Author Archives: Jean Smith

Gifts Baskets: Create one-of-a-kind gift baskets filled with locally sourced items

The view from my windows reflect a white winter world. The air is crisp and refreshing to all winter lovers.  Although I’m a warm-weather type of girl I do enjoy the holiday season. I love creating special things for my friends and loved ones, as I’m sure many of you do as well.

With the holiday season around the corner many of us are trying to figure out what to give to all those special people. The options are endless if you prefer to purchase your gifts. But many people enjoy making home-made gifts for friends and loved ones. But what do you make? How about Gift Baskets? I suggest you create one-of-a-kind gift baskets filled with locally sourced items.

gift baskets photo: Here Comes The Stork Wagon Gift Set stork-wagon-pink-large.jpg

We are in the heart of the gift giving season and us crafty people are always looking for that extra unique gift that we can hand make for those special people in our lives. Gift Baskets are a fun and super easy way to create a one of a kind gift. Although we need to look out of the box, or should I say ‘basket’ and look around for unique and original ‘containers’ to hold the gifts! Here a few ideas that you can expand on… just remember, be creative and have fun, that special person will know that you spent extra time in this gift of love!

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Gift for the Localvore~
Container: Go to the local Farmers Market that you know the recipient attends and purchase a shopper bag from the market if they have one or purchase a large shopping type basket from the Basket Vendor there. If the market has neither of these, then purchase one from Bolga Baskets– a wonderful basket that is hand made in countries by the poor- http://www.bolgabaskets.com
Contents: Again, patronize the local farmers market and purchase items from the vendors there to fill the container. You can often get gift certificates from vendors and this will allow them to purchase what they like- especially from meat, egg, dairy and produce vendors- things that won’t keep in a ‘basket’but need to be included! You can also include a gift certificate from a local restaurant that purchases and uses locally sourced items. Get a copy of your area’s Edible Communities publication.  Go to www.ediblecommunities.com to find an Edible Publication near you!

Gift for the gardener~
Container: large Terra Cotta or Clay pot, Garden Caddy Bag, Old Wooden tool box from Antique or thrift shop, Wicker basket.
Contents: Hand tools- trowel, shovel, scratcher, weed digger; gardening gloves, pad for kneeling, few cute garden name tags, garden step stone, several seed packs- include veggies, flower and herbs, gift certificate for a seed catalog with the catalog- my choice would be Baker Creek Seed http://www.rareseed.com, gardening book- my personal choice would be “Tomatoes Love Carrots” by, Louise Riott, gardening magazine- my first choice would be Organic Gardening published by Rodale, http://www.organicgardening.com

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Gift for the baker~
Container: big ceramic or stoneware bowl, large cookie sheet, 9×13 baking dish, large enamel ware bowl.
Contents: Bag of flour, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, other flavored chips, sprinkles, sugar, vanilla, almond and maple extracts, salt, baking powder and soda, walnuts, pecans, rolling-pin, hot pads, glove and towel set, cookie cutters, cookbook, gift certificate for a class at a local shop.

Gift for the cook~
Container: Enamelware Roaster, Stainless Steel Stock Pot, Cast Iron Skillet.
Contents: Several types of salt and pepper- Pink Himalayan, White pepper corns and grinder, several rubs, spices, cooking utensils, hot pads and glove, cookbook for using LOCAL ingredients, gift certificate for a local cooking class- check out http://www.ediblewow.com for local classes.

Gift for the griller~
Container: Roaster.
Contents: Grilling tools, rubs, several Bar-b-que sauces- pick up some at your local Farmers Market, hot pads and gloves, salts & peppers and grinder, cookbook for grilling and a gift certificate to a local grocery store.

Gift for the sewer~
Container: sewing basket, wicker basket.
Contents: Scissors, sewing needles, variety of thread, pins, measuring tape, seam ripper, buttons, couple spools of decorative ribbon, rotary cutter and mat, thread organizer, sewing machine needles, gift certificate to a local store for a class. If you want to go all out, get them a sewing machine too!

basket of quilts

Gift for the Scrapbooker/ Stamper~
Container: Any type of Scrapbook Tote, Large wicker basket.
Contents: oh my where do I begin- this is one of my personal fave’s!!! Paper Card Stock Stack pads- 12×12, stickers, ribbons, stamps & pads, paper-cutter, adhesives, markers, chalks, pencils, any other accessories you can find. Scrapbook magazine and even better a subscription, gift certificate to a local scrapbook/stamping store for a class! I think it would be easiest to stick with a theme for the contents. If you really want to go all out for a gift, pick up a die cut machine and a cartridge.

