Category Archives: Gifts

Gardeners in the Kitchen

I always order several lettuces and spring greens

A good place to start your garden seed order is by leafing through your favorite cookbooks. Renee Shepherd’s cookbooks showcase the best of garden fresh cuisine. Who better to write a cookbook than the person who grows a bountiful vegetable garden?

Renee’s Garden has two cookbooks, “Recipes From A Kitchen Garden” and “More Recipes From A Kitchen Garden.” My cookbooks are tabbed, with penciled notes in the margins and dog-eared. These two very affordable cookbooks ($12.95) have a few food splashes and the occasional sticky fingerprint.

Horseradish is the herb of the year 2011. I’ve ordered ”

Both Cookbooks will inspire you to grow more veggies from seed.

Tricolor Bush” beans and the skinny French “haricot vert,” that are bright green beans “Rolande. I am predicting that Chilled Green Beans with Creamy Horseradish Dressing and Green beans with Basil-Walnut Vinaigrette are going to be garden party and alfresco dining hits.

Best of all, these two dishes are make-ahead recipes that will develop flavor while chilling in the fridge. These two recipes are in the first cookbook, Recipes from a Kitchen Garden.

As an herb gardener, I love that Renee’s cookbooks incorporate edible flowers and fresh herbs in many of the recipes. With these cookbooks, you will enjoy fresh recipe ideas all season.

baby romaines

3 for Thursday Roses

Three for Thursday, sponsored by Cindy at My Corner of Katy

Dick Clark roses

Crown Princess Margareta Climbing ® (Auswinter) David Austin

coral double rose named “Show Boat" StoryBook Roses

Read about these little Coral doubles at

Go to  StoryBook Roses or To Order Storybook Roses™, call 1(800) 770-2777

A Garden Lovers Valentine

These are the kind of flowers a gardener loves to get:

Shirley poppies are a fragrant heirloom

Valentine’s Day Special at Renee’s Garden 20% off through Feb. 14 on selected “lover-ly”  flowers  that are sure to win the heart of that Special Someone.

I, of course, went a little nuts ordering Shirley Poppies, “Falling in Love” (Papaver rhocas) because I think you can never have too many poppies. There are other selections in this sale, including a fragrant heirloom sweet pea.

Most new or inexperienced gardeners wait too long before they plant poppies. In my zone 6 garden, I will sow poppies in Feb or March. I direct sow these teeny, tiny seed in the garden two months before  tomatoes.

Oh, attention sweethearts everywhere: though it is a loving gesture, the purchase of flower seeds does not let one off the hook for chocolate.

See you in Renee’s Community Garden.

Stray dogs and Christmas Cactus

I have whined and complained sufficiently that Jules no longer brings home stray dogs or abandoned cats. Do have a peek here to get your pet trained in no time. He does however bring home sad and ugly plants. He went to the grocery store the other day and brought home this Christmas Cactus. “It was only a buck,” he said.

An abandoned plant just fell in Jules grocery cart.

Rebloom Christmas Cactus

After your Christmas cactus blooms, prune it to encourage the plant to branch out.

Christmas Cactus is a tropical type cactus that is not as drought tolerent as the name implies. Keep the plant in a well-lit location away from drafts, heat vents, fireplaces or other sources of dry, hot air. Fertilize April to October.

A succulant like Christmas Cactus holds lots of water in the leaves and can tolerate dry soil better than wet soil. When the soil is dry to the touch, thoroughly water. Do not leave the plant in standing water. Well-drained soil is a must. Root rot from too much water kills most houseplants.

In the summer I will take the cactus outside in a shady place. Keep out of direct sun or the leaves will burn. Gradually get the cactus plant used living indoors by bringing it in for longer periods each day.

I will water the Christmas cactus, fretilze it, and probably repot it.

The naturally longer nights and cool temperatures in late summer will encourage flower development.

Rebloom Christmas Cactus for the holidays with long uninterrupted dark periods beginning in mid-October. Store your Christmas Cactus in an unused closet, a basment or a garage where the plant gets uninterupted dark periods. Give it only occasional water. Ignore your cactus for about six or eight weeks or, until buds start forming.

Christmas cactus will also bloom if they are subjected to cool temperatures beginning in early November. Ideal temps are 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Bring into bright indirect light when buds begin to form.  It is about this time of the year when Jules reclaims his plant.


Pinch off sections of each stem or cut with a sharp knife. You can root new plants from the pinched sections in damp vermiculite. Give all these cutting to guests who gushed over how beautiful your Christmas Cactus was this Christmas.

