Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Planting potatoes

A couple of days ago, my sister and I planted our potatoes. We knew we wanted to do it "by the book" and the book we are using this year is "Joy of Gardening," by Dick Raymond. We are hoping the yield will be higher than last year. We are planting white and red potatoes now, but maybe we will plant some sweet potatoes when the weather is warmer.

We bought seed potatoes, cut them into quarters and sprinkled lime over them. They need to sit in the lime overnight.

The soil must be well-tilled for a good start.

We dug out the rows 6 to 8 inches. It is certainly not the same all the way down. We dug it out and then following behind, dug it again until it was at least 8 inches deep.

We place fertilizer in the bottom of the row. Beforehand, we mixed our fertilizers to approximately 10-10-10. Since we are using organic fertilizer, it is hard to get the exact mix, but putting different fertilizers together gives us something like an all-purpose mixture. After that, we covered the fertilizer with about an inch of dirt.

We then put some bone meal in the spots where we are planning to place the potatoes.

The potatoes are placed along each side so they would have room to grow.

The next step is to cover them with dirt.

And now we wait.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Garden progress

It has been a little difficult to get things accomplished in the garden because the weather has not exactly been cooperative but we are finally getting some things planted this week. My sister had a great idea -- plant a salad garden.

We had a row of volunteer garlic that came up from last year. It was spotty and we couldn't exactly decide what to do with it. It is hard to move without damage. There was also some lettuce that was coming up along with the garlic from our fall garden. She came up the idea of using the both as companions for different kinds of lettuce. The garlic will help to protect the lettuce from insects. She also found some alyssum, which is supposed to also repel insects. I think it will be beautiful when it all grows together. I like the idea of companion planting because it can be beneficial to tender plants like lettuce.

I like the effect of the spiky garlic with the leafy lettuce, colorful musculun and fragrant white flowers. We also have some arugula to add to the mix. It will make a wonderful salad.

We also planted potatoes, onions and the cabbage, above. It feels good to get a good start. We still have a ways to go but I am elated to be getting a start.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Repurposing an old dresser: Part 3

Drum roll, please ... here is my finished dresser. I know this is not a great photo but I couldn't get it in daylight and artificial light didn't really do it justice.

I think I really like it. It looks all shiny and new and still smells a bit like polyurethane. I probably will still make some changes. I really would prefer to have the cable box and DVD player somewhere besides the top of the dresser but I thought it would be fine to leave it on top until I can turn the top drawer into a shelf. To do that I will have to take at least one of the drawers out.

At first, I thought about not even refinishing the top two drawers but then I decided if I used the piece as an actual dresser, I would regret that decision. It is more useful this way.

I am going to have to think about how to utilize it as a shelf/drawer combo, but I don't think it will hurt anything to wait. It is already a big improvement and I am sure I will have plenty of comments from my family about what to do to hide the equipment. If anyone has any suggestions, I would appreciate it.

Also, I like the drawer pulls, but I am thinking about touching them up with a little stain or black antiquing gel. I have used it before and it really does a good job on hardware. I think I would like to live with the original pulls for now as well, just to be sure.

I am happy with this project. I now have plenty of room for movies. Maybe now I can move on to more important and pressing jobs, like spring cleaning and gardening.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Repurposing an old dresser: Part 2

The other day I showed you the old dresser I am refinishing. I had already done some sanding and was planning to paint it, but I finally decided to buy a gel stain in a mahogany color to make the piece fit in with my other furniture. I was thinking about using a bright, pretty color but I really like cherry and mahogany furniture. It was what I was thinking about all along. I think it is the safe choice. I think I would just have painted it with a semi-gloss paint if I hadn't found the Minwax gel stain.

The sides are made of a type of board and painted, prohibiting me from using a normal stain. I couldn't even sand the old paint off. It just would not have worked.

The drawers accepted the stain really well. Even the gold edges look great with the gel stain. I was concerned about sanding all the gold off. I don't think it would have been good for me to breathe in. I was concerned that lead paint might have been used on those edges.

Here is my start on one of the sides. I am not even close to being finished. It is still wet and will need two coats of gel stain. I will have to make sure I don't skimp on the stain because I want to paint a "wood grain" pattern into the dresser sides, if possible. The rest of the dresser is made from wood so it will naturally have a wood-grain appearance. The gold painted around the drawers and the detailing are proving to be easier to cover than I thought. After I finish I will make sure I paint the gel on with the grain of the wood on all surfaces.

