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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Holiday Quick Breads, Entertaining, Gifts




Home baked goods are always welcome on any party table or in a gift basket. Recipients of such thoughtful offerings just know a little touch of love is sprinkled into every batch.

Pumpkins, apples, dates, nuts and cranberries are tradition in holiday festivities and what better and easier way to use them than for quick breads. Below are the recipes for an apple bread, a pumpkin cranberry bread, a date/nut bread and a cranberry orange bread. Quick breads freeze well so you can get some holiday baking done early.

APPLE BREAD

3 cups chopped apples
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup chopped nuts or 1 cup rolled oats
2 tsp vanilla

You'll need two bowls
Peel and chop the apples
Combine the apples and sugar
Let sit for 30 minutes
Add the oil and eggs
Beat well
Combine the flour, baking soda and salt
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients
Stir in the nuts (or oats) and vanilla
Dip into 2 greased loaf pans
Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes
Cool before removing from pans

PUMPKIN CRANBERRY BREAD

3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
4 cups flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
2 cups pumpkin
4 eggs
2 cups dried cranberries

You'll need a large bowl
Combine the dry ingredients and sift well to blend
Add the oil, water, pumpkin and eggs and mix thoroughly
Fold in the dried cranberries
Pour into 2 greased loaf pans
Bake at 325 degrees for 60 - 70 minutes
Cool before removing from pans

DATE NUT BREAD

2 cups chopped dates
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts

You'll need three bowls
Pour boiling water over dates and baking soda
Set aside
Beat eggs and sugar
Blend in the oil and vanilla
Combine the flour and baking powder
Add dry ingredients alternately with the date mixture to the batter
Fold in the nuts
Pour into 2 greased loaf pans
Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes
Cool before removing from pans

CRANBERRY ORANGE BREAD

2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tbsp grated orange rind
2 beaten eggs
4 tbsp melted butter
1 cup orange juice
4 tbsp hot water
1 1/2 cup chopped nuts or raisins
2 cups cut up cranberries

You'll need one large bowl
Combine the dry ingredients
Make a hole in the center and add the eggs and wet ingredients
Blend well
Fold in the nuts (or raisins) and the cranberries
Pour into two greased loaf pans
Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes
Cool before removing from pans



Tuesday, October 24, 2017

CRANBERRY PUMPKIN COOKIES, ENERGY BOOST BITES


This little cookie nugget is the perfect grab and go morning meal for those who say they just don't have time for breakfast. Loaded with hearty ingredients that will hold you over without the empty calories of typical baked goods.

The prep time on the recipe said 10 minutes, but it took me 15 minutes just to gather together all the ingredients! With 14 ingredients your counter will be crowded but what a win win for a cookie. There is oat flour rather than wheat. There is only a fraction of the usual sugar called for and the type used is brown sugar rather than white. There is no added fat such as unhealthy shortening. The fat comes from peanut butter and needed moisture comes from pumpkin. Rolled oats help hold it all together and additional taste and sweetness come from dried cranberries and coconut.

Basically, this sounds like a granola shaped into a more portable form. Not sweet at all, it is still tasty and delicious, great with milk or coffee. Perfect for morning but also wonderful for the lunchbox or after school snack

These cookies are chewy rather than crispy. They freeze well and are good warmed up, still half frozen or room temperature from the cookie jar.



CRANBERRY PUMPKIN BREAKFAST COOKIES
By Sarah@The Gold Lining Girl

1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup oat flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt

In a large bowl, whisk together the above dry ingredients

1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/4 cup melted peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In another bowl, whisk together the above wet ingredients
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Fold in the nuts, coconut and cranberries

Drop by spoonfuls onto either parchment lined or greased baking sheets
Bake at 350 degrees
10 minutes for small cookies or 12 - 14 minutes for large cookies
Cookies are ready when lightly browned
Remove to wire racks to cool
Store in a cool, airtight container








Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower...A Butterfly Garden Must Have



Just as the yellows of sunflower season begin to fade, late summer unfolds the bold orange of Tithonia or Mexican Sunflower (rotundifolia). Beautiful and plentiful orange 3" wide daisy-like flowers on long stems, this plant makes for a spectacular backdrop in the garden or beautiful against a barn or fence.

