Garden Open House: Plus my homemade ranch dressing and fresh garden tea recipes

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It’s been a secret dream of mine… to have a garden open house that is.

We moved into our farmhouse seven years ago. It was an abandoned foreclosed home with most of the windows busted out and an interior that said a lot about the previous owners- nothing good! We looked at the house for the first time in the middle of winter, little did I know there wouldn’t be a garden to find.

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As for trees and shrubs, there was one very large and beautiful maple tree and an apple tree in the back yard, a nice hedge of antique hyrangeas on the side of the house and a couple lilac bushes. Not bad for some, but not near what my heart desired.

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I’ve shared the creation of all the gardens here in my blogs except the patio. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the first two years labor. It was a big job and being busy with the other things in our life, it ended up taking three years… we finished just last month!

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Peonies and Russian sage blooming in my gardens right now...

Peonies and Russian sage blooming in my gardens right now…

Over the years my garden’s have evolved as have I… my likes and my tastes have grown and are depicted in my cottage style gardens. I love simply being in them… breathing the aromas that surround me… listening to the wind whisper through the leaves… watching the hummingbirds busily work. My gardens are simply my sanctuary.

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So, an open house… now that will be an undertaking I’m sure. I’ve read about and attended several… and secretly dreamed, “Some day… some day I can share my gardens…”

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So when will I say that the time has arrived? I don’t know… so I think I’ll just create a plan of action right here with all of you and maybe a Pinterest board of my dreams, LOL- you can follow me there too at For Dragonflies And Me @ Pinterest.

Lets start with the INVITATION… garden themed of course. I plan on using vintage prints of botanicals with some pretty ribbons. You’ll need to decide who you are planning to invite: will it be just close friends and family? neighbors? What about your Facebook, Twitter, Blog followers and whatever other social media sites/groups you may be involved with? You can send out a formal invitation using snail mail and/or via email/FB/Twitter, etc.
Host A Cookie Exchange Luncheon, Making The Invitation and Some Yummy Cookie Recipes!

Have a Guest Book ready for the guests to sign. I plan on using a pretty garden style notebook/journal like this one.
[caption id="attachment_1649" align="alignnone" width="225"]Garden themed journal can be used as a guest book

A ‘Thank You Gift’ is a special touch that your guests will appreciate. I make blank stationary photo-greeting cards with many of my photographs to sell at market. These are a useful and beautiful gift that your guest will appreciate.
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When you’re guests arrive, have a cute chalk board set up on an easel to ‘Welcome’ and direct them.
[caption id="attachment_1647" align="alignnone" width="180"]Photo credit to Mary Jane's Farm Photo credit to Mary Jane’s Farm

Creating the MENU is next and the time of year should determine what will be on it. If you have your own garden, try to use things that you’ve grown. This is the menu and photo’s from one of my recent get-to-gethers.
~Watermelon bowl with mixed fruit served on a green Depression glass cake plate.
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~Artisan goat cheese served in antique tea cups with garden themed spreaders served on platter with several varieties of crackers on an elevated platter.
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~Fresh garden salad served on pretty platter with dressings served in mini cream pitchers and matching bowl served on a platter as well.
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~Fresh home made Garden Tea served in my bee hive drink jug
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I made tags stating the flavors of each dressing and goat cheese and attatched it to the handle of cups and pitchers.
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Put utensils separately in Terra cotta pots along with napkins in a slightly larger one. Place all these in a fabric lined long handled basket along with throw away trays.
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The Table should be as special as the menu…
~Use a quilt for the table cloth. If you plan on having several small tables, use a mix of cute sheets or table clothes overlaid with pretty linens. This is one of my favorite quilts to use. It can be used for spring, summer or fall!
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A pretty centerpiece is the final touch for the table…and don’t forget candles. Here I’ve placed two scented jar candles in Terra cotta pots to go along with the theme.
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~Bouquets should be made with whatever is blooming in your gardens…
Peonies in blue mason jars are beautiful and such an elegant contrast
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Hosta leaves are timeless and will last for weeks in the vase…mix different varieties of height and colors for interest.
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~Having a few welcoming area’s for guests to sit and visit is always a nice touch…
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Room for two in the grill station.
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Three old metal chairs around a cozy fire bowl in the patio
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Our patio table complete with a high chair 😉
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Neil built this swing frame beside our fire pit. It’s more child friendly than adult… Seating for six around the fire…very cozy in our over sized chairs. I typically use cute sheets or table clothes as seat covers.

