Lemon Lavender Cocktail

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:29 am on Friday, May 16, 2014

My newest concoction with DIY Cocktails is the Lemon Lavender Cocktail. We used lemon and lavender from my yard, champagne, gin, and some of the limoncello I recently made. (If you don’t have homemade limoncello, the store bought kind works great.)

The Lemon Lavender Cocktail is subtle and refreshing, with a faint aroma of lavender and the citrus-y brightness of lemon. It’s is perfect for a wedding, anniversary, or any other romantic celebration. Here’s the recipe:

Lemon Lavender Cocktail

(makes one cocktail)


    2 sprigs of lavender flowers
    1 oz gin
    1 oz limoncello
    1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
    Champagne to top


Using your fingers, strip the lavender flowers from the stem and combine with the limoncello and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Thoroughly muddle the lavender so that the flowers release their oils into the lemon liquids. Add the gin and ice and shake. Strain the alcohol into a champagne glass and top with champagne. Garnish with a lavender flower, if desired. Enjoy!

If you want a more pronounced lavender flavor and aroma in the drink, after you muddle the flowers with the lemon and limoncello, leave it steeping for 5-10 minutes so that the oil has a chance to bond with the other liquids. Or, alternately, simply put extra sprigs of lavender in as a garnish. Lovely!

Chalk Paint On A Filing Cabinet

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:50 am on Thursday, May 15, 2014

Here’s a great way to get more out of that filing cabinet in your office: spray it with chalkboard paint. Great idea.

Controlling Aphids

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:38 am on Wednesday, May 14, 2014

[Courtesy Luc Viatour]


Aphids come in many colors. I’ve seen them in green, gray, black, white, and red. Sometimes they have wings and sometimes they don’t. Despite their changing appearance, aphids always do the same thing: clump on the ends of your plants and slowly suck the life out of them.

I may be jinxing myself by writing this, but I have been gaining control of my aphid problem lately. My garden is changing over the years, and as it does, it is becoming more balanced and the aphids (knock on wood) are less of a problem. Here’s what worked for me:

1. Observe The Aphids. The first step of getting rid of any pest is to observe what is happening in the garden. Are the aphids there on their own or are they being put there by ants that want to feed on the sugary honeydew the aphids secrete? (Read more about the relationship between ants and aphids here.) Are the aphids attacking all the plants or just one kind of plant? How are they getting into the garden? Think of this step as information gathering. If you know what’s going on in the garden, it’s much easier to act.

2. Attract Beneficial Insects. Last year I talked about putting in plants that attract predatory insects in the garden. This really works. My garden is full of insects that were simply not there a few years ago–ladybugs, soldier beetles, predatory wasps, etc. This is the best way to control your aphids because the bugs do it for you. For example, this winter my fava beans had aphids. Before I could react, a bunch of soldier beetles descended and ate the aphids up for me. The downside is that is a slower control method–it took about a year to start seeing results–but you can jump start the process by buying ladybugs in the store and releasing them into your garden.

3. Kill Ants. Often the aphids aren’t really the problem, the ants are. If you have both aphids and ants streaming into your garden, the ants are probably putting the aphids on the plants. If that’s the case, you can remove the aphids all you want but the ants will just put more of them on your plants. Here is a post on how to kill outdoor ants.

4. Spray Aphids Off With Water. If the plant can handle it, spray the aphids off with the hose. Even assuming they could survive, aphids are not smart enough to regroup and go back on your plant. This works great for established plants, but won’t work for seedlings or more delicate plants that will bruise from the water.

5. Use A Gentle Insecticide Soap.
Finally, I preemptively spray areas that I know are vulnerable to aphids with insecticide soap. In particular, I always spray the new growth on my squash plants, which is apparently an aphid paradise. Use insecticide soap that says you can use “up to the day of harvest” and doesn’t harm bees. Or make your own.

That’s my method. How do you control aphids?

3 Recycled Yard Projects

Filed under: Recycling — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:40 am on Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Here are 3 Recycled Yard Projects I found around the web:

Got an old trampoline no one is using anymore? Turn it into a hammock.

Hoses tend to break a lot. Why not turn it into a rug for the workshop or garage?

Or try this: use an old PVC pipe as an ingenious chicken feeder.

Make Your Own English Muffins

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:59 am on Monday, May 12, 2014

Make Your Own English Muffins. Mmmm homemade eggs benedict…

Pink Collins Cocktail

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:51 am on Tuesday, May 6, 2014

If I were going to describe the latest drink I made with DIY Cocktails, I would describe it as a grapefruit and elderflower soda with a strawberry chaser. That is to say, delicious.