To transplant your Christmas Cactus you will need to use a potting mix for succulents. Buy potting mix or make your own succulent potting mix with two parts plain potting soil and one part clean vermiculite. Select a pot that is the next size bigger. The need som now potting soul but not a lot of room.

All the neighbor ladies will admire his plant and his growing skills. And he will share little cuttings in vermiculite with the ladies. He will get hugs. And they will tell me how lucky I am.

Then he gets another hug and may be a big red hat kiss, plus a pat on the back.

And I will chase after half the ladies who forgot to get the Christmas cutting.

Fiskars Indoors and Out

Bypass pruner

Where are your Fiskars? In the tool shed, sewing basket, crafts drawer, and in the office.


I had a light bulb moment today. At lunch with my scrap booking girlfriends, Fiskars craft tools came up. They were talking about crafting with Fiskers equipment like stamping tools, punches and paper trimmers they use in craft projects.

Who knew? I just thought Fiskars made some of the best garden tools I own. That is when we punched in Fiskars on our ipods.

“They make sewing stuff,” Liz said.

“I use those orange scissors all the time,” said Gail.

“I just thought they made these really cool paper punches.”

The Reel, Reinvented
(Momentum Reel Mower – Reviewed Spring 2011)

I have several pairs of Fiskars pruners in my garden tools box, all cleaned, ready and waiting for spring. There is also a Fiskars Momentum™ mower in the garage waiting to be tested with the first lawn mowing of 2011.

This is the reel thing.

I am looking forward to using the ergonomically designed mower that says it is much easier to handle, has StaySharp™ blades, and a greater cut range. Every Fiskars tool I’ve used so far has been easy to use and long lasting. But the Momentum™ is way more than the precision pruners I love.

When was the last time you heard anyone say they were looking forward to mowing?

Learn more about Fiskars products

Enter to win the Fiskars® Ultimate Scissors Collection. Giveaway package featuring 8 premium pairs of scissors. Deadline is February 20th, 2011.

Pruning Stik® Telescoping Tree Pruner

The 12′ Pruning Stik® Telescoping Tree Pruner was a big help after last years winter storms. It’s the easiest overhead pruner I’ve used. This is much easier to control

Branson’s weekend of magic and miracles

Hamner Barber

Miracle of Christmas is the largest faith based live theatrical performance, Miracle of Christmas, in America. A 300-foot-long stage wraps around a theatrical production that surrounds the audience on three sides. The actors and animals move through the theater aisles and angels fly over head.

It is dramatic presentation of the Christmas story – Jesus coming to earth in human form. With more than 45 actors telling a story of kings, angels, shepherds and the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

Sight & Sound Theatres, 1001 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, Branson MO 65616, phone 800-377-1277. E-mail: Tickets may be purchased at the box office, by visiting the website, or by calling 800-377-1277. The show is 2 hours and 20 minutes, including an intermission.

Check the calender for specific dates. Miracle of Christmas runs through – Dec 30, 2009.

Cost For 1-14 ADULTS :$47, CHILD :$16, TEEN :$23. Groups of 15 or more are ADULTS: $44.65 , CHILD: $$16.00, and TEEN $$23.00.

Chateau on the Lake – Branson, Missouri’s only AAA Four-Diamond Hotel, Spa & Convention Center. 415 North State Highway 265 • Branson, Missouri 65616
Toll Free: 1-888-333-LAKE (5253) • Phone: (417) 334-1161 • Fax: (417) 339-5566

Stay Three Nights for the Price of Two
between now and November 30th, plan to stay a minimum of three consecutive nights – Sunday through Thursday before December 16th, 2010 – and the THIRD NIGHT IS ON US!
Enjoy all our Chateau amenities – indoor pool and hot tub, fitness facility, nature trail, tennis courts, nightly movies in Sassafras Theatre and free indoor parking.
New Year’s Eve Special Celebrate 2011 at the Chateau on the Lake!! Availability:
12/31/2010 – 12/31/2010

Where to eat
Branson Cafe – come celebrate the Branson’s cafe’s 100th anniversary.
120 W Main St., Branson MO 65616
Phone: 417-334-3021, E-mail:

More to do
I like to have a little bit of magic and mystery in this old world. That brings me to Happiness is an Illusion Hamner Barber Variety Show is laugh out loud funny with comedy, dance, magic and ventriloquism in one show. The second half of the show is their holiday show: Wings of Christmas Hamner Barber also has one of Branson’s most touching tributes to veterans. “Thank You’s Not Enough,” is a heartwarming multimedia finale that has audiences on their feet.

Christmas Limo Lights Tour
Make this Christmas season a memorable one for you, your family, friends, or a company Christmas party.

