Modern Simple Succulents

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One of my favorite displays of potted succulents accenting our backyard dining table.

If you ask me, succulents are one of the most incredible looking plants around. They add unique pops of fresh color and texture to both pots and landscape. As an added bonus, they are super easy to care for! Many are intimidated by succulents because they think they require special care, but succulents are probably one of the easiest plants to keep and are very rewarding. If cared for correctly succulents will last a lifetime. No joke. Here are some simple tips for planting and keeping succulents.

Tips For Planting and Caring for Succulents:

  • Succulents can be purchased at almost any nursery and often can be found at big box outdoor stores as well.
  • When planting succulents make sure to use a pot with multiple drainage holes. Succulents will rot easily if they are left to sit in damp soil.
  • Use a potting mix formulated especially for succulents or cactus. You can also make your own by using regular potting soil mixed with sand and small stones for easy drying and drainage.
  • Now that you’re ready to pot, pot succulents as you would any other flower. Gently manipulate the roots, place in pot or ground and cover roots with soil up to the base of the succulent.
  • DO NOT WATER succulent immediately as you would regular potted plants. Wait 24 hours and then provide the succulent with a light watering. Thereafter you only need to provide a light soaking of water every 2-3 weeks.
  • Most succulents thrive in sunlight with the exception of a few varieties. So indirect sunlight is usually a safe bet.
  • Lastly, there is no need to fertilize your succulents they tend not to handle the excess nitrogen well.

There you have it, all you have to do now is enjoy!!!

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Some seriously large and old growth succulents I inherited from my husbands grandmother. Are they not stunning?!

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Here is a simple unassuming succulent display I have near my front door entrance.

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A close up of the rubbery leaves.

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Simple succulents resting on unfinished ash tree table in the backyard.

My favorite bunch of succulents making the backyard table (which my hubby made out of repurposed wood) look even more amazing.

Keep posted for a feature on our transformed backyard that my husband built himself from the ground up 🙂 

 

 

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Paleo Pumpkin Custard Cups

Are you looking for a dessert that is quick, easy and nutritious?  Can’t be true right?  Nope, it’s true!! These pumpkin cups are amazing. You MUST try them. Pumpkin is a great source of dietary fiber and pure maple syrup (not the fake kind) is loaded with over 50 compounds that help regulate blood sugar, decrease inflammation and even help ward off cancer forming cells. Im not saying that you should chug pure maple syrup everyday, but you may want to consider replacing table sugar and other sweeteners for it (of course, if you are diabetic please consult your practitioner first). My mother in law first introduced me to these scrumptious desserts a few months ago and since then i’ve made countless batches tweaking the recipe each time till I found the best balance of flavors. Here it is 🙂

Paleo Pumpkin Custard Cups

1 can pumpkin

1 can coconut milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger powder

1 tsp cinnamon (you can add more if you really like it! I usually do.)

2 eggs

pinch of salt

*You will also need 4 or 5 small ramekins and a baking pan big enough to fit the ramekins in.

 Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

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 Mix away!

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Place ramekins inside baking dish and fill with the pumpkin mixture. After the ramekins are full, fill the baking dish with an inch of water. This helps to not dry them to a crisp in the oven 🙂

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Place in the oven uncovered and bake for 90 minutes. Keep in mind cooking times may be less if you have shallow ramekins. When they are done they should  be somewhat firm to the touch and have a very small amount of browning on top. I like to shave a little bit of maple sugar on top right before serving-yum! They can be served hot or cold. Enjoy!!

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One Pretty Awesome Sunscreen!

If you are anything like me, 20 minutes in the sun will leave you with some sweet tan lines and a nice burn. I guess thats what predominantly german genes buys me :). On a beautiful day you really don’t want to spend most of the day indoors, you want to enjoy it right?! Me too! With that said, we all know it’s pretty darn important (especially for the fair skinned) to slather up with sunscreen before enjoying some fun in the sun, even if its just sitting on your patio with a good read. Unfortunately, most sunscreens leave you either feeling massively sticky, greasy or white as a ghost (thank you zinc oxide). This is even more true if you like to stay away from the chemical based sunscreens and stick with the mineral based ones. I am all about natural, you all know this, but I just cannot get over the white look and the heavy feel of the mineral sunscreens which use a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to block UVA and UVB rays. If you feel the same way I’ve got a solution! I present below Coola Classic sunscreen for the body and for the face :). The only sunscreen I am willing to wear every single day.

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This sunscreen utilizes organic ingredients, is broad spectrum with an SPF of 30 and is oxybenzone free!!!  Whats oxybenzone you ask? Well, its a very common ingredient in mainstream sunscreens that has recently been suspected as hazardous to the body. It is correlated with endocrine disruption, cellular dysplasia and photoallergic skin reactions. Why use a sunscreen that contains it if one without works just as well?  In addition, Coolas sunscreen is NOT at all greasy and smells amazing! It offers a silky smooth feel, mostly organic ingredients and broad spectrum SPF coverage. It is a little pricey for a sunscreen but in my opinion is 100% worth it. Give it a try, you can thank me later 🙂 http://www.coolasuncare.com

 

Calling Dr. Google

Admit it, if you are like most people suffering from an ailment you do a quick google search to seek answers or a diagnosis for your problem. However innocent your initial search is, it can lead you down a slippery slope of misinformation and inevitably create fear and questions of “what if?” As a nurse, and a future nurse practitioner I would advise against googling your symptoms but as a normal person I fully admit I am 100% guilty of this crime. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times i’ve worked myself into a tizzy over what google told me I had. As a medical professional I know how bad this is, but yet human nature tends to take over and curiosity prevails. Now in reality I know that its easier said than done, no one is going to abandon the wealth of information that google has to offer- but there is good information and bad information out there and if searching you must be able to discern the difference. You also have to have a plan on what you will do with the information you obtain, will you take that information to your Dr. to help in diagnosis or will you ruminate and create even more anxiety for yourself? More than likely you will come across something that says you are in great peril and that you might die from said illness, but rest easy, 99% of the time YOU WILL BE FINE!  Here are a few of my tips that I would tell all my patients.

