Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to Tell Your Husband What You Want for Your Birthday

My husband stresses more than any other person I have met about gift giving. He stresses so much that he really psychs himself out and often ends up getting something at the last minute for the person. I really hate when that person happens to be me! Before we were dating, it was much easier for him: he just bought the standard adult party gift: my favorite liquor (vodka), and some candy (Skittles). I'm not a big drinker, but I do like a cocktail every once in awhile (and maybe more than one on my birthday). When we started dating,  he had a lot more trouble coming up with anything....and now that we are married he is at a total loss.

You see, my birthday has always been kind of a big deal. It has always been an "event". I was the only girl in my generation of a very large, tight-nit family, and was therefore given huge celebrations long after I was too old for them. My last family birthday was when I was 19 years old. My parents always take me out to dinner, and my mom always calls me at my birth time. When I lived with them, I would wake up to messages on my mirror and balloons on my door. I loved it. When I stopped having family parties and celebrated with just my friends, I would plan my special night for weeks. The year I turned 21 was the same year a friend of mine (whose birthday was the day before mine) was turning 31. We had a huge combined party and at midnight blew out the candles on the cake together. Then there was another  year that my uncle planned a whole day of awesome activities just for the two of us. On two other occasions, different friends have written songs for me and played them on my birthday. One year, I even flew a plane. I have had some great birthdays. Once Shannon found out how important to me my birthday was....the pressure was on and he is nervous about my first birthday as his wife. I want to help him, but I don't want to steal his thunder.

What is the best way to not so sneakily tell him what I want?...(after all, I want to maintain some form of etiquette!) The tried and true method of skillfully placed advertisement! That's right, I am going to go "A Christmas Story" on him and hide my ads in his magazines (metaphorically speaking since he doesn't read magazines). It is the most obvious way I can think of to tell him without having to "tell him".

Since we live in a new city and it would be too far for my friends to drive up for my birthday, a party isn't really the best option this year....besides, I am too old to be having special event birthday parties for myself. If I throw any more they should be for the kids....and since I am growing up and growing out of "kid birthday phase" I want my gifts to be a little more mature as well.

(Preferably in black and thigh high)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Prepare Ahead for Loved One's Passing

Over the weekend, I had the unfortunate experience of driving my grandparents to their hometown to the funeral of a family member they had been close with when they were growing up. I did not know much about the woman who passed, but I did walk away from the experience with a few ideas that I think could help me down the road.

The coincidence of my post from this past Saturday, How to Show Loved One's You Care, was written before I knew I would be taking my grandparents to a funeral. I had casually mentioned that many people my age are starting to or have already lost their grandparents, and in some cases their parents. I figure the timing is right for this post.

One aspect of the funeral from the weekend was sharing a few funny stories about the woman who had passed. It allowed everyone who didn't know her well to get an idea of her life, and it reminded those who were close with her to remember the great times they had with her.

Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you there. - Isla Paschal Richardson

After hearing a few of these stories, I started thinking about what stories best summed up each grandparent to me. I had the fortunate ability to be sitting next to two of them at the time, but I can only imagine trying to come up with these great stories in the midst of the grief of losing them.

One way I am going to plan ahead, and take time to think about them in the present, is to write down some of my favorite stories and moments. Another great idea is to have favorite bible verses, poems, songs, or other meaningful things about the person.

To some people, this is a very sensitive subject and difficult to do when you are thinking about someone who is still alive dieing. Try to think of it this way....if you compile these things now you are getting to know the person better as they live not just planing for their death. Many people participate in emergency preparations for power outages, storms, disasters, and other situations that may or may not happen soon. I think of this as a different type of emergency preparation. To someone grieving, it is an emergency, and thinking clearly isn't usually possible.

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die. -Thomas Campbell

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Re-Use Clothing Year Round

This is a tricky time of year for people who are conscious of their wardrobe and the soon-to-be huge sale pushes on fall clothing. With back to school and the season not far from changing from summer to fall, people are often persuaded to purchase completely separate wardrobes for different times of the year.

