Faux Mercury Glass Challenge

I love DIY projects especially when you can upcycle something that’s an ordinary household object like a jelly jar. Just recently my friend and modern pioneer, Georgia Pellegrini, challenged me to add my own twist to a DIY project from her latest book Modern Pioneering.

When I saw her painted mason jars I thought, “What can I do to give these a little Moss Mountain Farm style?” And I came up with just the pioneer ordered, a stylish mercury glass look. You see in the mid-1800s in America mercury glass was used as an affordable alternative to silver. My version of Georgia’s project is an inexpensive and easy way to recreate this 19th century life hack.

Materials for Making Faux Mercury Glass
Clean mason jars
Water
White Vinegar
Spray bottle
Paper towels
Looking Glass® spray paint

Directions for Making Faux Mercury Glass:
To begin fill the spray bottle with 1 part water and 1 water vinegar and shake.

Set the nozzle of the spray bottle to a fine mist setting.

Gently spray a fine mist of the water vinegar mixture on the outside of the mason jar. The objective is to create small droplets of water that bead up and do not run.

Immediately follow up with an even coat of the Looking Glass® spray. Allow the paint to dry for just a minute and then apply a second round of the water vinegar solution. Wait about two minutes then gently blot the beads of water vinegar solution with a paper towel. Don’t rub the surface very hard or the paint will streak. A gentle pressure is good enough to achieve a realistic mercury glass look. Repeat the process three to four times rotating the jar from resting on its base to the top so you can get full coverage.

The paint needs about three hours to dry completely before you use the jars.

So now that I’ve completed my challenge I’m kicking the ball back over to Georgia and asking her to recreate a project from one of my books. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see what she does and post pictures of your own DIY projects for a chance to win Georgia’s book Modern Pioneering and my cookbook, Seasonal Recipes from the Garden. When you post your picture tag @pallensmith and @georgiapellegrini and use the hashtag #modernpioneering.

Garden2Blog 2014

Garden 2 Blog is an annual event that I host at my farm where top garden bloggers from all over the country converge with industry leaders and discuss new trends. It’s really a highlight of the season and I am so looking forward to learning from it. I’m proud to call the Natural State my home and I’m excited to share it with a group of people who love being outside as much as I do. To show off some of the gardencentric characeristics of the capital city we’re going to take a tour of a few public gardens in Little Rock and the rooftop garden at the Clinton Library.

With 23 garden bloggers and 9 sponsors, we’ve got our hands full! I’m so grateful for our partners for making this event possible, because without them there would be no Garden2Blog. They are an exceptional group of industry leaders who are making great strides with their products, and I’m thrilled that they’re coming to share their knowledge.

It’s my pleasure to welcome bloggers because I’ve seen the work they do and am continually impressed with the way they merge the physical with the digital, the garden with the blog. Gardening goes back a long way in my family, and I’ve often felt that it was an art that was dying out through the generations. But these days, the virtual garden has helped revive gardening and green living. It’s now trendy to have a plot to garden in an urban setting, and this is partially due to the efforts of people sharing all the benefits of getting out in the garden online. The best part about it, though, is the wealth of knowledge becoming accessible for everyday people and new gardeners.

My mission is for us to grow in our passion for gardening by learning, and I hope that Garden2Blog 14 will advance that mission. Be sure to follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’ll post pictures and giveaway a few goodies.

#G2B14 Bloggers
Susan Fox www.GagasGarden.com
C.L. Fornari www.GardenLady.com
Rebecca Sweet HarmonyintheGarden.com
Lisa Steele www.Fresh-Eggs-Daily.com
Kathy Purdy www.ColdClimateGardening.com
Jan Bills TwoWomenandaHoe.com
Mary Beth Shaddix www.MaryBethShaddix.com
Christina Salwitz PersonalGardenCoach.wordpress.com
Robin Horton www.UrbanGardensWeb.com
Kylee Baumle OurLittleAcre.blogspot.com
Jenny Petterson www.JPetersonGardenDesign.com
Lamanda Joy TheYarden.com
Michael Nolan www.MyEarthGarden.com
Chris Van Cleave RedneckRosarian.wordpress.com
Teresa Byington TheGardenDiary.com
Robin Wedewer BumbleBeeBlog.com
Kenny Point www.VeggieGardeningTips.com
Steve Asbell www.TheRainForestGarden.com
Kelly Smith Trimble Blog.DIYNetwork.com/MadeRemade/
Jerusalem Greer www.JollyGoodeGal.com
Janet Carson UofACEsmg.wordpress.com
Linda Ly www.GardenBetty.com
Stephanie Buckley www.TheParkWife.com
Julie Thompson Adolf JuliesGardenDelights.com
Tina Wilcox www.OzarkFolkCenter.com/herbs/yarb_tales.aspx

