Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The making of a fairy garden...or fairy gardens!

I have been wanting to make a fairy garden for a long time.  A local nursery I like to visit has an area devoted just to fairy garden supplies.  Every time I visit I just stare, all dreamy eyed, trying to find a good reason why I need these plants.
When my youngest daughter told me she wanted a fairy garden, I thought now is the perfect time to make one.  Originally I justified the fairy garden as an early birthday present for her.  I see now that it contributed to a family activity that lasted all weekend!

Indoor Fairy Garden

For our indoor fairy garden, I found a container to plant in, potting soil, and of course "fairy" plants.


We were extremely lucky going to the nursery so close to fall when it had close out prices on just about everything.  Our fairy plants were only 50 cents a piece!!!  The beautiful conifer was 40% off.  What a deal!


Baby's tears or Angel's tears


Mazus Reptans


Marjoram


Sedum. 
I'm not sure how this will do inside.  It wasn't 50 cents, but still a great price for a perennial so I picked it up.  We actually ended up just breaking off a small piece for our fairy garden while the rest went outside in my outside garden.


Cymbalaria muralis or Kenilworth Ivy


????
I don't know what this plant is called!!  The actual plant tag was missing.  The only tag with the plant said it was part of the fairy stream collection and liked shade.


The container we choose.


The plants situated into their new homes.  Along with some fairy size ornaments and a fairy of course!


Proud young girl with her fairy garden!


She added some more decorations(which we picked up at the local craft store for real cheap.)


The beads and the mirror are one of my favorites.
A fairy lake and beach.


"Stepping stones"




Outdoor Fairy Garden


In the meantime while we were busy with our indoor garden, an outside fairy garden was taking form.
This picture shows a clump of trees that are close to our swing set.
This is where the outdoor fairy garden is to go.


We (and by we I mean me) cleaned up around the tree and laid some landscape cloth around it.


We brought over a tub of mint I had growing in a different garden.  Then brought over rocks to go around the tree.


It truly was fun for all.  Some were more mechanical and figured out places to put fairy houses.  Others were more artistic and made the area beautiful. While others yet, just moved rocks around.


A few winters ago on a trip to Florida we collected many sea shells from the ocean.  Now we finally have a purpose for them!  Below is the start of a sea shell wind chime.


Of course, we need to add some pretty cut flowers for the fairies.


The fairy houses our mechanically inclined put up.


Seashell wind chime.





Another fairy house.



Table set up to do some handy work, and eat pudding.  


Old chandelier





What fun and imaginative!  This is just a start we are by no means finished.  I really can't wait to see how our fairy gardens evolve!

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Big Bowls o' Basil

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This year we tried starting basil seeds indoors for transplanting purposes.  We were unsuccessful.  However, the eight-pack of starters we purchased at the farmer's market this spring have grown beautiful, bountiful and bold. We've made Caprese salads, used them on homemade pizzas, added sprigs to bouquets. We continue to top them to ensure they don't bolt--and today we harvested a very large bowl of these aromatic leaves. As our tomato plants are filled with tiny green orbs and yellow flowers with just the promise of pasta sauces to come, I went looking for good ways to preserve the basil now, in order to blend it with it's citrusy pals later. I found this website with many good, practical ways to preserve your basil:

http://www.wikihow.com/Preserve-Basil

The girls and I followed the first 'freezing solution' found on that page.  We're looking forward to the end of summer days (don't worry, we'll make sure each of them counts!)  when we add the frozen basil cubes to pasta sauce that we'll use throughout the long winter! What do you do with your garden herbs? Do share!


Apple did a nice job assisting in the washing of the basil leaves!


Then, she used the salad spinner to dry them out, counting to twenty repeatedly..though she always skips 14!





She then pulsed the leaves.
Next, she added about a tablespoon of olive oil. Glug glug. 



She also added a dash of salt. 






Because she's two, she isn't limited by society's pressures to do things in order.



Ta da!

Sunshine. Water. Greet. Repeat. And grow, lil', flowers, grow!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Letting Lilacs Linger...


