Thursday, April 29, 2010

Extravagant love and sugar scrub

This week I needed to prepare 40 little gifty items for our women's retreat this weekend that would go into grab bags each participant will receive.  Just so you know, each person attending is going to be doing the same so these will probably be burgeoning bags of fun.  I cannot wait to see what the ladies make as it is my first time retreating with this group of gals.

Wracking my brain for a few days to think of what I could make went something like this.  Crafty paper creations like cute purse sized notebooks covered with beautiful paper...naaah.  Biscotti...I could make biscotti!  Nope that wouldn't work either for me as I took into consideration all the other "food" items and meals we would be eating, even though a good cup of coffee and fresh biscotti is one of my favorite things.  What would I make, what could I make that would be quick and easy?  Two days ago I remembered a jar of scrub I bought a year ago that I loved...and it was made of sugar, oil and fragrance.  Yes...this would do nicely...sugar scrub!

Sugar scrub is a mixture of oil, sugar and fragrance that is used to exfoliate and refresh the skin.  I remember the first time I saw it I wondered "How is it the sugar doesn't just melt away in the water?"  My next thought..."Duh!  The oil silly!"  The sugar is suspended in the oil which helps to retain the sugar in its crystal form and thus makes it a perfect scrubbing compound.  It works with salt too but I digress.

This was absolutely the easiest thing to make...just pour and mix!  I love it!  I grabbed ingredients I had in my kitchen to make this version which is actually a foot scrub.  Olive oil was my first choice but I didn't have enough so I grabbed the grape seed oil.  After I made up the batch I realized I hadn't done my homework to see if this oil was a good one to use so I got on the web and discovered grape seed oil is great for tightening the skin and rejuvenating a more youthful appearance.  YAY!  Being over 35 I scored on that one and have now found a new use for my cooking oil. (big smile)  I wonder if my husband will notice the difference?

Each of the ladies will be receiving a little container (I used food portioning cups like the ones you get for take-out sauces), labeled each lid and added along side, a little card with the recipe on one side and the ingredients of this scrub and how to use it on the other.  Very cute!  These little goodies cost less than a dollar for each and are going to be so wonderful for those hot tired feet.

As I was mixing the scrub and filling the containers I began to think about each woman that would receive one of these and prayed they would be blessed in some particular way by this gift.  My inclination, especially with these types of event gifts or even personal gifts that I pray over is to think about Biblical accounts, maybe a particular scripture and meditate on it while praying and working.  This project sent me to the account in Luke 7 near the end of the chapter where the woman comes into the room where Jesus was meeting with the Pharises.  She washed His feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her own hair and then...anointed his feet with a costly precious oil because of her love for Him.  She has been forgiven much and loves with extravagance sparing no expense and not caring what other thought of her actions.  She simply loved with her whole heart and all she could.  Extravagance!

Extravagant love for the Lord became my prayer for the ladies.  This spoke to me personally as I realized the recipe I had chosen required me to use the more costly oils in my cupboard.  If I had chosen to not really care about these women I could have maybe used any old oil in my kitchen.   But these were gifts meant to bless so more costly items were required.  It didn't stop there for me either as God began to remind me about those times I had withheld giving of what cost me more out of selfishness when I was called upon to give to or to serve others.  This has been an ongoing conversation between me and God for a while now and my desire to be and extravagant lover of people and God has grown exponentially.  How is it can we/I withhold anything from Him who gave everything for us/me!?!  More prayers went up.  I love the way God uses things in our everyday lives to speak to us if our ears are tuned to hear what He has to say.

You need a glass or stainless steel bowl to mix in.  Plastic will take up the fragrance flavor of whatever essential oil you use so avoid plastic if you can.

5 cups oil
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp oil based peppermint extract

Blend oil and extract together prior to adding the sugar.  Mix it all together and that's it!
Store in a lidded container.

You can use those squat wide mouth canning jars if you like...I think they look really cute actually and you can decorate the lids of them if you are making this to give away as gifts.

To use the scrub you simply moisten your skin with warm water.  (For feet I would soak them for a bit to help soften the tougher skin.)  Use about 1tsp per foot or for your hands of the scrub and rub away the old skin.  If you rub in circular motion its supposed to be a good thing too.  So there you have it.

