Healthy Fruit Tarts

I’m so tired of calorie filled treats! I’m not tired of the treats, I’m just tired of the calories. It was my turn to bring snacks to church and I went for healthier. This one was so good and so easy that I had to share it. The magic is in the Won Tons. I never thought I would say that, but it’s true. The magic, the secret I am sharing, is … Won Tons.

Fruit parfait IMG_1416 (640x427)

Won Tons IMG_1418 (260x400)

    Ingredients:

1 package Won Tons (about 48, freeze the ones you don’t want now)

Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla, you decide)

A combo of fruit and nuts that makes you happy
- Blueberries, strawberries, kiwi
- Pecans or walnuts
- An optional but special surprise – a dollop of raspberry or apricot preserves

    Directions:

1. Place individual won tons in a muffin tin, with or without paper muffin cups
2. Bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes, just enough to brown the tops
3. The optional dollop of preserves goes in first
4. Yogurt next
5. Top with your favorite fruit and nuts

I’m thinking of trying this next with Granny Smith apples and walnuts mixed in with the yogurt.

Join me at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show on March 17th, 12:30. I’ll be speaking on Winter Interest.

The Georges’ Attract Birds All Winter Long

Food – Water – Shelter. Those 3 words should be enough for an article on attracting birds for the winter.  Just 3 words:  Food – Water – Shelter.  There, I’m done.  Well, not exactly.

Those 3 words (Food – Water – Shelter) were not new information for me, and those 3 words (Food – Water – Shelter) may not be new information for you. Still I had to see Bob and Michele George’s yard before it hit home. So you get to see their yard too.

This furry and feather filled area was 3 feet away from their patio doors, and busy the whole time I visited.

Photo by Michele George

Photo by Michele George

Food

Bob and Michelle have a variety of feeders and a variety of food types.  It’s no surprise they also have a variety of birds. Some tips from Bob:

    Photo by Michele George

    Photo by Michele George

  • Use a good wild bird food mix from a reputable source.  Not the cheap stuff that has useless filler, like milo.
  • Some birds like to perch on a hanging feeder.  As you can see in the picture above, many are very happy to feast on a flat surface.
  • Bob had added sunflower to the buffet, so a cardinal even visited while I was there. Sunflower seeds in a hanging feeder will attract cardinals too.
  • Have a suet feeder in the winter. Expect woodpeckers.
  • Niger for the goldfinch.  Fresh niger, as it tends to spoil quickly. Niger should be in a feeder with a roof to keep it from getting wet and moldy.  Goldfinch feeders are often tubular and made of wire mesh.  The goldfinch hang on without a perch. If the tube has perches, other birds will eat the niger too.  Sock type niger feeders tend to be short term as the squirrels will quickly destroy them.
  • Bob will throw some peanuts out for the blue jays.  He had a wreath style peanut holder that the squirrels always found a way to open.

Water

Bob and Michele had something else I didn’t – water. Our frozen pond is useless for the birds. Even with a heating element to keep an area open, they can’t really get to the water with snow piled around. Duh.

I went home and took action. In my case, take action was putting the info into my ‘Winter Interest’ presentation.  That led to Mike seeing the presentation at the Buffalo Grove Garden Club this week.  He made a note to go shopping. Next thing you know, Mike has been to Farm and Fleet. He spent $50 and I have a new heated birdbath hanging on my porch rail.  See how easy that was.

Heated Bird bath and suet feeder IMG_1249 (640x427)

Shelter

As I sat in the George’s family room, there was constant activity in the nearby arborvitaes.  Look closely at the picture.  Birds every two feet. This is normal for their yard. Birds here, there, and everywhere. The birds are cared for at the neighbors next door too, so there is a lot of movement.

Photo by Michele George

Photo by Michele George

Our home was severely lacking in the shelter area. Too much open space near the feeders. Nowhere for the birds to wait in line for a spot at the feeder. Nowhere to feel safe from the occasional hawk. This we knew, so Mike had already brought a few extra Christmas trees home as he canvassed the area on garbage day a week ago.

Food – Water – Shelter

I may not have mentioned this before, but there is a way you can attract flying winter interest to your yard. Try providing Food – Water – Shelter. Then sit back and watch the floor show.

Join me at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show on March 17th, 12:30. I’ll be speaking on Winter Interest.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – Color In My Winter Garden

I’ve got color in my yard. Yes, December in Chicagoland and I have color! Granted, none of it is provided by flowers, but I’m not going to let that little detail stop my yard from being colorful. Certainly the snow has been a bit of a detriment to color in the garden. Or has it? Without the snow, this sunrise would not be the same.

Fortunately, I don’t rely on 10 minutes of possible sunrise glory to color my yard. I can’t match God’s work, but I’m not without talents. I did some painting earlier this year, and I leave a lot of my ironwork out. I know it won’t last as long, but I certainly enjoy the bright yellow of these items more now that when they are covered in flowers.