Of course there are certain clothing items that belong in a specific section of your seasonal wardrobe, there are surprisingly many items of clothing you can keep out year round.

For the fall, it might give your outfit a nice change from summer if you add a few cardigans or shells to your closet. The short sleeve shirt you wore this summer can now have a layer added on the top of it and worn through the mild parts of winter. Changing the outer layer also allows you to add in and use a shirt with different color palates.

Many business women have just a few pairs of pants, skirts, suits, or blouses they own but they are able to reconfigure them with accessories, purses, jewelry, and outer wear to create entirely separate looks.

This is the trick with any wardrobe...be able to exchange your tops, bottoms, and layered pieces. It is so tempting to purchase new seasonal clothing but try to think about what you have and how you can keep using it throughout the year. It will save you money in the long run. If you wear the same 20 tops all year for a year or two, then you can start replacing one at a time as they age. This will allow you to feel like you are always getting new clothes without the expense. If you purchase the whole season's wardrobe new it will be a much harder punch to the wallet.

My wardrobe has two main color palates: black and brown. You can almost always match what I have with black pants/shoes, or brown pants/brown shoes. Even when you get into your navy colors, brown usually will pair up nicely. There are some things that join the brown family that do not go well with black, and vice versa.

Everyone has to have their own sense of style, fashion, and what they feel comfortable in. I am a brunette with a medium complexion, so I wear a lot of nude, brown, green, and denim-navy colors.
Below are some photos of my favorite closet "must haves":

Long sleeve jacket-like layers. A style like this allows you to show all or just part of your top underneath. This allows you to change your look with countless tops underneath.

 Dansko leather clogs are my favorite shoe. Not only do they give you a nice 1 1/2 inch life without being "heels", they can go with jeans for a polished casual look, or be paired with nice khaki pants or brown dress pants to be a more business attire ready.
 This 3/4 length black shrug is probably my favorite thing. It is great during the summer with camisoles and through the winter with different tops underneath. Since it is almost to the elbow, you can wear most short sleeve shirts under it without the end of the sleeve showing through the shrug. My only complaint with this piece is that they are almost impossible to find in any color than black. Some places will do white or pastel colors near spring/Easter, but even then it is hard to come by.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Show Loved Ones You Care

Every once in a while, I get very sentimental over things I wouldn't have dreamed would make me start thinking about others and my childhood. I am blessed to still have all of my grandparents alive and relatively well for their ages.  I know that many others my age have already begun or have lost all of their grandparents.

I try to remember that every day could be any one's last day and try to make it count. So, in honor of making sure my grandparents in the 75+ range still feel loved and know I'm thinking of them, here are a few things that can brighten someone elses day!

#1 Send a hand-written note

This is a concept that MANY people under about 45 don't appreciate. We have so much technology, phones are affordable for long distance, and the ease of sending an e-mail has great appeal. To those who are older, they have not invested in all of the technology available and still enjoy the older methods of communication. Of course an in-person visit will usually elicit the best response, but a hand-written note or card will probably be a wonderful surprise to your loved one.

#2 Visit for a non-occasion, unless the occasion is just because!

I am most guilty of this type of visit. When there is a birthday, holiday or other planned family event, it can be much easier to plan ahead that there will be a get together, and that time off from activities or work might be easier. But, people still like to have visits for no reason other than you wanted to see them and spend time with them.

#3 Send a small gift, or something with a memory

This idea does not mean to go out and buy grandma a new $300 ring, but find something that is meaningful to the person you are getting it for. Perhaps you used to always make a specific food or desert with the person-bring along the ingredients to make it again with them (or bring it already prepared). This is a personal favorite thing of my grandmother because it validates to her that I remember all of the little things we used to do. To her, knowing that I enjoyed eating a strawberry jello dessert makes her feel good!

