Apartment Gardening: A Tour of Our Patio + Six Helpful Books

Happy Friday!

Since we moved to Tennessee two months ago, I’ve started a little container garden on our tiny covered patio. Some of the plants are fairly established now and I’ve been able to harvest plenty of fresh herbs, some lettuce, and a little cilantro so far. :) I really enjoy stepping out onto the patio every morning with Beatrice to water the plants and enjoy our own tiny garden retreat. Here’s a quick tour…

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This garden box houses assorted herbs: oregano, lemon thyme, and sage. The lemon thyme is my favorite – it smells delicious and I use it in my cooking all the time. I also read that it can be a mosquito deterrent. The oregano is kind of bossy and tries to take over the container regularly.

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This long garden box contains lettuce and kale (once they’re finished I plan to replace them green beans). I’d like to plant some mesclun or arugula but I’m not sure if it’s on the verge of getting a little too hot for lettuces. I’ll probably attempt it anyway. :)

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A pot of rosemary. I have high hopes for this rosemary in our new southern climate and keep telling it that I believe it can become a bush one day if it really wants to.

Gardening Books Review

This is the crazy barrel. I threw in everything from okra and nasturtiums to carnations and basil (the basil was an accident, so I wasn’t completely crazy). So far the nasturtiums are doing amazing and everything else seems to be holding it’s own. We’ll see how that turns out.

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This potted fig was a birthday gift from Will. :) I think the leaves are beautiful and I can’t wait to see what the fruit looks like.

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Here are a few of my most elegant planters, containing basil, carnations, and cilantro. ;) The plants aren’t too picky, and cans and salad bins are great for starting seeds. I have some thyme seedling which I started in eggshells as well, but I didn’t take a photo.

I’ve been doing a little bit of reading over the past few years as we’ve attempted various gardens, and today I thought I’d share a few books that popped out at me.

Vegetable Garden Book Round-Up

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
by Nikki Jabbour

★ Favorite Large-Plot Gardening Book ★

I read this book the year we planted our hugely ambitious, massive first garden when we were renting a farmhouse on 5 acres. Although that garden was a weedy jungle by mid-July and an early frost killed everything just when it was at its peak, it did produce some delicious cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants, an alarming number of squash, and several hundred radishes (even our pigs did not want radishes by the time they were done). My point is, however, that this book really inspired me to garden (maybe I was a little too inspired, in fact). :) I read this one almost cover to cover, and loved that it showed you how to grow things in every season – even winter with root crops and cold frames. It also introduced me to the concept of planting crops close together instead of in neat lines, so that the vegetables themselves shade out any weeds and there isn’t room for them to grow. I thought it was a pretty neat concept (efficient too!). Apparently the author has a new book out called Groundbreaking Food Gardens, which I would be interested in reading since her first book was so good.

Grow All You Can Eat in Three Square Feet

Grow All You Can Eat in Three Square Feet
by DK Publishing

★ Favorite Small-Space Gardening Book ★

This was another birthday gift from Will, and it’s a really fun book for gardening in a small space. It has lots of ideas for all kinds of growing spaces, from a small yard plot, to raised beds, to container gardening. The book has lots of DIY plans for making your own planters, trellises, and even “saddlebags” that can be thrown over a railing if your gardening space is a patio or balcony. I appreciated the section on rotating plants through your containers as the seasons progress (replacing fast-growing spring plants with summer ones so that you can make the most of the containers you have), and of course there’s lots of suggestions for what plants thrive most in the conditions you have to offer. Lots of fun, with plenty of pictures and illustrations.

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The Speedy Vegetable Garden
by Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz

☆ Another Good Small-Space Gardening Resource ☆

I picked up this book from the library just a few weeks ago and have been enjoying flipping through it. From sprouts to microgreens to full-grown veggies, this book covers how to grow crops that can be harvested quickly, and includes lots of photos and recipes. Most of the plants can be grown in containers, which is helpful to me since I’m growing herbs and greens on our patio, and I like that the focus of the book is growing small, quick harvests rather than a massive garden master-plan (that would be fun one day, but isn’t possible at present).

The New Self-Sufficient Gardener

The New Self-Sufficient Gardener
by John Seymour

★ Favorite Gardening Reference Book ★

This attractive green book is packed with information and is published by DK as well. It doesn’t have any photos but the illustrations are plentiful and beautiful. Whenever I have a question about a particular plant, the answer is usually in this book. It covers vegetables, fruits, composting, preserving, and even some animals you might keep in the gardens like chickens, ducks, and bees. The author lived on a 70-acre farm in Wales and somehow as you read it you get the idea of an old English farmer having wrote it. ;) He also wrote The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It which is one of Will’s favorite books of all time, and has more of a whole farmstead focus.