If you are using essential oils and not cooking extract you will us much less than I did for this recipe.  Here are some other tips.
  • Essential oils...use only a few drops per recipe as they are very concentrated. Lavender, Eucalyptus, mint, chamomile, rose and many others are just some options you can try.  These oils may seem expensive but go a long way so they are worth the investment.
  • Use your favorite perfume instead of essential oil or extracts
  • If you use this in a bath tub note that it will make the floor of the tub slippery so be sure to wash out the tub afterward to avoid accidents.
  • Use a foot tub to soak and rinse your feet off instead of the bath tub.  Have a bath towel handy for drying your feet off.
  • Invite your best gal pals over for a spa time.  Bless grandma with a foot spa time and lunch.
What is God speaking to you about in your daily life?  Take time to pray as you work and take time to listen, tuning your ear to hear what He has to say.  Be blessed!  Love with extravagance!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Salad Bowl Gardens Finale

Its time!  Wow...that went fast.  Its 6:00 AM the morning of the big fundraiser at Birch Community Services and I cannot wait to see how the salad bowl gardens look on the tables.

Yesterday evening I packed the floors of my van with the 22 bowls in all their succulent beauty and shuttled them off to the warehouse where we loaded them onto a cart handling them like bouquets of flowers.  They had to look their best as they were after all to be the "centerpiece" on the tables.

There were a lot of comments made about how wonderful, beautiful and yummy they looked.  This project was so fun and simple I really must do this at home for myself and for gifts.

( looks like my helper is trying to figure out which one to sneak a leaf from.).


Soon these garden bowls will grace someones home and their leaves, their plates.  That is a happy thought!  Well, I'm off to get myself ready for the big event and looking forward to eating breakfast someone else cooked.  Stay tuned for the final reveal pictures.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seduced By Seeds

My favorite lettuce ever is no longer sold in the trade so I am sowing out what seed I have left for the specific purpose of saving seed to share with others and for fresh seed for my seed file.  My seed file is my personal seed bank...another geeky habit I have.  It tends to lean towards compulsion but with some restraint or as much restraint as I can muster in any given season and it’s girth ebbs and flows like the tides depending on how self controlled I am.
(pictured is my Bijou lettuce Baby!!!)

I have to really work at reigning myself in when it comes to seeds.  OK,I admit it!  I have a very hard time resisting the temptation to try the wonderful new or reintroduced varieties of seeds as I scan websites, catalogs and seed racks.  They all look so seductive...and I feel so hopeful when I read the descriptions and see the beautiful pictures of them in all their stunning glory.  I find food for hope that this year’s garden will be amazingly better than the last and in some small way even resemble those pictures.  And oh yes, hope springs eternal here...actually around here this time of year its more like a flood.  Every cell in my body reaches for those new varieties like a child reaching for sweets.

Because of this compulsion I have developed a series of questions that I have to ask myself before I dip into my pocket to purchase the seeds.  The old argument of "Oh, its only a couple dollars" or that fact the packet will produce plants far beyond the original cost of the seeds just isn't allowed...well most of the time anyway.  First...Do we need it...second...Will I use the food produced by it...and third...Will I hate myself if I miss out on getting this if I never see it again.

Today when I went out to shoot these pictures I realized that there is a mustard, or should I say mustards that are a good example of something I bought to sooth that grasping child in me.  I just had to have "BOTH" varieties...they were so cool sounding!  Red Streaks and Gold Streaks mustard.  I already grow Mizuna which we totally love but I love playing with color and texture in my garden and if its prettier and we can still eat it I can fall quickly into temptation. (Pictured here are the mustards...hmmm...maybe I can forgive myself for this one.)

So what are you growing this year?  What is your favorite lettuce variety?  What one variety can't you find anywhere that you would die to have again?  For me, hands down it would be my Bijou lettuce.  I have a list of reasons why too...color, form, taste, resists bitterness and holds its color.  Why the seedlings from last year even wintered over and tell me, are they not GORGEOUS!  It makes my mouth water just looking at it!  (This picture is of Bijou lettuce in all its glory)

In reality, unless God blesses the seeds I sow, this could be the last year I am able to grow my Bijou lettuce at all.  If it is the very last, I will be thankful for all the years I've been able to grow it and sad for its passing by the way of the Dodo bird.  All good things must come to and end...I'm just hoping the end for Bijou will not be in my lifetime.