 

A butterfly gardeners dream, Mexican Sunflowers attract several types of butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and later, seed loving birds. To further encourage butterflies to your garden, plant not only sunflowers for nectar, but Butterfly Weed or Common Milkweed for the caterpillars. Since the bloom time is late summer, the timing is perfect for traveling monarch butterflies on their way to Mexico for the winter.

 

Native to Mexico and Central America, Tithonia is a late season annual that will gladly thrive in a home garden as long as it gets enough sun, not too rich soil and not what they call wet feet. Not exactly drought tolerant, Tithonia is more of a water meter. During hot spells they can wilt a bit if not getting enough water. If given too much fertilizer (nitrogen) you'll get a lot of foliage growth and height but a lack of flowers. Since they can reach 6 - 8 feet tall, strong winds can topple them over, but unless the roots are actually pulled out of the ground, often they'll bend a bit to continue reaching upwards towards the sun. Some people pinch them back while young to encourage a more bushy look rather than height to lessen the risk of broken branches or falling over in a storm. Though not required, deadheading will prolong the blooming time and avoid their looking straggly by late season. In general, these flowers are survivors.

You can buy already started plants from the nursery in the spring, but these flowers are easy to start from seed. Two things to remember are to not plant too early and not to plant too deep. Here in zone 6 I wait till June to plant these heat loving sunflowers. They need light to germinate so barely cover with soil. These sunflowers are multi-branched so they need room to do their best. Thin out the plants to be about 36 - 48 inches apart. By October the flowers will start going to seed which are relished by the birds. Also, the dropped seed will happily return to reseed in the spring.

Tithonia is named for Tithonus, a Trojan prince who, in Greek Mythology, was the love of Eos, the goddess of the dawn.




By mid-October these beauties are a good 6 feet but soon to go to seed


Below is the tale of where Tithonia got its name:

Eos and Tithonus (A Greek Myth)
by Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson

Long ago the goddess Eos fell in love with Ares, the god of war, and like so many others, he could not resist the beauty of this goddess of the dawn. Rosy-fingered Eos dressed in long robes of saffron, and sitting upon her throne she glimmered and cast a look upon Ares he could not resist.
Alas, Aphrodite heard news of Ares' love, and bursting with jealousy, she cast a curse upon Eos: The goddess of the dawn would never stop falling in love.

And so it was that time after time, Eos fell in love with mortal men. This was a sad fate for a goddess, for mortal men do not live forever as goddesses do. But of all the tales of heartbreak, there was no sadder story than the tale of Tithonus.

Tithonus was a proud young man, a prince of Troy, handsome and brave, and the moment Eos saw him, she fell deeply in love. That was her way, but this time she decided she must carry him away with her, and so she brought him to her palace, away from his homeland.

Naturally Tithonus loved Eos. Who could resist the love of such a beautiful goddess? Just as she does today, in those years long ago, Eos woke the world each morning with curling rings of light, and every morning she mystically brought the world out of darkness. Whenever Tithonus looked at her, he felt a glow, the way so many people feel at dawn -- as buoyant as an April morning on those days when the first buds begin to bloom.

Tithonus and Eos lived together happily, and they had two sons, Memnon and Emathion, who also became famous among men and gods. All seemed well, but as time passed, Eos remembered something she had forgotten: Mortals do not live forever.

Eos began to mourn the future. How would she survive without her love? She could not imagine such a life, and so she asked the greatest god of all, Zeus, to grant Tithonus immortality.
"Please," Eos pleaded, "let my beloved Tithonus live forever." Her eyes filled with tears, her skin flushed, and even Zeus was moved, and so he granted her request.
Now Tithonus was immortal.