Books Published by G2B14ers
A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together by Jerusalem Greer
Pick Fresh by Mary Beth Shaddix
Indoor Plant Décor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants by Jenny Peterson and Kylee Baumle
Four Seasons of Roses by Susan Fox
Color by Numbers by Steve Asbell
Fine Foliage by Christian Salwitz, co-authored with Karen Chapman
Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens….Naturally by Lisa Steele
Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture & Form by Rebecca Sweet
I Garden: Urban Style by Michael Nolan
The Creative Herbal Home by Tina Wilcox, co-authored with Susan Belsinger
Coffee for Roses by C.L. Fornari
A Garden Wedding by C.L. Fornari
The Cape Cod Garden by C.L. Fornari
A Garden Lover’s Cape Cod by C.L. Fornari
Gardening in Sandy Soil by C.L. Fornari
A Garden Lover’s Martha’s Vineyard by C.L. Fornari

Sponsors
Proven Winners
Jobe’s Orgranics
Laguna
Flexzilla
Bonnie Plants
Troy-Bilt
Le Creuset
Hubbard Life
United Solutions
U.S. Foods

Arkansas Eats

As an Arkansas native I’ve always known that we have some stellar places to eat. Everywhere I go in the state there is a fantastic feast waiting at a restaurant, diner or roadside stand. Which is good because I love food.

The state is famous for southern staples such as fried catfish, barbeque and pie but our food is also influenced by our proximity to the southwestern flair of Texas. As we are an agricultural community a traditional Arkansas meal always includes a generous helping of something that was grown nearby. Purple hull peas slow cooked with a ham hock, cornbread, sliced tomatoes and fried okra are all sides you’ll find on the dinner table in Arkansas.

We’ve never strayed far from our culinary roots, but the national trend for locally sourced ingredients has produced a number of sensational restaurants that specialize in home-style cooking with a contemporary twist. How about catfish served over a bed of hoppin’ John and fried okra? Or perhaps a grilled pork chop with creamed corn, peppers and almonds. Are you hungry yet?

Arkansans aren’t the only folks who recognize what our state has to offer. Recently Forbes Travel Guides included our capital city Little Rock as one of five secret foodie spots with shot outs to Ashley’s, Ciao Baci, ZaZa’s Fine Salad + Wood-Oven Pizza Co. and Whole Hog Cafe.

Arkansas Farm to Table Restaurants

In addition to these recommendations I have a few others that I suggest you try for a plate full of local flavor featuring seasonal ingredients.

Brave New Restaurant – Get the mixed grill that includes a variety of grilled meats served with an herbed demi glace.

South on Main – This is where you will find the fried catfish and hoppin’ John. Yum!

Trio’s – In the summer they have a farmers’ market plate with seasonal vegetables that’s wonderful.

Table 28 – The restaurant offers unusual interpretations of southern favorites. Make reservations for a seat at the chef’s table (table 28) for an exclusive 6-course meal prepared and served by Chef Rains.

The Root Café – Great burgers and sweet potato fries. A definite must if you have a hankering for breakfast on a Saturday morning.

Capital Hotel Bar and Grill – The Friday lunch special is red sauce braised brisket with rice bread and chow chow. That’s what I’m talking about!

The Hive – If you love a good pork chop this is the place to go. Chef Matthew McClure sources the pork from a local farmer raising heritage pigs known for their exceptionally tender and flavorful meat. Oh, and be sure to stop in at the nearby Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The current exhibit is a collection of French modern masters including Matisse, Cezanne and Degas. It will be on view until July 7, 2014.

28 Springs – You can’t come south and not eat chicken and dumplings. Savory herb gravy and a flaky biscuit crust make these some of the best chicken and dumplings to be had.

The Farmer’s Table Café – One look at the breakfast menu and you’ll know why this place is the talk of the town. The Hash Skillet is to die for.

HEIRLOOM food + wine – A glass of wine and a platter filled with artisanal cheeses, seasonal fruit, walnuts, honeycomb and fig-rosemary crackers plus an amiable companion? Is there a better way to end the day?

Special thanks to Lyndi over at NWAFoodie.com for recommending some great restaurants in northwest Arkansas!

