Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Win $100.00

I'm so excited to tell you that I'm a semi-finalist in The Chef Boyardelicious Recipe Contest, and you could win $100.00 just for voting for me :)  This was a 10 week competition and there were A LOT of entries. I have to be honest, I entered this contest because the Grand Prize is pretty fantastic.  One year of free groceries in the form of a $5200.00 grocery gift card, WOW !  This would really help our family out.

So you may be asking, how do I win this $100 ? Well Chef Boyardee is giving away $100 a day to one person just for voting.  Of course I'm hoping you'll vote for my recipe :) My Recipe is Called Easy Peasy  Mac & Cheesy Kickin Pot Pie.  It's Mac & Cheese with Pepper Jack, jalapeno's and a flaky puff pastry crust. This is the photo I submitted with the recipe.
Here's the way my recipe looks on the Chef Boyardee Site.  They cooked and photographed all the semi-finalist dish, I'm rather happy with how my recipe turned out.
You can vote once every 24 hours until April 8th.  You do this through Facebook.  You will need to allow the app the first time, and you do need to register when you vote (since you are entering for the $100 ).  Here is the link  https://apps.facebook.com/conegrarecipecontest/contests/186874/voteable_entries
Please let me know if you're having any problems.
Good luck and thank you so much for any votes you may give me.  I REALLY do appreciate it :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Welcome Spring with Fragrant Flowers

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I LOVE flowers, I love growing them, I love arranging  them, but my favorite flowers are fragrant flowers.  This time of year, I long for the smell of fragrant flowers.  It brings Spring indoors, and makes pathways and window boxes all the more magical.  I thought I would share some of my favorite Spring fragrant flowers with you. Look for them at your local nursery or floral dept.  I promise they will put Spring in your step :) 
We'll start with my favorite fragrance first (although it's hard to pick :)  Hyacinth.  This is a Spring bulb.  You plant Spring bulbs in the fall and this spring bulb requires some frost. I have these planted along my walkway so you can smell them as you walk up to the house. Consider placing a small vase of these in your guest bathroom  or in your kitchen window, it will reward you with a delightful fragrance.
Hyacinths bloom about the same time as daffodils in the garden. Don't mistake fragrant Hyacinths for the small grape hyacinths. Grape hyacinths are lovely but much smaller and not fragrant.  One of my favorite places for fragrant Hyacinths is in a window box.  When the Spring breeze blows the fragrance indoors, it's pure heaven :)
 Sweet Peas, I adore sweet peas!  These can be hard to find at a floral dept, so consider growing them.  They prefer cool weather and can take a light frost.  Soak Sweet Peas seeds for 24-48 hours before planting them.  This will make them germinate much faster. They have a hard shell on them and soaking them softens this.  They usually grow in vines with tendrils that grab onto trellises or poles.  This is a lovely way to beautify a chain link fence.
You can buy bush sweet pea seeds if you don't want to grow them vertically,  all sweet peas have a wonderful fragrance and demure appearance that gives any bouquet and air of innocence
Lilacs, divine, beautiful Lilacs.  Lilacs bloom at the end of May and have a sweet fragrance the can be smelled as you walk up to a blooming bush.  I planted one next to my front porch so I can enjoy the it's beauty and fragrance as I linger over a cup of coffee.  Always consider location when planting fragrant flowers.  You want to position them in a place where the fragrance will be enjoyed.
Lilac bushes need frost and they are now coming up with hybrids that re-bloom. For Lilac lovers like me this is fantastic news.  Lilacs burn in the heat so although they need sun, try to place them  where they can remain as cool as possible.  When my husband and I used to vacation on Mackinaw Island for the 4th of July, the Lilacs would just be finishing their bloom because the weather is so mild there. 
Antique Roses. There is so much to say about Antique roses that I couldn't possibly cover it in one post.  Most new hybrid roses have the fragrance bred out of them. They are bred for long stems, perfect buds, and floral design.  If you want old fashioned fragrance you need a rose that has been bred for fragrance.
The great news is that Rose Breeder David Austin has bred the re-blooming habits of modern roses with the fragrance of  Antique Roses.  I have several of his roses in my garden and I love them.  If you have an interest in growing fragrant roses I highly suggest getting one of his catalogs or visiting his site.  http://www.davidaustinroses.com/american/advanced.asp
One of the best places to plant roses is under a Sunny  window, it allows the fragrance to waft into your home and the thorns are a built in security system :)
Easter Lilies have a soft, sweet fragrance that has come to symbolize the Easter holiday. I love walking by all the Easter Lily plants in the floral dept. this time of year.  I stop and take in a deep breath.  It always makes me smile and fills my soul with Spring.
Peonies smell like antique roses and have a beautiful, large regal appearance.  I must confess this is one of my favorite flowers.  The only thing I don't like about it, is it's short  blooming season, but that hasn't prevented me from growing these regal beauties.
If your not familiar with peonies, I highly recommend buying a bouquet when they're in season.  I think you'll fall in love with this frilly beauty who blooms in May. They do require frost to grow in the garden.  There are so many Spring Fragrant flowers, I'm going to come back and continue this wonderful subject.  In the meantime, have a sweet, fragrant, Spring :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Spring (Cleaning :)