Never was there a happier man. Loved by a beautiful goddess, he was a proud father and ruler of a bountiful land, and Eos too was joyful, but they hadn't realized one thing.
Tithonus would live forever, but even Zeus did not have the power to make him a god. And so, as time passed, Tithonus, like all mortals, began to age. First Eos noticed the wrinkles upon his brow, and as the years passed, his muscles began to grow weak, his arms and legs grew slender, his hair grew gray and thin. Even the light of his beloved Eos no longer gave him the strength it once had.
When Eos understood Tithonus's fate, the sight of him filled her with such sadness that she could not bear to look at him. So she left him alone and traveled, falling in love with others.

Eos fell in love with other mortal men and other gods, and when she returned to Tithonus she would see her once-handsome beloved withering away. Day after day, he grew older. Like a shadow he roamed silent palaces of the gods of the east, thinking of long-ago days, remembering Eos' wish for his immortality, and ashamed of his desire for it.

How arrogant he had been. He hadn't thought of the future. In his youth he had never even imagined waste, and now here he was wasting away. Even love and beauty and power could not save him. Soon he wanted to be like other mortal men. He wished for the return of the natural order of life.

Some mornings when a soft breeze parted the clouds, he looked down at the dark world where he had once lived, and again he looked at Eos. Seeing her mysterious glimmering face and her exquisite light, he remembered the way she had once loved him. He watched with longing as the gloomy darkness below parted, and the rosy light of his beloved Eos warmed the world. This made him still sadder, for her warmth and glow were now lost to him, and he began to sing, "Give me back my mortality." But even the gods could not grant this request.

And now the rosy shadows of Eos bathed him in coldness as he looked down at his wrinkled feet, and cried out to Eos: "Every morning you renew your beauty, but I am a fool, a fool who desired to be different from his fellow men, and now I cry to you, forever. I will never stop singing this song. I sit here remembering what I cannot be."


Eos could bear this no longer, and so she used her powers to transform this shell of a man into a cicada. She watched as he emerged from the ground, his body pale but fresh as he shed his old skin, wings spreading where once there were arms, and that voice, singing on, and on, and on.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tobacco Flower, Heirloom Nicotiana Alata, Jasmine in the Air


By the end of the summer season when many of our annuals are petering out, the stately tobacco flower will be just coming into its own! A majestic plant named for the 16th century French diplomat Jean Nicot, he once believed it was a cure-all for just about everything. While historically the leaves were used as a relaxant, it is now known to be highly addictive so fell out of favor medicinally. However, it does make for a great pesticide. Soak the dried leaves to make like a tea and then put in a foliage sprayer to apply to your garden plants.

Gardeners looking for the large, old-fashioned heirloom Tobacco Flowers won't find what they're looking for at a nursery. These tall, Jasmine smelling, night blooming beauties need to be grown from seed which can be found through seed banks or catalogs. "Only the Lonely" and  "Perfume White" are good varieties. The seeds may reseed themselves on their own or you can save those seeds and replant in the spring (wait till about 2 weeks after the last frost date for your area).

Technically a perennial, Nicotiana alata, is grown as an annual in areas with a colder winter. Flowering tobacco belongs to the nightshade or solanaceae family. Since it is in the same family as potatoes and eggplant, don't plant near each other or there is a greater chance for the pests, hornworms and flea beetles, to have a feast. Should you have a problem with flea beetles, (pin holes in the foliage) try floating row covers while the plants are young and/or diatomaceous earth. If you have plants that seem to just loose their foliage, it is probably the tobacco hornworm. Large healthy plants won't actually die from these green caterpillars, so if you want the hummingbird moths to later visit your night blooming flowers, you cannot kill all the caterpillars. But if you must kill them, hand pick them off or apply bacillus thuringiensis.

Tobacco Flower at its full size
Tobacco Flower five petaled tubular flowers
Nicotiana seeds germinate quickly in warm soil and being so small, just barely cover when planting. Choose an area with full sun and rich soil. The tall type of tobacco flower grows a good 5 feet tall and don't bloom till late in the season. The garden pack varieties are small, compact and are bred to flower even while still in the nursery packs. What they have in color, they lack in fragrance. If you want the sweet scent of jasmine, you need to plant the heirloom type, Nicotiana alata. The leaves are large as you'd expect from the tobacco plant. Fuzzy and sticky, the flowers look like long trumpets with a flare on the ends which are actually five petals.


