Summer Hair Care

Summer can be especially hard on your hair. Chlorine, bright sunshine, and other summer “hazards” can leave you with less than gorgeous tresses. But follow some simple steps for summer hair care and you can have fabulous hair all season long!

  1. Condition – Just like your body needs water in the hot weather, your hair needs moisture as well. Condition regularly and, if you use a dry shampoo, condition every couple of days to keep hair from drying out.
  1. Ditch the detergent – Even the gentlest surfactants (the ingredient that makes shampoo lather) can dry your scalp and hair. Try using products that use essential oils that clean along with a conditioner that moisturizes.
  1. Go low tech – Blow drying your hair and using curling irons or straighteners can cause a lot of damage. Summer is the perfect time to put your hair up in a loose bun, a ponytail, or braid. Healthy hair will look great even with a casual do.
  1. Use essential oils – Coconut oil is a great lotion for hair and it won’t weigh it down. Avocado oil not only helps your hair but is fabulous if your scalp got sunburned. Essential oils won’t build up on your hair either.
  1. Pull your hair up for bed – Knots and tangles can cause breakage. This is particularly true if your summer hair is dry. Before bed put your hair up in a loose bun to avoid the bed head tangles that break delicate hair.

summer-hair-care

  1. Protect your color – Sunlight and heat oxidize color making hair look fried. Use a keratin treatment to protect your color and leave hair looking and feeling soft and beautiful.
  1. Dust your hair – Dusting is a technique for trimming tiny amounts of the ends of your hair. The small amounts of hair resemble dust as they fall. Having your hairdresser dust your hair every few weeks keeps longer sections from needing to be cut due to split ends.
  1. Save your hair from chlorine – Don’t shampoo before hitting the pool. The natural oils will help protect your hair from the damaging effects of chlorine. After your day at the pool shampoo and condition.
  1. Air dry – Putting away your hair dryer for the summer is a good idea. Let your hair dry naturally in the air rather than using the high heat of a blow dryer.
  1. Brush, brush, brush – Brushing your hair stimulates blood flow in the scalp and the roots of your hair. Brushing hair often is the key to maintaining a healthy, beautiful head of hair. The longer your hair, the bigger the brush you need to use.

Cinnamon for the Garden

 

Cinnamon is a wonderful spice. It adds flavor to both savory and sweet dishes, was once used as a love potion, and was a perfume for the wealthy of Rome. But did you know that cinnamon is great for your garden?

 

There are two types of cinnamon. Ceylon is a buff-colored cinnamon and is mildly sweet. Cassia is the cinnamon sold as “cinnamon” in many countries, including the United States. It is brown in color. Both are harvested from the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. Cinnamon oil comes from the pods of the cinnamon tree and is used both as a flavoring and medicinally.
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Make Your Own – Infused Oils

So many recipes call for oil and using infused oil can add another layer of flavor. Oil can be infused with herbs, aromatics like garlic or onion, citrus, and even nuts. It’s easy to make your own infused oils! Here’s how to do it.

First, remember that you must always use fresh herbs when making infused oils. The flavor of fresh herbs is more pure than dried and using fresh herbs will give your oil a vibrant color.

Make-Your-Own-Infused-Oils

You’ll need:

  • A blender or food processor
  • Cooking pot or oven-safe bowl
  • Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
  • Funnel
  • Glass bottles with tight fitting caps
  • Olive oil (or any other neutrally flavored oil)
  • Fresh herbs, aromatics, citrus, and/or nuts

 

 

Herb Infused Oils:

herbs

Blend soft herbs like basil and cilantro with the oil in the blender or food processor before heating. If you want a more vibrant color blanch the herbs then shock with ice water before blending. Adding the herbs without blanching gives you more flavorful oil. When using woody herbs like thyme or rosemary, simply add the sprigs to the oil and follow the instructions for heating.

When you have combined your herbs and oil heat them in a small saucepan over medium heat until the oil is lightly bubbling. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the oil to cool completely.

Strain the oil through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. If making oil using soft herbs, be sure not to press on the solids. Care during the straining process will prevent cloudy oil. You can place the woody herbs in the bottle but it will cause slightly cloudier oil.

While basil, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme are commonly used herbs you may want to also try these herbs:

Chives

Dill

Marjoram

Mint

Oregano

Parsley

Sage

Tarragon

 

Aromatic Infused Oils:

aromatics

For both dipping and cooking oils infused with aromatics like garlic and onion can’t be beat.

Wash whatever aromatic you’re going to use even though you’ve peeled them. You want to be sure to remove any trace of impurities.

Cut large items like onions in half or in rings. Garlic cloves and shallots can be left whole.

