Pins I Love 4-5-14

 Click the photos to go to the source and find out more:

carrot play doughSugar Free Easter Basket Gift Idea

clean a glue gun

DIY Rainbarrell

We are getting new gutters. It would be a great time to set something like this up!

Crochet Alphabet letters

These would be great in the diaper bag for times we have to wait (like at vision therapy.)  Maybe make 2 sets for matching games.

Easter Toad in Hole

Use a daisy cookie cutter for a Spring theme “toad in the hole”

Blessings bags

Keep these bags in your car for giving to the homeless.

How to pack mini-cupcakesHow to pack mini cupcakes for the road :)

Weekend Garden Links

If you are starting seeds at home, it’s time!  I’m not, just so you don’t think I’m super awesome or anything.  I’m going to happily plunk down my money at the greenhouse for real plants–only after I get my rabbit fence up.

I had a very expensive garden fail last year when the cute little fluffies razed everything to the ground in the night.  So you can be sure not one seed will hit the ground until my rabbit fence is built.

I decided instead of fencing each bed individually, I’d like a fence around it all so once I’m inside the perimeter I can work freely.The plan is to buy 100 feet of 4 foot tall galvanized chicken wire.  Then bend the bottom foot of wire in an L shape like a foot for the fence to stand on.  We’ll bury that a few inches underground to discourage digging and then fasten the wire to fence posts every 3 feet.  Of course, there will need to be a gate.  I’m not sure how that will work out, but my farmer husband says not to worry.  He’s built many a fence, so I’ll let him take the lead here.

Below are some of the garden ideas I’ve loved from pinterest :).


A fun blogpost on how to involve kids in the process.

Source: via Angela on Pinterest


Grow potatoes in a chicken wire frame.

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Concrete stained and stamped to look like wood.

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Garden Bed Ideas

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Stack pots for a cute  container garden.  I think this would be perfect for my front porch.  Maybe two?  And with plants that are shade friendly.

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Pop bottle self waterer

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

How to grow ginger.

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Long term root vegetable storage.

Source: Uploaded by user via Angela on Pinterest

Using cinnamon instead of root hormone.

Square foot seed planting guides (Darren will you make me a set –pretty pleas?)

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

Making a compost bin from chicken wire.  I think I’ll have some left from my rabbit fence!

Source: via Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Belle on Pinterest

Sweet Potatoes!

Grandpa Coffman grew some giant sweet potatoes this year!  And he shared with us.  So I have been scouring the web for some new recipes to use the bounty.  Here are some in my must try file.

Betty Crocker's Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Applesauce

 Sweet Potato Hash Browns

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet Potato Waffles

And since we love potato and eggs for breakfast, I’m going to try some breakfast favorites  like:  Egg Burritos and Frittata.


My Newest Student and a Tip


I have the flu :(. It started when I was at the emergency clinic with Dub Saturday having a two week old toothpick removed from his foot. By the time I got home I had a high fever, chills, and couldn’t stand without the room spinning. I called my mommy :). It seems like no matter how old I am when I’m sick I want Mommy. So when Dub insisted that I drive him to the ER instead of Darren, I totally understood.


As painful as the experience was for him, he loved the wheelchair.

Today Darren is super excited about getting the patches on Caleb’s new scout shirt. He kept asking me if I felt better as the day went on, and when I didn’t have an instant recovery from his great care, he carried my sewing machine down from my studio and set it up inches from my bed. That way HE could do the work and ask questions if he needed. What an amazing guy!


Changing the subject… Here’s a money saving tip. I saw on pinterest that if you put the roots of purchased green onions in water they will grow. You’ll always have fresh onion tops to use as needed. I tried it and it works! The outer edges don’t grow so I plan to peel those off and see what happens. This is great for my Plus menu subscribers since they can eliminate green onions from their shopping list!

Green and Growing

I planted my garden a few days ago and little green shoots are coming up. The garden is more shaded than it appeared to be in winter before the tree leaves appeared. So it is a great experiment if anything will grow.


This bed has sprouts of green beans and okra popping up their heads. In the center is a spaghetti squash plant that I plan to train to a tomato cage.


The left side of this bed is red chili peppers and sweet bell peppers on the right. In the center I have 6 squares of lettuce and spinach, one eggplant, one cilantro, and one rosemary.


This bed has 4 tomato plants and a zucchini right in the middle of it all.  I hinted to the children that tomato cages would make a great mother’s day gift.


The fourth and final bed is all sweet potatoes–one start in each square. I love sweet potatoes!


When I got home yesterday my good friend, Janelle had left these marigolds as a surprise. I plan to put them in the bed with the lettuce and peppers for a pretty pop of color.


The kiddoes are picking mulberries off our tree in the back garden. They got about a quart with more to ripen soon. I’m trying to post a photo from my phone. Crossing my fingers that the wordpress app will work this time.


