Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How to Save LOTS of Money and Bring a Little Summer to Your Winter!

This is your two minute warning, or actually, your four month warning.

It’s time to start the petunias!

Okay, maybe you're not concerned. Maybe, like I’ve been told by at least one reader, you skip the garden posts on this blog. Fine. I take no offense. Really. I’ll just pick up my trusty trowel and slink away.

But for the rest of you – aren’t you itching for a little summer? Or more importantly, do you spend much too much money on annuals each summer? Have you ever purchased happy little seed packets of annual flowers, only to be disappointed when all they produce is leaves and die before a proper bloom can happen?

We are such suckers for a pretty picture. I gave up on the seeds years ago and started buying flats of annuals instead. It ate at me, though, because they cost a fortune and I am nothing if not a skin-flint. Yet I could never resist, especially the wave petunias.

Petunias are happy flowers, and better yet, they’re resilient. The perfect flower for the easily distracted gardener. They can look nearly dead one day, but a little splash of water and they offer a dozen more trumpet-blooms within hours.

They’re worth the price tag, right? Maybe. But what if you didn’t have to pay it? What if you could grow wave petunias from seeds? Instead of paying $5-8 for one wave petunia, what if you could pay $1.75 for eight? You can. But you need to get started.

 There’s really only one trick to growing your own gorgeous wave petunias from inexpensive seeds, like mine….

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Wonders of Tumeric (or How I Fooled My Family)

Tumeric is everywhere. I can’t get away from it.

My mother-in-law was here visiting for two weeks and she told me how she takes it daily for her arthritis. I took a pottery class last week and the teacher said the same thing. I can’t open a magazine without seeing mention of it and many of the blogs and websites I follow fall over themselves to fawn over it.

To be honest, turmeric is new to me. I hadn’t heard of it until it started turning up in processed food as a natural coloring to replaced artificial colors. It’s bright mustard yellow. I could sort of remember seeing it in Indian food recipes. I’m not a big fan of Indian food, so the tiny little jar of turmeric I found in the back of my cupboard was from the original set of herbs I got at a wedding shower 20 years ago. I opened it and sniffed, but it smelled like the plastic jar it was in.

So I stopped by one of my favorite sources for spices (Park Street Pantry) and bought a fresh jar in a glass container. 
But what do I do with it? And what’s so great about it?

Tumeric is a tropical plant. It grows from root cuttings, not seeds and takes 250 days to harvest! It won’t stand for temperatures below 65 degrees, so that leaves out New Freedom, PA so I guess there will be no forthcoming post How-to-grow-your-own-tumeric-and-make-a-million (It’s the top selling herbal supplement as of press time).

Tumeric is closely related to ginger. In fact, it’s taste is described as “peppery, warm, and bitter” while it’s scent is similar to ginger. When I open the lid of my little jar, I smell Indian restaurants.

I searched in vain for a recipe for dish that my little finicky family might enjoy and finally opted for simply sprinkling it in recipes we already eat. You don’t even notice the taste. During our Super Bowl Commercial viewing party, I made this dip which was scrumptious with carrots, lightly steamed green beans, pretzels, cheese sticks, and tortilla chips.

Yummo Mustard Dip 

¾ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon agave nectar
3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard (less if you can’t handle the heat!)
1 teaspoon turmeric

Mix ingredients together and serve with pretty much anything!

Next I slipped a teaspoon in to the mac n cheese and although the color was shocking yellow, no one noticed anything odd (except me, I was certain I could taste it and had to work very hard on my nope-it-wasn’t-me face). 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recipe Organization - Dream or Reality? (or Something More?)

For many years I’ve had a dream.

It’s not an earth-changing dream or even a technically difficult dream. It certainly isn’t an impossible dream.

I’ve dreamed of organizing all my recipes. (Sorry if you were expecting something more exciting, this being the time of year we dedicate much writing and even an entire day of school to the man who had the most famous dream, does make my dream seem sub-par.)

I took a stab at this dream a few years back. I rounded up all the recipes torn from magazines and scattered willy-nilly throughout my house. I trimmed them neatly and taped them to notebook paper (see below, okay, maybe they aren't so neatly trimmed), and put them in notebooks.
The problem was that there were so many and the notebooks quickly became unorganized. Sorting the recipes and putting them in the notebooks in a sensible order became too big of a task. 

