Chill Out in the Garden!

April 11, 2022, Willamette Valley, Oregon (my yard)

In the northern hemisphere, it’s springtime! Or, depending on where you are, summer! Here in Oregon, USA, we’ve had a very long winter. We had snow on April 11 and only last week, there was frost on the windshield in the morning. It looks like I won’t be getting any cherries, plums, or peaches this year. The apples and pears bloomed late, so we may be okay there.

Gardening is great exercise!

What does the warm weather mean to you? To me, it’s gardening season. That also means I need to get in shape. Here’s a chart that should make you happy about spending time weeding and trimming. Need a butt lift? Move loads of soil or compost around!
Before you commit to your garden project, be sure to have your gear. Plenty of water to drink, a hat, sunscreen, gloves, and of course, a camera to take before and after pictures. Stretch all those muscles first, too. I have a five-gallon bucket with a swivel seat on it that holds my tools. Very nice to have portable accommodations. I never have been a fan of the kneeling pads but my chair/toolbox combo with a handle is great.


MOST IMPORTANT: Audio gear! For me, it’s my Echo frames. Not only do they hold the lenses that help me see, these also have little speakers above the ears and a mic somewhere in front. Since they’re linked with my smartphone, phone calls come through, too. Gloved hands are dexterous enough to tap the right temple, and it’s answered. Need tunes? I tell Alexa, “Shuffle music by Led Zeppelin” or Leonard Bernstein, depending on my mood. I wear scrubs so the phone’s nearby in a big pocket.

Tunes are good, but my go-to request while working and always while driving is, “Alexa, read my book.” Whatever book I’ve been reading on my Kindle device, continues. It DOES NOT have to be an AUDIBLE book, either. Alexa’s voice is pretty cool and way better than the first generation of book readers.

Any story that is ‘Text-to-Speech: Enabled’ on Amazon will work on your Echo. You can do so much more work when you’re listening, waiting for an exciting scene to finish. Even when I’m spent and finally go inside, the story follows me. No Echo frames? Any Kindle or Echo device will keep up with your place in the story. Just ask, “Alexa, read my book.” Smart stuff is awesome!

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Mulled Cider Muffins by @Donna_Fasano #Recipe #Foodies

Welcome to November! Last month, I posted a recipe for Mulled Cider and this month I’m giving you a recipe for Mulled Cider Muffins. Bakeries everywhere offer Apple Cider Donuts this time of year. These delicious dunkers are very popular. I wanted to take the idea and add a twist of my own. Why, you might ask… well, because fried donuts give me indigestion, and I wanted the flavor of apple cider in a baked muffin. Here’s what I came up with.

Mulled Cider Muffins

Please don’t skip the first step! When you reduce a flavorful liquid, it gives your baked good an even more intense taste.

Mulled Cider Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients for the Mulled Cider Reduction:

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients for Muffins:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 10 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mulled cider reduction

Ingredients for the Coating:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoon butter, melted
First, make the Mulled Cider Reduction. Directions:
  1. Place apple cider, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon in a small saucepan.
  2. Simmer on medium heat until reduced by half. You should end up with 1/2 cup of liquid.
  3. Remove the star anise and cloves from the mulled cider reduction and set the cider aside to cool.
Second, make the Muffins. Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350° F. Spray muffin tins with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and the nutmeg, and then whisk to combine dry ingredients. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 10 tablespoons of the butter, the brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. This will take about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  4. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the mulled cider reduction. When the cider is fully mixed into the batter, scrape the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are combined.
  5. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups about 2/3 full. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. While the muffins bake, make the Coating. Whisk 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together in a small bowl to combine. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a small pan over low heat. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes after baking. Then, brush them with the melted butter. And then dredge the muffins in the cinnamon sugar while they are still warm. Serve immediately.

Apple Cider Muffins

Enjoy!

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Book 1 of A Family Forever Series

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The Beauty of Fall Celebrations….

The Fall season is upon us, and school is back in session. (Hurray!)

I always think of this season as a time for fresh beginnings. It’s also the time for regional events, which are always unique and interesting. Here are a few in the U.S. you might want to explore.

  • The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, Croton-on-Hudson, New York – The celebration of the Jack O’Lantern is a full swing party here! There are more than 7,000 pumpkins carved by the artisans at the Van Cortland Manor displayed on the grounds of the stately home. This goes on through November.
  • Sever’s Corn Maze and Fall Festival, Shakopee, Minnesota – this annual event runs through Halloween. There are music events, pumpkin sculptures, art installations, and the not to be missed, corn maze. The largest in the state!
  • Autumn at the Arboretum, Dallas, Tx – This event has a Pumpkin Village and gardens full of fall decorations. You can also visit A tasteful Place which is their food, herb, and vegetable garden. Plus, live bands. This exciting event runs through November 1st.
  • The North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival, Whiteville, North Carolina – Here we have everything from musical entertainment to craft vendors, a fun run, in the town known as the top producer of pecans in the state. The festival runs the weekend of November 5-6.

Wherever you live, you can find wonderful activities to celebrate fall my favorite season.

How are you and your family celebrating Fall? Please share your comments below.

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6 Home Remedies for Bug Bites by @Donna_Fasano

Help! I’ve been bitten by a mosquito. Twice! And the red bumps that were left behind itch like the dickens! What to do? Here are some quick and easy home remedies for bug bites.

Remedies for Bug Bites

  1. Baking soda – Mix a bit of baking soda with water and coat the bite. Sodium bicarbonate will relieve itching. (I smeared some on my bites.)
  2. Toothpaste – Yes, toothpaste! Most brands of toothpaste contain menthol which alleviates itch and swelling. Toothpaste also contains astringent ingredients that draw out fluid from beneath the skin which helps with swelling.
  3. Basil – Mince up some fresh basil and rub it on the mosquito bites. Basil contains eugenol which relieves itchy skin. Don’t have fresh basil? Simmer some dried basil in water (as if you were making tea). Let the basil water cool, and then dip a cloth in the water and apply to the bites.
  4. Ice – Apply ice to the bites to help relieve itching and swelling. Only apply ice for about 10 minutes at a time. And never fall asleep with ice on your skin.
  5. Garlic – There are compounds in garlic that relieve itching and swelling. Place a slice of garlic and put it on the bite. This might not be the best remedy to use with children as garlic can sting.
  6. Aloe – Keep a bottle of aloe vera gel in your fridge. The gel will cool and help heal red, itchy skin.

Did you know you can make your own mosquito repellent? It’s easy to keep the bug bites at bay.

Homemade Insect Repellent

  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoon rubbing alcohol
  • 2 Tablespoon water
  • 25 drops citronella oil
  • 25 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 40 drops peppermint oil

Pour all ingredients into a small spray bottle and then shake. Make sure you shake before each application.

What are your best home remedies for bug bites?

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