Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I love flower gardens.  I like looking out my kitchen window at the varieties of colors and textures.  The blooms are like nature's smile.  But despite my enjoyment of flowers, I must admit that I do not have a green thumb.  At all.  My bulbs don't come up.  My herbs are ravaged by Japanese beetles.  The rabbits eat my single cucumber for lunch.  A plant whisperer I am not.

Case in point...Bubba brought home a sunflower sprout from school.  He set it on the window sill and watered it every day.  We watched it grow until it was too large for the little paper cup it was planted in.  I went out and bought a larger pot so we could let the plant get stronger and healthier before we moved it outside.  We were looking forward to seeing how tall it would get and maybe even harvesting sunflower seeds from it in the fall.  I very carefully transplanted it.  And then?  It died.  Kaput.  Curtains.  Bummer.  Hmm.  But no big deal, I said.  We'll get some more sunflower seeds, plant them in the bigger pot, and have even MORE plants!  So we did.  And what do you think happened?  Just guess.  Not a sprout.  Empty pot.  Nada.  Zilch.

This little experience just served to reinforce my love of perennials.  You plant them in the ground once and you're done. You don't have to continuously dig in the dirt (something I am unusually averse to), spring after spring, over and over.  They grow for you, automatically! And if you're lucky, they reseed and spread!  What a deal!

Some of my favorites...

Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia) 
I like blanket flowers because they bloom all summer, and they even look cool after they lose their petals (at least for a little while!).

Peonies are as beautiful as roses, but without the work.  Unfortunately the flowers don't last very long, but they do make gorgeous bouquets!

Coneflower (Echinacea)
My coneflowers are one of the first plants to flower and the blooms last most of the summer!  I have a number of the classic purple plants, and I finally bought two of these raspberry-colored ones this year.  The plants are super hardy, too!

I first saw sedum in my sister's yard and thought it was so unique.  The stalks and stems reminded me of an aloe vera plant.  I enjoy sedum because this particular variety blooms in the fall, when everything else is looking dead.  My plants are just showing the faintest hint of turning pink!

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Black-Eyed Susan is super prolific, so it's a good thing I like it!  My plants bloom in July and usually last until fall (provided the weather isn't scorching hot and dry, like the summer of 2012).  They are thick and provide a lot of color!  They flowers remind me of a sunflower, which, as you now know, I have been not so lucky at growing...

That's a bit of my perennial garden.  It's a work in progress.  Now if only I could use my brown thumb for good.  Like getting rid of daylilies and dandelions!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Diaper Wreath

Back in May, I posted about a balloon wreath I made to hang on our front door to celebrate family birthdays.  I recently made another wreath, but it won't be hanging on our door, because this one was a baby shower gift!

My good friend Missy is expecting her first baby in October.  Since she's let us in on the name, I was even able to personalize the wreath for her!

How cute is this?!  And it was really simple to make.  This is what you'll need:
  • 1 wire wreath form (available at Michaels or Hobby Lobby)
  • 1 jumbo package of diapers (I used size 2, with 36 diapers)
  • Ribbon (I used about 9 yards)
  • Adhesive chipboard letters
  • Assorted baby items (pacifiers, teething toys, etc.)
Unfold the first diaper so it is a long rectangle.  Don't open it up all the way.  Place the wreath form into the diaper so the wire is on the diaper's crease (the bottom center, where the front and back of the diaper meet).  Cut a 10" piece of ribbon and tie it around the top of the diaper, securing it to the wreath.  Continue with more diapers, until the wire wreath is completely covered.  You can either overlap the diapers or pack them tightly on the form, whichever you visually prefer.  For more visuals of the procedure, check out this tutorial.

When you have completely wrapped the wreath in diapers, cut an 18-inch piece of ribbon and attach it to the wreath, behind the diapers, so it forms a loop.  Tie it off.  This is how the wreath will hang. 

Stick the chipboard letters directly to the diapers, then attach the baby items (I used white thread to do this, but you could also use some of the ribbon).   Now you have a gift to welcome the new arrival that is super useful, too!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Baked "Fried" Pickles

I was washing dishes last night and was hit by a craving.  I don't have any idea why, but I decided that before I finished cleaning the kitchen, I should give into my whim and make them. Fried pickles.

I think I first heard about fried pickles on The Food Network, the source of all things unhealthy (hello Paula Deen and Guy Fieri), and my first taste of them was from Buffalo Wild Wings on my birthday last year.

The Buffalo Wild Wings fried pickles were just okay.  I wasn't overly impressed.  Plus, they were actually fried, so not altogether healthy.  I needed to try them again, but from another source.

On my quest, I pinned a number of recipes to my Pinterest board, should the urge to make fried pickles ever strike.  And when it did last night, I was ready.

As luck would have it, I even had all the ingredients.  This also explains many of the random ingredients in my pantry.  I'll see a recipe and buy the ingredients for it, but then the whim passes (or, more likely, I've moved on to another craving) before I have the opportunity to make it.  I still can't remember the recipe the fish sauce is for, but I have it, just in case.  But I digress... 

Baked "Fried" Pickles
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1 jar pickle chips
1/2 cup Egg Beaters
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Penzey’s Forward seasoning, or your favorite spice blend
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

Turn oven broiler on high and place one oven rack in the highest position.  Drain juice from the pickles and place them on a plate lined with several paper towels to soak up any extra juice.  In a small bowl or dish, whisk together the Egg Beaters and flour.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, garlic powder, seasoning, and pepper and mix well.  Place bread crumbs in a shallow dish.  Dunk pickle chips in the batter, then dredge in the bread crumbs.  Place chips on a cookie sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray.  Broil chips for 2-3 minutes, then remove the cookie sheet from the oven and turn each chip over.  Broil for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Serve with ranch dressing and/or mustard.

The result?  Quite tasty, and these baked chips totally satisfied my craving.  I recommend eating the pickles while hot though, because they're not so good cold.  Just so you know.