Though nicotiana likes full sun for best growth, the flowers tend to droop in the heat and wait to perk up in the cool of the evenings. Some shade is tolerated in areas with really hot summers.
Plant in an area where you can enjoy them at night. Spending time outdoors on summer evenings is wonderful with the intoxicating scent of jasmine in the air.

The flowers are a great attraction to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds during the day and moths during the evening.

Two good sources for getting your seed are Select Seeds and Renee's Garden

Once the flowers fade and go to seed, it is easy to save the seed. Below is a video showing how to gather and save tobacco flower seeds.


Tobacco Flowers going to seed

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Jewelweed...Can Native Species Be Labeled An Invasive Plant?



 Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is actually a wild native Impatiens to North America.  Also called Touch-Me-Not or Orange Balsam, this wildflower is a fun plant and often one of the first people learning to identify wildflowers can easily recognize. The flowers are a speckled orange and look like little trumpets. Personally, I think they resemble little shrimp. Preferring damp to wet soil, Jewelweed can grow to 4 - 5 feet tall and even before flowering in late summer, it isn't difficult to identify by its , stalks, stems and leaves. The stalks are a lovely light green shade and after a rain, the droplets seems to lay on the surface. 

Should you find this plant after exposure to poison ivy or stinging nettles, break off the stems and crush them in your hands. You'll see that the stems are hollow and contain the itch relieving juice inside. Apply like a poultice to the areas of exposure for relief.

Children love to play with those little trumpets but actually they have a second kind of flower not usually noticed. There are tiny flowers without any petals that don't open but form the seeds. At the end of the summer season when they are ripe, the slightest disturbance sends the seed flying, very amusing for any age group. 


There are many articles out there calling this plant an invasive. Technically they aren't an invasive species in North America, but can be invasive, if that makes sense. They are native to North America, especially in the Northeast, but spread with such enthusiasm that many people consider them a pest. If they like their location they will spread and happily take over the space of other plants. What is nice to control this is to simply pull them out. They have shallow roots and gardeners just have to pull them where they aren't wanted, no gloves needed to get a grip as is the case with many plants considered weeds. 

Hopefully people encourage a natural habitat spot in their landscaping because these flowers are adored by bees, butterflies and birds. Insects need the nectar and the birds love the seeds. 

Exposure to poison ivy or stinging nettles is never planned so it is a good idea to have a remedy on hand. You don't want to push off applying something to appease the itch or you'll end up with oozing blisters and the tendency to spread. Jewelweed infused in apple cider vinegar is a perfect home remedy that works. Lavender essential oil is added for its healing properties to help with inflammation and harm done from scratching.

Once you learn what a wild plant is called and its beneficial uses, oftentimes attitudes change and it isn't just a weed. By September Jewelweed is in full bloom and brightens up roadsides, hedgerows and wet areas.

The natural world is a fascinating place and it is wonderful if children are introduced at a young age and learn to appreciate and take notice of it all.

Here is a good article all about "leaves of three, let it be" 


Friday, June 30, 2017

Passion for Patchouli

Patchouli

A first introduction to Patchouli (Pogostemon Cablin or Pogostemon Patchouli) is often met with a description of it having a definite earthy scent to it. So just what does that mean, that it smells like dirt? No, it smells like nature and that is a wonderful thing. Some describe it as musty and too strong and others think of it as exotic and perfect in that it's lingering scent reaches deep into the emotions.

Patchouli has been used in incense and fragrance oils for centuries. It brings a sense of the sacredness of life and the need to care for our earth and everything in it. It helps us realize that to just "be" and do nothing at times is a good thing, that contemplating has a purpose and helps one get focused for action.

It is simply not true that the main reason the "hippies" of the 1960's and 1970's loved patchouli was that it covered up the scent of marijuana. Patchouli symbolized the love of nature and the escape from what was called the "establishment". The younger generation developed different ideas and ideals which were often met with labeling and indifference from the older age groups.

