Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Displaying Christmas Cards

I have been having trouble the last couple years with what to do with my Christmas cards.  I like to display them but don't want to put them all over a table top or mantle.  I have looked at card "trees" but never really want to shell the money out for one and don't have an empty spot to place one.  This year I found this Pinup Wreath on the Martha Stewart Website.  It is adorable and the perfect solution for me.  It was inexpensive and easy to make, I highly suggest it as a seasonal display for your Christmas Cards.

This is how mine turned out.  I bought a smaller wooden embroidery hoop because I didn't think we would get enough cards to fill out the big one.  Boy was I wrong I have cards stacked underneath each other.  I should have known not to go against Martha and buy a small hoop since it wouldn't have room on the inside for multiple cards, there is barely room for two on mine.  Next year I will tear this one apart and use a larger hoop to make room for all of our cards.  But I will say that I don't suggest alternating clips in and out as their instructions indicate.  I suggest doing one clip in and two out.  Even with a large hoop you will loose valuable card space if you alternate every other.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Surprise

The big surprise this year was a gift for Andy, a snow blower!  He started looking at them this Summer during August way before any signs of snow were coming.  But last Winter was a lesson in how much work shoveling our driveway really is and with his back issues this was something he really wanted.  We have been holding off because it is a big purchase.  I was talking to my Dad about Christmas after we had already given our families our gift ideas.  I told him that we should have picked a snow blower out at a specific store and then just asked for gift cards from everyone to go towards it.  Unknowingly I found out the my Dad had an extra snow blower given to him by another family member who no longer wanted theirs.  It was still in pristine condition and after a trip to the John Deere store to make sure it worked properly it found it's way under the tree for Andy!

He had no idea and was not expecting anything of the sort.  The snow blower wasn't actually wrapped, it was a picture of it taped to a gas can for the snow blower.  Needless to say he was surprised and thrilled!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gardening Christmas Gift

Yay I got some gardening gifts for Christmas!  The kitchen garden is organized by month to help you stay on track of what needs to be done when.  The Vegetable Gardeners bible I have perused often and I decided I needed my own copy because it is such a great resource.  The Painted Garden Cookbook is a cookbook that has recipes organized by season so that you can cook with produce from your garden.  I am so excited to read each book!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!  I hope everyone has a wonderful day with friends or family remembering and rejoicing in the fact that today Jesus was born!

One of my traditions has become the cookie baskets I make to share with friends and family.

The beauty show always goes to the sugar cookie snowflake cutout because of the piped frosting and edible glitter.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Coca Cola Santa

On this Christmas Eve as the excitement of the big day is upon us I wanted to share my Christmas guilty pleasure.  It's Coca Cola Santa.  As a kid Coca Cola did an amazing marketing number on me with their commercials and advertisement for their Santa Packs, essentially just the packs of cans with Santa on it.  But I still can see the commercial in my head with the train chugging along and the jingle about Santa Packs are coming.  Something about that marketing made Coca Cola Santa nostalgic for me and I am forever hooked at Christmas time.  I don't even drink Coke but I buy a 2 liter at the holidays with the Santa on it to put in my fridge so I see it everyday.  Ridiculous?  Yes, I know, I just can't help.  Here is this years Coca Cola Santa commercial which still makes me smile.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Homemade Gift #4

My final homemade gift this year was one of the popular feathered headbands.  This is one item I have been noticing in stores and online.  I had a feeling that it was something I could make at a fraction of a price and personalized for the exact person.  I then saw directions for it on the Martha Stewart website and instantly knew I wanted to make one.  I am thrilled with the outcome and it is the perfect gift for a special friend who has fabulous style.  I can't pull this one off but love it so much that I am considering making myself a smaller more understated version.  For the directions on Martha Stewart's website you can go here go to get them.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Homemade Gift #3

Last year I cut my Rosemary plant back too far and it did not come back.  This year I was told the Rosemary would not survive.  My Rosemary plant currently is still thriving and I didn't want all of it to go to waste over the Winter so I decided I would try drying it and packaging it up to hand out at the holidays. 

This is probably only 15% of my rosemary plant, you can barely tell I cut any off.  I didn't want to experiment with too much of the plant, but I wanted enough that it if worked I wouldn't have to do a second batch.

Rosemary cleaned and stripped from the branches ready to dry in the dehydrator.  Next time I want to try to dry it on the branches and see how well that works because lots of my Rosemary fell through the grids on the trays.

Rosemary in the dehydrator ready to go.  I put all the trays on the dehydrator, but only put Rosemary in the top two trays to keep them away from the heat source and eliminate having to rotate the trays.  