Here are my home made Ranch Dressing and Garden Tea Recipes… enjoy friends

Ranch Dressing
2 cups Mayonnaise DO NOT exchange for Miracle Whip or Salad Dressing!!!!
2 cups milk
2 Tbsp. dry parsley or 1/2 cup fresh, chopped finely
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 Tbsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika

Combine mayo and milk; whisk together until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and refridgerate for at least an hour so flavors can blend.
*Note: It will thicken, but if you want it a bit thicker add 1 Tbsp. of mayo at a time until desired consistency; if too thick do the same, but with milk.

Fresh Garden Tea Concentrate
8 cups water
4 cups raw organic sugar
6 cups tea leaves
mint tea

Bring water and sugar to a hard boil for 5 minutes; add tea leaves and remove from heat. Cover and let steep 5 to 8 hours.

TO MAKE: combine 1 part tea concentrate to 2 parts cold water.
You can freeze the concentrate for up to a year, so if you have lots of tea growing, you can enjoy this all year long.

So, now we have a plan of action… just need to get all the projects done!
This is a photo of my Potager or Kitchen Garden... follow the link for an easy how-to!
Happy Day,
Jean

Garden Parties: How To Host A Party Garden Style

The sun is rising right now, its rays glimmering in the puddles… the breeze feels cool and gentle… the air is filled with an earthy scent from the rains we’ve enjoyed… the robins and Baltimore orioles are saying good morning to whoever is blessed enough to be listening. Sitting In the gardens this time of day is so relaxing and free, it almost makes me feel guilty to have this little piece of Heaven right here under my feet.

My breakfast patio is one of my quiet spaces...

My breakfast patio is one of my quiet spaces…


I’m sitting in my breakfast patio writing this right now while everyone else is still sleeping. There’s a male Ruby Throated Hummingbird sitting on my clothesline… he seems to be enjoying the quiet morning along with me.

All my life we had a garden and it’s a part of who I am, what I feel, what I love. My life would be so empty without it. I love sharing my gardens with friends and loved ones, entertaining and making them feel at home. There were two main reasons why we created the patio: the first of course was for my family to have a special place to fellowship and have our meals and the second was to entertain.

A cozy space is an inviting place to have friends and family

A cozy space is an inviting place to have friends and family

Here are some Garden Party idea’s and tips…

*Garden Themed Invitations. Use a 4 x 5 1/2 piece of card stock. Pick up some 10 for $1 seed packs and use the seed pack for the ‘picture’. Use a rubber stamp with ‘party info’ on the back. Not just cute, but practical.
You can also take photos of flowers, garden junque or garden scenes, crop them down and use them for the front of your invitation.

Here is a photo I took that I put on the front of a blank card. 'Your Invited' rubber stamp and pack of seeds!

Here is a photo I took that I put on the front of a blank card. ‘Your Invited’ rubber stamp and pack of seeds!

*Decorating the table and buffet will speak loudly when done right! Here are some super cute ideas!
~Use pretty floral sheets or plain white that drape to the floor with quilts laid diagonally over for table clothes.
~Use 3 clay pots of the same size to hold forks, spoons and knives in. Tie a piece of raffia around the rim with a bow to make it even cutter.
~Use baskets lined with floral napkins to hold napkins & breads.
~Mason jars make the cutest drinking vessels, especially if they are blue! Not to mention flower vases and candle holders.
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~A hodge podge of old plates and platters are a great way to serve your sandwiches, cheese & crackers & appetizers.
~Use an old galvanized wash tub filled to the top with ice and put bottled water, juice or pop in for guests.
~An old pickle crock thoroughly cleaned makes a spectacular punch bowl.
~Print the menu out on card stock and lay over each guests plate.