The Edible Garden
by Sunset Books

☆ Another Great Gardening Reference Book ☆

If you prefer photos, this book is also a great reference book. It’s not big, but it covers plenty of herbs, fruits, and vegetables, as well as garden design and planting techniques. I also like that the book has divisions by season that cover what you might be up to in the garden at any given time of year. I flip through this one often.

Grow Cook Eat

Grow Cook Eat
by Willi Galloway

★ Favorite Gardening Book for Cooking ★

This is a beautiful book. It’s fun to look through for that fact alone. I enjoy this book because the focus is on eating the food you grow.

For each vegetable or herb, the book goes through planting, growing, harvesting, storing, cooking ideas, suggested varieties, and ends with a recipe. I use this book as both a gardening reference and a cookbook during the summer. :)

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Did any of you plant a garden this year? What’s the one fruit, vegetable, or flower (or all three) that you most enjoy growing? Do you have a favorite gardening book? I’d love to hear your suggestions! :)

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Monday Inspiration: Seven Skirts for Spring

I haven’t purchased a new skirt in several years, but something about spring always makes wearing skirts particularly appealing. Today I thought I’d share a few of my favorites from this season which, although mostly out of my price range, are still fun to dream about and draw inspiration from. :)

High Seas Skirt

High Seas Skirt by Maeve (Anthropologie)

This skirt is so fun – I love the nautical stripes and the fit-and-flare silhouette. If it wasn’t for the exorbitant Anthropologie price tag, I’d be sorely tempted on this one. :)

Tulle Midi Skirt

Tulle Midi Skirt by Bailey 44 (Anthropologie)

This skirt is so lovely. It would be difficult not to secretly feel like a princess or a ballerina while wearing this ethereal treat (I guess I’m still 5 at heart).

Pintuck Pleat Chambray Skirt

Pintuck Pleat Chambray Skirt (eShakti)

I had a pleated chambray skirt similar to this several years ago and I wore it until it was threadbare. Chambray tends to go with almost anything and holds up well, so I’m a fan.

Her Fifties Colorblock Skirt

Her Fifties Colorblock Skirt (eShakti)

I love the length and shape of this skirt, and the crisp white with the bold, grass-green stripes. So fresh and cheerful. :)

Papillon Skirt

Papillon Pleated Skirt by Essentiel (Anthropologie)

What could be more spring-like than this white pleated skirt with butterflies floating across it? It looks elegant, but playful too.

Spring Street Skirt

Spring Street Skirt (Shabby Apple)

Another tulle skirt. I guess I’m really just loving tulle skirts this spring. :)

Pintura Ball Skirt

Pintura Ball Skirt by Geisha Designs (Anthropologie)

This skirt is definitely the most extravagant of the seven. I’m not sure I’d have the occasion to wear a floor-length taffeta skirt very often, but it looks so luxurious and the colors are gorgeous – like a watercolor. I couldn’t resist. :)

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What about you all? Do you have a favorite skirt you’ve been admiring this spring (even if just from afar)? :) Did everyone have a nice Mother’s Day?

Monday Inspiration: Seven Sweet & Savory Strawberry Recipes

Strawberry season has arrived! Will and I visited a u-pick farm on Saturday and took Beatrice picking for her first time. And by picking, I of course mean sitting in her stroller looking cute (and mildly anxious) while we picked, but you have to start somewhere. :)

Now we have several flats of strawberries and are eating them on EVERYTHING before I make the rest into jam. Since strawberries are plentiful this time of year and you may be staring at your own small mountain of berries, I thought I’d share a few recipes – some are old favorites and some I’d like to try for the first time. If you’d like to visit the original recipes, just click the titles. :)

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Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake

This is a recipe I haven’t tried yet, but I’m predisposed to love anything that includes the words “chocolate,” “strawberry,” and “Nutella.” Not convinced? Go read the recipe on The Pioneer Woman’s blog. By the time I was halfway through the photos I wanted to drop everything and bake a cake. Go clear your schedule, tie on an apron, and check it out! (If you need help eating it, I am willing to offer my services).

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Almond Honey Cake with Strawberry Ripple Cream

If “chocolate,” “strawberry,” and “Nutella” are my magic words, “almond,” “honey,” and “strawberry ripple cream” (okay so that’s not one word…) are my husband’s. He loves almond-flavored anything and would probably eat an entire jar of honey with a spoon if I didn’t guard it carefully. This cake is a work of art (don’t you love how she used the strawberry blossoms on top?), and if it tastes as good as it looks… YUM.

Also, a friend pointed out that this cake looks like it’s straight out of a Redwall feast. If you’ve read the books you know exactly what I’m talking about.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

If you have rhubarb on hand, this is one of my favorite pies of all time. It looks beautiful, and the tartness of the rhubarb is perfect with the sweetness of the strawberries. I’ve made it the past two years and I will probably be making it again this year. I’ve even made it with just rhubarb, but it really is better with the strawberries. Mm, delicious. Will and I have been known to eat this for breakfast (surprise), but it’s also scrumptious as a Sunday afternoon dessert.