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Gift for the shopper~
Container: Large pretty shopper bag, large Wicker basket meant for shopping. Contents: Gift certificates to a few local shops in town taking into consideration what the ‘shopper’ enjoys shopping for! Nice pair of walking shoes, directory of shops, thrift stores or whatever else she likes, GPS.

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Gift for the reader~
Container: Wicker Basket, cloth bag.
Contents: several books by favorite author, Readers journal, gift certificate to local bookstore, a few handmade book marks, magazines that would interest the person, mug with coffee, tea and cocoa packs, lap blanket to cozy up with while reading. If the recipient is a techie, get them an e-reader.

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Gift for a pet~
Container: Dog or Cat bed.
Contents: new dishes for food & water, home-made treats- go to your local farmers market and find a treat maker and support local, toys, sweater, new leash & collar, gift certificate for a grooming at a local pet salon.

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The point I hope I’ve made here is when you’re trying to decide on what to give, try source out LOCAL items.  This time of year doesn’t have to be a stress induced manic moment.  Relax with a cup of tea or coffee, grab a note pad and pen and start jotting down the people who you’re giving too. Think about what they like and start making your list! You’ll have as much fun putting them together as they will opening them!

Happy Day,
Jean

Garden Themes

Banister Garden at The Garden Gate Farm

Are you hoping for a new garden but just can’t decide on what you want?
Are you dreamily paging through garden magazines and seed catalogs with a notepad jotting down ideas for that next special garden room?

My front porch and garden
Can you ever have too many gardens?
I think not!

My days of winter will be filled with these types of dreams as I stroll in my mind’s eye imagining the promises of the coming spring and all the joy she’ll bring me.

Apple Blossoms

The luscious feeling of the fresh grass under my bare feet…
The scent of apple blossoms wafting across the breeze while I decorate my patio…
The first blooms of snow drops and all too soon my beloved tulips and daffodils…

Gardening… it’s what keeps my soul alive.

Peonies in the side garden

Garden themes abound by the dozens so I thought I’d take the next few days and give you some fun ideas. If you live in an area where gardening year round is possible then you can get right at any one of these ideas. For folks like me where the weathers not friendly in the winter months, we can at least start dreaming and planning.

I suggest you create a garden journal to jot down your garden themes and dreams as well as add photos you find in magazines. Pre-planning your gardens on paper will help you decide on location, the amount of space you’ll need along with the quantity and variety of plants required to have proper fill effect. There will be plants you can start from seed, some you might have that you can split off or get from friends and others you can acquire from your local nursery. You can always tweak things once you get started, but having your ideas visually available will help in the long run.

For garden journal how-to go to http://fordragonfliesandme.com/2012/06/29/decorative-garden-journal-gardeners-first-aid-kit-testing-old-seeds-freezer-strawberry-jam-yummy-heirloom-brushetta/

The Potager

Here are a few Garden Themes with some suggestions for plants… choose one or all.

*Butterfly Garden~ Purple Cornflowers, Butterfly Bush, Bee Balm, Shasta Daisy, Primrose, any kind of Phlox, Petunias, Cosmos, and single Marigolds.

*Hummingbird Garden~ Trumpet Vine, Wisteria bushes, Morning Glory, Lilac, Bee Balm, Hyssop, Petunias, Lavender, Salvia. Any flower with a tubular flower will be much appreciated by our beautiful feathered friends!

*Bee Garden~ Hyssop, Bee Balm, Lavender, all of the Thymus, any mints, Lemon Balm, Roses, Geraniums.

White Bleeding Heart

Moon Garden~  I saw this idea in a gardening magazine several years ago and thought it’d be a neat idea. I had no idea how amazing it would be! In the blackest of nights the garden simply glowed with life and the night insects it attracted was in itself so awesome! Using all white flowers didn’t seem that appealing to me at first, I prefer pink and purple with a splash of orange and yellow to add interest. But the white against the black night is simply stunning. As the moonlight reflects off the flower petals it makes a spectacular silvery light that is breath-taking.  Here are some flowers to include as well as some night-blooming ones!