The yellow chair is a rose trellis all summer. Not now. Now I’m viewing my garden from a distance. The yellow looks good and the plants I didn’t cut down add interest too, as long as I don’t look too close to see that they are perhaps a bit past prime.

Likewise, the milk can was a nice background contrast for the bright yellow mums in the fall. It stays out to add winter interest as well.

If leaving your decorations out bothers you, I understand. They won’t last as long. I get it. It’s kind of like my Sugarland sweatshirt. I’m not wearing it because I want it to stay looking nice. It’s not really doing me any good in the closet, still I can’t get myself to have it look less than prime. Fortunately, I don’t feel that way about some of my garden items. I’m enjoying them now and they’ll minimally need a new coat of paint. That’s a good trade-off for me.

Do you want to know what else is blooming (or at least hopefully interesting) in the January garden? To see what other bloggers have blooming on the 15th of every month, visit May Dreams Gardens – Bloom Day for our Garden Bloggers’ Bloom day entries.

Join me at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show on March 17th, 12:30. I’ll be speaking on Winter Interest.

Patrice Does Winter Interest Right


I’ve made winter containers before, and they were nice. However, they were not even in the same league as Patrice’s. Patrice has the creativity gene. I think she also got the creativity genes that were supposed to be allocated to many others. Take the container to the right as a fine example. Well, don’t literally take it, because Patrice would be very sad to find it missing. It would probably take her all of two minutes to make something bigger and better with items she would find in her junk drawer or wastepaper basket, but let’s not put her to the test.

The birch branches are lovely, aren’t they? And she’s drawn your eye to the top with the ceramic bird. Nicely balanced on the bottom she has repeated the red and brought in some green for contrast against the white planter. What I like best about this planter is it is not Christmas themed. This one can stay out for the duration of winter.

Last winter was a bit different at Patrice’s. Actually, I think every day is probably different at her house. Take this bench for instance. Now come on, you should know by now that I don’t mean it. Please don’t take her bench. It was decorated for Valentine’s Day, then for St. Patrick’s and other holidays. I know how Patrice works. Nothing was purchased at full price, or even close. It’s easy to be creative when you can spend money. Patrice does it without. (Reference above: Junk drawer and wastebasket.)

Flowers in bloom haven’t quite left her enclosed porch. Perhaps it’s a bit chilly out there to enjoy them right now. Perhaps not as we do have a few degrees here in Chicagoland and we’re tough.

Speaking of things that haven’t quite left the porch and being tough…I’ve got to go now as its time to water my plants outside.

Date & Nut Cookies

Date and nut cookies are a favorite at our house. You’d expect it to be chocolate chip or gingerbread men, but the unlikely winner is date and nut. I haven’t done much holiday baking yet, but we are already enjoying the delicious date and nut cookies.

1 c salted butter
1 ½ c DARK brown sugar
2 ½ c flour, unsifted
2 c dates (10 oz), cut in pieces
(Freshest if you buy whole
pitted ones and chop them
yourself into kinda small
pieces.)
2 c walnuts, cut in pieces
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 t baking powder
3 T cinnamon
¼ t salt
1 t honey
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 t pure almond extract

(Parchment paper is optional, but nice.)

Chop the dates, (getting rid of dry ones), also leaving them rather large – about 6 chunks per date.

Mix flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder.

In large bowl, cream butter, add brown sugar and mix till fluffy. Add beaten eggs one at a time. Add honey, vanilla, almond. (All ok to do in mixer, but do not overmix.)

Add dry ingredients to wet and mix thoroughly.

Add dates and nuts and MIX BY HAND. Still do not overmix!

No liquid is used. Batter should be stiff. Drop from teaspoon onto greased pan (or pan with parchment paper) and leave it in a lump. (See picture for size.) They don’t spread out much at all. (See picture – the ones not on parchment paper are baked.)

325 for 18 minutes, or 300 convection for 14 minutes. They are done when the bottoms just barely start browning. DO NOT OVERBAKE!

Freeze nicely. But don’t wrap them till totally cooled.

Makes 4 dozen

Easy And Fun Last Minute Thanksgiving Decoration/Recipe

We made this healthy appetizer last Thanksgiving and we’ll be doing it again tomorrow. It will look so cute on our host’s table, and give us a healthy appetizer option.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – Last Chance to Dance

This is a magnificently creative world we live in. A world not of our own creation, but certainly one where we have been gifted with the option of enjoying God’s creativity. I say ‘option’ because so many of us don’t slow down enough to appreciate it. I know I don’t. Maybe that is why I like gardening so much. It meets my need to be busy, and still allows me to appreciate the amazing beauty around me.

Here in Chicagoland, our gardening season is coming to an end. That makes it clean up time, so mentioning that Mike and I have been busy in the garden would be an understatement. See the shine on that trowel? You can be sure it doesn’t usually look like that. And the red basket itself, well, it is usually filled with as much dirt as it is gardening tools. Until last weekend. That was when I admitted gardening season in Chicago is done. Finished. Over. Hasta la vista baby. Or should I say ‘Hosta’ la vista baby to tie the phrase to gardening.

