Thursday, May 31, 2012

Update from the Garden

I shared with you on Tuesday my blogging dilemma:  the camera wasn't working.  Really, I just couldn't find the battery charger, and the battery was dead, so no camera.  We thought perhaps we left it plugged in at the hospital when Mason was born, so we were shopping for one at Costco yesterday.  We placed one in the cart, and then I remembered I had definitely used it at least once since coming home from the hospital.  So, when we got home I looked all over, yet again, and in a moment of desperation decided to look under my nightstand.  Aha! I found it!  Now I can resume taking pictures of moments like these:

and other less meaningful things that I talk about on this blog.   As soon as my battery was charged I headed outside to snap some pictures of our growing garden.

A few weeks ago I shared with you our Vegetable Garden with raised beds that we planted this year.  As a reminder, here is what it looked like at the end of March:

And, now look at it!

We are having SO much fun with this project.  Each night after dinner, we all grab a basket {minus Mason, who is usually wrapped across my front} and pick whatever is ready.  We've gotten tons of green beans, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, and cucumbers.  Here are some close-ups of what is to come:

Tomatoes, several varieties


Green Bell Peppers


Butternut Squash {great for making baby food}

Green Beans

Pole Beans


Zucchini, and some Dill there on the right


Cherry Tomatoes

Raspberry Blossoms

Raspberry Plants from my MIL

I've learned a few things from gardening thus far:
1) Watch out for overgrown plants covering the walkway--there could be a fire ant nest below.  I stepped into a nest two weeks ago and got several ant bites on my foot.  Maybe the real lesson I should have learned was to wear socks and shoes.

2) Don't stand on the other side of someone who is doing this:

Pieces of earth will fly and most likely hit you, which hurts. very. bad.

3) My baby monitor reaches to the garden!  Yay!  This means I can go up there during nap time and still get some work done.  Who says having a newborn is nothing but nursing and changing diapers?

4) Working the land is very fulfilling!  It brings me such joy to see Bradley enjoying his garden, researching new ways to make our crops grow, and eating the delicious vegetables that have grown.

How does your garden grow?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Plans for My English Garden

Sorry I've been a bit absent this past week!  I came down with something last Wednesday, which kept me out of commission for 24 hours, and then we were out of town until Saturday.  Plus, my camera isn't working, which makes for a frustrated blogger!  Hopefully, I can remedy that situation soon.  In the meantime, I thought I would share with you plans for my little English garden.

There is a perfect spot in my backyard, a corner that sits right beneath my kitchen window, where I plan to put in an English garden.  What is an English garden you ask?  Well, my understanding is that it is an area that is just PACKED with flowers and plants.  My goal is to put in as many varieties as I'm able, mostly flowers that can be cut to bring indoors.  There are a few plants in this space already, but I've been hesitant to finish it because of our dog.  She likes to ruin my plants.  So, I need to come up with a way to keep her out so that my flowers can be beautiful!  These photos are my inspiration.

I loved it when I found this one, because it includes a Japanese Maple.  I have a small JM in this space already, and wasn't sure if that could remain.  This picture helped make my decision.

Do you see that tall blue/purplish flower on the left? That's called Delphinium, and it's a gorgeous flower. My mother-in-law gave me one for Mother's Day, so it will definitely be added. Daisies are also a must, and I have some of those to put in.

My space isn't large enough for a pathway, or a stone wall, but I loved this grouping of flowers. Just look at all the different varieties!

Better Homes & Gardens even had a plan for an English garden, so if I get really stumped I could just follow their design.
Source: via Lauren on Pinterest

And, to keep the dog out? Well, maybe something like this, but I'm not decided yet.

What are your favorite flowers? Any ideas for must-haves that I should include in my new English garden? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fabric Covered Boxes for the Nursery {Easy DIY}

Our home has seen its fair share of diaper boxes over the past three years.  It wasn't until about a year ago that I started saving them.  I saw several blog posts about covering diaper boxes to use as pretty storage; an inexpensive and pretty way to store items, rather than purchasing decorative baskets or other containers for storage.

