Yup, I said it. I am BFFs with worms. Ask any gardener and they will say the same. Worms are beneficial to the garden because they aerate and fertilize your garden. They break down plant and leaf matter and turn it into worm castings (worm poop doesn’t sound as cool) that fertilize your garden. They are nature’s best garden helper. Having worms in your garden is a sign of a healthy soil.
There are many different types of worms. Worms that live near the surface, worms that live in vertical burrows that descend several feet below the surface and worms that live in horizontal burrows just below the surface. With all these different and dissecting burrows, it’s no wonder the garden soil is aerated and the roots are watered so easily when you have worms in your garden.
As any gardener will tell you, the nutrients in your soil and the health of your soil is extremely important. All the minerals in your veggies come directly from your soil. Veggies just won’t grow properly in nutrient-depleted soil. So, how do we create nutrient-dense soil?
Encouraging worms to work their magic is definitely one way to do this. Worms love to eat decaying matter and turn it into castings that are very fertile – containing more iron, calcium, phosphorous and nitrogen than the soil around them. More organic and nutrient dense soil is everything a happy growing vegetable needs. So we need to create a worm garden….
The best way to create a happy and healthy worm garden is first to find some worms and then to make sure they are fed and not disturbed. The best way to find some great garden worms is to wait until a wet and rainy evening and then go out in the yard with a headlamp and a bucket….sounds like a funny situation, right? – I should know. My family has 4 fishermen in it so we know when to take advantage of a good spring rain. Nightcrawlers are the big fat worms that are great for the garden and for the end of a hook. It makes sense to keep a good supply of them for when needed while also creating a better garden!
Now, FEED them: Worms love their plant matter and leaf litter, so make sure to keep your garden full of compostable material. Do you remember The Magic School Bus? Ms. Frizzle taught us all about how much life is actually in dead and decaying matter (The Rot Squad – 1st season) and how important it is to so many other creatures in our circle of life. Don’t be afraid of a little light composting in the garden, it’s super easy. Even if you just put out your coffee grinds, a banana peel or some dried leaves for the worms, they will be happy and happy worms stay put.
Now, DO NOT DISTURB: Another important way to create a happy worm garden is to NOT till your soil. Just leave it be. Worms don’t like to be tilled (duh) but if you must dig, use a garden fork so you wont disturb or dissect any of them. They will not grow into two worms if they get cut…..one side of the worm maaaaay live, but more likely, you just killed one of your free garden workers. I don’t think their coworkers will want to stick around.
Work with your garden worms and they will keep your garden growing happily for years.
I love a sheet pan, one pot, easy peasy meal. I hate washing dishes and let’s face it, when I convince my kids to wash them…..I gotta do them again afterwards. The solution is just to use less dishes.
My instant pot makes some incredible weeknight dishes for our busy family of 5. The crock pot would too, if I was a better meal planner. The sheet pan is my best friend. Ya know when you finally feel comfortable enough with a specific cooking method that you can stray from following recipes exactly? That’s a sheet pan meal for me.
Sure, I’ve still made mistakes, but who cares…..I only got one pan to clean.
One of my absolute favorite sheet pan meals is my Fajita Bowl. It’s a perfect medley of chicken, peppers and onions and makes for great lunch meal preps for the week. During the winter, I love to do a medley of carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts with chicken. But, today it is Spring, and I am trying out a new recipe from Erin at Well Plated. It caught my eye because of the asparagus. The asparagus is bountiful right now. It’s not in my garden this year (since I dug it all up) but the markets are overflowing with beautiful looking stems. Asparagus is one of my favorite veggies and roasting them in the oven is super easy (I also love to just saute them) and delicious.
I am going to wing the amounts on this recipe since I do not need to cook this much for my family. But, that’s the beauty of sheet pan cooking – throw what ya got on the pan, add some oils and herbs and roast away. So simple and satisfying.
Cook time was quick and easy, but there was quite alot of juice from the asparagus which stopped my potatoes from getting nice and crispy (the way I like them!). So, I suggest you either do your asparagus separately (so much for one sheet pan!) or raise the food up with a wire rack under the food in the sheet pan. If the juice doesn’t bother you, no worries. The family still enjoyed it all and nobody had anything bad to say about the recipe. Success! It’s not easy to please 5 people at the same time.