Roast aromatics before heating them with the oil. Pop them in the over on a baking sheet at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes or until just golden. This releases the fragrance and flavor.
Add the aromatic to the oil in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the oil begins to lightly bubble. Remove the pan from the heat and allow mixture to cool completely.

Although you can leave aromatics in the bottle without causing cloudiness the aromatic will continue to infuse the oil making the flavor stronger over time.

Garlic and onion are popular aromatics used in infused oil but also try:

Ginger

Green onions (scallions)

Lemongrass

Shallots
Citrus Infused Oils:

citrus

Citrus zest can add a bright flavor with a little tang to your infused oil.

Wash fruit carefully to remove any trace of pesticides. Use a vegetable peeler to make long strips of peel for easier removal. Be sure not to get any of the bitter, white pith.

Add peel to oil in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the oil begins to lightly bubble. Remove the pan from the heat and allow oil to cool completely.

Removing the zest while the oil is cooling will leave you with clearer and more delicately flavored oil. Leaving the zest in while the oil cools will produce a stronger flavor but cloudier oil. Strain the zest from the oil before bottling.

Lemons, limes, and oranges are typical citrus choices for infusing oil but you can also infuse oils with these citrus flavors:

Blood orange

Clementine

Grapefruit

Meyer lemon

Tangerine

Kumquat

 

Nut Infused Oils:

nuts

Use raw, unsalted nuts to make nut infused oils. Buy nuts that have been skinned or blanched. The oil will not taste quite the same as nut oils because they are made by pressing the oil from crushed nuts. Your nut infused oil will have a rich, roasted, savory flavor.

Add the nuts to the oil in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the oil is lightly bubbling. Remove from heat and allow oil to cool completely.

You don’t even have to strain the nuts out because they will not cloud the oil.

Peanut infused oil, while not the same as commercially produced peanut oil can add a lot of flavor but you may want to try these, too:

Almond

Cashew

Hazelnut

Pecan

Pine nut

Pistachio
Be Creative:

be-creative

Try combining flavors when you infuse oils. Many herbs, aromatics, citrus fruits, and nuts combine well together. Just follow the instructions for preparing each ingredient then combine with the oil and heat, cool, and strain.

Make these for cooking or great dipping oils for crusty bread:

Basil and garlic

Basil and mint

Marinade or cook chicken in these tasty oils:

Cardamom and orange

Rosemary and orange

Try these spicy combinations for Mexican dishes:

Cilantro, red pepper flakes, lime, and onion

Cilantro, scallions, jalapeno, and garlic

Keep your infused oils in the refrigerator and discard after a month.

 

 

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10 Ways to Reuse Plant Pots

Every year I end up with plant pots that I’ve used and can’t seem to bring myself to toss. They were under my front porch. They were under my back porch. They were on my potting table in the basement. I started to feel that they were going to end taking over the entire house. Now I’ve found 10 ways to reuse plant pots that you may want to try, too!

Reuse-plant-pots

Make a water ring for your water-loving plants – Tomatoes, peppers, and some other vegetables are water-loving plants but giving them enough water can cause the soil to become compacted. This means the plants aren’t getting all the water you try to give them. An easy fix is to take a large plastic pot, cut out the bottom, and push it about halfway into the soil. Then place your plant inside the pot, fill it partway with soil, and water. Each time you water the ring will hold water in allowing it to gradually soak into the soil instead of running right off. If you’ve already planted these water-loving plants just cut a slit down one side of the pot, push into the soil, and then use waterproof tape to close the slit.

Make water reservoirs for other thirsty plants – Summer squash is another vegetable that requires lots of water. But making a water ring around a zucchini plant won’t work. Instead, take an old pot (any material as long as the pot has drainage holes in the bottom) and dig a hole a few inches from the stem of the plant. Put the pot in the hole, leaving a couple of inches sticking out. Then just fill the pot with water. The drain holes at the bottom will allow water to soak deep into the soil.

Make a transplanting guide – When your plants are ready for new pots fill the new pot partway with soil. Take a pot the same size as the one your plant is in and put in inside the larger pot. Fill around the empty pot with soil. When you’ve put the correct level of soil into the large pot just remove the smaller one and you’ll have a ready-made hole just the right size for your transplant. Just pop the plant out of the old pot, loosen the roots, and put in the hole. Gently pat down the soil and water the plant.

Make a home for bees and other beneficial insects – Take an empty pot and fill it with sections of bamboo cut to fit. Hang the pot using a hook screwed into the side in a sheltered area. The insects will thank you!