Garden Update :)

Here’s a reminder of what my old garden spot looked like:

Two weeks ago we had a garage sale and while I sat in the garage helping customers, Darren cleared my garden spot!  What a relief.  I didn’t know how I was going to find time to do that.

Then he built the beds for me too!  (I bought kits from Aldi and totally expected to do it what a great surprise!)

I drove to a local greenhouse and filled my minivan with bags of stuff.

Part 1: Compost

To save money I used the modified Mel’s mix talked about here. It uses twice as much compost since that is the least expensive and most nutritive part of the mix.  If I had my own compost, it would have saved $13 a box or $52 total.  I had to buy it and it was unusal.  More like fine mulch.  They called it cotton something compost.  I had never heard of it before.  I want to start a compost bin now to get the cost of filling the next year’s bins down. We will need to clear some land to build them…it feels a little overwhelming.

Part 2: Vermiculite

Each bed ended up with 2 cubic feet each of compost and 1 cubic feet each of vermiculite and peat moss.

Part 3: Peat Moss

 It cost $35 to fill each bed, which sounds decent until you multiply that by 4.  And I have 4 more beds that we didn’t build this year!  I hope to clear more land for them next year, but went ahead and bought them now so they would all match.  When they told me the total for all the stuff, I couldn’t help but think about all the FOOD I could buy for that much money.  But I reminded myself that this was an investment that I wouldn’t have to redo for 10+ years.  Plus, I like the idea of having a garden :).

Mixing by hand

My plan was to mix everything in the bins with a shovel.  But that was tricky to mix it well and not spill it out everywhere.  That dirt was like gold gravel to me and I didn’t want to lose a speck of it.  I resorted to just digging in with my arms and stirring it up by hand.  It was fun in a “I hope my Mama doesn’t catch me doing this” kind of way.   And then I remembered, I am the mama :).

Ready to Plant

I finished the bins just before dark.  Planting will have to wait for another day.


Why I Have Poison Ivy…



Our new home has a jungle for a front yard (and back yard.)  So much of it is beautiful flowering plants gone wild.  Most of the front yard is a lovely shade loving ground cover that blooms all over in purple flowers.  The beauty is spoiled by all sorts of volunteer trees etc. popping up through.  So late last week, while Darren was at work, I grabbed my trimmers and went to work.

One of the weeds spoiling the yard was a very long, healthy vine.  I grabbed it and pulled it out, but I’m not positive I got the root.  I was busy congratulating myself when I saw the tell-tale 3 leaf pattern on the vine.  One of the leaves looked suscpiciously like a mitten.  Oh, dear.  “Leaves of 3, leave them be.”  I ran in the house and scrubbed my hands all the way to the elbow.  I thought about washing my face…but here’s the stupid part.  I had just put on a lovely smokey eye with charcoal gray and gold and I wanted DH to see it.  So I didn’t wash my face.  So now, I have poison ivy all over my face and not anywhere else.  Oh vanity!

I have much work left to do in the yard, but it’s fun satisfying work. I’m planning to remove the rest of the feeble evergreen bushes and replace them with shade loving varities.  Then I’d like to paint my shutters and front door dark gray while repainting the trim white to freshen it up.

I have lots of plans for the back too!  Hopefuly within the next 2 weeks that will mean clearing this spot:

For these:

I was so excited when Aldi had them on sale for $30 each!  Since I’m wood challenged, this was a great deal for me :).

P.S.  I’m thinking about taking the fake railing thing down off the top of the front porch.  What do you think?


Bonus!!! Guest Post on Starting Seeds

Remember when I mentioned about my cousin Rachael’s seed starting shelf with lights?  I convinced her to write a little post for us on how to build one and get started with the seeds.  She is continuing the theme on her own blog with more step by step care instructions and photos.  At the end of the article, we’ll give you a link to get there for more information.  When you visit, leave her a comment and let her know you came from the Grocery Shrink.  Here’s Rachael:

Spring is so close! Are you ready to start some plants of your own and save some money?

If so, let’s get out our potting soil and seeds and get started!

Making Your Plant Shelf

First off, my husband bought a sturdy metal shelf (the kind where the shelves look like an oven rack) and attached a fluorescent light fixture to the underside of each shelf. He used zip- ties to do that. This year he is improving on that and attaching them permanently with brackets.

Either way works. We bought GE Plant and Aquarium F40, 48” bulbs. They were $8.50 each at Home Depot. A fixture requires 2 bulbs. Ouch! On the ‘bright’ side, they last for 9 years, and your plants require a wide spectrum bulb to grow! Might as well not waste all your time and effort by letting your plants die with cheapo bulbs.