Right now, it has a long way to go but by Monday, I think you will be surprised.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I am so happy because we were able to break ground on our garden yesterday. We have been waiting on pins and needles, hoping every day there would be sun and -- finally just enough to get a start. The dirt was a little clumpy, but not too bad. Hopefully we can get a few new plants into the ground in the next day or so. The forecast is not totally promising but we are encouraged by getting this far.

We have some plants that have survived the winter. Most of it is garlic and there are some leeks. The green leafy plants are parsnips and we will see if they continue to grow.

We moved our garlic row last season but failed to dig up all of it and some garlic grew in our lettuce row. My sister thinks we can use this to our advantage. We still have some lettuce growing amid the spikes of volunteer garlic and she thinks that garlic could help keep the bugs from our lettuce. I think that is a great idea. We are going to let that row be a "companion" row and plant new lettuce among the garlic. Since we will be planting wide rows, it should be perfect.

In the upper left hand corner of the photo above, there are some carrots that look pretty good. We will either leave them there or transplant them into another row. We do have some cauliflower plants that have grown all winter and today I noticed a few of them were heading. Unfortunately, some geese have found them, too. My husband added an extra strand of wire to the electric fence to better keep them out of the garden. I don't know if that will work. We will probably add one more at the bottom in hopes that the geese will get a big jolt the next time they try to trespass.

Isn't that a great start? We weren't as early as we had hoped and have missed our early crop, but for most of our summer vegetables we are a little ahead of schedule. Spring really is here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Attracting goldfinches

Today I put up my bird feeder and I hope I will soon attract some goldfinches, purple finches, pine siskins and perhaps a few other varieties of birds will stop by on their way to their spring nesting grounds. One year, I had a painted bunting who stopped by for lunch. That was a real treat.

Because of the cooler than normal weather, the birds haven't arrived in droves yet, but I think this will be a good week to attract them. It is hard to judge exactly when they will show up because it all depends on the weather, but I really love seeing them at the feeder. They are so amusing because they take the feeder very seriously, often fighting for their turn. Once they start feeding, more and more of them show up. I think some birds just stop by on their way to far-away places -- at least I like to imagine that is true.

I will try to get photos of them but they are very easy to spook, so I am not sure I will get a one unless it is through the window. Goldfinches like small seed and thistle and they really make a mess around the feeder. The only down side of feeding them is that squirrels are often attracted to the seeds too, and I am not a fan of squirrels. They keep the finches away and can damage a feeder. Some people put slippery cones above or below the feeder to make it much harder for the squirrel to become a nuisance.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rainy day poems

I must admit I am really tired of the rain. I know later in the growing season, I will be wishing for more rain. That is just how it is sometimes. Today I was certainly wishing for sun. I am not depressed, I am just anxious to begin planting my garden.

I found a couple of poems, one that expresses the frustration I feel today.
The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Another that expresses how I should feel.
The Rain
by William Henry Davies
I hear leaves drinking rain;
I hear rich leaves on top
Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop;
'Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near.

And when the Sun comes out,
After this Rain shall stop,
A wondrous Light will fill
Each dark, round drop;
I hope the Sun shines bright;
'Twill be a lovely sight.
I know it won't be long before the sun is out and no one could be happier about that than me. Until then, I will just have to do my best to have a better attitude. I don't think I have "Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)," but I will certainly be happier when the weather improves!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reading the labels

Last week I went to my pantry to get some pasta to cook for dinner and was very disappointed when I read the label. I assumed I was getting whole wheat noodles and this pasta had a number of ingredients, many that really don't need to go into pasta.

This pasta does have whole wheat but it doesn't have 100 percent whole wheat, plus it has a number of other ingredients including wheat gluten, crystallized cane sugar and oats -- a grain I am allergic to!

Recently, I had been wondering why even though I had been eating (what I thought was) whole wheat, much of what I had been eating probably was raising my blood sugar and was certainly not as good for me as I expected. Wheat gluten is added to this pasta, too. That's not good. It also is made with soybean oil (more allergy concerns) and then there is "natural flavoring." What does that mean? Many things are natural, but that doesn't mean you should use them for flavoring!

I then started reading all the labels. The second box of pasta I checked had whole grain in big letters across the front -- a good start -- but then underneath it reads 51 percent whole wheat. I am not good at math but that means 49 percent of it is "not" whole wheat. That was fascinating. You see when I bought it, I thought it meant the "whole" package had whole wheat. I feel like I have been scammed!

Then the kicker was that this pasta also has oats. Discouraging! Now I have two boxes of pasta I can't use. This one was probably better than the first, but I really don't think paying extra for something I thought was "healthy" but turns out to be questionable is a good idea. I would rather find some "real" whole grain pasta and pay two prices for it!

