Monday, March 30, 2009

Mystery Garden Thief

I am pleased to announce that my garden is off to a great start. It won't be long before we're enjoying an abundance of fresh produce just steps from my back door.

We have our garden area seperated from the rest of the backyard so that our puppy dogs don't wreck our hard work. However, Cocoa manages to sneak out of the gate once in a while and he heads straight for the garden - little tyrant! That would be his puppy paws trailing by my strawberries in the photo above.

I can blame Cocoa for alot of things... like chewing up my favorite pair of Crocs and the handle to my grill brush, and for gnawing on my firewood and picnic table, and for utterly destroying his cozy pet bed we bought for him. (Good grief! This dog is really bad about chewing things up.)

But, I can't blame him for this. Some little garden thief has been nibbling on my strawberries. Evidence above.

I noticed it this morning. I picked the violated strawberries and disposed of them, hoping that would be the end of it. But, whoever/whatever it was came back for more this afternoon. This means war! I promptly dug up my strawberry plants and placed them in hanging baskets.

They are now hanging happily on my fence, and I do hope that whatever it was can't climb fences!

I'll be keeping an eye out for it... Wish me luck.

We love strawberries around here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

And the winner is...

Drum roll, please...

Congratulations, Rhetta!

I will pop your prize in the mail on Monday...

Please send your mailing address to

A big heart-felt thank you goes out to everyone who entered. God's peace to you all.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My first harvest: radishes!

I enjoyed my first garden harvest this week. The radishes were ruby red, perfectly rounded, and absolutely gorgeous. No, I'm not biased at all. :) It took me all of 5 minutes to get them washed, sliced, and tossed in a salad.

These radishes were extremely tender and mildly spicy. Just the kick my salad needed. If you haven't tried Marie's Balsamic Vinaigrette salad dressing yet, you're missing out. I must say it was an excellent meal.

I have another muffin recipe to share with you... These Morning Glory Muffins from my latest issue of Southern Living Magazine are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. They are a cross between carrot cake and spice cake - two of my favorites. When I saw this recipe, I knew they would be wonderful.

I substituted regular raisins for the golden ones, and used half whole wheat flour and half plain white flour. The next time I make these, I'll use only whole wheat flour. Be sure to either add more liquid or use a bit less whole wheat flour than the recipe calls for to keep the muffins light. Generally, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of plain white flour, I'll substitute 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vintage Goodness

I'm crazy about this vintage, hand-tied quilt!

And I'm not too sure about this one.

One of the drawbacks of purchasing goods online, is the inability to view, inspect, touch, and feel the item in person. I'm not terribly disappointed with my purchase, because I got a really good deal on both of these. The one I looove, was only $16 and some change. Not too shabby... Thank you, Ebay! The other, only $20.

The bottom quilt is made from old Saris, and is intended for use as a rug. It's heavy, but not terribly durable. I will not be able to use it as a rug. The quilt top is fragile, and even frayed in a few places when I washed it. I'll probably make the necessary repairs and hang it on a wall. I'm undecided at the moment.

The quilt that won my adoration is in pristine condition. It's been washed, hung out to dry in the sunshine, and is now snuggling my precious little ones.

They seem to like it, too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring took over...

... my sewing studio... which is also the sunroom... which makes it the perfect place to house our transplants and chicks...

Our chicks are almost ready to move into their coop. Only one problem - we have to build one first! We're hoping to have a more productive weekend ahead...

My newly budded fig tree needs to find a new home...

And my grapes, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are in search of a trellis...

Can you see them stretching?

I intended to snap a better shot of my tomato seedlings. They have all sprouted (except for one or two) and seem to love their temporary home in my sun-filled sewing studio.

One day soon, these inhabitants will find their way out to my garden and I will find my way back to my sewing machine.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chickie Growth Spurt

These little ladies know how to put down some food! They're a little over two weeks old, and we are just about to finish off the last of a 20-pound bag of feed. Unbelievable.

Our weather was warm enough last week to take them outside to play for a few minutes...

The kids love them so much already. The first thing they do when they wake up in the mornings is check on them. They even say goodnight to the chicks when they're heading to bed at night.

For some reason my husband thought it would be funny to put one on Sara Lynn's head... All I could think was, "Please don't poop!"

One did poop on Daniel - poor guy! He wasn't too thrilled about that. I made sure everybody washed up really well after our little outing.