This is an old dehydrator that my parents used when I was a kid and passed on to me.  Of course the manual was lost somewhere along the road and this was a test run in figuring out drying times.  I wasn't able to run the dehydrator straight through because if I had left it on overnight it would have burnt the rosemary.  I shut it off before we went to bed, it sat overnight and then I turned it back on the next day for a couple more hours.  I might have over dried the Rosemary and in the future I will have to play around with drying times, but overall I think the end product was good.

Final product packaged up and ready to hand out, Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Welcome Winter

Today is the first official day of Winter despite the frigid temps we have been having.  It is also the Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year, it will be dark by 5pm here.  In celebration I finally got my Winter baskets together. 

Some people take their hanging baskets down, some leave them bare, and some people more lazily leave the dead plants in them until Spring (I unfortunately was one of those people until yesterday).  We like to put greenery into ours, its wintry and spruces up outdoor containers.  Last year the weekend of Thanksgiving we went around cutting all sorts of different evergreens and berry branches to arrange.  This year in an attempt to just get them done before it was too late I cut many branches from one tree.  We got a little snow last night which completes the look!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Homemade Gift #2

This summer Andy and I went blueberry picking.  I made jam from some of the berries and canned it.  At the time I had envisioned that some of the jars would end up as gifts.  To dress up the jars I traced decorative scrapbook paper with one of the lids and used a glue stick to adhere it, then tied a ribbon around the jar.  I had thought about making specific labels but I like the look of the decorative paper better.  I am really happy with the way this gift turned out and hope to make significantly more jam next Summer.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Homemade Gift #1

In the past I have made gifts that I couldn't find in the store, often these gifts are the best.  This year I decided to make some gifts because I couldn't determine what to buy the person and to help us tighten our holiday budget. 

The first and easiest gift was bath salts.  There was an article in the latest Organic Gardening about how to make bath salts.  It's really simple.  Pick your salt, scent, and additions.  I did a lavender version with Pink Himalayan salts, lavender oil, and dried lavender buds. 

I put them into a candle jar that I had completely burned and cleaned the jar thoroughly.  This was honestly the most economical choice seeing as it was something I had on hand.  But I like to pretend that I was doing my part for the environment and was repurposing the item.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I posted about trying to allow the lettuce to rebound from the frost.  Well I should have just cut it all then because after putting the cover back on it snowed and the lettuce did not make it.  Since then it's snowed two more times and at this point I am just going to allow it be and turn it back into the soil in the spring. 

I was testing the abilities of the row cover and so from that perspective I succeeded in realizing the limits that the row cover can only protect from frosts.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Home Tour

On Sunday Andy, Suzanne (my mother in law), and I went to a local Historic Holiday Home Tour.  The idea was to go inside historic homes and see them all decked out for the holidays.  It was fun to see how some people decorate for the holidays.  On top of it all it snowed and snowed the whole time making it even more festive.

Me and Suzanne bundled up for the weather but still attempting to be festive.

Andy however had only one thing on his mind, warmth.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Very Cold

Tonight it is going down to 4 degrees.  A bit unseasonalbly cold for this time of year, we normally don't get these temps until mid January.  I have decided to bring the potted asparagus into the garage.  It is sitting below the glass block windows so it will still get some indirect sunlight.  Being in a container it has already frozen solid and doesn't have the protection of being in ground.  The leaves have begun to die back so I figure it's ok to bring it in since it has gone dormant.  I will put it back out once temps raise back up into the 30s and 40s regularly in a couple of months.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Who Knew

Who knew that I would be picking fresh radishes in December?  Definitely not me, but here they are, and we have plenty more in the garden still growing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Pointsettias are a holiday staple and I love the look of bunches of them grouped around decorated trees.  Martha Stewart last week taught me that they are prounounced point-set-EE-ah-s.  So all those people who for years have corrected me that you don't the EE sound at the end were actually the ones in error.  And good news the theory that they are poisonous is complete urban legend and untrue.  So place a few around your house worry free that Fido might get sick!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Frosty Lettuce

The past few weeks life got a bit busy and I neglected to put the row cover back on top of the lettuce to protect it from some good frosts we have been having.  I figured the lettuce was a goner and thought it was about time to hang up the gardening gloves for the year.  But surprisingly enough the lettuce has sprung back and I made sure to get it covered before the couple of inches of snow we had this weekend.  I haven't had time to check it yet and see how it did.

Below you can see some signs of damage of the frost.  Some leaves have burnt edges or discoloration but most of the foliage is fine.  I have trimmed back most of the damaged pieces and will harvest a bunch of lettuce this week so see if the taste is at all affected.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Picture Perfect

These were the views from my kitchen windows this past Saturday as I listened to Christmas music, baked cookies, and finished our Christmas cards.  It was the perfect holiday season Saturday!  Also our first accumulating snow of the season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Cards!

