2019 Pantry Challenge #1

Welcome, February–I kind of took the month of January off for several reasons. First off I really needed a break from creating content. I refused to just put up blog posts just to put up blog posts. In my mind, I’ve always wanted my blog to remain as good as the really good blogs I follow. I’ve always been like that when it comes to blogging. Admittedly I’m not perfect and I know some of my content could have been better over the last ten years. So my goal for 2019 is to produce stellar content. I’ll be honest that before coming to this decision I thought long and hard during my holiday break about not blogging anymore. I’ve been working hard to promote my business over on IG. But by the end of the year the answer was clear to me–no I did not want to quit blogging. I’m a writer and though not perfect in my sentence structure or grammar, I feel compelled many times a year to write. And so my blog goes on. Some things will change. I may integrate some vlog information and a chance for my readers to see me in action rather than just word. So, I will be sharing a video here and there in my blog posts. I want to engage more with my audience. I have found that making videos can be a great way to accomplish that.

I have many different projects to complete this year. I want my content to be informational on my blog as well as include the lifestyle that goes with it. So I will be focusing more on food, food sourcing, safety, storing, and lifestyle.

Pantry Challenge #1
In January one of the first things I do is take stock of everything. So– an inventory of food on hand, household goods, a new budget created, appointments scheduled, areas decluttered and cleaned and so on. I decided that completing a pantry/freezer challenge was a great thing for my family because it would accomplish several things at once. First, it would help me to put together a menu for the entire month. Because I was taking inventory of food on hand, creating a 31-day menu would be fairly simple. Second, it would allow me not to have to make a big shopping haul this month when I am quite busy with other things (first of the year, tax season, bad weather). Lastly, we could save some money? Possibly $3-400.00 worth of money (win-win) The video below is how I started my pantry challenge and I also have one up about the success of my pantry challenge. With two fill-in shops, I still managed to save $200.00 this month on my grocery budget. I would encourage anyone looking to clean out their freezer, fridge, or pantry to give this a try. I do this four times a year and then take the saved money and buy household items as needed– preferably when they are on sale.

I’ve had a productive start this new year and hope you have had one too. Soon–container garden planning and I’ve got a lot of new ideas for that as well. Until next time—Take Care!

Here’s my pantry challenge YouTube video!

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What’s New for 2019!

I started a YouTube channel here

It’s almost time to start thinking about my container garden–this year I’ll be making videos!

Since last fall I’ve lost nearly all of my houseplants due to lack of sun. In our apartment we get most of our sunlight from the west. In winter we get almost no sunlight from the north–and all year round no sun from the south or east. It is extremely hard to grow anything in this apartment. Add into this we’ve had three periods since fall where there was no sunlight at all for nearly two weeks at a time. Everything withered, rotted, and died. Either they ended up being overwatered because they weren’t totally drying out between watering times, or they turned yellow, brown and then died.  I still have my opuntia, and several of my succulents, and thank goodness my sansevieria. I’ve decided that as long as we live here–which I hope isn’t much longer, I will grow succulents and sansevieria only for my indoor plants.

Besides my YouTube channel, nothing will change for my blog posting. I hope to continue to post every week. I created 60 posts in 2018, grew my blog by 51 followers, and my most popular blog posts were about my container garden. Thank you to everyone who follows my blog.   I hope to produce just as good of posts about my gardening and more this coming year. Until then–some of my next posts will be my container garden plans and a post about my current pantry challenge. Have a fabulous 2019 everyone!!

Perfect Pumpkin

Now while pumpkins are plentiful is the time to start buying and baking–because pumpkin has so many health benefits not known to the general public.

About 10 years ago now my husband and I were in the middle of trying to adopt a greyhound. Our love and desire to have a greyhound become part of our family was huge. After most tracks in this country stopped racing greyhounds, local agencies formed to help people/families adopt the retired greyhounds. The one we were trying to get had really bad teeth (potential of hundreds of dollars of care) and she also had problems with her stomach also due to the poor diet given to racing dogs. Time and again at meetings we heard stories of how the foster families and forever families were always using pumpkin with their greyhounds. Pumpkin will bulk up their stool, settle their tummies, and boost nutrition. Unfortunately, because of where we were living at the time, which lacked the appropriate space for this particular greyhound, we did not adopt her.

