DIY Plant Labels

DIY Plant Labels

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I want to say spring has sprung, but alas, there is snow on the ground again. March 16 in Southern Illinois- more snow, and 20 degrees. Wow! I have to admit, though, we have had some beautiful days in between, like yesterday- sunny and 65 degrees. I’ll take that.

Seed starting has been in full swing in this house for about a month or so. As market gardeners, we have a wide variety of herbs and vegetables that we start from seed. This year, we decided to start as many as we could in our house. That way, we have full control over the entire operation and it makes it easier to be attentive to the plants and aware of their needs.

It feels like the plants have taken over. They started out just taking up one side of the spare room. Then, they filled a long table on the other side. Before I knew it, my husband had added another level to the plant station on the first side, with more lights. Suddenly, more plants were on the counter in my entryway with more lights. I hope it warms up soon and they can go out to our small greenhouse because I’m not sure where else they can go. They seem so happy inside right now that I think they would rather I left so they could take up my bedroom.  Sorry plants, that’s where I draw the line!

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(As I was writing this post, my husband came in the room and asked if he could please commandeer the kitchen table until tomorrow for more seedlings. He didn’t even know I was writing about this very thing!!!)

Okay, I’m sorry I’m rambling, we must get to the need to label each plant. When you are starting seeds, and especially multiple varieties of a plant, it is extremely important that each seedling is clearly labeled. It’s so easy to get things mixed up if you don’t. Sure, you may recognize a tomato seedling when you see the true leaves emerge, but what variety was it? Was it Red Brandywine? Or perhaps Arkansas Traveler? Big Beef maybe? Label, label, label!!!

We have tried various methods for labeling our plants. A major consideration when planting in quantity is cost. I have bought really nice plastic plant markers (like these) in stores and they work great. They are thick and sturdy and fine if you have a small number of plants. They don’t last forever, as I found out this year. We save and reuse everything we can but when I went to reuse these they were dry-rotted and fell apart.

On to the next frugal idea, popsicle sticks, which we have used before. These can be picked up in large quantities for so cheap, like the big box at Michael’s craft store + your 40% off coupon = super frugal. The downside is, as you water your plants, the permanent marker tends to run over time and become hard to read. This is true no matter what color your marker is. Also, the moisture tends to stay in the wood and can cause mold to develop. My husband and I started this year using popsicle sticks but I quickly determined they were going to have to get replaced for fear we wouldn’t be able to read them when they were finally ready to plant. That would be a disaster!

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So, here’s what we did instead, for no-cost at all. We took empty containers, such as the kind that hold yogurt, sour cream and the like, and cut them into rectangles to use as DIY plant labels. We love them! They are very easy to read, they stay put in the soil, and they don’t deteriorate from watering. It’s something to feel good about, too right? I mean, it’s repurposing at it’s best :)

I have to admit, in my urge to clear out clutter, I recently got rid of several used containers that were taking up space in my large container drawer. That made me just a little sad since now I had a use for them, but I’m not urging anyone to become a hoader, here! Don’t hang on to stuff you may never use. Believe me, there are plenty of people who do and they will be more than happy to share there containers with you.

Here’s the simple way I cut my containers. Using a heavy pair of scissors, cut down the length of the container.

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Now, remove the bottom with your scissors, being careful of any sharp edges.

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Remove the top edge.

Optimized-2014-02-25 16.13.17Now, to make it easier to work with, cut in half lengthwise.

Optimized-Plant markers halfNext, simply cut into strips of whatever width you want. Do this lengthwise so that you don’t end up with curved strips.

Optimized-Finished LabelsYou should be able to get 25 or so labels out of a large container, counting about 4 from the lid.

I did run out of containers (we have hundreds of plants) and found that some disposable plastic cups work okay and some do not. The Solo-type we had didn’t work well as they had strange indentations and also didn’t take the marker well. I had some plain, soft clear ones though, and they worked.  If you are in a pinch and need more labels ASAP, try whatever you have on hand.

**This post has been shared with Make It and Love It and Link It or Lump It

2 Tips for a Better Shave for Less Money!

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Let’s face it- a good shave can cost money. Nice razors can be expensive and fancy shaving creams, especially for women, can really add up. That’s why mom would never let me buy those gel creams for shaving. She said to “just use soap”. But soap doesn’t necessarily provide the best protection and glide for shaving. There is a better way.

Here are my two best tips for a better shave for less money.

1- After using your razor, dry it thoroughly with a hair dryer and do not store it in the shower.

Moisture + blades = bad. Keep those blades clean and dry and you can be using that blade for months–REALLY! Google it and you’ll read all kinds of stories that are amazing about how long a razor can last using this simple trick. Gillette does NOT want you to know about that, you can bet on it!

Now you don’t have to feel guilty about buying a nice razor. You can make it last for. ev. er.

2- For a great shave, use hair conditioner.

I have been using conditioner for 20+ years after reading the tip in a magazine. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Conditioner smooths the hair and makes the razor glide really well. I find it leaves my legs feeling soft. You can use any brand you like. It doesn’t take very much at all to create a nice glide for shaving.

The side benefit to using conditioner is that you probably already have some in your tub or shower, and that means less products to buy and less space they are taking up.

