Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cool new concepts for gardening

One of the driving forces in gardening is many American's pursuit of healthier eating and greener living. This means that the new face of gardening has begun to change considerably in recent years. Today's gardeners are younger and more urban than traditional gardeners, therefore, making unique impressions on the green world.

So, what's cool about gardening?

From growing vegetables in the front yard to creating an edible wall of green on the balcony, gardening is not limited to just a half-acre plot in the country anymore. Now, gardeners use any space available for a garden, no matter how urban or small. The key is adding individuality or personality to the garden in the form of handmade sculptures, water features , bird feeders or even the variety of unique heirloom plants that are used. Sustainability is also very important. Plants that serve a dual purpose - like low-growing thyme used as a ground cover in a small area or a cucumber plant that has been trained to grow up a trellis as a green screen - are excellent examples of how many gardeners have transformed traditional ideas of gardening. Looking at gardening and plants in new ways can lead to some great discoveries - and may even increase the productivity of a green space.

How can you join in the gardening movement? Here are some helpful tips to get started.

Maximize space:


AeroGarden Classic 7-Pod with Gourmet Herb Seed Kit
Even if you only have a window, and no outdoor space, you can have a garden. An herb garden , like the Miracle-Gro Culinary Herb Kit, can be grown on a window ledge in the kitchen. No ledge? No problem. Just hang a hook from the ceiling and grow your plants in a hanging basket. For those with little outdoor space, try container gardening on the patio or use an outside fence or railing to grow a vertical garden. Simply hang pots on hooks or create your own "living wall" using chicken wire, coconut fiber lining and a quality potting mix. Then, plant trailing produce or flowers and watch your wall grow. If you have a sunny space in the yard, create a small garden using the new Miracle-Gro Ultimate Raised Garden Bed. This easy-to-use kit snaps together and can easily be customized to fit in nearly any space. Simply add nutrient-enriched soil, like Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro or Potting Mix, and plant the garden on a patio, deck, rooftop or balcony.


Redefine terms:

Produce plants are for vegetable gardens and landscaping plants are for the front yard ... right? Not necessarily. The great thing about gardening is that the only necessary rules are the ones Mother Nature created: plants need sunlight, water, food and soil with good drainage. Other than that, do not be afraid to mix it up. Plant vegetables in the front yard, use strawberries in a hanging basket or plant an herb for groundcover along a path. Tomatoes will grow beautifully next to marigolds and sage will add a nice contrast when grown in a container alongside yellow daisies. Grow what you like that will thrive in your climate, even if it is not what your neighbors are growing.


Stay true to yourself:

If your favorite color is blue, then plant blue flowers. If you love salsa, then plant a "salsa garden" by using tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapenos. Add your own touch and make it personal. The materials used can represent your style and add interest in the garden as effectively as what is planted. With adequate drainage, even an old toolbox can come to life with some potting soil and impatiens. Collect stones and small objects with kids to make garden sculptures or bird feeders that the whole family can enjoy. Green plastic bottle caps can be turned into ornamental "trees" and grandma's cracked tea cup could become a bird feeder with a little imagination. If you have extra produce, make sure to share it. Friends, neighbors, family and even many local food pantries will take donations of fresh fruits and vegetables.


Experiment:

Metal Garden Art, Sculptured Metal Handmade Dragonfly, rusted metal dragonfly stake, dragonfly yard and garden stake
Sculptured Metal Handmade Dragonfly
Although gardening can be seen as a science, it should also be looked as an art. Gardeners should feel free to experiment and express themselves through their gardens. Let your green space reflect your home, your interests and your individuality. Make it a tradition to try at least one new thing every year and you may be surprised how much you learn along the way.-(ARA)







Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fairy Garden Roots

Demure and smiling teen girl with braided hair looking to her left
Cicely Mary Barker
Fairy gardens have been growing more popular in the united states since 2010. Because of this, main stream markets have made fairy garden supplies and products more available to the average consumer.

The fascination with Flower Fairies are the product of English illustrator Cicely Mary Barker.