*The Menu! Your theme is garden, so plan according.
~Sandwiches can be very special! I like to make mini sandwiches but cutting the sandwich into quarters. First I trim off the crust; make your sandwich and then cut into diagonally so you have four triangles. I like to use chicken, egg and tuna salad for my fillings along with a yummy cucumber filling. Go to my Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651 for the recipe! Be sure to LIKE AND SHARE while you’re there, please and thanks!

~Watermelons aren’t just yummy, they can be beautiful centerpieces as well. Most of us have seen how melons can be cut to represent a handled basket, hollowed out and then filled with a beautiful and delicious fruit salad. The long oval shaped melons work best.
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*Punch is the funnest drink for a party! Try making ‘real’ lemonade! It is very simple- use 3 parts water to 1 part lemon juice, add 1 cup of sugar for every 4 cups of liquid! Cut lemon’s and limes in slices and let them swirl around to make it extra special. If you have a ‘color’ theme to your party, add a few drops of food coloring to make your lemonade your color! You can use any large container to hold your punch! Use jelly jars for your glasses with umbrella straws!
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*Of course the Cake! Check out this Teapot cake tutorial- this really makes an impression! A little time consuming, but worth the effort! http://www.flickr.com/photos/popocreation/3669618629/in/photostream/

*Garden themed craft projects are a fun way to send your guests home with a gift. Try making Posy Pots! Here is what you will need! Organic Potting mix, 1 Quart Zip Lock baggies, Sunflower or Marigold seeds, pretty card stock , tulle, raffia, and a small clay pot. Fill the baggie with enough potting mix to fill the pot then place filled bag inside the pot. Take the card stock and make a small packet to put 2-3 seeds in, seal. Place seed packet on top of dirt bag in pot. Gather tulle around the outside of the pot, and tie with raffia. Cut out a 4″ x 4″ piece of card stock for a gift tag and using a rubber stamp or sticker of the type of flower seed you chose, place it on the square, punch a hole in the corner, write planting instructions on back and attach to raffia bow. Such fun for everyone!
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The ideas of course are only limited by your imagination… so have fun, host a party and let your creativity shine!

Don’t forget to take a trip over to For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page for this yummy Cucumber ‘Herb Garden’ Sandwiches!
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Happy Day,
Jean

Bringing Children In The Garden & Yummy Veggies On The Grill!

“Any garden demands as much of its maker as he has to give.  but I do not need to tell you, if you are a gardener, that no other undertaking will give as great a return for the amount of effort put into it.”  Elizabeth Lawrence, 1904-1985, Gardening For Love.
I absolutely cherish the moments that I get to be in the garden with our children.  It is quality time that I feel will make a lasting impression on their lives and hopefully create memories for them of special moments with mom teaching them about how God makes all this great stuff happen!  I love to see them planting seeds, transplanting a tomato plant in the garden, tilling up the good earth and feeling that soft, rich soil squish between their toes!  My children love to feel that they have their own little space in the garden, to grow the things that interest them, to experiment and to harvest what they tended.  It can be a challenge sometimes to include them.  It is often just easier to do it ourselves and just getting it done.  It will usually add on some minutes, well maybe even hours, with the little helpers involved! But what memories you will make, what happiness will beam in their eyes when they pull out that carrot from the seed ‘they’ planted. That smile, that gleam in the eye is worth more than all the saved minutes of just doing it our self.  I love everything about gardening… yes even the back wrenching weeding & hoeing, the sun burnt back of my neck and the stiff arms… I love gardening!  
Here are some fun ideas to incorporate your children into your gardening ‘thyme’ 🙂 !
Gardening With Your Children~ 

