A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: May 2012
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31 May 2012

I'm rich! I'm rich! I'm rich!

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“Food, a French man told me once, is the first wealth. Grow it right, and you feel insanely rich, no matter what you own.” -Kristin Kimball

We have plenty of money.  We have what we need.  We are so filthy rich that there are people that want to kill us simply because we are filthy rich Americans.
...but sometimes I don't feel rich.  especially when I spend too much time on pinterest, or on Houzz, or flipping through the inspiration pages of House Beautiful.   I feel poor.  I can't afford that rug, or that table, or even that lamp.  It is all out of my reach.  ...and perhaps I could save up the money and scrimp on groceries and eventually buy one of those beautiful hooks from Restoration Hardware, but do I really want to?  No, probably not, but it would be nice...

I hear some amens out there -- go ahead let it out!  Admit you want MORE!

I want more and more and more and more until it starts wearing away at my soul.  
I've got to quit this wanting or it is going to eat me alive.  

Where to go?  Shopping? 
 Nah.  The garden.

Oh C'MON Amy, the garden isn't going to get me that new handbag!  There is no way a little walk through the garden will make me forget about that beautiful carpet and the 3 INCH THICK padding that I want but can't afford!  A garden will do nothing!

 Well maybe not...it depends on whether your garden is growing food, or just flowers.  If you only have flowers you might have a problem.  As nice as they are, you can't eat them.  They smell nice, and look nice, and I am ALL for a lovely walk through the garden at dusk, but they aren't going to help your consumerism problem the way a good batch of lettuce and giant stand of onions will.

 You see, food is the first wealth.  Battles were fought over food sources, rivers and salt mines.  We need food to survive, and we need good food to feel rich.  I can grow both in my backyard.  I have soil, I have sun, I have seeds and I have water.  Thus, I am rich.

This is the way it works...you feel bitter that you couldn't get that faucet that you really wanted for the kitchen because it was too gosh darn expensive.  Nevermind the hot tub you wanted for the back porch...so you go walking in the garden.  You get out the scissors and start snipping.  A little spinach here, a few mustard greens, ooo!  Are those strawberries hiding under those leaves?  Perfect -- I just picked myself a smoothie.  Brilliant!

Of course I can't grow ice, but wait!  I have a big 'ol refrigerator and in the freezer is a giant tub of automatically made, precut ice.  Brilliant!

Of course I can't break up the ice...I'll just have no make a salad and ice water.  But wait!  I've got a big, powerful blender sitting on the counter...smoothie here I come!

This is all in your head of course...you still have work to do...  

You lay down your bounty of smoothie supplies and you check out the rest of the garden.  Oh my heavens, that onion is up to my NECK!  I am not even kidding -- how DID that thing grow so high?!  ...and oh my heavens there are 49 of them...all growing tall and huge and we are not going to need to buy onions ever again.

Holy crap -- I'm rich.

I'm rich in onions and potatoes and tomatoes and strawberries and rhubarb and asparagus and spinach and mustard and leeks and garlic and swiss chard and radishes and oh look!  The plum tree is starting to grow -- I can almost feel those little plums, plump and squat in my hands ripe for a big BITE.  Oh and the chestnuts are growing!!  Look at the hazelnuts!  I am rich!  I am rich!  I am rich!

Hang my head in shame.  Look around.  Did anyone see that?  Surely they must think I am crazy.  No?  No one saw me twirling in the middle of the garden and yelling about my riches like a happy fool?  Well then...

"I'm rich!  I'm rich!  I'm rich!"

...and I ain't thinking about that handbag.

30 May 2012

Poop & Mulch Tires

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Hey y'all! today we are talking POOP! Not human poop, but chicken poop. Don't have any chicken poop? No worries, you can plant beans or add blood meal or borrow some chicken poop from a friend. Doesn't today's topic sound just delightful??

