Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Time to test the soil

 Every garden book I have ever read starts out by saying the soil it the most important thing about gardening. They say if the soil it right, you will have a better garden. That is why it is time to do a soil test, now, while there there are not a dozen garden chores you need to do. It also is a good time because the testing facilities won't be so busy since most people procrastinate.

A soil test is easy to do and it doesn't take very much time. You dig up dirt from a number of areas in your garden (or lawn) and put it all in a bucket. Stir is up and put the amount required for the test in a bag or a plastic bag, fill out the information and send the soil in to the testing lab.

You have two options, one is to send the sample into the the state testing lab and the other is to send it to a private lab.

Over the year we have done both. The cost of a simple test in Georgia where we live is $8. Last year we had a more comprehensive test done and the cost was $25. Though the $8 cost was very appealing, and it does let you know what kind of basic soil amendments we needed, the $25 test gave us information on how our soil micro nutrients that were very helpful.

It's easy to get the information, just check with your local extension agency. In Georgia, the web address is http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/soiltest123/Georgia.htm. You will get all the information plus a nice video explaining the process, and where to take your sample by giving your zip code.

For other states it is easy, too. I did a search for soil testing, then the state. For instance, when I did this for Alabama, the web address is, http://www.aces.edu/anr/soillab, for Colorado -- http://www.soiltestinglab.colostate.edu and for Vermont -- http://pss.uvm.edu/ag_testing/?Page=soils.html.

When we did the test by a private lab, we took ours to Country Garden Farms. I think this is helping because our soil gets better every year.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Community Supported Agriculture

There are folks out there that get great organic home-grown vegetables without having a garden, and fresh, free-range eggs and meat straight from the farm without making a trek to Whole Foods or Fresh Market.

These folks are "buying into" a new concept called Community Supported Agriculture or CSA farms. Each farm's operations are supported by the consumers who "buy" a share in the farm and for that share they receive fresh products, straight from the field or barn, on an ongoing, weekly basis, as long as the shares last. Incidentally, most CSAs have spring sign ups and they have only a set number of shares.

Serenbe was the first local farm I know of that started this program and it is still up and running and doing well, by all accounts. Serenbe is not in our county, but just over our northern border in Fulton county. We have two local farms that are CSAs. One, Country Gardens Farms and the other, 180 Degree Farms. Both of these farms are within a short distance of each other in the eastern part of the county.

I can't say I know too much about 180 Degrees other than I have looked at their website and know a couple of the people on their board. They have an interesting story and I would love to visit their farm to see their practices.

Country Gardens Farms is a multi-generational, family-owned business that used to be a garden center but they have turned their growing expertise into a CSA venture because they think it is the wave of the future -- locally-grown, organic vegetables, meat, milk, eggs and farm products.

I must admit that I was inspired last spring when I toured their gardens. I was there for an organic farming class taught by owner, Mike Cunningham and at that point they had started their CSA but were just shutting down the gardening center. I must say their operations are very impressive. They have beautiful fields with great-looking vegetables and I have changed the way I look at organic gardening because of that visit and the class I took.

Each week I receive a newsletter from Country Gardens Farms letting me know what fresh farm products they have for sale, and though I don't have a share, I look with great curiosity at their products. If you own a CSA share, you get the cream of the crop, then they fill online orders and whatever is leftover is trucked to local farmer's markets in the Atlanta metro area.

That is about it. I think it is a growing business and if you like organic and free-range foods but don't want to get your hands dirty, you may want to look into a CSA. It is expensive, but so are organic foods in the grocery store.

If you don't live in our area, but are interested in buying a share of a CSA farm, look online. They are located in every state and it may just be the wave of the future.

I won't provide links, but you can google the names and find the local farms. You may also want to look on Facebook for a CSA. I plan to grow my own vegetables, but if I didn't, I would think a share of a farm could be a great way to get local, seasonal products without getting your hands dirty.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook

My daughter purchased a new book, The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook by Marjorie Hurt Jones, R.N. and I think it is really going to help her provide better meals for her six-year-old. It has been quite a struggle for her lately, because after having him tested for allergies, she had to stop giving him yeast, sugar, egg yolks, tomatoes, oatmeal and most of the things a normal six-year-old eats on any given day.