*Be sure to have child size tools for the little folks. You can purchase such items at just about any store that sells gardening supplies.  Make them responsible for their tools- to put them back, keep them clean, and be careful when using. Add a name plaque where their tools belong in the potting shed or garage, make them feel special.
*Keeping them interested is another challenge, especially with the ones that aren’t that interested.  Allow them to choose what they would like to grow.  Some suggestions would be giant sunflowers, pumpkins, decorative gourds or root crops. Radishes and lettuce are quick growers and can be ‘encouraging’ to the one that needs a little boost in interest. They are also available in multiple colors and sizes and can really encourage interest.   If you choose a root crop I would suggest using some fun Heirloom things.  Carrots for instance offer a multitude of shapes and colors, from Cosmic Purple to Lunar White and every shade of orange in between.  Potatoes are also a fun crop.  You can purchase red, white and even blue potatoes.  Watch their eyes light up when they dig those potatoes. 
*If you don’t have a spot for a garden, let them Container Garden.  You can use anything~ some fun things for the little people would be a wagon planted with some pansies, an old shoe with some Hen’s & Chicks or any type of pot. They can plant herbs, flowers or veggies.  Go back to my blog on Container Gardens in the archives to get more great ideas.
*Also in the archives you will find the blog with the Sunflower House so your child/ren can create a secret room or play house. 
*Plant a cucumber plant; once the plant starts to form flowers it will not take long for it to start changing into a cucumber; once the cucumber is still small enough to fit into the hole of a 20oz. or so plastic bottle, carefully insert the cucumber into the hole.  Make sure the bottle is clear; once the cucumber ‘fills’ the bottle, pluck it off the plant and carefully cut the bottle off! Presto, a bottle shaped cucumber.  This would work with many types of veggies, try out a few and use different containers to make multiple shapes.
*If you grow a pumpkin plant, once the pumpkin is about 6 inches across, carefully scratch the child’s name and a silly face into the skin being careful not to puncture.  Over time as it grows, the drawing will grow right along with it!
*With a stick, trace the child’s name into the soil in a planting area; sprinkle lettuce, radish or carrot seed in the name. Watch it grow! 
*Be sure to take tons of pictures of your child in the garden and even photograph the planting, growing and harvesting process so those precious memories will not be forgotten.

Veggies On The Grill

As I have mentioned often, we love to grill and it is grilling season.  I will probably be giving lots of grill time recipe’s so if you don’t have a grill, now’s the time to get one!

4-6 large red skin potatoes from The Garden Gate Farm, washed & cut into chunks with skins on
1 yellow onion from Garden Gate, cut into slivers
1 clove of garlic from Garden Gate, minced
1 cup spinach leaves from Garden Gate, washed & trimmed into bite size pieces
1 cup of Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes from Garden Gate
1 medium yellow squash from Garden Gate, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tsp. Matt’s Mix Seasoning Salt
1/4 cup fresh Thyme from The Garden Gate
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. butter, diced
piece of foil wrap large enough to hold all ingredients and be folded over and sealed on top and sides.

1. In foil place all veggies; sprinkle evenly over top with seasoning and herb; drizzle Olive oil over top; put dobs of butter evenly dispersed over all.
2. Fold over the foil across the top and sides so it doesn’t leak.
3. Place on top rack of grill and let cook about 45minutes to an hour. 

This goes great with any type of meat, so grill some awesome T-bones from Garden Gate to go along with it, and let your taste buds be taken to an all new level!

Happy Day,
Jean
 

‘Guinea Pig’ Meals, Seed Packet Magnets, Sheets for Tablecloths & Springtime Salad, Salad Dressings and Homemade Croutons!

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; They are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul.”
Luther Burbank
Meals are important at our house~ they are a time where we all sit together and talk about the days events, big news, mishaps or anything else that happens to pop up.  Meal times can get a bit on the noisy side, but they are special together times that everyone gets to give their two cents worth.  Last night at the supper table, Taylor said she wanted to do ‘Guinea Pig’ Suppers every night next week~ Neil said, ‘no way’; Kyle said, ‘yeah, cool’; Ethan said, ‘uh-uh’; I said, ‘OK, but I have to say yes first before anything is approved’; Neil said, ‘That sounds better’; and then my sweet little 10 year old Ryan said, ‘Where are we going to get the guinea pig meat?’, quite seriously.  So you may be saying, what is a guinea pig meal?  Well they are fun & easy. All you do is try a new recipe that you think looks good that you have never tried, really not that scary.  Anyway, I thought that this was cute!

