DIY Christmas Wreath & A Center Piece – $12 well spent

Last weekend on  a hike we noticed someone had cut back  a pine tree and its limbs laid on either side of the path.  The gears got going and within seconds I was asking Bart if we could carry some out to make a wreath.  He was on board so we took several trimmings home. A neighbor of ours has a lovely tree that has dropped all of its pinecones, so I happily gathered what I needed from them.  I then went to the store and purchased:

1- Can Metallic Silver Spray Paint $8

1- package mini red Christmas tree bulbs $4

I tied the pine trimmings together with green garden wire that I already had and this is what we wound up with:

DIY Wreath Christmas 2013

We had extra pinecones and bulbs so I made a center piece for the table:

 Christmas 2013 Centerpiece

Dear Jesus, I pray that this easy diy project will encourage others to get festive too.  Thank you for walks with my hubby and our boys.  Your creation is SO beautiful.  Amen.

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Pot Pies & Buckleberry Tart Mini Pies, Fun Food Friday’s

Remember those huckleberries and blackberries we picked?  Well, we made mini pies. Yum yum.  All you do is make basic pie crust for another thing like say, pot pies. Then use the left over crust to make mini pies with a small cupcake tin.  I filled the crust with whole berries and some pureed berries with added sugar.  So yummy.

I like to fill my pot pies with whatever is on hand.  I have lots of zucchini already so that made it in along with chicken and white sauce.  I don’t have a specific recipe for them just whatever I have that sounds good together.  This is good for variety too.

 close up 1 close up 2 Giddo lovin the tarts happy giddo pot pie cut up pot pie half pot pie top view

And here are a few pictures of our garden produce. 🙂

happy kale

Purple Long Beans

Purple Long Beans

tomatoes

Dear Jesus, thank you for delicious real food.  Thank you for blessing our garden.  Thank you for loving us.  Amen.

Charlotte’s Blueberry Garden, Free U-Pick

My buddy Janae, invited us out to pick blueberries yesterday.  We met up at this AMAZING blueberry garden with a few thousand large bushes!  Yes thousand.  We saw lots of people leaving with full, brimming, burgeoning buckets and tubs.  There is a nice paved path that runs through the garden so you can bring a stroller if need be.  We went with our kids in tow, and still made out like bandits.  I let the boys eat blueberries to their hearts’ content. 🙂

Sign at the entrance, "Charlotte's Blueberry Farm".

Sign at the entrance, “Charlotte’s Blueberry Farm”.

Hank and me picking blueberries

Hank and me picking blueberries

Oopsie we dropped some.

Oopsie we dropped some.

So many blueberries!

So many blueberries!

Janae and Declan

Janae and Declan

The berries we took home.

The berries we took home.

Dear Jesus, thank you for such awesome and free treats.  Thank you that the boys all enjoyed it too.  Lord, it was fun to catch up with Janae and have Hanks’ help picking.  Amen.

 

Fun Food Friday, Garden Update & Celebration Pictures

We will be celebrating the 4th of July over the weekend with Bart’s extended family.  Until this year we have somehow escaped food responsibilities.  While that has been nice, I am excited to contribute.  For the weekend I made a fruit salad with grapes, blueberries, pineapple and honey-dew melon.  I didn’t follow a recipe just bought things that sounded good together and had similar flavor characteristics.  Maybe others would disagree but I think it sounds like a good smoothie too. 🙂  I also made a pasta salad with zucchini from our garden (hence the garden update)!  My brother-in-law, Matt doesn’t like mayonnaise so I decided to go with a pasta salad instead of potato salad.  Here’s hoping he likes it.

While at the store in a sea of shoppers yesterday (July 4th), I called my Mom and she mentioned a “salad” called the Watergate Salad.  I thought it sounded neat and so I purchased ingredients to make it too.