Copyright © 2010 by Patty Hicks

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Salad Bowl Project: Part 2

Just in case you are following the salad bowl planter project, here's the latest on of how these mini gardens are doing.  This is turning out to be such a fun project I can't wait to see what they will look like on the tables at our fundraiser this Thursday.  They are growing really fast and well in the weather we have been having this spring.  Weather is always a gamble in the garden.

I have had a couple heart stopping moments when there was a threat of hail heading our directing.  Thus these bamboo hoops you see here, actually a bamboo 3-part trellis thingie that I re-purposed and quickly put in place so I could cover the plants easily when these threats appeared on the horizon. Fortunately both threats turn into a vapor and my anxiety into a sigh of relief.

Planting up bowls of different lettuce varieties is a really good way to get an up-close lesson on what the growth rate and habits are of the different lettuces.  I am totally smitten by lettuces and am always trying at least one or more new found varieties each year.  How can a gardener resist those gorgeous succulent leaves in such amazing colors and textures?  Well I cannot that's for sure.  Can you blame me?

What's your favorite lettuce variety?

Copyright © 2010 by Patty Hicks

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's Not Just a Bowl Anymore!

Yesterday with the help two new friends, Debbie and Amber, I spent some time in the spring sunshine working on creating "salad bowl planters" that will become centerpieces for a fund raising event for a local non-profit.  I love ideas that are inexpensive and this one is a good one.

  • 1 large vinyl plastic bowl (approximately 7 liters)  The Dollar Tree has really great ones in bright colors.
  • 1 6-pak of lettuce  (see list of other plant options below)
  • The best potting soil you can afford 
TIP: If you compost you can add a couple inches of your good compost to last year's potting soil to rejuvenate it for using here.
  • A Drill
  • "Step down" bit (I've included a picture below)
  • Cardboard   (for making a drilling template for the drainage holes)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil or marking pen

Vinyl is better than acrylic to drill

For this project we tried using two different types of bowls, clear acrylic and vinyl plastic.  Both bowls were purchased at our local Dollar Tree though you can find other similar bowls at most any store that sells tableware.

You will need to draw out a template for where the holes in your container will be.  If your container is round like our bowls its pretty easy to do using  a compass or a bowl with the same diameter as the bottom of your bowl.  If it is a container that is another shape you will need to trace around the bottom edge.  This doesn't have to be exact as you will see later.  You are only using this as a guide.

Dissecting lines help decide hole placement

For this template I measured and cut the cardboard circle and marked where I wanted the drainage holes drilled using dissecting perpendicular lines.  I placed the templates over the bottom of the bowls and drilled away.  One thing I will add here is that you need to try to avoid pressing down while drilling as the weight of the drill should be enough to cut into the plastic.  This is especially true if you are drilling acrylic.  The thin acrylic bowls we had were a real pain to drill as the brittle plastic tended to want to crack if any weight was put on the drill at all.  The bit tended to not cut into it as easily either.  It made me wish all of the bowls had been vinyl.  I suppose if the acrylic had been thicker the cracking wouldn't have been an issue but it still would have been harder to drill through than the vinyl.  The vinyl bowls were like drilling into butter.  Vinyl is a softer pliable plastic that resists cracking making it a better choice for this type of project.

The close-up here is of the step down drill bit.  Its a cool bit as it allows you more control over the size of the hole you drill stepping down bit by bit to specific sizes.

Line up before drilling

I also tried drilling at two different levels to see which worked best.  First on a tall stool which was all right but didn't allow me the control of the drill I needed and I found myself tempted to put too much pressure on the drill causing that nasty cracking in the acrylic bowls.  Next I switched to counter height and that worked great!  I was able to see where it was drilling much better and it was easier to control the drill.

The stool was a little low to drill on

All the bowls had a mold mark in the middle of the bottom which made lining up the template a breeze and was the first hole I drilled on each.  I wasn't so concerned about the holes being centered exactly as much as I was that there were enough of them of proper size so once it was planted the bowl would drain properly.  Mine were about 3/8" and I put 5 holes in the bottom of each bowl.  I suppose if you are the type that has a reasonably good eye you could skip using a template all together as the bottom of the bowl is never seen once its planted anyway.

