citronella wine bottles…a diy

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GOT BUGS?  Here’s how to make a do it yourself citronella wine bottle torch!

Check out all the scoop from Jennifer at When Pigs Fly or click here and stop swatting!

let’s visit the Miracle Garden in Dubai…

Can’t afford it?

Too freaked out to go that far?

Ok, then let’s take a peek at what this Miracle Garden is all about.  Opening in February of 2013, this piece of paradise boasts beautiful vertical and horizontal landscaping designs.  And….get this…..has over 45 million flowers!

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So…how does your garden grow?  What a gorgeous display!  But before you let your kids run all nilly-willy, there are a few guidlines:

1.  Please keep area clean

2.  Children are the responsibility of accompanied adults

3.  Ball playing, cycling and barbecues are not allowed

4.  Pets are not allowed

5.  Management will not be responsible for personal accidents

6.  Sitting is allowed only in designated areas

7.  Flower picking is not allowed

8.  Any damages arising due to negligence or non-compliance with the mentioned instructions, shall be sole responsibility of the visitor and their companions

9.  Please use proper passages, walkways and exits allocated for such use.

THERE!  Easy peasy!  And did you know the Miracle Garden has the record in Guinness Book of Records for having the longest flower wall which will give new landmark for Miracle Garden and City of Dubai, believed to be leader in diverse and cultural tourist attraction?  

Well, now you do!! Enjoy!  Check out www.dubaimiraclegarden.com for more info

the flag that doesn’t fly…

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Vandenberg AFB, located in Lompac, California.  Between the fields where the flag is planted, there are 9+ miles of flower fields that go all the way to the ocean. 

It is 740 feet long and 390 feet wide and actually maintains the proper flag dimensions as stated in

Executive Order #10834This gorgeous flag is 6.5 acres  with each stripe being 30 feet wide and each pointy star 24 feet in diameter!  Containing over 400,000 larkspur plants, with 4-5 stems each, for a total of more than 2 million flowers.

A beautiful tribute to our nation and to our soldiers everywhere.

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Rambutan…..rambu-what???

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Native to Malaysia, this fruit is also grown in  Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia.  This particular tree can grow to about 50 – 80 feet high, but it’s not the height that interests me….look at the fruit!  Have you ever seen anything like this before??

Rambutan is closely related to the lychee fruit (and I know you remember THIS post, she said sarcastically).  And here’s the weird part…there are three different kinds of rambutan (no, that isn’t the weird part, the next part is the weird part). 

There is the male fruit, the hermaphrodite functioning as males and the hermaphrodite functioning as females Wha???

To the peeps in southeast Asia, this little beauty is as normal as an apple is to us, or at least most of us.

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YepShe’s pretty hairy, isn’t she….or he?  The word rambut in Malay is ‘hairy’, which you can see on the spiky rind, but don’t worry…if you bit into one of these little jewels there would be no ouchie.  They are soft and harmless.

So what do we do with it and how the heck do we eat it:   You can purchase the rambutan in Asian/Chinese markets in the produce area.  And you want to look for ones with bright red skin, not so much orange or yellow.  And don’t purchase if you see they have ‘black’ hairs….in fact, don’t purchase anything in the produce section with black hair on it…..(insert gag here).

Health Benefits:  Rambutans are high in vitamin C, plus copper, manganese, and trace elements of many other nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and iron.

How do we get to the good part:  Make a cut through the skin with a sharp knife.  Note: If your rambutans are very ripe, they can also be twisted open between your hands, and the fruit simply pops out.  Next peel away the skin and either cut out the seed inside or pop it into your mouth and have fun spitting the seed out!  (they frown on this in the produce department so wait until you get home).

Here’s a beautiful and tropical fruit salad to enjoy! (via)

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Ingredients:

  • YIELD: 1 large bowl of fruit salad
  • 1+1/2 cups fresh papaya, cubed
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or canned
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup mango, cubed
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced or cut into quarters
  • 1 cup other fruit, local OR exotic such as blueberries, melon, dragon fruit, lychees, longans, or rambutans
  • Garnish: starfruit slices
  • FRUIT SALAD DRESSING:
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar OR palm sugar

Preparation:

  1. Stir fruit salad dressing ingredients together in a cup until sugar dissolves.  Set aside.
  2. Place all the fresh fruit in a mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the dressing over and toss well to mix.
  4. Pour or scoop the fruit salad into a serving bowl, or into a prepared pineapple boat (as pictured).  Garnish just before serving with a star fruit slice.

