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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Potted Herb and Succulent Garden

Gardening.  It sounds so cool but takes so much time.  Living in Arizona makes it an even bigger challenge.  It's so hot and dry and that's in the shade!  Things fry in the sun.  Yet some people manage to do it well, even growing vegetables.  I'm not ready for that, but a couple of months ago I started my own container garden with herbs and succulents.  It was a labor of love.

The first stop on the project was my favorite store - Goodwill.  My daughter and I found lots of inspiration in the most stocked area of the store - the shelves with assorted containers, vases, pots, mugs and other glassware.  It was so hard to choose the cutest stuff, but we managed to find some tiny teacups and small glass containers.  I should probably offer a disclaimer here that if you plant a small plant in a tiny container, you will always have a tiny plant that will need to be watered more often.  Also, plants that thrive in well drained soil will not do as well in containers without drain holes and you will need to make sure they don't get root rot.

After picking out about ten containers, it was off to Home Depot for plants.  The succulents were the easiest.  We saved some money by buying a big pot of mixed succulents.  We paid for the "display" aspect of it, but this was a great way to get a bunch of small mixed succulents.  We also "harvested" a few from existing plants.  Succulents and cacti are very hardy and can easily be transplanted.

We moved on to the herbs and picked sweet basil, thyme, peppermint and sage.  We also thought we would try our hand at germinating herbs from seed so we bought some coriander, catnip and mint.  I had no idea that coriander seeds produced cilantro!! 

After planting in our treasures, I stepped back and admired my little baker's rack garden on my patio.  I love looking at it every day.  The cilantro was prolific from seed, but we didn't have as much luck with mint and catnip.  I'm sure it won't be too hard to try again.


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Bachelorette - I Don't Get It

I know I'll probably get flamed for this, but tonight I watched "The Bachelorette" and I don't get it.  I watched the first episode where our heroine, Andi, greeted about 25 guys (I'm not savvy enough to know exactly how many).  That was interesting and fun.  I thought it was cute that she could weed through a few guys at a time.  After all, a girl should be able to know that not all 25 guys can be her "soulmate."

Fast forward a couple of weeks and she's going on "dates" with groups of guys.  I'm still with that.  It's probably fun to walk around with a group of guys following you like a pack of hungry dogs.  No, seriously, a girl can have fun in a group.  There's no pressure to focus on just one.

Again, I have to admit that I don't regularly watch this show; in fact, I've only seen about 2 episodes total and a few glimpses of another.  Tonight I noticed that Andi is down to 3 guys.  I understand - she's still dating and making decisions.  Here's where I am confused.  She's kissing and spending the night with two of the three guys, although I'm not assuming anything went on behind closed doors because then I would have to assume she's a tramp.  I don't think that badly of Andi the Bachelorette.

By the end of the episode, she's ready to take two guys home to meet the parents and she's talking about how within a week she's expecting a proposal from one of them.  I watched the face of the baseball player as she offered the rose to the cute shy guy.  He didn't look too thrilled at the possibility of losing the game.  It is definitely a reality competition.

As I watched it with my daughter sitting close by, I couldn't help but contrast it with some recent episodes of "19 Kids and Counting" in which one of the daughters found a husband.  You know, those people who are "freaks" because they have 19 kids, dress modestly and "court" before marrying?  How could a girl possibly marry a guy she's only been out with a couple of times and always with chaperones?  Now I'm not suggesting that we start lining up chaperoned dates for our daughters, but I do have to admit I was less confused watching that instead of Andi and her "soulmates."

I truly hope Andi finds the lifelong love she so desperately wants.  I'd like to think it might be one of these two guys she is taking home.  I'm just not sure a television show is the right place to look for love.  Either way, we will enjoy watching.

I just won't get it.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Butter Tomato Sauce

It's summer and so many people are buried in homegrown tomatoes.  I miss those big beefy tomatoes from the Midwest, but love the Roma tomatoes we get from Yuma and California.  A couple of months ago I acquired pounds (I don't even know how many) of Roma tomatoes and thought I would try some homemade tomato sauce.  I found this recipe for tomato sauce made with butter and after reading the reviews, I gave it a try.

Before making the sauce I had to peel the Roma tomatoes.  (Some people don't peel Roma tomatoes to make sauce, but I wanted to give this technique a try.)  First, score the ends of the tomatoes like this:

Place the tomatoes in a pot of water and heat to boiling.  Watch for the skins to slightly peel back and immediately remove the tomatoes to a bowl of ice cold water.  Leave them in the cold water for a minute or two and remove them to dry.  You've just blanched your tomatoes.
See how the ends look a little bulgy?  You are ready to peel.  Carefully pull back the peel at the places where you scored the tomatoes.  If you get stuck, score them again anywhere on the peel and pull back the skin.