The recipes she has tried so far from this book have been very good. There are quite a number of crepe-type quick breads, a very good waffle recipe, a pancake recipe he really loves. There are a number of sauce recipes that look very promising, like a plum sauce to replace ketchup, a spaghetti sauce without tomatoes and several sugar-free recipes. There are also several fish dishes like salmon croquettes and a tuna salad that looks promising. We have a lot of recipes to try!

It has been awhile since she has found a cookbook with exciting recipes that can also be adjusted for allergies and taste really good. Before this cookbook, everything she tried fell short. Now there are plenty of things we can try. That's why I really am recommending this book for anyone who feels like they can't have anything good anymore. With these recipes, things just may get a little better.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shoppping the Oriental Market for Chinese New Year

According to my calendar, Monday was Chinese New Year. That is the reason my six-year-old grandson and I made a trip to our local Oriental Market. I was shopping primarily for chopsticks so that the children in his class at school could eat Chinese food at their Friday afternoon celebration with the proper utensils. I bought 48 pairs for under two bucks. Quite a bargain, if you ask me.

Though I have been there on numerous occasions because of their great assortment of rice noodles, shallots, bean sprouts and many items that make staying on a rotary diet possible for a six-year-old with allergies.

Today, in addition to the chopsticks, we bought rice noodles, shallots, hibiscus tea, rice flour and something called shrimp chips, a shrimp and tapioca snack to prepare. I found out, too that their fresh vegetables come in on Wednesday, so I will go back, since in addition to being fresh, they are reasonably priced. They also have fresh Chinese sandwiches and of course all the traditional Chinese foods and all the ingredients to make them authentic.

The amazing thing is that this market is even in our small town at all, but it is here and located on the east side of Newnan on Bullsboro Drive, just past Shenandoah Boulevard on the right, in a small shopping center.

For those on gluten-free diets, it is certainly worth the trip and it was enjoyable to go with a sweet boy who was ready to go as soon as he found his chopsticks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Two Sisters Gardening

Today I have an announcement to make. I would like to introduce you to a new blog called Two Sisters Gardening.

My sister, Wilma Smith, who has been my gardening partner for the past several years and I will be posting exclusively about gardening. My sis, who loves everything nature has to offer is naturally gifted with a green thumb. She loves the great outdoors, animals and loves to plant, tend and decorate with flowers, raise vegetables and tend to her outdoor landscape.

I will still be posting on Everyday Finesse, but I will post about gardening topics on both blogs.

Our new blog will include recipes, endless tips, advice from experts, tours of gardens of all types, guest bloggers and reviews of garden products and techniques. In other words -- all things gardening. We will be answering gardening questions, visiting local gardens and looking at how to garden from every angle.

We will also be starting a new local and online garden club called the Crossroads Garden Club. This club will be affiliated with the National Garden Club and the Georgia Garden Club and will be in the Redbud District, just as any other local club would be. Our first year will focus on education and we already have a couple of guest speakers lined up. There will be regular meetings beginning on February 28, but the club will also be open online for those who can't attend meetings. There will be some differences between the online and local memberships but everyone will be able to take advantage of the gardening knowledge of experts who will speak to us each month.

As I wrote on the first Two Sisters Blog entry, it is time to get started because spring will be here before you know it! Get your garden tools, fertilizers and garden seeds ready and tune up the tiller, because we are ready to break new ground!

Monday, January 23, 2012

My best pecan pie recipe

For years I have wanted to make my husband a great pecan pie, his favorite dessert. I have tried so many "promising" recipes but I have never found the one that is perfect. Perfect means a pie that is not loaded with pecans but with plenty of creamy filling.

I had given up on finding that really good recipe but over the recent holidays I decided to try one more time to find out why my pies were just not very good. As I read recipes, hints and tips about making the perfect pecan pie, I noticed how beautiful some of the them were in magazines. I wondered how they got them to look so perfect. The pecans were arranged beautifully with all the pecans perfectly placed.

My old recipes had some major differences that I noticed. Mine said to mix the pecans with the filling, then pour the mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Some recipes I found said to "carefully" arrange the pecans in the bottom of an unbaked pie shell in a circular pattern, then mix the filling and pour it over the pecans in the shell. Here was my answer for a pretty pie.

  Other things I found: For a thick filling use a 9-1/2 inch pan. Other hints were to make sure the crust had no breaks in it so that the filling would not seep underneath the crust and I had to adjust my ingredients but in the end I came up with a pie my husband really loved.

