Box Garden Bounty

Earlier this Summer we decided to try our hand at growing some of our own produce. Since we only moved in earlier this year, we wanted to find a temporary option (we plan to build a permanent box garden next year) and not too labour intensive. Our goal was to grow food organically, without the use of any pesticides or funky chemicals- au natural! This was a trial to break in our green thumbs, so I jumped on trusty old Pinterest and found this idea:
Image Source:
http://boyslife.org/hobbies-projects/funstuff/7222/plant-a-compact-vegetable-garden/
It uses a concept known as square foot gardening, which is pretty self explanatory. You simply divide your planting space into square foot sections and place your plants based on growth specs (ie highest in centre or at back, depending on box garden location); some items may require 2 or more sections based on growing needs, just plan accordingly. My Uncle had told me about square foot gardening about a year ago and has had a lot of success with it- according to him, you can reap a larger crop with this method than with the traditional style of planting in rows.
We were lucky that my father in law had the materials already, so we only had to pay for the soil & seeds. Ours ended up being 4’* 5′, and we skipped building the vertical frame, opting to use poles where needed. We picked veggies based on what we liked and what would grow in the weather we have, since we didn’t want to cover it or give it any special treatment; low maintenance was the goal! 🙂 We bought organic seeds, which did cost a little more, but overall didn’t make this project much more expensive.
What we planted:
peas, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, green peppers, jalapenos, beets, carrots, & onion (we also transplanted a basil plant a weeks after the initial seeding with success). 
We planted the peas, beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes along the back since they would need room to grow up and out, and the rest of the veggies along the front. (We didn’t use perfect square foot areas because we wanted to try a variety of things to see how they’d do- trial & error). Since we planted late in the season, we knew we’d have varying success. Everything did well except for the green peppers and jalapenos- those definitely need the protection & humidity of being covered. We also discovered the beans we bought were not the traditional climbers, but bush beans (lol oops!), but they grew well despite this mistake. The only additional materials we needed were poles & netting for the peas and beans (before we realized our mistake) 😉 and a cage for the tomatoes. 
In terms of maintenance, we watered it almost every day and pulled any little weeds that were trying to make themselves at home. We did find that something was snacking on the zucchini and peas in the beginning, but decided to leave them alone after we put some little traps out (I don’t like doing that, but it was that or lose our veggies! Luckily we never found anything in the traps).
What’s great about mini box gardens is you don’t need a lot of room for one. If you live in a townhouse or condo with very little outdoor space, you can tuck a little one of these along the border or on your deck. As long as it gets some sun, you should be able to grow a few items. If you’re really limited for space, a herb garden would be a great itty- bitty alternative. 
We’re starting to get some yummy goodies for all our hard work 🙂 Now that we’re heading into the Fall, we’re picking veggies almost everyday, and you definitely can’t beat home grown!
The box garden at the end of August…
… and some of the yummy goodies!

DIY: Bench Makeover!

I thought I’d toss in a little project post before the weekend starts. This Saturday & Sunday I’m off to try and find some other goodies to breath new life into. This was one of my first projects and am pretty pleased with the results. I picked up this lil cutey at a garage sale and as soon as I saw it, I knew what I wanted to do with it. I had seen some black and white stripe fabric furniture on Pinterest, and loved the statement that such a simple pattern can make.

Before…
After!

To transform this retro beauty, I first took it apart and washed the individual pieces. Partly because I’m kind of a germophobe and partly to help the paint adhere better.
I then sprayed all the pieces with 2 coats of matte black. This took a little bit of effort given all of the manoeuvring to properly cover all of the angles, but I think I did a pretty good job. 😉
To recover the seat, I removed the old fabric and had the hubby help me to align and staple the new. Given the stripes, it was important the pattern didn’t get warped or distorted, so we worked from opposite sides and kept the fabric very taught while stapling.
Then it was a simple matter of reassembling everything in it’s refreshed state.
I can’t wait to find my next project! Hope this inspires you to see the potential in outdated vintage 😉 furniture!

Dimensions: 36.5″ Wide* 18.25″ Deep* 34″ High

Yummy Mummy Recipe: Beet Salad

This is one of those salads you have a lot of liberty with. It’s versatile and packs a nutritional punch. When I was a kid I hated, HATED red beets. I just couldn’t bring myself to eat them. About a year ago I decided what the heck, I’ll give them a try. Since then I’ve been trying to incorporate them into more of my cooking (and maybe baking soon!).

