this if anyone is interested. Just comment to let me know.

{FOUR} Read about moments of grace

Small Victories by Anne Lamott

This is such a great book!

I received Anne Lamott’s latest book for Christmas and finally got around to reading it this past week. It’s a treasure. Her writing is hilarious, honest and spiritual. In fact, it would make a great Valentine gift for a friend if you’re looking for non-food items – other than the gorg paperwhites above. One of my favorite quotes from the book:

“…we stood outside an inner gate, showed our IDs to the guards, and got our hands stamped with fluorescent ink. “You don’t glow, you don’t go,” said one cheerful, pockmarked guard, which was the best spiritual advice I’d had in a long time.”

{FIVE} Caught up on my stash of cards

hallmark_logo

“When you care enough to send the very best.”

I’m still a fan of sending greeting cards – especially for family and close friends. Facebook is awesome, don’t get me wrong. I just like sending the very best when I can. And yes, Hallmark is my favorite greeting card company. They have some of the funniest, prettiest and poignant cards available, IMO.

Once a month, I like to take my list of birthdays and anniversaries and stock up. I use a perpetual calendar like the one pictured below to keep track. Definitely get one of these if you can!

Perepetual calendarWhile I was in the store stacking up for February, I pulled the last card from one of the slots and discovered this funny sign. I noticed there were others, too. I had to share.

Hallmark cards

There were several messages like these behind all of the cards. You know how much I love bunnies?! The top one made me laugh out loud.

That pretty much wraps the week. I’m off to make igneous rock out of Rice Krispies for Avery’s science class. #lifeofamom Have an incredible weekend. I have tons of fun in store for next week, so be sure to stop back by!

In the meantime, check out some amazing bloggers at Five on Friday.FiveonfridayYou can also see some honest, and sometimes hilarious Friday confessions at A Blonde Ambition.HeaderTrans_zpscb139c50<3 Kate

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Gifts from the Heart of Your Kitchen

As a girl raised in the south (yes, the acronym is GRITS), I was taught to never show up empty handed to someone’s home. Hostess gifts not only validate your good manners, but also thank the person who has just spent hours cleaning, cooking, baking, decorating, fretting, and putting extra toilet paper in the bathrooms prior to your arrival.

Most guests deliver a bottle of wine or pretty candle, which are both perfectly acceptable. But if your hostess is truly the mostest, why not thank her with one of these unique and delicious gifts? And did I mention they’re easy to make and require less than four ingredients each? It’s true.

I researched, tested several recipes, and pulled together the easiest (and in some cases, safest) options for you to make. Drum roll…

Rosemary Infused Olive OilRosemaryWhat you’ll need:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 sprigs dried rosemary*
  • Bottle or cruet
  • Funnel

Directions: Cook the olive oil with rosemary sprigs in a saucepan over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rosemary infuse in the oil for 1 hour. Transfer the sprigs to your glass bottle. Funnel the cooled oil into the bottle and seal. Store at room temperature for up to 2 months or in the refrigerator for 6 months.

*Using dried herbs is a much safer method. Moisture from fresh herbs can cause bacteria to grow. Drying herbs removes the water, while leaving the essential oils. This time of year, I get fresh herbs from my grocery store and dry them at home.

Download a Rosemary Gift Tag complete with serving suggestions.

Vanilla Infused Honey

vanilla honey

Here’s a batch of homemade vanilla lavender honey from Etsy.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • Mason jar or honey pot with an airtight lid
    honey pot

    Look at this adorable honey pot with dipper from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Directions: Pour the honey into your mason jar or pot. Use a knife to split the vanilla bean open lengthwise, down the center. Scrape the seeds out of the bean and add them to your container of honey. Stir well. Add the bean pod to the jar and seal the container. Let it sit for one week to infuse the honey. After that, it’s good and ready to slather onto some warm, buttered biscuits.

Download a Honey Gift Tag complete with serving suggestions.

Citrus Finishing Saltscitrus saltsWhat you’ll need:

  • 1 cup flaky sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Mason jar or airtight container

Directions: Preheat oven to 225 F. Mix the salt and zest in a bowl. Spread across parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an hour or until peels are dried and crumbly. Remove from oven and cool. Transfer salts to an airtight jar. Store for up to 2 months. This recipe was adapted from Whole Foods Market.