Finished holes

With the holes all drilled we took the bowls outside to our potting station and got ready to plant.  Our bench was a couple of sawhorses and a piece of plywood which worked well for the three of us to work in an assembly line fashion.  Because we had over 20 to make up we found that filling all the bowls with soil first quite helpful as it saved a lot of going back and forth from one end of the bench to the other.  We set the potting soil at the end of the bench where the bowls were so we could easily fill them and once filled, stacked them three high which was also a great height for planting up.

Each bowl has a scrumptious variety
Next we split apart the 6-paks of lettuce which were a gourmet blend which offered a really pretty blend of leaf colors, textures and shapes.  We then selected out a good mix of lettuces for each bowl and potted them up.  Once potted up we checked to be sure the plants were planted at the same depth as they were in their little 6-paks, gently tucked the soil around their roots making sure they were all snugged in and then watered them.

Once they were all planted we set them into a nice warm sunny raised bed we had prepared in advance and where they were watered in and left to grow.  Part of the reason I chose the raised bed is the soil they will sit on is already warmer than on the in ground soil and I can easily throw a frost blanket over them if there is a threat of hail or frost.  It also keeps them out of the paths of cats or other critters which roam our back yard.

Tucked all cozy so they will grow nice and lush

Today when I went out and checked on the bowls, the little lettuces were already perking up. They are going to make beautiful statements as a part of the centerpieces at our event.

Here are some other ideas on what you can plant in a bowl like this.
  • Pansies, marigolds, petunias or other shorter annual flower.
  • Herbs such as basil, parsley, chives, oregano, mint, thyme, chervil, cilantro
  • Radishes, beet greens, micro greens
  • Cat grass...oh indoor cats go bonkers for this but make sure your bowl won't tip over if they step into it which they might try to do after they have eaten around the edges.
  • Succulents...hens and chicks, sedums and other succulents
  • Spring blooming bulbs (plant in the fall and protect from freezing)
  • Dwarf dahlias, tuberous begonias, fuchsia and other premium annuals
Happy Gardening Everyone!

Copyright © 2010 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Curve Balls

Just when you think... can move indoor plants outdoors, it hails finally have your drip system figured out when it springs a leak leaving dry your seed beds. will finally beat the old habit of letting your seedbeds go too dry, you discover its going to be 100 degrees over the weekend and you have plans to be out of town.  Oh well.

Life is always throwing us curve balls.  We never see them coming.  We hope we won't suffer the results of being hit by one, but inside we know that's not realistic. Life is full of unknown those that affect our garden or those affecting other areas of our lives.  So what are we to do?  How are we to respond when that curve ball slams into our lives with all its disruptive force.  Will we sit discouraged, singing the blue, moaning to our friends and family about our dreams lost and complaining about how hard it all is.  Or will we take a completely different track by examining our situation, letting go of things as we need to, either in part or completely, and start moving forward again.

Letting go...that's a very uncomfortable and often frightening thing to do.  We have to shift our whole mind set onto an unfamiliar path.  We have to get out of our "comfort zone", that place of our original dreams or life as we know it or life as we wanted it and live in a whole new place.  But letting go does something amazing!  In the act of letting go we are brought to a place of being able to see whole new vistas of opportunity, the new direction beyond the original trajectory of our original hopes, dreams and plans.  A change of course that gives a person the ability to see more clearly the next step needed to move forward, instead of letting what seems like misfortune ruin the whole of future plans.  Do I hear a question? "Casting off of what is not really needed...but needed by whom?  Not me, I needed that!"  Oh really?  Are you absolutely sure?  Will you shrivel up and die if you don't have your way?  I seriously doubt it.  Let me ask you a question.  Are you absolutely sure your way was the best way?  I used to think I did.  In fact I was stubbornly convinced of it at times.  My how things have changed.

Recently I began to wonder if I was morning the loss of dreams more than taking a good look at what was really in front of me.  I have spent years working with and studying plants and gardening.  My make a career out of it, to own my own herb growing business in this romantic country setting, complete with a rustic but cozy space to teach and where I wouldn't have to play the gypsy teacher who is always having to schlep my wares from group to group.  A peaceful and satisfying life.  Due to circumstance beyond my control that has never happened.  As a matter of fact it seems things are going in nearly the opposite direction for the most part.  I have had to come to grips with the realization that it may very well never happen.  And come to the understanding that its not a bad thing at all really.  Its just different than what my original plans were.  Oh and in case you're wondering, that dream still lives on in me though it is tempered by the force of more than one curve ball and having to pick myself out of the dust several times.

