Holler Happenings | Fall 2018

It has been a fast paced season around here and it feels as if everything in our lives has required pressing attention recently.

Our meat flock arrived at the beginning of October and we were off to a great start with the chicken tractor we built …until a possum found it.  The design is sturdy enough to keep predators from getting in to the tractor but the possum still managed to kill three of our chickens unlucky enough to be caught sleeping in the corner where we found them the next morning.  We caught the possum the very next day and thankfully we haven’t had a problem since.

Fresh out of the shipping box in October!
We lost three birds to the possum; this was the fourth who managed to get away.  He was pretty beat up but we cleaned him up and he healed up nicely.

If you’d like to learn more about why we raise and butcher our own chickens, read my post here.

If you’d like to see the process we use to butcher our chickens humanely, read my post here (it does include photos).

We’ve had our hens and goats separated for quite a while because our smallest goat Eloise fit in the hen house where she’d try to spend all day eating chicken feed out of their food pipe and creating general anarchy for the hens who wanted peace to lay their eggs in their nester box.
We’ve put them together once again …only to find Eloise can still get in to the hen house …she just can’t get out on her own.

I’ve spent more than one morning opening the back door of the hen house and leading Eloise on a walk of shame (seriously, she hangs her head in shame) back to the gate of the chicken/goat run.

Eloise, on her walk of shame, being comforted by Haven.

When we order our meat flock from Murray McMurray Hatchery we are given the option to receive a free “rare breed” chick, too.  This time we received a golden laced wyandotte rooster and he is truly a rare bird!  I’ve never met a chicken as social as this one.  He chirps constantly and when we let him out of the brooder he’ll promptly jump up on my arm then flap up to my shoulder to perch.  He even gives me kisses — seriously, it’s not pecking, he nuzzles his beak up against my face.

I hope he stays friendly so he can hang around the holler for a long time to watch over the hens.


Joe and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary last month.  We haven’t had photos taken in so long and I was scrambling during the busiest season for photographers to fit us in.  Luckily our first choice was available!  Eva Creel is amazing (she even did an underwater photo session with me when I was pregnant with Haven before she moved to Germany several years ago!) and Augusta is lucky to have this talented artist back in the area again!

We love music and collecting vinyl so we spent an afternoon with Eva in a local record shop taking anniversary photos.

Photo credit: Eva Creel Photography
Photo credit:  Eva Creel Photography
Photo credit:  Eva Creel Photography 

Now that Thanksgiving is finally here, I’m ready to swim in my gravy boat on a mountain of mashed potatoes.  We recently went and picked out our turkey!  We’re blessed to have connected with so many local folks who are also raising/growing food for our community.  Ray and his wife Lisa are just genuinely kind people and I love what they’re doing to improve their lives as well as the lives of the animals they care for.

This is our third Thanksgiving turkey raised on their homestead!  You can’t beat a fresh never frozen turkey and a cook time of 2 hours.

We’ll soon be taking our goats over to Ray’s and hopefully they’ll have kidds in the new year!  We’re looking forward to learning how to milk goats (he has a super simple method involving food grade tubing and mason jars!) and the endless ways to use it (soaps, lotions, ice cream, yogurt, etc.!)

Joe with the main course of our upcoming  Thanksgiving dinner.

We’ve been looking toward the future and naturally while making major life and financial decisions/purchases, something always goes wrong and a random unexpected expense comes along.  Fortunately it was just the washing machine this time, I’m trying to be positive and reminding myself it could’ve been worse. (Like when our daughter was a newborn and I came home from work to find that the water heater had kicked the bucket.  We had to replace the water heater and the bathroom floor *cringe*)
Anyway, let’s just say I’m at the age where I finally understand why those people on the Price Is Right are so excited to win major appliances.

Between all the animals, the upcoming butchering, and unexpected purchases on top of regular life stuff, I’ve been a little stressed.
When I’m stressed, I bake.
A lot.
It’s how I relax.

