I’m Kimbesa

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March Is For Maple Syrup

maple syrup and syrup pitcherEvery Saturday and Sunday in March is a day for maple syrup somewhere. Producers, public parks, even restaurants, organize special events to celebrate this North American treat during the season.

In states known for maple production, you’ll even find entire weeks devoted to it.

Eating pancakes with maple syrup is the immediate draw to these events. And if you’ve never had the real thing, I encourage you to try it. It’s so good, and you may never go back to anything else once you’ve had the best.

Any day you want, or a weekend, can be Maple Syrup Day at your house. You’ll need to get some syrup, of course, and the fixings to make pancakes. Along with a good skillet or griddle (stove top or electric) and you’re in business.

Then invite some hungry pancake eaters. Making pancakes is a quantity project. Hard to make only one or two.

I recommend practicing on smaller size pancakes, about 3 or 4 inches in diameter, using a recipe or mix for some good buttermilk pancakes, unless you have experience with other flavors.

And I really like a griddle because it’s open. It’s easier to flip on a large open space with no sides.

A well seasoned skillet certainly works. It just takes practice.

The most popular electric griddle on Amazon is a smaller model, which works well when making pancakes for a few people, at home or in your RV. I see it as a good way to develop and test your flap jack making skills as well.

The Presto Cool Touch is about 10 by 16 inches in size and it has a non-stick finish. It’s immersible and dishwasher safe after you remove the electrical control. Priced under $25, you can learn on this one, and if you graduate to making pancakes for a crowd, upgrade to a larger model.

Visit Maple Syrup Festivals

sugar maple tree tapped for sap to make maple syrupAnother way to celebrate March as Maple Syrup Month is to organize an outing to the woods, or sugar bush, if you live in an area where syrup is produced.

That means New England, the Great Lakes and Eastern Canada.

It’s interesting and educational to see how maple tree sap is boiled down to become maple syrup. A search online will help you find programs in your area.

Some areas even have events where you can participate in tapping the trees and making the syrup.

If you decide to do this, be sure to check ahead. The sap won’t run if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Many of us are looking for spring, come March, when we’re often tired of winter. Maple syrup is one of those things that lets us know that it won’t be long.

Pancakes with maple syrup on a cold Saturday or Sunday morning…I can think of worse ways to spend the longer days when spring is not too far away.



Easter Home Decorating Ideas

Easter home decorating and alternative giftsAs you’re decorating your home for Easter, the subject of Easter baskets is bound to come up.

Are there alternatives to a candy-filled Easter basket, to treat any age group? Easter is early this year (March 31, 2013) but there’s still time to plan.

Stores are stocking up, you’ll have lots of variety to choose from, whether you’ll look for new goods or vintage items.

Thrift stores are one of my favorite plates to get ideas and find unique items to use at home, and to decorate for eclectic parties and table settings. New and vintage items can easily mix around an Easter theme.

Outline Your Easter Decorating Ideas

Light color: Easter is often about pastels, because they are also considered spring colors. Pink, blue, green and yellow convey lightness to your décor.

Bold color: Emerald Green is Color of the Year for 2013, as designated by the color experts at Pantone. That’s a full, rich green that can be a backdrop for just about any other Easter element you want to bring to it. Peacock Blue, Honeysuckle Pink and Goldenrod Yellow are some other bold colors that provide the background for an eye-catching Easter display.

Motif: Cute baby chicks, bunnies and eggs in all shapes and sizes are perfect for Easter. Using toys and figurines, for example, you can set up your display long before Easter and it will last as long as you need it.

Symbols: Religious items that mix with your family’s beliefs, or items that have special meaning that comes into harmony with the traditions of Easter can be the centerpiece for a holiday decorating scheme. This could be items that say “renewal” to you, or special treasures from the history of your family and friends.

Mix and match home décor is fun to create and enjoy. Once you determine a starting place, write yourself some notes, and do a little scouting to see some of the possibilities, the ideas will flow.

More Tips For Easter Home Decorating

Decide on the main goal for your Easter decorating. Is it for a special Sunday dinner, or a kids Easter party? You’ll want to choose items that serve the end results.

Print out item info that you find online. This is one easy way to keep track of your finds.

Collect color samples such as fabric swatches or paint chips. You may not be painting a room to get ready for Easter, but the colors will help you keep track of your palette.

Shop your own cabinets and storage spaces for things to use. Pull out some of the family treasures that don’t see daylight very often, if they are appropriate to your holiday plan, and see them in a new light. After all, Easter is traditionally a time of renewal.