Where do you put zucchini bread? Vegetables? Bread? Dessert? The process was rife with too many tiny decisions that left me creating new piles of “Recipes that don’t belong anywhere but I don’t want to lose.”

Other piles grew from there – “Recipes I must try,” “Healthy recipes the kids probably won’t eat,” “Recipes to try for the blog,” and “Recipes to make for book club.”

The notebooks themselves were full to bursting already and any attempts at opening them to insert a new recipe generally led to much bigger disasters when pages slipped out of the overtaxed rings. Sometimes I’d carefully re-order the pages and squeeze them back into the binder but most of the time I just put the loose pages in a new pile called, “To be re-filed.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Power of Signs

Signs have power. Did you ever notice that? 

You can tell someone, this is the rule… but until they see it in writing, preferably on a sign, they don’t actually take you seriously. Or maybe that’s just my house. We’re a family of readers (and writers). We like to see things in print.

Some of my kids favorite signs of late include…..

And, even better….

(I place these signs above the toilet at 5:25 AM after the schools auto-robot caller has woken me and crashed my day.)

But I’ve utilized signs to keep the laundry sorted….

The meals eaten….

My daughter uses a sign to keep out the riff-raff….

Sure, I’m mostly kidding, but sometimes putting up a sign is much better than giving an order. I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me to do something, my inner adolescent soul prickles. I don’t want to do it. I’ll probably do it, but I might wait until you’re not looking or until it feels like it’s my idea.

For better or worse, my kids have inherited many of my own quirks. So I’ve learned they respond better to directions in writing than in nag-form. I’ve begun leaving messages for them on their chore chart.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Seven Things I Learned This Year (or ways in which I'm growing up)

Stuff I learned this year that moved me along the path to growing up…. (cue my daughter singing her favorite song – I won’t grow up….)

1. My kids respond better to direct orders than guilt.

I entered the kitchen and surveyed the mess. Two of the three guilty party were present on laptops at the counter. Dramatically I lamented, “I wonder what time the maid is coming to clean up these dishes….” 

Loud sigh from one child and eye roll from the other. Spying the open container of cereal, I smiled and said brightly, “I guess it’s good this cereal has been left open since breakfast, now it can be good and stale, just the way I like it.” I shoved the box back in the cabinet and slammed it closed.

My oldest child, the wise one, yanked the ear buds out, looked at me and said, “You know, if you want me to do something you should just ask.”

All manner of sarcastic retort clamored to be allowed out, but I calmly looked at him and said, “Oh, really?”

“Yeah, it would be better if you just said what you wanted instead of laying all this guilt on us.”

My daughter joined the conversation at this point and added an icy, “Yeah.”

“So, you’re telling me that if I simply ask you to do something, you’re going to do it?” (It was all I could do to point out 18 years of evidence to the contrary.)

“Yeah,” he says. I looked to my daughter, who shrugged.

“Okay…..can you please put away your dishes from this morning?”


Remarkably, both children got up and cleaned up the mess they had left.

I’ve tried to keep his words in mind these past months and miraculously there has been some compliance. I suppose, what he was really asking was that I treat him like the adult he has become and not wield my passive-aggressive weapons of self-esteem destruction.  It takes a lot of years for these kids to teach me how to parent.

Friday, December 19, 2014

SALT vs the common cold (or how to kick a cold in three easy steps!)

Salt. Maybe you think you know salt. Great on steak and popcorn and cookies batter has no flavor without it. Come winter, salt is great for melting ice. Other than that? Yup, it’s easier to float in salt water. I hear a lot of negative talk about salt in terms of health, but most of that is hype. In fact, no less than Scientific American debunked the myth in this excellent article from 2011. So let’s all stop hating on salt. We need it and this week it’s my hero.

Why? Well, friends let me tell you a tale…

Three days before my BOOK SIGNING AND CELEBRATION, I came down with my first cold in years. Great, right? Here I am peddling a book about how you can be healthier and I would be a sniffling mess come Saturday. This was bad.