Bee Balm

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:21 am on Saturday, April 19, 2014

I read somewhere that the more functions a plant has in your garden, the more useful it is. If you fill your garden with multi-use plants, there’s more of a chance that your garden will work together as a natural system.

What do I mean by functions? Let’s take a look at bee balm, a plant I’m putting in the front flower bed this spring. Bee balm is a perennial herb. It is:

* Attractive to beneficial insects–As you can tell by the name, bees love bee balm. They even sleep under its leaves.

* Beautiful–Bee Balm adds visual pleasure to the garden.

* Edible–The leaves can flavor food and the flowers are a lovely addition to a salad.

* Medicinal–According to this site, bee balm can help in the “treatment of colds, … headaches, gastric disorders, reduce low fevers and soothe sore throat, [and] relieve flatulence, nausea, menstrual pain, and insomnia.” Wow.


[How Stuff Works]

So, four functions, one plant. Sounds like a deal to me.

Cheese Carrots For Easter

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:55 am on Friday, April 18, 2014

Another great Easter appetizer: Cheese Carrots. They are a mix of cheeses shaped into “carrots” and topped with parsley. Serve them with crackers and people will get the idea.

Colorful Deviled Eggs For Easter

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:50 am on Thursday, April 17, 2014

Here’s a cute Easter appetizer: Colorful Deviled Eggs. The trick is to soak the whites of the hard-boiled eggs in food coloring.

From Grocery Bag To Easter Basket

Filed under: Recycling — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:45 am on Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I was looking at Easter baskets and thinking how I just don’t need one more useless thing hanging around my house that I will have to store or donate or throw out.

That’s why I like this tutorial on how to make a basket from a grocery bag. It looks like a little bit of work, but the end result is pretty–plus, it can be recycled when you’re done.

The Income Tax Cocktail

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It’s tax day. Boo! No one has ever liked that, even back in the 1920s when they made up The Income Tax Cocktail. This variation on the Bronx Cocktail uses gin, two kinds of vermouth, and fresh-squeezed orange juice to help ease the pain of dealing with all those tax forms.

Did you know that income tax was established in the United States because of prohibition? When alcohol was banned, politicians didn’t want to lose the money they made by taxing liquor, so they instituted the income tax to make up for it. So not only were people in the 1920s denied alcohol, they were taxed on their income for the very first time. And of course a few years later, alcohol was re-legalized and now we are taxed on both our incomes and alcohol.

No one said Uncle Sam is fair, I guess. Anyway, whether you want to celebrate a refund or drink away the sorrow of having to pay, The Income Tax Cocktail should do just fine.

This recipe is inspired by the classic Savoy Cocktail Book. Here it is:

The Income Tax
(makes one cocktail)

Ingredients:

    1 1/2 oz gin
    1/4 oz dry vermouth
    1/4 oz sweet vermouth
    1 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
    1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
    Orange twist for garnish


Directions:

Pour all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake thoroughly and drain into a glass. Garnish with the orange peel. Enjoy!

How To Roast A Duck

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:36 am on Monday, April 14, 2014

I was trying to take a good picture of this duck, but my battery died, so this is the best I got. Nevertheless, it was perfectly cooked with crispy skin on the outside and moist meat on the inside.

Some people are intimidated by cooking duck, if for no other reason than people are no longer exposed to meats that used to be common in the U.S. (rabbit, lamb, etc.), and so they seem exotic and difficult. But have no fear, duck is extremely easy to cook. It is a lot like roasting a chicken. And, like a chicken, all the parts of a duck are useful. You can use the bones, giblets, and neck to make broth and you can use the fat to make duck confit.

The main difference between a duck and a chicken is that duck has a layer of fat around its body that a chicken doesn’t have. That means you have to take more time to cook the duck–in this case, 4 hours–and you have to get the duck to release the fat while cooking. I did this by pricking the duck so that as it slowly roasted at a low temperature, the fat released from the bird and the skin became crispy. I also cooked the duck upside down so that as the pan filled with fat, the skin cooked in it, adding to the crispiness. At the end, I turned the duck over so that the skin on the breast could finish browning in the oven.