I then looked at this box of pasta. It is made from brown rice rather than wheat and is good pasta. Also good for those on gluten-free diets and amazingly, it doesn't have a long list of ingredients. I love it!

Rice and water. I think we will have lasagna. From now on, I am going to read the labels when I buy a product and not wait until it's on my pantry shelf.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Repurposing an old dresser

I love to refinish and restore old furniture. I have several pieces in my house I have stripped, sanded, stained, painted and loved into something I could use again. In some cases old antique or hand-me-down pieces of furniture were restored into what I consider treasures.

The other day I began a new project to turn an old dresser into a cabinet to use underneath my TV. I needed something to hold my DVD player and the "box" that comes with my cable. I also wanted something to hold movies. Originally, I thought I would find something in a yard sale but I have been searching for just the right piece and so far, no luck.

This piece was my old dresser in my room when I was growing up. My sister had used it for a number of years and when she no longer needed it, she decided to store it in a shed. After a while, remembering it had been mine, she offered it to me.

It was in pretty bad shape. The French Provencal dresser that used to be very pretty was blistered, peeling and yellowed but I knew it had good "bones" and I felt I could make it into something I could eventually use -- so I thought, "why not now?" I needed a dresser and I could make this work.

I hope to have it ready within two weeks. I was thinking of staining it, but I may just paint it because some of the white paint is going to be hard to take off. I might one day return it to the original French Provencal color, so painting may be the best option.

I am sorry for not having the best "before" photo but my husband had some extra time and decided to help me by sanding off most of the old, yellow and peeling paint. I thought that was very sweet and now I just need to do some final sanding before painting.

Now, I need to search online and in magazines to decide on a design and color. I probably will simply paint it to match my other furniture, but I want to check out all kinds of ideas -- then implement the ideas. I will be giving updates here as I make progress.

I found a few ideas online for repurposing dressers and other furniture and thought I would share.

I have used a dresser for a vanity in the past. I really loved it. My carpenter just cut out the hole for the sink in the top and a place for the plumbing from the top drawer. It worked like a charm.

Here's another example.

I loved the painted dresser above. Isn't it perfect. Mine won't be this color but I really love it.
I really loved this blog. The dresser was painted and the drawers covered in a smart and trendy wall-papered pattern. Very nice.

This dresser was turned into a potting and garden supply cabinet. Are you surprised that I love it?

The chest above is really pretty in this farm-style kitchen. Great storage for a kitchen without many cabinets.

Last, my favorite. This is one of the best kitchen islands I have ever seen. Great color. It kind of looks like one in a past issue of Newnan-Coweta Magazine. No wonder I love it!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My husband and tofu?

Lately, I have been experimenting with tofu. I have had some diet restrictions and one of the things I can eat -- tofu. I have had it in sauces, dressings, and in a recipe of Jambalaya. My husband has been generally supportive of this, but I always have my doubts about him when I try something new.

I am not sure I would have shared my tofu experience, but there was a young lady in the grocery store who asked me just how I was going to use that tofu I was buying, and I am guessing she must not be the only one interested in how to make it into a meal.

The challenge was to cook tofu for a main dish and hope my husband would say, "It wasn't TOO bad." I started with extra firm tofu and cut it into strips, kind of like like chicken strips or cheese sticks. I then let it drain on a paper towel. I added some chives and spices and here is my secret ingredient -- nutritional yeast. It tastes kind of like cheese. I battered it in nutritional yeast, just like in flour.

After that I fried it in hot oil.

It browns up nicely. You really have to turn it carefully.

What did my husband think? He said in a very surprised voice, "I really like this tofu!" I didn't even have a chance to ask him what he thought. Interesting, huh?

Tofu is low in calories and can be used in a variety of dishes. I will experiment some more, but I really doubt he will like every experiment I subject him to.

Don't forget that tofu is really not too tasty on it own. You really must add spices to give it flavor. Some people really use chicken and beef flavored spices or bouillons to give it more taste. I would suggest looking over vegetarian recipes to find some good combinations. One thing you can also do to give tofu a meatier texture in a soup, stew or stir-fry is to freeze it before cooking.