So this is how I found my husband's perfect dessert. I know I don't use as many pecans as I used to in a smaller pie but that is OK. The pie is creamy and delicious for my husband and looks really pretty for me.

I do need to carefully pour the mixed filling over the pecans that are arranged in the shell and I have to lightly place the pecans in the shell because if I press on them, they won't float when the filling is poured in. Putting the filling on top coats the pecans and though they aren't underneath the filling, the coating on the pecans forms a nice and tasty crust on top. The filling is about a half inch thick and it is oh so creamy, yet firm.

Here is my lovely and great tasting pie recipe:

Deep Dish Pecan Pie

1 unbaked pie shell (I purchased mine in the dairy case at the grocery store.


1-1/2 cups pecan halves (I don't use all of the pecans but I pick out the prettiest one from the package and save the rest for other recipes. It usually takes more pecans to find perfect pecan halves, since some are broken.)
4 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla flavoring
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoon butter, melted
1-1/2 cups light corn syrup

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 9-1/2 inch glass pie pan with a crust, making sure there are no breaks in the crust for the filling to seep through. Flute the edges and be sure that the crust comes to the top of the glass pan to hole the filling.

Carefully (and lightly) arrange pecan halves in the bottom of the pie crust. Make a circular pattern from the center to the outside edges. This should take three rows of pecans for the outside of the pie and three to five pecans in the center.

Mix all of the filling ingredients in a bowl and stir until well mixed with a wire whisk.

Pour the filling slowly and carefully over the pecans in the shell until they float to the top. Rearrange pecans if necessary if they float out of the pattern. Make sure all pecans are coated with filling.

Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake about 1 hour or until crust is golden and filling is puffy and begins to crack around the edges. It will still be little jiggly in the center.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Leftover Soup

Last night we made leftover soup. There is nothing better for a night that is chilly and busy. This is something I do that makes me feel virtuous. That part of me that learned in my informative years that, "a penny saved is a penny earned" makes this the best meal of the week. It is one of those soups that really depends on what you have in the refrigerator.

If you don't have leftovers, forget it. If you are like me and have a little of this and a little of that, this is easy. Just take a little meat -- in my case, leftover chicken, a bit of rice, some beans -- lentils and garbanzo beans, broth, celery, green onions, parsley and onion flakes and cook until flavors are blended. Add salt an pepper to taste and you have potluck, leftover soup. For me, the chicken wouldn't be necessary but I was not cooking only for myself.

We also cooked up some garbanzo bean flat bread, also called farinata.

Garbanzo Bean Flat bread

1 cup chick pea/garbanzo bean flour
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a skillet on the stove and spray with olive oil. Test with a drop of batter until it sizzles in the pan. Pour half of the mixture in the skillet and cook like a pancake, turning once.
Repeat with the second half of the batter. Cut into wedges and serve hot.

This is a great gluten-free recipe.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


My sister gave me this beautiful calendar the other day and I just love it. It is one of those things that reminds me of the Almanacs my grandparents and my parents used to help plan their gardens and forecast the weather. They also checked the almanac for home remedies and recipes. This was the tool used by farmers everywhere for farming success. It told readers when to plant their crops and gave them a steady stream of hints and tips for farming, homemaking and life skills.

In my grandmother's house, the almanac had a special hook in the kitchen. The book was always hanging there by its specially drilled hole, ready to use as a reference guide. The Old Farmer's Almanac still comes with a hole drilled in the upper left hand corner. Many things have changed over the years but not the weather forecasts or the hole.

I intend to use this calendar to remind me that I can now go to their website at Almanac.com and get tons of farming advice. I have noticed that they even have a Kindle edition. Talk about the old meeting the new!

I know that I will really enjoy my calendar which incidentally has some mighty fine recipes, like Hawaiian Chicken Salad, Green Tomato Pie, Corn and Chicken Chowder and beautiful photography of garden produce that will hopefully make me aim high in my garden this year. As I consider my garden plans for 2012, I may just put on a pot of that chowder and get busy planning.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Healthier chocolate chips

My daughter came up with this recipe because her son had to go on a low-sugar diet and she had to come up with something he could have at Christmas while everyone was enjoying their treats and sweets. He also must avoid soy, milk and many of the normal ingredients we take advantage of everyday. This recipe helped him to have chocolate treats so he didn't feel so much like he was left out. He didn't complain because he really likes the chocolate chips.

