Monday, April 29, 2013

Herbs Herbs Herbs!

Over the weekend we visited Meijers. They have the certain cat food our big old cat loves for the cheapest around. But when we got to the store, they had no cat food left. Gone!! Feeling sorry for the cat and for ourselves, we checked out the gardening section at Meijers. The husband got himself a new rake, and I hit the mother lode on herbs. Who doesn't love to cook with fresh herbs? 

We bought rosemary, parsley, thyme, sweet basil, tarragon, dill, cilantro, mint and marjoram. There was no oregano out yet, and we already had sage (or so I thought). We went home happy enough... poor cat.

Herbs from Meijers

Herbs in our garden.

When we arrived home and decided to check out the garden, we found that the sage we had in the garden for years, had died. Probably when I asked the husband to clear out half of them since we had too much of it, last week. Ah well, maybe this year I'll plant some in a planter on the deck. Though I still have a lot of sage that I dried last year. 

You can see how well the chives (lower left corner) have grown this spring, in the picture above. This is the first year that we have planted rosemary, thyme, tarragon and marjoram in the ground. Growing them in planters has always been successful for us. The hubby and I love to experiment. Time will tell if we did the right thing for those herbs. 

We saved one rosemary plant for the deck planter, as well as the mint. Mint spreads like wild fire, so that definitely stays on the deck, contained in a planter. Can't wait to get oregano and perhaps the sage into a deck planter as well.

One thing is for sure, in the above picture, that row of herbs on the right is in the row we have always planted our first row of jalapenos. Hopefully, the jalapenos won't take offense like the sage did.
Happy gardening!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Joy of Chrysanthemums

Over 20 years ago, my husband and I designed a little garden island in the front yard for our flowers. Throughout the years, we've had roses, irises, tulips, alliums, carnations and chrysanthemums. Roses and chrysanthemums, "mums", have remained a constant, where others have perished, or have been banished from our garden. 

The tulips and carnations never took off there. But we had real tall irises and two yucca plants that just took over the whole island. They have since been banished. One of my sisters took the irises last fall, but no one wanted the yuccas. Now, the irises were very pretty, but they were so tall that they always fell over. Same with the yuccas, though not so pretty. 

Since I'm basically lazy when it comes to flowers, that's why I stick with mums. They fill in a garden in the fall with such gorgeous color. And you don't have to do really much of anything to them. Mums can be annuals or perennials, and I always buy perennial since they come back every year. Only once did I mistakenly get some that were annuals. Never again! They, of course, died. If I took the time to dig a hole to put a flower plant in the ground, it better grow and come back every year! Did I say I was lazy??

I usually plant one new mum every year. This year, it's the Matchstick Chrysanthemum. It's a little different than the usual daisy head-ish looking mum. I like the unusual. Just wait until my unusual alliums come up! Unusual is cool.

Our little flower garden island.

Matchstick Chrysanthemums
Take a peak at what they will look like on the link from Burpee below.

Mums coming up this spring in our island.

Our flower garden needs some cleanup! And that's just what the husband and I intend to do this weekend, while waiting for the perfect time to work on our vegetable gardens. We have a lot of space from getting rid of the yuccas and irises on our little island. So planning something easy for those areas. We have tried to keep the flower garden as maintenance free as possible. Our flower garden gets taken care of maybe once a month, since we are usually busy all the time with our vegetable gardens in our back yard. Looking forward to that soon! Time for flowers now.

Happy gardening!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Growing Pepper Seedlings Update

Who's getting anxious to start planting seedlings into the ground? Me!! It's been fairly cold out but I'm still looking at the Mother's Day time frame for planting. But only if I see the temperature at night is consistently above 50 degrees. So my seedlings may or may not be in the ground on this Mother's Day. 

Since I started growing my seeds late, they are not anywhere near the height they've been at in previous growing years. They seem to be growing really slow this year. It's probably just my imagination. And I really shouldn't worry too much. 