Tofu "Cutlets"

1 14-oz. package of extra firm tofu, cut into strips
Salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder
Dried, chopped chives
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (buy at health food store, I bought mine in the bulk section at Whole Foods)
Approximately 3 tablespoons of oil for cooking

Cut into strips and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and chives. Dredge tofu in nutritional yeast (just as you would with flour). Make sure all pieces are well-covered. Heat oil in a non-stick pan and fry on medium-high until they are well-browned and crispy. If you have leftover nutritional yeast, you can sprinkle on more. The nutritional yeast adds the flavor.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Treat: Irish Cream Coffee

What is more fitting for today than a cup of Irish Coffee. I think Irish Breakfast tea is also a good choice, but right now I am just loving my coffee. Mine is a non-alcoholic version but I think it is still a good treat.

It really is simple to make. I brewed a good strong cup of flavored coffee. Vanilla cream is good but if you can find Irish cream it would be even better. There are several companies that sell that variety, most are online companies.

In a small bowl, I poured about 1/4 cup of whipping cream and added 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of sugar. I whipped it until it is just past frothy and beginning to hold together. If it forms peaks you have whipped it too long.

In my cup, I first put a heaping spoonful of brown sugar.

Then I poured the coffee until the cup was 3/4 full and stirred.

I filled the cup with whipped topping. This can get messy.

You can dust the top with cinnamon, if you want. This one was good without cinnamon. You aren't supposed to stir it, but I kind of like it stirred. This makes a nice after-dinner dessert treat and I don't think it would be any better by adding little Irish whiskey, but I might be in the minority on that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More baby tomatoes

My tomato plants are at the point where I can take the lids off and let them grow. I was a little concerned they would get too moist but I guess it is hard to sprout seeds without enough moisture. These are really sprouting now.

They look very much like a jumbled mess to me. I guess I want them to grow up tall and straight. They are tall but there are very few straight ones. They are just going everywhere. I think if we had a few more sunny days they would become straighter, but I don't know.

Most of these are black cherry tomatoes. I think they are lovely. After a few days I may spritz them with some kind of fertilizer tea to see if they will grow a little faster. I can't put them out until there is no danger of frost and we are not there, yet so I don't want to hurry them along too fast. I will feel better about them when I get them to the point where they have leaves that look like tomatoes and the stems are thicker than sewing thread.

I think one reason I equate them to babies is that I am a little worried I will forget them and they won't thrive as they should. They are at a very tender stage right now and I am going to have to watch them diligently.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Crock Pot Baked Beans with Pineapple

Last night I made baked beans. I have never been good at making baked beans. I decided to make a knock off of a tasty recipe I have had before using pineapple (my daughter-in-law makes this and it is yummy), and I also wanted to make it in my crock pot for easy transporting. I was sure this wasn't going to turn out very well, but I had to try. I was actually pleasantly surprised. An added benefit -- It smelled very good while it was cooking. Another added benefit -- It was easy, too! My husband loved it and he never loves my baked beans.

Crock Pot Baked Beans with Pineapple

1 12-oz. pack of bacon, chopped into small pieces
2 28-oz. cans pork and beans
1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple (in its own juice), drained
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 clove garlic, chopped

Cook bacon until crisp and brown. I cooked it in a skillet on the stove but it could also be microwaved. Drain well. Put remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, add bacon and mix well. Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Pour into large crock pot and cook on high for 3 hours. Crock pots cook at different rates so make sure it doesn't burn around the edges.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Online Gardening Help

There is so much good gardening information available through online websites, blogs and newsletters. Today I am sharing a few of those resources. One of my favorites is This guy is from a neighboring county and retired from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. He offers very good advice on his website and also has a newsletter he sends out periodically. I like him because of his experience and because he knows how to garden in our climate.

He has a radio show on WSB-AM. You can also watch videos on just about everything to do with gardening at Mr Reeves is quite busy for a retired man.

There are a number of blogs that give good information but the cutest Georgia-based gardening blog I have found is Isn't it adorable? I don't know if there are as many tips as other blogs but the photos are very pretty and the "gardening with kids" section is inspiring. It looks like there are more products to sell than gardening tips but I still love this blog.

I have often downloaded information from On this page you can enter a keyword and search for your topic. It is amazing how much information you can get here. You can also find a contact for your local extension agent and contact them for soil sample tests and more information.

YouTube is a good resource for almost any kind of "how-to" video. Above is a video demonstration about organic gardening. Sometimes you learn more about watching someone do something, rather than reading about it. Most of the how-to videos are by ivillage. They are kind of low-tech and not all of them are good but you may find something there that can clear up a gardening problem.

There are quite a number of tips on websites like Pike Nursery, above at I particularly like their monthly calendars.

Above is one of our local Garden websites. I am sure if you couldn't find some information from this or you could drop by and ask some questions.

I would love to hear about your favorite gardening websites and blogs. If you have one to suggest, please leave a comment.