*The other day I was at a friends house and they gave me a tour of their new ‘little’ greenhouse. It was cute- her daughter had saved several of her seed packets to keep for a handy reference.  I saw them as something much different- cute Fridge Magnets for home & gifts of course! I am sure most of us gardeners are guilty of buying that ‘extra’ pack of seed just because of the package, the photo of the flower, herb or veggie- “Oh,” we say, “I have to have that …..” .  We all love a pretty picture- as they say, ‘a picture says a thousands words’…  So often I purchase a seed packet just because of the package.  Seed companies would be smart if they all put more energy into the packaging!  I have already used them as name cards at a tea party, pasted on the front of a homemade card and to make Fridge Magnets.  It is so easy and they are the cutest gift to quick throw into a card you are going to send someone! Here’s how~ You will need a laminator or self laminating sheets, a roll of self sticking magnet and of course your empty seed packets.  Simply laminate the pack and then stick on the magnet! So cute, so simple and so fast!

*Some people collect shoes, purses, books, I collect table clothes.  No matter what thrift shop I go to, the first place I hit is the linens department; I stand back and look down the rack so I can pick out the fabrics that catch my eyes~ plaids and floral’s are always first on my list.  After I find a few things it’s off to the sheets~ yes the sheets!  Sheets make wonderful outdoor entertaining table clothes; they cover picnic tables beautifully!  I also have used quilts for a unique touch on a special occasion! Be creative, it’s your table!

Everyone loves the first yummy things out of the garden in spring, lettuces, greens, spinach, radishes, scallions and the list can go on & on.  Here is a variation to the everyday salad using some of Garden Gates awesome Bacon, lettuces, greens and radishes!

Garden Gate Farms Special Springtime Salad

1 bag mixed Greens from Garden Gate Farm, about a pound
1 bag baby lettuces from Garden Gate Farm, about a pound
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried Cranberries or cherries or mix of both
1 bunch Radishes from Garden Gate, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 pound Garden Gate Bacon, crisply cooked & crumbled
1/ pound blue cheese or feta cheese (without juice), crumbled
Poppy Seed Salad Dressing- see recipe below
Homemade Croutons- see recipe below

1. Wash & snip greens & lettuces into bite size pieces; arrange in a large salad bowl or on a large serving platter.
2. Layer each of the remaining ingredients, except dressing, on top of  lettuce/greens.
3. Serve with dressing on side.
This is a large batch and will feed 12 to 15 hungry folks! 

Yummy Poppy Seed Dressing

1/2 cup raw organic sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. mustard
1/3 cup real lemon juice
1 tsp. grated red onion
3.4 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. poppy seed
1/8 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Refrigerate and serve chilled.

Homemade Croutons

1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. each salt & pepper
1/3 cup grated Fresh Parmesan cheese
6 slices french or sour dough bread, day old is fine,  crusts trimmed* (don’t throw away)

1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook until butter foams;  Add garlic and cook about 1 minute; add bread cubes and toss to coat with butter. 
2. Season with salt & pepper.  Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees fro about 15 minutes, tossing once in between, until lightly golden.
3.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese and toss until cheese melts. 
Makes about 4-6 cups.
*Don’t throw away those crusts- put them in a freezer zip lock bag or freezer plastic container and freeze for up to 3 months.  Use them for your next batch of homemade dressing!

Happy Day, 
Jean 

More Garden Themes, Beautiful Ice Cubes, Two Super Meatless Sandwich’s!

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

More Garden Themes, Beautiful Ice Cubes, Two Super Meatless Sandwich’s!