As a child she was home-schooled because of  her epilepsy. She spent much of her time drawing and painting.

She developed her talent as a member of the Croydon Art Society. Her flower fairy paintings were driven by the Victorian popularity of  fairy stories.

Like the Pre-Raphaelite painters whom she so much admired. She believed in recreating the beauty of nature in art and drawing from life. Her plants and flowers were observed with complete botanical accuracy. In the fairies themselves, she captured perfectly the unselfconscious grace of children. Whom she used to sketch in her sister's school.

Her earliest professional work included greeting cards and juvenile magazine illustrations. Her first book Flower Fairies of the Spring was published in 1923.

Now, fast foward to today with the sense of family activities and bonding seemingly slipping away to spending time alone glued to the TV and Computer screens. The average DIY'ers , gardeners, crafters, grandparents, parents and children are getting their imaginations and inner child back. By creating their own world, literally in their own backyard. It is a refreshing sight to see family bonding coming back in such a simple way.

The greatest aspect about creating a fairy garden is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Your only limited by your imagination. Not even the hard economic times can stop magic happening with up-cycling stuff around the house and in the garage.

For inspiration here are a few of Cicely Mary Barker’s well-known fairies.



Wild Cherry
Beautiful Wild Cherry can be spotted peeping through her delicate blooms in early Springtime. Although rather shy, Wild Cherry has many friends among the Flower Fairies of the trees. One of their favorite games is hide and seek high up in the treetops!





Almond Blossom
Almond Blossom is a wonderful sight in her dress crafted from beautiful pink petals. When the other fairies see her dancing and gliding through the branches they know it's almost Springtime! Happy and fun-loving, Almond Blossom is everyone's friend.



Lavender
Lavender loves to sing and play. One of her favorite things to do is twirl around and around a lavender stem until she feels quite dizzy! She is friends with the white butterflies that flutter around her flowers. They often play games of chase, darting back and forth amongst her sweetly scented fronds. She provides her scented flowers to the other fairies to make their clothes smell delicious.



Rose
Sweet Rose is the gentlest of the summer Flower Fairies. A kind fairy, she likes nothing more than tiptoeing around her flowers and tending to them in the warm sunshine. She is a very good friend to the honey bees. Often seen guiding them to her fullest blooms and standing protectively beside them as they collect pollen.





Zinnia
Zinnia's flowers are some of the brightest in the garden. With their blooms ranging from pale pink to dramatic orange! Her tortoiseshell wings Zinnia is a colourful sight as she flutters around the flower bed. Tending to her blooms and collecting petals to make pretty costumes.







Buttercup
Outgoing and friendly. Buttercup likes nothing better than to skip through the summer meadows. Visiting friends and singing to herself in the sunshine. She fills the fields with her yellow flowers, which she polishes until they shine like gold. Giving pleasure to all her fairy friends and human children too.



For more of a visual sense here are some pictures of  fairy gardens done by the magic that is inside of us all........

The best times of the day to see a fairy are at twilight, midnight, just before sunrise, and midday. The best time of the year to see a fairy is on Midsummer's Eve. As this is the most magical time for all fairies. Flower Fairies love music and dancing. They hold many balls and parties throughout the year. But on this special night they throw the most wonderful party of all. Every fairy in Flower Fairyland is invited! Fairies don't like to be discovered and are very good at disappearing quickly (with the help of their magical fairy dust). So you must be very careful and patient if you are to see one.

Flower Fairies are very shy creatures and are especially wary of humans. Each fairy has extra-sensitive ears. If they hear someone coming close to them they are careful to flutter into their flower and curl up tightly. Each fairy wears an outfit made from their own leaves and flowers. It is easy for them to hide. To befriend a fairy leave a dish of milk, sugar or even cream out for them in the night. The Flower faries tell time by the dandilion clock.






As You can see by the pictures you don't have to re-vamp your whole backyard or have a backyard at all. A simple accent such as creating alittle scene on a planter can be a fun way to spruce up that empty dull patio.