Preparing Your Seed Trays

You can use plastic egg cartons with holes poked in the bottom of each “egg”, 9X13 pans (again, with holes poked in the bottom), used plastic plant containers, or professional seed starting flats. Whatever you use, sterilize it first. Fungus is not your friend, and here is where you head it off. Normally I don’t like Clorox, but I make an exception in this case. :)

Fill your sink or a bucket with a solution of hot water and 1 TB of Clorox. Wash off all the old dirt, rinse well, and air dry.

Preparing Your Soil

If you have dry potting soil, dump some of it into a plastic container large enough to fit your seed trays. Add water until it is nice and moist. If you add too much water, just mix in more soil. It should look like wet soil after a gentle rain, not like mud, and not like a desert with rivers running through it. You will have to mix it together and be patient, it has been dry awhile in that bag, and requires time to absorb the water.

If you have wet potting soil, dump it into a plastic container large enough to fit your seed trays, and you’re ready!

Filling the Trays and Planting the Seeds

I stick my trays in the soil with one hand and with the other hand fill the tray with soil. It’s similar to the motion of filling a bowl with popcorn by dipping it in the serving dish.

Pack the soil until it is firm but spongy to the touch. It should not really be loose at all.

Now with a toothpick, meat thermometer, pencil, or some other sharp device, poke a hole in the soil everywhere you want to plant and plant your seeds! You can figure out how deep to plant them and how to cover the holes if you can read the seed packet. J

Label the seeds! You would be surprised how people think they will remember. You’ll wish you did if you don’t!

Popsicle sticks make nice labels, and if you put one in each corner of your tray and one in  the center, they provide a stand for plastic wrap.

Daily Care

 In the beginning you will cover your seeds with plastic wrap to give them humidity. Water your seeds every day by setting each tray in a container of water for 2-3 minutes. Drain, and put back on the stand. Spraying or top watering is nostalgic, but it leads to fungus problems, and the greenhouse where I worked always watered their trays this way without exception.

Leave the lights on all the time for about 4 weeks. (to keep them warm)

Your goal is to wean your plants off of the need for the plastic wrap as soon as possible, because too much humidity will cause problems of as well.

After about 2 weeks it is best for your plants if you re-plant them. This is how they become hardy enough to withstand outdoors.

At about 4 weeks, you will begin hardening them to the outdoors gradually.

Check in at my blog ‘’, as I take you step by step through this process with my own plants this spring (with pictures J). I wanted to give you pictures here, but technical difficulties wouldn’t allow. Thank you so much for this opportunity to share with all of you! It has been a joy and I wish you blessing as you begin this wonderful project. Tending plants is a little like having children, it takes time and nurturing. Be patient with yourself, check out library books, and enjoy the advenure! You can do it!

Preserving the Harvest

I save a bundle on my food budget by preserving garden or low-cost purchased produce.  Proper preservation prevents vitamin loss and spoilage.  The three basic types of food preservation are drying, canning, and freezing.  Some foods (like apples, onions, potatoes, and winter squash) can also be preserved for a few months in their fresh state in a dark, dry, cool environment (like a basement or cellar.)

Many foods can be preserved in more than one way. I keep Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
on hand to help me decide what to do and for the best instructions available.  This is what I try to do each year:

Can green beans, apple sauce, pears, and jam.

Freeze okra, beets, corn, peaches, blueberries, pumpkin puree, shredded zucchini (for baking), and lamb’s quarter.

Dry strawberries, apples, onions, peppers, and herbs. (I don’t dry every year–it’s more of a treat for us and is hard to do in our humid Missouri climate.)

This sounds like a lot, but I only tackle one at a time, which makes it more doable.  Each produce item harvests at a slightly different time which keeps the tasks spread out.

Here are some links to past Grocery Shrink articles about preserving:

Freezing Corn

Pumpkin Puree

Lamb’s Quarter

Freezing Peaches


Final Thought:  Most people think of home gardening when it comes to canning and freezing food.  But there are other ways to get quantities of food to preserve.  A friend of mine volunteers at a local food pantry.  At the end of the day, they send with her what the visitors don’t take.  She takes it home and cans and preserves it.  A dear family from church has pear and apple trees in their yard and they can’t use all the fruit.  They call me every fall after they have picked to take what they can’t use.  My mother in law has also purchased large boxes of produce from Amish food auctions for preserving.  I like to buy my pumpkins from local grocery stores and farmer’s markets after Halloween.  They have lots of life left and are great for making into puree.  You also might advertise to care for gardens during the summer as people vacation.  Ask in pay for the ripe produce you harvest during the vacation.  It keeps the plants producing and reduces pests for the owner and you get fresh food for the labor.

Really, final thought:  You can also preserve fresh produce by freezing it already prepared.  We like to freeze zucchini muffins and pumpkin bread for a quick thaw and eat breakfast or for unexpected company.  You can also freeze vegetable lasagna, veggie pancakes, marinara sauce, and veggie rich meatballs.