#4 Call on the phone

Of course, some of our loved ones are not just around the corner and going to visit them is not possible frequently. It is nice to call on the phone even when there is no specific news to share. I once was in the habit of only calling family when I had news (typically positive news) to share. As I have gotten older, I realized that this can seem a bit self-centered....so calling people at random just to talk allows the conversation to be equally about you and the person you are calling.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Some Tips on Cooking Meat

I was thinking very hard about what to post next for the blog, and I always first go to what is actively occurring in my life. Today, and this week, has been pretty boring with nothing new occurring. So, the next thing I think about is "what's for dinner tonight?". The answer is something with ground beef.

I am thinking that a burger sounds like the perfect thing to cook with the ground beef I bought a few days ago. Cooking burgers is a science I have struggled with for a very long time. That and cooking any meat.

My problem with cooking meat is that I definitely want the meat to be cooked throughout. There is a slim window of opportunity that your meat can be completely cooked without being cooked so long that it is dry, burnt or a weird texture.

I was told not too long ago that when grilling, if the meat is still "stuck" to the grill, it isn't ready to flip yet. This set off a light bulb in my head. That MUST be my problem...I figure if the meat is sticking to whatever surface I'm cooking on it must be ready to burn and need flipped.

I have given this concept a try now twice. Once was with chicken in my electric skillet, and the second was with a burger on my grill. I certainly had better results wtih not moving my meat until it was unstuck.

Another meat tip, don't try to cook it too hot too fast if you want it completely cooked through. If you are cooking your meat rare, it might be best to do a higher temp fast just for the outside of the meat....but I never cook rare so don't quote me on this.

I like my meat medium-well to well done. If there is any liquid that comes out that isn't completely clear I won't eat it! So with this in mind, if you are needing to wait until it is cooked all the way through, a high temperature is just going to over cook or burn the outside.

Another tip with meat, if you like it cooked all the way through, sometimes it will be necessary to fillet cut or cut your meat into small pieces. If it is too thick you aren't going to be able to keep it moist and a good texture. Steakhouses choose the thickest cuts of meat for rare orders.

When purchasing meat, if the cut is typically a lower quality meat that tends to be dried out after cooking, find recipes or methods of cooking that introduce liquids. I like my slow cooker for meats that tend to be dry because the stock I use helps keep moisture in it.

Tonight, I am going to try a burger that has a bit of seasoning and should taste great!

Here are my ingredients for the seasoning,

Mix together:
1 lb. fresh ground steak
1 tbs. Italian Seasoning
1-2 tsp. fresh ground Black Pepper
several grinds of Sea Salt
2 tbs chopped fresh Parsley

For the rest of the burger:
toast the hamburger bun on the grill briefly
Cheddar Cheese
1 minced garlic clove (about 1/2 tbs. if measuring pre-minced) mixed with mayonase
sliced fresh tomatoes from the garden
a few cut pieces of romaine lettuce
a few slivers of red onion

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to Cut Flowers

 and Keep them Looking Fresh (the Organic Way)!

The best way to ensure long lasting blooms is to start with the freshest flowers available. If you are cutting flowers from your garden, harvest them in the morning after the dew has dried. Also, choose some unopened flowers which will bloom once your arrangement matures.

Choose a vase that won't crowd the flowers. Then, fill the vase with three inches of tepid water. Stems that are submerged in water begin to decay, so it is best to not fill the entire vase with water.

Before you trim the stems, remove any foliage that will fall below the waterline. Submerged foliage degrades quickly and encourages the growth of bacteria, which gums up the flowers' stems and reduces their ability to suck up water.