Here's the experiment. This year I am trying my hand at growing potatoes in tires. We had the tires, I researched the chemical leaching and feel secure that we aren't going to eat toxic potatoes and it required very little extra work compared to my normal potato planting routine.  SO I grabbed the tires, filled them with compost and garden soil, planted my potatoes and then covered them in fresh mulch.

Screeeeeeeeeeeeeech -- wait aren't you supposed to let  mulch age before you use it?  Doesn't fresh mulch leach nitrogen from the soil and turn your plants yellow?

Yes and yes kinda.

...but the fresh mulch is only $50 for a driveway full and the aged mulch costs over $100 for a kinda dinky truckload.  
So the choice was easy, but I had to make some adjustments.

Enter the poop -- see it?

Mulch doesn't leach nitrogen from the soil, but rather the mulch USES the nitrogen in the soil to decompose where the mulch touches the soil.  Therefore, that potato planted way down deep in the tire is not affected.  However, when that potato reached the top, I don't want it to be hungry.  The solution?  Well, if the fresh mulch is taking away nitrogen, then I need to add a bit.  What has a bunch of nitrogen in it?  Chicken poop!

Think of it this way.  The tire holds soil.  Then a tree falls (and magically shreds itself) on the forest floor.  Then an animal comes along and poos on it.  Such is the cycle of nature.  We're just joining the party a little more quickly than nature proceeds.

One thing to note...fresh poo will "burn" the stems and foliage of plants, so I put the poop aside from the actual plants and when it rains the poo slowly moves down through the mulch to the soil and composts and then makes the potatoes grow big and strong and delicious.

Note:  If you don't have chicken poop available, and want to use fresh mulch, try planting a bean (any bean!) right next to every plant in the veggie garden or add alternate sources of nitrogen, such as blood meal.  They will both negate the nitrogen use of the fresh mulch.  You know you need to feed your plants a little more if the leaves start yellowing.  If they grow big and strong then you are good to go!

SO, if you visit me for a meal later in the summer, I might feed you poopy potatoes. 
You'll like them ;)

29 May 2012

Wouldn't You Make That Trade?

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Last year, I saved a couple Boston ferns to overwinter (CLICK HERE to see how).  Who wants to pay for new ones every spring?  
Just give them a drink every 3 weeks or so and they will survive.  The problem?  
They get scraggly.  The old dead fronds turn brown and brittle and need trimming.

The new growth seems determined to grow, like a toddler balancing on their tiptoes, just barely out of reach of the cookie dough spoon.  The problem?  Those old fern fronds are blocking the light and taking up valuable root space in the basket.

The solution?  You've got to shear those ferns.  You've got to go to town on them and cut away all the old, dead growth.  It did its job, it was beautiful, but now it is finished.  Time to move on, time to start anew.  Get those old fronds out of the way and new fronds will grow high and proud, lush fern foliage dripping out of the edges, waving in the wind.

There is an exception to the rule.   When you go to trim the fern and you find this:

Don't cut.  Don't touch that fern.  There are times when the dead fronds can stay.  Their purpose is greater than growth.  They are there to protect and hold 6 tiny little lives, so let them be.  There is a time in life when growth doesn't matter.  There is a time when improvement isn't needed.  When all you really need to do is hold and protect.  There is no need to groom properly.  There is no need to think deeply.  There is no need to move, or work or become a better person.

There is a time just to be that little fern, holding on to those dead fronds, and caring for those little eggs.  It will only be 6 weeks and the birds will be born, the eggs cracked and thrown out by mama bird.  The babies will grow unimaginably fast and then they will be gone.  Poof -- one day in summer and it is all over.  No more watching the mama flit from branch to branch, squawking over her babies.  No more tiny little chirps and tiny little beaks.  There will be time to prune the fern.  It can recover.  ...and if it doesn't?   Well, it is worth it, isn't it?  A fern for 6 tiny birds?  Wouldn't you make that trade?