Apple butter swirl bread.  I was going to make apple butter cinnamon rolls but at the last minute I sort of braided the dough and baked it in a loaf pan instead. Here’s a link to my apple butter recipe.
Baked apple cider donuts, inspired by our annual visit to Justus Orchard in North Carolina and their incredible bakery!  Here’s a link to a past visit.
Hocus Pocus inspired spell book brownies.  It’s my second year making these for Halloween!  Here’s a link to the recipe.

I’ve been extremely blessed to receive advance readers copies this year for some fantastic cookbooks!  I’ve shared a couple reviews and recipes with y’all, including:  Soul by Todd Richards and Southern From Scratch by Ashley English.

Coming soon, I’ll be reviewing Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest: Recipes and Stories Inspired by My Applachian Home by Lauren McDuffie and testing out a few of the recipes.  I’ll be sure to share one of those with y’all before the book is released in May 2019!



Other food/recipe books I’ve read and loved recently:

Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee
The Nightmare Before Dinner by Zach Neil


Some children’s picture books Haven and I have both enjoyed recently:


Gwen the Rescue Hen by Leslie Crawford


This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary


Angel and Her Wonderful Wheels by Leanne Lauricella (the woman who operates Goats of Anarchy, the rescue farm for animals with disabilities)

Once the butchering is over for the year (only a couple weeks to go) I’ll have a chance to sit down and share some of the recipes I’ve put together or adapted this fall.

If you have an recipe requests or suggestions, please let me know!


Ginger and Collard Green Fried Rice | Recipe & Book Review

There’s something poetic about sitting on your screened in porch under a ceiling fan shelling peas, shucking corn, or chopping collards when you live in the South.  The summer heat seems to slow the pace of everything and I can appreciate that in a world full of rushing from one task to the next.  Give me a radio and a basket of food and I’ll be on the porch all day.


When Time Inc. Books and NetGalley provided me with an advanced review copy of Todd Richards’s cookbook Soul, I was immediately pulled in by his passion for food and the celebration of his culture and its roots in creating the original Southern cuisine:  Soul food.  (If you’d like to read my full book review, please visit Roots & Reads.)

The chapters are divided by ingredients including collards, tomatoes, seafood, stone fruits, and melon.  The recipes included evolve from American South traditional to a cultural fusion of ingredients to create unique dishes.

The most notable recipes in Soul for me are:  Ginger and Collard Green Fried Rice, Hot & Spicy Zucchini Slaw, and Fried Green Tomatillos.

I wanted to share here with y’all my favorite recipe that I’ve prepared and taste tested so far!



Ginger and Collard Green Fried Rice
from Soul:  A Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes by Todd Richards
Serves 2


  • 1 bunch young collard greens (1/2 lb)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 extra large chicken egg or 1 duck egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and very thinly sliced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 jalapeño, very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Clean your collards well in cold water.  Stack 4 leaves on top of each other and remove stems with a sharp knife, then shred the stems and leaves.  Rinse again in cold water and drain well.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium pan or skillet over medium heat.  Break egg into pan and cook 4 minutes, gently shaking occasionally to entire egg doesn’t stick.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper before turning the egg over and cooking 2 more minutes.  Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
  3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in pan over medium heat.  Add shallot, garlic, and ginger stirring occasionally until shallot is clear.  Stir in rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and mirin.  Stir in the cooked rice and cover, simmering until rice is heated through.  Uncover and drizzle with sesame oil.  Remove from heat and let stand for 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer fried rice to a serving bowl.  Cut fried egg into strips.  Top rice with egg strips then garnish with scallions, jalapeño, sesame seeds, and (optional) red pepper flakes.

Richards suggests serving this dish with: grilled seafood, grilled meats, poultry; spicy or citrus dishes.

My note:  I used 2 teaspoons minced garlic because I didn’t have fresh garlic cloves.  I used a 1/2 teaspoon of refrigerated ground ginger since I didn’t have fresh ginger.  I also didn’t have a shallot so I used a quarter of a small Vidalia onion thinly diced.