This Pink Collins is delightful with fresh strawberries and grapefruit, elderflower liqueur, and the fizz of club soda. Like most well-made vodka drinks, you barely know you’re drinking alcohol, so be careful.

Pink Collins

(makes one cocktail)


    1 1/2 oz vodka
    1 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
    1 oz St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
    1/2 oz simple syrup
    2-3 strawberries, cut up
    Club soda


Put all ingredients except the club soda into a cocktail shaker. Muddle. Pour into a glass. Add ice. Pour club soda to the top of the glass. Enjoy!

Five More Beneficial Insects

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:01 am on Monday, May 5, 2014

I’ve talked about beneficial insects as a means of pest control in the vegetable garden before. Without a doubt, getting natural predators to destroy pests for you is the easiest, cleanest, no-hassle way to have happy plants.

While attracting these insects is not hard, the first step is to learn to recognize them when you see them. So here are Five More Beneficial Insects to keep an eye out for in the garden:

1. Soldier Beetle. As I mentioned in my post on controlling aphids, last year I had an aphid infestation on my fava beans. I was out there every day spraying my plants with water, but there always seemed to be more aphids on the plants. Then suddenly, this swarm of bugs descended on my fava beans. They were soldier beetles, and like a protecting army, they ate all the aphids and then moved into the backyard and ate more aphids off some sow thistle I had allowed to grow up. I couldn’t believe how great these bugs were.

To attract to your yard, plant hydrangea, catnip, or goldenrod in your garden.

2. Tachinid Fly. There are many types of flies out there in the world besides the common house fly, and tachinid flies are some of the best for your garden. The adults lay eggs on pests like cutworms or earwigs, and the larvae then destroy the insect from the inside out. One female can lay up to 6,000 eggs. The adult flies are also pollinizers.

To attract to your garden, plant parsley, buckwheat, or lemon balm.

3. Black Ground Beetle. Talk about ubiquitous, these beetles are everywhere. They like to eat soft-bodied insects like caterpillars, snails, and slugs. Black Ground Beetles are nocturnal, meaning they are a defense to insects that do damage to your plants at night.

They like to live in decaying plant matter, so black ground beetles will probably show up in your mulch.

4. Braconid Wasps. I’m not going to lie, braconid wasps are disturbing little suckers. They are parasitoid wasps that lay dozens of white eggs on pests like the tomato hornworm, which then slowly suck the life out of the poor caterpillar. (Click here to see an image of what this looks like.) But they are extremely effective in the garden and get rid of many pests.

To attract, plant herbs like yarrow, coriander, fennel, or dill.

5. Spiders. Every year in late summer, my garden is suddenly full of spider webs. It is always tempting to remove them, but I usually let the webs stand, at least around tomatoes and other pest-attracting plants. Spiders will certainly eat anything that comes into its web–although that also includes other beneficial insects like honeybees.

To attract spiders, just let the webs stay put. I notice that one web is soon surrounded by several others; spiders must look to each other for good spots to build their homes.

For more on what plants to put in to attract specific beneficial insects, check out this site.

Predatory Insects In the Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:15 am on Sunday, May 4, 2014

savvyhousekeeping good insects predatory bugs beneficial garden ladybug attracts yard

This year, I have noticed a dramatic increase of ladybugs in my garden. I figured this was because of the dramatic number of aphids–and it probably is–but it may also have something to do with the yarrow plant I put on the border of my yard. It seems to be bringing in new insects I haven’t seen before.

savvyhousekeeping good insects predatory bugs beneficial garden yarrow attracts yard
(Yarrow Flower courtesy of Bailie Byrne)

Or maybe the ecology of the garden is just getting more complex. I’m don’t know.

Lately I have been trying to identify the predatory insects, those beneficial bugs that eat the “bad” bugs like aphids. I am hoping that by bringing beneficial insects into the garden, the cycle of nature will get the aphids under control without me having to do anything.

Everyone knows that ladybugs eat aphids, as well as mites and other critters. But I have learned that their larva eats something like 10 times the numbers of bug than an adult ladybug does. Also, the larva looks nothing like a ladybug.

savvyhousekeeping good insects predatory bugs beneficial garden ladybug larva larvae attracts yard

It looks like an accordion crossed with an alligator. I have seen these in my garden too, but thought they were another bug. Apparently not, just baby ladybugs.