Make a garden twine dispenser – I’m always losing the end of my garden twine on the spool or it gets so tangled I end up throwing the entire spool away. Now I just put the twine in a pot, thread the end through one of the drain holes in the bottom, fit a bit of cardboard on the “bottom” (the original top of the pot), and affix the cardboard  with duct tape. To prevent the twine from slipping down into the pot I glue a peg to the outside of the pot and just make a couple wraps of twine around it after I’ve cut what I need. This also works for kitchen twine. And you can use non-toxic paint to make the dispenser prettier for indoor use.

Make a produce pre-wash bowl – When I gather my produce I like to give it a wash before taking it in the house. In the past, when I didn’t do this, I found I was bringing bugs in with the vegetables. Now I use a large, lightweight pot to gather my vegetables and give them a good spray with the hose before taking them inside.

Make a stand for painting projects – If you are painting and don’t want to have the item touch the ground try turning over a few appropriately sized pots and using them as a paint stand.

Make an ornament box for tiny decorations – When my husband was undergoing chemo therapy we didn’t want to put up our large Christmas tree. We got a little tabletop tree and used tiny ornaments. The problem is that those ornaments are easily lost. My solution was to use a seedling tray to store mini-ornaments. The tray keeps the delicate ornaments from bumping each other and the entire tray can be kept in a cardboard box for easy storage.

Make a winter salt shaker – I used to throw de-icer on the porch and steps with a cup but this was a bad way for me to do it. The porch right outside the front door got piles of the stuff while the steps got less and less the farther down they were. This is my trick for distributing de-icer more evenly. Hold one pot inside another. Fill the interior pot with sidewalk salt or other de-icer. Shake the interior pot over the areas you want to de-ice. Using two pots keeps the salt from falling out too quickly, causing some areas to get too much salt and others not enough.

Make a bead holder – I try to craft. I really do. So I sometimes buy craft items which usually ended up jumbled up in a plastic zipper bag. This caused me to say things I shouldn’t when I tried to fish out a particular item. Now I use a seedling tray to keep beads and other small craft items organized and separate. Seedling trays are also great for organizing screws, nuts, bolts, and other small hardware.

 Do you reuse your old pots? I’d love to hear how!

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Make Your Own – Baking Ingredients

Sometimes we run out of the ingredients needed to make that perfect cookie or frosting. It can be frustrating to have to run to the store to pick up ingredients. Here are a few ways to make your own for baking.

 Make-Your-Own-2

Make your own powdered sugar –I can be an impulse baker and although I usually have lots of powdered sugar in the house sometimes I mess up. If you find yourself without enough powdered sugar just toss some regular granulated sugar in a blender and turn it on high until it becomes powder. Don’t put too much granulated sugar in at once as some may not get really pulverized, which is what you want.

Make your own brown sugar – Brown sugar isn’t made from some kind of special sugar cane. Just like chocolate milk isn’t made from brown cows (remember that from childhood?) brown sugar is just white sugar with a little something added. For light brown sugar use 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of unsulfured molasses. This is where it gets complicated. Pour the sugar into a bowl. Add the molasses. Use a fork to mix the two together. At one point in this process you’re going to believe you’re doing it wrong. The mixture will be kind of gloopy and it will clump together. You’re fine. Just keep mixing and it will soon start to look like real brown sugar. You can use a mixer but you’re still going to need the fork to kind of mash any lumps. If you need dark brown sugar just add an additional tablespoon of molasses.

So, that’s:

 

Light brown sugar: 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses.

Dark brown sugar: 1 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses.

 

Make your own chocolate chips – You can make your own chocolate chips (and white chocolate chips) and they’ll even look like chocolate chips! Follow this recipe:

Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons 100% unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons coco butter (food grade only)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons maple syrup

 

White Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons cacao butter or coconut butter, melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • Tiny pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon raw cashew or macadamia nut butter (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon milk powder (optional)

Directions:
For regular chocolate chips:

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper.
  2. Fill small saucepan with about 2 inches of water and place it on the stove.
  3. Place a heat-safe, glass bowl on top of the pot. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. You can melt the baker’s chocolate in the microwave but using the stove gives you more control so you don’t scorch the chocolate.
  4. Cut the baker’s chocolate into small pieces.
  5. Pour all the ingredients into the glass bowl. Omit the butter if you’re making dark chocolate chips.*
  6. Melt the mixture over a low to low-medium heat, stirring constantly. Using a silicone spoon or spatula will prevent the mixture from sticking.
  7. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a small tip or a zipper bag then cut a tiny bit of a corner from the bag. You don’t want the hole to be large since you want small chocolate chips.
  8. Carefully pipe the chocolate on to the parchment or wax paper. To get the little tips like store-bought chips stop squeezing the bag and lift it up allowing a bit of chocolate to pull up and then away from the bag. Alternately, you can use a toothpick to lift a tiny bit of chocolate up from the chip and then move the toothpick away.
  9. Place the baking sheets in the freezer for about an hour to harden the chips.
  10. Store finished chips in a zipper bag in the freezer

