Weeks 3 and 4 Pop Bottles Meet Disaster

Mr. Gray is in trouble. BIG trouble. We have 2 kittens we adopted in October of this last year. I was seriously worried about my seedlings getting damaged by the cats since it is an open space in our basement that I grow my plants in. Our beloved cat Bernie, who died suddenly this fall was completely trained to not go near the “kids”.

Oh yes, it happened in the middle of the night, a crash in the basement and a scampering of feet tearing down the hallway past our bedroom door. I knew what the sound was and I just sighed and fell back asleep. I would survey the damage in the morning.

Sure enough Mr. Gray, yes I know it was him, dumped the whole rack of shelves. Nine pop bottles were scattered across the floor in all sorts of disarray. I didn’t have time to do anything with them because I needed to get to the bakery. I would work on the mess when I got home.

Nothing, unfortunately was salvageable. The second set of shelving was still upright so I hadn’t lost everything, but the basil, lemon balm, cilantro, onions, catnip, and others were crushed.

Today I did get 28 pepper plants and 4 watermelon plants transplanted into their own, larger spaces. They are doing well and hopefully Mr. Gray will not get into any more mischief with these guys. Now if we could just get some sun here in Western NY that would really, really help. -MM

 

Week 1-2 Pop Bottle Garden


It has been a heck of a few weeks since I started the seeds for our 2017 garden. Here in Western, NY we had 80+ mile an hour winds which knocked our power out for well over 24 hours and closed school for two days. Then less than a week later we had a two day blizzard that closed schools again for two days and brought our lives to a grinding halt while we waited it out. Crazy weather I tell ya!

However, while all that crazy weather was going on outside, my little pop bottle garden and its contents were snug and warm and working away for me.

This year I planted peppers, both sweet and hot, celery, cilantro, dill, watermelon, basil, 3 kinds of onions, catnip and lemon balm. The only thing I have not gotten in yet are the tomatoes and I am getting a little nervous about it but I will get them started don’t worry.

Below are a couple of photos of what has been happening inside the bottles these past two weeks. Pretty cool huh? See you next week with another update! -MM

 

 

Pie Challenge and the “Kids” are Up

I have really been slacking on my “Operation Pie Challenge” I left off at week #7 so this would be week #8. I am not going to do a recipe this week. Instead, I am going to show you a technique with pie crust that my Granny taught me years ago that I think you will find interesting.

This technique is best used on a berry pie with its dark purple or red color.

Start by having your bottom crust and filling ready. The filling pictured below was a mixed berry from our raspberries frozen from last season.

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Next, roll out the top crust and instead of slicing completely from one side to the other as in a traditional lattice, create a cross shape instead.

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As you can see next you cut each corner of the cross into an “L” shape.

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Carefully lift the cross shape (it can be a little tricky not to break it, so go slowly) and place in the center of the filling. Next lift and position the “L” shaped pieces of crust just like they were on your floured counter but leave a little space so the color of the filling peaks through. Now add the corner pieces and crimp the pieces into place.

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Bake as you would any pie and voila!

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Not only is it impressive to look at but it tastes darn good too!

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The Kids are Up!

Last week I showed you how I started my seedlings in pop bottles. My hubby and I always call them our “kids.”

The kids are up and out of the soil and stretching towards the sky. Here are a few pics!

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So far the plum tomatoes, regular tomatoes, basil, cilantro and dill are all up. The peppers and celery will hopefully be up some time next week.

Are you starting any plants indoors yet? If so, what are you growing?

Can’t wait to report back next week. Happy baking and gardening everyone! -MM

Seed Starting

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I worked on my gardening goals today and started some seeds indoors. Every year I do this and I thoroughly enjoy it. I take my phone down in the basement with me and prop it on the windowsill and watch Desperate Housewives with my Hulu phone app. Just me, and Susan, Bree, Lynette and Gabby gettin’ dirty with seed starter.

Here are a few pics of what I accomplished today.