Many thanks to Time Inc. Books and NetGalley for a digital ARC to review.  Soul:  A Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes by Todd Richards is available in stores now!

Clyde’s Peach Berry Skillet Pie | Recipe

Foster and Lela are kind enough to open their farm to visitors a couple times each year and we never miss a chance to walk the rows of vegetables, talk with them about food and animals, and take a hayride or two.

We grow a decent amount of our vegetables at home but what we don’t have room for, like corn, we purchase from Clyde’s Fresh Produce.  I love that we’re able to purchase locally grown food, free of pesticides, from people who are passionate about serving their community.  It’s also a bonus that we’re keeping money in our community by supporting local folks!  If you live in the CSRA, you can purchase produce from Clyde’s online through Augusta Locally Grown, or find them Saturdays from 8am – 2pm at The Augusta Market.

The day we visited their farm in Grovetown, I grabbed a basket of peaches and a quart of strawberries before we left.  I don’t think there’s anything better than the scent of ripe peaches and strawberries in the spring/early summer.  I decided to combine the two in a quick skillet pie.

I think about Beverly Hills 90210 every time I eat a peach.  You remember The Peach Pit, right?  So much drama.  Dylan foreverrrrr.  Let’s hum the theme song while we feast our eyes on these gorgeous fruits…





I decided to use my double pie crust recipe because I was going to take the time to make a lattice pie crust.  If you don’t want to do that, you can always freeze half your dough from this recipe to use for another pie at a later date.  If you don’t do a top crust, just fold the crust over the filling at the edges and call it a crostata if that floats your boat.  Either way, it’s still a pie in a skillet but the word crostata just rolls off the tongue.

I was going to do a lattice pie crust but my four year old decided she wanted to give it a try.  Some people might apologize for putting this photo on a food blog but I happen to think she nailed it!  Proud mom over here.  My dream of having a mother/daughter bakery may come true!  (It’ll be called The Sugarbakers after another hit show from back in the day: Designing Women).

Clyde’s Peach Berry Skillet Pie

Double pie crust

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Whisk flour and salt together.  Make a well in the center.
  2. Pour vegetable oil and milk into the well and stir until combined.
  3. Roll dough into ball on wax paper.
  4. Divide in half.
  5. Roll one piece of dough out between two sheets of wax paper to 1/4 inch thickness.
  6. Remove top layer of wax paper and flip the dough into your 10.5 inch cast iron skillet.
  7. Press dough about half way up the sides.
  8. Brush some of your beaten egg on to the dough to prevent a soggy crust.
  9. Add filling.

Pie filling

  • 6-8 peaches in 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved (or quartered if huge)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • honey
  • sprig of chopped rosemary, lemon balm, chopped pecans (all optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Add peaches and strawberries to a large bowl.
  3. Mix in balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and flour.
  4. Pour filling into pie crust.
  5. Optional: add sprig of chopped rosemary, a couple sprigs of lemon balm, or chopped pecans over top of filling if you’re feeling fancy.
  6. Either fold the edges of your pie crust over the filling or use the other half of the pie crust recipe to place over the top.
  7. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 degrees and continue baking for 30 minutes.
  8. Cool for 20 minutes and drizzle with honey before serving.



And here’s some photos from our visit to Clyde’s!  Thanks to Foster and Lela and the family for a wonderful afternoon, we appreciate everything they do for our community.

Haven was thrilled to meet 3 day old Penny Mae!
I see horseback riding lessons in our near future!
Debbi Wolfarth from Eat Local CSRA was on site to teach us how to make strawberry crepes.  I prettied mine up with some edible accessories.
A few of the rows of cucumbers, strawberries, and greens.
Greens, beans, onions, and corn.


Black Tea Cupcakes with Honeysuckle Frosting | Recipe


Every spring I find a way to use the fragrant honeysuckle that climbs around our house.  If I could bottle up that smell I would because it’s incredible.  One year I made a Honeysuckle Breeze Cake by Hannah Queen and last year I made my own Honeysuckle Syrup for sweet tea.  This year I decided to try combining sweet tea and honeysuckle into a cupcake.  After tweaking the recipe a couple times, I feel confident enough to share it with you!