Bing Cherries on top pasta salad in the middle and fruit salad on bottom

Bing Cherries on top pasta salad in the middle and fruit salad on bottom

Raspberry Kombucha

Raspberry Kombucha

Watergate Salad without pecans- peanut free

Watergate Salad without pecans- peanut free

To make Watergate Salad all you need to do is pick up a box of pistachio pudding mix at the store and look on the side of the packaging for the recipe.  You combine mini marshmallow’s, pecan pudding, crushed pineapple with juice, chopped pecans and whipped cream (the recipe calls for whipped topping.) I substituted homemade whipped cream.  If you have a Vitamix blender homemade whipped cream takes about 20 seconds to make.  I omitted the chopped pecans because every package of pecans said “made in a facility that processes peanuts”.  Our three-year old has a severe peanut allergy.  It isn’t worth it to me to include the nuts. 🙂

FRUGAL TIP- The Dollar Tree sells Tupperware that is BPA free.  I found 17 cup capacity containers!

The garden this year has done very well.  My tomatoes are around 3 or so feet tall and there are fruit on the vine.  I’m hopeful for ripe tomatoes.

Here are some photographs of my garden from yesterday:

One of our strawberries

One of our strawberries

blueberries carrots cherry tomato plant

Close-up of my cherry tomatoes

Close-up of my cherry tomatoes

Close-up of my slicer tomatoes

Close-up of my slicer tomatoes

close-up strawberries

Just two peas in a pod

Just two peas in a pod

Kale and Zucchini

Kale and Zucchini

lavendar slicer tomato plant

Spinach, Bush Beans and Chard

Spinach, Bush Beans and Chard

strawberries zucchini

Here are a few photographs from our celebration yesterday at our friends, the Binghams’ house.  Hank is in a pool with his buddy Logan. 🙂

These photographs are compliments of my husband, Bart.

hank and logan hank big smile

Splash!

Splash!

The boys got to do sparklers with a Solo cup to protect their hands. Good idea Mary!

The boys got to do sparklers with a Solo cup to protect their hands. Good idea Mary!

The following photographs are compliments of my buddy Mary:

Bart and me

Bart and me

Gideo watched the fireworks from his carseat.  Tired boy.

Gideo watched the fireworks from his carseat. Tired boy.

Hank and Logan working out a plan. ;)

Hank and Logan working out a plan. 😉

The frog looks concerned

The frog looks concerned

One of my favorites.

One of my favorites.

Dear Jesus, thank you for blessing our garden.  Thank you for the upcoming celebration weekend.  I pray the food I made will travel well and others will enjoy it.  Amen.

Self-Watering Tomatoes, Tips and Tricks (You’ll want to Pin this!)

It’s time to plant your tomatoes!

Here are some tips and tricks I have learned along the way that save money and help your tomatoes grow:

  1. Tomatoes need to be very warm.  I recommend potting them or if you plant them in the ground, cover them with a cloche.
  2. Whenever possible put your potted tomatoes up against the house in a very sunny location.  Your house will emit additional heat and draw the sun toward your plants.
  3. In the Pacific Northwest I’d recommend a determinant variety for your slicer variety of tomatoes.  I’m growing Early Girl Bush Variety!  I got this tip from a master gardener.  Determinant means they set fruit all at once and the plant grows more like a bush.  A stout plant is easier to manage and supports larger fruit better.  Setting fruit all at once may seem like a bad thing but it isn’t if you want ripe tomatoes.  A few weeks before you want to harvest start depriving the plants of water and they’ll focus their energy on ripening the tomatoes already on the vine instead of making new ones.  You may also want to pinch off tomatoes that are small and have no chance of maturing in time.
  4. Watering evenly and regularly is how you get smooth large tomatoes without rot or cracked skins.  If the skins crack it’s because they went with too little water then had too much and they grew too quickly for their skin to keep up.  Like people, the skin is the last to get the benefits from water.  Hmmmm… that makes me thirsty. 😉
  5. For cherry tomatoes I recommend an indeterminate variety because smaller tomatoes ripen easier and this way you’ll be able to harvest throughout the summer.  Keep in mind indeterminate varieties grow tall and will need staking of some kind for support.
  6. Tomatoes can get blight.  If you see signs of blight carefully remove the infected parts of the plant taking care not to touch healthy parts afterwards. Blight is a fungal infection that makes them black and icky.  This happens because they are wet or have poor air circulation from being planted too close together.  Poor or infected soil (or planters) can cause this too.  I bought new soil to pot mine.  I use organic compost although I am seriously considering Tagro.
  7. A very good way to avoid blight from wet plants is to water your tomatoes at the ground so the leaves don’t get wet.  And remember moist soil is good but wet is bad.  Stick your index finger in the dirt up to the first knuckle.  If it comes out dry you need to water.
  8. A super easy way to cloche a potted tomato is to put up stakes then wrap around the outside of the stakes with plastic wrap.  I bought plastic wrap from Costco so I have plenty to spare.