Star Fruit Tip: To keep starfruit from going brown after slicing, simply drizzle over some fresh lime or lemon juice.

Yacón……what is it and what do I do with it?

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Well here’s another beauty that has escaped me.  The yacón. (pronounced ya-kon) In the Inca language, yacón means ‘water root’.

Another name for the yacón is Peruvian ground apple.  A perennial tuber grown in the ground, with a taste similar to a cross between celery and a Granny Smith apple and a touch of pear.  This little treat is naturally low in calories and high in fiber….and can’t we all use a little more fiber?  (is it me or does this sound suspiciously like Jicama?)

“The tubers and leaves contain high levels of inulin, a form of sugar humans  cannot easily break down, making it low in calories. Inulin also aids digestion  and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine, while  inhibiting toxic bacteria. Recent research also has found that yacon tubers and  leaves are a good source of antioxidants.”(source)

Yacon_plant_(Smallanthus_sonchifolius)(via)

Yacón also benefits the bacteria in the intestinal tract and colon that boost the immune system and aid digestion, something else we need….digestion! This potential as a dietary aid and as a ‘sweet spot’ for diabetics has led to yacón being grown more widely, and thankfully in America!

Here’s what the Guardian News has to say:

“Yacón has a crunchy texture, slightly reminiscent of water chestnuts, and a sweet flavour, so it’s rather good simply peeled, sliced and eaten as a snack. It’s great in salads too, though its tendency to brown means that you should add it at the last minute, once everything else is assembled and ready to be dressed, or sprinkle with a little lemon juice to prevent it discolouring as it’s peeled (and do peel it, the skin can be a little bitter).

Yacón also has a delightful tendency to absorb sauces and dressings, which make it a fantastic vehicle for other flavours. Try it grated with carrots in a mustardy vinaigrette with a handful of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, or in the traditional South American fruit salad, salpicón. Combine peeled, chopped yacón with chunks of pineapple, chopped papaya and mango and dress in freshly squeezed orange juice and a spritz of lemon.

You could also use yacón instead of apples in a Waldorf salad. Just peel and dice the yacón and toss it in lemon juice to stop it from going brown, then combine it in a bowl with chopped celery, some raisins and walnuts. Dress with mayonnaise thinned with a little sour cream and serve.”

You can purchase yacón in powder or slices HEREOr find it in syrup form HERE.

cha cha cha cherries!

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Oh yummy, yummy cherries!  It’s the sign of summer!!!

Yes, they are delicious but did you know can knock the socks off gout and also help in alleviating arthritis?

IT’S TRUE!

Just one cup of sweet or sour cherries contains about 130 calories and are a source of beta carotene, vitamin C and potassium.  There has even been research that has found the quercetin in cherries is linked to a reduced risk of coronary artery disease.  And they taste great!!

Here is some great news for those suffering with pain and swelling:

“In research published in 2004 at Johns Hopkins University, rats were injected  with either a solution containing tart cherries or a prescription non-steroidal  anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and exposed to either a heated surface or an  inflammatory agent. The tart cherries significantly reduced pain sensitivity and  at the highest dosage were as effective as the drug. The authors conclude that  tart cherries may have a beneficial role in inflammatory pain. In a 2001 study  at Michigan State University, the anthocyanins in cherries were found to be  equivalent to two common over-the-counter painkillers(also NSAIDs) for  inhibiting the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes associated with inflammation.” (source)
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Remember when buying cherries, look for plump, firm fruit with green stems.  Both sweet and sour cherries will spoil quickly.  Find them at your local farmers market since imported cherries aren’t as flavorful.   Unwashed fruit should keep in your refrigerator for up to a week.  Be sure to wash right before eating, since water can cause the cherry to split and soften.

YUMMY CHERRY TART

  • 9 graham crackers (each 2 1/2 by 5 inches)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound fresh sweet cherries, such as Bing, pitted and halved
  • 1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers and 2 tablespoons sugar until finely ground. Add butter, and process until combined. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using the base of a dry measuring cup, firmly press mixture into bottom and up sides of pan. Bake until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add cream, and beat until soft peaks form; spread mixture in cooled crust. Scatter cherries on top.