Fried Dill Pickles


It’s astounding to me but it wasn’t until 1963 that someone thought to fry a dill pickle. I know, right? Bernell “Fatman” Austin was the first to serve these treats at the Duchess Drive In in Atkins, Arkansas and they’ve been a southern staple ever since. If you don’t believe me try them and get back to me. Here’s a recipe that is similar to those served at a local catfish joint.

Ingredients
1 quart jar dill pickle slices
2 teaspoon red pepper
2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon black pepper
1 eggs
8 ounces milk
5 – 6 drops hot sauce
2 cups flour
vegetable oil

Instructions
Mix egg, milk, hot sauce, and 1 tablespoon of flour in bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl combine the red pepper, paprika, black pepper and 2 cups of flour.

In a large, deep skillet or fry cooker heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees.

Dip the pickle slices in the egg and milk mixture, then dredge them through the flour and spices, then the egg and milk again and then the flour once more.

Next drop the battered pickles into the hot oil and fry until they float to the surface and turn a nice golden brown.

Serve immediately.

Four Fab Shrubs for Containers

Some of the most exciting developments in gardening are happening in the world of shrubs. Compact sizes, interesting foliage and gorgeous blooms are just a few of the innovations I’ve seen while out scouting garden shows and spring trials for plants to grow in my garden.

These new features have transformed shrubs from one-season-wonders and supporting players to flashy focal points in both flower beds and, thanks to small sizes, containers. These new colorful, easy-care shrubs are ideal for high maintenance and lazy gardeners alike. Take a look at four that I’ve chosen for my Proven Winners® Platinum Collection.

Sunny Anniversary™ Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora)

photo credit: Proven Winners

Fragrant pink flowers touched with pink and orange bloom from mid-summer through September.
Full sun to partial shade; zones 6a – 9b; 3 – 4 feet tall and wide; deciduous.

CONTAINER COMBO

Sunny Anniversary™ Abelia (Filler), Angelface® Blue Angelonia (Thriller), Superbena® Royale Peachy Keen Verbena (Spiller)

Tiny Wine® Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious)

photo credit: Proven WinnersThe smallest ninebark available to gardeners with an extra full form and refined foliage. Colorful bronze-maroon foliage all season and dainty flowers that appear up and down the stem in late spring.
Full sun; zones 3a – 7b; 3 – 4 feet tall and wide; deciduous.

CONTAINER COMBO

Tiny Wine® Ninebark (Thriller), Colorblaze® Dipt in Wine Coleus (Filler), Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia (Spiller)

My Monet® ‘Sunset’ Weigela (Weigela florida)

photo credit: Proven Winners

A petite weigela with golden variegated foliage that turns to a gorgeous red in fall.

Full sun; zones 5a – 8b; 12 – 18 inches tall and wide; deciduous.

CONTAINER COMBO

Superbells® Yellow Chiffon Calibrachoa (Spiller), Graceful Grasses® Red Riding Hood, My Monet® ‘Sunset’ Weigela (Filler), Dwarf Purple Fountain Grass (Thriller)

Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

photo credit: Proven Winners

Soft lavender-pink flowers borne on a compact shrub from mid-summer until frost. This buddleia will repeat bloom without deadheading and does not produce seeds so it won’t spread.
Full sun; zones 5a – 9b; 18 – 24 inches tall and 24 – 30 inches wide; deciduous.

CONTAINER COMBO

Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Butterfly Bush (Thriller), Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Bacopa (Spiller), Superbells® Lemon Slice Calibrachoa (Filler)

Hot House Flowers

The grocery store makes for an unexpected ally in beating winter’s blues. Spruce up your home with a few potted plants that you can find at the grocery store. To personalize these blooms to suit my style I slip the plants (pot and all) into decorative containers.

Hot House Flowers are a Breath of Spring

Forced Daffodils, Tulips and Hyacinths – The daffodils and hyacinths you buy at the grocery store can be planted in the garden after the flowers fade. Wait until the foliage dies back. I’ve not had much luck with replanting tulips because they aren’t perennial in southern gardens where springs are short. However, daffodils and hyacinths will bloom again for me the next year.

Daffodils

Cape Primroses– Maintain temperature around 60 degrees. Place pot on a tray of wet pebbles to provide humidity without overwatering.

photo credit: Eva Gruendemann

Hydrangeas – These big, colorful flowers are everyone’s favorite. While the plant is indoors keep the soil consistently moist and out of direct sunlight. After the last frost date in your area plant it outside in a partially shaded spot.

Hydrangeas

Orchids – Watering orchids can be tricky and varies depending on the type or orchid and time of year. (Water more in the summer and less in the winter.) Generally a good rule is to water every five to 12 days. Avoid wetting the leaves when watering. Dab excess water off leaves.