White shrub rose in potager

*Silver Sage, Carnation, Angels Trumpet, Lambs Ear, Silver Tansy, Yarrow, Silver King & Queen Artemisia, Clary Sage, Horehound, Grey Santolina, White Petunia’s, White Cosmos, Mums, Tulips, Daffodils, Snow Drops and Hyacinths. If you have an arbor plant Sweet Autumn Clematis~ what a show stopper.

*Night Bloomers include Nicotiana, Stock, Roses, Veronica, Impatiens, Alyssum, Azalea and Jasmine.

Stay tuned next time for more garden theme ideas!
Happy Day,
Jean

Living Organic

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The term ‘organic’ will have a different meaning to each one reading this. I personally make every effort to breath, eat and sleep this life style. Living organic is what I want for myself as well as my family.

Many people are on a quest for this life style and believe that it’s the best choice for them. But there are questions people find themselves contemplating: “How do I change my eating habits, my basic methods of personal hygiene and all the ‘normal’ everyday stuff I’ve done for years?”

In today’s world of the educated consumer and the ready to make a dollar industry, the choices are by far greater than when I started this journey. Just about every grocery and big box store carries an organic line of products.

But these are the basics right? What about going deeper… like know where the stuff comes from. Who processed it? Who raised it?

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We’re looking to purchase that beautiful brown, farm fresh egg right out of the hands that gathered and washed it… that’s what the search is really about… the knowing!

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So many people who start on this quest have a desire to raise at least some of their own food in their own garden. They want to preserve what you’ve grown. Can some pickles,  make their own strawberry jam, have a few chickens, gather the eggs, wash them with your own two hands and then fry em’ up.

That’s the good life!

I can preach all this stuff because we did it… almost sixteen years ago. It wasn’t and still isn’t easy… there’s been many bumps in the road and I realize not everyone can do it… but I’ve never regretted it and I’ll never go back!

Living organic isn’t easy by any definition of the word! Here are some tips on how to start living organic and resources to help you get started.

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*Starting a garden is probably the first attempt that most folks make… after all grandma and grandpa always had one! I remember being a child sitting in the middle of the long pea rows eating those beautiful and oh so yummy peas right out of the pod. Garden fresh goodness at it’s best! You’ll never know more satisfaction in your life than planting a seed or a seedling, nurturing it and then eating the bounty from what you’ve sown.  You’ll savor every mouthful and you’ll make sure everyone cleans their plate!

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*Preserving your bounty by canning, freezing and drying is the normal next step. It’s such a rewarding feeling to ‘put-up’ what you’ve raised. There’s much to be learned in this field, but once you have your main supplies and a couple of sessions under your belt, you’ll quickly become an old pro and look forward to the harvest!

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*Finding a local Farmer’s Market is another step in the ‘getting-to-know’ process. Frankly some folks can’t or simply don’t have the space for a garden, much less a chicken coop! The next best thing is definitely going to your local market and supporting the farmers that work so hard to bring you all those beautiful piles of healthy food each week! Knowing where your goods come from seems to be by far the most important element in this living organic journey.  Be sure to talk to your farmers and producers… they’re usually pretty excited to chat about what they do… after all it’s their passions that brought them to your market!

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*Energy saving seems to be an important factor as well. When you shop local and purchase directly from the farmer/producer you’re saving! You’re saving fuel from the transportation of trucking in food from all across the country and the world.

*Minimize plastic use by shopping with recyclable grocery bags.

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*Body, baby and home care products aren’t such a challenge any longer either. Most stores carry organic lines and thankfully there are many on-line catalogs that supply a wide variety of products. I believe this area is equally important as the food we eat! The harsh chemicals we slather over our bodies goes into the blood stream and I believe, will eventually affect us in a very negative way!

*We even have the availability of organic clothing and other fiber products. Check your farmers markets to find fiber producers. These farmers often produce wool and batting along with meat products.

Here’s a list of some really good books, magazines and sites that will help you on your way to living organic!