Every Fall I dig up my geraniums and pot them and then overwinter them in our basement. Today I cleaned them all up, getting rid of any dead leaves and flowers. Now I will make sure they get plenty of sunshine and fertilizer to get them ready to go outside in a month or so. It is supposed to be mid sixties this week so I might put them outside just for the day to give them a boost.
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Believe it or not this plant is a tomato that I rescued last fall while bringing in the geraniums. It had just sprouted and only had 2 leaves. It has grown steadily and surely over the winter and I just re-potted it this afternoon in it’s new home.
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Last year I posted about starting my seeds in a pop bottle construction container. I liked it so much I decided to expand my pop bottle garden this year.

I started paste tomatoes, regular tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, basil, dill, cilantro and celery. I’ll start cabbages and some other plants in a couple of weeks

Thank you to my wonderful mom-in-law for providing me with the bottles!

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I can’t wait to update you on their progress. I am sure by next week they will have sprouted.

Unfortunately though by the end of the Desperate Housewives episode I was watching, Mike Delfino, Susan’s husband was shot. Damn, he was cute too. Oh well, keep calm and dig in the dirt I always say! -MM

 

Geraniums, Pop Bottle Garden Update and Food Waste in the Bakery Department

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Geraniums

This time of year I am so happy that I dug up my geraniums and brought them in for the winter. A few posts ago I talked about these beauties and now they are in full bloom! What an encouraging lift they are for me every day. I hope to be using these plants as accents this weekend when we host our Church’s Easter Sunrise Service at our home. Stay tuned.

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Pop Bottle Garden Update

My pop bottle experiment has gone fabulously! I have replanted all 24 tiny basil seedlings into their own individual space using two biodegradable cardboard egg cartons. Free and easy container space which of course I love.

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The other seeds I tried in the pop bottle soon overtook their spaces blowing off the tops of the bottles within a few weeks. A single tomato plant and zucchini squash were my next experiments. I might have to plant them into another pot instead of waiting until May to set them out. What do you think?

I will definitely be using this method next year for starting my seeds. It worked flawlessly.

Food Waste in the Bakery Department

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As you can imagine grocery stores have a lot of food waste every day. To the left is an example of what I pulled off the bakery shelves on a typical Friday morning. Luckily not all of what is pictured in the cart is thrown out. Not yet anyway. We reduce our out of date items and give our customers a chance to purchase them at a lower cost. After that, if items are not sold on the reduced rack then yes, they will end up in the trash. Sad huh?

On a good note though, our store does donate many items that are coming close to their expiration dates to local food pantries and other organizations that will gladly take them.

The bakery and deli departments have another unique way we use items that are damaged or otherwise considered unsellable to the general public. We make stuff with them. What kind of stuff? Yummy stuff!

Every morning the produce man comes around to the bakery and deli departments to see if we can use any of their day’s freshly pulled damaged or undesirable items. Deli usually grabs the tomatoes and peppers and lettuce and re-purposes them using them in salads and the hot foods case for lunch.

Bakery on the other hand can use just about any of the produce. Carrots get ground and used in cakes and muffins, Cranberries get made into coffee cakes, peppers, squash, and asparagus get made into quiche, and of course apples get made into pies. How glorious! This week we got berries. Lots and lots and LOTS of berries. Over ten cases of strawberries in fact. “What the heck do I do with all of these cases of strawberries?” I said to my store manager.

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I made lots of things with these strawberries. Scones, fruit breakfast bars, filling for cakes, and finally freezer jam. Yep when you are drowning in berries make jam. I made freezer jam because it was easy and quick. Nine, 16 oz. jars. Yippee! I use the jam in my thumbprint cookies which I bake a lot of. I still have a 5 gallon pail of frozen cut-up strawberries in the freezer to use in the future.

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So you might ask why produce had so many bad berries? Many times they arrive that way on the truck. They come in too ripe or too damaged to sell. We get credit from the warehouse on anything that is damaged or not up to par. Instead of throwing them in the dumpster we try to use them. I love turning items that would normally wind up in the trash into something wonderful. What can I say I am a sucker for a freebie! -MM

A Garden in a Pop Bottle, a 30 Day Challenge and Getting the Word out About my Work

Pop Bottle Greenhouse

Last Sunday I started a few basil seeds in my new mini ecosystem thingy which I mentioned in my last blog post. The idea is to use two 2-liter pop bottles to make an enclosed mini greenhouse. I planted and watered the seeds in on Sunday and placed the bottle on a warm radiator and by Wednesday tiny seedlings were popping up. Cool! So far this system is working great. I will continue to give updates and experiment with other seeds to see how they fare in this kind of environment.