In a world where email is taking over handwritten notes I am glad that E-cards hasn't taken over Christmas Cards.  Real mail is just more exciting than an email any day of the week.  I know Christmas cards can be laborious, take time and yes cost a little bit of money.  But I don't care how long they take there is nothing better than a handwritten note from a friend around the holidays to let them know you love 'em and are thinking about them.  And nothing gets me in the spirit quite like listening to Christmas music, with the tree all lit, candles glowing while writing Christmas cards.  Today that is just what I did.

The Countdown Is On!

For those of you who know me well know that I L.O.V.E. Christmas.  And I love it for the right reasons, or at least according to me.  Christmas just has a spirit and air about it that makes many people more cheerful.  The sights, sounds, and smells of this time of year are just delightful.  The short days and long night are brightened up with outdoor lights, people are bustling around, we even have special music for this time of year.  We have parties, get together with friends and family we haven't seen in a while, and send cards to those we care about.  And of course the holiday is most important for my spiritual beliefs!

Yes it can get stressful and overloaded, but I will take any frazzled December over dreary January.  Today is December 1st and while I get in the spirit the day after Thanksgiving the countdown is officially on!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

A little late, but I hope everyone had a good one.

Last week time got away from me. I am helping my sister-in-law plan her wedding and we had an abundance of meetings. I was getting ready for the holiday and our out of town guests. On top of it I was busy getting Christmas shopping done, changing our decorations, and attending my 10 year high school reunion. All in all it was an extremely busy week in the Kennedy household.

I had full intentions of taking pictures of the Thanksgiving bounty however I forgot. I can say it was yummy and as always there was too much to eat. We still have half a pie sitting on my stove that I don't want to throw away but I don't want to eat either.

Hopefully your weekend was as bountiful as ours!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Bucolic Plague

Some of you might know that one of my new favorite shoes is The Beekman Boys on Planet Green.  If you know anything about this show and enjoy it then you will definitely like this book.  The book is all about how Josh and Brent came to own the Beekman and their time there until the show started.

If you know nothing about Josh and Brent the basics are that they are a couple from NYC.  Josh an advertising agent and Brent a former VP at Martha Stewart.  They bought the Beekman as a weekend and vacation home.  However they now have an entire business revolving around the Beekman and are in the process of transitioning completely to country living. 

It was a quick read, I breezed through it in 3 days.  Josh's sarcastic humor that you see on the show drips across the pages of the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it as a welcomed escape. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Signs of Deer

I thought maybe because our garden was tucked all the way behind the house, one end against the house and the edge of the same corner against a 6 foot fence the deer might not sniff out the garden.  But these tracks I found since pulling out most of our plants proves me wrong.  Luckily during the summer season if they are stealing from the garden they aren't taking much.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Frozen Herbs

I have heard some people discuss freezing herbs.  To experiment I tried sage and basil.  The basil turned out so awful it wasn't worth a picture, when it thawed it was brown, limp and just plain gross.  Many people swear by chopping it and freezing it with some water.  I do know that when I freeze pesto it has no negative affects.

The sage fared a bit better but not excellent.  The sage on the left is fresh.  After dethawing the sage was a bit darker and the leaves weren't as crisp but the taste was the same.  Sage I would freeze only if you really need to.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Home

Those of you who know us personally are aware of Andy's career history. For those of you who just popped in Andy was a News Reporter for a couple of years and now is a Marketing Multimedia Specialist for a local company. He has many roles but one of them includes making videos for the company. So of course Andy wanted to document our first home in film.

At first I didn't want to share this video because I am actually a private person. I know, I know how could someone with a blog be private. But I can edit what goes on the blog and only let the reader in as far as I am comfortable with. A video of our house feels like giving all of you the key. But Martha has shared her homes on film so I guess I can too :) All teasing aside Andy did a great job and I am really proud of him!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pie Trials

One of the items I am bringing to Thanksgiving this year is Andy's favorite, oatmeal pie.  In the past I have attempted homemade pie crust with mixed results.  Within the past few years I would normally just buy a premade pie shell and not even mess with the uncertainty of a homemade crust. 

However this year I wanted to give it another try.  There is just something rustic and comforting about homemade pie crust.  I had been given advice that the recipe for Pate Brisee was a foolproof recipe and Martha Stewart's favorite.  This weekend I did a test run and the results were yummy!  The pastry was flaky and buttery.  My only complaint is that I crimped the edges to make a pretty design and in the baking process lost its shape.

Most people when they hear about oatmeal pie crinkle their noses and give me a quizzical look like what the heck are you talking about.  Oatmeal pie is a Thanksgiving Kennedy tradition and Andy's favorite so I have made plenty.  Think pecan pie but swap the pecans for oatmeal.  I have to admit, it is delicious!