When you cut the stems outside, in the air, air gets sucked up through the stem...not good for the flower. Imagine if you were trying to breathe air and got water instead. So in order to get the water flowing back up the stem you need to place the stems under running water and cut off 1 inch of each stem at a 45-degree angle. Use a sharp knife or pruners rather than household scissors, which can crush the stems. Then, Immediately put the freshly cut flowers into the vase.
Every other day, trim off 1/4 inch of the stems at a 45 degree angle under running water and change the water in the vase. If every other day is too much for you then you can put a tablet of aspirin in your water to keep it from getting stagnant and growing fungi which will decay the stems.
Tip: Place your arrangement in a cool spot out of direct sunlight and keep flowers away from ripening fruit. It gives off a gas called ethylene that shortens the flowers' lifespan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Strawflowers (Self-Sowing Annual #4)

Strawflower (helichrysum bracteatum) is an Australian native plant that grows 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide with 2- to 5-inch-long green, leathery leaves. The papery, 2 1/2-inch-wide, pompom-like flowers come in a variety of bright colors, including orange, red, pink, white and yellow. The flowers get their common name from the fact that they possess a straw-like texture.

These flowers are very sturdy and can add great pops of color to your garden. They are super easy to grow from seed and don't require much care other than some watering during dry spells.

Caring for Strawflowers

Strawflowers require a warm, full-sun location. They grow well in garden beds and containers, providing the soil is well draining. Plant container-grown strawflowers in a soil mix that has 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam and sand. Water strawflowers when the top 2 inches of soil dries. Feed the plants during the growing season with a 1/2-strength solution of a well-balanced fertilizer.

Harvesting Strawflower Seeds for Direct Sowing

Strawflowers, like dandelions, have very small, light seeds, each on their own parachute to keep them in the air. Collect strawflower seeds in the fall when the flowers have died back and browned. Plant the seeds the following spring indoors or outdoors directly in the garden, when the temperatures have reached 65 to 75 degrees F. Expect seeds to germinate in one to two weeks.

Drying Strawflowers

Strawflowers are the best to dry! They are so easy and sturdy, perfect for arrangements and crafts. They are also great for making potpourri!

There are many different ways to dry Strawflowers so I am going to just stick with the three easiest and most common.

  • Leave the stems on but remove the leaves. Take 5 to 7 flowers together and align the bottom of the stems evenly. Tie the bunch 2″ from the bottom of the stems with a string or bind together with a rubber band. Have the stems at different lengths so the blossoms aren’t crowded together at the top and rest at different lengths.
  • Hang the bunches upside down in a warm, dark place and leave them for anywhere from two to four weeks.
  • You can also place the bunch in a paper bag and tie the top closed around the stems, this will help keep the environment dark as well as keep dust from accumulating on the blossoms. Make a few holes on the sides of the bag for better air circulation. Do one bundle per bag (about 5 to 7 per bundle).

  • Use the instructions that came with your dehydrator.
  • You want to place them in a single layer, petals not touching each other and normally set on low.
  • It’s preferable to dehydrate them by themselves so they don’t absorb the odors from other food items in the dehydrator (and vice versa). If you plan on making potpourri, feel free to include some slices of citrus fruit peel and apple slices on the trays to include in the mix.

  • Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet with a rack and place in a slow oven (180° F).
  • Heat for several hours, keeping the oven door open the entire time (to let moisture escape).
  • Remove tray from oven and allow to sit overnight to complete the process and ensure there is no more moisture.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stepford Pets- Cat Care

All of the Stepford Sisters have had, or currently have cats. Personally, I have three! There are so many fun things about cats, but here are a few tips on the care of your cat.

#1-Make sure your cats aren't eating dog food! Even though it would seem there is no difference, your cat will get sick eating exclusively dog food. On the contrary, dogs will not get sick as much if they eat exclusively cat food.

#2-Canned Tuna is something people often think of as food for cats outside of the store-bought dry food or store-bought canned food. If you feed your cat too much tuna from the can, your cat will become blind because they will be lacking many vitamins, minerals, and fats that support eye health.

#3-Don't drop or throw your cat. Even though the saying goes that cats always land on their feet, I can assure you they don't. I have a cat that loses his balance all the time and even when he jumps on his own has his feet slide out from under him or even land on his side or back.