Last year I started my cubanelle pepper seeds later than the other seeds. And when I put those tiny seedlings in the ground, they looked like they may not make it. But, all of a sudden they took off and caught up to the others. Here's what my seedlings look like right now.

giant jalapeno about 3-4"

giant jalapeno

poblano 1-2"


habanero 1-2"

cubanelle 1-2"

I received an email from Burpee that my Super Sauce tomatoes should be arriving today. I can't wait to see how those giant roma tomatoes grow. I believe I'm going to be getting in my matchstick mum plants as well. The tomatoes won't go in the ground yet. But I will be planting  the chrysanthemums!

So far on my seedling count:

16 giant jalapeno seeds... 14 up
16 cubanelle seeds... 15 up
2 poblano seeds... 2 up
2 habanero seeds... 2 up

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Surprise Vegan Dalek Wedding Cupcakes

My daughter decided she was going to have a wedding that wasn't traditional. She and her husband to be decided they wanted a Maui destination wedding. It was just the bride and groom along with the parents. The bride and groom had a gorgeous beach wedding with the sunset photos that will live forever in our memories. 

A little background on the bride and groom. They are both professional people. The groom being a high school English teacher. The bride has a bachelor's degree in business and she works at a software compliance company. They are gamers who could play video games for a good part of the day if they were able to. They are also into Doctor Who big time. 

When my husband and I were in Maui for the wedding, we of course had to go shopping. We saw a t-shirt that had a stick figure bride and groom that had GAME OVER on it. A perfect shirt for gamers who are getting married! Well, we didn't get the shirts, but did mention it to the "kids". They thought it was hilarious!. After the minister pronounced them man and wife, my husband had to say GAME OVER. Everyone had a good laugh about it. Memorable for sure!

Back on the mainland, our daughter's 2 grandmas were planning a Luau wedding reception. The new groom's parents were going to throw a family reunion together in their home state as their reception. Did I say our families are very non-traditional? Anyway, my mom (one of the grandmas) was in charge of the wedding cake. She decided to make cupcakes. Now, the bride is a vegan, so I was enlisted to make some fun, personalized vegan wedding cupcakes for the bride and groom, while mom made the "normal" cupcakes. I took up the challenge!

The bride and groom love chocolate. The groom even more so than the bride! I knew I was going to make chocolate cupcakes. Then had to decide what to do to make it different. My daughter is always putting Doctor Who pictures up on my timeline on Facebook. Awhile ago I had remembered seeing dalek cupcakes posted. I figured I could make a pair of bride and groom daleks and put the gamer twist on it with the daleks holding a sign that said GAME OVER. 

OK, now to make the cupcakes vegan. I bought a devil's food cake mix from Whole Foods. The instructions on the box said to make the mix vegan, use applesauce instead of egg, and a vegan "butter", which I chose Earth Balance original, plus water. Easy enough!

I know Pocky isn't vegan, at least the chocolate part on the stick isn't. But, I know that the daughter would still eat that tiny bit, or give that part to her husband. I wanted to have light chocolate dots for the boy dalek and white dots (wedding dress) for the girl. It didn't quite work out that way. Of course I waited till the last minute and ran around to about 6 different stores and couldn't locate the right color dots. So I settled on the pink and blue dots that were handpicked out of the multi-color mix I picked up. 

I put two cupcakes together (stacked) and shaped it into the famously recognizable dalek shape. I "frosted" the daleks with melted semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips. Added the dots on the body portion and Pocky as the appendages. The crowning glory were the GAME OVER signs.

We brought the bride and groom daleks out at dessert time at the reception. The bride and groom were so surprised and they laughed! All their friends (Doctor Who fans and gamers as well) took pics and the couple shared the daleks with them. They were a tremendous hit!

Enjoyable people, enjoyable food, enjoyable time. GAME OVER!

So far on my seedling count:

16 giant jalapeno seeds... 14 up
16 cubanelle seeds... 10 up
2 poblano seeds... 2 up
2 habanero seeds... 2 up

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cubanelle peppers are on their way up!

Since my cubanelle peppers weren't coming up like the jalapenos were, I swapped the two trays yesterday. And lo and behold, my cubanelles are starting to come up. And so are the 2 habaneros. Nice! Thank goodness I have my peppers marked, since the seedlings all look alike! 