 

For white chocolate chips:

  1. Prepare baking sheets as for regular chocolate chips
  2. Set up double boiler.
  3. Cut a 2 inch piece of cacao butter and melt it in the glass bowl, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients (the nut butter and milk powder are optional but give the chips a creamier texture).
  5. Pipe the melted chocolate on the prepared paper.
  6. Place the baking sheets in the freezer for about an hour to harden.
  7. Transfer chips to a zipper bag and store in the freezer.

 

*The butter will give you richer, creamier chocolate, but they will also make the chips softer. Chocolate chips made without butter will be bitterer, but less likely to melt.

 

 

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Shaving Cream Painting

My friend Peg, her youngest daughter, and her granddaughters came over to create art with my grand kids. First they did their Colored Rice Art, which they enjoyed and then we did Shaving Cream Painting. They loved it! It’s messy and colorful so naturally it was a huge hit. And it’s easy even for toddlers. Peg’s three year old granddaughter and my two and a half year old grandson thought it was amazing! Getting messy with permission!

Shaving-cream-Painting-top

 

Here’s how to let your kids make amazing pictures!

You’ll need:

  • Shaving cream
  • Food coloring (you can also use watercolors but if you have really little ones food coloring is easier to get off)
  • Toothpicks, skewers, or small twigs
  • Paper
  • Spatula and anything with a straight edge

 

How to do it:

Cover a baking sheet with foil

Put a big blob of shaving cream on the foil (or on the high chair tray)

what's-this-stuff

Let the kids spread it around; you want it not perfectly flat but not all in a heap

Drop individual drops of food coloring or paint on the spread out shaving cream

drops-of-color

Let the kids swirl the colors using the toothpicks or whatever stick they’re using

even-the-baby

When they’re happy with the way the colors look place a piece of paper over the shaving cream and gently pat it down

finished-picture

Carefully lift the paper and use the spatula or straight edge object to gently remove the shaving cream

Allow the artwork to dry

All the kids were thrilled with the way their Shaving Cream Paintings turned out. Even the 14 year old had fun!

even-the-14-year-old

They liked it so much they wanted to do it again today!

The Colored Rice Art Project:

applying-glue

Applying glue takes concentration!

detail-work

This masterpiece required tweezers to get every grain of rice in place!

everyone-working-hard

Everyone is concentrating on her art

Doing-rice-art

Even the two year old thought it was fun!

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Plants & Flowers for Your Shade Garden

The front of my house faces north. While this means that my vegetable garden is bathed in sunlight from dawn until dusk the side of my house that makes the first impression is not so blessed. The bottom part of my lawn gets plenty of sun; the good thing about having a ranch style home. The flower beds that line the foundation of the house get no real sun. Ever.

I’m trying to reclaim my flower beds but I don’t want to spend a fortune on annuals. This means I need to move some of the annuals that I already have and purchase (or swap for) new ones. Finding shade loving plants and flowers can seem like an impossible task but there are actually quite a few really attractive options.

Shade-Garden

There is a section of wall at the front of the house that has no windows and no architectural features. It’s just a wall. For that area I can use a shrub that grows fairly tall and wide. My choice is the Carolina allspice. This is a lovely shrub that has maroon to rusty brown, fruity smelling flowers that bloom in the spring.

Carolina-allspice-flower

I already have a few astilbes in various hues. My current favorite is called Jump and Jive. The vibrant color really lights up my shady flower bed.

Astilbe,-Jump-and-Jive

Another favorite that I need to replace is common foxglove. I like the variety called Dalmatian White because it nearly glows in moonlight. Another favorite foxglove is Camelot Rose. A nice thing about foxglove is it’s a reseeding biennial so, although it’s not a forever plant it does last a couple of years.

Foxglove,-Dalmation-White

 

 

 

 

Foxglove,-Camelot-Rose

 

In the flower beds I have both hostas and ferns but, honestly, I’m tired of them. And there are several coral bell plants doing quite well but I think I want to try a brighter color. The ones I have are dark in color and I want to lighten things up with Citronelle and Blackberry Ice varieties.