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“A Slice of Organic Life”, Editor-in-Chief Sheherazade Goldsmith, Foreword by Alice Waters; Published by DK, discover more at http://www.dk.com

Organic Gardening Magazine, http://www.organicgardening.com

Countryside & Small Stock Journal, http://www.courntrysidemag.com

Edible WOW Magazine, http://www.ediblewow.com

Taproot Magazine, http://www.taprootmag.com

Mary Janes Farm Magazine, http://www.maryjanesfarm.org

Hobby Farm Magazine, http://www.hobbyfarm.com

Acres USA Magazine

Local Harvest, http://www.localharvest.org

Local Dirt, http://www.localdirt.com

ATTRA, http://www.attra.ncal.org

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog, http://www.rareseed.com

Fedco Seed Company, http://www.fedco.com

Vitacost catalog- body/home care products, http://www.vitacost.com

The organic life style is a rewarding one. Yes, it takes some extra effort, but by applying even one of these ideas into your life you’ve taken the first step…  in living organic.

Happy Day,
Jean

How-to create a Friendship Garden

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The sun shone brightly all day.  Its illuminating rays seemed to be crashing into the leaves of the woodland trees. It left you with an almost eerie yet reverent feeling.  The rust and golden and auburn leaves glowed.  The air was cool and crisp as it breezed past my face while I walked to the garden, yet the warmth of the shining sun gave strength to my soul.

As I strolled about the gardens, I was thinking about what will need to be replaced, added and thinned out next spring. Gardening is not for the faint hearted… it’s a job, but when it’s what brings absolute peace to ones life, it’s worth it all.

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Another special thing as I walk about is seeing the plants I’ve received from friends and loved ones.

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My beautiful bleeding heart from dear friend Grace.

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The peonies from Jan.

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My primrose from Yalonda… and so many more.

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My heart is blessed each time I walk through the gardens and see my friends love through the beauty they shared with me.

Although I don’t have one particular space that’s designated as a friendship garden, I certainly have thought on the idea.

So here’s a how-to on creating a Friendship Garden!
Once you have your location and size decided upon you can start your planning. Be sure to take into consideration the amount of sun/shade the area gets before you plan the plants.

1. Make a list of all the people you’d like to include in your new Friendship Garden.

2. If you know the particular plant you’d like from them, jot that down next to their name.

3. Plan a day that you’d like to have your friends over or a day to pick up the plants at their homes. You might want to offer to help dig up the plants.

4. Create hand written notes or invitations to send out.

5. Send your notes to each friend explaining your new Friendship Garden project and what plant you’d like from their gardens to ‘remember’ them by. They’ll be so tickled they mean that much to you, they’ll probably offer to come help plant your garden!

The time spent in creating a friendship garden is both rewarding and sentimental. You can make this a fun day but turning it into a tea party-plant swap! What fun that would be.

Having fun in the garden,
Jean

Brush-on Butter Recipes: Great for the grill or the skillet!

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As promised from the previous post, here are some BBQ Brush-on Butter Recipes!
Enjoy friends!

To 1 stick of salted softened butter add one of the following recipes and mix thoroughly. Let set in fridge for at least 3 hours so flavors blend through!

NOTE: The herbs in these recipes are all dried.

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Cajun Style Poultry Brush On!

  • 1/2 tsp. oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 tsp. thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin, ground
  • dash of red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

Lemon Basil Fish or Veggie Brush On!

  • 1/2 tsp. lemon peel, finely shredded
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. basil, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

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Parmesan Butter Brush On!~ great on veggies and pasta or spread onto bread to make garlic toast!

  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. parsley, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

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Garlic Butter Brush On~ great to brush on veggies or to make garlic toast

  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

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Chive~Tarragon Brush On~ great on red meat and veggies!

  • 2 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp. parsley, snipped

Happy Day,
Jean

Editors Note:  You can find more information on Jean’s cookbook at For Dragonflies And Me

Grilling Tips and Tricks and Yummy Grilled Pizza

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Despite the day noted on the calendar, my husband Neil as well as our older boys won’t hesitate to fire up the grill- winter, spring, summer and fall.

During the comfortable days of spring, summer and fall it’s our daily companion for meal preparation. When the snow begins to fly it is relocated into our garage for winter use.  Our grill is no respecter of seasons.