I know that it is good for me to grow.  I know that it is good for me to think deeply, live lively, run and eat well.  I know that it is good for me to do pilates and have lunch with friends.  I know that I need to grow spiritually and intellectually.  I know that blogging and writing and list making renews my soul and gives me a fresh outlook.  I know it is good for me.  I know what I need and I know how to get it.  That doesn't mean I should.  There are hours, days and sometime years that my only job is to hold still and protect.  My personal growth matters not compared to the protection of my babies.  Protecting their hearts from hurts and protecting their lives from harm.  That is my only job.

There will be hours, and days and years that they won't need me anymore.  I can cut off the old and the used up bits of me and grow with renewed energy.  I will have time to grow later.  ...and if I don't?  Well, isn't it worth it?  Myself for 3 tiny little souls?  Wouldn't you make that trade?


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28 May 2012

...and the winner is also...

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I have an extra winner from photography week to announce...drum roll please.....

Congrats to.....

 Christa, #369!!

You won Libby Langdon's 'Small Space Solutions'!!

23 May 2012

Lavender & Shitake Potato Hash

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I've always been a little intimidated by "fancy" mushrooms.  I always stuck with the little white button mushrooms, or went rogue once in awhile with portabellas or baby bellas.  I mean those fancy mushrooms are all "buy by the handful" and cost like $3.99 a pound or $7.99 a pound, so that is way way way too expensive.  I'll just stick to the 2/ $5 packages of whites, thank you very much.

 Man was I missing out.

My SIL Kate schooled me in the fancy mushroom department.  You see, she had made these incredible pickled shitakes and was all aglow over how amazing they were.

My response -- aren't they kinda expensive?

Kate -- well no not really...they weigh next to nothing, so you buy the whole basket and it is not even a pound.


Yes of course they aren't that expensive - they barely weigh anything!  Brilliant!

The next day I was off to the grocery store to try my hand at shitakes...2 handfuls for about a buck.

 I decided to pair the earthy shitakes with lavender oil and salt I had from the harvest last fall.  Don't be intimidated by those two ingredients!  Simply harvest lavender flowers in the summer/fall and let them dry.  Grind up the lavender with kosher salt and let the flavors meld for a few weeks before using.  Same goes with the oil.  Simply put the dried flowers (not the stems of leaves!) into a bottle of olive oil and let it sit for a week or so before using.  One 8 oz. bottle requires about 2-3 T of lavender.

After decided on the flavorings, I needed a base, and my go to is a roasted potato hash.  The recipe is simply really.  All the ingredients are "2"'s.  2 handfuls of little yellow or red potatoes, 2 handfuls of mushrooms, 2 small white onions, 2 Tb lavender oil and 2 pinches of lavender salt.  Chop the potatoes, mushrooms and onions into uniform bite-sized chunks.  Make sure you chop the little ends  (the part that attaches to the soil) of the mushrooms off as they are very chewy and hard.

Mix all the ingredients with your oil and salt and bake at 350 degrees until your house smells amazing and the potatoes are fork tender (around 30 minutes).  Let the dish cool for 5-10 minutes and serve with optional additional lavender salt.  Enjoy!

22 May 2012

It isn't as chaotic as you think... | Hershey Family Photographer

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If you follow my photography blog, you might have seen this photo shoot a few weeks ago.  
If not, let me introduce you to the beautiful Kathleen of Grosgrain Fabulous

I wanted to share this shoot because y'all responded really well to my "[self-shot] family photoshoot" and I thought this might help.  When you are getting family photos, it always ends up being a more relaxed session when children are added in bit by bit to the family photo instead of trying to make every kiddo stand perfectly where they are supposed to.  Two year olds just don't get it! :)  This shoot  perfectly illustrates the sequencing among the chaos that is family photography. If you look closely, you can tell how I set up the family shots, starting with the calmest members of the family (mom and baby) pose for portraits and get my light, settings and angle perfect.  Slowly I add in family members by having them "give mommy a kiss" or "can you squeeze mommy's legs really tight?".  At the last minute, I have the exact spot ready for Dad and our resident 2 year old and I have exactly 3 frames to get the perfect family shot.  By the end of the shoot, the only thing that works is singing "Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star" on repeat as the sun sets over a horizon.

