An Organized Life is a Happy Life

January is most famous for making New Year’s’ resolutions. You know promises to lose weight, exercise 5 days a week, be more financially responsible, quit smoking, spend more time with family. Usually by Valentine’s day you have gained 3 pounds, are going to the gym maybe 2 days a week, or splurged on a new handbag. I know because I’ve done it. Made resolutions and failed to keep them.

This year I’m not making a single resolution. Instead I’m making my January all about organization. That’s right, organization. Instead of promising to do, I’m just going to start doing.

Some of you are thinking, aren’t we supposed to do that in the spring? Isn’t that the time of year to clean out the basement and garage and have a yard sale? You can do that too, but what I’m talking about is organizing so much more. I’m talking about organizing my life and environment.

I started off the year with a bang by organizing my pantry on New Year’s Eve. The previous weekend we had celebrated the Christmas holiday with my husband’s extended family. With siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and the announcement of a new grand-nephew (so excited) there were 23 for dinner. Not only was the house overflowing with food, but my butler’s pantry was so overflowing I couldn’t shut the door! What a mess. I was so embarrassed.

Monday morning I got busy decluttering and organizing the shelves. I took the opportunity to make a useable space instead of a room where I threw stuff just to get it out of the way. The result is something I still smile about every time I open the door.

Email is another huge area that many people need an organizational overhaul. I’m receiving over 100 emails a day and I don’t read any of them. Everyone wants your email address so they can send notices, offers, etc. It’s gotten even worse because I have taken over all my Dad’s affairs. Since he doesn’t have email, it all comes to my inbox!

I went through and unsubscribed to any email that was just a promotional opportunity like a sale or coupon. I also changed the settings on my social media so I wouldn’t get an email for everything. I get the same notifications in the app, why get it in my email as well? I was also on lists for newsletters and blogs that I just don’t have an interest in anymore. I unsubscribed to those as well.

The final thing I have done is to organize my garden. At least my seed collection. Every gardener knows the seed catalogs start arriving in January. I got my Baker Creek Seed Catalog just the other day. In order to plan my 2019 order I need to know what I have left over from 2018.  I dug out all the leftover seed, made a list or what I had and arranged them in a logical order.

I have a lot more stuff that needs to be organized. Much of it is in the form of projects that need completion. Maybe that should be my real New Year’s resolution, finishing all the projects that I have started or planned. For that I need to be successful at the mother of all organizational chores, organizing my time.

Just an update November 8, 2018

This week has been a busy week. The Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching with Christmas not too far behind. I’ve been busy, busy, busy! Monday I held a monster holiday baking session. I hope to share with you soon. (It’s one of the posts I’m working on).

I’ve been playing around with design ideas for my Thanksgiving table center piece. I post a picture of the incomplete results on Instagram. Follow me at hippiebohochic4.

You can also read about my design ideas in my post Cheap, Easy and Colorful Thanksgiving Center Piece 

In the meantime I’ll continue working on my thoughts of how to survive the holidays and how to make a pumpkin roll. (They look complicated, but are really not.) Speak to you all soon.

Honey Pot Photo on Instagram

Hello everyone! As promised, I shared a photo of my vintage ceramic honey pot collection on my brand new Instagram account.

Honey pots were used in the 1920s to 1940s to serve and store…you guessed it…honey. Made of ceramic, they often resembled bee hives and decorated with bees. Today they are a charming collector’s item.

I’m planning on incorporating them into my Thanksgiving table centerpiece and table decorations. Learn how by reading yesterday’s post, “Cheap, Easy and Colorful Thanksgiving Centerpiece.” 

Now I have to go work my other job. You know the one that actually pays the bills. I’m hoping to get some more photos of the Thanksgiving centerpiece components posted this weekend. As always I’ll be working on content in between 12 hour shifts.

Cheap, Easy and Colorful Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Can it be Thanksgiving already? Yes it almost is upon us. As usual I feel like I’m behind the eight ball with planning for the holidays. I think next year I’ll start in July. I mean really, where does the time go? 

Soon, many of us will be hosting gatherings for family and friends. If you love hosting, like I do, you know that menu planning and cooking are only part of the equation.  Any good hostess likes to create a festive holiday atmosphere. Naturally, I want my house and table to look extra special for guests. What better way than to create a great Thanksgiving table centerpiece. 

Every year we host my husband’s family the weekend before the holiday. The extended family get together on Saturday evening for a holiday family reunion. On Sunday, I’ll host immediate family for dinner. Although I have been mainly focusing on Christmas with my energy and budget, I’d like to carve out some time and money for a few autumnal decorations. (The pun was definitely intended!)