In a small saucepan, combine jam and 1 teaspoon water; heat over low until liquefied, about 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, dab cherries with glaze. Refrigerate tart at least 30 minutes or, covered, up to 1 day.  (from Everyday Food, June 2007)

Papa and the tomato garden…

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An old gentleman lived  alone in New  Jersey .  He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as  the ground was hard.  His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in  prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his  predicament:

Dear Vincent,

I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year.  I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot.  I know if you were here, my troubles would be over.  I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me like in the old days.

Love, Papa

A few days later he  received a letter from his son.

Dear Papa,

Don’t dig up that garden.  That’s where the bodies are buried.

Love, Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next  morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without  finding any bodies.

They apologized to the  old man and left.. That same day the old man received another letter from his  son.

Dear Papa,

Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now.  That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love you, Vinnie

living with labels….

organic 

 

There’s a difference???

So are “natural” and “organic” synonymous with each other?  Well, I’m hopefully going to shed a little light in the label war and you can judge for yourself.  Let’s start…

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ORGANIC:  Products bearing this label are required to contain no less than 95% certified organic ingredients.  The remaining 5% are non-organic and synthetic ingredients.

100% ORGANIC:  By law, these products have to be made entirely of certified organic ingredients, produced in accordance with federal organic standards and include no  synthetics.

MADE WITH ORGANIC INGREDIENTS:  These products have a 70/30 split of organic and non-organic ingredients that have been approved by the USDA.

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NATURAL:  Concerning meat, it means the manufacturer claims to have used no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.   “Naturally raised means  no growth promoters, antibiotics, animal by-products, or fish by-products.

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FREE RANGE:  This label does NOT mean that the animals have spent most of the time outdoors.  To use this label means the producers have to only offer the animals outdoor access as little as 5 minutes per dayBut “allowing access” doesn’t mean much. A small door in a barn with thousands  of chickens technically gives chickens an opportunity to go outside, but that  doesn’t mean that they’ll have access to grass (it may only be a concrete slab). (via)

Bottom line:  Eat fresh.  Eat local.  Do it.

Eat-Local

organic farms till it like it is…… ;)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more that 34 million tons of food waste were generated in 2010, second only to paper. (via timefreepress.com)

You recycle your bottles and newspapers, you upcycle thrift store finds into decor treasures, and you reuse all your plastic bags. But do you upcycle your food scraps?  We’re not talking compost (yet), we’re talking re-growing food from scraps you might have tossed right into the garbage!

Turns out, several odds and ends you might have tossed can be re-grown into more food!

Scallions

When your recipe only calls for the green part of the scallions, don’t toss the white end with the roots. Stick it in a glass jar with a little water and the greens will grow back. You can just snip off what you need as you go. This also works with leeks.

Lemongrass

This delicious, aromatic herb is really just a grass and will grow well in a pot in a sunny spot. Take the root ends (after you’ve used the rest in a recipe) and put in a jar of water in a sunny spot. After a week or so, you’ll start to see roots appearing. Once the roots look healthy, transplant your lemongrass to a pot and let it grow. You can start harvesting when the stalks get to be a foot or more tall.

Celery

The next time you’re chopping a bunch of celery, save the root end! Place it in a shallow bowl of water, and after a few days, you should start to see roots and new leaves appear. As soon as you see these, you can plant the celery — leaving the leaves just above the soil.  The plant will continue to grow, and soon you’ll have a whole new head of celery!

Ginger

Did you know that ginger makes a beautiful (and useful) houseplant? If you’ve got a piece of fresh ginger going spare in your fridge, you can plant it in potting soil. Ginger is a root, and before long, you’ll notice a lovely plant sprouting from it. Once the plant is big enough, you can actually pull it up, whack off a piece of the root, and replant it whenever you need fresh ginger–or just enjoy your culinary houseplant.

Pineapple

Here’s a way to grow pineapple at home from a pineapple!  Pick one with healthy, green  leaves on top.  Some brown tips are normal, but the center leaves should be all green.  You need a 12 inch wide by 12 inch tall pot filled with potting  soil mixed with compost.  You can start them in smaller pots, then transfer them to larger pots.  Pineapples don’t like wet soil, so be sure your potting soil has an additive like vermeculite  to promote drainage.  The pineapple can stay in this pot, but the plant can grow up to 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide, so you may need some help when moving it!

Want to learn more about composting?  Check out what the University of Oregon has to say about the subject, which is a LOT!

Organic Gardening online magazine is another great site that can give you even more hints!  Now….get out and get dirty!!