This salad is good with a vinaigrette or honey mustard dressing- but you can use just about any variety you like 🙂

Yummy Mummy Beet Salad:
Serves 4 -6 
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
Salad:
3 medium beets, diced into approx. 1/2″ pieces (I boiled mine with the skin on)
1 head leaf lettuce
1 red delicious apple
1/2 head green cabbage
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup walnuts and/ or pecans
Other yummy options:
strawberries, sunflower and/ or pumpkin seeds, spinach
Honey Dijon Dressing:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil (optional, if you like a more diluted dressing)
Start by washing & prepping the beets. Bring a pot of water to a boil & add beets. Cook until soft, approx. 15- 20 minutes
While beets are cooking, wash lettuce, cabbage, & apple. Cut into your preferred serving style (ie apple slices, or diced pieces). Slice cabbage into thin strips- as if you were using it for coleslaw.
Layer lettuce at bottom & sprinkle cabbage, apples, nuts and feta on top. When beets are cooked, drain and rinse under cold water. Sprinkle on top. 
For the dressing, mix all ingredients in a bowl & mix well. 

Natural Cleaning: Home Made Laundry Detergent

Before Ari came along, I was in the process of trying to find some suggestions for home made and/ or natural cleaning products. There has been such a movement lately towards removing chemical products from our homes that it isn’t too hard to find recipes for everything from bathroom cleaners to laundry detergent. (I even found one for baby wipes, if I give it a try, I’ll let ya know!) Plus, an added bonus is the cost savings of making it yourself; you can see my OCD cost breakdown after the recipe.
I decided to start with laundry detergent first, since it’s something that I didn’t use everyday (again, before the munchkin arrived!). I figured if it didn’t work, I hadn’t spent a ton of time trying to clean something without success.

The one thing to keep in mind with home made laundry detergent is that you likely won’t get that heavy perfume-y smell when you unload the laundry from the machine. People with allergies love this, those used to that ‘mountain fresh’ or ‘summer breeze’ scent may not like the change.
An interesting little tidbit I came across while doing my research: fabric softener makes clothes more flammable! I don’t use a whole lot of the stuff- not even the dryer sheets- but when I saw that, it confirmed that removing as many chemicals as I could was at least worth a try. Because really, who needs to be more flammable??? I don’t think it’s a sought- after trait.
I have used this home made detergent for a few months and find it works well. However, I still turn to a store bought (but as natural as possible!) detergent for my hubby’s work grubbies and any other items that need an extra kick. You’ll need a large jug to mix & store it in (how about an old detergent jug???) 😉

Natural Laundry Detergent:

Makes 1 Gallon/ 3.79litres
Good for 16- 32 loads, depending on size & soil level (1/2 cup for small- regular loads; 1 cup for large loads and/ or dirtier items)

3 tbsp each:
– washing soda
– borax
– castille soap
– several drops essential oils (I used orange Dr Bonner’s castille soap, so I added orange & lemon essential oil for a fresh citrus scent)

4 cups boiling water

Pour all dry ingredients into container

Add boiling water & shake well to mix (please put the lid on before shaking!!!!)

Fill remainder of container with cold water (you may have to pre measure a gallon of water into the jug before and mark it with a Sharpie like I did). Let cool before screwing on lid.

I use a dollar store measuring cup for each load 🙂

And now for my OCD cost breakdown (don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
I did the conversions and then divided how many batches I could make per product.

Cost of Ingredients:

Castille Soap     $16.49 32 oz/ 1 Quart
Laundry Soda       7.99 1.6 lbs/ 726 g
Borax                  10.99 4.4 lbs/ 2 kg

Total Cost:                 $39.73

Cost Per Batch:

Castille Soap     $0.79
(based on 21 batches per bottle)
Laundry Soda     0.47
(based on 17 batches per bag)
Borax                  0.23
(based on 47 batches per box)

Total per Batch: $1.66 That’s 5- 10 cents per load!

And as a final note, the great thing about the ingredients is that they have many applications, so you can whip up a variety of other cleaning goodies. 🙂

Yummy Mummy Recipe: Salmon Tostis (Salmon Cakes)

This is another recipe from the EatingWell.com cookbook that I recently downloaded. If you are starting to think all I eat is salmon, think again. 😛 I enjoy the challenge of working with ingredients I already have, and especially enjoy how this helps with the budget!

I used fresh grated potatoes instead of the frozen hashbrowns the recipe calls for and was happy with the result. I skipped the sauce and served these with straight up sour cream, steamed carrots & beans, and roast potatoes & spaghetti squash! phew! A colourful plate! 🙂

Yummy Mummy Salmon Tostis (Salmon Cakes)
Total Time: 30 min
Makes: 4 servings, 2 per person

Ingredients:

2 6- to 7-ounce cans boneless, skinless wild Alaskan salmon, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion 
2 large eggs plus 
1 large egg white, lightly beaten 
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard (I used dijon)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 3 teaspoons dried, divided 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups frozen hash brown shredded potatoes (I just used fresh potatoes, peeled & grated)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
The salmon cakes ready to go

Yum Yum!