Take a tour of your favorite stores, and looks at their special Easter displays. New goods are coming into the marketplace all the time, and you may find something new is the perfect piece to tie your décor together, such as, a special tablecloth with all the right colors and motifs.

Remember thrift stores for vintage finds. You might just find some of grandma’s china, that you can incorporate into your special Easter celebration, or another unique and thoughtful gift for the people close to you.

Then just set your budget, and you’re on your way to creating a charming setting for your Easter celebration at home.

baby chicks toy for EasterAbout the photos: Examples of non-candy Easter theme items. China egg cup, vintage stoneware bunny figurine, new baby chicks toys (See  Schleich toys available on Amazon) and a cute chicken weathervane place card holder.

See more ideas in my gallery of gift ideas here, Alternative Easter Basket Alternatives And Non-Candy Easter Gift Ideas.


Time Change – Atomic Clocks Set Themselves

Spring is coming and it’s time to reset the clocks. Self-setting satellite or atomic clocks take care of the time change themselves.

satellite clocksThis month we spring forward for Daylight Saving Time in North America. I find that losing the hour is a tougher adjustment than adding the hour in the fall. But one bright spot is my atomic clock. I enjoy gadgets that save me time.

Because these clocks update themselves automatically, they get my vote for one of the best home electronic devices.

Top benefits of satellite clocks

  • Save time by resetting themselves when the time changes
  • Battery operated, no resetting if the power goes out
  • Styles and sizes for any room decor
  • Extra features, like weather, can make them more useful

I’ve been so happy with the clocks I have that I wrote a product showcase for atomic and satellite clocks (link will take you to my Squidoo lens). Check out the Oregon Scientific model, comparable to my Sharper Image clock.

Self-setting clocks are available in all kinds of styles and sizes, small and large. Alarm clocks and wall clocks. There are models with built-in radios, weather stations and even displays that show the phases of the moon. Many are digital, but there are also analog versions.

Use search terms like satellite, atomic, self-setting or radio controlled in the description of the item, to locate even more models.

Satellite clocks are very accurate. They reference the time via a radio connection to the US Atomic Clock in Colorado. The reference clocks use the vibration of cesium atoms to keep ultra-accurate time, so exact that the error rate is only one second in 100 million years.

These clocks use batteries, and are handy when there’s a power outage too.

The model I have includes a time projection feature, which is fun and practical. No fumbling around if you want to see the time on the ceiling all the time. Just plug in the clock and let the battery act as a back up feature. For occasional time projection, batteries alone work fine. The room does need to be dark. You won’t see the time if there is any ambient light.

When it’s time to change my other clocks, I use my little atomic clock as the reference, and carry it around as I reset the other clocks. When I add or replace a clock, I’m getting another self-setting model.

I use the Fourth of July as my battery changing date, for these clocks, smoke detectors and similar items. I love having clocks that keep time on their own, truly a practical, set-it-and-forget-it item for the home.

Add a Bat House to Your Property

When you host a bat house, you provide a replacement for disappearing bat habitat. A bat house is an eco-friendly gift for the gardener or homeowner, including yourself.

A colony of bats will eat hundreds or thousands of mosquitoes or other insect pests every day during the season. They shy away from humans, and migrate in the winter.

Installing a bat house in the fall will give it time to weather a little, making it more likely to attract some beneficial bats into your environment.

Our guest blogger and fellow Ezinearticles author, Bob Urbanek, is just one provider of pre-built bat houses.

The Benefits of Installing a Bat House

By Bob Urbanek

Mosquitoes and other flying pests can ruin a relaxing summer evening on the patio. The first reaction for most people is to grab the repellent, but there is an effective pesticide-free alternative.

Contrary to popular belief bats are not the hideous creatures portrayed in the horror movies. Bats do not attack humans or intentionally fly into your hair. The truth is that bats play a vital role in the control of insects.

A single bat can consume from 600 to 1200 insects in just one hour, more if nursing young. Just imagine how out of control the insect populations would be if there were no bats to keep them in check.

Sadly, bat populations are declining at an alarming rate. Currently close to 40 percent of American bat species are listed as endangered, threatened, or in rapid decline. The result of this decline in bat populations is an increasing insect population, and a marked increase in the use of toxic pesticides.

By installing a properly designed bat house you can help to increase the declining bat population, thus helping to preserve this valuable ecological resource.