I’ve never forgotten how much I learned about pumpkin–here’s what I know:

  • It’s rich in vitamin A
  • One cup of cooked pumpkin is 49 calories
  • High in antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic disease
  • It’s high in beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C–boosts immunity
  • The nutrients in pumpkin are good for your eyesight
  • Nutrient dense, low calorie, may produce weight loss
  • Antioxidants lower risk of cancer
  • Is packed with fiber
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Versatile foodstuff that you can add to anything–wraps, salads(cooked) veggies, stews, soups and more

Some people may not know this but pumpkins are a type of squash. Pumpkins and squash belong to the same family called Cucurbitaceae.  Every year I bake up two dozen squash and pumpkin, then let cool, place in freezer bags and freeze. We then are able to eat squash every single month, almost, until the next year’s season. If one or both of us is feeling ill I will make up a pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin risotto does the trick every time. Here is the recipe–Pumpkin Risotto

I also roast all my pumpkin seeds for snacks and to add to bird food.

When you’re done with your pumpkins instead of throwing them into the garbage, where they’ll just clutter up a landfill, choose to break them up and set them out in a place where the birds and other small animals can get to them.

As we head into the season of sickness I would also like to add this article that has natural health remedies such as pumpkin, ginger, rice, and sweet potatoes that help manage diarrhea, nausea, and flu-like symptoms.

Until next time– stay healthy and happy!

Putting the container garden to bed & more!

Some of my container garden is going to try to overwinter in our apartment again–

My evergreen will be kept on our deck and wrapped in a wool blanket to protect its root ball. This has proved to be a very successful way for me to keep my evergreen tree alive. I’m hoping the ornamental grass, which I think is Variegated Japanese Sedge ( unfortunately I threw away the care instructions/plant ID), will survive too. Most of the birds I’ve been feeding have migrated south for the winter. The last time I saw a hummingbird at the feeder was the first week of October. The Orioles left first and then the finches followed. I set out peanuts and other assorted nuts for about a month and the nuthatches, several chickadees, and some tufted titmouse were able to get their winter stores set up. Now they too are gone and I’ve stopped feeding until sometime early spring when a few early birds will arrive back in this area.

What’s next in gardening?

Well, I planted a packet of tulips and narcissus and those along with my hens and chicks will be overwintering in the garage–insulated with newspaper and burlap. I’ve also got three boxes of paperwhites to start sometime around the holidays.

I lost the battle with my first fiddle leaf fig because it wasn’t properly draining. Truthfully I think it was dead when I bought it as the leaves were quite pale green. This past Saturday I was in a local greenhouse discussing my luck or lack of with a local gardener concerning fiddle leaf figs. She had one that isn’t doing great but isn’t dead yet either and she gave it to me to see what I could do with it. I’m hoping to nurse this one back to full health. I’m learning every day new things about plants and flowers that I will gladly share as time goes by.

The cute blue, orange and green solar lights are something my husband picked up at Shopko when they went on sale for $5.00 and we love them. They definitely brightened up our deck all summer long.

Here is what my container garden looks like today–

Until next spring this post concludes container gardening 2018. Happy fall and winter everyone.

Looking forward to future posts, I will be posting about taking care of fiddle leaf figs, fall food storing, fall/winter food recipes, and at least one post soon on supplements I’ve been using for low-iron, seasonal depression, and also chewable vitamins and are they doing anything for me?