Here is her recipe and her comments:

The main ingredient is coconut oil, and if you've done some research on coconut oil. It is one of the few non-animal sources of rich saturated fat, and the research is showing that the saturated fat in coconut oil has almost the opposite effect on the body that animal saturated fat has -- possibly even promoting weight loss! You also get antioxidants in the cocoa powder and the agave nectar doesn't have a high glycemic index like cane sugar. It also helps those who have a problem with yeast because agave nectar doesn't promote yeast growth like cane sugar.

These chocolate chips are extremely rich with a taste that is very slightly sweet. Even though I use Agave nectar instead of cane sugar, they have a rich flavor that is hard to resist. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate (or carob) Chips
(dairy-free, soy-free, no hydrogenated oils, low sugar)

1 cup coconut oil
1 cup Hershey's cocoa or carob powder
3 Tbsp sweetener -- I used agave nectar. (The recipe says you can substitute 3 scoops stevia extract or to taste)
2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring

Melt coconut over very low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in carob, sweetener, and vanilla. Pour mixture into pan (8x8 works well -- I used some parchment paper underneath the mixture for an easy clean-up). Place in refrigerator or freezer until solid. Remove from pan and cut into chunks of desired size. Store in a cool place until ready to use (I think storing in the fridge works best).

I used these in a couple batches of gluten free cookies for my son and still have some left over!

I used a square, plastic container to pour my "liquid chips" into. The parchment paper allows you to pull it out easily and cut the chips without worrying about the sides of the container.

Unfortunately I used most of my chips before taking a picture of them (it made about three cups), but here are a few of them.

And I know these aren't the prettiest cookies ever (they do taste great, and my six-year-old loves them), but it gives you a view of the chips baked in gluten-free cookies.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crock Pot Soups

January brings some chillier days and it can be really depressing -- unless -- you dust off the old crock pot and pour in ingredients for a tummy-warming-soup. It will be ready when you get home and if someone asks you what's for dinner, your answer will make them think warm and cozy thoughts.

Almost any soup recipe does well in a crock pot. The flavors blend well together and you get richer flavors. The smells that greet your family when they come in the door are scrumptious.

Today, is MLK Day and you might want to have something fancier like a chicken and white been soup or a baked potato soup, especially if you care coming in after a parade. There are some great vegetable soups using black eyed peas and collards if you want warm southern flavors. Just google the ingredients plus soup and you will see what I mean.

I always like the good ole' vegetable soups like my mother used to make. Here is an easy crock pot variation of her soup. For this, I use my largest crock pot.

Very Veggie Soup
2 jars spaghetti sauce, any kind
2 large bags frozen vegetable soup mix
1 bag frozen gumbo mix
(I love okra in my soup but if you don't like it, use mixed vegetables)
2 cans crushed tomatoes
4 to 5 cups water or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional ingredients: Brown ground beef or ground turkey with a clove of garlic and put it in the crock pot first. Use this as an opportunity to clean out the fridge. Use any leftover vegetables, rice, beef or chicken, chopped, or any canned beans or vegetables of your choice.

Just dump all ingredients into the crock pot and set on low. It will take 6 to 8 hours for this to be perfect, depending on your crock pot. I have one that cooks fast and one that cooks slow and I have to make adjustments according to how each one cooks.

My favorite bread to serve with soup is cornbread. I usually use half cornmeal and half corn flour to make a gluten-free bread. I also like to use millet. It has a great flavor and texture.

Stay warm and have a nice bowl of soup by the fire, if you have one. Today is just that kind of day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A few projects for the new year

The New Year is usually a time when I am just full of plans and I realize I have gotten a late start but I would like to share a few ideas that I am working on. First, something I want to get started on is updating my spice "cabinet." I don't really have a spice cabinet but I do keep spices in my pantry shelf and inside my pantry door. I have quite a few spices. The only problem is that I don't clear them out and buy new ones as often as I should. This year I intend doing that. Old spices don't liven up a stew or dish like fresh ones. When I saw this idea from MarthaStewart.com I said, "Yes. I must do this." They have a very nice pdf to download so you can take it to the store and check off the spices you need.

You can get some good spice deals from time to time. I love to go places where I can buy them in bulk because you can get plenty of the spices you need and small amounts of the spices you almost never use. I also like to dry some of my own spices and those I keep in the freezer.

