Walk The Talk – Project Simplify

My blog is about living a simple life, yet my life has become increasingly more stressful, difficult, and expensive over the past few years. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Earlier this week, I decided to take some steps to change this. The first step is to clear clutter and unnecessary objects from my home. These things weigh me down… suffocate me. They need to GO! Mind you, I’m not a hoarder and I don’t have a lot of material things compared to most people. Still, I have more things than I need or want. How wasteful. How American.

PROJECT SIMPLIFY – PHASE ONE
Removal of Excess Media (CDs, magazines, books, catalogs, etc.)
Do I honestly need hundreds of CDs that I no longer listen to (especially in the age of the ipod), magazines that I will never thumb through again, books that I will not read twice, or garden catalogs from 2008? No, I do not! You probably don’t need these things either. Why do we keep them? Just in case? Just in case of what? Since I don’t have an answer to these questions, I will unload my excess media over the next couple of weeks. I will either sell, donate, or toss these things to the curb. I have a sneaking suspicion that once they are gone, I will not miss them. In fact, I will probably feel a few ounces lighter.

I’m currently listing all of my CDs on eBay. I’m selling some of them in groups (by artist or genre). The remainder will be sold as a mixed lot of about 150-200. I’m not sure how many I have since I am still making the list. What a project! The closet that contained the CDs already looks happier. The floor behind me, where they are scattered, does not.

Does anyone out there need a Ricky Ricardo dressed in a Santa suit Barbie doll? If so, I have one! I purchased him at a discount several years ago at the insistence of a collector friend. She told me the doll would be worth something later. Later is NOW. He happened to be in the vicinity of my CDs, so I included him in Phase One. If you’re interested, he’s on eBay. He’ll be worth something some day 😉

Stay tuned for future phases of Project Simplify!


Lemon & Basil Roasted Chicken

AND
Roasted Red Potatoes
with Fresh Rosemary

The purple basil in my AeroGarden was getting out of hand and I had to do something fast. Last night, I used a heaping fistful of it in a new recipe… lemon and basil roasted chicken. This is an EASY recipe – even for people who claim they can’t cook. Promise.

I also made roasted red potatoes with fresh rosemary. I am fortunate to have a rosemary bush that provides me with fresh rosemary year round. Not only is it tasty, but it’s beautiful, too. By the way, the potatoes are even easier to prepare than the chicken dish.

A spinach salad drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette provided me with the “green” that I crave. (Lately, I can’t get enough fresh greens, especially spinach.)

I am looking forward to leftovers tonight, as well as another fresh, crisp spinach salad!

 

LEMON & BASIL CHICKEN
4-5 lb whole chicken
1 medium onion, quartered
1 handful of fresh basil
6-8 cloves of garlic
2 lemons, halved
Sage
Salt & pepper
½ stick of butter, cubed

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Clean chicken and squeeze juice of one lemon over the bird.
  3. Sprinkle chicken, inside and out, with salt, pepper, and sage.
  4. Place onion, garlic, fresh basil, and halved lemons inside the cavity.
  5. Place cubes of butter in roasting pan/dish .
  6. Roast uncovered for 1.5 hours or until meat thermometer (placed in the thigh but not against the bone) reads 180 degrees.
  7. Baste with juices in the pan every 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with foil, and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. I let mine rest for 30 minutes.

 

ROASTED RED POTATOES WITH FRESH ROSEMARY
Red Potatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
Coarse Sea Salt

  1. Cut the potatoes into chunks and toss into baking dish.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over potatoes until you have enough to coat them completely.
  3. Strip rosemary leaves and sprinkle over potatoes.
  4. Add sea salt to taste.
  5. Stir until potatoes are coated with olive oil.
  6. Place in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

ENJOY!



Art of the Garden – Form Meets Function

After reading my post about raised bed gardening, one of my readers asked me to check out Art of The Garden. (Thanks Karen) Neither Karen nor I are affiliated with Art of the Garden and this is not a paid advertisement. We just think this product is very cool and too good not to share!