Coral-Bells,-Citronelle

Coral-Bells,-blackberry-ice

And I may throw in an early bloomer like Helleborus, Red Lady. For mid to late summer blooms I’ll look to spiderwort in a pretty purple like Sweet Kate.

Helleborus,-Red-Lady

Spiderwort,-Sweet-Kate

A beautiful, low growing flower that I’ll use to fill in some spots is the primrose. These pretty flowers come in a variety of colors and you can usually also buy them as a mix.

Primrose

Here is a list of plants and flowers that grow well in the shade. Be sure to check if the plants you want will grow in your zone. Remember, just because you don’t have a lot of sun doesn’t mean you can’t make your garden lovely!

Annuals
Begonia -wax begonias
Browallia
Coleus
Impatiens

Garden forget-me-not
Wishbone flower
Viola/Pansy

 

Perennials
Astilbe
Fringed bleeding heart
Common bleeding heart
Yellow foxglove
Common foxglove (reseeding biennial)
Queen-of-the-meadow
Hellebores
Daylilies
Coral bells
Hosta
Virginia bluebells
Cinnamon fern
Wild blue phlox
Creeping phlox
Solomon’s seals
Primroses
Lungworts
Allegheny foamflower

 

Groundcovers
Ajuga
Wild gingers
Heartleaf bergenia
Sedges
Lily-of-the-valley

Alpine strawberry
Sweet woodruff
Epimediums
Hakone grass
Spotted lamium
Liriope (this can be invasive in warmer climates)
Partridgeberry
Japanese pachysandra

 

Shrubs
Carolina allspice
Rose daphne
Japanese holly
Mountain laurel
Variegated Japanese kerria
Leucothoes
Mahonias and Oregon grapes
Heavenly bamboo
Cherry-laurel
Rhododendrons and azaleas
Alpine currant
Himalayan sarcococca
Japanese skimmia

 

How to Have a Great Garden for Less Money

I love my vegetable garden. I spend most of my summer out there even when it really doesn’t need my attention. I get a thrill just seeing my vegetables growing. Yet even though I love my garden I’m not going to spend a fortune on it each season. I grow vegetables because home-grown are healthier and cheaper than store bought. Over the years I’ve learned how to have a great garden for less money.

 

  1. I grow almost all my vegetables from seeds rather than buying started plants. My son always gets me some plants for Mother’s Day but starting vegetables from seeds is a lot less expensive.
  1. Seed swapping is another way to save money. Get together with your gardening friends and trade seeds. I always look for heirloom seeds and that way I not only get seeds for this year but I can save the seeds from my harvest for next year.
  1. I make my own soil amendments. We have chickens so I have that manure in bulk. There are also several nearby farms that have cows. They’re always happy to let me go clean up their pastures for the free manure. I just mix the manure I collect with grass clippings and old leaves, add some kitchen trimmings like eggshells and coffee grounds, and let it sit over the winter. The next spring I have great compost.
  1. Re-purposing and reusing items I have on hand saves money, too. Use fallen tree branches as stakes or trellises for tomatoes and vining plants. Old lattice can be turned into a garden gate. Be creative. Try using old cardboard and newspaper for mulch.
  1. Going organic is also a cash (and health) saver. Chemical pesticides can be expensive and they aren’t healthy but attracting beneficial insects to my garden is free. Cover crops and companion planting add nutrients to the garden and give me additional crops.

How-To-Have-a-Great-Garden

  1. Free or discount items like listings on Craigslist or your local newspaper often have free mulch or even live plants. I also go to garage sales and flea markets as they can be great places to find things I can repurpose for my garden.
  1. I design my vegetable and flower gardens myself. There are plenty of design services and software for designing gardens but they can be costly. It’s free and easy to do it yourself. Just research which plants grow well together and the light requirements of plants you want to grow. All you need to do the layout is some paper and a ruler. I use Excel each winter to plan my garden for the following spring. That way I can ensure crop rotation and move things around as my ideas change.
  1. Get creative. I often drive our dirt roads to pick up large rocks I use to decorate my flowerbeds. I have a thing about rocks. You can often find furniture to turn into garden decor and garden decorations free by the side of the road. Look to nature for items you can use to dress up your garden.
  1. Take cuttings and thin bulbs to increase the plants you have in your flower beds. Start your cuttings in a pot with wet perlite and you’ll see roots and leaves in just a few short weeks. Research which plants can be grown from cuttings as some are asexual; genetic clones, and won’t reproduce this way.
  1. Flower trades are another way I’ve found to get free plants. I take bulbs or cuttings of plants and trade them for the new ones I want with friends. It’s a wonderful way to get free perennials

 

Do you have money-saving tips for the garden? Please share them!

 

 

 

 

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