I also have been seeing this guy:

savvyhousekeeping good insects predatory bugs beneficial garden hoverfly attracts yard

I thought it was a wasp or a yellow jacket, but it is a hoverfly. Like the ladybug, their larvae eat aphids, as well as mealybugs, scale, and leafhoppers. Adult hoverflies feed on pollen and are attracted by bright flowers, like yarrow. They don’t have stingers, either.

savvyhousekeeping good insects predatory bugs beneficial garden pirate minute attracts yard

This is a Minute Pirate Bug. I think I have seen them around. It eats thrips, aphids, caterpillars, and spiders. So a bit of a mix there–spiders are cool–but anything that eats aphids is welcome in my garden.

savvyhousekeeping good insects predatory bugs beneficial garden big-eyed attracts yard

Here is a Big-Eyed Bug. Creepy but effective. It kills everything–whiteflies, aphids, mites, cabbage loopers, and bollworms, among them. I haven’t noticed them in my yard, but I am keeping my eyes open.

savvyhousekeeping good insects predatory bugs beneficial garden lacewing attracts yard

Finally, this is a lacewing. Its larvae eat aphids, mealeybugs, mites, and caterpillars. Here’s a picture of the lacewing larva:

Incidentally, there is one plant that is said to attract all of these beneficial insects: the Buckwheat plant. It attracts all the above insects, except the Big-eyed Bug, and you can make cereal out of it.

savvyhousekeeping good insects predatory bugs beneficial garden buckwheat attracts yard

Maybe I should plant some next to the yarrow.

Here is more on good and bad bugs in the garden.

Canadian Biscuits

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:57 am on Saturday, May 3, 2014

When I was first married, I told my Southern-born husband that I was going to make him biscuits. He was pleased, but when I put the biscuits in front of him, he took one look and said, “Those aren’t biscuits.”

It seems that what I had grown up thinking of as biscuits were a far cry from what most Americans, especially Southerners, consider biscuits. My biscuits were cakey and sweet, closer to the base of a strawberry shortcake than the typical flaky Southern-style biscuit. (If you want to make those, Mr. Savvy recommends this recipe.)

Over the years, I have grown to prefer the Southern biscuit, but sometimes I still get in the mood for the ones I ate growing up. So here they are.

This is my mom’s recipe. Since her family is from Canada, I’m calling these Canadian Biscuits, although they may be closer to tea cakes or scones. I like to eat them with butter and jam, but they also make a kickass base for strawberry shortcake–just add cut-up strawberries and a dollop of whip cream.

Canadian Biscuits

Makes 6 biscuits


    2 c flour
    4 Tbs sugar
    1 Tbs + 1 tsp baking powder
    4 Tbs butter
    1 egg + milk = 2/3 cup*


* In a 2/3 measuring cup, break an egg and stir with a fork. Fill with milk until the total of both the egg and milk is 2/3 cup.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add the milk/egg mixture and mix until you have a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a flour surface. Pat out or roll the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Dip a drinking glass or cookie cutter in flour and cut out biscuits until you have 6 total.

Transfer to an oiled cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, until the biscuits are lightly golden. Enjoy!

Mango Margarita

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:40 am on Friday, May 2, 2014

Since Cinco de Mayo is coming up, DIY Cocktails and I came up with the Mango Margarita.

As you probably guessed by the name, this is a margarita with fresh mango added to it. We enhanced the mild flavor of the mango with some fresh-squeezed citrus and a good-quality tequila, making a drink that is refreshing and tropical tasting, but not too sweet or cloying.

I have to say, this is one of our more versatile drinks. It would be great with either spicy Mexican food or a pleasant Sunday brunch. You could scale it up and make a pitcher for guests or just have one while relaxing in the backyard. What makes this drink so tasty is that it uses a lot of fresh fruit–roughly one mango per drink. That may sound like a lot, but it’s worth it, especially if you get the mangoes on sale.

Mango Margarita

(makes one drink)


    3 oz mango puree, approximately one mango
    1 1/2 oz tequila
    1/4 oz cointreau or triple sec
    1 oz orange juice, freshly squeezed
    1/4-1/3 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
    Lime twist for garnish


Peel the mango. Slice the fruit and put it into a blender of food processor. Discard the skin and the pit.

Run the blender until the fruit is thoroughly mashed and juicy. Meanwhile, juice the orange and lime.

In a cocktail shaker, combine all the ingredients and the ice. Shake hard to integrate. Remove the lid from the shaker (carefully–it can be messy) and pour all, including the ice, into a glass. Garnish with a lime twist, if desired. Enjoy!

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