Sit back and enjoy some sparkling cider while listening to your favorite Christmas music in one of our warm and luxurious limousines. Please call for details, we would be happy to help you plan your Christmas or New Year’s Eve event.
Make reservations online or call (417) 331.1316

• 4 Passenger Luxury Sedan – $130.00*
• 10 Passenger Super Stretch Limousine – $240.00*
Prices are for a Two-Hour Tour (6-8 PM or 8:30-10:30 PM
Make reservations online or call (417) 331.1316

For more information: Chamber of Commerce & CVB Visitor Welcome Center.

Welcome Center is at the intersection of U.S. 65 and Highway 248 (Red Route). Make this you first stop in Branson for friendly faces, free maps, brochures, Branson Vacation Guides, coffee and clean restrooms.

Branson – regarded as the “Live Music Show Capital of America,” Branson features more than 100 live shows every day.

Muck Boots for Christmas

Muck Boots for gardeners

I bought a pair of these Muck boots two summers ago. And that’s why I am not showing you my shoes. I’ll be honest, I was not a great fan when they arrived in the mail. You have to admit that Muck Boots won’t be winning any footware beauty pagents.

But now, I love these garden shoes. They are confortable, easy to get on and off when I have my hands full of plants and tools. In the summer, I keep these shoes by the back door for quick on and off. After two years of season stretching garden work, these shoes are still in good shape.

The reason I’m telling you this is because these Muck Boots are on sale and any gardener would be delighted to find them under the Christmas tree. A  gift certificate wood be a great stocking stuffer.

Their website says “Muck Boots are the most comfortable, 100% waterproof rubber boots & shoes you’ll ever own. Whether you’re working hard on the farm, in your garden, hiking in the snow, slopp’n in the mud or standing on the sidelines at a sports event – your feet will be dry and warm.”

All this is true. But, I also like Muck Boots because they are not hot or heavy on my feet. The stretch-fit top keeps the gravel and dirt out of my shoes. The snug shoe top a handy feature that you may not appreciate until you put on other shoes.

I clean my Muck Boots with a garden hose.

Go to to order online. And you get free shipping. I’m just telling you this because I like mine and I know you will like them too.

Lynn and Brian Go to Branson

Bass Pro

I have good friends going to the Springfield and Branson area for an all too short getaway. I hope they have a much needed break, because after this weekend, Christmas shopping, decorating, baking, caroling begins in all our lives. Lynn and Brian McCreery own the The Irish Inn in Ozark, IL  USA

If they don’t have time for everything, maybe they can try some of these things: Branson Zipline is just North of Branson, off Hwy 65, easy to see the giant billboard. I wrote about it at Halloween time, but I think now is a good time to go. Leaf fall has made it easier to see the terrain from a fast flying birds eye view and, Brian, it may comfort you to know that they’ve never lost anyone, yet.

I like to have a little bit of magic and mystery in this old world. That brings me to Happiness is an Illusion Hamner Barber Variety Show is laugh out loud funny with comedy, dance, magic and ventriloquism in one show. Hamner Barber also has one of Branson’s most touching tributes to veterans. “Thank You’s Not Enough,” is a heartwarming multimedia finale that has audiences on their feet.

In Branson, not fancy just simply good. Eat Here:

Branson Cafe, this is authentic regional cuisine. Save room for pie.
or here:
I love the Grand Village and I love the Sugar Leaf Bakery/Cafe. No matter what you have, it will be good.

You will love Shoji’s Christmas Show and don’t miss the Titanic Exhibit.

Say “Hi!” to Molly and Carter.

(FREE Event Father Christmas will be at the Titanic with his reindeer on some weekends.)

In Springfield, help make the world a better place. Eat chocolate.

Don’t miss Askinoisie Chocolate This may be the purest chocolate you have ever eaten. It is made of only two things: Cacao and sugar.

Chocolate for a better world.

Askinosie Chocolate is a small batch bean to bar chocolate manufacturer. Shawn Askinoisie buys cacao directly from the farmers for more than market value. (most cacao farmers live in poverty). Askinosie is unique because each small batch is single-origin cocoa butter and nibs, plus you get to know exactly who grew your chocolate and where.
Askinoisie Chocolate 514 E Commercial St. Springfield, MO 65803 (417) 862-9900

Go Here. No, really. Bass Pro is Springfield’s biggest tourist attraction. Popcorn, Christmas dishes, warm socks. Really good warm socks, plus I bought a jacket on sale. They even have binoculars, GPS’ , knife sharpeners and hand warmers.