#4- Brush your cat regularly. With three cats, you can imagine that I have a great deal of cat hair in my house to deal with. They LOVE laying on every square inch of furniture I own, so all of the chairs and couches need vacuumed at least once a week. We chose mostly microfiber for our material of furniture so it is easier to vacuum using the drapery attachment. Brushing your cat regularly isn't just for your home, clothing, or lung health, but also for your cat's digestive health. When cat's lick themselves they ingest varying amounts of cat hair. Some cats are able to pass the hair, but others will get sick and have to cough up the mass of hair it has ingested. Some unlucky cats get a mass that they can neither cough back up or pass, and this is when real problems happen. It is easiest just to avoid this potential to begin with. Every time you brush or pet your cat and collect the hair, you are eliminating potential hair they would have ingested.

#5-Keep your cat box accessible at ALL times for your cat. If your cat is trapped or away from the box they will either hold it (which can make them sick) or go outside the box on carpet, laundry or other surfaces they find suitable. It will be very hard to clean and get the smell away. After they have done it once, they are much more likely to do it again because to them, the smell is a free pass.

#6-Keep your cat's nails trimmed short. Just like dogs, if their nails are too long they can lead to health problems for your cat. When the nail begins to curl and they are walking on it, they will change how they walk on their paws which can lead to long term problems. Cats are also more inclined to find things to scratch on to file down their nails. My favorite item to have in the house for my cat's nails is a cat scratching box from Trader Joe's- and always the double wide! They make it with recycled card board, include cat nip, and sell it for less than the pet store chains.

If you are going to cut your cat's nails (which I recommend) here is a photo of a cat's nail and where to cut. All of my cats have nails that are fairly see-through, so I have no doubts of where not to cut. Doing a little bit at a time might be the way to go. Occasionally, I will just do one paw at a time if the cat is restless. My cats are so used to it though I think they realize they will feel better walking once I'm done, so they tend to stay still for me to finish.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Snapdragons (Self-Sowing Annual # 3)

Popular, old-fashioned blooms, snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) are so named because if you squeeze the blooms, it resembles a dragon opening and closing its mouth. They are semi-hardy annuals that blossom profusely during the summer months if you pinch back faded stems. Their vibrant colors include red, orange, white, yellow and all shades in between. If you want to collect seeds from this cool-season flower, watch blooms carefully as the pods develop.

Cultivate and grow snapdragons through the summer, keeping them in full sun, well-watered and fertilized. Pinch back faded stems of flowers to promote bushier growth and more blooms. Pick out the healthiest plants with the brightest colors. These are the snapdragons you want to propagate next year.

Stop pinching back faded snapdragon stems in August. You'll notice that hard, pea-shaped green pods form when petals dry up and fall off. These are the seed pods you will eventually collect.

Watch the snapdragon pods carefully over the next month, as they turn brown and brittle. Snap off the pods before they burst, and scatter the seeds. Collect them in a small bowl and leave them out on a shelf for two to three weeks to make sure they are absolutely dry.

Break open the snapdragon pods with your fingers into paper envelopes or other containers. The seed is like very fine soil, each one no bigger than a pinpoint. Seal the containers and set them in the refrigerator until spring. Cold will keep the seeds dormant until you're ready for them to germinate.

It's helpful to collect pods in different dishes, marked with the flower color, to keep your seeds organized.

Avoid exposing the seed to light or moisture during the winter. These conditions cause the seeds to germinate too early, and you will not get any snapdragons out of them.

Planting Snapdragon Seeds

Prepare a bed for the snapdragon seeds once all danger of frost has passed. Select a site with full sun or partial shade in hot areas.

Work the soil to a depth of 4 inches with a soil cultivator. Smooth the surface of the soil. Water it to a depth of 4 inches with a garden hose running on low volume. Drain the soil for 10 to 15 minutes.