Today was magnificent! The sun was shining and the warmth it gave was strength for the soul.  We worked outside all day~ Neil cleaned out the very messy garage; Taylor washed all the windows in & out; I got flower & raised beds cleaned up with some help, my front porch swept & tidied up and my potting shed all cleaned out~ that was a job.  It seems every fall when ‘stuff’ is getting picked up and put away, it all goes into ‘my’ shed!  Kyle was helping me and he very innocently say’s, “You do this every spring mom.” I’m like, no kidding!  But that’s OK, I love getting in there and finding all the ‘clearance’ garden stuff I stashed away last fall in anticipation for the next summer. After school Kyle and Ethan were outside with Evan helping him fill his bird feeders~ they are so sweet to their baby brother! It paid off, Evan’s boo~jays were there shortly after.  As I was meandering through the flower beds and cleaning, of course I am thinking what needs to be replaced, added and thinned out.  Gardening is a job, but when it is your passion it is so worth while.  Today is going to be the last for ideas on Garden Themes, so I thought we would end with a few I was saving for last. 

Many people think flowers are just for looking at, cutting for arrangements or giving as gifts~ have you ever thought about eating some?  Edible flower’s are much more common in the many gardening magazines the last few years. I love to include pansies and nasturtiums in my salads, they don’t just add beauty but they really are yummy~ Nasturtiums add a ‘peppery’ flavor. Here are a more edibles, try planting them in your kitchen garden, in pots or in your veggie garden. Especially nasturtiums, they should go with your tomato plants!
*All herbs of course, scented geraniums, viola, violets, pansies, nasturtiums, dandelion petals & leafs, hibiscus, johnny jump ups, rose petals, snapdragons, day lily and calendula petals.  There are many more and if you are interested in finding more out on edible plants, a good book is, “Edible Wild Plants~ A North American Field Guide, by Thomas S. Elias & Peter A. Dikeman.   As with all plants, be sure to read about them before ingesting because some need to be had in moderation and some do not go well with certain medications.

*Tea Gardens are always fun simply because of what you can plan with them, who doesn’t love a Tea Party? Creating a Tea Garden is very special, it is beautiful and practical.  Here are some easy to grow plants that make superb teas and blends.
*Lemon Balm, Raspberry leaves, Mints including but not limited to: Spearmint, Pineapple, Apple, Balsam, Orange, Peppermint; Sage, Rose & Chamomile.  This is a very small list but some of the most common to give you a start.

*Beautiful Ice Cubes~ If you are having some friends over or are planning any type of party here is a very easy yet elegant idea to spruce up your beverages. First boil enough water to fill 4 ice cube trays. After the water is boiled pour into ice cube trays and drop in 2 Johnny Jump Up’s or Viola’s into each insert. Freeze. Pop out when ready to use and hear the ‘ahhs’. The boiling of water makes it so the water is crystal clear.

We don’t always need meat on our sandwiches, despite what my husband thinks 🙂 !  Some days you just want it light & simple. Here are two yummy treats that are sure to please!
Farm Fresh eggs are a farmer’s market delight, especially when you get them from The Garden Gate!

Egg Salad on Sour Dough

4 eggs from Garden Gate, hard boiled, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup red onion from Garden Gate, finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise, divided
1 tsp salt
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 loaf of Sour Dough Bread

1.  Using a fork, mash eggs, stir in onion, seasoning and 1/2 the mayo.
2. Cut the loaf in slices, about 8 will do.  Cut the crust* off.  Spread the butter evenly on 4 of the slices and the remaining mayo on the other 4 slices. 
3.  Spoon on egg mixture evenly between 4 slices; top with other.
What to do with radishes other than throw them on a salad or dip in salt and crunch!  Radishes have more uses than that. Here is a fun treat to change things up.  Serve with your favorite soup and a fresh fruit salad, Superb!
Spicy Radish Sandwiches
10 radishes from Garden Gate, washed, trimmed and thinly slice
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 Tbsp. fresh chives from Garden Gate, chopped and divided
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seed
3/4 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/4 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. each salt & pepper                                                                                                                      1 baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1. Mix butter, 2 Tbsp. of the chives, sesame seed, ginger and oil in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. 
2. Spread mixture over one side of each baguette slice.  Top with radishes, overlapping slightly.  Sprinkle with remaining chives.
Yum!

Happy Day,
Jean
 

Birthday Parties Garden Style with Pretty Posy Favors & Pepper Steak Made Great!