Bats prefer to live in colonies, so at least a mid-sized bat house is recommended. These mid-sized houses can support a colony of 100 to 300 bats. A bat colony numbering 300 can consume 360,000 mosquitoes and insects per hour.

Your bat house should be mounted on a pole or building for best results. Houses mounted on trees tend to have a lower occupancy rate. Your bat house should be mounted under the eves and receive some sun exposure. A mounting height of 15 to 20 feet above ground is optimal, as well as a location that is not exposed to bright lights at night.

By installing a bat house you not only reduce insect populations around your home, you are also helping to protect a very valuable ecological resource.

View the most popular bat house. We make it easy for you to add that special touch to your lawn and garden! URB Distributing

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com

Why Should Gardeners Use Native Plants in a Landscape?

In Michigan in the fall, we’re thinking about planting spring flowering bulbs and getting gardens ready for the winter.

In the same season, my friend and guest blogger, Wanda Fitzgerald, is planting tomatoes and cool weather crops…and working on her landscaping.

Wanda an accomplished gardener, among many other talents. She loves using native plants in her Florida home garden.

Plants that are too tender to grow outdoors all year in my garden, due to our Michigan winters, are just right in Florida. And since gardeners think on a year-round level, it can inspire your garden planning, no matter what climate or gardening zone you have in your garden.

Why should gardeners use native plants in a landscape?

By Wanda Fitzgerald

gardening with native plants Passion flowerOne reason, especially in Florida, is that people visit the state to enjoy the unique natural habitats, so why not use some of the 2,800 native species of plants and trees that grow so well here in our home landscapes? After all, 1 out of every 12 Florida native plants are found in Florida and nowhere else. Planting them in a garden gives a unique esthetic appeal that no other place in the world has.

Florida has a number of different ecosystems. There are swamps and mangrove swamps, sand hills and scrub lands, bottom-land and up-land hardwoods, flat woods, and tropical hammocks. The variety and number of native species in Florida is vast, and the interest in using them in home gardens is growing.

There are other reasons for landscaping with native plants:

  • First, if chosen correctly they will require less irrigation and therefore will reduce the amount of water needed in communities. In most areas of Florida there are water restrictions for home lawns and landscapes so it’s vital to keep the consumption to a minimum.
  • Additionally because these plants have evolved over centuries to thrive in their natural habitats they will require less fertilizer and pesticides. Using fewer chemicals in the landscape will reduce the amount of runoff water and the lakes will be less contaminated.
  • Also native plants provide the habitat for many types of birds, butterflies, and pollinating insects.
  • And finally the natural look of native plants can help to change the monotony of the typical suburban garden. Many of them are fragrant and brightly colored, adding seasonal changes to the surroundings.

When choosing landscape plants:

  • Consult a local garden center that has specific knowledge about natives.
  • Use their expertise and support their business. They will sell plants that have been grown in pots and will not be stressed when moved to a home garden.
  • Never dig plants from the wild to bring home and use in a garden. There are many natives that are illegal to dig in Florida because they are scarce or endangered. And removing them will harm the delicate ecosystems and wildlife they support. In most cases they don’t do well when transplanted. Try taking cuttings or collecting seeds instead.

The notion that a natural landscape is not as attractive as the typical plantings installed in communities is not always accepted anymore. As native plant landscaping becomes more main stream in Florida more homeowners and gardeners will gain awareness of natural habitats and wildlife. And as more native plants are being grown specifically for home landscape use, their popularity will increase and both people and the wildlife and vegetation in Florida will benefit.

If you love to garden in Florida read more about it at Florida Native Gardening, and Florida Blueberry Gardening. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com.

Rose Care Tips for Beautiful Blooms

Rose gardeningRoses are pretty easy to grow if you learn about them and follow some simple guidelines.

Watering, fertilizing and pruning are essential rose care tasks.

Roses should be watered deeply, especially in this hot summer weather. They should get at least an inch of water every week.

As long as you have planted your roses in humus-rich, balanced soil, you shouldn’t need to give them more than one inch of water per week.

Always water your roses in the morning so their leaves will have time to dry before dark. Otherwise your roses can get Blackspot, Powdery Mildew or other diseases. Watering systems that only water the soil and not the leaves, such as drip irrigation hoses, are even better.

Roses need to be pruned regularly. You should use a good, sharp pair of pruning shears to nip faded flowers, and trim away dead or damaged branches, as well as any brown leaves.

Do not compost any diseased trimmings, because the pile may not get hot enough to destroy the disease organisms.