We had plans to build the coop this weekend, but it rained. And rained. And rained some more. Literally, it began raining on Friday night and didn't stop until Sunday afternoon (and then started again Sunday night and rained all day long Monday). My garden should be very happy. My lettuce, arugula, and radishes are almost ready. I am itching to make my first salad!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's a giveaway!

This is my very first blog giveaway! I've been thinking about having one for a while now. There have been so many great giveaways out there in blogland lately, and it's so much fun to play along. Besides, I need to de-stash a bit... my fabric cabinet will barely close!

Up for grabs is this cotton quilting fabric in 1-yard pieces, 9 tea light candles (in one of my favorite scents - Fresh Linen), and a copy of my church cookbook which features several recipes from yours truly. This cookbook is full of mouth watering southern-style recipes which have been passed down from generation to generation.

All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment on this post. I'll accept comments through Friday, March 20, 2009. The winner will be announced on Saturday, and I'll put the prize in the mail the following Monday.

If you do not link your comment to your own blog, be sure to leave an email address where I can notify you of your win and get your mailing address. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Muffins (Easy!)

So, I told you we were a muffin-loving family...

I meant it! I'm always on the lookout for new recipes to try. I wanted to make some healthy muffins for us to have for breakfast, but I didn't want to make the same muffins I always make. And, I had some very ripe bananas that needed to be used. (Did you know that you can freeze bananas whole - in the peel - for use later if you don't get a chance to use them? Thaw, and they're ready to go when you need them. As a matter of fact, I have a few in my freezer right now.)

I came across a great blog called Made Healthier which I have now bookmarked. These banana muffins were very good, and they do not have any oil in them at all. You can make them with skim or soy milk (I used 2%), and they have very little sugar in them. I love cooking with whole wheat flour, but if you've never used it before, you may want to use half whole wheat and half regular plain white flour. It's a different texture, and a bit heavier than white flour. But very good nonetheless, and much better for you.

My kids have been raiding the muffin dish like mad since I made these. One or two for breakfast, one for an afternoon snack, and one before bedtime. They are good, but a little on the bland side for my taste. (It may have something to do with the fact that I tripled the recipe. I told you we liked muffins! And I had 6 bananas I wanted to use.) The next time I make these muffins, I'll probably throw in an extra banana and add a bit more vanilla. I like my flavor kicked up a notch or two. It's a southern thing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A productive day...

We had a beautiful, almost-80-degree-day this past Saturday. Sara Lynn and I spent most of the day outside pruning away the remnants of Winter. There were piles and piles of leaves on the patio which accumulated the previous weekend when it snowed. We cleaned out old flower pots, hanging baskets, and flower beds making room for new inhabitants this Spring. My rose bushes received manicures, and my crepe myrtles, too. The vegetable garden was watered, and I even managed to get all the laundry done in between the garden chores. Did I mention that I also managed to cook dinner - grilled chicken, creamed corn, field peas, and potatoes? Whew! It was a good day...

I also discovered that I may never buy another transplant again. Starting my own tomatoes was much easier than I thought it would be. Those Jiffy Greenhouses you can get at your local garden store ($6) are the ticket. All you do is add warm water to those itty-bitty peat pellets and they swell up like crazy.

Then, you pull back the netting a bit and poke your seed into the peat. Easy as pie!

Here are my tomatoes covered and ready to go. I planted Early Girl, Jubilee, Jelly Bean, and Big Boy. You remove the lid once they have all sprouted. I'll let you know how it goes. And no, I have no idea what I'm going to do with 72 tomato tranplants, but I'll figure it out!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Love Thy Neighbor

We have the most wonderful neighbors around here! Daniel has a friend who lives with his grandparents on the street behind us. He has become Daniel's constant companion, and feels like a part of our family now. We love him as one of our own, and if you'll notice, he's in most posts right along side Daniel.

His "Maw-Maw" made a delicious poundcake for us the other day. Yep. I couldn't even wait until after I had snapped a picture to slice myself a piece. So yummy!

To make up for the splurge (yes, I ate my desert before my supper), we had tuna salad that night. I don't add much mayo (I use light mayo) in an effort to keep it healthy, but I do like to add boiled eggs and sweet pickle relish. And lots of freshly ground black pepper.

It's especially good when served on a bed of baby lettuces and garnished with tomatoes. A slice of whole grain bread on the side, and you have yourself an easy, healthy meal in minutes.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Confessions of a Failed New Years Resolution

There was only one thing I resolved to do this year. Run. At least a couple of times each week with the hope of running every other day. But I knew the every other day thing would be complicated due to my work schedule, so I decided not to impose unnecessary guilt upon myself if I could keep up the running twice a week.