Delish. Go make yourself some. Squeeze some lemon on top before serving and a little extra sprinkle of rosemary. Best part….I got leftovers for tomorrow. Mmm… Unless my kids eat it during the night.
Hair care products are one of the worst offenders when it comes to nasty ingredients that are absorbed into our skin. I want to keep all 5 heads in this house as safe as possible so I need safe and clean ingredients. There are certainly options out there, but they are NOT within my budget.
The boys don’t necessarily need a detangler since their hair is short, but my daughter and I definitely do. She has super thick hair down to her cheeks and my baby fine hair tangles if you look at it the wrong way. I am not a “roll the windows down” kind of girl unless I am wearing a hat. That would be disastrous.
I have tried many different kinds but the ones that make my hair super soft are always the ones that I don’t want to put on my hair and I definitely don’t want those chemicals on my daughter’s head either. I have come to grips with the fact that I may have to be patient or forgiving when it comes to moving to a more natural hair detangler and that’s OK. We shall see!
When looking at the varying recipes, I noticed that most of them used some sort of carrier oil (like jojoba or argan) or glycerin as the main ingredient and basically, the most active ingredient for detangling. Sure, that makes sense. But, with my baby fine hair, any amount of oil sitting on my hair can make it look greasy or wet. So, I need to be very light-handed with my spraying. There were also a bunch of recipes that use coconut milk, but I do not want to have to refrigerate my detangler….that’s just odd.
I found 3 recipes that seemed simple enough, so I am starting simple first:
Grab a 4 oz spray bottle and mix in a measuring cup 1 Tbsp of either Jojoba Oil, Argan Oil or Almond oil. I used Argan. Add 10-15 drops each of 2 different oils of your choice. Lemon + Rosemary or Lavender + Lemon or Peppermint + Rosemary or whatever you like. I just used 20 drops of Rosemary since I also use a Rosemary Homemade Shampoo. An extra optional ingredient is 1/2 tsp of Aloe Vera Gel. Pour that into your spray bottle and fill the rest up with distilled water. This is from a recipe at Natural Living Family.
Shake and use before combing!
Such a simple recipe that can be made in minutes – no joke.
Let’s see if it works…. YES!
This was not a full test run, since my hair was already washed, but I wet my head and sprayed and combed my hair with complete ease. Tomorrow I will do a full test after showering – stay tuned!
Last week, my son found a tick on his thigh after an evening walk in the woods the night before. He was bit by a deer tick. Ugh.
Ticks make us all nervous these days because of the diseases you can get from them…..specifically Lyme. Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that you get from the bite of an infected tick. Fever, headache, joint pain/stiffness, fatigue and basic flu like symptoms are typically how Lyme presents itself. Some people also get a rash around the bite that looks like a bullseye. It can be easily treated if caught early but because of it’s similar symptoms to other illnesses, diagnosis can be difficult and is often missed.
We live in Connecticut, where Lyme was first discovered and for some odd reason, it makes me more scared of getting bitten and infected. Especially when it comes to my kids. Lyme is treated with heavy rounds of antibiotics which are perfect for getting rid of the baddies, but they also get rid of the good bacteria that I have worked so hard to put in my gut and my family’s guts as well. Gut health is very important to overall health and happiness.
Preventative measures must be taken because we simply aren’t going to stop going outdoors for fear of tick bites:
We have a tick removal kit in our bathroom just in case of bites. Removing a tick is not as easy as you think – if the tick has bitten you and you grab its body to pull it off, the head could be left inside you. Yuck. The entire tick must be removed. This is why prevention is key.
I have put my fair share of toxic chemicals on my body to keep away insects. I would much prefer a cleaner option for myself and for my kids. I read that ticks detect animals’ breath and body odors, as well as sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Most insect repellents work by masking the human odor…..this is how DEET works. Essential oils can do the same although they may not be as effective as DEET. Although, nothing is completely reliable – not even DEET.
While researching combinations of essential oils to use for a tick repellent, there were several different suggestions.
The lists go on….