Now the question is where do I begin? As with anything in life we all have limited time and money. Before I started scrolling through the thousand of possibilities on Pinterest, I took a few moments to think about what I wanted in my holiday table.

I definitely wanted color! The palette this time of year is so bold and beautiful I really wanted to utilize it. I have seen many examples of neutral table settings and centerpieces. Although they are all lovely, they just weren’t my style. I wanted oranges, reds and yellows. I really wanted to accentuate the hippie and bohemian part of my personality.

My decorations also had to be easy. My job keeps me on the road 3-4 days a week. We have a long weekend trip coming up. I want to get some holiday baking done, and the list goes on and on with all the things I want to accomplish. I wasn’t going to have a ton of time to devote to this project.

And finally, I wasn’t willing to devote a ton of money to this project. It had to be cheap. In fact, $50 was the most I was willing to spend. Most of my household decorating budget has been going towards Christmas. However, this month I didn’t spend it all on Christmas decorations. I would go as high as $50, but wouldn’t it be awesome if I could do it for less?

Now I had my criteria. My Thanksgiving centerpiece and decorations had to be colorful, easy and cheap. Next step was to head on over to Pinterest.

There I found some amazingly simple and beautiful ideas. We often forget our agricultural roots, but the Thanksgiving holiday was born from a tradition of sharing the fruits of the harvest because there is so much of it this time of year. Pinterest was full of examples incorporating the bounty we celebrate at the Thanksgiving season. Of course you couldn’t have a Thanksgiving centerpiece or table without pumpkins.

My favorite idea was to use a small hollowed out pumpkin as a vase for a flower arrangement. In fact I had a great warty pumpkin I was using as part of the front porch decoration that was just the right size. Amazon had floral foam for less than $10 and my local grocery store sells bunches of flowers for about $10 a piece. 

Thinking about reusing my warty pumpkin got me wondering what else I had around the house I could use for my Thanksgiving table.

It turns out I had several things that I could possibly use to decorate my Thanksgiving table. I have a table runner that features yellow sunflowers on a dark blue background. Alternatively, the reverse is a natural looking unwashed muslin that could provide a neutral background. 

For a soft light and warmth I have a whole bag of tea lights that have been sitting in a drawer for quite some time. I can pair those with some clear glass votive holders that I use for Christmas. I could wrap some ribbon around each or leave them plain. I also have some flameless tea lights that I could use as well. I might pick up some more votive holders at the dollar store. I mean who couldn’t use more votive holders during the holidays?

Now I have a picture in my mind of my centerpiece is going to look like. A blue runner with yellow sunflowers and a central pumpkin vase flower arrangement to begin with.  Then add some tea lights scattered the length of the table. But I’ll need something else to fill out my decoration. For that task I have a couple of options. I go the popular Pinterest route and get some of those small decorative gourds and pumpkins to intersperse with the candles. But then i had another thought.

I have a collection of vintage honey pots. What’s a honey pot you ask? They are ceramic pots, often made to look like bee hives, that were used to hold and serve honey. They were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. I think they are incredible charming and appropriate to the season. I’ll try and get a picture posted. You’ll see what I mean. Instead of scattering mini pumpkins and gourds, I could use the honey pots to fill in the decorative tableau. 

Now I have a solid idea of what I want to do. In the next few weeks I’ll start playing with the different elements to see what meshes well together. Who knows i may come up with a completely different design once I start putting it together. I’m hoping to post a few pictures as I go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Face It…

… this website looks like crap. It has no pizzazz, no panache. I see some of those really successful lifestyle blogs with their pretty pictures and professionally designed layouts and think to myself, “self, there is no possible way you could ever compete with that.”

I mean here I am, it is about midnight. I’m in the back of a motorhome heading south on my way to Florida. I had 2.5 hours sleep before I left my hotel room in western Pennsylvania where I work as a travel nurse. From there I drove 3.5 hours home, loaded up the RV and head out. This was after working 5 twelve hour shifts in six days.

I’m exhausted but I’m trying to type a blog post sitting on a bed in the back of said RV traveling down the road at about 70 mph. How could i possibly compete with the pretty blogs? My sad little boring blog with no content and very little style.

The simple answer is I can’t. At least not like this. But herein lies the rub, it doesn’t have to stay ugly and boring forever.

Here is another thing to face. Life is messy. I attempted to start this blog a year ago, had made some progress on it and then WHACK!!! That is the sound of life hitting me upside the head with a baseball bat. Right in the temple, causing a year of dizziness, fogginess and nausea. It came in the form of a phone call at about 2 in the morning, telling me my mom, my best friend had died.