We started by collecting two cups of honeysuckle to prepare the syrup.


We put 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan and brought it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Meanwhile, we picked through the two cups of honeysuckle we collected, removing debris and pinching off green steams, then packed the flowers tightly in a pint mason jar.  Once the sugar water was boiling, we poured it over the flowers in the jar and left it on the counter to cool.
After your cupcakes have baked and cooled, you’ll strain the syrup through a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a clean pint mason jar.  You’ll have a lot of honeysuckle syrup left over after making the frosting (yay!) and can store it in the fridge safely for a few weeks –if it lasts that long!

While the honeysuckle syrup was cooling, we started our batter.  A dear friend of mine sent me her family’s tea cake recipe last year and I’ve since baked it several times.  When I first had the idea for tea and honeysuckle cupcakes, her tea cake instantly came to mind!  I have adjusted a few ingredient amounts and added tea, but her original recipe is absolutely the inspiration for this dessert.



Black Tea Cupcakes with Honeysuckle Frosting
(makes one 9-inch cake or 18 cupcakes)


  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons black tea, fresh brewed and strong (I use Luzianne)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups self-rising flour



  1. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add eggs one a a time, beating after each addition.
  3. Beat in vegetable oil and vanilla extract.
  4. Add self-rising flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition.
  5. Once dough has just come together, add milk and tea.
  6. Mix until batter is smooth.
  7. Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees F for 18 minutes.
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
  10. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting. (see recipe below)


Frosting ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons of honeysuckle syrup (follow the link to simple directions or read above)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt


  1. Cream the butter and honeysuckle syrup until light and fluffy.
  2. Add powdered sugar a cup at a time, mixing slightly in between.
  3. Add the pinch of salt and mix on low for several minutes until you reach the desired frosting consistency.


Cornmeal Catfish with Tartar Sauce | Recipe & Review

Southern from Scratch:  Pantry Essentials and Down-Home Recipes by Ashley English is in stores tomorrow, April 24, 2018.  Visit Roots & Reads for my full review of this lovely recipe book here.  Thanks to Roost Books and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC to review!

I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to test out several of the recipes in this book over the past month, including the one featured here.  Catfish fried lightly in cornmeal with a tangy tartar sauce and a side of hushpuppies is a meal that will be well-received at most any Southern table!

“The fish fry is pretty ubiquitous across the South.  What distinguishes my fry, though, is a light coating of oil, not a full deep dive (that’s reserved for the hush puppies served alongside).  And since hushpuppies and tartar sauce are as classic a combo as Fred and Ginger, Mickey and Minnie, and Dolly Parton and wigs, I’m also offering up a special sauce.”
-Ashley English


Cornmeal Catfish with Tartar Sauce
Recipe by Ashley English from the book Southern From Scratch
Serves 4


For the tartar sauce

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 tbsp coarse-grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • several dashes of hot sauce

For the catfish

  • 1/2 cup medium-grind cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup fine-grind cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 lbs catfish fillets
  • Light olive or peanut oil for the pan
  • Hushpuppies, to serve (see my own recipe at the end of this post)
  • Lemon wedges, to serve



  1. Make the tartar sauce.  Whisk the mayonnaise, relish, horseradish, mustard, lemon juice, and hot sauce in a small bowl until fully combined.  Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator until serving time and use within 2 to 3 weeks.
  2. Mix the medium- and fine-grind cornmeal in a shallow dish with the garlic, salt, and several grinds of pepper.
  3. Whisk the eggs with the hot sauce in a medium mixing bowl.
  4. One by one, coat the catfish fillets in the egg mixture, then lightly dredge them in the cornmeal mixture.  Set aside on a large plate.
  5. Lightly coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet with oil and warm over medium heat.  Add the catfish fillets and cook in batches, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness.  Add oil to the pan between batches when necessary, to prevent sticking.  Serve immediately with tartar sauce, hushpuppies, and lemon wedges.