In Springfield, Eat Here:
Springfield Brewing Company, a local pub, seasonal beer, can’t wait to hear what you think, Lynn and Brian. Also, this is good food, lunch or dinner.

or eat here, Farmers Gastropub, sustainable, farm to table food. Not fancy, but the food is good and the beer is cold. 431 S. Jefferson, Ste. 160 (entrance on Pershing next to The Moxie), phone (417) 864-6994  is open 9:30-11 p.m. M-W and 9:30 a.m.-midnight Th-Sat, with Bistro Dining 6-9:30 p.m. Th-Sat

The Irish Inn

The Irish Inn is in the Shawnee National Forest in Southernmost Illinois. I’ve stayed at the Irish Inn. The hosts are charming, the rooms are beautifully appointed, the breakfast is unforgetable. I enjoyed our getaways to the Irish Inn, they are on the Shawnee wine trail and near orchards and vinyards. This may turn out to be one of you favorite B&Bs, too. Call (618) 695-3355 or (618) 695-5683.

The McCreerys are staying at  Dear’s Rest Bed and Breakfast in Ozark, MO. Owned by Allan and Linda Schilter, call 417 581 3839 or view the weboage The Dear’s Rest is half way between Springfield and Branson.

  • Visit  Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB and stop by the official Welcome Center of the Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) at the intersection of U.S. 65 and Highway 248 (Red Route). You’ll find friendly faces, free maps, brochures, Branson Vacation Guides, coffee and clean restrooms.

Christmas Shopping Done!

Jules and I made a holiday shopping deal. I tease him that Bass Pro Outdoor World is the original man cave chain. “Well I bet I can shop for you and get all your Christmas presents here too,” he challenged. And I said I could do all my shopping for him this year in Bass Pro.

Santa's on his way“

This seems like a doable and more precisely a winable challenge. One more thing you should know: Jules and I are not hunters or campers and I only trout fish rarely, and then it’s catch and release.

This is how we spent the better part of a day in one store and got all our Christmas shopping done. We had a lunch break at Hemingways. If you have kids in tow, they can have bunches of fun at Bass Pro.

For the Kids:
Santa’sWonderland where there is over 3,500 square feet of free holiday magic. With elves moving trains, arcades, free craft activities and even make and take tree ornaments on weekends.

Bass Pro has the old fashioned Magical Wonderland where the post man takes your letters to Santa. There are even free pictures with Santa. Go to to check times for photos through December 24. The Wonderland Santa is at every Bass Pro store.

There is a Thanksgiving 4-day sale and a seperate Black Friday 5 Hours Only Sale (November 26, 6am-11:00 pm)

More than hunting and camping equipment

Bass Pro Shops is an online sporting goods retailer that offers a large selection of hunting and fishing gear. Founded in 1971, they are one of the largest outdoor retailers in the United States

The granddaddy of all Bass Pro stores is in Springfield, MO. It is also a major tourist attraction in the state of Missouri. Bass Pro Shop:1935 S. Campbell, Springfield, MO 65807, Phone: 417-887-7334

GPS Coordinates: 37.1798ºN, 93.2973ºW (WGS84/NAD83)

To learn about accomodations in the Springfield area. Springfield, Missouri, Convention & Visitors Bureau, 3315 E. Battlefield Road- Springfield, MO 65804. 
Downtown Visitor Information Center, 815 E. Saint Louis St., Suite 100 – Springfield, MO 65806 
(800) 678-8767 or (417) 881-5300 – fax (417) 881-2231

Askinoise Chocolate

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners

Askinosie Chocolate – eating your way to a better world.  Askinosie Chocolate is a small batch bean to bar chocolate manufacturer located in Springfield, Missouri.

Because it’s Christmas, I want to share the amazing Askinosie Chocolate story. I’ve taken the tour a couple of times because I love Askinosie chocolate, and I admire entreprenuer Shawn Askinosie.

My BFF just sent The Chalk-late Box.™ It has a chalkboard-top that is a perfect way to send a message to friend or foe (remove the chocolate if sending to foe).

This is a top selling gift item on the website. The Chalk-late Box.™ It’s filled with four-85g Chocolate Bars: 70% San Jose Del Tambo Dark Chocolate Bar, 77% Davao Dark Chocolate Bar, 70% San Jose Del Tambo Nibble Bar™, and a Malted Moo Moo Dark Milk Chocolate Bar. It also comes with chalk and a blank top for easy customization. See all the gifts.

Price: The Chalk-late Box™ $43.

More good news: I can usually buy fragrant cocoa bean mulch, when I stop by the Askinoise chocolate factory at a fraction of the cost at Garden Centers.

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