But now its time to just start. Start again, start creating, start polishing and start making things pretty. Not all at once. Just one day at a time. Kind of like i’ve made it through the last year. The important thing is to just start and don’t stop. Don’t stop improving, creating and making things pretty. Maybe someday I will be able to compete.

How to Make Old Fashioned Buttermilk Biscuits

Old-Fashioned-Buttermilk-Biscuits

I can’t think of anything more delicious than homemade buttermilk biscuits. My grandmas would make them for every family gathering for both breakfast and supper. They make an excellent accompaniment for more than just sausage gravy.  Our family served these instead of dinner rolls. The best part is they are super easy to make, if you know the secret to getting light, fluffy and mile high biscuits.

 Just Two Ingredients

 That’s right. You only need two ingredients to make these delicious buttermilk biscuits. Of course you will need buttermilk. The second ingredient is self-rising flour. Make sure you use self-rising and not all-purpose flour. Self-rising flour has a leavening agent. Without the leavening agent your biscuits won’t rise.

There aren’t really any measurements for this recipe. I start with around 2 cups of flour in a bowl. Then I add some buttermilk and stir to incorporate the buttermilk. I add buttermilk until the mixture comes together in a nice silky, sticky dough.

You want to try not to mix too much. This will make your biscuits dense and tough. Use a wooden spoon or fork to mix initially. Once most of the buttermilk is mixed in, use your hands to knead the dough. The dough will be very sticky. You may want to grease your hands with some oil or cooking spray. Then turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead a little more to pick up flour from the surface and make the dough less sticky.

Using your hands, pat the dough out until it is about 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick. Then use a biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits.

The Secret to Mile High Biscuits

The big secret to mile high light and fluffy biscuits is a very hot oven and crowding them together in your pan. Here’s how you want to bake them.

If you are using about 2 cups of flour you should be able to make enough biscuits for an 8×8 baking pan. Take that pan and pour about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pan. Just leave it there in a puddle. I usually do this in a corner or off to the side.

Next take one of your cut biscuits and dip both sides in the oil. Now that both sides are coated place the biscuit tight into a corner of the pan. Don’t distort the shape but it should be touching as much of the corner as possible. Take a second biscuit, dip it in the oil to coat both sides and place tight up against the side of the pan and the first biscuit.

Continue placing biscuits until your entire pan is full of biscuits. Don’t worry about the biscuits baking together into one big blob. The biscuits will pull apart when they come out of the oven. By packing the biscuits in tight they have nowhere to go but up. Instead of spreading out they are going to raise.

The other secret to light and fluffy biscuits is baking in a really hot oven. You want to preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake the biscuits 20-25 minutes. They are done when the bottoms are a nice golden brown.

Spring Inspiration February 2018

I intended this blog to be a dialogue about my life, at least the creative side, and for anyone interested in the same things as myself. I think there are quite a few of us that have a passion for beautiful things, gardening, good food and sustainable living. This post will be the first in that spirit.

I’m working on several posts that of “cornerstone” content. Some of that content will include a shelf painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and swag lamps for the bedroom. The shelf is especially exciting. It is going to be gorgeous and I can’t wait to share it with you. In the mean time I have other ongoing activities.

Last week I posted about starting my garden seedlings. This week gardening inspiration struck me in the head. This time to plant herb seedlings. Ann at onsuttonplace.com had a great post about starting an indoor herb garden. Watch out inspiration incoming!

She used live plants to start her herb garden in mason jars, but I started mine from seed. Mainly because, I will need more than just a few plants for cooking. I want to sprinkle them throughout the garden and our landscaping. The essential oils in herbs gives them great flavor and also a great aroma. The aroma is good for cooking and for driving off some garden pests. I want to take full advantage of that feature. Plus, in addition to being tasty, herbs are really beautiful plants.

As long as I was busy filling plastic cups with dirt, I also planted some of the cold weather tolerant vegetables. I started my broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. I’m a little late at getting them started, but I have a feeling it will be a late start to the garden this year. This rain is just wreaking havoc with any chance to get out and start getting the garden ready.

Now, time to start working on some projects. If anyone is interested, here is a link to the onsuttonplace.com article with instructions for the indoor herb garden.

Indoor Mason Jar Herb Garden

Starting the 2018 Garden

The snow may still be flying, but it is time to start thinking, planning and planting the vegetable garden. If you don’t plan on growing your own seedling starts, you won’t have to worry about planting just yet. If you are planning on growing your own seedlings, now is the time to begin planting some of them. This is especially true for the cold tolerant vegetables. In fact many seed packets recommend starting your seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Here in Zone 6 the average last frost date is usually around April 15th. The 8 week mark for me is next week.