There’s one thing though… Neil won’t let me touch the grill. We, the grill and I go back a long way.

You see when Neil and I were dating, over 20 years ago,  there were two incidents that banished me from the grill side. They now are quite funny.

The first episode was when we were very newly dating. We’d driven to a park and Neil wanted to grill some steaks. It was a beautiful day and we were having a very nice afternoon.

Neil needed to use the restroom and asked me to care for the steaks. Well, I’d never grilled before, but I wanted to help where I could, so of course I said yes.

bbq grills photo: pavillion bbq grills pavillionbbq.jpg

I don’t really know what happened but suddenly one of the steaks was on the ground. Horrified I quickly picked it up and put it back on the grill, dirt side down of course!

Surely Neil would never notice… surely it would cook off.

There was Neil leisurely strolling back with all trust in his eyes having faith I’d taken care of the steaks he was quite hungry for.

Well, it didn’t take him long to realize once he flipped the steak that something had gone awry in the short time he’d been gone. I looked at him innocently and said it was a mistake and I was sure that it would cook off. He was not so sure, so I said I’d wash it off.

It was quite windy that day, and while I took it to the ladies room and diligently washed it, the coals had died out…

In the end… the sea gulls got the steak. I’ll tell the other story some other time.

To this day, I’m still banned from the grill except for emergencies. Here are some grilling tips from my hubby Neil!

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*If you love garlic like we do, try throwing a few fresh garlic cloves on the hot coals to add extra flavor to your goodies.

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*Neil loves to smoke stuff~ if you want to wow your guests, try adding some hickory, apple wood or cherry wood chips or sawdust on the coals for an extra special treat. Make sure you soak the chips in water for about hour before you are ready to put them on the coals; if using sawdust, wet liberally.

*If using charcoal, keep a spray bottle with water and spray the coals to keep temperature down.

*Neil likes to brush the grill with some olive oil before putting the food on so things won’t stick.

Last summer we fell in love with grilling pizza! The children enjoyed it both in the way of having fun because they created their own masterpieces and it was absolutely delicious. Here is my pizza crust recipe and some of our favorite toppings!
Here’s my recipes…Yummy Grilled Pizza!

Crust:
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 tsp. raw organic sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3-4 cups flour, plus some for dusting

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Toppings:
shredded cheese
fresh Portobello mushrooms
sweet peppers
sausage,
ground beef or chicken
pizza sauce, ranch dressing
tomatoes

… these are just some ideas, use your favorite toppings and whatever is in season.

1. In a large, mixing bowl add yeast to water and stir gently; add sugar, salt and olive oil, stir in gently until dissolved.

2. Add 2 cups of flour, mix in until well blended; add 1 more cup flour, mix in well; and the rest of flour in 1/4 cups at a time until the dough is soft and doesn’t stick to hands. Add a bit more flour in until the dough feels right; Knead dough for about 2-3 minutes until all flour is mixed in well. Form into a ball and place in bowl, cover with kitchen towel and leave on the top of stove to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

3. While dough is rising get your toppings prepared. Sauteing the veggies is best and making sure any raw meats are cooked.

4.When dough has risen, punch it down using your hands and knead a bit more into a ball again. On a floured surface, cut the dough into 4 even sized pieces and roll out to about and 1/2 inch thick. The dough should be thicker so it doesn’t fall apart on the grill.

5. Brush the dough with Olive Oil and put on heated grill; grill on one side for about 2-3 minutes, checking to be sure it doesn’t burn; when the one side is done, remove from grill onto a cookie sheet, cooked side up; put your toppings on the cooked side; sauce, cheese, meat & veggies and add a bit more cheese; return to the grill to finish grilling- about 2-3 more minutes; put lid on for about the last-minute to help melt the cheese.

Grilled Pizza photo: Pomegranate Grilled Chicken Pecorino and Caramelized Onion Pizza PomegranateGrilledChickenPecorinoandCaramelizedOnionPizza_zps19e60a31.jpg

Remove from grill and have your feast!

Grilling is fun, even though I don’t really know much about it ;-)
Keep posted for something I do know about… Brush On Butter recipes to die for!

Happy Day,
Jean