Orchids

Five Edibles You Can Grow Indoors

Here we are smack dab in the middle of winter and I’m starting to miss walking to the vegetable garden, snips in hand, to gather ingredients for dinner. To tide me over until it’s time to plant spring crops I’m actually growing a few things indoors. I won’t be harvesting any tomatoes, but at least I can get my hands dirty and enjoy the satisfaction of adding a few fresh ingredients to my recipes.

Here are five edibles you can grow indoors this winter.

Edibles to Grow Indoors

  • Lemons and Limes
    Citrus won’t give you instant gratification, but you can enjoy the sweet scent of the blooms while you wait for the fruits. Look for a variety that is known to thrive indoors and produces year-round such as Meyer lemon or Bearss lime. Place the tree near a bright, southern or western facing window and away from sources of heat. Deep soak the soil every 5 to 7 days. Citrus prefer slightly acidic soil and high nitrogen fertilizer. Feed with a slow release fertilizer designed for citrus plants and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Sprouts
    Soak seeds in water overnight. Drain, rinse and drain again. Place the seeds in a quart sized Mason jar. Cover the top with cheese cloth secured with a rubber band. Set the jar in a dark place propped at a slight angle. Rinse and drain the seeds with cold water twice a day for about 4 to 5 days, at which point you will have mature sprouts. Place the jar of sprouts in indirect light and they will green up. Rinse in cold water and store in the refrigerator.
  • Micro Greens
    Micro greens are the baby leaves of fast sprouting seeds such as lettuce, radish and basil. The leaves are harvested while still small. To grow micro greens sow the seeds in sterile potting soil, cover with about ¼ inch of soil and mist the soil daily to keep moist. Keep the seeds warm until they begin to sprout then move the container to a sunny window. Ideally the plants need 12 hours of light for healthy growth so a grow light might be required. Depending on the type of plant you grow you should have harvestable leaves in 14 to 30 days.
  • Garlic Greens
    Garlic greens are a great substitute for fresh chives or scallions. Pot up about 10 organic cloves (ne need to peel) in a 4-inch container. Place in a sunny window and water consistently. Harvest the leaves when they are about 8 inches tall. When the cloves stop sprouting toss them into the compost bin and pot up another 10 cloves.
  • Mushrooms
    Growing mushrooms is pretty easy when you start with a kit. Everything you need comes in the package and all you need to do is keep the growing medium moist. Heck, you don’t even have to take these mushroom growing kits from Peaceful Valley out of the box.

We Eat A Lot of Pie in Arkansas

I’ve heard that food and music hold the personality of a region most strongly. After a recent road trip  I feel safe in taking it one step further and specify that a local favorite dessert really shows off a place’s personality.

Whether they’re fruit, nut, cream, meringue or cheese, baked, fried or frozen — pies come in a dazzling range of combinations. We like our pie in the south. The baker who masters the perfect flour to butter ratio in a crust is spoken about with the utmost reverence, given a place of honor in the community and undoubtedly, asked to bring a pie to every gathering until the end of time. While pies can be graham cracker or cookie crusted, hot or cold, latticed or exposed on top, they must all be delicious to survive in these parts.

Now you’ve probably heard the phrase easy as pie, but I’m not a fan. It strikes me as flippant. The creation of pies shouldn’t be reduced to anything less than an art. Bakers mix a tremendous amount care, thought and tradition into their pies, and most of them have worked on their technique for years. Respect for my favorite dessert led me to travel from Little Rock to Northwest Arkansas along Highway 65 in a quest to experience Arkansas’ pies.

Banana Split Pie

We first stopped at the Wagon Wheel in Greenbrier. Restaurants like these work as anchors and a hub of community life in small towns— a place to connect at lunch or celebrate with the team after a game. Don’t be fooled by this restaurant’s nondescript exterior. It boasts a spectacular spread and is known for its meringue pies. The bakers in this kitchen know how to whip egg whites and sugar into heavenly bliss. I had a banana split pie that had about three inches of meringue on top. So decadent!

Strawberry Pie

Every one of the restaurants we visited has a top pie, a pie that’s flavor is discussed like a legend, and at the Skylark Café in Leslie, that pie is strawberry pie. Cool and refreshing with impeccable balance between sweet and tangy, this dessert is a summer staple not easily forgotten. The filling is just the right consistency, not too thick and packed with juicy strawberry pieces. I dined on the porch and took in the café’s equally charming exterior. Originally a home, they remodeled the building into a restaurant, painted the outside turquoise with red trim and surrounded it with garden art and potted plants. Save me a seat on the porch. I’ll be back.