Lilac Jelly

Spring didn't sprung so much here, in Duluth, Minnesota this year.  It teased us.  It tip-toed in through the back door.  This soggy, foggy day the green is nearly fluorescent.  It has been great grass growing weather, with just a few dry days every so often as to permit mowing it. So. Good things come to those who wait, right? I know, I know.  That's the anti-Carpe Diem mantra but it's in Mama Nature's hands, not mine, so it's what I've got right now.

And June days are waning. And lilacs are in bloom!  Tulips, too, especially near the big lake. We don't have lilacs in our yard, but we're thankful that we have neighbors who share.  This year,  I went searching for a way to preserve the lovely lilac's heavenly scent.  And I found a recipe for preserves.  Seems fitting.

Lilacs are an edible flower.  Not the tastiest on their own, kind of bitter, but pretty atop a salad, or a cupcake, nonetheless.  They also can be steeped in a tea, folded into a muffin batter, a lilac infusion can be turned into a fragrant simple syrup, used to make a fragrance mist and you can even make it in to a lilac jelly.  Lilac jelly? Yes. Let's do it.  This is a multi-day recipe.  You need to harvest your lilac flowers, remove each of the florets from the stems removing all 'green' parts, and then pour boiling water over it, cover and allow to set for 24hours.  This is your lilac infusion.  You will use a 1:1 lilac:boiling water ratio.  The second day you will add pectin, lemon juice and sugar and make and preserve your jelly.

Ingredients for Infusion:

4 cups lilac flowers
4 cups boiling water

Pour 4 cups of boiling water over the lilac flowers in a glass or non-reactive bowl and cover.  Allow to stand at room temperature for 24 hours. The color leaches out of the flowers quickly and leaves you a greenish-brownish tea looking infusion.

Ingredients for Lilac Jelly:

4 cups lilac infused water
2 packages of Sure-jel or powdered pectic of your choosing
8 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 cups of sugar
1/8-1/4 cup frozen blueberries (optional, to give 

(While or just before preparing the jelly, wash your jars, rings and lids, sterilize them in boiling water, take out hot just before filling while your canning water is allowed to continue to boil.  Filling hot jars with your hot jelly and then processing them right away is key to avoiding glass breakage.)

Add pectin and lemon juice to the infused water in a deep pan. (This would be the time to put a few blueberries in cheesecloth or submerge them in a strainer as you'll see in pictures below if you'd like to enrich the color of the jelly.)   Bring to a boil, stirring often.  Add the sugar, stirring and bring again to a boil.  Boil one minute.  Fill your hot jars, wipe off rims with a wet cloth, put on your lids and screw on the rings.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, ensuring the tops of your jars are covered with boiling water.)  Allow to set up on the counter top overnight! 

I'm looking forward to giving away these jewel-colored jems of jelly as gifts...and unleashing a bit of spring at various points of the year!


Looking to extend the life of the lilac? Me, too.

First, you'll need to gently pull each flower off of the stem--you'll need 4 cups of flowers for the jelly recipe.

Then, pour boiling water over the flowers.  Cover and allow to sit for 24 hours at room temperature.

Awww...fun to get out my ol' friend the canner.  Gather all your supplies!

Here's what the infused water looks like after straining out the flowers.

Add two boxes of pectin and 8T. of lemon juice to the infused water.  I also put about 1/8 c. of frozen blueberries we picked last year in Bayfield, WI to mash a bit for some pretty color.

Nice to have a helper.  Kinda scary at times, though, too! Use caution!

Ta Da!  So, so pretty! And fantastically fragrant and lovely tasting, too! Enjoy!

p.s.  I actually made 6 cups of infusion, so with my remaining two cups of infused water I made a 1:1 simple sugar syrup.  I added about 2 c. sugar and 4 blueberries to this, and cooked it down to 1 cup. Lilac martinis, anyone?

Sources: 

I found this fun mama-blog with her recipe for the jelly here:
http://roscommonacres.com/2010/04/capture-the-fragrance-of-spring-with-lilac-jelly/

And here's the how-to on making a simple syrup:
http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/lilac-simple-syrup-recipe/1/





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