The only thing to do is try them out. Start with 1/2 cup distilled water and 1 cup vinegar and then add your oils of choice. Some recipes just used distilled water. I saw no explanation behind the amount of drops of each oil and some recipes just used equal amounts – 9 drops of each or 20 drops of each. Who knows? I suppose you should just find a combination that you like. Spray it on your clothes whenever you go outdoors. When you return inside, check yourself for ticks. **QUICK TIP: use a sticky roller on your clothing to catch any ticks!**
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From what I have read, the spirochete that carries the Lyme bacteria that comes from the tick bite takes a long time to travel from the belly of the tick into your body, so if you catch a tick on your body within 24-36 hours, you have a much greater chance of not catching the infection at all.
Prevention is everything! Use those essential oils – besides, you will definitely smell better than bug spray.
I LOVE to dye eggs – it’s such a fun and creative activity. If you saw my recent post on how to dye eggs naturally, you can see I dyed quite a few. Every year, we go through this dance where the entire week after Easter becomes a challenge for all the different ways to eat up the eggs. It’s also the week of crazy sugar-high kids and cats pooping easter grass. Nothing new to see here…
So, what now? My kids are already over the hard boiled eggs I suggested they eat for dinner, for lunch and for breakfast. Time to get creative…
My favorite basic ways to eat up eggs are:
But, sometimes we need a little bit more to keep away the boredom. So, I compiled a list of some more creative egg recipes. Enjoy.
Soy Sauce Eggs from Belly Full:
Chickpea and Tomato Salad from Simply Recipes:
HBE and Avocado Bowl from Eating Bird Food: (because I love complete meals in bowls)
A vegetarian Chickpea & Fennel Sub Sandwich from Martha Stewart:
There is nothing extravagant about this “recipe” but it is one of my favorites and you can use already cooked bacon which makes it SUPER easy from Meal Plan Addict:
An egg casserole for breakfast which uses 8 of those HBE from All Recipes:
Macaroni Salad from Taste of Home:
Egg and Asparagus Breakfast Croquettes from Taste of Home:
A Six Layer Salad that can be made ahead from Taste of Home:
Scotch Eggs make a great appetizer from Sweet and Savory:
See? There are other ways to eat up all those hard boiled eggs!
Our backyard garden is in dire need of an update. The raised beds have rotted after several years, the trees have overgrown and I learned what worked from our first design and what did not. I am ready to make some big changes.
When planning a garden, there are many factors to take into account. Sunlight, ease of use, eye appeal, watering, how much you are willing/able to care for, what plants you even want to grow, what space they take up and your own abilities. This is the 3rd home where I have created a backyard garden so I have a pretty good idea of what I like to grow and what I can grow. I know my hardiness zone and I know my level of commitment so it’s time for an upgrade.
I knew I definitely wanted something a little taller than my last one – I previously had about an 8″ high raised bed. This time, I am building a 12″ high raised bed.
My husband suggested that I build two 16×4 foot beds with a 3 foot space between them to allow movement and mowing. The boards I planned to use were 2×6’s at 8′ long, so a 16′ bed would work. But, my last beds were long and I found I just didn’t have enough ease of access to all the veggies so I wanted smaller sized beds this time. I decided on 4’x8′ beds – 4 of them. I also wanted to build them in a more central location in my backyard. Last time I built my beds against the fence and that took away even more access to the garden veggies. Now I can walk entirely around each garden bed which gives me lots of access. #easeofuse
I used pine boards to make my garden because I like that my walls rot after 6 or so years so I can change my design again, but cedar or redwood will last much longer if you want a more permanent choice. I used 4 2″x3″ stud boards to create my stakes but you can buy stakes if you don’t want the extra work of cutting them. I was just trying to save some $$. Oh, and do NOT use treated wood – that stuff has arsenic in it and you DO NOT want that leaching into your food. #keepitclean
OK, you are going to get the instructions that I finally figured out on my last two beds. The ones that are actually pretty easy and work perfectly. The first two garden beds are not as pretty, they were definitely my learning experience. But, I wanted to do this independently (usually my husband takes over these types of projects and I just hand him tools) because I felt a desire to get it done asap and I work from home which gives me the liberty to work outside during the week. I also love a good challenge!
I could have gotten this done in one day if I knew what I was doing. But, now that I do, I kinda wanna build raised beds all over the house…..where can I go next? Although, 2 days to get this completed is not too shabby either. My over 40 body is not as excited.