I remember many fish fry events when I was a kid.  My dad would go fishing with his dad and brother and they’d usually bring home a cooler full and we’d spend the evening frying up the fish with hushpuppies.  My dad was of the “go big or go home” variety when it comes to frying hushpuppies, so ours were always way bigger than you find in a restaurant.  I try to keep mine around golf ball size to balance out a full meal.

Here’s how I make my hushpuppies


  • 1 1/2 cups peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup self rising flour
  • 1/2 cup self rising yellow cornmeal mix
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 onion, diced well
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and diced (optional)
  • whole milk



  1. In a cast iron skillet, add peanut oil to warm over medium heat.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper together.
  3. Add onion and jalapeño to the mixture.
  4. Add just enough whole milk to wet the batter completely and stir well.
  5. Working in batches, drop teaspoons of batter into a skillet of heated peanut oil until browned.
  6. Place hushpuppies on paper towels to soak up excess grease, then serve and enjoy!


Happening in the Holler | Spring 2018

I’ve been quiet around here but spring planting is finished and our seeds are beginning to sprout.  We spent a lot of time expanding the garden at the beginning of the year so our growing space has nearly tripled!  Most of our tomatoes and beans will be growing vertically to maximize the space so we’re really curious to see what this year’s harvest will yield!  We’re growing a lot more beans and peas this year and trying a few new things as well.

I thought I’d share a few photos of the beans in different stages of sprouting:


It never fails to amaze me how you can plant a bean under a couple inches of dirt and more grow.  It’s incredible to watch it happen.


The black beans are off to an incredible start!  They were the first to sprout and it was as if they all came up overnight.
We have a few more peppers plants not pictured but these are Cubanelles and green peppers called Emerald Giants.  We grew peppers in burlap for the first time last year with amazing success so we’re trying it again this year; fingers crossed we get the same results!
Our tomatoes grew so fast this year we couldn’t keep them under lights because they outgrew the space!  We ended up setting up a transport in and outside with a tarp and it looks like we’ll be building a hoop house for next year.
The goats are shedding all their excess winter fluff and seem to enjoy using the fence as a brush.
This sweet girl still won’t hold a full grown chicken so she’s looking forward to the baby chicks in the fall.

I’ll have a garden walk through post up soon (and of course hen and goat photos because really, who can resist those?)

Seed Saving & Catalogs

The dream begins in winter.  December is a rush of celebrating with family, friends, food and gifts.  I open my mailbox and every few days there’s a new seed catalog waiting for me.  I slow down a few minutes each day to plan our garden.  I forget to rush and overeat and overspend.


Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Seed Savers Exchange
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

I browse randomly at first, taking in the photos.  Then I start circling/highlighting and dog earring pages until eventually it looks like a student textbook.

Of course you can always browse the seed catalog online but I prefer the physical copy in my hands; it’s easier to compare and read notes on certain vegetables.  It also signals the start of the growing season when they show up in your mailbox, which is my favorite part.  If you visit the website you can request a free copy of their catalog and each year after you’ll get their updated catalog in your mailbox, too.


Basic seed catalog information:

  1. Each catalog will tell you what type of seeds they offer:  heirloom/non-hybrid, non-GMO, organic, etc.
  • Heirloom seeds are a variety that have been saved over several generations, usually passed down in families/communities.  They are open-pollinated, meaning you can collect them each year and expect them to produce much the same the following year.
  • Hybrid seeds are cross-pollinated (usually labeled in catalogs as F1), meaning two plant types have been crossed and bred to produce a desired trait.  These seeds will not produce the same each year or may not even grow at all so hybrid seeds cannot be saved but must be purchased new each year.
  • Non-GMO means non-genetically modified organisms.  That means the seeds you’re purchasing were not created in a laboratory using genetic engineering.
  • Organic also means the seeds contain no GMOs and were grown without pesticides/fertilizers.