Squash Varieties

Fall is really here in Southwestern Wisconsin with temperatures overnight of 40 and in the upper 50’s during the daytime. I was hoping to get a lot more accomplished this month, but colder than usual early October temps have dampened my plans. We’ve been trying to take a walk in a favorite spot for almost three weeks–rained every weekend. Now for almost a month, we’ve been trying to go to a corn maze and yes you guessed it, it has rained every weekend. This weekend is set to rain all weekend so I’m assuming we’re going to have to hang up what we want to do until next year. Once November hits long duration outdoor events come to a halt. We do hike in a local refuge all winter long, but only on days above freezing. Though last year we did take one brisk hike when temperatures were in the teens. My container garden is almost gone and it’s time to clean things up. Of course, I planted the pumpkins too late again. All the flowers on the plants that came up were male so no pollination happening this year. Next year I’m going to start my pumpkins when they’re supposed to be started and that’s in June. This weekend I am going to plant tulip bulbs in some of the dirt left from herbs I grew and mulch them with pumpkin plants. Our tree and my prairie grass will both be overwintering on our deck. I’ve brought in my beautiful rosemary plant and I am planning on trying to overwinter rosemary again.

It’s fall decor time and we’ve purchased squash (pumpkins) just as we do every year– but this year is a bit different. Thanks to someone I follow on Instagram I’ve learned how to identify squash varieties (way more than my lovely picture above) and also what each variety is good for. Usually, I buy pumpkins for decorative purposes. Not unlike many millions of other people. I know they’re food, but when they’re bought I have no intention of eating them as food. Once they look soft we chop them up and feed them to the birds. Sometimes I’ve dried/baked the seeds and fed them to the birds. This year I am going to carve one pumpkin and bake the other two for pie. I will still throw the seeds to the birds to give them extra energy for their flight south or to get ready for winter. Currently, I’m feeding nuts to a nut hatcher and several chicadees/titmice–that are storing them up for winter. The nuthatch, chickadees, and titmice live together in a small community all winter, watching each other’s backs and protecting their communal territory. Which of course I find so neat because prior to winter the nuthatch is all business/and a bit selfish and doesn’t look like he gets along with anybody. I am definitely the ant in the ant and grasshopper fable. I can definitely appreciate the planning and the storing of food/ winter preparation well before the snow flies.

Until next time–enjoy your fall and on the other side of the world happy spring!

Seasons of Change

Just one more day and fall is here. Where we live we can tell when the season is changing by the changes in our local traffic. Also the upper edges of the bluffs in our area start to show their fall colors and the produce at the market changes from tender sweet fruit and vegetables to the kind better stored in root cellars and processed into canning jars. While there are still green beans at Farmer’s Markets, they’re not as tender as they were in June. Our last haul included half a dozen acorn squash and several zucchini with the last of summers cucumbers. This growing season marks the second year of our seasonal only eating. What does seasonal eating mean?

Seasonal eating means purchasing and eating food around the time the food was harvested. Which for us means, we eat asparagus in the spring and then will not eat it again until next spring. Same for tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and sweet corn. I have processed and frozen green beans, zucchini, beets, and squash to eat this winter. The reason we do this is two-fold: for one we want to eat food that is freshly harvested and preferably very local to us (grown within 50-60 miles of us), secondly we find this is a wonderful way to support our local farmers. Essentially they grow it and we are there come harvest to buy it and eat it. And we buy a lot of it. We eat as much sweet corn as we can handle. This year that mean approximately 100 ears were eaten by two people in this household. I ate over 11 pints of strawberries (each time picked fresh that morning) and about the same amount in raspberries plus I had 35 ripe peaches and 15 ripened pears. Together my husband and I ate 5 bunches of asparagus, 10 bunches of fresh carrots, 2.5# of green beans, 15# new potatoes, 10# of fingerlings,10# of fresh beets, 12 bunches of fresh spinach, 12 bunches of fresh lettuce, lost count on the cucumbers, and 20 peppers of various color. I alone have eaten 50 tomatoes since July. Now as the season changes we’ve begun consuming apples, squash, and zucchini.