Self-Watering Tomatoes on the Cheap!

You know those 4″ black plastic pots your tomato starts (or other plants for that matter) come in?

Don’t throw em out!  Instead bury them a few inches deep next to your tomato plants and add a little dirt to slow the drainage.  Then just add water to them as needed. The water will seep out through the drain holes into the soil. 🙂

Close up 1 close up 2 Close up 3

Here’s what the boys did while I was setting up my tomato’s. 🙂

It's bright outside!

It’s bright outside!

Hank and Gideon playing in a kiddy pool.

Hank and Gideon playing in a kiddy pool.

This Week’s Store Deals (Frugal Thursday’s)

Fred Meyer

  • Ore-Ida Frozen Potatoes (fries, hash etc.) 2/$4 plus manufacturer coupon makes it just $2.50 for 2!
  • Fred Meyer brand sour cream 16 oz size is $0.99 each limit 4
  • Pilsbury Grands are 10/$10
  • Country Time lemonade (several varieties) are 10/$10
  • Personal Size Watermelon and Whole Pineapples are on sale 2/$5
  • Post Shredded Wheat Cereal is on sale for $3.87 add the $2 off 1 manufacturer coupon to get this cereal for only $1.87 per box!

Albertson’s

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast’s are $1.88/lb at the butcher!
  • Kraft Dressing Packets are $0.88 use the manufacturer $0.25 off 1 and you pay $0.63 each!
  • Garland Jack’s Secret Six BBQ sauce is 10/$10

Safeway

  • Hormel Natural Choice Lunchmeat is on a buy one get one free deal (BOGO)  It works out to $2.50 each which is a fair price.
  • Tillamook 2 lb block cheddar cheese is on sale $3.99 limit 1.  I’ve seen Albertson’s run this same price with far fewer restrictions in the recent past.
  • Hefty Trash Bags scented 54 count store deal $5.99 add the manufacturer $0.55 off 1 and you pay $5.44 each! Limit 3.
  • Kellogg Frosted Mini Wheats and Honey Nut Cheerios are on sale for $1.88 and $1.99 respectively.
  • Kraft brand BBQ sauce is on a store deal for $0.79! Limit 1.

Dear Jesus, please bless our garden and thank you for sunny days!  I pray this post will help others. Amen.

Homemade Coffee Creamer- Peppermint Mocha

I really like the coupon blog Hip 2 Save.  You can click here to see her tutorial on homemade coffee creamer.  I think she is pretty helpful!

I took her recipe and tweaked it just a little.  Instead of unsweetened cocoa I used sweetened cocoa powder (the same stuff we use for our mocha’s).  You could use either really.  I also used peppermint leaves from a peppermint plant I have growing on the deck.  I received this plant a few years ago as a gift from my mother-in-law.  It has flourished and now fills two planters. 🙂

You’ll want to have equal parts condensed sweetened milk (I used a 14oz can) and milk.  This is your base for the creamer.  Then to flavor it you can add what you like.  I put the canned sweetened condensed milk and regular milk into my Vitamix then added 2 tablespoons cocoa and about 20 peppermint leaves.  That is a lot of peppermint.  I like it strong.  Mild would probably be more like 10 peppermint leaves.

ingredients in blender

Then I blended it for a few seconds and presto!

all blended up

In about 5 minutes I have a jar of homemade coffee creamer without all the additives the store-bought stuff has.

ready to go in fridge

I will have to see if I wind up loving it as much at the store stuff.  I’m really hoping I like it more.