I have been cleaning up, right down to my gym shoes.


Everything I need to do in the garden is done. Sort of. Kind of like when relatives are coming and the living room is spotless. The bedroom, on the other hand, has piles jammed under the bed till the relatives leave. And cleaning the refrigerator gets plucked off the list entirely.

The main garden is the room that is spotless, or at least as spotless as a garden gets, with everything that can’t survive winter having been moved inside. The barn, on the other hand, has piles of garden related items that will be jammed in till warmer weather returns. And moving the Solomon’s Seal to a sunny spot, that was plucked off the list.

It was just a few weeks ago that the same frog you see above looked like this.

The kale still looks good, as do the berries on the beautyberry bush. The roses made a valiant effort, but succumbed last week. All of the other flowers are done, and most of the leaves are down.

Seems to me that God is saying slow down. My garden followed those orders. Now it will be my turn. I did take one Last Chance To Dance last weekend. Well, not literally dance. More like bike ride through the crunching leaves. And if slowing down in the garden does give me more time to dance, well that’s ok with me.

Do you want to know what else is blooming (or not blooming) in the November garden? To see what other bloggers have blooming on the 15th of every month, visit May Dreams Gardens – Bloom Day for our Garden Bloggers’ Bloom day entries.

Kiss The Dahlias Goodbye

Bad news – The first frost took down our dahlias. Good news – The first frost turned them into some pretty scary looking dead plants appropriate for the Halloween season.

Our dahlia garden went from full bloom to fully cut down in a 36 hour period.

We started with this last Monday morning …

And ended with this last Tuesday evening…

And in-between, created this…

Personally, I much prefer the pre-frost look. So much so that I spent the good part a day cutting blooms when it looked like the threat of frost was serious. I had to rescue the flowers before frost had its way with them. Dawn (pictured), Joan, and I cut about 30 vases full of beautiful blooms to share with the world. At least it seemed like I shared them with the whole world since there were so many.

Mike got the dirty work – coming home and cutting the plants down in the cold and dark. He likes to get the water-collecting stems immediately cut down. He cuts the plant down to just a few inches above ground. The stake and tuber stay in the ground for a few weeks. The poor tuber knows it is in trouble and starts regenerating. The idea is to give it a few weeks to start that process and create eyes that will eventually develop into shoots for new plants in the spring.

Enough of the technical stuff. Look at the magnificent blooms we played with that day…

Sadly, it’s time to kiss the dahlias goodbye…till next year.

Even The Grim Reaper Loves Dahlias

DOOR COUNTY, WI – This just in from Peninsula State Park. Campers report a rare sighting of the Grim Reaper soulfully grasping a dahlia. Here he shows his true colors, which are apparently sunshine yellow and creamsickle. Or perhaps he is in search of the muse who the dahlia was named after, Normandy Sweet Lucy. Mr. Reaper was unavailable for comments.

How To Make A Stepping Stone – So Easy!

Now that I made my first stepping stone, I can’t wait to make more. And I’m not gonna wait. John will be over with the kids Thursday and it’s time for handprints in stepping stones for Grandma (that’s me). Allie is 4 and Cameron is 1. Allie and I will do ours while Cameron naps so we can decorate ours with glass beads and whatever else suits our fancy. I am soooo ready cuz it was soooo easy.

Mike will pick up a few more molds for me so we can make multiples in one day. It takes 24 hours for one to harden, so it’s worth the extra cash for me to get the project done before they up and move to Fresno next week. Mike will also check options for coloring stepping stones. I want cobalt blue.

I’ll check out Pinterest and coloring pages for more stepping stone decorating ideas.

Steps for making a stepping stone

Step 1
- Visit the craft store for cement, a mold, and items to decorate the stone with. Remember to buy extra molds if you plan to make multiples the same day. My mold is about 6″ round and it takes a little over 3 pounds of cement to fill it. The cement package will guide you on quantity.


Step 2 – Find a place to set up where messy isn’t a problem. Keep in mind you can’t use your kitchen sink for clean-up. There is something about putting cement down a drain that is a really bad idea. Also, it takes 24 hours for the stone to fully dry and you don’t want to be moving it while wet. There is something about dropping a glob of cement on the carpet that is a really bad idea too.

Step 3 – Make a plan and have everything ready so you can decorate the stone during the first hour.

Step 4 – Mix the cement with the recommended amount of water. I used a bucket and a flat-bottomed wooden spoon that I could throw away. A wide container is good so you can easy stir it.

Step 5 - Pour the mixture in the mold and smooth it out with something flat; in my case – the spoon.

Step 6
– Place the decorations in. Wholla!

Step 7 – Step away from the stepping stone. Let it set for 24 hours. If you absolutely must move it sooner, be sure to put something solid under it. A cookie tray with a rim would be a good option.