All total from the first week of June until the first week of September we spent approximately $25.00 a week (roughly $350.00) on local produce in two different Farmer’s Markets. Prices are never lower for produce then when they are being harvested. During the summer months our meals consist of lots of fruits and vegetables and very little meat (1 maybe 2 meals a week with meat), and almost no unhealthy snacking. So we save a lot of money throughout the summer.

Prior to eating seasonally we would purchase substandard tasteless produce that was not local to us all winter long. Now–we store some of summers bounty up for winter eating and then come fall we’re buying squash, apples, and zucchini that we will also enjoy all winter. Through out the winter months we will not buy any produce in the store except lettuce and bananas. No matter how bad I might want a tomato in my winter salad, I will not buy any tasteless ones out of season.

Pictured is our favorite tree on the south shore of Devil’s Lake right behind the snack shack. One or the other of us has been photographing this tree since 2005.

Like the seasons of growing and harvesting food each one of us is in a season of our life. I am currently in mid- fall where a lot of my foliage has changed color and some of it may now be lying on the forest floor. There are still bits of rare green here and there but for the most part fall has been declared.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about and that perhaps you and your family might consider seasonal eating. Thank you for stopping. Below are two informative sites that discuss seasonal eating, why it’s better for you and your local community, and lastly how eating seasonally can save you a lot of $.

Eating Seasonally Food Guide

Why eating seasonally is better !

 

The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook by Martina Šlajerová– a book review

I would venture a guess that everyone on Planet Earth has heard about the Keto diet. I follow at least 50 people who have tried it this year. Often to me anyway, the diet seems complicated and in the back of my mind, I’ve always got several questions about what it all means, and how successful any one of them have been on it.

Until I reviewed The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook by Martina Šlajerová. Here is the review I recently posted–

The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook is an informational cookbook that thoroughly explains the science behind the Keto diet and with that offers easy to follow recipes, with easy to understand instructions, and fairly easy to obtain ingredients. I enjoyed the informative parts early on in the book and loved the easy to understand charts. I would describe this book as being one of the most user-friendly cookbooks out there for those interested in trying the Keto diet. I tried several of the recipes with my favorite chapter being soups and salads. I also loved the garlic and herb focaccia and brie egg muffins. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is planning to try the Keto diet. In The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook you will find food swaps, substitutes, carb counters, instructional information, a Keto staple grocery list, tips for success, recipes and so much more.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Fair Winds Press for giving me the opportunity to review The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook by Martina Šlajerová.

10 Book ReviewsReviews PublishedProfessional Reader

The Month of September means–

Baking several loaves of banana bread (and freezing them), visiting the apple orchard for the first time and trying Paula Reds, and surprises like my new guinea impatiens blooming again. This pretty sherbet colored impatiens has been blooming off and on all season. It has outperformed EVERYTHING I planted this year. In the last 8 days, we’ve had between 20-30 inches of rain (depending on where you are located in this county). Everything is wet, saturated, and in most cases ruined. Luckily because of where we are located– second-floor apartment on a hill, we were not flooded. Summer is almost gone and then we will settle into fall with more apple picking and squash baking and then eventually await the spring seed catalogs. Where does time go? It’s lost somewhere between intent and actual doing–never to be held, never to slow down, never to be captured. Always lost.

My Top Five Essential Oils –and why?

What are essential oils?

A-essential oils are compounds extracted/obtained from plants via distillation.

What is distillation?

A- distillation is the action of purifying something through heating and cooling or the extraction of the essential meaning or most important aspects of something.

I’ve been using essential oils for a very long time. I bought my first essential oil a long time before essential oils became a billion-dollar business. My first essential oil was rose oil and I used to use it diluted partially with water as a face mist. My second essential oil was orange blossom oil and I used to steam it and/or put it and a bit of water in a pot on the stove and call it aromatherapy. The year was 1985 and I was experimenting with plants and oils and aromatherapy. Both of these oils worked wonders. To this day I still use them the same way I used them 33 years ago only now instead of steaming them or boiling them in water,  I use them in diffusers.