I don’t think it is any big surprise when I say that being in the garden is very special for me.  All my life we had a garden and it just is part of who I am.  The wonders of nature in the garden are by far too many to number.  I often say how special it is for me to be in the garden with my children, the experiences that I am able to share with them is priceless.  When they see their first woolly bear caterpillar, or pill bug or even better the first Praying Mantis, now that is a wonder for sure!  The garden is a special place for so many things, so what about hosting a birthday party~ not just for an adult but also a child.  Here are some ‘Child’ Friendly Garden Birthday Party idea’s & tips…
*Help your child make home made garden themed Invitations.  How about a standard 4 x 5 1/2 piece of card stock.  Pick up those wonderful 10 for $1 seed packs and put the seed pack on the front for the ‘picture’. 
*The Menu!  Let your child have fun! Depending on the age of the child let them help create the menu!  A very cute ‘Sandwich’ idea is to start with sub buns for your sandwich.  Cut each section about 4″ and make as you want.  Set the sandwiches up down the center of the table in a wiggly way to look like a caterpillar. Even cuter, put chocholate cookie crumbs under it to make it appear as though it is crawling through the dirt~ too cute! You can use any color licorice to lay on the table slightly under the sections to represent the ‘many’ legs; using toothpicks, put round gummies or black olives for two eyes. Two stick pretzels can be the antenna’s; use any other soft candies on toothpicks to poke along the tops of the sandwiches to represent ‘polka-dot’ backs.  The ideas are endless, use your imagination.
*Watermelons aren’t just yummy, they can be beautiful centerpieces as well.  Most of us have seen how melons can be cut to represent a handled basket, hollowed out and then filled with a beautiful & delicious fruit salad.   The long oval shaped melons work best.
*Punch is the funnest drink for a party! Try making ‘real’ lemonade!  It is very simple- use 3 parts water to 1 part lemon juice, add 1 cup of sugar for every 4 cups of liquid! Cut lemon’s & limes in slices and let them swirl around to make it extra special.  If you have a ‘color’ theme to your party, add a few drops of food coloring to make your lemonade your color!  You can use any large container to hold your punch!  Use jelly jars for your glasses with umbrella straws!
*Of course the Cake, or how about Cupcakes!  How much more fun, then these can actually turn into a Game!  Have a cupcake decorating activity!  Let each guest decorate their own cupcakes- so much more special!
*Party Games~ how about ‘Pin the Bumblebee on the Daisy’, play a game of bingo with flower pictures~ use small rubber stamps or stickers that would fit on a 1″ square and use for your Bingo instead of letters!  How about a Scavenger hunt looking for all Garden stuff! 
*Posy Pots!  here is a great favor!  Here is what you will need!
Organic Potting mix, 1 Quart Zip Lock baggies, Sunflower or Marigold seeds, pretty card stock , tulle, raffia, and a small clay pot.  Fill the baggie with enough potting mix to fill the pot then place filled bag inside the pot. Take the card stock and make a small packet to put 2-3 seeds in, seal. Place seed packet on top of dirt bag in pot.  Gather tulle around the outside of the pot, and tie with raffia.  Cut out a 4″ x 4″ piece of card stock for a gift tag and using a rubber stamp or sticker of the type of flower seed you chose, place it on the square, punch a hole in the corner, write planting instructions on back and attach to raffia bow. Such fun for everyone!

Many people often wonder what they can do with Round Stead other than stew meat, here is a great way to make a typically tough piece of meat great!

Pepper Steak

2 lbs. beef round steak sliced into 1/2 inch strips from Garden Gate
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 garlic gloves, pressed and divided
2 green pepper, cut into thin strips
1 large Portabello mushroom
2 medium onions coarsely chopped from Garden Gate
2 tsp  Seasoning Salt
1 cup beef broth
1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp curry powder

Chicken broth as needed

1.  In a skillet over medium heat, brown steak strips with oil and half the garlic.
2. Add peppers and onions; cook until tender.  Stir in mushrooms, Matt’s Mix and remaining garlic.  Stir in beef broth.  Reduce heat to low an simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Sprinkle with curry powder and continue simmering one hour.
4. Add chicken broth as needed to prevent sticking and over browning.

Happy Day,
Jean