January is a time to add to my Moleskine Journals. My favorite is the Recipe Journal I keep for new dishes. I have also started to include my old favorites. It is a beautiful book and I just love it. I keep them on my computer, too but there is just something nice about adding recipes to my very on journal. I will continue to add to this one until it is full.
 I like to have a monthly journal, too. This is my second Moleskine monthly calendar journal and I love it. I like to jot down notes when I do things and comments about events because I often need to go back and revisit them. For a person like me who lives on a deadline it is a must.

I have a sketch journal that I like to use, too. I haven't used it as much as I like to or should have but I really love having one I can sketch in as I go places. There are ideas everywhere and if you don't sketch them, how will you remember?

I can also sketch things like garden plans, layout ideas and projects. The truth is a lovely journal makes taking notes and keeping up with things a pleasure and not such a chore.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Blog Header

Thank you for all of your support for the past couple of years. Today I am changing my blog header. Many of you might say, "It is about time." But I did like the old one, yet I know my blog does need an updated look. I don't know how long this header will last but you are in the right place, this is Everyday Finesse!

I will continue with the recipes, tips and hints about gardening, decorating and homemaking -- and about anything I can think of, but I will also be contributing to a new blog that will be about all things gardening. Sometimes I will post the information on both blogs and at other times just here.

Today the new header and I hope my posts will be new and fresh, too.

Hope you like it. If you do, let me know. If not, let me know, too. I look forward to comments.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Love those Brussels sprouts!

We were so excited to have Brussels sprouts from our garden this weekend. We picked them on Saturday morning and then got ready for our busy day that included two birthday celebrations. I felt very good about serving such a wholesome vegetable on the day we also had PLENTY of cake and goodies.

Before we did the picking, we checked out the Internet to see how Brussels sprouts should be picked. We had never done it before. We saw two methods. One, pick the larger sprouts at the base of the stems and pull them off individually by pulling up and twisting them off, carefully leaving the stem intact. The second method was to pull up, or cut the whole plant and then pluck the sprouts later, just before cooking.

The second method didn't work at all for me because I think we will have some more of the little sprouts to grow as the season progresses. At least I hope these plants are just beginning to produce. We decided to pluck them off, leaving the stems that we will fertilize, encouraging new growth for more sprouts from now until spring. It sounds like a good plan and I hope it works!

The sprouts were beautiful, at top, in my largest colander and I washed them and pulled off any of the little outside leaves that had brown edges. I then washed them and added a little olive oil to my large iron skillet. Scallions were first sauteed in the oil and I then added the sprouts, cooking them on medium high. I finally turned them down and covered them until they were just slightly browned, stirring every few minutes and -- they were great! We already knew we liked Brussels sprouts but the fresh ones do have a bit of extra flavor -- especially when you cook them the same day they are picked. I hope we have more sprouts during the winter season, but it was so nice to have our first harvest which made a generous serving for ten.

I can't help but believe that they were better than the cake.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Planning for the New Year

One day next week I will have a big announcement to make. It has something to do with gardening, which has become quite a passion for me. I am working on something new and -- to me, interesting -- but I won't give any more hints.

What have I been doing in my leisure this week? Going to sales, cleaning up clutter and reading seed catalogs. My favorite one so far is the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds book that my friend Angela gave me. I had already downloaded a copy from their website, but this catalog was eye candy for me and so nice to hold it in my hands. I honestly never realized there were so many varieties of vegetables and fruits out there. I will work on a list of websites that have great seeds -- and prices.

The other great thing about this magazine/catalog is that it appears to be a family affair, and since I am a family-centric person, it really suits me to a T.

This beautiful weather causes me to dream about plowing and planting, encouraging me to look at seed catalogs and reading some old organic gardening books for more information. Now is the time to order seeds for the garden and to make plans. Winter is beautiful in the south at this time of year -- perfect for doing a bit of catch up on the inside on rainy, cold days and nice on the days that the sunshine and nicer temperatures promise that spring will be here before we know it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A lucky cheesecake recipe find

For New Year's Day I made a cheesecake. I had purchased the ingredients for a Christmas cheesecake but I didn't have the time or the will to make it at that time. We were celebrating a birthday and New Year's Day so I thought a cheesecake might be pretty good after our traditional meal of ham, peas and greens. Above, the last piece of cheesecake! I almost didn't get a photo!!