The essential oil of Patchouli is extracted by steam distillation of the leaves. All the benefits and uses for this plant are amazing. It is an antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, deodorant, fungicide, insecticide, sedative, antidepressant, diuretic and boosts healing and the metabolism by stimulating the generation of new cells.

INSECT REPELLANT PROPERTIES
Patchouli has long been used to protect clothes and fabrics from insect damage.

ANTISEPTIC
The essential oil protects wounds from developing infection.

FUNGICIDE
By inhibiting fungal growth, patchouli can help with problems such as Athlete's Foot.

ANTIPHLOGISTIC
Containing patchoulene, patchouli soothes inflammation, therefore can help externally with skin conditions as well as internally with the pain from arthritis.

ANTIDEPRESSANT
By stimulating the release of pleasure hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, patchouli helps with feelings of sadness, anxiety and simply feeling better.

APHRODISIAC
By stimulating hormones, estrogen and testosterone, patchouli can boost indifference and lack of interest in the sex drive.

ASTRINGENT
By contracting blood vessels, patchouli stimulates contractions in muscles, nerves and skin. This helps with the symptoms of aging we see in the skin. Wonderful for use in face and body creams and lotions.

DEODORANT
The strong, musky aroma of patchouli helps eliminate or mask body odor and it's lingering scent helps the protection last.

SEDATIVE
By soothing inflammation and calming to the nerves, patchouli helps relax the body in order to get a good night's sleep.

For more information on any of the below items, just click on the listing underneath the picture.




Body Spray

Body Butter

Body Lotion

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Bath Oil
Bath Salts

Body Powder

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Nights and No Fireflies...What's Happening to Them?



Summer is a time for picnics and outdoor parties that often extend into the evening hours. Watching the children running around having a ball with glow sticks got me sadly contemplating on what was missing in this picture. Years ago there were no glow sticks to entertain children after dark. Kids were enchanted with the stars and the magical mystery of fireflies. Some people call them june bugs, others simply call them lightning bugs. What is happening to them?



Just as with the bees, the answer lies with habitat loss, and pesticide use, but there is another factor and it is called light pollution.

These insects aren't flies, they are actually beetles, and that glow comes from a chemical reaction. 
Both male and female fireflies use their flashing lights to communicate. Their language of light is used to attract mates, ward off predators and defend their territory. Too much light caused by streetlights, car lights and suburbia in general, interrupts the sync of firefly flash patterns. Difficulty for fireflies to signal each other results in fewer larvae being born with every passing season.

Open fields and forests, waterways and bogs, are all disappearing as development makes its slow crawl across what was once uninterrupted habitats. Most species of fireflies thrive as larvae in rotting wood and forest litter at the margins of ponds and streams. As they go through their life cycle, most stay around where they were born. The environment of choice is warm with areas of wet spots.

The female lays about 500 eggs in sheltered areas that contain damp soil. After about a month the tiny larva hatch and begin feeding as they get ready for the next stage when they become pupae. The larval period can last from one to three years. During this stage the fireflies look like small worms and crawl along the ground. They are carnivorous and eat worms, snails and slugs by injecting a digestive enzyme and then sucking out the liquid. When big enough, the larvae digs into the ground and goes through the pupae stage. It forms a hard exterior shell that is what we are familiar with when we see them. This stage of metamorphosis takes them to the adult firefly which emerges in early summer. Once adults, the fireflies only live another few weeks. They may or not even eat during this short span. The purpose is to find mates and reproduce. So if light pollution creates enough of a problem to interfere with this process, these adults won't have the time to mate and lay their eggs before their life span ends.

This little video shows the life cycle of the firefly:


There are ways we can make a difference for these little guys. Make your own difference where you live. Avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides. Don't feel every part of your landscape has to be under control. Let spots naturalize to provide the habitats needed for all the stages of life. Learn what invasive species are a problem in your area and remove them to encourage the natives to thrive. Unless you have good reason for outdoor lighting to shine throughout the night, turn it off.

Children don't miss what they've never seen. Fireflies bring a sense of magic to our world and it would be a real loss to lose them.