So, there you have it, 2 simple tips that are sure to make your skin and your wallet a little happier. :)

 

Luscious Limoncello

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Optimized-Spelled Limoncello

Luscious Limoncello. Ahhh…it’s making me dream of warmer weather.

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I spotted Meyer Lemons. They don’t come around too often, but when they do, I snatch them up and go on a lemon spree. They were priced very reasonably, making it necessary for me to purchase several bags. Yeah. Several.

Many thoughts went through my head…lemon yogurt cake, yum. Lemonade, yum. Lemon meringue pie, yum. Limoncello, yum yum!

I got to work comparing techniques and recipes out there and then I got to work making it. With limoncello, the flavor comes from just the outer, yellow portion of the lemon. That means you can get two uses out of your lemons. You are removing the rind, but you still have the actual fruit left, meaning you can juice all of them and make lemonade or freeze the juice for later.

Limoncello, although it sounds really fancy, is actually simple to make. Mainly, you need lemons, vodka, sugar and water.

For a 750ml bottle of vodka, you would normally use about 10 lemons. Now Meyer lemons are not the typical lemon used, so they aren’t necessary here. It’s all up to preference. I’ve made limoncello a few times before, and this will be my first time with Meyers.

Start by peeling just the outer yellow from your lemons. My preferred method is to use a sharp vegetable peeler. I have this one, and I absolutely love it!

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If you end up getting some of the white pith on the peel, just scrape that away with the edge of a spoon. You don’t want the pith as it is bitter and you’ll end up with bitter flavors in your limoncello.

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Do this with all 10 of your lemons. (I actually used 9 because some of mine were really big)

Now place all the peels in a jar with a lid and pour the vodka over them. You can use any jar that is large enough. I favor 1/2 gallon Ball jars with those white plastic lids they make because I have a lot of them. Screw the lid on tight, give a shake if you want, and put in a dark, cool place, like a cabinet in your kitchen.

Here’s where patience comes in. Let this mixture sit anywhere from 4 days to a full month. Which is better you ask? I’ll be testing that and letting you know which we prefer. But in the meantime, just know you can be somewhat impatient and finish it after four days.

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After the wait, it’s time to strain your liquor and make some simple syrup.

For the simple syrup, place 3 1/2 cups water into a sauce pan and add 2 1/2 cups sugar. Bring to a boil (no need to stir) and boil for five minutes. Let cool.

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While you are waiting for the syrup to cool,  strain your vodka. You can use a paper towel placed over a strainer or cheesecloth or a coffee filter, whatever you have handy.

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When you are finished straining and your sugar syrup has cooled, pour both together into a glass container. You should have right at 1/2 gallon.

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Store your limoncello in the freezer. This will keep it ice cold but the alcohol content will keep it from freezing solid.

After it’s good and chilled, pour a glass, sip and relax. Ahhh…

 

*This post has been shared with Make It & Love It

Cornbread

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Cornbread. Yum.

Growing up, it came in a box named Jiffy, and if I’m honest, it’s come in a box in my house far too often as well. Why? Well, the same reason many of us buy things in a box–convenience.

Really, though, making cornbread from scratch is so easy and doesn’t take much longer than a boxed version. So no more excuses in my house because homemade is far healthier! You control the ingredients instead of a corporation. The ingredients on a box of Jiffy go like this:

INGREDIENTS: WHEAT FLOUR, DEGERMINATED YELLOW CORN MEAL, SUGAR, ANIMAL SHORTENING (CONTAINS ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING: LARD, HYDROGENATED LARD, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED LARD), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING: BAKING SODA, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, SALT, WHEAT STARCH, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, BHT PRESERVATIVE, TOCOPHEROL PRESERVATIVE, CITRIC ACID PRESERVATIVE, BHA PRESERVATIVE, TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID, SILICON DIOXIDE.

When you make it yourself you can avoid hydrogenated oils, GMO corn, preservatives and the like. You can even add whole wheat flour instead of white, which we did. Now you’ve got something you can feel good about!

This recipe comes from an old cookbook I just acquired. It’s one of those cookbooks that was put together locally with many contributors of “tried and tested recipes”. The year was 1943, and let me tell you, there are some really interesting recipes in there. Some that I’m really excited to try, some that have bewildered me with ingredients like Spry (turns out it was a brand of shortening) and some that are just downright weird like the sandwich spread I pictured below. (Read that for some entertainment!)

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This cornbread recipe does use sugar, which I included since we are accustomed to a sweeter cornbread. You can leave this out if you want or maybe try substituting with honey or coconut sugar or whatever you like. I haven’t tried this so I don’t know how it would affect the taste or the baking.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup flour (can use whole wheat)

3/4 corn meal (I recommend organic to avoid GMO’s)

1/4 cup sugar (I recommend cane sugar as opposed to beet sugar to avoid GMO’s)

5 teaspoons baking powder

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

1 egg, well beaten

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients.

Add the milk, egg and butter.

Beat well and let sit 5 minutes.

Pour into greased 9″ round cake pan or cast iron skillet. (I like to line the bottom with parchment paper too)

Make sure batter is spread evenly.

Bake 20 minutes or until golden and top springs back or toothpick comes out clean.

Cool slightly. Cut. Eat. Yum.

We like to cut each piece in half and slather with butter and sometimes honey, too. Served alongside a hearty soup, like this one, you can’t beat it!