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30 Day Challenge

A few months ago I challenged myself, my husband and my son to a 30 day challenge. We would not eat out, get take-out or go through the drive-thru for an entire month. Yeah. This was tough for us. I love to cook but by the time I get home some nights I have seen too much food and too many dishes and I would rather just order a pizza for dinner. This kind of eat out lifestyle had left me feeling very mediocre. I used to be the wife that would have a great meal on the table every night for my family. It was always balanced with a protein, a carb and two veggies.

After opening my bakery in 2010 and leaving my desk job as a legal secretary our home meals were rushed, quick and downright, yes, mediocre at best. After working a 12 hour day standing on my feet, I had no desire to stand even a second longer making dinner. My husband doesn’t cook but he is the best at ordering take-out.

Now that my self-employed career was done and I had a full time job again I was itching to get my mojo back when it came to cooking. We were spending a ton of money eating out and why should we eat out when my husband would say my cooking was better! What really got me into this challenge was having dinner at a local BBQ joint and it cost me over $85 for three of us to eat! Not cool! I knew I could do better and I knew it would be a lot cheaper if I cooked for us at home.

Now this was a self-imposed 30 day challenge. I came up with the idea myself so I made my own rules.

Here were my rules:

1. No eating out at a restaurant, ordering take-out from a restaurant or going through the fast food drive-thru.

2. No eating out at all including not just dinner but breakfast and lunch too.

3. No coffee out or fancy drinks like Lattes, Mochas or Frappes. Yes that meant no Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons or local coffee shops. We own three coffee machines so we would make our coffee from home.

4. Meals had to be made at home. They don’t have to be made from scratch either. I don’t care if you want to eat a bowl of cereal for dinner, just make it at home.

5. Farmers markets and grocery stores are your friends and should be your daily inspiration. If you have room to grow a veggie garden than all the better. Can’t get much healthier or more inexpensive than growing it yourself.

6. The only exceptions would be school lunches. (At only $1.40 a lunch I couldn’t pack a lunch less expensive than that) and if we had already planned a dinner out a month in advance we could still honor our previous commitment and go out that night.

I have to say we really enjoyed our month cooking at home. My son enjoying cooking with me. Our garden was still alive so we could harvest lettuce, carrots, swiss chard, cabbage and herbs. Working at the store was helpful because I was already there and I made myself stay and shop so there was no excuse for not wanted to go to the store. I also got my love for cooking back. I really missed it.

I did slip a couple of times. I was summoned to jury duty that month and it was pretty tough to bring a bag lunch even though I did stash some fruit and granola bars in my purse. Also once, we went to Subway on a night where I was completely wiped out and we figured that was the cheapest, healthiest way to enjoy a night out.

I might have to do the challenge again. I really didn’t like paying $30 for a small pizza and 12 wings yesterday. Would you try a 30 day challenge like this?

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A meal our 13 year old made us

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Naan flatbread pizza

My Work

Work at the store gets very slow this time of year. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays people tend to hibernate after December. Here in Western, NY we have been plagued by many snow storms including our November super-storm which brought national attention to southern Buffalo.

After such a slow week last week I decided to jump-start people and get them in the spring and summer event planning mood with a few pictures on my Facebook page. I posted 5 different categories of goods that would be perfect for baby and wedding showers, custom cut-outs, character cakes and small weddings.

If you have an event coming up in the spring or summer of this year it is best to start getting your thoughts together now while it’s quiet. Bakeries love to hear from people well in-advance of an upcoming event. This gives them enough time to order or hand make special decorations for a cake if needed and gives the person hosting the event the peace of mind that their wishes will be met correctly and their event will be perfect. What kind of event are you planning for the summer? -MM

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50th Wedding Anniversary Cake