I purchased fabric for Mason's nursery and after making the bedding and window treatment{reveal of the nursery will be coming in the next couple of weeks}, I had plenty of fabric leftover for little projects.  It was fun to cover some diaper and wipes boxes with fabric so that now I have some good-looking storage boxes for toys.

Yes, you can see the words on the box, but from a distance it's not noticeable.  You could certainly cover the box with dark paper first, and obviously a darker fabric would cover the words completely.

If you want to do this project, it's so simple!  You can even use fabric scraps, so don't worry about going out and purchasing new fabric.

-measuring tape or ruler
-spray adhesive
-chalkboard vinyl {optional}

Step 1: Measure each side of the box and cut fabric to those dimensions, adding an inch or so on each side, and 4 inches on the top.

Step 2:  Find what you want to be the front of the box.  Place the proper piece of fabric on this side, lining up the fabric so it is centered, if using a patterned fabric.  Spray adhesive on the box and press fabric gently onto the box so it adheres.  Spray the sides and top opening with adhesive and press fabric down on all those sides. {Repeat with back side of the box}

Step 3:
Measure the sides of the box as described in Step 1.  Fold under the side piece to make a crease right along the edge for a finished look.  Spray with adhesive and press fabric down gently to adhere, as described in Step 2.

Step 4:
Use spray adhesive on the bottom of the box for the fabric that extends below, so that it looks like this:

You could leave the bottom looking like this, but I added a piece of felt to finish it off and to make for easy sliding on the shelf.  Just cut the felt to size and either use hot glue or spray adhesive to make it stick.

I don't have any pictures of my label-making, but I used chalkboard vinyl {which you can purchase at a fabric store in the utility fabric area} and cut out a small piece.  I attached it with spray adhesive.  It was difficult to write on the vinyl with a regular piece of chalk, which is why my writing is horrible in the pictures, so I plan on getting a chalk pen to use for these.

I hope this makes sense!  Feel free to comment with any questions, and I'll do my best to explain!  I'm realizing that my brain isn't functioning properly right now {sleep deprivation due to a newborn is catching up with me}.  

Linking to these parties:

A Diamond in the Stuff

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Strawberry Cake

Last week we went and picked strawberries as a family.  My In-laws were in town, so they were able to help pick berries {many hands make light work}, and corral the kiddos.  Even Mason went along; he slept the whole time.  We picked 10 gallons of strawberries!  2 of those gallons were for a friend, but with the rest I made some into freezer jam and then froze a ton whole so that we could have smoothies {or scoothies as my 2 year old calls them} all year long!

Strawberries are by far my favorite fruit, and I love most desserts that call for strawberries.  On May 8, 2008, Bradley and I attended my niece and nephew's joint birthday party, where my sister-in-law made a fresh strawberry cake.  {The reason this date stands out in my mind so well is that was the day I found out I was expecting our first child!}  The cake was absolutely delicious and I've wanted to eat it again since then.  So, four years and a few days later, I finally made one.

I do have to give a HUGE disclaimer, though:  this cake is NOT entirely from scratch!  I've mentioned before that occasionally I will post recipes that don't fall in line with my blog title, but only if they are that good.  This one falls into the awesome category, so you're getting it here.  If you absolutely can't stand me for posting a recipe that includes a boxed cake mix, just close out this tab :).  For those of you who remain, enjoy!

Strawberry Cake

1 box white cake mix
1 box strawberry Jello
1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups chopped fresh strawberries
4 eggs
1 cup coconut *
1 cup chopped pecans *

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease either 2  9-inch round pans, or 1 9x13-inch pan.  Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat for several minutes until well combined.  Pour into prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

*Coconut and pecans are optional.  If you do use, they can be toasted if you want to add some extra taste. 