The product is called M Brace. It’s a portable, easy to assemble (takes five minutes to set up), stylish, raised garden bed corner brace system. No tools required! Not only that, but it’s made in the U.S. using recycled metal. The braces come in a variety of funky laser cut patterns as well as plain. Over time, the braces will rust, making them even more beautiful.

This video demonstrates just how easy it is to set up a raised bed garden using the M Brace.

In addition to the M Brace, Art of the Garden also makes borders and garden stakes. These are also recycled, as they are made from the cut out sections from the M Braces. Genius!

The only thing that would make this product better is if I would have come up with the idea first 🙂

Readers:
If you run across other cool garden products, please send links my way. I’d love to review them in future blog posts!

 


Planning the Garden

It was so unbearably hot last spring/summer that we didn’t bother with a garden. It would have been a disaster. The year before, we did away with our raised beds (which were in rough shape after a few years of use) and planted the garden the old fashioned way – directly in the soil. We had some runoff problems and a lot of the good soil was carried away. I tried to divert the water using concrete blocks with minimal success. The garden was fairly decent, but not as nice as when we used raised beds. So, this year, it’s back to raised beds!

Raised beds are a breeze to weed and the plants love stretching their toes in the loose, rich soil. The beauty of gardening in raised beds is that it is possible to plant more vegetables in less space using the square foot gardening method. I highly recommend All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space! by Mel Bartholomew. In fact, I just started re-reading my copy this week. For gardeners, reading gardening books and magazines is the equivalent of kids watching Christmas specials in anticipation of Christmas… and looking through seed catalogs is like drooling over the Sears Wish Book.

There are all kinds of fancy, pre-built raised bed systems available, but we’re going to save a few bucks and build our own from scratch… which is what we did the last time. The beds lasted a few years and that was good enough for me. One idea is to use Trex decking. It doesn’t rot, fade, or split. Oh… and it costs $45 for a 20 foot board. I think I’ll go with the stuff (uh, wood) that rots, fades, and splits.

Photos of our old raised beds and a few of the vegetables that we grew in them.



Alternatives to building your own!

AeroGarden Cherry Tomatoes

AeroGarden – Week 1o
My cherry tomato plant is still growing like crazy and is filled with small green tomatoes. I counted about 40 of them. There are also quite a few blossoms getting ready to produce fruit. I cannot wait to pick the first batch and use them in a salad.

Hey… wouldn’t a teeny, tiny BLT on cocktail bread be cute?!



Previous AeroGarden posts…
This is where it all began.
My AeroGarden after the first month.
My AeroGarden after 40 days!
Caprese Sandwich with Fresh Basil
Fresh Mint Tea

 

 

After the Rain

The rain started yesterday and ended early this afternoon. When I looked out the bedroom window this morning, I noticed that our creek was unusually high (and muddy). The rain gauge reported that we had a little over two inches – hard to believe it wasn’t more based on the high level of the creek.

This afternoon, while it was still misting, I took a walk through the woods to check things out – cheap camera in the pocket of my favorite flannel shirt. The air was chilly, damp, and fresh. At about this time last March, we had a snow storm that set everything back to zero. A few days after the storm, the frozen buds, blossoms, and leaves shriveled and dropped to the ground. As much as I enjoyed watching the snow fall in South Carolina in March, I was saddened by the fact that the flowers, trees, and shrubs had to start all over again. I wondered if they would give up for the year. Fortunately, they did not! They came back like nothing ever happened.

Nature is delicate. It is also tenacious and resilient.

Don’t forget that YOU are a part of nature.


Photos from my walk through the woods…




Confession of a Cold Frame Gardener

Approximately two weeks ago, I planted carrots, radishes, spinach, and several varieties of lettuce in my cold frames. Everything is coming along nicely, except the lettuce.

I’m no stranger to gardening. When I was a little girl, I eagerly helped my parents plant the family garden… or as my siblings and I called it by the end a summer of toiling in it, The Back Forty. It was huge! A family of seven needs a large garden, especially if they want to can, freeze, and preserve food – which we did. By the time spring rolled around and we had just about depleted our stores, our beast of a tiller came out of hibernation. We gathered the seed packets, grabbed a ball of twine and a couple of stakes, and headed out to the freshly turned garden. The first thing my mom did was string a length of twine from one end of the garden to the other to use as a planting guide. Rogue seeds were not allowed. My father was the same way about the cornfields. He took pride in the straight lines he created. I have no idea where my OCD originated. Just a fluke, I guess.