Let’s start with CUTTING:
These are garden beds, not indoor furniture, so I am not going to get really exact here, but I do want my work to look nice and be functional. (which it is!) So, start with making your cuts. Fashion some protective eyewear and have fun – rotary saws are loud, but not hard to use. So, to make a 4’x8′ bed that is 12″ tall, you need FOUR 8′ boards and FOUR 4′ boards and FOUR stakes. I cut all of my 4 footers together – so for 4 beds, I needed 16 4′ boards, so I cut 8 boards in half. The rotary saw is easy, just make sure to raise your boards off the ground and hold on so it doesn’t pinch the blade when you are completing your cut.
Then I needed to cut my stakes – **Lesson Learned** – I thought I could just take those studs and make FOUR 2′ stakes out of them by cutting each piece at an angle. NO. Stakes must have a point in the CENTER of the bottom, not just to one side. If you try to drive a stake into the ground with only one slanted side, it will move out of position by inches. I learned the hard way. NO bueno. So, go ahead and cut those angles every 2 feet, but then take each stake and cut off that little tip so the stake has a point in the center.
Next, time to BUILD:
Now, I already measured my space and figured out where the beds would sit relative to other structures in the yard (fences and shed wall) and made sure to have an equal spacing all around the beds. 3′ border around the entire garden area and in between beds. Math IS important! And so is measuring…..do it more than once. #measuremeasuremeasure
The first step is to make a box. Take 2 long boards and 2 short boards and put one screw into each joint. Just one. This gives you some play to make sure your box is in the right place and is not a parallelogram. Place your box in the right spot and than measure the diagonal to make sure it’s square. You don’t need to do trigonometry, just make sure both diagonals are the same.
Once you get your diagonals equal and your beds in the right spot, put the 4 stakes in each corner. Just enough to be level or lower than your 12″ bed height. I marked each stake with a 11″ mark and hammered them in to that point. Measure your diagonals again just to make sure nothing shifted.
Now make another box on top of your first box. Make sure when you are making these boxes that you are lining up the edges nicely. Check your diagonals AGAIN and then once they are all good, you can screw the top and bottom boards into the stakes.
And that is it. Seriously. You CAN do it yourself and pretty quickly once you realize how easy this is. I may stain them with some linseed oil or not….I will figure that out this weekend…..
I used a staple gun to put weed block paper on the bottom of the beds. It’s an extra step that will make a huge difference.
Now, it’s time to fill those babies up. Find out if your local transfer station has free compost for residents. I know mine does, so I will be hitting that next week! Then I can add more structures….I have plans for growing upwards and maybe even creating a small pergola between the beds on the long side so grow something up and over for fun! Stay tuned!
With 3 kids and busy school nights, pasta is a regular occurance in our house. I definitely don’t mind because I love it too. There are so many options for different shapes of pasta and so many different ways to eat it. So versatile.
I grew up eating homemade spaghetti sauce from a recipe by my mother’s Aunt Teeny. It was a favorite of mine (and my sisters!) and always a special treat. When I was old and brave enough, I made it myself with all the fresh meatballs and italian sausages. I believe that recipe card is the most worn and well loved of all the recipes I own. #celebritystatus
I will never stop making Aunt Teeny’s sauce, but, I need a new simple and delicious pasta dish to add to my medley of recipes. Something that will use fresh herbs from the garden…
I found a delicious option from Half Baked Harvest that I just adjusted a little bit to fit better with my lazy cooking style. After a full day of building raised garden beds in my backyard, I still had time and energy to whip up this simple and fresh recipe AND gobble it down while still standing at the countertop. No time to sit when your food is this good.
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook your pasta to al dente. How cute are these little birds nests of pappardelle?
2. In a skillet, heat your EVOO over high heat. Add mushrooms when it’s ready and let them cook undisturbed for around 5 minutes. I had 16 oz of mushrooms in my skillet, but I love them so much, I may add more next time. Give them a stir and cook for another 3-5 minutes. To be honest, I have no idea how long I cooked my mushrooms for….I just know how I like them cooked and just let ’em do their thing.. Reduce heat to medium and add the butter, smashed garlic, half the rough chopped basil, all the sage and thyme to the skillet. Mix and cook for another 5 minutes (or whatever?)