To find out what the average last frost date for your area will be head on over to the Farmer’s Almanac Average Frost Dates page.

My planning process

A crucial step in a successful garden is taking the time to plan. What are you going to plant? Where are you going to plant it? How much room will you need? This is just some of the questions I ask myself when planning my garden.

I usually start my planning process by taking inventory of my freezer and canned goods. If I have 20 quarts of pickled red beets sitting on the shelves I probably won’t be planting a large amount of beets.

I also need to think about what does well in my garden and where in the garden it grows well. For example, I have a horrible problem with cucumber beetles. I’m still working strategies for defeating them. But until I do, I don’t plant a whole bunch. Instead I rely on other sources for my preservation needs. I also have a corner that gets some afternoon shade. I don’t want to put heat loving plants like tomatoes in that area.

Starting my seedlings

I have already started my pepper seedlings. For some reason I have found that peppers take forever! Especially some of the hotter varieties. I made sure I started them nice and early.

My next priority will be to start the cold tolerant vegetables I have planned for the garden this year. I’m completely out of sauerkraut so I will be planting a large cabbage patch. I’m also going try growing some Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Both are tolerant to the cold and can be set out fairly early.

In the past I have planted the cold tolerant vegetables as early as mid-March. This has been in my raised beds. I have frames that I use to put plastic over them for the colder days. Unfortunately I won’t be able to do that this year.

My garden will be getting a big revamp this year. I’m very excited to get started. I’ll be posting more updates soon!!

 

Cooking for the Freezer November 2017

food-pot-kitchen-cooking

It is a seriously dreary day out there, but I’m in the kitchen cooking for the freezer. Unfortunately this blogging gig and vintage collectibles business is just part time. So far a hobby that nets a little profit. For my full time gig I work as a registered nurse. For a variety of reasons I spend 3 days a week away from home. However, the Handy Hubby still needs to be fed. I accomplish this by being seriously organized with meal planning and keeping a well stocked freezer (I actually have 3).

I thought I would write a quick post to give you a little insight into my process. Maybe you can use some of my techniques.

Why cook for 2 when 10 will do?

Today I am taking advantage of one of my favorite techniques for stocking my freezer. I always cook extra of freezable meals. Earlier in the week I made cabbage rolls. I used 3 pounds of ground meat for making the filling. Plus I had a huge cabbage with huge leaves. It made a pretty large batch. Naturally Handy Hubby and I didn’t come close to eating all of them. So this morning I got out the handy vacuum sealer and divided the portions into 2 different meals and voila! Now I have 2 ready made meals in my freezer.

I do the same thing when it comes to soups. I love making soups and it is definetly the best time of year to make soup. Sometimes I will make REALLY large amounts and can them using my pressure canner. However, even when I make a regular size batch it is often more than we can eat before it spoils. If I just have a quart or 2 I will ladle it into freezer bags and pop it into the freezer.

Holiday Stuffing

There is one more thing I am working on this morning. Let’s talk about the holidays. Yes they are upon us. It was signaled by my purchase of 10 pounds of butter when it was on special this week. The Handy Hubby thought I was a little nuts. But I am starting to think ahead to the family celebrations headed our way. With my work schedule I cook as much in advance as I possibly can. One holiday staple you can make in advance and freeze is the stuffing.

With that in mind, when I purchased my butter I also purchased 4 large loaves of bread to make my stuffing. My mother, who often hosted both sides of the family for the holidays, would have to make 3 different types of stuffing for the holiday table.

The first was what I called the hillbilly dressing. It was a sage dressing like my father’s mother made. My father’s family came from deep in the West Virginia coal fields, hence the name hillbilly dressing. It was my favorite. The second was the Amish dressing. It was very similar to the hillbilly dressing, but it did not contain any sage. Much like the Amish it was very plain in dress. It was her favorite dressing.

Finally she would have to make oyster dressing. This was basically the hillbilly dressing, but you mixed raw oysters into the mix and baked it. This was my father’s favorite and if it wasn’t on the menu he’d say, “You’re not going to make oyster dressing?” in a sort of childlike voice. It was not my favorite and my childhood palette refused to eat it.

My mother never used pre-made stuffing mix. She always prepared her own bread and added her own spices. It was one of the reasons her dressing was so good. She did this by first frying the bread. She would butter both sides and put it in a skillet and brown it on both sides. When you are making that much stuffing it is a long and tedious process. She would spend the entire night before the meal frying bread for the dressing. But it was this fundamental step that made it so delicious. But who wants to stand in front of a stove frying bread for hours on end?