Time and money constraints keep me from buying every single oil I hear someone rave about. I don’t have the time to look into every recommendation or use, and I don’t have the money to waste trying every single oil to see if it works for me like it worked for someone else. That said there are five essential oils that I have used for a long time and would never be without. They are–

  1. Lavender essential oil- my husband uses this to fall into a deeper sleep at night and by using it and falling into a deeper sleep he is better rested and snores way less.
  2. Copaiba- helps me to manage pain caused by arthritis.
  3. Frankincense- Frank loves the skin and I use Frank on my skin.
  4. Lemon Balm- I use Lemon balm to help me manage PMS, inflammation, and upset stomach.
  5. Bergamot- this oil is so good–smells wonderful and mixed with mandarin orange is the perfect cologne.

**I use fractionated coconut oil as a base to apply all the essential oils listed above to my skin**

Recipes for my five favorite oils:

I put 10-15 drops of lavender in a roller ball and fill with coconut carrier oil. I roll this oil on my husband’s big toe (underside) every night and roll a bit on his pillow an hour before bed.

I mix bergamot with orange oil and use as a cologne. I put 10 drops of bergamot with 10 drops of mandarin orange oil in a roller ball and fill the rest of roller ball with coconut carrier oil.

I use copaiba and fractionated coconut oil in a roller ball and massage this mixture into my feet. I use 2-4 drops of copaiba and the rest fractionated coconut oil in a roller ball.

I use frankincense on my skin. I put 10 drops of frankincense in a roller ball and fill the rest with coconut oil and use on my face, neck, and hands. I also use frank on cuts and burns. Lavender is good for burns as well.

Recently I purchased a Lemon Balm hydrosol online from someone I follow and buy tomato seeds from (yougrowgirl on Instagram). I use lemon balm to help me manage PMS, tummy issues, and inflammation. With the hydrosol (yougrowgirl handcrafts her herb waters herself) I can add to water, or spray on the area of skin that has issues. So as far as Lemon Balm goes I am going to continue to buy it in hydrosol form vs. oil from here on out. I love that the hydrosol I purchased is user-friendly and so pure smelling that it’s unreal. The benefits I get from using it seems to come faster using the hydrosol vs. the essential oil.

Disclaimer- everyone that uses and sells oils or knows someone that does has a different opinion about them and may or may not use them differently than I do. In the section, prior to the recipes, I listed what my five favorite oils are used for in my family. You may or may not have the same experience as I do. I’ve been using these five oils and the rose and orange oil for a long time.  Aside from these oils, I do not use any other essential oils. I purchase my oils from a couple of companies online finding good quality oils at both companies.  Please consult your physician before trying anything new.

2018 Container Gardening–Week 16

Well, this week will be almost the final week I will share this year’s garden pictures. I will put up one last photo when our deck gets cleaned and everything is put away for winter. I started feeding the birds last summer and continued through until this summer without any breaks.  We’ve been feeding birds or occasionally squirrels for many, many years. Feeding them from a second-floor apartment with neighbors directly below has been a challenge.  Birds drop seed, feeders leak, and my favorite thing–birds poop. A LOT.   My life of late has been cleaning everything up out on the deck before work, and feeding–then returning home 8,10, sometimes 12 hours later and doing it all over again. Year after year for many years especially since we moved into this apartment. So, I’m taking a break and the birds are just fine with it. We cut off the syrup early for the Orioles and Finches so they were able to find other sources of food very easily before the Orioles migrate. We feed finches all winter long along with many other little birds that stick around these parts during the cold weather.  As far as gardening goes, I started seedlings late last winter/early spring, so I’ve been at it several months now. My container garden has been growing and producing a total of 16 weeks, but my seed starters for several plants started almost seven months ago. Again, busy because I water prior to work, then water and deadhead as soon as I get home. Because of the type of plants I choose to grow, I don’t get to take days off without having plant issues (mostly wilting).  So, it is nice that things are winding down. Fall is coming fast I’m afraid. I picked up a container of Henry Blue Asters and a mum plant the other day when I was out.

Without further ado–