It smells amazing in here. I need to cook with more fresh herbs…
3. Add the wine if you haven’t already drank it along with the lemon juice and stir. When it gets back to a simmer, add your cooked pasta to the skillet. Give it a sprinkle of salt and pepper and just let it incorporate for a few minutes. Remove the garlic. Once the pasta is warmed, plate the meal and sprinkle with other half of roughly chopped basil. Shave some cheese on top – or not.
That’s it. Pour yourself another glass of white wine and scarf it down fast, because you can’t believe how delicious it is. Mmmmmm…
This dish is easy to make and fairly quick. When the garden gets growing again, it will be easy to harvest fresh herbs. Now I just need to figure out how to forage for wild mushrooms…..
Just when you get the latest kitchen gadget, another one comes along that all your friends are talking about. Now ya got major FOMO. But, how many kitchen gadgets can you have? Crock pots, Instant Pots, Kitchenaid Mixers, Air Fryers, Immersion Blenders, Vitamix Blenders, Ninja Blenders, Nespresso machines, Slap Chops, Pizza Stones, etc, etc, etc…. It is almost dizzying how many things are created to make our lives easier, when they just complicate them instead.
Let’s keep it simple.
I’ve had a few blenders in my life and none of them have ever actually done a good job blending. Then I got a Vitamix. Yes, it’s an investment, but I will NEVER have another blender again. This baby does everything from margaritas to hot soup. (as you probably already know from my soup posts!)
At one time, I wanted to try juicing, but I had just bought my Vitamix and was not ready to make another big purchase. Instead, I looked into the benefits of Blending VS. Juicing.
There are benefits and downsides for both blending and juicing. Juicing packs quite a nutritious punch in a small package. It also has less fiber for those on a specific diet. Blending keeps the fiber which is great for digestion and keeping you feeling fuller longer.
So, what do I do now? I blend in my Vitamix. Making smoothies is easy once you figure out the correct balance of liquid to solid to make a perfect blend. I freeze fruit when it starts to get a little soft – when people aren’t as excited to eat the fruit whole, but it will still work perfectly in a smoothie. Veggies work perfectly too – kale, celery, spinach, etc.
A major benefit of blending is that you can prepare the perfect combination and measurement of veggies and fruits and liquids ahead of time and freeze. Just try these amazing smoothie prep ideas:
Happy & Healthy Blending!
Sometimes you just have to do what the avocado tells you to do. It is quite a fickle fruit (yes, it’s a fruit – a berry in fact). Avocados love to ripen at either the best or the worst of times. Sometimes you have a perfect week where one ripens each day consecutively and then some days all 10 ripen at once and you have to scramble to be creative. But, no matter the hassle avocados put us through, there are a ton of us that would do anything for their creamy goodness.
Last night, I was having a dinnertime conversation with my family about chocolate. I blurted out that I didn’t trust someone that didn’t like chocolate. (I mean, really?) But, what about avocados? How can you NOT like an avocado? They taste amazing, are extremely versatile, chock full of nutrients, super creamy and can even be used on your skin. I mean, come on?
Avocados can be eaten in guacamole, used as a spread in sandwiches, baked into cookies, brownies, pies or pancakes, transformed into gelato, chopped over a salad, made into a salad dressing or a pasta sauce, blended into a cold soup, spread onto toast and even eaten with a fried egg and a spoon.
So many ways to eat something that is delicious and…
When my avocados ripen just in time for Taco Tuesday, we celebrate with guacamole. When there is bacon and fresh tomato available at the same time, we do a BLAT. Man that was a great sandwich….
But, the rest of the week, I use the sweet creaminess for avocado toast. It actually amazes me how fulfilling one slice of toast and half an avocado can be. It tastes delicious and keeps me satisfied. Not only that, but there are many ways to jazz up your avocado toast. Here are some of my favorite ways to eat avocado toast:
The Basic – avocado and Everything But The Bagel seasoning (If you haven’t tried this seasoning yet, you MUST get it. Like now. It is delicious on just about anything. Well, maybe not ice cream. But, OMG):
The Breakfast – avocado and a poached egg:
The BATT – bacon, avocado, tomato, toast (I suppose some sprouts would be awesome on this too!):
The Dessert – avocado strawberries and a drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar:
I actually ate the breakfast and the dessert today because when your avocado is ripe, you gotta do what you gotta do. There is nothing more delicious than a perfect avocado toast for all your different moods.
Clean plate club for me when avocado is involved.