Cubanelle peppers

Jalapeno peppers

So far on my seedling count:

16 giant jalapeno seeds... 13 up
16 cubanelle seeds... 5 up
2 poblano seeds... 2 up
2 habanero seeds... 2 up

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Everyone needs a time out sometimes. A rambling post.

From working, to weddings, to everyday madness, everyone deserves a time out. As business owners in the tech world, we have found it hard to take time off just for ourselves. We work pretty much 24/7. On top of that, our daughter was getting married in Maui. We had to take time off for that! Crazy, busy days.

We've done the unthinkable. We have now taken time off twice already. Once to do eagle spotting in Wisconsin just to relax and calm things down. The other was the Maui wedding. When we want to relax, we don't have a schedule filled out. We like to sit and watch nature. And we did just that in both places.

The eagles were a site to see in Prairie du Sac, WI. While we had to sit in our car to take pictures, so as not to scare the eagles, we were able to get some decent ones. Not the sharpest, but good enough for us to view later.

It was so enjoyable to be able to see the eagles! But then we also got to see whales in Maui! While the daughter and her new husband, and her new in-laws were doing the helicopter tours, and such, we just sat on our hotel veranda and watched the whales, while sipping mimosas. 

OK, we did get phone calls and emails for work. The husband even had to remote into our server at home with his iPad to help a customer through remote support, all the while watching the whales in Maui. While we tried to take pictures of the whales, they were too far away for our puny cameras. But at least we have the pictures of whales with water spraying from their blow spouts and then the flip of their majestic tails in our own memories. Beautiful! Oh, and so was the wedding :-)

Now back to work! LOL!

So far on my seedling count:

16 giant jalapeno seeds... 11 up
16 cubanelle seeds... 1 up
2 poblano seeds... 2 up
2 habanero seeds... 0 up

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chives are coming up!

This past weekend, my husband and I went to check our garden area, to see what we need to do to make it ready for planting. I wasn't too surprised to see my chives already coming up. I have two bunches of regular chives and one of garlic chives. The picture above is one bunch of regular chives. I get so many chives over the summer, that I usually have to make a pesto out of them and freeze to use during the winter months. I put chives in everything. Soups, stews, casseroles, in cream cheese to stuff into jalapenos, etc... 

The above picture is right next to my chive patch. This is where we plant our jalapenos, poblanos and cubanelles, and this year habaneros as well. Usually, this area is full of weeds by now. I'm actually pretty impressed with what my husband did last year to prepare the soil. He used the cultivator to loosen the soil. And then he added a good portion of peat moss and then added more garden soil to the mixture. We really didn't have too many weeds come up last year. Hoping for more of the same this year!

So far on my seedling count:

16 giant jalapeno seeds... 6 up
16 cubanelle seeds... 0 up
2 poblano seeds... 0 up
2 habanero seeds... 0 up

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Jalapeno seedlings

Last night before heading to bed, I checked on my seeds, hoping to see some seedlings started. I was not disappointed! Out of 16 giant jalapeno seeds, 4 have sprouted. YAY!! I have never had a pepper seed not sprout, so it is just a matter of time for the rest. 

I am surprised that my cubanelle seeds haven't sprouted yet, since they grew pretty fast last year. I know that my poblano seeds do take a bit longer to come up. That being said from a few years of experience. The habaneros haven't shown their little faces yet either, but I am on new ground with those, as this is the first year I've tried to grow them.

So far on my count:

16 giant jalapeno seeds... 4 up
16 cubanelle seeds... 0 up
2 poblano seeds... 0 up
2 habanero seeds... 0 up

These guys need to be up and ready around Mother's Day, which is the usual day I shoot for to plant. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pretty Purple Striped Crocuses!

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that her tulips were starting to come up. So I had to check and see what flowers of mine were coming up. No, I don't have tulips, but I do have crocuses and daffodils! And I was not disappointed! The crocuses were up. Pretty, purple striped flowers!

