Yes, Please

I'll take one of each...

All photos and recipes via Ming Makes Cupcakes


Container Gardening - Part II

I mentioned in this post how excited I was to plant my container garden. Well, finally, after two months of talking about and too many busy weekends to do it, I've planted my little garden (with help from Mike). It's nothing compared to the spectacular home gardens cultivated by my friends and family, but it's my own little home grown farmer's market, so I'm excited nonetheless.

To start out, Mike and I headed to Lowe's and grabbed two of these babies. This is the same soil that's in my compost bin.

We also grabbed three of these large neutral planters to make a nice symmetrical little garden on the corner of our little patio.

Although I originally intended to grow:

  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Lettuce (such as Black Seeded Simpson)
  • Green Onion
  • Chive
  • Flat Leaf Parsley
  • Basil
The availability at the store and Mike's general enthusiasm, led us to choose:

  • Cucumbers
  • Serrano Peppers
  • Yellow Squash
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • There were no lettuce plants,
  • We forgot to grab the cilantro
  • There was a green pepper plant in the tomato crate
So, we'll have to head back to the store and grab the cilantro and tomatoes, and we planted the green pepper anyway. All the plants we chose were Bonnie Plants of the "plant the pot" variety, which makes it quick and easy to plant.

(Click the picture for a closer look)

So here's my little garden, isn't it cute? Mike joked that the squash plant will probably only produce one little squash, but it will be the best squash ever.

Don't be shy readers! Post a comment or link below about your experiences with gardening. Just click the word "comments", write your comment, choose if you want to post with a Google account, just your name or anonymously, and click publish.

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Queen of Tarts

So I picked up a HUGE container of strawberries at Costco, promising myself I would find some recipes so that I could use them up. Thus far, I've brought them in my lunch with a container full of Trader Joe's Vanana Yogurt (Vanilla-Banana) for dipping. Then I made this beauty for dessert after a nice weekday dinner with my parents.

I have to say I cheated a bit. I had an extra store bought pie crust leftover from my quiche recipe. On another note, mine turned out a bit soupy. Next time I'll add a touch more cornstarch. Here is the recipe:

1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces, divided
3 1/2 tablespoons ice water
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoons corn starch
pinch salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoons raw sugar

To prepare crust, lightly spoon 1 cup flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 1 cup flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; cut in 3 tablespoons butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 1/2 tablespoons ice water; stir just until moist. Turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface; knead lightly 5 times. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Place each dough portion between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; roll each dough portion, still covered, into an 8-inch circle. Chill 20 to 30 minutes (until the plastic wrap peels easily away from the dough).

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the berries, sugar, lemon juice, corn starch and salt. Stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 350°. Uncover dough; place dough circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Arrange half of the strawberries in a pinwheel pattern in one of the dough circles, starting in the middle and forming concentric circles of strawberries, leaving a 2-inch border. Repeat with the second dough circle and remaining berries.

Fold up the edges of the dough circles over the berries, crimping to seal. Lightly brush the pastry with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle the two rounds with the raw sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

image and recipe via TheKitchenSinkRecipes

So, with lunch for Mike and I for yesterday and today, as well as this delicious tart, I've used up about 2/3 of the container. Not bad. I might throw some more in some pancakes for dinner tomorrow.

This Strawberry Freezer Jam sounds like another good way to tackle a mountain of berries.

And, of course, if I had a juicer, I'd make this delicious looking Strawberry Apple Juice

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Things to do 2010 Updated

So, I figured I'd check into my list and see how I've been doing. The verdict? Not so well. I've only managed to complete TWO things on my list. Well, summer will be here soon and with the warm weather and long days, hopefully I'll be able to get more accomplished.

Cascade Drive-In movie theatre - West Chicago, IL

Shakespeare in the Park - Cantigny Park - Wheaton, IL

Compete in a 5K (actual race to be decided)

Go to a cubs game (nope, I've never been to one)

French Market - Lisle, IL (doesn't open until June)

Volunteer at a food pantry/soup kitchen

Take Olive to the Montrose Dog Beach - Chicago, IL

Lemon Creek Winery and Fruit Farm - Berrien Springs, MI (heading there in June during our summer vacation!)