You can finally put all those forgotten toys in-between the couch cusions to good use again and keep the kids busy at the sametime.





Of course you don't have to have kids or old toys to enjoy creating your own magic in your garden or patio. There are alot of products on the market available to get the creative juices flowing.






No fairy village is complete without this fairy adorable accessories set . Fairies can frolic across the toadstool topped bridge or sneak in under the vine-covered fairy trellis. The acorn-shaped mailbox has a removable lid so that kids can correspond with their fairy friends. All pieces are made of durable weather-resistant resin.






Go green and high tech with


Beautiful accent for garden, patio, porch or decorative table centerpiece.

Rooftop solar panels absorb the sun's energy to illuminate the house at night.

Mini window boxes can be planted with real flowers and plants !





Have fun this spring and summer with your new fairy gardens. Create great memories with your family and friends that will last the test of time, like the flower fairies themselves.







Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Recipes

April 2012 Recipes



  

Ham and Cheese Crepes
Think beyond the cereal bowl


Makes: 8 crepes
Ingredients:
Ham and Cheese Crepes
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • 1/2 cup low-fat diced ham
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • Steamed baby carrots
  • Mustard for dipping


Instructions:

1. Whisk eggs, salt, milk, and flour. Stir in butter; let batter rest 10 minutes. Spread 1/4 cup batter into a heated, oiled nonstick skillet. Cook for 2 minutes, until golden brown. Flip; cook other side. Repeat with rest of batter, stacking the crepes in between pieces of wax or parchment paper.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill crepes with ham, tomatoes, and cheese and roll up. Bake on lightly oiled pan for about 5 minutes, until the cheese melts. Serve with the carrots and mustard dip.

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Berry Twist Bread

 Makes: 16 servings
               
 Ingredients:

Dough
    Berry Twist Bread
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Filling
  • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
Glaze
  • 1 egg white


Instructions:

1. Dough: Heat milk, sugar, butter and salt in small saucepan just until bubbles start to appear around edge of pan. Let cool 30 minutes.

2. Sprinkle yeast over the warm water in large bowl; stir to dissolve. Add milk mixture, eggs, 1-1/4 cups flour. Beat 3 minutes on medium-low until smooth, scraping down side of bowl. With wooden spoon, stir in about 3 cups flour to form dough.

 3. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Place dough in large oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with lightly oiled piece of waxed paper. Let rise in warm place, away from drafts, until doubled, 1 hour.

4. Punch dough down. Put on floured surface; cover; let rest 15 minutes.

5. Lightly coat 18 x 13-inch baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

6. Filling: Roll dough into 14-inch square. Brush with jam, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with almonds.

7. Beginning with one edge, roll dough up, jelly-roll style. Carefully transfer to prepared baking sheet, seam side down; reshape into 14-inch roll. Cut roll in half lengthwise. With cut sides facing up, and beginning in middle and working to one end, loosely cross strips back and forth, keeping cut sides up as much as possible; pinch ends to seal. Repeat with other half of loaf. Cover with lightly oiled piece of waxed paper. Let rise in warm place, away from drafts, until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.

 8. To bake, heat oven to 350 degrees F.

 9. Glaze: Lightly beat egg white in small bowl. Brush over top of bread.

10. Bake in 350 degrees F oven 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly golden and loaf sounds hollow when lightly tapped on bottom (if bread starts to get too dark, cover loosely with foil). Remove to wire rack to cool completely.


 


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Tuna & White Bean Wraps

Between the kidney beans (that help fight cholesterol), tuna (a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids), and tomato (a fruit containing antioxidants), this wrap packs a healthy punch.


Tuna & White Bean WrapsMakes: 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons minced red onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 19 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed, drained and coarsely mashed
2 6 ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
6 tomato & basil, plain or spinach tortilla wraps
Carrot and cucumber sticks, for serving


Instructions:

1. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, red onion, salt and black pepper. Whisk in olive oil; set aside.