Download a Finishing Salt Gift Tag complete with serving suggestions.

I think I’ll make several batches of all of these goodies so I’m armed and ready to spread some flavored joy. ‘Tis the season, you know. I hope you decide to whip up some deliciousness for yourself. Oh, and be sure to let me know which one you like best.

Cheers, my friends!

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It’s Not Too Late: Planting Fall Bulbs

Hyacinth bulbs with pots to plant

Hyacinth Bulbs Ready to Plant

I was watching Weatherman Dan (my favorite local meteorologist) the other day, and he was talking about a looming polar vortex that will hit most of the U.S. with a wintry vengeance this week. My initial thought after “wait, what?!” was “coat shopping!” The kids grow so fast, there’s no way they’ll zip into last year’s coats without having a Chris Farley moment. I also realized I haven’t planted my fall bulbs, yet. Good gracious, girl!

Needless to say, I need to take a knee and get to planting ASAP. If you’re like me and let the middle of November sneak up on you, let’s do this thing together. You’ll thank me come spring when your garden is exploding with color.

It always feels like a surprise party when the flowers burst out of the cold ground. Even though I carefully and lovingly buried each bulb, I somehow develop gardening amnesia come March. I’m like, “Oh, yay! Look at those little crocus in the corner! I love crocus!”

If you’re not sold on planting bulbs, let me elaborate. Bulbs are awesome. They’re low-maintenance, not too expensive, and make your heart absolutely happy when they bloom at the tail end of a dreary, gray winter. What more could you ask for?

You can find bulbs anywhere this time of year. Be sure to buy them from a reputable nursery, though. Cheap bulbs equal cheap blooms – if at all. Boo. I really like shopping at Westwood Gardens in my area or ordering online from Burpee.

Five great flowers to try:

  1. Tulips: Tulips are probably one of the first choices you think of when it comes to spring flowers – and for good reason. Tulips are classic. There are so many varieties you can have a garden packed with these beauties, while still keeping things extremely interesting. For a unique flair, try ‘Parrot’ tulips!
    ParrotTulip

    ‘Parrot’ Tulip

  2. Daffodils: Another classic spring flower is the beloved daffodil. They’re one of the easiest to grow, too. I love the layers of a double-flowered daffodil. If you want a unique color combo try the ‘Romance.’ It has rose-pink cups with gorgeous white petals. It won’t disappoint.
    RomanceDaff

    ‘Romance’ Daffodil

    DoubleDaff

    Mix of Double-flowered Daffodils

  3. Hyacinths: There are two basic types. The common hyacinth has short stalks of amazingly fragrant flowers that look like little starfish. Grape hyacinths are even smaller and have tight blooms that look like clusters of mini grapes. So cute!
    BlueGrapeHyacinth

    Blue Grape Hyacinth

    hyacinth

    Common Hyacinth

  4. Iris: These are a great addition to a garden because they’re hardy and look amazing. They’re tall and regal and remind me of an exotic orchid – minus the temperament.
    Iris

    ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ Iris

  5. Crocus: I like planting a mix of colors with these adorable flowers. Since they grow low to the ground, they make a pretty accent at the base of any other flower. And you know it’s all about that base.
    Crocus

    Crocus {Hey, there!}

Once you feel ready, here’s a quick primer for planting:

  • When: Plant anytime before the ground freezes (pretty much now)
  • Where: Pick a spot that gets full sun and has well-drained soil.
  • How many: Plant lots of bulbs just in case some don’t sprout. If you want a more natural look, plant them in random order and spacing. If you want to create groves of daffodils or tulips, you’ll need to buy and plant lots of bulbs.
  • How deep: Plant at a depth of three times the width of the bulb. If your soil’s sandy, plant bulbs slightly deeper; in clay soils, slightly shallower.
  • What now: After planting, apply fertilizer low in nitrogen and water well. Apply mulch to keep the weeds down and hold in moisture.

 You’re good to go! Have fun digging in the dirt – and try to stay warm out there!

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