Frost with the following:

Strawberry Frosting

1 stick butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries, with most of the juice drained out
1/2 cup chopped pecans*
1/2 cup coconut*

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add powdered sugar and mix until well combined.  Add milk and beat smooth.  If frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar a little at a time until it is the right consistency.  Beat in strawberries.

*Again, coconut and pecans are optional.  If used, they can be toasted, if so desired.

source: My sister-in-law

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Celebrating Julia Child & Chocolate Mousse

Perhaps the most famous culinary expert of the 20th century was Julia Child.   Often bored and lonely upon her arrival in France with her husband, Julia struggled to learn French and fit into her host culture.  Attending culinary school gave her the joy she had lacked and she quickly mastered French cuisine.  She authored a cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which has been a great tool for cooks in being able to bring French cuisine to the American table.

This year, August 15, Julia would have been 100 years old.  In celebration of her life, and the great culinary inspiration she provided, many bloggers are participating in JC100.  I was contacted and invited to participate, and I eagerly agreed!  Do you remember the movie Julie and Julia from a few years ago?  It is one of my favorites and truly inspired me in my culinary endeavors.  Attending culinary school is a dream of mine, so being able to 'watch' Julia's experience via this movie was a lot of fun.  I've always wanted to try her recipes, so now I get the opportunity! 

Each week we are given a new recipe of Julia's, and we are able to share the recipe with you!  This week's recipe is Chocolate Mousse, a favorite dessert in my husband's family, so it was only appropriate that my in-laws are in town this week and can sample this decadent delight.  

Hope you enjoy!  Bon Appetit!

In, what I would think would have been Julia's fashion, I measured out all of my ingredients into prep bowls and placed them on the counter, in easy to reach places.

I even weighed the chocolate to ensure that I had exactly 6 ounces.  You can't always trust a labeled bag.

Julia may not forgive me for this, but I opted to leave out the orange liquer that is called for in the recipe.  I just couldn't seem to find any in my pantry {ha!}...and honestly, I don't like orange flavor in my chocolate.  This may have caused a bit of a different consistency as I cooked the first part {there was never any foam in mine}, but it ended up just fine.   Her description of the egg yolks and sugar mixture is that it will look like mayonnaise.  She was right.

Smooth melted chocolate, with a bit of coffee and lots of butter {always lots of butter in Julia's recipes} makes for yummy chocolate.

 Beating egg whites is apparently an art.  I'm not sure if I've mastered it, but this is what the 'stiff peaks' should look like.  If you use an electric mixer, the beaters should leave small peaks when you lift them up and off of the mixture.

I believe folding something into another portion of the recipe is best accomplished with the use of a spatula--it makes for gentle stirring.

Hopefully, these pictures and little tips will help you if you endeavor to try this recipe.  And, be sure to check out the other bloggers who are joining in this celebration by looking at the Facebook page.

Chocolate Mousse

A 3-quart porcelain or stainless steel mixing bowl
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup instant sugar {I used regular granulated sugar}
1/4 cup orange liquer
pan of not-quite simmering water
basin of cold water

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until mixture is thick, pale yellow, and falls back upon itself forming a slowly dissolving ribbon.  Beat in the orange liquer.  Then set mixing bowl over the not-quite simmering water and continue beating for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is foamy and too hot for your finger.  Then beat over cold water for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is cool and again forms the ribbon.  It will have the consistency of mayonnaise.

6 ounces or squares of semisweet baking chocolate
4 Tablespoons strong coffee
A small saucepan
6 ounces, or 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
Optional: 1/4 cup finely diced, glazed orange peel

Melt chocolate with coffee over hot water. Remove from heat and beat in butter, a bit at a time, to make a smooth cream.  Beat the chocolate into the yolks and sugar, then beat in the optional orange peel.  

4 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

Beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.  Stir one fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Fold in the rest. 

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.