Pretty crocus amongst all the old leaves and weeds. Looks like some weeding is needed in the very near future!

Patches of daffodil greens are up. Soon we'll be seeing their pretty flowers as well. It is truly beginning to look like spring!

I'm still waiting for my pepper seeds to break the surface of their little seed pots. It's been almost a week and I'm growing a little impatient to see that first seedling sprout! 

Happy Spring!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Everyone needs a little Thyme

Still impatiently waiting for my seeds to break ground in their little seed pots. It's been 3 days! Feels like forever though. So while we await... let's talk about another herb. Today, I choose thyme because that's another strong herb that my family loves. 

I grow thyme in a pot on my deck, in full sun. Usually I have it sharing the big pot with oregano. They co-exist very nicely!

Just like my rosemary, it loves a good soaking. It is a perennial, but usually I have to replant every year because they like to die on me over the winter. Last year was the first time it survived. And it's looking pretty good for this year as well. Time will tell soon enough!

As with rosemary, I tend to put thyme in everything I cook. Well, just about everything.  It's another strong tasting and scented herb. I don't have a specific recipe that I use with thyme, except my son's favorite, chicken noodle soup. He loves a lot of strong thyme flavor there. And don't forget to spice up the homemade bread to go with that soup, with thyme as well!

I'll leave you here again with some more "factoids" for thyme.

  • Oil of thyme, the essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), contains 20–54% thymolThymol, an antiseptic, is the main active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes such as ListerineThymol can also be found as the active ingredient in some all-natural, alcohol-free hand sanitizers.
  • A tea made by infusing the herb in water can be used for coughs and bronchitis.
  • Also used for clairvoyance, cleansing, courage, healing, protection and purification.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lovely Lavender

Since I spoke about my favorite herb yesterday, rosemary, I thought it would be a good time to chat about lavender. Lavender is from the same family as rosemary. They look a lot alike. A few years ago, I replaced most of my rose bushes that were growing around our deck. We kept getting the Japanese beetles all over the roses, so we decided to replace them with another one of my favorite flowers, lavender! It's a great perennial that grows into nice aromatic, flowery bushes. Besides smelling pretty, I use the flowers from lavender in cooking. They are easy to collect and dry for future use. I've made lavender ice cream, jelly, scones and in spice mixes. I spoke yesterday about making rosemary bread and using lavender jelly on it. Since I shared my bread recipe, I'll also share my lavender jelly recipe.

Lavender Jelly

  • 4 cups distilled water
  • 4 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1 3oz packet liquid pectin
Bring the distilled water to a boil
Infuse with 4 tablespoons dried lavender flowers (make sure you didn't use insecticide on them)
Let this infusion steep for 20 minutes, then strain
Combine together 2 cups of the lavender infusion, lemon juice and the sugar
Bring this to a full boil, stirring non-stop.
Then add 1 packet of liquid pectin and boil for one minute.
Then remove from heat
Fill (5 or 6) 1/2 pint sterile jars and seal

When you add the lemon juice to the lavender infusion, the juice all of a sudden turns a pretty pink. It's really a neat thing to see! This jelly has a very delicate flavor. It tastes just like lavender smells! This jelly can lose it's flavor in a few months. So keep it in a cool, dark place, and use it quickly. I bring a jar to family get togethers along with a lightly herb-ed bread. It complements Rosemary Bread beautifully!
Steps in processing jams & jellies

For more info on canning jellies and jams, go to:

For another recipe that I posted on this blog Herbes de Provence go to:

In closing today, I'll leave you with some lavender "factoids".

  • Lavender is a frequent addition to healing sachets, especially bath mixtures, and is added to incenses to cause sleep. 
  • Lavender is a great antibiotic, antidepressant, sedative and detoxify. Stimulates the immune system.
  • Lavender has long been used in love spells. Clothing rubbed with the fragrant flowers (or Lavender placed in drawers with clothes) attracts love. 

  • Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    A Chat about Rosemary!