Curve balls are teachers and mine have taught me I needed to take a good look at my responses to my circumstance, good or bad and the people in them as well.  This picture of me in front of that little strip of of those "good ideas" that turned real ugly and one that totally changed my life's direction to one more in tuned with what God's will is for my life.

Also important in this exercise are examining the words I say and my thoughts and attitudes about things I'd like to do or have always wanted to do.  The picture I get of this is that its a lot like picking bones out of a good brook trout.  Anyone who fishes knows what I'm talking about here. You spend your time and strength hoping to catch a fish and when you do, your next goal is to enjoy eating that fish.  But there are lots of little bones hidden in the prize meat of this fish.  My poor or wrong attitudes are a lot like those fish bones and can ruin the pleasure of my catch.  The fish is eating the fish, my enjoyment of this life.  So I'd rather be careful and pick out the bones and put them away from my plate so I can enjoy the meal.  I've digressed quite a ways from the garden but then this is important stuff.  Life is full of bones, those things that stall us out and cause us to choke on the disappointments.  Just another facet of the lesson.

So many things I've tried in my life have not turned out the way I dreamed, actually almost everything.  Does this mean I have failed.  No.  I keep moving forward.  I keep dreaming.  I keep hoping.  And I keep growing.  The result is that I look at things much differently than I used to.  Some things were never meant to be no matter how much I desire them to be otherwise.  Some dreams never meant to be realized.  This is what life is like.  That does not make it bad...its just different...different than I had planned.

King Solomon recognized this truth as he wrote in Proverbs 16:9  "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."  He understood it was God who was working all things together for a purpose.  He knew that no matter how hard we try, sometimes things just won't work out.  That it is not for man to determine his path, his success is not ensured by taking every precaution, every correct step, but that it is God who determines the future.  He knew that his God had purposes of His own He was ensuring would get accomplished.  He knew that fighting against God's will only brought more hardship.

I have come to understand that these times are what God has intended from the beginning.  Oh yes, I know that may sound to some of you like fatalism but it's not.  I am not at all saying why bother doing anything when God can just swoop in and take charge and ruin everything.  Somehow I've never really felt like that, though I have been tempted to do so and sometimes have wondered why He has brought my life to the place it is today.  We all wonder why when we are hit with curve balls.

The thing I do understand with great clarity is that whatever I lose or face, the successes and challenges are all  intended to forge the character God desires in me according to the things He planned before this place I walk on was even set on its foundations. God is not as interested in my seeming success as He is seeing that His own purposes and plans are worked out in and through me. So does that mean He does not desire me to prosper?  No, it is more likely that His definition of prospering is in conflict with what I have defined as prosperity. is different.  God is interested in using me and He's interested in using you too.  Now doesn't that blow your mind and all the world's definition of who is worthy of being used.  In the world's eyes I know I certainly do not appear as a success...but that doesn't matter to God.  He still wants to use me...this person who nothing has really gone the way she had planned.  Do you have any idea why?  I do.  He is more glorified in the miracle of using an imperfect person (which we all are by the way).  It confounds the wisdom of the world that He would even consider it!  And I am glad!

Having His plans worked out in me and through me "is" my success and now my goal.  With all these curve balls that are sent into my life He was not looking to cast me into eternal frustration and despair at all, but looking out for my, good both here and in cause all things to work together for my good and for His that's somethin'!  And this makes no sense to the mind set on earthly success.  The Bible calls that mindset foolish.

So how then am I to even want to step forward, to dream or to will to do anything at all.  Its simple.  Because I know God has plans for my future.  I may not understand them.  They may even be painful.  But the fruit of what comes out of my future, if I am yielded to His will, His plans, will have the sweetest most satisfying taste my soul has ever experienced.  God is good and nothing is ever wasted in His economy.  Bring it on!  With God I can do anything.  With God all things are possible.

So the next time you are hit with a curve ball...just take a second look.  It may have opened a window to a whole new vista and be exposing your future life and pathway.

Copyright © 2010 by Patty Hicks

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.