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Want to get this shot?

Start with bebe.  Take a few portraits of him alone...
Say hey to big responsible sis -- wanna come sit with your baby bro?

Mama - hop in!
Ok -- next sister?

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Ok dad - bring on the big guns -- time for the toddler!

So I hope that helps you when staging family shots -- I'd love to see your experiments -- care to share?
Just remember to always start with the calmest, easy-to-stay-still family members and build from there!

Want to see Kathleen's take on the day?  Check out HER POST about our session!

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18 May 2012

CELEBRATING BOREDOM | All Days Aren't Grand.

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It's one of those days.

The ones that aren't grand.

The ones without any brilliant DIY project or any great accomplishments in weeding or chicken herding.
 The days when planning a party is the LAST thing I'll do.  Planning a garden?  Not today.
not today...
It is one of those days when I don't race myself to unload the dishwasher. I don't try to multitask while putting the spoons away. I just slowly do it.

I don't think much -- just do. Cuddle a little bit -- feed the kids -- maybe get inspired enough to get down to the laundry room and start a load. ...but forget folding the load that is finished drying - it can wait. I'll do it all together. ....when I'm inspired.

Right now, I'm not. Not inspired. Not motivated.

Weirdly calm...just a day -- a nice day.  A full day, but an empty day.

It is just a day.

A not grand day.

A day to just be.

Do you have those?

Sand Cherry

17 May 2012

...and the WINNER is....

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CONGRATS to a special someone today! 
 You have won THREE prizes from THIS PINBOARD!!!

Is it YOUR NAME? CLICK HERE to find out!
(Winner's name is in the Rafflecopter announcement box ;) 

16 May 2012

Hibiscus & Dandelion Tea

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Need the perfect sweet and hot tea for New Year's morning?  I've got the perfect treat for you!  The perfect bit of sweetness -- a hint of bitter and a wonderful contrast to all the decadent treats and drinks you've been enjoying all night long.

So you are going to need some dandelions. Yes I said dandelion. As in the little yellow pesky flowers that your neighbor is trying to eradicate with an arsenal of chemicals. They are edible and the bitter can kind of tame the sweet of some dishes. I like to use the blooms in a hibiscus tea. The tea is sugared and the hibiscus has kind of a naturally sweet taste, so the undercurrent of slightly bitter dandelion works well.

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Served hot or cold, I like this tea for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  
It is sweet and herbal, but the dandelion adds that depth of flavor with a little touch of bitter.

Now if you are making this tea in the spring, the trick to the dandelions is to pick them when the little yellow flowers first appear.  You want as much of the yellow flower, and as little of the white seed as possible.  Grab the flower at the base and pull the yellow petals out.  They will come apart as individual petals and separate completely when cooked.  Of course, if you are making this for New Year's day, you are going to have a problem sourcing dandelions in your yard. So sadly, you are going to have to use dried dandelion leaves instead, but the bitterness still comes through to highlight the hibiscus.    You can find them in health food stores or online here:

Here's the story on the hibiscus.  I bought a giant bag of them when we were in Mexico (Click here to read more about the Mexican Market -- hanging chickens and all!)  without knowing exactly what they were.  They smelled amazing and the vendors at the market assured me they were great as tea.  Of course, this was all over a HUGE language barrier, so the first time I tried this tea, I was a little wary, but was happily surprised with the taste.  Of course, then someone mentioned that hibiscus doesn't have a scent, so I thought that they might be roses.  A bit more research later and I learned that they are in fact a Mexican hibiscus.  Of course, I didn't really care what they were - they were delicious!   You can find them at local natural food stores or on amazon in bulk.  The best price I found is this option from Davidson's.

Here she is brewing!  I make a giant pot of tea, chill the batches in pitchers and then warm up individual cups for hot tea or just pour straight over ice for iced.  Want the recipe?  Here goes!

Dandelion & Hibiscus Tea
This recipe is based on personal taste.  Taste as you go to get the right amount of sugar!