2.   Most arrange their contents alphabetically and include sub-categories.
(example: peas may be listed by categories snap, shelling, snow, southern/cowpeas and tomatoes may be listed by color or if they’re determinate/indeterminate).

3.   If you’re purchasing heirloom seeds, many companies will give you a history:  where and when the seeds originated.

4.   Seeds are offered in packs and there should be an estimate on how many seeds you’ll receive per pack.

5.   Germination time (how long it’ll take for a seed to sprout) and time to maturity (how many frost free days you need and when to harvest) are usually included, along with how many hours of sunlight, soil type and watering instructions.

6.   Disease/Pest Tolerance is useful information and generally included with plants known for issues like tomatoes.

7.  Many companies offer live plants.  You may order any time of year but live plants (example:  apple trees, potatoes) will ship according to your climate zone.

8.   Check to make sure the seed/plant is available to ship to your area.  For instance, I had no idea until browsing seed catalogs that cotton cannot be shipped to three U.S. states, including my home state of Georgia and some states, like Virginia, require a permit to grow cotton.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog lists planting information for tomatoes and the types (determinate/indeterminate) so you can decide which is most suitable for your gardening space.  Tomatoes are then divided by color and notes those with excellent disease resistance.
Seed Savers Exchange catalog also offers a brief description of determinate and indeterminate tomato plants and then lists the seeds available in alphabetical order, noting flavors and those excellent for canning.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog offers a basic description here of okra and most listings advise how tall plants get and the length at which okra should be picked to remain tender.
Seed packet from Baker Creek.  Year packaged is stamped on the back and the seed history and planting instructions are explained.


Seed saving

I’ve found that even though we have a good stock of seeds in our pantry, I always want to try something new so we will swap seeds with friends (free seeds, plus you get to try something new!) and I usually order (…okay, always order) a few new things that catch my attention each year.

If you decide to save your own seeds, it’s pretty simple!  You’ll want the seeds to dry out completely.  When we save tomato seeds, we leave them on napkins up to two weeks before putting them all together in an envelope.  Seeds that do not dry out will clump together and grow mold and then they are useless.  Zero moisture before packing if you want success!

Envelopes, cute DIY packets, mason jars, and old (cleaned) coffee/tin cans all work just fine to store your seeds.  Keep it labeled with the name and year and place in a cool/dry, dark space.  We’ve kept our seed packs in dresser drawers and stacked in the back of the food pantry. Anywhere in your home that’s dark and doesn’t get too hot or cold will work.

My husband’s seed saving gives the year, tomato name and type (ID= indeterminate)
To get my daughter interested in seed saving, I found this free printable seed packet that she could color here. (The back has label space for name/date)
You can find this cute DIY seed packet to print for free here.
Another way to interest my daughter in gardening?  Her own book of garden notes!  She can draw/color what she sees or imagines for our garden each year.  You can find the free printable here.


Christmas all over again in January when the seeds arrive at my door.

Before you order:

  • Know what garden zone you’re in.  Plug in your zip code and it’ll give you your zone.  (For my local people, that’s 8A!)
  • Know your frost dates.  Plug in your zip code to determine the first and last frost dates in your area.  This will let you know the length of your growing season (I have a generous 271 days!) and a general time frame of when you can direct sow seeds and transplant your seedlings outdoors. (For my local people:  I  start my tomato and pepper seedlings indoors mid/late January and transplant them outdoors the week after Masters.  There always seems to be one last surprise frost around Masters so the rule of 2nd week of April has never failed me yet!)
  • If this is your first year growing food, decide where you want your garden space and then note how many hours of sunlight that space gets each day.  Most veggies you plant will need at least 6 hours of full sun each day in order to thrive.

Start simple:

  • Beans are great starter veggies.  You can grow bush or pole beans; pole will allow you to grow up so you can maximize your garden space.  They require very little work, just decent soil and watering.  They do well in extreme high temps here in the south and as far as pests go, the beetles are easy to spot.
  • Tomatoes are the most popular food to grow but check out the types carefully (you need to stake/cage certain types while some are great in small containers and can conveniently be moved around for optimal sunlight).  Look for info on disease resistance, heat tolerance, and size.  You’ll need to check regularly for cracks on the fruit as well as hornworms (my arch nemesis!)