Oatmeal Pie
*6 TBS butter melted
*3/4 cup light corn syrup
*3/4 cup sugar
*1 cup oatmeal
*1 tsp vanilla
*2 eggs
*pie crust of choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients, add eggs last so they will not cook in the melted butter.  Once all ingredients are completely mixed pour into pie shell and bake for 30-45 minutes.  The original recipe says 30 but I find I normally end up checking it after 30 but leaving it in for a full 45 minutes.  You will know its done when it is golden brown, it will at this point still be a bit jiggly.  Then take it out and let it cool for at least 20 minutes so that the filling can set.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bee Keeping

This past year many of you know I had a tomato-less wonder of a tomato plant.  Additionally in 2 years I have only been able to grow 1 zucchini and a small handful of summer squash.  On all the plants I have had plenty of blossoms.  So what this leads me to believe is that we might have a pollination issue. 

This summer we went on a garden walk where one of the homes had 2 hives of bees.  The hives were put in for the health benefit of their plants.  Both owners sang the praises of the bees and how their gardens had greatly benefited from the addition of the bees. 

With the wheels in my brain turning this made me think maybe I could benefit from some bees and my vegetables production would significantly increase with the presence of more bees.  Then I began to dream about having my own local honey.  How Martha Stewart would I be if I had my own honey that I could gift at the holidays?  Not to mention it just might help me with the crazy seasonal allergies I have been having this year.  So this weekend I went to a bee keeping class and I am convinced that I will at some point be a bee keeper.  I'm not sure if it will be a reality for this spring but definitely sometime in the near future.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Small Plot, High-Yield Gardening

This was the last book in the stack I got at the Library awhile back.  The last two books I reviewed were kinda duds but this one was worth saving for last!  The previous two books I ended up at times scanning through and not fully reading.  This book I read word for word, cover to cover.  I took pages of notes and even so am going to add this book to my library.

Some of the highlights of the book is that it discusses the ideal spring, summer, fall crops and organizes the book by season and when plants should be started.  Sal Gilbertie stresses keeping rabbits and how their manure is the absolute best for you garden, not to mention they will eat your kitchen scraps.  He also discusses the progression of starting a garden and what to realistically expect to do your first, second and third year.  Plenty of information is given on starting a garden, building your soil, composting, starting plants and cultivating each type of plant.  Resources for seed companies, U.S. Cooperation Extension Services for each state, and sample garden plans are laid out.  This book is chockful of useful tidbits and worth buying!

I am going to hang up my research hat for awhile and enjoy a couple of Fiction books next.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holidays Approaching

The holidays are approaching and there recently have been signs that they are near. I was driving by a local farm and came upon a field of turkeys! A sight I have never seen before. They have moved some of their turkeys to the field near the road and included a sign to order your fresh turkey.

I also have run to the post office to get my holiday stamps. I have learned the hard way that by the time I am ready to mail out my Christmas cards their holiday stamps are gone. The last year or two I have been disappointed with the bland designs. But this year the post office has redeemed itself and taken a cue from nature with evergreen stamps.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Interesting Place for Fall Color

This Fall the foliage hasn't been as brilliant.  But my thyme is doing just fine and turning red.  I have never had thyme turn red.  I need to go ahead and harvest what I need before the rest turns.  This isn't the best picture but it's the best I could get to show the leaves at the base that have started to turn.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Colder Weather

My row cover from Pinetree Garden Seeds came last week and I was really happy with the product.  Pinetree was the only company I found that allows you to order by the foot.  I only needed 20 feet and many of the prepackaged row covers had 50 feet or more.  The row cover has 2-4 degrees of frost protection, transmits 85% light and porous to water.  According to the catalog supports aren't needed and it won't crush delicate plants.

This weekend I put it over what's left in my garden.  We had our first serious frost since the temp dropped to 24 degrees.  I attached the cover with lawn fabric staples and didn't use any hoops or support.  The fabric protected everything perfectly. 

This Fall I am experimenting with the row cover to see how long it will protect the lettuce.  If it proves to continue to work well next year I might invest in support hoops and clips so as to not damage the cover.  I have already pulled the cover up because this week we will be experiencing an Indian Summer with temps in the 60s.  There are holes from the staples and I will only be able to put it back on and off a few more times before there will be too many holes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shorter Days

Today is the end of Daylight Savings Time.  I love getting the extra hour of sleep but it also signifies that the days are now significantly shorter.  The frost hadn't killed off the tomato plants yet but with the lack of sunlight much isn't growing anymore.  Last week I took everything out except the herbs, lettuce, radishes and cilantro.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fall Color

One of the reasons Fall is my favorite season is the color of the trees.  This year we have had a drought and are currently about 8 inches below the average rainfall.  Unfortunately this has affected the Fall foliage and we haven't seen as many brilliant colors.  While I haven't seen as many colorful trees there have still been a few out there.