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Pork with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

In case you were feeling yourself gain 15 pounds and become diabetic while reading these recipes, here is something savory to give you a break. Strawberries, basil, and balsamic vinegar sound like they would be amazing with pork, don’t they? I would love to try this one.

Bonus Round: Here’s another recipe for pork, strawberries, and balsamic vinegar from Southern Living that looks pretty amazing.

strawberry pizza

Strawberry Basil Pizza

Here’s another savory strawberry idea. The recipe suggests baking it on naan if you want to switch things up. This looks like it would be an amazing lunch on a hot summer day. Or maybe just lunch in general. Or even a snack. I’ve been craving pizza all weekend and this recipe is really not helping. But it’s a recipe from Fitness Magazine so that makes it healthy, right?

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Strawberry Jam

I made strawberry jam for the first time 4 years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I generally either use the recipe that comes in the box of Ball brand No-sugar/Low-sugar pectin, which consistently made 5 half-pint (8 oz) jars per batch, or the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. Her recipe requires what seems like an unholy amount of sugar, but it tastes AMAZING and looks beautiful. Even when I use a different recipe I like to look at her step-by-step instructions which you can find here and here – they’re so helpful! I’ll probably be referring to them again when I make jam this week. :)

I also found a variation for Strawberry Balsamic Jam here – doesn’t that sound delicious? You just reduce the lemon juice to 1 tbsp and add 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. It’s supposed to enhance the strawberry flavor and give the jam “a robust taste.”

layer cake

Strawberry Layer Cake

I know, I know… enough cakes already! But this cake just looks so fresh and elegant. Can’t you imagine eating it at an outdoor brunch with tea? I can. Let’s just take a minute to all drink tea in airy sundresses while eating slices of strawberry layer cake in my fantasy world, okay?

Alright, back to reality. But who says that can’t be a reality? If you bake this cake, put on a pretty frock and pearls, and have a tea party picnic in the backyard… this dream can come true!

I think I had too many cups of coffee this morning. In case you were wondering.

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Of course my other favorite way to eat strawberries is plain, or with fresh whipped cream. :) What about you all? Which recipe do you think looks the best? I would LOVE to hear if you all have any favorite strawberry recipes, or recipes you are hoping to try soon. :)

Monday Inspiration: Summer Hairstyles

Ah, spring… when a young woman’s fancy turns to chopping off her hair. Just thinking about it makes me nervous (but excited)! ;) I’ve almost always had long hair, and although I play with the idea of getting it cut shorter every summer, I inevitably chicken out. A few times I’ve been super adventures and gone as high as my collarbones (so reckless! so edgy!), but that’s about it. ;) I enjoy wearing my hair long, and it will probably always be my go-to style. Still, every spring I get that itch that maybe I should try something shorter.

Haircut Collage

This spring, as usual, I’ve been researching shorter cuts, so I thought I’d share some of the styles I’ve been perusing for inspiration. Apparently the long bob (aka “lob”) and blunt-cut hair are actually pretty popular styles this year, so I was able to find plenty of pictures of the length and shaping I’ve had in mind.

Longer bob

Here are a few shoulder-skimming cuts with long layers. I still don’t really understand how to use a blow dryer or curling iron properly (I KNOW), so I like cuts that require minimal styling. If I can scrunch it and go, or (when it’s longer) put it up in a braid or bun, that’s what I’ll do. I like that these cuts look like they require pretty minimal effort if your hair has a natural wave.

Hair cut shaping

I love how the blunt bob and long layers give hair some texture and body. Again, maintenance looks pretty minimal.

Shorter bobs

Slightly shorter bobs I’ve been eyeing… in case I feel extra adventurous. As you can maybe tell from EVERY set of pictures thus far, I have a little bit of Scarlett Johansson hair envy, haha. Every time I looked up a different variation of “long blunt bob”… there she was again. Eventually I gave up and embraced the fact that she just really pulls off this hair style. Now if only my hair was that red, right?

Longer cutsAnd here we have my safety net, in case I don’t have the courage to make the chop. ;) Or if I do, maybe some styles to transition to in the fall and winter as my hair grows out. I love the long layers and loose waves. Gorgeous.

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What about you all – do you get the itch for a shorter style as summer approaches? Do you have a favorite go-to cut, or are you thinking of trying something new? I’d love to see what styles you all love – feel free to comment with a link to your own blog with some ideas you’d like to try this summer. :)

Sickness Survival Strategies and The Great British Bake Off

Hello Friends!