In addition to the sugary ecstasy, I also experienced a treat for the eyes. Highway 65 winds elaborately, offering dramatic views of the mountains and valleys, and the October leaf display has earned the region the nickname the New England of the Ozarks.

We detoured to Gilbert, an old railroad town with one sign that reads ‘population 33’ and another that reads ‘coolest in the state.’ They’re referring to temperature, but it works on multiple levels. The little town sits right on the edge of the pristine Buffalo National River. We had to pull over, not for pie, but for a view of the water.

The production crew and I stopped for lunch at Big Springs Barbecue in St. Joe after that, and I ate a bacon-filled “sammwhich.” It was nice to taste something fat-laden and savory to break up all the sweet. Plus they roast the meat themselves. I sampled an apple pie, and tried to wheedle the crust recipe out of the baker to no avail.

Apple Pie

In Jasper, we stopped at the Arkansas House, a restaurant that uses organic, locally produced ingredients, to learn the subtleties of the nut pie. Janet Morgan, the owner, showed me how to make her signature black walnut pie. Time, she said, makes all the difference between a mediocre dessert and a perfect dessert.

Black Walnut Pie

Add These Books to Your Child’s Reading List

I’m always on the lookout for books geared toward kids that encourage them to check out what’s going on outdoors. Books after all are great at sparking the imagination and once a child begins to picture the possibilities she is more likely to head outside to investigate. And to me a kid excited about out in nature is a good thing.

I was thrilled to meet Arkansas author Dawn Denton while I was speaking to the Bentonville Garden Club. Dawn is a garden designer and former teacher who combines her dedication to preserving and appreciating the outdoors with her expertise with children to create the wonderful Guest in the Garden book series. The Last Leaf, Ruby and Rocket, Oliver the Toad and Betzy the Bumblebee relay life lessons, garden and animal facts in light-hearted, entertaining tales, perfect for the young children you’re shopping for.

The Last Leaf
Click here to buy The Last Leaf from the author.

The Last Leaf

From the authorThis picture book is geared for young children ages 2-6. With rhyming words, your child will explore all the emotions that you might feel as the last leaf on a tree in the fall. (From the author.)

Ruby and the Rocket
Click here to buy Ruby and the Rocket from the author.

Ruby and the Rocket

A beautifully illustrated children’s book about a brother and sister hummingbird who discover a backyard garden. Come along with Ruby and Rocket to learn fun hummingbird facts, flower facts, and a life lesson of learning to be friends when you are siblings. (From the author.)

Oliver the Toad
Click here to buy Oliver the Toad from the author.

Oliver the Toad

This delightful story will take your child on a journey through a vegetable garden where they will learn toad facts, vegetable facts, and the life lesson of responsibility. (From the author.)

Betzy the Bumblebee
Buy Betzy the Bumblebee from the author.

Betzy the Bumblebee

Beautifully illustrated children’s book that introduces your child to bumblebee facts, wildflower facts, and the life lesson of learning to love being you. (From the author.)

How to Make Holly Luminaries

It’s party time! We’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday season and the parties are in full swing. During a bout of mild weather I hosted an impromptu gathering by the outdoor fireplace. The fire kept us warm and everyone agreed that it was nice to get some fresh air. There was hot chocolate, finger foods and s’mores – you can’t have a party around a fire without s’mores!

Set up was simple with Christmas lights to set the mood and a fire to serve as the focal point. For the buffet I dressed up a teak table with a red table cover from Tablevogue and a centerpiece made with a few logs from the firewood pile, Mason jars, holly leaves and votive candles. Here is how I put it together.

Materials:


3 firewood logs
6 Mason jars in different sizes
Holly branches with berries
6 votive candles
Water
Evergreen boughs

Directions:

Cut the logs into pedestals of various heights.

Place the holly leaves and berries in the jars. Fill with water and drop in a votive candle.

Arrange the log pedestals and Mason jars on a table. Add a few evergreen boughs as a finishing touch. Voila! Christmas!

Outdoor Winter Entertaining Tips

  • No fireplace? A fire pit or chiminea will work just as well.
  • Have a few blankets on hand to keep folks extra warm.
  • Tablevogue table covers are handy for gatherings because they are easy to use, fit well and the pleats make these table covers look sophisticated. They are also machine washable, which is a bonus when food and drinks are involved.
  • Serve foods such as fondue or slidders that are easy to handle with cold fingers or gloves on.

So when the temperatures drop, never fear. There are lots of ideas you can use to enjoy some of that colder weather and create a memorable time with your friends.