Run the tines of a leaf rake over the bed to rough-up the surface of the soil. Sow very small pinches of snapdragon seed in the bed by sprinkling it on the roughened soil.

Pat the surface of the bed with the flat of your hand to embed the snapdragon seeds into the surface. Sprinkle a scant layer of sharp sand over the snapdragon seeds to hold them in place.

Water the snapdragon seeds every day with a mist nozzle. Using a mist nozzle keeps the seeds from becoming dislodged during germination.

Watch for germination in five to 10 days. Thin the seedlings so they stand at least 6 inches apart. Continue watering the snapdragons with mist for the first few days, then switch to your usual method of watering.

How to Care for Snapdragons

Snapdragons prefer full sun and rich, fertile soil. Avoid watering from overhead. Instead, water close to the soil to prevent diseases such as rust. Plant in cooler weather for lush growth in the summer months. Also, encourage longer blooming seasons by removing spent flowers promptly.

Pruning Snapdragons

Cut dead bloom off the plant, just below the blossom, once the blossom has faded or dies. This will allow regrowth flowers to bloom for a longer period of time.

Cut one- to two-thirds of the plant back if it stops blooming in the middle of the summer. Doing so should encourage new growth and blossoms for the rest of the summer months.

In cooler weather, trim the plant to the point where only 4 inches sticks out above the soil. This process helps the plant process new growth and longer lasting blooms.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

It's Summer, It's Hot, What Now for the Kids?

The beginning of the summer this year seemed so great, even though it was warm, it was great to escape from the daily routine of going to school. Even for parents whose schedule isn't that different, the simple fact there is no school to think about is great. Bed time, not an issue. Homework, yeah right. What are we going to wear or eat....still relevant but very laid back.

In the beginning of summer the newness of playing with video games, iPods, and toys was great. Now that we are several weeks into the summer sleeping in has certainly gained ranks in "favorite things for the kids to do". I secretly had the BEST feeling when I went and woke up all the kids on Sunday morning around 10:30 AM.

When I was younger, I hated when my parents would tell me I needed to get up. From my perspective, the difference is that when I would stay up until 12-2 AM in the morning I did not bother my parents. My step-children insist that if they are up they want to be right there with us watching t.v. up until we go to bed. I like to have at least 30 minutes of time sans children! To some this might seem selfish, but my husband I work all day 5-6 days a week, so it is important for us to maintain a good relationship where we can talk about things without children present.

So, back to the point of my post. I have been trying to think of some things that are a little different for the kids to end out the rest of their summer vacation with before school resumes. Today football conditioning starts for my oldest step-son, so that in and of itself will allow him to re-connect with other boys he knows from school. Since conditioning and practice will exhaust him I don't have to be as creative with him, he will continue to be happy with his previous summer vacation routine as a rest from running.

For the girls who have no sports until fall, there are many more possibilities. I like to try to keep unsupervised activities something that is not very costly. My step-daughters tend to have no ability to hold back on their usage of materials.

One of their favorite activities is duct tape creations. They have made wallets, roses, and I'm sure other duct tape items that I will never know about... A few warnings about duct tape: the adhesive is strong, so get a pair of scissors specifically for duct tape-you will not want to cut anything else after! Also, don't let them do it on a wood table because if the tape falls on it or get stuck you might be missing some finish. I let them use my glass top table (nail polish remover takes out the sticky left behind).

Another summer favorite is going to the library and checking out whatever strikes their fancy. Reading during the school year might not be as fun for kids because they are required to do it, and sometimes don't have the freedom to choose. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue on this one, but I let them read ANYTHING (age appropriate of course). So if this is a comic book or a book with pictures and facts it doesn't matter. The point is that they are reading and likely learning something. Now, I'm not sure the exact lesson in Captain Underpants, but I'm sure they could tell me all about it and something that was useful to them :-)

A last summer activity that for many is year round anyway, but since there is less "rush" than during the school year, doing more cooking activities or experiments can be something kids enjoy. Especially if they involve dessert or the child's favorite foods. I am planing a cooking competition in my house sometime soon. I am going to thoughtfully plan out the scoring method so that there is no "winner" or "loser" but that each child's dish wins a specific title like "most creative" or "beautiful presentation" or "best taste". This is another activity that I have to bite my tongue with because I tend to dominate my kitchen for my own taste preferences and healthier alternative considerations. I remember one time I was completely against a particular potato dish being made because the "creative recipe" called for like 1/4 cup of vegetable oil! Oh heavens...