Here’s the recipe:

How To Roast A Duck

Ingredients:

    1 5-7 lbs duck
    Salt


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Wash the raw duck and pat dry. Remove the neck and giblets from the duck and freeze for broth. (Sometimes you will have to cut the neck off the duck–get a cleaver and chop it off, then freeze as normal.)

Rub the inside and outside of the duck with salt.

With a knife or skewer, prick the duck all over so that it will release fat while cooking. Hold the knife parallel to the duck and shallowly insert into the fat, being careful not to go all the way through to the meat.

Place the duck breast-side down in a large pan. Put in the oven and roast for about 3 hours, checking periodically to make sure it is releasing the fat. If not, prick a few more times.

After 3 hours, turn the duck over so that it is breast-side-up and increase the heat in the oven to 350 degrees. Cook for another 45 minutes or until the skin is nice and crispy and the internal temperature is 170-180 degrees.

Remove from the oven and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Grow A Sunflower House

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:54 am on Monday, April 14, 2014

Remember how I told you about growing a bean teepee for the kids to play in this year? Well here’s a similar idea: grow a sunflower house.

To make it, simply grow giant (6 feet +) sunflowers in a “C” shape, like in this picture:

Once the sunflowers grow tall, you’ve got a great fort for the kids. This site has some ideas for how to embellish the sunflower house and make it even more awesome.

DIY Easter Peeps Soap

Filed under: DIY — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:33 am on Saturday, April 12, 2014

Check it out: Peeps Soap! Just in time for Easter. Click on the link to learn how to make it.

Radishes With Chive Butter

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:35 am on Friday, April 11, 2014

I love this simple, elegant appetizer. It’s a radish stuffed with butter and sprinkled with chives–perfect for an early spring get-together. Check out the recipe at Martha Stewart.

How To Get A Cat To Use A Scratcher

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:12 am on Thursday, April 10, 2014

Following up the post about How To Make Your Own Cat Scratcher: there’s nothing more annoying than buying or making a cat scratcher when they refuse to go near it. Even worse is when your cat prefers to scratch on the sofa instead of the scratching post.

The good news is that cats can be trained. Like dogs, bad behavior can be broken and good behavior can be introduced.

Cats scratch to sharpen their claws and mark their territory. When they scratch, not only are they leaving visible evidence they were there, they are leaving behind a scent pheromone that other cats can smell. It’s a way of saying, “This is my spot, I own it.”

The key to getting them to use the cat scratcher to make clear that they have a spot in the house that they “own” for scratching, but only one place. And that’s not as hard to do as some people think.

Here are some tips to get a cat to use a scratcher:

1. Play with the cat around the scratcher. Wiggle a toy near the scratcher so that the cat claws on it. A few times of this and the cat will start to associate the scratcher with play.

2. Put catnip on the scratcher. Sprinkle a bit of catnip around the scratcher and the cat will want to go near it more and associate it as a fun, good place.

3. Reinforce that the scratcher is the only place where scratching is allowed.
If you catch your cat scratching on your carpet or furniture, tell him no (or spray with a water bottle) and then pick him up and move him to the scratcher. A few times of this and he will start to understand that this is the place he is allowed to go for scratching.

4. Praise the cat for using the scratcher. Saying “good kitty” or “good boy/girl” goes a long way with cats. They respond better to positive reinforcement than punishment. Believe it or not, they do want to please you.

5. Remove pheromones. The above tips should be enough for most cats. However if you have a bad scratching problem, it’s important to remove the cat’s pheromones from the old place they scratch and put them in the new place. There are products you can buy in the pet store that mask the pheromone smell. I’ve used them and they work. If you apply the spray to the old place and follow the above steps consistently, your cat should start to use the scratcher exclusively.

Well, most of the time, anyway. You know how cats are.

Those are my tips. What has worked for you?

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