Fertilizing Roses

Roses are voracious eaters. They consume large amounts of soil nutrients, so you must feed them lightly but often each time. Stop feeding about two months before the first expected fall frost. In Michigan, that means finish feeding around the end of July.

The American Rose Society alfalfa tea recipe for roses has been around for quite a few years. Be aware: it smells! It is generally applied in fall. It stimulates the roses to release a special growth hormone that will help them build a strong root system.

To make this tea, take a 32-gallon plastic trash can and add 10 cups of alfalfa pellets, then enough water to cover them. Alfalfa pellets come from a feed store where you buy bags of food for horses or other grazing animals. Get the pellets that are just plain alfalfa, with no molasses or other additives.

Then you steep this tea for about five days, stirring it daily. After about three days, the smell will be apparent, so keep the lid on.

You can add nutrients by adding 2 cups of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). Some growers add trace elements or their other “secret” ingredients to this brew.

This recipe makes a concentrated fertilizer tea. Dilute the mixture by adding water to fill the trash can at least half way before you water your plants.

Large rose bushes should receive about a gallon of this tea, and mini roses should get about 1/3 of a gallon. After you use all of the water, you can add more water to the pellets in the bottom to make a second batch. After the second batch, discard the pellets.

Some growers prefer just to sprinkle the pellets around their roses, and water them in. This treatment, repeated three times during the summer, will also benefit your roses if you don’t wish to make the tea.

With proper food and water, you can look forward to lovely and fragrant roses. The healthier your rose bushes, the more resistant to disease they will be and the more flowers they will produce.

With some basic care, your roses can be healthy and beautiful all season long, and for many seasons to come. You can continually enjoy and even show off your rose-growing talents!

Make Homemade Jam to Start Preserving at Home

homemade jam strawberry pineappleAny time of year is the right season for certain kinds of fresh produce. So, any time is a great time to start, or rekindle, your interest in home preserving.

I’ve made jam and canned a variety of foods. It is not difficult, but like many other things, it will work best with the right tools and some understanding of why certain steps are necessary to the process.

If you want to teach yourself home preserving (generically called canning, though you most likely will be using glass jars, not metal cans), making strawberry or pineapple jam is a great place to start. These are popular fruits. If you have another favorite, of course, certainly that would be good for you.

Jam is basically fruit, sugar and pectin. I recommend using fresh fruit make your jam, if your mission is to leave out all the unnecessary additives?

Use good quality fruit, proper tools, and you can have a row of beautiful jam jars to eat at your house, or to give as gifts.

I wrote a product guide to showcase some of the available books and tools for home preserving. Check out my product guide here.

Basic Tools to Start Home Preserving

  • The big enameled pot called a “canner” is large enough to do quart jars as well. For the water bath method, you need room around the jars for the boiling water to circulate.
  • The rack that goes in the canner is designed to keep the jars from jostling each other in the boiling water. Also, it is very efficient to lift the jars in and out of the water. The handles move further apart, and they have an “elbow” designed to allow you rest the rack on the rim of the pot. Remember that this will be a load of hot glass jars, so you will want to be efficient.
  • The jar lifter is a large tongs, with a curved section in the middle to fit around the neck of the jar. It has heat-resistant handles and rubberized grip designed to give you a firm hold on a jar.
  • The lid lifter has a magnet on a wand, used to grab a hot, sterilized lid out of hot water, so that you can put it on your jar of jam or other food.
  • The wide mouth funnel is very handy, too, because you want to be efficient in filling your jars, and you want to keep food off the rim. The jars won’t seal properly unless the edges of the rims are clean when the lids are applied.
  • A supply of canning jars, bands and lids are needed to store your product. Canning jars are often sold in boxes of a dozen, and some of them come with one set of bands and lids, but be sure to check. There are jar sizes starting at a half pint, all the way up to a gallon. Pints and quarts are very popular, but the small sizes are great for jam and jelly.
  • Beautiful labels are available, so that you can get to decoratively label your jars for home use or for gifts.

Jam is just one of the foods on the list of fruit-based preserves. There are also jellies, marmalades and chutneys. Beyond those, favorite foods to can at home include tomatoes (plain, and all the variety of sauces), pickles (a huge variety), vegetables and many others.

If you are a member of a local farm, though a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA), then home canning will help you preserve all the beautiful fruits and vegetables that you receive in your family food box.

It is very satisfying, on a cold winter’s evening, to pull a beautiful jar of home canned produce from your kitchen pantry, and enjoy some of home-preserved bounty for dinner.

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