    While waiting for my seedlings to sprout, I thought I might talk a bit about herbs. My favorite herb being rosemary. Just the thought of rosemary and it's wonderful, pick-me-up scent makes me smile. Every year, I grow rosemary in a large pot on my deck. I don't know about anyone else, but when I grow my rosemary on my deck, it loves full sun. Mine likes to get watered, soaked actually, once a day. My big pot allows for a lot of drainage, so the plant isn't sitting in water. But for some reason, the plant just loves that soaking. If it doesn't get it, you can actually see the needles lose their softness. My sister-in-law who grew up in California, had bushes of rosemary growing year long in her back yard. Was I jealous! Now that they've moved back here, she grows her rosemary in pots, like I do. She really misses growing it in her yard. I know I would as well!

    Rosemary is an ornamental plant as well as the needle type leaves being used in cooking. While most people keep their rosemary uses in recipes to a minimum, I tend to use more than the average cook. My family and I like the strong (sometimes over-powering) taste of rosemary. I use it in most things I cook. One of our favorite uses is making Rosemary Bread. Rosemary Bread goes well with just about any soup or stew, or even just for dessert. There is nothing like spreading homemade Lavender Jam (or jelly) on just baked Rosemary Bread!

    Rosemary Bread
    • 3-1/2 cups bread flour
    • 2 tablespoons sugar (I use raw sugar)
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary needles (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried)
    • 1 tablespoon yeast
    • 1-1/4 cups warm water
    I cheat and throw everything in my bread machine. I put it on the dough cycle, so it does all the kneading and the first raise of the bread. Then I take it out of the machine and make it into whatever shape I want to make. Kind of like the artisan loaves you buy at the grocery store. Let it raise to double in size, which takes about an hour or so. Then bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Check the bread, you may need to keep it in for another 5-10 minutes. 

    As I leave you here, I'll give you a few "facts" about rosemary...
    • Did you know that rosemary is an herb known for strengthening the memory and helping the brain?
    • Rosemary used to be worn by a bride (in a wreath) and also presented to wedding guests as a symbol of love and loyalty.
    • A sprig of rosemary used to be carried to funerals and thrown on the coffin for remembrance.
    Thanks for stopping by!

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    First day of indoor seed planting

    Last year we bought two Burpee seed kits, containing a heating pad, a tray and a cover. We have plenty of 3" plastic cups, so used those as the planters. We were all ready to start planting our seeds for this year. We first drilled a couple of holes in the bottom of the plastic cups to allow water drainage. Then we added our dirt. Dropped one seed in each dirt-filled planter, covered it a little bit, then watered. Placed the cover on the seed tray, which was already sitting on top of the plugged-in heating pad. Ready to rock n' roll!

    Here are my plants that I just seeded indoors. Two habaneros, two poblanos, 16 giant jalapenos and 16 cubanelle peppers. I can't wait to see them sprout through the dirt!

    Monday, April 1, 2013

    Getting ready for the 2013 gardening season!

    Today is the start of my growing season! I am a little late this year. Usually I start at least 2 months ahead of time (Mother's Day planting in ground). This year, I was away for a few days in Maui and didn't want my seedlings to go without water, and perish. Which brings us to this day. My gardening day.

    I'm going to do something different this year. I am buying tomato plants instead of growing them from seed. For a few years now, I keep getting blossom end rot on at least 50% of my tomatoes. It's not the soil. It's not just because roma (shape) tomatoes usually have that issue. I grew Mortgage Lifter tomatoes from seed last year and got the same problem. They were nice round tomatoes and still had the problem. So now, I will try just growing a plant and see how that turns out.

    But, on the other hand, since I've never had a problem with growing peppers from seed, I am going to grow my usual jalapenos, poblanos and cubanelles, and one new one. I never grew habaneros before, but my husband wanted us to try them.


    As you can see, I am a Burpee fan. And yes, I did buy my tomato plants from - A brand new tomato plant that I can't wait to try. The SuperSauce Hybrid Tomato.   

    Let's see if I get blossom end rot on those suckers! I can't wait to get them in. Well, closer to Mother's Day, I hope!

    More pictures to come! 

    Happy growing!