Even with the extremely lax requirements I failed miserably. For the first few weeks, I did really well, frequenting the gym (I can use the gym at work for free!) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It felt great, doing this simple thing that I knew was good for me. So what happened?

At first, I kept forgetting to grab my gym bag in the mornings. Honest. That persisted for the entire month of February. And the guilt and shame set in. It's not that I didn't want to work out. I just really wanted to get home to my family in the evenings. You know?

So... I bought a jogging stroller for Sara Lynn and we've decided to make this running business a family affair.

Daniel and his friend ride their bikes.

Sara Lynn "drives" her stroller. (smiles!)


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Loving Amazon

I admit that I am not an "early adopter" by any means. It usually takes me a while to jump on the bandwagon so to speak. I usually buy books online, but from because they have such a great clearance section and I have a discount card. Most of my children's books have been purchased from BAM online and were cheaper than I could have gotten them on Amazon (I know this because I'm a bargain hunter - I always check around, especially on ebay, before I buy most things.)

That said, I recently received a $20 gift certificate to Amazon, and made my first purchase. There were several books I had been eyeing, and because shipping on orders over $25 is free, I thought I'd better take advantage of the opportunity. Far be it from me to let the good deal go to waste...

I promptly added to my shopping cart:

Anna Maria Horner's Seams to Me: 24 New Reasons to Love Sewing

Alicia Paulson's Stitched in Time

Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing

I also purchased a new power cord and adapter for my laptop. Our dear sweet Cocoa chewed on the original cord, and it only worked by wriggling it just right and holding the computer absolutely still. Decidely not an easy thing to do! I had put off making the purchase because I was told that power adapters for laptops ran around $100, and my old one did technically still work. I was pleased to find one on Amazon (manufactured by Hewlett-Packard, who made my laptop) for $35 which included shipping. I ordered it on a Friday, and it arrived the following Tuesday, making me one happy momma who doesn't have to keep her laptop still while her 2 1/2 year old daughter looks over her shoulder at all the pretty pictures.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Homemade Play Dough

My son came home from school with instructions on making homemade play dough the other day. His teacher requested that we make a batch and send it to school. The students would use it for shaping their spelling words and modeling geographic maps. How fun does that sound?! We love the Montessori education philosophy. It's a very hands-on and natural way for children to learn. Montessori students become confidant of their own abilities at a very early age and develop a life-long love of learning as a result.

This was extremely easy to make, and surprising not as messy as I had anticipated.

Homemade Play Dough

1 cup plain flour
1 cup water
½ cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar (it's in the spice section of your grocery store)
1 Tbsp. oil
approx. 12 drops of food coloring

Mix all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl (batter will be a bit lumpy.) Microwave on high for 3 min. stopping every minute to stir. Turn out onto a flour surface and knead until cool. I had to let mine cool for a minute or so before I could knead it – too hot! I squished it semi-flat with the bottom of my bowl onto my floured surface so it would cool faster. Don’t let it sit there too long or it will harden around the edges. When it cools enough, the kiddos love to do the kneading. Let them knead, while you cook the next batch. Store in air tight containers - I used Zip-loc bags.

Have fun!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Chicks... have I lost my mind?

Well... maybe I did lose my mind. But regardless, we are now the proud owners of 8 of the cutest newly hatched chicks you've ever seen! The kids already adore them and have been checking on them repeated to make sure that all is going well in their little box.

We decided on Light Brahmas, Rhode Island Reds, Black Australorps, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and Auracanas. Araucanas have been dubbed the "Easter Egg Chickens" because they lay eggs in assorted shades of blues and greens. I can hardly wait to see those eggs!

Baby chicks are surprisingly simple to care for and will be ready to live in their new coop in about 5-8 weeks... which reminds me, we have to decide on a coop design! I think we've decided to build one similar to this and we should be able to get started on it this weekend. According to the weather person, temperatures should be near 80 degrees. I'm getting warmer just thinking about that sunshine and fresh air!

Completely changing the subject - I dropped my most prized coffee mug and broke the handle off last week. I was quite disappointed. This mug is fabulous. Ceramic. Insulated. Beautiful. And it kept my coffee hot for the entire 30 minute commute I make to work each morning. Bummer.