Well, I meant to put a post out on Wednesday but I was down with fever, chills, and a cracking headache so I’m afraid that didn’t happen. I haven’t been sick for months (unusual for me since I tend to catch every illness I come in contact with, a week after everyone else), so I suppose I was due for it. Normally, I almost enjoy being sick (unless nausea is involved… THE WORST) because as miserable and foggy as it feels, sometimes it’s nice to be able to make a nest of blankets, stock up on water and crackers, and just sleep and recharge in a happy feverish haze without feeling guilty about housework, just for a day or two. In fact, I usually bounce back from illness with more energy than I had before and ready to tackle the postponed chores, so I suppose being sick is often my body’s way of making me take a break.

Things were a bit different this time around. Motherhood doesn’t provide sick days, and it was pretty taxing being awake and engaged for Beatrice all day while my body was doing everything in it’s power to lie down and power off. There was definitely some exhausted crying involved when Will came home Wednesday night, but I actually felt kind of triumphant the next day (after an evening of Baby Back-Up from Will and a good night’s sleep), that even when I was feeling horrible I was able to push through and keep Beatrice fed, clean, and (mostly) entertained.

Since spring colds and seasonal allergies seem to be circulating these days, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite coping strategies that have helped me survive the spring flu season. Most of them are so common-sense they probably don’t even need to be stated but I will anyways so brace yourself for a voyage with Captain Obvious. ;)

1. Naps

This one is probably a no-brainer but if I am able to lay in bed and sleep for a day or two when I get sick, I recover so much faster. Besides, often with a pounding headache or fever it’s difficult to read or even passively watch a show, and closing my eyes is the only remedy. With Beatrice I wasn’t able to utilize this strategy much, so I’ll move on to  my next favorite.

2. Blanket Nest

Make yourself a nest of blankets on a couch or chair where you can curl up and relax, and make sure your essentials are within reach on a nearby table (water, snacks, tea, tissues, books, etc). This will become your home base from which you can make forays to the kitchen, baby’s room, etc., and allows you to rest while still keeping an eye on things.

3. Hot Showers

The steam helps you breathe better and I always feel a bit less groggy and more relaxed after a hot shower, especially if I have aches or the chills. Even though I’m going to feel gross no matter what when I have a cold, taking a shower in the morning makes me feel a little less gross. Changing out of pajamas into some loose, comfy day clothes helps too (or at least fresh pjs).

4. Copious Amounts of Crackers and Hot Tea

I’ve devoured several sleeves of Ritz crackers and at least a gallon of chamomile tea with honey so far. Don’t skimp on the honey – William taught me this. I used to put probably 1/2 a teaspoon in my tea and was appalled when I saw Will scoop a huge heaping tablespoon into the mug, but I’ve since come to my senses. When you’re sick, there’s no such thing as too much honey. Adding a squeeze of lemon to your chamomile tea with honey is just the ticket if you have a sore throat.

And now I come to my favorite.

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5. The Great British Bake Off

Beatrice and I have been watching probably way too much of this show in the past 48 hours, but it’s so much fun. For one thing, it’s about baking (enough said). But even better, they’re baking in a beautiful outdoor tent, and you get to listen to a lot of lovely accents. ;) There are three baking challenges per episode – a signature recipe, a technical challenge, and a “show-stopper,” and there’s a side piece about baking in history at some point in each episode. The show has a peaceful, cheery pace, it’s entertaining, and I’ve learned a lot of tidbits about baking techniques as well.

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Most American cooking competition shows like Top Chef or Cutthroat Kitchen tend to wear on me a bit because as interesting as the cooking may be, the chefs are often a bit foul and half of the things they say are getting bleeped out… and there’s always so much drama! In Great British Bake Off the competitors are mostly very likable and range from grandmas to dads to students. I like that they cheer one another on and seem to be having so much fun (aside from the occasional time-crunch panic), and that the judges are fair without being mean-spirited or overly critical. They enjoy the food and really seem to want to see the competitors succeed.

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The main problem with the show is that it makes me want to get in the kitchen and try some of the methods and recipes (aside from sponge cakes soaked in syrup… no thanks), so it was very frustrating being sick yesterday. Also, it is now one of my life goals to get my hands on one of their baking stations – wouldn’t that be amazing to have in your kitchen, with the wood counter-top and the little proofing drawer and oven? So cool. And wouldn’t it be fun to get together and bake with all your friends outside on a nice day? ;)

rivals

I’ve only watched Season 5 and I’m only about halfway through, but I’m rooting for Martha, Richard, and Nancy. :) You can watch the show for free on YouTube (just search for “Great British Bake Off”), and there are a lot of extra videos about the techniques and recipes on the Great British Bake Off YouTube channel. I definitely feel inspired to do some baking once I’m feeling better. Just one caution: if you enjoy baking, this show is addictive, so make sure you have some time on your hands. ;)

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Do any of you all have a favorite cooking show, or a good series you recommend when stuck in bed with a fever? How do you like to kick a cold (or cope with one)?