There’s so much additional information:  how and when to seeds indoors, how to build up rich soil, harvesting your food, etc.  Honestly, this is all a learning process.  I still learn new things each year.  I make sure I write down if something does amazingly well or completely awful to look into the variables of why (temperature being a main factor).

Have fun:  check out different companies (there are so many!) and what they offer, order what interests you (it’s like a science project but without the poster board), ask local gardeners for input and try to keep notes so you can keep track of what worked and what didn’t.

Seed catalogs, planting and saving all give you something to look forward to when you’re in your long johns dreaming of warm weather.


Christmas Citrus Garland | DIY

I’ve been keeping my daughter busy with small activities this winter since the cold weather has set in and we’re not spending much time outdoors.  I love that most of these activities take place around the kitchen table and they add excitement to the upcoming holiday for her.

Dried citrus can make a festive tree or window garland or even a potpourri satchel with a few spices added.

I read a couple different methods for drying citrus (oranges, tangerines, lemons):  placing slices on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet and drying in the oven at 250 degrees for 3-4 hours, or placing slices in a food dehydrator for 8-10 hours.


I decided the food dehydrator was the way to go!  I cut an orange into thin 1/4 inch slices and placed them on two stacked drying racks and flipped the switch on just before I went to bed.  Nine hours later I had perfectly dried orange slices.  I wanted zero moisture left so I made sure they didn’t bend at all.  If they are leathery, it means there’s still moisture remaining.

You want these to be Legally Blonde bend and snappable.  Except, don’t actually snap them; that wouldn’t be pretty.

I stacked my slices in a mason jar for a couple hours to make sure no moisture appeared on the glass, just to be safe.  I want my garland to last for months so it’s important they are fully dried out to prevent mold from growing.  You don’t have to do this extra step unless you want to.
Another option is holiday potpourri.  You can add the orange slices along with cinnamon and star anise to a small burlap bag, slap a tag on it and turn it into a Christmas gift.
Maybe add some fresh rosemary for the scent and the greenery.
If you have jute twine or fishing line, you can make holes in the center of the orange slices and make a string of garland.




The citrus looks lovely on a string of twine wrapped around a Christmas tree or on fishing line hanging in a window.  The sunlight catches in the slices and reminds me of stained glass!

You can mix orange/blood orange, tangerine, and lemon slices for variety.

Here’s my lovely window at the kitchen sink that obviously needs dusting on the inside and scrubbed down on the outside.  We spent so many evenings in the summer running through the sprinkler right outside this window and even though it’s December I’m not prepared to wash away that last piece of summer.

Winter Madeleines | Recipe


Madeleines are probably my favorite treat to bake.  All it takes is a few basic baking ingredients and a $10-ish madeleine pan to make a lovely cake-like cookie.

I regularly make lemon (my personal favorite), pumpkin spice, blueberry and honey madeleines but I was looking for something a bit more festive for Christmas when I found an image of deep red madeleines while scrolling on Pinterest.  Swoon.

Looks like winter, tastes like summer.
(I started thinking of the song Drops of Jupiter after I typed that because of the line “She acts like summer and walks like rain” and so I had to look up who did it.  It was a band called Train.  I didn’t realize they’re still making music.  Do you guys remember that show Behind the Music on VH1?  Hmm, this makes two posts in a row where I’ve mentioned something VH1 related.  Weird.  I don’t even think they play music anymore.)

Wait, where was I?
Rosemary and strawberry blended together in the middle of winter?  
Yes, please!

Living in the deep South means I can wear shorts on a Monday in December and have a forecast for snow on Friday because we’re ridiculous like that.  Since Georgia actually received some snow fall this week (not my area, thankfully) and I’m puttering around the kitchen in wool socks now, it felt like a great time to use up some strawberries we froze this summer and remember the scorching 90+ degree heat and humidity.