I thought I might add, if you want just easy cheap creamer, stick with the sweetened condensed milk alone. 🙂

Dear Jesus,  I am excited about another helpful recipe to help avoid unhealthy additives and chemicals. Amen.

Strawberries in Gutters!

As I briefly mentioned earlier this week, I now have new strawberry planters!  A few months ago my adoring husband pulled up all of my strawberry plants because he has been hearing me complain about needing to get outside and pull up “those unwanted strawberries”.  What I was unclear about was that there were specific ones in a bed along our house that I needed to re-locate or discard.  Being the loving man that he is he took it upon himself to pull all the strawberries up.  When I came home one day I looked outside and he happily asked if I noticed anything.  I quickly saw that the strawberries I had relocated to around a tree were all gone! Shoot!  I cannot blame him for this miscommunication.  But, he allowed me to buy more starts and agreed to build me planters for them (I got the idea for planting strawberries in gutters off Pinterest).  Because God is good, I found starts on sale at Fred Meyer for $0.49 each!  I wouldn’t have known they had that deal except that someone who sniped that part of the ad dropped it on the floor in the store and I saw it.  So cool.  Here are some pictures of the building process. We will be enjoying slug free strawberries this summer. Yay!

hankonmiraclegrow hank gutterspremounting

Bart hard at work.

Bart hard at work.

happystrawberriesStrawberry's in gutters.

Dear Lord, thank you for blessing my marriage and giving us kind hearts.  Miscommunication happens.  I thank you that you show up and bless abundantly even in small ways.  Thanks for the great deal on strawberry starts. Amen.

My Salad Bar!

Toward the end of January (I know call me crazy) I seeded my vegetable bed for cold weather crops.  I planted carrots, salad greens, spinach, and sugar snap peas.  I recently added seed for kale and zucchini.  I am looking forward to eating fresh carrots, kale and zucchini this summer.  In the mean time looks like we’ll be enjoying the rest sooner than later! 🙂

Spinach

Spinach

Salad Greens

Salad Greens

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas

Oh, and as some of you may know there was a little mishap with my strawberry plants.  I got an idea for using gutters as planters off Pinterest.  Bart bought the supplies and built the planters.  Here’s a photo of the new strawberry plants.  I am not quite done planting them but you get the idea.

Strawberry's in gutters.

Strawberry’s in gutters.

I just love having food growing in the back yard!

Dear Jesus, thank you for the beautiful weather and vegetables to enjoy in March.  I pray you will please help them to continue to grow well and nourish our family. Amen.

First Signs of Spring!

This is the time of year where I go outside all bundled up to clear away the dead overgrowth on my gardens and prep the vegetable bed.  Thanks to God it was much easier this year because he is healing me.  To my delight, while weeding I discovered sweet little green leaves sprouting up.

The first signs of Spring!

tulips Tulips!

I am so excited there are tulips everywhere.  I must have 200 of them, maybe more.

I have chives growing on the back deck and peppermint leaves poking out from the dirt in another planter.

Chives

Chives

Peppermint

Peppermint

I seeded my vegetable bed for cool weather crops (spinach, lettuce, sugar snap peas and carrots) late in January.  We should expect to be eating spinach in two weeks and everything else by the end of April!

We will soon go from this:

Bagged Spinach

Bagged Spinach

To harvesting from this:

Raised Vegetable Bed

Raised Vegetable Bed

Dear Jesus, thank you for these signs that spring will come again this year.  Your work is evident.  Thank you for blessing my garden and making me able-bodied.  I pray the vegetables will flourish and be warm enough under the cloche. Amen.