Woo Whoo,  It's the first Day of Spring. Time to throw open the windows and watch the cool breezes waft through the lace curtains.  Until you realize those curtains have a winters worth of dust and debris on them :)
Well don't worry, I recently discovered how to make my own laundry soap and fabric softener and  I couldn't be happier.  This soap smells clean, works fantastic and will save you a lot of money.  I can't believe how expensive Laundry Soap has gotten, and I for one would rather spend money on flowers than laundry soap.

Here's what you'll need
2-4 cups of Oxy Clean (depending on how dirty your family gets :)
3 Pounds of Baking soda
1 box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
3 Bars of Fels Naptha, Zote, or other laundry bar soap
1 Box of 20 Mule Team Borax
A big tub, I used a 5 gallon tub with a lid to store the leftover

Here's what Fels-Naptha looks like. Believe it or not, I've always kept a bar around because it's recommended for vintage linens (like the on you see it resting on in the photo :) You will need to grate this. I used a cheese grater, but I think next time I'll try my food processor to save some time. Your grating soap, so just throw everything in the dishwasher when your done.

Here it is all grated.  This soap can be used in HE washers as well as top load washers. You only need one Tablespoon per load.  I bought a canister at Pier One that has a chalkboard label and marked it "Laundry Soap".  I keep a Tablespoon in the canister next to the washing machine (even my kids can't mess this up :)
Here it is all mixed up in the bucket.  This way I can take enough to fill the canister and keep this stored in a dry cool place (my basement) when I'm not using it. 
The results, clean, fresh, clothes that I can be proud to wear and enough money saved to buy some extra clothes with the money I saved, win-win :)
Now for the Fabric Softener 
You will need
6 Cups of water (if you have hard water, use filtered or distilled water)
3 Cups of White Vinegar
2 Cups of Sauve Conditioner, I used Aloe & Waterlily, you should pick the fragrance you like the best.
A 1 Gallon bottle with lid (I used a washed out milk bottle)

I whisked together the conditioner and vinegar in a glass bowl (to mix it up a little) and then added the water.  I suggest using warm water to help the ingredients emulsify better. You don't want to shake this too much or it will get very foamy.  Use this  the same way you use your regular liquid fabric softener or spray some on a washcloth and use it like a dryer sheet.  I really loved this fabric softener because it doesn't leave marks on my clothes (especially the dark's) the way some fabric softener do.
So Happy Spring, and happy Spring Cleaning, I know I'm a little happier having saved a lot of money.  If you like this post, let me know if you'd like more cleaning recipes.  It's a great way to be green and save money.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mad About Tartan Plaid

What is it about Tartan Plaid that makes me swoon? Is it my Irish, English, Scottish heritage, or that part of me that longs to be an English Lady with a wood paneled library accented in Chintz & Tartan.  Is it the schoolgirl in me who gets weak in the knees at the sight of Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson in a kilt?  I don't know, but I do know that I'm mad about tartan plaid :)
Today was the perfect day to take one of these Tartan Plaid blankets on a picnic. We  use them to wrap around ourselves when the wind blows cold, we use them for tablecloths when we find the perfect picnic table in the park, and of course we use them for a dry warm barrier from the cool grass on a romantic picnic.  http://www.pendleton-usa.com/category/Home-Blankets/Throws/1822/pc/1816.uts
Ralph Lauren has been doing Tartan Plaid beautifully for a long time. He seems to understand that is goes beautifully with  so many things.  I've been a fan of Ralph Lauren's since I saw his first home display.  Just looking at this room makes me feel like we're kindred spirits :)

I love this bentwood side chair by Pendleton, It also comes in an arm chair. This is the kind of chair that you could  sit in from appetizers to dessert and still be comfortable in :) http://www.pendleton-usa.com/product/Home-Blankets/Furniture/CHAIRS/BENTWOOD-SIDE-CHAIR/168927/sc/1985/c/1825/pc/1816.uts
I love this tartan tableware. To me it's for more than just the holiday's I think it would be beautiful any time of year, but what a beautiful way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day :)

The perfect example of a tartan plaid blanket or throw making a beautiful tablecloth
Here is a large tartan plaid blanket draped on a table in a garden, isn't it BEAUTIFUL!
I love this tufted tartan plaid chair, I could see a pair of these in my living room. Photo by Elle Decor