I suppose the key to fun summer activities is letting them be as unstructured as possible. Give the ideas to your children to expand on their own. They will enjoy doing them more if they don't feel any pressure that it is what they "have" to do. Good luck, and feel free to share any other ideas.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bachelor's Buttons (Self-Sowing Annual #2)

Bachelor's Buttons (also known as cornflower) have small daisy-like blossoms that practically float above their narrow gray-green leaves. The plants range in height from 8 to 32 inches tall. Bachelor's Buttons bloom in early to mid-summer and do not suffer from insects or disease. While bachelor buttons are known for their ‘cornflower blue’ they also come in the colors of pink, lavender, maroon, red and white.

After your first year of Bachelor's Buttons, don't buy seed again. Their seeds are super easy to harvest. The seedpods open up when the seeds are ripe. Watch your plants and as the seed pods begin to open, pick them and extract the seeds to use for next year’s plantings. That's all there is to it!

Caring for Bachelor's Buttons


Bachelor’s buttons require average, well-drained soil and full sunlight. Some garden books suggest that the seedlings can be started indoors however, others say that they do not transplant well. If you wish to start seedlings in a location other than where they are planted, try the wintersown method.

 Winter Sowing Bachelor's Buttons


Winter sowing means that you plant the seeds in the winter and put them outside to endure freezing temperatures, snow and ice. Winter sown seedlings are very hardy.

Prepare a clear plastic container by poking holes in the bottom and in the lid. Put one to three inches of dirt in the base of the container and thoroughly wet the soil. Sprinkle the seeds on the soil, press them into it gently, and water. Place the lid securely on the container and place outside (tape the lid on if necessary). Water the container whenever the soil dries out. The seedlings can be transplanted as soon as they have their first true leaves.

Direct Seeding in the Spring

Prep the soil in the early spring as soon as the weather permits working it.

 All you have to do is loosen the soil with a rake, scatter the seeds across the soil, then lightly cover with a thin layer of dirt and pat gently. Just be sure to keep them moist, they like the water!

How to Extract Cornflower

(If consuming cornflower extract internally, consult a certified naturopath or herbalist for correct dosages.)

Cornflower is an ingredient in herbal remedies, cosmetics and skincare products. According to LiveAndFeel.com, "it contains active substances like tannin and potassium salts; cornflower has astringent, weak diuretic, bitter-tonic anti-inflammatory and soothing proprieties." The point is, cornflower extract is a potent tincture made from the flower and can be prepared at home. Here's how:

1. Wash the flowers thoroughly and allow to dry completely. You will just be using flower heads without the stems.

2. Chop the flowers finely. The flower heads should be minced into very small pieces when you are done.

3. Pour the chopped flowers into the glass jar. Pour the vodka into the jar, covering the flower material completely. There should be two to three inches of alcohol above the flower level.

4. Screw the lid tightly onto the jar. Shake up the herbal mixture vigorously to thoroughly mix.

5. Allow the mixture to soak for four to six weeks in a cool, dry place. Shake your jar every few days to continue extracting the active ingredients from the cornflower material.

6. Remove the jar from its resting area after the soaking period. Unscrew the lid, and using your cheesecloth, strain all of the plant material out from the liquid.

7. Put the funnel into the mouth of one of you medicine bottles. Pour the strained liquid into each of the bottles and seal tightly.

8. Store the cornflower extract in a cool, dry location. It should keep for up to one year or longer.

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