I found a replacement here, but I just can't convince myself that I need another mug when I have other (albeit inferior, drippy, and stainless steel) mugs in the cabinet. I've actually been using my broken (but still fabulous) mug anyway.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Thrifty Home... Economizing

I have to say, my favorite places to find home decor items are flea markets, yard sales, and thrift shops. In my opinion, old things have much more character than their new counterparts. Not to mention, you can get a much better deal on preowned treasures. Take that antique wash stand in my front entryway. I got a real steal on that piece of furniture from days gone by... picked it up a few years ago for about $100 at a charity auction.

And how about those gorgeous old iron crosses? I picked those up for a mere $5 at a local flea market.

One of my all time favorite finds is this terracotta glazed dove that graces my side (and most frequently used) door. A symbol of peace. I picked it up at the same flea market for $2.

In this day of tremendous economic uncertainty, it certainly makes sense to be thrifty and economize. I was raised with a waste not, want not philosophy instilled in me. My family had a vegetable garden every season, and I have planted my own this year. I'm grateful that my mother and grandmother taught me by their examples to be frugal and prepare for hard times.

I buy in bulk. Toilet paper, tooth paste, flour, beans, rice, and the like. Anything that we use on a regular basis and won't spoil. We've tried to cut out cases of plastic water bottles in favor of filling our own when we're on the go. The little things really add up and make a difference in the end. My pantry is stocked, and I sleep better at night knowing we are prepared. Also knowing that hard times are here.

I would love to know how you economize at home. Please leave a comment sharing ways you stretch your own family's resources.

Romans 15:13 (New International Version)

13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Blueberry Muffin Post

Why name this post The Blueberry Muffin Post? One taste of these absolutely, positively, divine muffins and you will understand. My family is what you could call a muffin-loving bunch. I make muffins at least once each week. We usually have Bed and Breakfast Muffins because they're so healthy and the batter stores in the refridgerator for up to 6 weeks. Yep, I always have a bowl of this batter in the back of my fridge.

Today, I had some extra blueberries and knew I wanted to use them up while they were still good. Unfortunately, the blueberry muffin recipes I have in my cookbooks are not especially noteworthy. What's a girl to do? Google. I have found the internet to be quite handy at providing quick solutions to most of my cooking/sewing/gardening/you-name-it dilemmas.

This Easy Blueberry Muffins recipe was literally the first one Google pulled up.

It's a definite keeper.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Farm Life

Lately, I find myself daydreaming about living on a farm. In a big old farmhouse, with my vegetables all planted in rows, and chickens out in the barn. A big red barn, of coarse. Maybe some horses and cows out in the pasture.

We have even been looking at properties which would fit the bill for a mini-farm. Unfortunately, I do not think it's going to work out for us. Have you priced 15 acres with an old house on it lately? Ouch!

I'm thinking this will have to do for now. Did you know that some people raise chickens in their backyards? I didn't. The appeal of gathering fresh organic eggs from my own backyard is growing on me. Now all I have to do is convince my husband that we need 4 or 5 pet chickens. And a little red barn-style coop. It's all about the red barn, I tell you.

I just won a great giveaway!

Okay, I always enter giveaways, but I never win anything. That is until today! I just won the most amazing dress for Sara Lynn from Varenia over at Play is the Thing. It's called the "Ruffler Dress."

Isn't it amazing? Varenia is the mother of four beautiful young children, and she manages a thriving Etsy business in addition to her household. Her designs are fresh, simple, and modern. The fabrics she selects for her pieces are always fabulous.

Check out her Etsy shop: Whole Grain Baby

The picture above was taken by Varenia of her daughter modeling the Ruffler Dress. Too cute!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March snow in Alabama?!

Would you believe that it was 72 degrees here yesterday? And this is what I woke up to this morning? I know, unbelievable. Snow has been in the forecast all week, but I just didn't think it would happen. It hardly ever snows in South Alabama. And it is March, after all.

But just in case, we covered the garden with a makeshift greenhouse and brought our recently purchased fig tree inside. I'm so glad the grapes haven't been planted yet. You can see them on my sewing table alongside the blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, with the snow swirling just outside.

It feels like a stay-in-your-pajamas kind of day. And chili is definitely on the menu.

****It snowed hard for 6 hours straight. But, much to my children's disappointment, the ground was too warm for it to stick. There were no snow angels, but they had a good time catching snowflakes on their little tongues.