These cookies are beautiful, delicious with a unique flavor thanks to the rosemary simmered in butter, and you can dress them up several different ways!


Rosemary & Strawberry Madeleines
from A CupCake For Love

(makes 24)


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10-15 drops of red food coloring (optional, just add if you want the dark red)


  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Add rosemary and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Turn off stove and remove pan from heat, letting rosemary butter rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Using a blender, puree the frozen strawberries until thick.
  5. In the bowl of your mixer, add the eggs and sugar; blend on low until foamy.
  6. In a separate bowl, stir flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  7. Add strawberry puree to the egg mix.
  8. Add the flour mix to the wet mixture and stir until just combined.
  9. Pour your melted butter through a strainer into the mixing bowl.  (You want the strainer to catch all of the chopped rosemary so it doesn’t get in your batter.)
  10. Optional:  Add food coloring a few drops at a time, stirring between for your desired red.
  11. Put your batter into the fridge for 20 minutes and preheat your oven to 350 degrees while you’re waiting.
  12. Fill each madeleine mold 3/4 full and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
  13. Cool for a few minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack.
  14. Once madeleines are cool, you can add icing/glaze and/or powdered sugar to dress them up.






Oh Snap! Gingerbread Cookies | Recipe

As Andy Williams croons, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
I had to look up who sings that song because I just assume every Christmas song on the radio is sung by Bing Crosby.  Or that one Mariah Carey did in the early 90’s that will apparently never go away.

There was also that time Bing Crosby and David Bowie sang Little Drummer Boy together.  I have the VH1 channel of my childhood to thank for introducing me to that gem.

So, Christmas= lots of baking.  We usually make sugar cookies and lather them in icing and sprinkles but this year I thought it’d be fun to try gingerbread cookies.


The biggest issue folks seem to have is finding cookie recipes that won’t spread out when they bake.  If I’m making cookies without a shape then I don’t really mind; if one cookie comes out the size of three, I can still say I only ate one cookie so there’s less guilt.  That’s my pro baking tip of the month.
But when you’re working with cute cookie cutters the worst thing is pulling your cookies from the oven only to discover they have oozed into some unidentifiable shape.

I tested three recipes and did some tweaking to create this recipe and I can assure you that these cookies will hold their shape beautifully!  The only problem you’ll have is making sure the legs don’t snap off when you remove them from the cookie sheet or while decorating…  which is how I came up with the name Oh Snap! Gingerbread Cookies.


Oh Snap! Gingerbread Cookies
(you’ll get about 24  gingerbread folks but that’ll change depending on size/shape of your cutter choices)


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp lemon extract (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and whisk the first five ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Using a mixer, cream together the butter and and brown sugar in a separate bowl.
  3. Add the egg and mix.
  4. Add molasses, vanilla, and lemon extract (the extract is just an extra flavor touch but not necessary).  Mix until incorporated.
  5. Pour your flour mixture from step 1 slowly into the mixing bowl until dough forms.
  6. Roll dough out on wax paper (or a floured surface) to 1/4″ or 1/2″ thickness.
  7. Use your cookie cutters to create the desired shapes; carefully peeling and placing them on greased cookie sheets.
  8. Bake 9 minutes at 375 degrees.
  9. Transfer cookies (carefully, unless you’re going for the snapped limbs on your gingerbread people) to a wire rack to cool before decorating.
I love a golden brown cookie.
Some cookies did not make it off the cookie sheet with all limbs intact.



Any time I photograph food there’s guaranteed to be a photo on the memory card of my daughter’s blurry hand darting into the frame.
Here’s my decorated Oh Snap Gingerbread Dude.  I’m a minimalist when it comes to cookie decorating.  Maybe one day I’ll get fancy.
My favorite Christmas cookie tin of Norman Rockwell’s “The Discovery.”  It gave me the idea to recreate the scene with my daughter this year!
My painterly photo of Haven, inspired by Norman Rockwell.