I did  have a bit of a problem. The night before, when I took my ingredients out of the fridge to allow them to reach room temperature, I realized I had only three packs of cream cheese instead of the usual four, like my recipe said. I knew I wasn't going to go to the store, again. So I searched online for a recipe with only three packs of cream cheese and in finding that recipe, I now have THE cheesecake recipe that my family loves.

Best of all, it didn't even have the tiniest crack!! My family complimented me over and over about the cheesecake and I now have a great recipe and I don't think I will dread making a cheesecake from now on. If, of course I have continued success with this recipe.

I do think that the added sour cream and the five eggs rather than four, really makes a difference. The key is to use room temperature ingredients and that quarter cup of flour.

Catastrophe not only averted, but I found a very good recipe. Sometimes a crisis is really not a crisis.

For a gluten-free alternative I feel that corn starch would be a great substitute for the flour. I will be trying that next because I would like to make a gf version. This recipe could also be made with gf cookies for the crust or nuts only if they were finely ground.

Cheesecake with Nut Crust

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup finely chopped vanilla cookies, like shortbread, or sugar cookies (I prefer cookies without trans fats. Leftover homemade cookies work well.) (Gluten-free cookies will work, too.)
2 tablespoons melted butter
(All filling ingredients should be at room temperature before you begin.)
3 - 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1-1/3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 cup plain flour (use corn starch as a gluten-free alternative)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
16 ounces sour cream

To make the crust: 
Put nuts and cookies into a blender mix and process until they are finely chopped. Pour into a bowl and mix with melted butter. Press into a 9-inch spring form pan. Mixture can be pressed up the sides up to 1-1/2 inches or as much as possible, then set aside. 

To make the filling:
Preheat the oven at 325 degrees. All filling ingredients should be at room temperature before you begin. Beat the cream cheese until it is creamy with no lumps. Keep the mixer on a low setting throughout the beating and mixing process. Add the sugar a little at a time and continue beating until creamy. Add one egg at a time and slowly beat after each egg. Add the flour, vanilla and lemon juice, mix well. Add the sour cream last and beat well. Pour the filling mixture into the spring pan. Place rectangular baking pan on the bottom rack of the oven and fill with boiling hot water. Place on top rack above the water, in the middle of a 325 degrees preheated oven for one hour and 15 minutes. 

When time is up, take a knife and run it around the outside circumference of the cake, loosening it from the sides. Prop open the oven door and leave the cake in the oven for one hour.

Remove cake from the oven and allow it to cool. Put the cheesecake into the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

I wish you all a wonderful new year! I hope the old year was a good one for all of you. I think it was a good one for my family. Of course there were challenges and I don't think I will ever accomplish all I hope to during the year, but today shouldn't be one for regrets, but for reflecting and refreshing.

I wanted to start it with some photos I took over the weekend in our garden. We have really enjoyed a break from the work that spring and summer brings. This winter garden has been a real pleasure, not too much work, very little weeding and a break from some of the bug problems we have in the summertime. This time it was just plant it and let it grow. We didn't have any high expectations for our winter crop but it has been quite a success.

For one thing we still are getting a little bit of broccoli -- and it is oh so good. Our Brussels sprouts were something we really didn't expect to harvest until spring but we have lately been surprised by how many miniature sprouts are growing along the stems.

In fact, I think we will be having Brussels sprouts this week. We never expected that! We should have, but we just didn't! We were just happy to let them grow as long as they needed to grow but suddenly, they are ready for harvest.

I think one night this week we will a nice meal with Brussels sprouts as the star of our meal. I didn't expect to have them so soon and I am so excited by the sudden growth. This has been the perfect winter crop because they took so little work and they look healthy bountiful.

Our collards have been good, but they are dwindling and above, a plant that looks great. Below, you can see that a few of the collard plants have been discovered by bugs. I read awhile back that if you expect to have organic vegetables you have to share a bit with the bugs and you might have some smaller vegetables but they with more flavor. I believe that is true.

This week, because of the successes of our winter crop, I will be ordering a few things to plant in February. This year I want to have plenty of pea pods and a few early spring veggies like carrots. I have been looking at all the spring gardening catalogs and I may just go to one of their websites after I finish here and order some seeds to plant and to start for spring. This is the perfect time to make a fresh start.