1-2 Cups of fresh Daffodils  Start with 1 cup and then up it to two if you want more flavor. 
(or start with 2 T of dried dandelion leaves and up it to add more bitterness to the brew depending on your tastes)

2-3 cups dried Hibiscus
1 cup of sugar
Fill an 8 qt stock pot with water  Stop about 2-3 inches from the top
(I added 2 black tea bags as well for a bit of dark flavor, but omit them to skimp on caffeine)

Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring as you go a few times to keep ingredients from sticking to the pan.  Once the water boils, reduce the heat until it is just barely simmering.  Let it go until your house smells amazing (15 minutes or longer to brew a stronger tea).

Let the mixture cool, then strain all the solids out, squeezing the flowers to get all the flavor out.  When cooled, pour into pitchers and chill.

Now go pour yourself a cup of tea, sit back and relax...ahhhhh...

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Hey yo!  You!
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Anything from diapers to books to food and more!  [ ...and whomever bought the bridesmaid's dress last month - THANKS!]

14 May 2012

How to Prep Fruit for Desserts

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Making strawberry shortcake?
Or slicing apples for a pie?
Maybe you are prepping pears for baking...

Do you know how to keep them fresh and NOT brown and perhaps even a little syrupy sweet?
If you don't, read on!!  There's a simple, but vital ingredient that is probably in your fridge...

First things first, wash the fruit and cut off all the edible, but not terribly tasty parts of the fruit.
For apple pie, that means peeling and coring the apples.  
For strawberry shortcake, that means popping the tops off the strawberries.

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Then you get to slice those puppies.  I cut strawberries the same way I cut onions.  Hold the fruit on both sides and then use a small knife to quickly slice horizontally.  I love the large top pieces you end up with when you slice horizontally instead of vertically.  Don't you?   The reason I hold the fruit together is to give the fruit stability from the first cut to the last.  Ever been cutting a fruit or veggie and the last two slices just kind of fall to pieces and get all mangled?  This little method solves that problem.  Just watch out for your fingers!  If you are inattentive, you could certainly cut yourself, though I've never done so.  (I have cut myself before, just never this way -- I typically cut myself when I'm reaching into the soap filled sink and accidentally grab a soapy knife - OOPS!)

PS - While you are cutting the tops off your strawberries, go ahead and toss them into your blender to use in your green smoothies, dinosaur smoothies, spinach margaritas (whatever you call them!).  I find the tops to add a bit of sweetness from the fruit and it feels good to get nutrition from "trash" normally tossed out.

You can also add beet greens, radish tops, fresh carrot greens and many other leafy greens that you otherwise might toss.  Research before eating and then blend, blend, blend!

OK, so you've been waiting for the "secret" ingredient, right?

It's lemon juice.

Whether you are going savory or sweet, always give your fruit (and veggies) a little douse of lemon juice and swoosh the fruit around with your fingers to make 
sure the juice touches every surface.  The lemon juice will keep the fruit fresh and make sure it doesn't go all nasty brown and such.

If you are making strawberry shortcake, you don't just want lemony strawberries, now do you?  Of course not.  This is the fun part -- sprinkle a good bit of white sugar all over those babies, mix and plop the dish in the fridge.  Every 30 min or so, just give the berries a little stir.   As early as 30 minutes and up to several hours later, the berries will start to get syrupy.  At that point, you better have a cake made and whipped cream ready because the strawberries are good to go!

Want to make a healthier dish?  Try substituting honey or stevia for the sugar.  Stevia can be finely chopped and thrown into the dish, but I am going to experiment with a stevia simple syrup, simply boiling water and then seeping the leaves to make a sweet syrup without the taste of "leaves".  (My husband always says anything leafy tastes like "grass" unless I can grab the flavor without the physical leaf...men...)

Anywhoo - cheers to you and enjoy the fresh fruit that will be popping up 
anyday now in your garden or at the grocery store!  
{I found my first red strawberry yesterday!  Too bad a critter ate it first :(  }
OH and HEY!  Don't forget the lemon juice!
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