  • If you are going to google, after you type in your symptom(s) use the word “emedicine” after to help google to bring up accurate information. For example; you google “bad headache” you get a bunch of nonsense that comes up (i.e., peoples personal accounts of terrible things that have happened to them, brain tumors, stroke, ruptured aneurysm etc…) but if you google “bad headache emedicine” you will get medscape articles and information that is far more accurate to what may actually be happening to you.
  • Always remember that you will come across something that will scare you, but keep in mind that even reputable medical websites        have to list the good, the bad and the ugly and 99% of the time you are not dying!
  • Take the information you find that you have concerns about and bring them to your healthcare provider. They will be able to answer your questions and if they feel necessary (based on your symptoms) provide you with the appropriate testing to help diagnose you.
  • If you are highly concerned about what you find online, and it is after hours for your providers practice you can always utilize the nurse staffed call lines that most insurance companies offer. They will ask you for your symptoms and be able to triage the degree of your illness based on certain algorithms. Keep in mind they cannot offer a diagnosis, but can tell you if its best to go to the hospital, urgent care clinic, your doctors office, or wait it out. These lines are usually staffed 24/7 by highly qualified RNs and trust me when I say this- RNs often know more than you think 🙂

I hope this provides you with a start in helping you to use google responsibly when searching your symptoms. It can be a curse, or a savior depending on how you use the information, and remember- 99% of the time you are going to be fine 🙂 Take a deep breath and relax!

Crash Course in Organic Gardening

I must first start this off by saying that I am VERY new to organic gardening and gardening in general so this is also a learning experience for me.  My husband and I made the choice to grow organically for many reasons, the obvious being that we want to limit the amount of chemicals we ingest through food. If we are afforded beautiful summer and fall months here in Buffalo that allow us to grow our own food this is what we do. Its economically and fiscally responsible and it makes you feel great knowing that YOU grew this beautiful veggie that you’re about to eat and you know EXACTLY how it was grown. However, organic gardening has its many challenges, namely managing pests biologically.  Our garden this year got a great start, we are pretty terrible at propagating seedlings so we enlisted a local organic certified farmer to grow our seedlings for us.  When we got our babies we planted them in nutrient rich well tilled soil and covered them with worm compost. Great beginnings are even more important when organically growing. Why? Well, healthy plants have the best chance of  warding off common garden pests. Pest such as aphids, mites, cabbage worms etc… will seek out plants that are already in peril because they are easy targets, weak, and still provide them with the “juice” they are looking for.  Despite having healthy plants, it is almost inevitable that some happy little bug will find its way to your organic love patch 🙂 Below are a few little buggers who’ve made our garden their happy home this year. IMG_0362

While checking on the garden some late afternoon I noticed that a few of our shishito pepper plants looked a little sad. The leaves were yellowing and curling in and upwards from the tip of the plant towards the stem. I immediately recognized the signs, and sure enough as soon as I flipped the leaf over a family of aphids were happily feeding.

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What we have here are tell tale holes in the greens.  You might think that these are from a pest that zooms in, eats and then zooms away keeping its identity under wraps unless you catch them in the act. Nope, all you have to do is flip the leaf over to reveal the true culprit.

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Hi! Im a loathed cabbage worm/cabbage looper!!  I like to eat your greens-All of them!!  If you notice a lot of white butterflies hanging around your garden and plenty of holes dabbling the leaves of your edible greens this little guy is most likely hiding out under the leaves and feasting away.  So as an organic gardener what can you do? Well, what I would suggest is to check on your garden every day, yes EVERYDAY.  By keeping a keen eye on your plants you can detect subtle changes and catch an invasion before it gets really out of hand. For example, I was able to catch the aphids very early and the population was small enough for me to just use my hands to smoosh them and their eggs away. For the cabbage worm you can hand pick them off as well, but there is a bacterium available that these worms do not like that can be easily applied to the plants. It’s called Bacillus thuringiensis. We also use Captain Jacks Deadbug Brew which contains the all natural bacterium originally sourced from an abandoned rum distillery in the the caribbean named Spinosad. Both of these are great options for pest control in organic gardening. Happy Gardening!

Beautiful Versatile Lavender

Lavender is such an amazing versatile flower to have in your garden. For starters, it’s beautiful blooms attract pollinators like butterflies and honeybees as well as being naturally resistant to damaging bugs such as aphids. If you live in an area where deer are abundant (like I do) lavender also acts as a deterrent. Deer, skunk, rabbits and other small mammals nasal passages get irritated by the strong scent and choose to leave the plant alone, perfect!! IMG_0381

This particular lavender plant (pictured above) my husband and I picked up on a trip to New Hope Pennsylvania last May at Peace Valley Lavender Farm. Such an adorable town to visit if you get the chance!

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Nonetheless, you can also cook with lavender, make your own eco friendly products or dry the lavender stems and make a bouquet that’ll add a nice and amazing smelling addition to your home.