After your tomatoes are peeled, cut them up a bit or blend them if you really like smooth sauce.  Following the recipe I linked above, combine 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes with a peeled sweet onion cut in half. (Yes, you just float that onion in the pot with the tomatoes.)  Add 5 tablespoons of butter.
Cook it over medium heat until the tomatoes are reduced and not so watery and the butter is melted.  You won't be able to resist tasting it after the first couple of minutes and you won't believe how rich it tastes!  I added some chopped green and red peppers and minced garlic that was sautéed in a little olive oil.

At the end, remove the onion and you are ready to go!  It is so good and also freezes very well in Ziploc freezer bags.  Your family will love it, although you might not want to tell your older children there is butter in it because they tend to freak out over "weird" food combinations.
Enjoy those summer tomatoes!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dressing It Up

The creative log jam has finally broken and I'm sewing again!  I love making little girl dresses.  Unfortunately, my little girl isn't that little anymore, so my Etsy store, Pretty Pretty Cindy, was born as an outlet for the "little girl" sewing (and crochet and whatever else I want to make).  I'm especially tickled about "upcycling," or using existing items to make new ones.  Without further ado, I'm excited to show you what I've been doing:

This is a pretty little cotton A-line I made in a size 4.  I added a little hot pink tulle at the hem.  I love these little A-line dresses.  I know I've mentioned it before, but Wendy Gratz has an adorable book "Absolutely A-Line" that will open your mind to lots of new ways to improve on a simple A-line pattern.

Although I do love the A-lines, I did try a couple of new things:

This is a pretty peachy cotton long dress in a size 5.  I will probably end up shortening this for someone because it's pretty long - the lace ruffle added a little too much length except for those tall girls.  I love the Peter Pan collar, but I can't say I liked making it!

Continuing my quest to do something new, I tried out a twirl tiered dress.  A friend of mine said it reminded her of Provence in France because it's so sunny and bright.  I think if I did another, I would make the straps knotted so they are a little more adjustable.  This one is a size 6.

I felt pretty clever with this little A-line dress.  This dress is made from two pillowcases.  The clever part is that when I cut the dress initially, I accidentally left a pillowcase seam right down the middle of the front of the dress.  That resulted in the pattern pieces being pushed aside for a long time.  When I finally found them again a couple weeks ago, I decided to give the dress a faux front closure with little buttons.  Staying with the closure theme, I devised something a little different for the back closure:

I created the largest button holes my machine would make and then threaded a sash through them for this cute tie.  This little dress is a size 3 and definitely one of a kind.

If you want to see any of these dresses as specific listings on Etsy, click the small pictures on the right -->

When the creative streak gets started, it's hard to know when it will stop, so I'm still working on more dresses.  Watch for them on Pinterest on my "Things I've Made" board or on the right Etsy column here.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Easy Homemade Father's Day

It's the Monday before Father's Day and you still don't have anything?  Well join the club!  I'm still thinking about what we're going to do this year, but I do have a couple of easy ideas to share with you that are great for your younger kids.  My husband always complained that he didn't get the cool personalized gifts I get because Mother's Day is during the school year.  We did some of these to address that and now that the kids are 11 and 13, I don't think he minds as much that the gifts aren't as personalized.

Here's an easy one you can do with a couple of markers and a small stretched canvas you can find at Michael's, Hobby Lobby or any local craft store.

I used alternating colored markers on the stretch canvas.  I outlined the letters for DAD and then had the kids come up with words to describe their dad.  Then I wrote the words to make the shape.  I made sure the kids wrote their own names and put the occasion and date on the bottom.  (I hate when you find things made by kids, but don't know what year it was.)

Another gift dad really loves are the homemade coasters.

So easy!  You use plain absorbent stone coasters, some phones printed on paper and modge podge.  We didn't try photos printed on photopaper because I'm not sure how well the modge podge works on that type of paper.  The one mistake difficulty we had was getting the head shot close enough and still being able to cut a complete circle to fit the coaster.  You can see that my kids didn't succeed in that task, but I still love how they turned out.  The modge podge mades them nice and smooth and completely water resistant.

Last year we did a barbecue theme (we aren't terribly original around here).  To add to the implements, spices and apron, we made a tray to carry items to and from the barbecue grill.

You can get a plain unfinished wood tray at Michael's or Hobby Lobby.  Using scrapbook paper and modge podge, we decorated the inside of the tray and then painted the rest.  I made sure to put a clear epoxy or shellac coat over everything to make it water resistant.  This project was a little more tricky for my 10 year old and we did struggle with the seam on the paper (you can see it above).  However, the fact that homemade things aren't "perfect" makes them the most precious gifts because it shows how much the kids worked at it.

The last one we wanted to make last year (and might this year) is a valet tray made from varying sizes of small boxes.  We found a set last year at the Container Store.  You can again use scrapbook paper to cover the boxes and then glue them together to make this configuration.  As a sharp touch you can use the "file markers" to identify the various compartments.  You can find the metal frames for those in any scrapbook section of a craft store.

Good luck with your homemade treasures and Happy Father's Day!