Did I mention that I’m no stranger to gardening? When we planted the garden, I paid extra close attention to the spacing and depth of the seeds. I thought that if I did not adhere to the rules on the seed packet, my seeds would not turn into vegetables. Fortunately, seeds are quite forgiving… mostly.

That leads me to my confession. The lettuce that I planted a few weeks ago failed to germinate and sprout. My guess is that the seeds were old and had lost their spark. I used stray lettuce seeds that had fallen to the bottom of a Ziploc bag – random seeds from packets that could have been from as long ago as 2002. I knew the seeds were well past their prime, but I thought I’d try them anyway. (It worked for Tony Randall, after all.) Not a single seed sprouted! Surprised? So, last week, I planted more lettuce. Some of it has sprouted and I hope that the rest is close behind. In the past, I’ve used seeds that had technically expired, but always had good luck. However, I don’t think I’ve ever planted seeds that were NINE years old. That’s pushing it, huh? Lesson learned. My first fresh salad will be two weeks later than originally planned.


Fresh Mint Tea

I’ve been trying to make use of the mint that is growing wildly in my AeroGarden. This morning I decided to harvest a few leaves and toss them into my tea. It was delightful. Not only that, but it greatly improved the taste of my St. John’s Wort tea. Blech. Have you tried this stuff? I will not be a repeat customer.

This is what it says on the box: St. John’s Wort tea is formulated to lift your mood by easing the stress caused by common everyday exhaustion, nervous tension, and frustration.

How can something that tastes so foul lift my mood?

The next time I use fresh mint in my tea, I will add it to a tea with a pleasant flavor. It’s not like I don’t have about fifteen varieties of tea in my cabinet. Why in the world did I choose the St. John’s Wort?

Life is too short to drink nasty tasting tea… or nasty tasting anything, for that matter!


______________________

Previous AeroGarden posts…
This is where it all began.
My AeroGarden after the first month.
My AeroGarden after 40 days!
Caprese Sandwich with Fresh Basil

Forcing Branches to Bloom Indoors – Week Two

It’s spring… in my kitchen!

Two weeks ago, I walked through the yard and woods and collected branches from flowering shrubs and trees for the purpose of forcing them to bloom early indoors. The forsythia is now flowering profusely and several tulip magnolia buds have also flowered, with more on the way. The buds of the redbud are swelling and I expect to see tiny leaves in about a week and a half. The dogwood blossoms will not be far behind. So far, none of these trees and shrubs are blooming or leafing out in my yard.

I hope that the forsythia and tulip magnolia last long enough for the other branches to catch up. Seeing everything leafed out and in bloom all at once would be a magnificent sight. I realize that this doesn’t happen in nature, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that just this one time it will happen in my kitchen.

This is how I created my kitchen table “spring”…
Forcing Branches to Bloom Indoors


Grow A Winter Garden In A Cold Frame

Last Saturday, I planted a late winter salad garden in my cold frame.  It’s been six days and the radishes are already peeking out! The lettuce is not far behind. I also planted carrots, and spinach.  All of these plants are ideal cool weather crops and will thrive, and have the best flavor, during this time of the year. Lettuce grown during the summer tends to bolt and taste bitter. That is, if you are able to grow it at all!

Salad crops are very low maintenance. All I have to do is keep the soil moist, open the cold frame lid during the day, and close the lid (vented about an inch) at night. Even though the outside temperatures are cool, it gets very hot in the cold frame during the day… especially in South Carolina. Even northern cold frame gardeners will need to vent their cold frames slightly during the day.

I decided to sow my salad garden seeds in soil bags this year. Not only is the bagged soil perfectly balanced, but it is also portable. After my lettuce garden expires, I will recycle the bagged soil and leftover greens in my traditional vegetable garden. Then, I will store the cold frames until fall when I will plant a new salad garden.

I created this video to show you how easy it is to plant lettuce in a cold frame using bags of soil. Watch it here!