Less work, same great taste

However, I have discovered a short-cut. It wasn’t the actual frying that made everything so yummy, it was the 1/2 tub of butter that she used to butter the bread. I discovered that I could get the same great taste if I toasted the bread in the oven, cut it into cubes, and then poured melted butter into the mix with all the rest of the ingredients. Absolute genius!

As part of my holiday preparation, today I am toasting all of my bread. I will cut it into cubes and then I will vacuum seal it to freeze. When I’m ready, I just need to thaw out the bread, mix up the ingredients and then bake. I pack it into amounts needed for a small 8×8 casserole dish. This is the perfect size for Handy Hubby and me. If making a larger amount I just use more than 1 bag.

How-To Guide to Growing Garlic


Pinterest Pin Growing Garlic

Garlic is one of the easiest things to grow in your garden. It really is hard to have a black thumb when it comes to planting this culinary delight. The best part of growing your own garlic is the wide variety available for growth. Different varieties of garlic have their own unique taste profiles and characteristics. Garlic grown commercially mainly come from artichoke garlic. Artichoke type garlic is a softneck variety known for its large size and long storage life. Two traits that are commercially desirable. However, commercial desirability rules out a whole spectrum of flavor dense garlic available to home gardeners.

Garlic has literally been cultivated for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the writings of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. The Chinese have used it as a medicinal herb for centuries. It grows wild in many regions (including my backyard). My point is with this long, rich tradition there are many subtleties of flavor in each variety of garlic. Why limit yourself to what is commercially available?

 

From Medical Botany published in 1793 by William Woodville courtesy of Wikipedia.org

 

 

Garlic Classification

Garlic is a member of the genus Allium which also includes familiar favorites like onions, shallots, leeks and chives. The full botanical name is Allium sativum. This species is further divided into 2 subspecies: ophioscorodon and sativum. Why is this important? Other than being important information for a 10th grade biology class, the 2 subspecies of garlic have characteristics important when choosing which variety to cultivate. The more common names for the 2 subspecies are hardneck and softneck varieties.

Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck varieties got their name because of the hard stem or neck that grows out of the center of the bulb. When you see those big bunches of braided garlic in charming European kitchens you can be sure that is not hardneck garlic. Because of the hard stem it is not suitable for braiding. Hardneck garlic also is considered to have a “hotter” flavor than the softneck kind. Another unique characteristic is the production of garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes are the curly-cue shoots that are essentially the flowering bud of the garlic. Growers cut off the scape so that all the plant productive efforts go towards bigger bulb production. But don’t throw them away! They have a delicious mild garlic flavor and can be prepared in a dish all to themselves.

Another important fact about hardneck garlic it its hardiness to colder winters. If you live in a northern latitude you probably will want to choose a hardneck variety. Especially if you are planting in the fall.

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic is the milder flavor cousin to the hardneck variety. This is the type that you will see braided in the charming European kitchens. Softneck garlic has a soft flexible stem growing from the center that makes this possible. Another key difference is softnecks do not produce garlic scapes. You don’t have to worry about removing them, but you also miss out on the yummy goodness.

Softneck garlic is suitable to more milder climates. It is not as tolerant to harsh winters as the hardneck varieties. It doesn’t mean you can grow it in more northern latitudes, but you will have to take care to protect it from harsh winter elements.

Planting Garlic

Garlic is usually planted in the fall. Think tulips and daffodils. The hardneck varieties especially need the long period of cooler temperatures in order to grow. If you live in a northern latitude and want to grow a softneck variety, you may want to wait and plant them in early spring, much like you do onions. If planting in the fall use a thick layer of mulch to help protect the cloves during the winter.

To plant, separate the bulb into cloves. Plant each clove 1-2″ deep about 4-6″ apart. Leave about 1 foot between rows. Plant the pointy end up and the blunt end down. Water if the soil is dry. You want to give your cloves a nice environment for the roots to grow a little bit and settle in for the winter.

Your garlic should be ready to dig in July or early August.  When the leaves start dying back it will be ready for harvest. If planting hardneck garlic, the scapes should start to appear in late May into June.

Garlic has very little to worry about in terms of pest and disease. In fact garlic is a key ingredient in many organic pest repellent recipes. One thing you do have to watch out for is fungus and nematodes. Plant in well-drained soil to minimize the risk. Also mulching appropriately in the fall will help to protect the cloves. As with most fungal infections there is not much to do but remove the infected plants. Do not put them on your compost pile! Nematodes and fungus can remain in the soil after the plants have been removed.

I have had a lot of success growing garlic in my raised beds. I mulch in the fall and then in the spring when the days start to get longer I use a hoop house to really give them a jump start on growth.