Have a picnic at the Morton Arboretum - Glen Ellyn, IL

Learn to Knit or Crochet

Make Sushi

Go to a Bears Game

Rock Climbing at Vertical Endeavors - Warrenville, IL

Climb the Naperville Carillon


Compost This

So to help fertilize my garden, and to achieve my goal of taking out the garbage once a month. I decided to start a compost bin. Now this is no easy task is I live in a 1400 square foot townhouse with a 10x10 concrete patio with a little bit of grass that I can't really touch. So I spent some time perusing the internet in hopes to find a nice small compost bin that would work. There were some nice options out there:

This was not a bad option, but I was not stoked about the $200+ price tag

This one's cool because it looks like a cannon, but it's even more expensive topping out over $300

This one is just great because it looks like that giant ball from The Incredibles, but it's still a bit in your face as far as size and shape.

So I googled "make your own compost bin" and found this great how to. I also stumbled across a similar tutorial that uses the same "how to" over at one of my favorite blogs; Young House Love

Here is the tutorial

Recycle or buy a plastic pail/bin with a tight fitting lid about 24 inches tall or taller.

With a drill, drill 8 to 10 small holes in the bottom of your container for aeration purposes. 
Sorry no image, Mike did this part really quick while I made dinner

Place some shredded newspaper or dry leaves on the bottom of your compost bin, fill about 1/8 - 1/4 full.

Since we live in a townhouse with a lawn service and because it's May, we were out of luck on getting any leaves, but we made due with some shredded paper (the recycling company hates to take this when we put it in the recycle bin)

Place dirt from your garden on top of the newspaper, until your compost is 1/2 full.

Again, living in a townhouse, I had no extra dirt lying around. The tiny bit of soil that I do have is reserved for my hostas. So, I grabbed this at Home Depot planning on using whatever was left for my container garden.

Place your compost bin in a shady area away from your home in the back yard. If you live in an apartment or have no backyard you can place your bin on the patio. Be sure your compost is not in full sun or your compost will dry out

Now, place any food scraps or paper products into compost such as fruit, vegetables, crushed egg shells, paper towels, etc.

I started this little guy going under the sink in order to have some scraps ready to go.

(Boo forgetting to eat a pound of organic spinach and having it spoil in the fridge)

Give your compost a little stir with a shovel or stick, making sure to cover your food scraps with dirt

Spray with lukewarm water until moist, but not soaking wet.
I chose to forgo this step as I started with moist soil

With a drill make 8 to 10 small holes on bin lid.

Place lid on compost, every other day you add food scraps to bin you should give it a stir. Mixing the compost will help breakdown the scraps faster.

It may not be the prettiest place for a compost bin, but at least it kind of blends in with the grill and the gigantic patio box

Wait 2 - 3 months to use your compost. Compost can be used as mulch to cover flower beds, as potting soil and sprinkled over your grass as a lawn conditioner. Don't use it all though, save at least 1/3 of your original compost and then you can start all over again.


Guest Bedroom Redesign

So, originally the plan was to redo the second bedroom like this. But, after some discussing we decided to turn the second bedroom into an actual guest bedroom since many a family house guest chooses to sleep at my Aunt's house nearby due to the fact that there is only an air mattress at our place. We paired down the computer a bit and bought a small desk to go in our underused overhang/balcony that overlooks the first floor. I'll post a pic of that soon (we have to do some painting/accessorizing first). So the second bedroom took on a life of it's own and we're running with it.

Sorry for the poor quality, I took it on my iPhone in the store with a couple of other options.

We went to Lowes and picked up some of this wallpaper. I only ordered one roll since, apparently, I don't know how to calculate square footage. Fortunately, after ordering another roll, calling to make sure it was the same lot number, putting up the first roll, the second roll not arriving on Friday as expected, my in-laws staying another day in hopes it would come on Monday, thinking we may have to order another roll because the pattern repeat is so large that we keep having to cut off a substantial amount, it finally arriving on Monday at 7:20 pm, and finishing putting it up until 11:00 pm - it's finally up.

Then during one of our many trips to Target, I spotted this beauty. It's part of the Dwell Studio for Target line that I adore.

Then during another trip to Target for cardboard bankers boxes we found this set. We bought the quilt, the last sham they had in stock and some matching organic sheets.

Then we headed over to ikea and found this little guy that would be perfect in the corner with the above yellow and gray pillow and a throw.

Next step is to repurpose the top of our white desk into a headboard, buy a bed frame and mattress, and add a few more accessories. I'll post the before and after pics, as soon as we're finished.

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