2. Place beans, tuna, tomatoes and parsley in a large bowl. Pour dressing over bean and tuna mixture; stir gently.

3. Place 3/4 cup bean mixture on one side of 1 tortilla and tightly roll the wrap. Cut in half on the diagonal. Repeat with remaining ingredients; Serve with carrot and cucumber.

  



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Fabulous Matzo Ball Soup

  
Yield 10 servings

Oma's Fabulous Matzo Ball Soup RecipeIngredients:

  • 2 (10 ounce) packages matzo crackers
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 6 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 5 ounces matzo meal
  • 96 ounces chicken broth


Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.               

2. Break matzo crackers into small pieces, and place in a large bowl. Add water to cover; allow to soak for a few minutes, until soft. Drain off excess water.

3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and stir in drained matzos; stir until mixture is dry and slightly brown. Remove from heat, and mix in eggs, salt and pepper to taste, parsley, and onions.

4. Mix in just enough matzo meal to make mixture hold together. Roll one golf ball-size matzo ball. Place matzo ball in the boiling water to test the mixture. The ball must rise to the top of the water and not break apart. If it does not rise, then too much matzo meal was added. In this case, add another beaten egg to the mixture and try again. When desired consistency is reached, roll all of mixture into golf ball size spheres.

5. In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a slow boil over medium heat; add balls to broth. Serve soup as the balls rise to the top of the broth.




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Passover Rolls


Yield  12 rolls

Ingredients:

2 cups matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine matzo meal, salt, and sugar. Mix well.

3. Bring water and oil to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the matzo meal mixture, and stir until blended. Beat one egg at a time into the mixture. Let stand 15 minutes.

4. Shape the dough into rolls with oiled hands. Arrange rolls on the prepared cookie sheet.

5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 50 minutes.



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Passover Zucchini-Stuffed Chicken


  
Yield  8 servings


Ingredients:
  • 8 bone-in chicken breast halves, with skin
  • 2 zucchinis, shredded
  • 3 cups matzo farfel
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 dash garlic powder
  • 1 dash onion powder


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet or 9x13 inch baking dish. Wash and clean the chicken breasts.

2. Place farfel in a bowl and cover with hot water for 3 or 4 minutes, until soft. Drain and squeeze out water.

3. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine zucchini, farfel, eggs, chicken soup powder, onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the stuffing under the skin of each chicken piece and arrange them on cookie sheet.               

4. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 40 to 50 minutes. Drain off fat and serve.


  


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Raisin Farfel Kugel


Yield  6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups farfel
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter



Directions:
        
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8x8 inch baking dish.               

2.  Soak farfel in water 10 minutes. Drain.

3.  Add beaten eggs into the bowl of farfel, and let stand 10 minutes. Stir in raisins, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Transfer mixture to prepared dish.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 50 to 60 minutes.               



  

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Peeps Sunflower Cake
Peeps Sunflower Cake RecipeIngredients:
  • 1 package (18-1/4 ounces) yellow cake mix
  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) chocolate frosting
  • 19 yellow chick Peeps marshmellow candies
  • 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Directions:











 1.  Prepare and bake cake according to package directions, using two greased and waxed paper-lined 9-in. round baking pans. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely; carefully remove waxed paper.

 2.  Level tops of cakes. Spread frosting between layers and over the top and sides of cake.

 3.  Without separating Peeps and curving slightly to fit, arrange chicks around edge of cake for sunflower petals. For sunflower seeds, arrange chocolate chips in center of cake. Yield: 12 servings.

 
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 Citrus Pound Cake
Ingredients:
    Citrus Pound Cake Recipe
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) lemon yogurt
GLAZE:
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange peel 
 Directions:

 1.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, lemon peel and orange peel. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; add to the creamed mixture alternately with yogurt. Beat just until combined.
2.  Transfer to a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 325° for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
3.  In a small bowl, combine confectioners' sugar and enough lemon juice to achieve desired consistency. Drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with candied lemon and orange peel. Yield: 12 servings.











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